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David Armano had a great post recently on Logic + Emotion asking his readers what, in their opinion, was the most significant event or aspect of 2006 in regards to marketing, advertising or user experience.
Many wonderful comments were left, and as I thought about the question for myself, I came to my own conclusion....

I think that 2006 opened the eyes of many marketers to the fact that their community of customers now have more communication tools at their hands than ever before. Customer evangelists can spread their message to millions of people with a simple blog post, and citizen marketers have a multitude of social media tools at their fingertips to literally create their own marketing campaigns, good or bad, for any company and/or product they choose.
But with the realization that customers can in fact now be considered true marketing partners for companies, came the obvious growing pains as companies struggled to convince themselves that they must cede some control of their marketing messages to their community of customers. Of course, they were simply fooling themselves into thinking that these customers didn't ALREADY control their message, but you have to crawl before you can walk.
Some companies, such as Mentos, embraced the community-empowerment movement with gusto, and are reaping the rewards.
But far too many companies, such as Coke, tried to empower communities on THEIR terms, using the tools that THEY approved for community-use. I think we can imagine what the reaction is when a company tells its fans that it will ALLOW them to market their products, but ONLY using the tools that THEY approve of.
So in my mind, 2007 will be a pivotal time for companies that are dipping their toes in the marketing waters of community-empowerment. I say that, because I think companies are beginning to realize that not only will they have to work WITH their communities to SHARE control of their marketing message, but that doing so is a TON of work. Embracing and empowering a community, and making a real effort to communicate with them on their terms isn't easy.
When I was writing my most recent article for MarketingProfs, entitled "10 Steps to Starting a Company Blog"(subscription required), one of the main points I wanted to stress to the article's readers was that starting and maintaining a company blog requires a serious time commitment. I wanted to drive this point home, because as we all know, starting a blog and dropping it in a week or month because you can't/won't commit to it, is far worse than to never blog at all.
And as I was writing the article, I realized that the level of commitment necessary to communicate with customers on their level, such as by starting and maintaining a company blog, is exactly why many companies stay in their ivory towers, and don't join the masses.
So we will have to see what happens in 2007. The curtain has been pulled back, and companies are beginning to realize that half-hearted community-empowerment initiatives won't cut it, and that only by truly joining their community and sharing control of their marketing message, can these companies reap the benefits of their efforts.
The only question that remains is if those in the ivory towers are willing to roll up their sleeves and join the masses.

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image of Mack Collier

Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier