Saturday, March 16, 2013

Motivating the Friendbase

Victory is ours for Northwestern State, overcoming some odds to win the fan vote for the greatest moment in the 50 year history of Southland Conference basketball.  Kudos to our supporters who did the hard work, but we should take some pride also in helping to organize that response.  Achieving results in social media isn't about firing up the base.  It is a series of steps to make sure you involve your supporters toward a worthy goal.

Friendbase isn't something that happens overnight.  Build it through embracing the interaction of social, and the best brands know this.  They don't "do" social; they "are" social.  They aren't a fan base that you can stoke.  I'm making a particular point in coining this term of a "friendbase".  Friends can be fans, but for the exponential return that makes social geometrically powerful, consider them friends that can be casual and to reach them, you must do so in a different way.

This achievement by our friendbase at Northwestern State follows some previous wins, supporting Yaser Elqutub to become the captain of the Allstate Good Works team (overcoming another good-guy candidate with a pretty large fan base, you may have heard of RGIII?) and lifting alums to local and regional honors.  By the way, based on requests to help, we do have a formal policy for when our official social media pages and feeds become involved.

Have a worthy cause.  Just because you want your school/player/alum to take a social media vote contest doesn't mean it will happen.  If the Demons of Destiny wasn't already one of the greatest stories in modern NCAA basketball history, it would not have stood a chance.  So to use some marketing terms, if you have a good "product" you have a chance.  For that product to excel, it needs focus and emotion.  Everybody loves an underdog.  Everyone understands the Cinderella upset.  That makes Northwestern State's entry into this contest a natural versus some of the others that were less single moments than eras or streaks.

Reciprocate.  This seems out of order, but it is a vital first step.  You will get help the first time you ask in your friendbase, but when you don't share your group to help others, I assure you the next time, the impact will drop an order of magnitude.  Everyone has causes.  Each institution will have limits on what they can endorse, forward or promote.  But when you can, be helpful to others.

Make the ask.  Friends like to help friends.  If you have worked to build true community, they won't mind when you make an appropriate request.  That means your own friends.  Every successful social media campaign -- Vote Mallett, Yaser for Captain and now Demons of Destiny -- involved asking for help from my own friends.  In fact, a huge driver of the Yaser Elqutub campaign was his girlfriend promoting it to her completely unrelated to FBS football social circle.

Know the ask.  Seems same, but a very important part of The Ask.  Pitching your social media base to buy a new tee-shirt or get tickets is shamless huckstering -- and your friendbase will react adversely to that.  Save your advertising for advertising in Facebook or Google ads.  Keep requests for action in social channels to things that fit in those channels -- online voting, forwarding links, spreading the word.

A social marketing sidebar: spreading the word that tickets are available for an event, or spreading the word that start time for a minor sport or campus event is different in tone and acceptance in the friendbase.  Seems like a difference without distinction, but I've watched very clearly the graphs and tracking  -- interaction and activity plummet when pitches take over a feed.  They rise and sustain when you are asking friends to help.

Set the goal.  Knowing how the contest works allows you to create the right appeal to your supporters.  In the case of the Southland contest, vote once a day, fill out this form.  This drove the need for periodic reminders, both direct and advertised.

Create a plan.  Coordinating the social groups though which alliances can be formed is vital.  In making that schedule of messages, they must vary -- the key element of voting, yes -- to keep the goal top of mind.

Don't overnag.  Nothing gets you dropped faster than pumping the contest every day, multiple times a day.  Save your screaming for the final week or days so the burnout happens right AFTER the contest, not in the middle of it.

Don't be afraid to "promote."  Fully admit, a late convert to the judicious application of Zuckerberg Soap to the process through promoting posts related to the contest at hand.  It wasn't a factor for Yaser, but it was used in Demons of Destiny.

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