Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Status and STATUS

How come status updates don’t actually confer capital-S-Status?

I had an enlightening conversation with a fellow dad while we dropped of our second-graders at school.  Said dad works as a video engineer.  Among other projects, he helps independent filmmakers by handling a lot of the more unglamorous tasks of producing a film.  Yes, even less glamorous than editing.

Among other things, we talked about how social media has an impact on our jobs.  However, he had an entirely different frame of reference on “social” than I did.  That is, he talked about his current project, which involves turning a critically-acclaimed novel into a film.  He mentioned that the film’s investors put money into the project, not because they expected to participate in the artistic process, not because they wanted to make tons of money but by-and-large because they wanted the capital-S-Status of a production credit.

And that, friends, points to a glaring deficiency of social networking.  Everyone participates as an equal.  However, this deficiency offers itself up as a potential opportunity for marketers.

Here’s what capital-S-Status used to mean: big-shots did big-shot-like things to announce their big-shottedness.  The Medicis sponsored artists.  Robber barons built libraries, concert halls and universities.  Bill Gates gives away toilets (with the help of my good friend Bryan Callahan).  

More recently, other big shots, namely Mark Zuckerberg and Biz Stone, have addressed small-s-status.  Clearly, status and Status mean different things.  In some ways, status works in the opposite way of Status.  When a person “likes” a brand on Facebook or follows it on Twitter, the brand gains status, not the individual.

Smart marketers can use this phenomenon in reverse as a social marketing tactic.

Marketers can use their social media presence to confer Status on their fans.  Much in the way that social marketers used to talk about courting bloggers, they should think about conferring Status to select consumers who participate in social networks.  The brand should find ways to promote active community members.

For instance, a sports drink brand might want to confer a Status of “training expert” or “sports expert” on people who frequently comment on the brand.  This Status would include frequent mentions in updates or promotion of tweets/updates by the expert. Perhaps the expert might even have access to exclusive content via a Facebook tab or password-protected area of the brand website.

What will the marketer get out of it?  For one thing, it will show itself as listening to and valuing its customers.  For another, it will encourage the experts they appoint to act as evangelists.  Granted, these marketers need to keep tabs on the experts to make sure they don’t act in a way detrimental to the brand, but a little trust goes a long way.

Besides, it’s cheaper than building a library.

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