There are a handful of brands which have a huge fan following which automatically organizes itself into unaffiliated online communities. Nike and Tivo are good examples. These communities exist for the brand and the brand alone.
Then there are brands that sponsor/nurture communities – A good example is www.joga.com
Then there are brands that leverage the scale and demographics of existing social networks like MySpace. If the demographics of an unaffiliated social networking or community site matches that of your product’s target audience-Use it in new ways.
Axe is running a campaign on MySpace. They seem to have worked out a deal with a very prolific Myspacer with over a million friends in her network. She, in Malcolm Gladwell’s terms would be the “marketing maven” for Axe. Her blog links to a site(a MySpace Group) that has a Gamekillers quiz from where there is a good chance of people going to www.gamekillers.com which has the actual AXE ad and some insight on how the gamekillers idea is related to the product. (The MarketingMonger interview with Edelman discussing this and more here)
Nike has been working on building its action sports line of products using a community that discusses everything about lifestyle & action sports. The NKE6.0 site links to a Myspace community which in turn links back to Nke6.0.
It makes sense to leverage well connected mavens within existing networks like Myspace as your brand advocates rather than trying to build a community from scratch. Trust,which is a key element in WOMM is readily available in existing network of peers/friends. This in turn will have an impact on the number of prospects trying your products/services. So,search for brand advocates in social networks.
Some of the questions that marketers need to answer:
1.How do we identify/leverage potential marketing mavens in social networks? Is it anyone with a million friends or is it someone who really loves your product/service? This in turn will depend on whether you just want to run a short promo for a product and hence want to drive traffic to your site or whether you are trying to build a serious following for your brand.
2.What are the tools we need to give such brand advocates to accelerate WOMM? Seth Godin’s -“Flipping the Funnel” is a nice ebook that discusses this.
By the way, are social networks monetizing this?