by: Karl Long
So this is some early experimental thinking here so feel free to poke holes, call bullshit, or add your own take in the comments.
I’m using the term co-creative marketing here as I think it’s a better more holistic term than “viral”. I still think viral is a totally valid tactic, but I don’t think it’s a strategy. Viral in most cases is not much better than a 30 second spot except it’s distribution is cheaper, I guess that’s why marketers and advertisers are so generally comfortable with the concept.
For me the concept of co-creative marketing is something that should, at it’s best, be built into the DNA of your products and services. Something that builds tremendous value for you over time, something that ends up building “social equity“.
My working definition of social equity for the moment is: “social equity is built by aggregating, connecting, reflecting and amplifying the all the small user contributions over time so the whole is worth much more than the sum of its parts.” Sort of like network effects, the more people using it and participating the more valuable your product or service.
Anyway, I was thinking about what the necessary components were for co-creative marketing and came up with Shareable, Mashable, and Hackable which i’ll elaborate on a bit here. I think I have a much better idea of what makes something sharable and some nascent ideas on mashable and hackable.
Shareable may seem self explanatory, but sometimes it takes effort to create elements of your product or service that are shareable. Easy to share, right size, right format, WORTH SHARING. YouTube is probably the poster child of “shareble” content with their embedable video player, that is what made their business.
Once you have content or items worth sharing it’s important to measure and track how people are using and sharing it. Measurement can help you track where things start, who are the influencers, and what the response is.
Of course the big rhino in the room is why would someone want to share your stuff with other people. Most companies seem to think putting an “email to a friend” link on their mundane web site is enough to get people frothing at the mouth to tell their friends. Unfortunately that is not enough, the act of sharing something requires not only effort but generally involves someone putting their reputation on the line. If someone is sharing something of yours be it a video, image, coupon etc. they are endorsing you and you had better make them look good.
You might even try and cultivate sharers and influencers, some people like to be firestarters, they like to be the first to know, and they like to be the first to tell their friends about it. Take a look at Jeremiah’s concept of early adopters/influencers or David Armano’s Influence Rippples Diagram for more on this.
One thing I wonder about this is how much more shareble are real world products, or at least information about real world products will become as the mobile evernet becomes more pervasive? Think how text message short codes could be used on real world products, or on environmental media.
Mashable means can someone build something new and interesting information you provide? Is there any base of machine readable structured data that you can give access to your customers, programmers, kids with too much time on their hands? RSS, XML, or even proper API’s. Think google maps, craigs list, RSS feeds, Geocoded information etc.
Think about what information is created just through the use of your product or service, and how can that make your product more attractive. A brilliant example of this comes from Facebook, when you see the underlying data of how your friends are using certain applications or games, you can see how much more attractive these products become. Take the Texas Holdem application for instance which has presence information, leader-board information etc.
Hacking of course has some pretty scary connotations, but hackability is essentially the secret behind a lot of the buzz created by products like the Roomba, Lego Mind Storms, and maybe even Harley Davidsons and Mini Coopers. How can customers make your product their own which can be as simple as customization, and how can they make it do things that you didn’t even intend
So how can you make it hackable? distribute source code, create api’s, create easter eggs, create competitions, put frameworks in place. Even some of these consumer generated commercials where a company might provide different video assets and soundtracks to enable customers to create their own commercials is hackability in a way. putting a framework in place for people to be creative.
These are just some rough ideas of what can contribute to the co-creative marketing of a product. I have one more aspect which I have not quite figured out where it fits and how to describe it, but it’s at the heart of what makes products and services co-creative. It’s where customers contribute to the primary value of a product or service, think ebay, threadless, yelp, flickr, Etsy, ThisNext, Delicious. They all have aspects that are shareable, mashable, and hackable, but the primary value they create is co-creative. So what is that? Contributable? Crowdsourced?