Let Go for Consumers to Take Hold: Making Movements Happen

As marketers we instinctively feel the need to control every aspect of marketing. Even when we want to seem “human” and “genuine,” we find ourselves going through a humanification process that involves tweaking and refining every detail before it sees the light of day. The obvious end-result is a program that no longer feels authentic and consumer-driven.

Social media is and should be viewed as consumer territory, and the social media programs that gain the most traction are consumer-driven. Consumers control the message, how it’s shared and the overall experience. That’s how movements happen. That’s how online evangelists truly get messages out there.

Simply put, movements happen when brands give in, and let consumers take control.

Giving Control

Movements take hold when consumers have control from the very beginning and receive some form of payoff for participating.

The Revelation: Movements start with some kind of discovery. Something is uncovered that wasn’t known before. Brands should give consumers the tools to come to a revelation that makes them feel they’ve discovered something new. This could be some kind of teaser campaign or even exclusive insight into upcoming marketing efforts.

Conversation: Movements then move to conversations between consumers as they share, critique and start to shape something larger than the individual. This might take the form of an already established community (e.g., Facebook Group, #hashtag) or one that you’ve created.

Planning: Then what the “movement” ends up being should be in the hands of consumers. Brands can provide the tools and the resources to support them, but consumers should decide how to share, engage others and recruit.

Payoff: Time, money resources. Consumers only have so much, and they need reasons to participate and take part in a movement. Obviously, this can be physical (e.g., product, coupons, etc.), but, more powerfully, it can be emotional (e.g., appealing to ego, sense of humanity, etc.)

Take a Deep Breath

Think about what you can control (e.g., the brand architecture, your points of difference, the consumer experience, etc.) and what you can’t (e.g., the tools consumers use to communicate). It’s not a matter of completely giving up control, but there is, understandably, a sense of trepidation because brands can’t control everything. However, social media is on consumers’ terms and turf. Embrace the loss of control and trust your customers to create a more movement-friendly situation. It will lead to more authentic, trustworthy and organic marketing communications.