Straight Talk: Time to Start Socializing?
Boldt: Does the direct mailer, having created such a community on the web, have to have a hand in there somewhere?
Gillin: There's different kinds of hands. You can have an active hand, as a moderator or facilitator, and you're interacting with people and stirring up discussions. And then there is the hand that is guiding what the community is used for, which I think is more appropriate for direct marketers-for example, if you want to do a contest using your community members and the results of that contest will be made into a printed piece that will be mailed. That will be a case where the direct marketer would be actively involved in the community, with an end goal of producing something with that interaction. Another example may be using a cross-registration where somebody picked up a mailing and registered and becomes part of a community and signs up for additional mailings, or coupons or discounts, as a result of that interaction.
Boldt: Is it connected to loyalty marketing?
Gillin: Yes. Loyalty marking has traditionally been occasional and fragmented; people go in to the store once a week or once a month, and there's some sort of interaction. And then they go away, and nobody talks to them again. The community aspect is, if you attract people around a topic that is really compelling to them, you can interact with them every day or every other day because they're coming back and finding out more and learning more, and that's all part of the involvement with your brand. The role there is to step up the frequency and volume of contact with the customers so they feel that they really are part of a group, part of a company.
Boldt: Does social networking ultimately help enhance your marketing message?
Gillin: If it's done right, the community should actually help you define message. We don't control our brands anymore. Brands are controlled by our constituents. We have a role in shaping the brand, of course, but branding is now a process of constant back and forth with the people who will interact with these brands. So the community can be very helpful by telling you what's working and what isn't-testing things, like a direct mail piece. Why not consult those people on that piece? You can also use it to spread the word-if you've got fans of your company, they want to help you as dedicated customers usually do.