If you are having a hard time understanding how social media is going to interact with your company of the future (or present!), then I have a great analogy that will create a framework from which you can build a social media plan in support of your company marketing plan. I call it the analogy of the mall.
To begin this analogy, let me first propose a question.
What if you only advertised to people who showed a willingness to interact with your company? What if in fact, they found you first, and then requested your assistance when the timing was right for them? Would this change the way you looked at running your business?
The Analogy Of The Mall
This is not the first time in history that this thought progression has occurred. Shopping malls began to spring up with the rise of suburban living in many parts of the western world (and especially the United States after WWII) with the promise of a captured audience in a controlled environment. The theory was that pooled resources would gather more shoppers, thus reducing the collective advertising costs for the stores in the Mall. This caused a rapid growth rate of stores operating in the collective of “the mall” and malls began to pop-up everywhere.
Now jump ahead 70 years, past all the large superstores and mega malls, and consider that the internet as “the mall to end all malls.” The internet is where the world is (has) moving to engage in commerce, and the best stores in the mall are setting up to take advantage of the known traffic patterns that are emerging (just as stores in a traditional mall want to be located near the anchor tenant).
The analogy of the mall is useful for traditionalists to gain an understanding of social media and web culture and their impact on conducting business on the internet. As we move through this mega-mall of the future in this and two following blog posts, imagine the following parallels to an imaginary mall that serves the planet earth:
- Google – As you enter the main doors of the mall, there is one of those “you are here” displays providing a guide to the entire layout to the mall. But this display is built backwards, rather than showing you where you are, it asks you where you want to go. Guidance is provided and these Google displays (and similar Yahoo!, Bing, Ask, etc.) are situated conveniently in every nook and cranny of the mall. Every marketer knows that to gain Google’s favor is to guarantee a steady flow of customers through the doors of the store.
- Craigslist – Off to the side of the Google display, there is a massive bulletin board for all to use to make announcements. Anybody is allowed to post most anything, from notices to offerings for sale, and the information is both current and fleeting. Often times, stores in the mall can post flyers on the bulletin board that increases awareness of the store, thus marketers attempt to keep current information on the boards at all times.