June 5, 2013

The importance of ‘the ask’ in social marketing

To achieve goals for your brand or yourself, build trust and intimacy through asking

Chris AbrahamIwas spending time with NPR over the weekend, as heard through WAMU 88.5FM here in DC, and TED Radio Hour came on with an episode titled, “Giving It Away.” What caught my attention was the last segment, “Amanda Palmer: How Do You Get People To Pay For Music?

Amanda Palmer discusses her past as a street performer and busker and discusses how she’s taken everything she learned from making her living from the kindness of strangers and passersby and brought it into the Internet age.

If you listen to the NPR segment or watch the video, you’ll hopefully get me.

How brands should approach accessibility and humanity

tumblr_mj59o16raI1rh349co2_1280The first, most important point I believe in Amanda Palmer’s TED talk has to do with asking for help — asking for what you want. And in that moment of vulnerability, you accomplish four things: you build trust, you build intimacy, you become more human, and you may very well get what you want.

And building trust, intimacy, and becoming more human — and more accessible — is always a challenge for brands. Keeping whatever trust, intimacy, human face, and accessibility as your brand scales can feel like an exercise in futility.

I have a feeling that the years of blog posts I have written have not remotely been able to convey the relationship we have with both our listeners, fans, customers, clients, prospects, and community — and it is intimate. And it is intimate even in situations you may not appreciate or even realize.

Years ago I attended a “church development” meeting in Rehoboth, Delaware, and our OD consultant told us that villagers feel way more attached to the local parish than their behavior suggests. Though there are the core members (clergy, choir, daily and weekly congregants, the Christmas and Easter visitors), the reach goes much further. Who gets to claim the parish as “my church” is not defined by the priest but by the villager: Even villagers who never attend — or have attended only once for a funeral, baptism, or confirmation, or wedding — often listen to the pealing of the morning bells and feel connected to it. That’s my church.

ted2013_0041083_d41_6467In my opinion, connecting intimately with your community online does not limit you to just the people who bring your band brownies (to show you their love), who get your music for free when they’re too poor or overpay when they’re passionate and flush, or even the people to whom pass out the extra brownies. They’re everyone else, too, even folks you may not appreciate or even realize.

Engagement resonates with supporters

But what’s important to understand is that the way you engage with your “apostolic core” — your sanctum sanctorum — ripples, echoes, and resonates outward. From the folks who take you into their very own home when you’re in town to the “never miss a show” crowd, to the folks who have never been to a show. From the folks who listen to you and you only (but have never seen your face on anything but an album cover), to the “I have all her albums” crowd.

You don’t need to convert all of your followers right away. Instead, you need to build as much connection as possible with the members you already have.

You don’t really need to become besties with all of your followers. You also don’t need to convert all of them to membership right away either. What you need to do is build as much connection as possible with the members you already have — those natural allies — and do it out in the open.

Personally, the level of devotion that Amanda Palmer’s fans have toward her makes me like her more — and I don’t even know her music! That her fans are willing to open up their homes to her, feed her, bring her brownies, and feel guilty about not being able to afford to pay for free music speaks volumes about her character and her willingness and ability to love.

It also says a lot about her. It makes me think about how trusting she is: that fearless person in the trust-building exercise who just closes her eyes and goes ahead and falls backward into the arms of her co-workers.

This is also a reminder that you can — and should — be able to maintain and grow your intimacy with your core group of followers while still being able to grow your general audience. And the better you nurture your social media family, the more that public display of affection will ripple all the way to the most casual audience member.

After a decade of blogging about just this issue, I must admit that Amanda Palmer has said it much better than I ever have.
Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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