Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell are the co-authors of Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message. Their first book was called Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force. As business advisors and speakers, McConnell and Huba have worked with
Starbucks, Microsoft, Whirlpool, Discovery Education, PBS, and the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting. They are also the authors of the award-winning Church of the
Question: What inspires people to create digital content?
Answer: We think there are three reasons: The first is that the people
who helped build sites like Wikipedia, TiVo Community, or Mini2 aren’t part
of mainstream culture. They’re what we call the “1 Percenters,” the people
who live at the edges and are different than from 99 percent of the world.
Our research for the book led us to create the 1% Rule, which states that
about 1 percent of a site’s total number of visitors will create content for
it. The 1 Percenters flout cultural conventions. Americans love rebels,
therefore the 1 Percenters often become the influencers of American culture.
The second reason: Their work is a hobby. Hobbies are fun, certainly, but
hobbies can be viewed at a deeper level as an extension and reflection
of one’s identity. Hobbyism grants one the permission to consider their work
as recreation while subconsciously it works as ideological re-creation. It
replicates the skills of the workplace and adds value that may often be
lacking from it. Their content is their production.
The third reason is the sense of community. We’re not talking cities but more
like extremely large families that scale. It’s easy for other hobbyists to
find one another. The human need to bond with something is strong, even if
it’s with a commercial entity.
Question: What should companies like Coca Cola and Mentos do in reaction to
the videos their products are in?
Answer: There are three different ways to respond to amateur grassroots
efforts like that:
Say nothing and let the citizen marketers have their time in the
spotlight. It’s a safe and conservative approach.
Use your company website or blog to point to the citizen marketers in the
spirit of “what people are saying about us.” This opens the door to ceding
control, and that’s a good step. Just remember that citizen marketers don’t
follow instructions. This approach requires company spokespeople to have a
sense of humor. That wasn’t the case with the Coke, whose spokesperson was
quoted in the Wall Street Journal as scolding people for not drinking their
Quickly build a program around what’s happening. It can be beneficial but
also tricky because it can taint the grassroots nature of what’s happening.
Keep it simple. The “firecracker” nature of something like Diet Coke and
Mentos has a short half-life. Better to openly solicit ideas from the people
or community involved and keep it simple. Follow the lead of the community. And keep the company lawyers locked in a cage.
Question: Why did YouTube succeed over Google Video?
Answer: We suspect the primary reason is something you’re pretty familiar
with: entrepreneurial focus. YouTube’s mission was itself. Combine that with
a bucket of venture capital to pay bandwidth bills, and YouTube had
tremendous advantage. The Google Video product team probably had to navigate
the political minefields of a big company with multiple products.
Second, YouTube won because of a vitally important theme: It
democratized data. YouTube made user data transparent while Google Video did
not. YouTube exposed data like numbers of views, comments, referrers, as
well as most popular referrers, most popular videos, most popular channels,
etc. That data helps YouTubers gauge their own popularity and allows the
larger community to measure relative popularity, too. Google did none of
that out the gate. It democratized data using a piecemeal approach, and it
didn’t set any standards along the way. YouTube set all of the standards.
The third reason was a great user interface. Simple, intuitive and elegant.
With apologies to Google, the UI for its video product was clunky, confusing,
Question: What’s more important: appearing frequently on the front page of Digg
or achieving a spot in the Technorati 100?
Answer: Neither. The total number of subscribers to your blog is the most
important measure. RSS is the paperboy to an opt-in mindset. Great
subscription numbers means someone is creating valuable, important or
entertaining content—or all three).
To use a hockey analogy, trying to get on the front page of Digg is like
taking a slap shot from behind the red line