Spend Your Way to a Social Presence

The appeal to a higher calling—to a lifestyle, passion, or cause—is what drives organic participation and growth in online social communities. The payoffs are lower ongoing expenses and a higher degree of “stickiness” and participation and advocacy for the community. Given the central role established for the higher social object, a question arises here:

What is it that powers social marketing applications, communities, and sites which lack a cause, passion, or lifestyle connection as seen in programs like Pepsi’s “The Juice”? The answer is typically spending. This is not to overlook the great creative work that goes into promotional campaigns, but rather to note that spend-driven programs versus purpose or values-aligned programs will often lag in the organic growth that truly powers social media and the waves of activity that occur on the Social Web.

To understand why this is so, compare the social appeal of the Old Spice Deodorant social media campaign shown in Figure 3.4 with the basic social appeal of Facebook, Orkut or other social networking sites, where participation is driven largely out of a desire to interact with other members of these networks. People join them to meet other people as well as to share experiences around the brands they love (along with a whole lot of other things).

Great social sites grow organically based on an individual’s realization of a reason to be there: Facebook and Orkut, for example, both deliver on the basic desires of people to meet other people and socialize. Members see the value in “more members” so they actively encourage their friends to join. The obvious purpose and basic appeal of these sites combine to drive organic growth.