Book review: Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba (2007)
Anybody can say anything about you. And if they say it in an interesting enough way, and it rings true with enough people, their message can have more influence than all the brilliant marketing you can buy.
That's what Citizen Marketers is about. With social media on the internet and easy digital production, anyone can be heard. And what they say can either be an amazing windfall to the companies they talk about -- or a devastating nightmare.
Citizen marketers have done great work for Starbucks, Mentos, "Snakes on a Plane" (the movie), Target, and more. They've created deep trouble for Dell, AOL, Comcast, Alaska Airlines, and many others. And what about Obama Girl?
The phenomena hasn't hit the nonprofit world much yet -- though one blogger ignited some buzz against Heifer International with a post titled Worst possible Christmas present?. Read about it at Charitable gift catalogs ignite blog buzz.
What real people say is powerful because it's authentic, something you can't really fake. Authenticity is fundamentally different from brand-guided marketing. As Citizen Marketers puts it:
Everyone knows that nothing is perfect, yet companies persist in portraying their perfection. That's why authenticity is magnetic -- it's truth made real
The message of the book? Like them or hate them, citizen marketers are beyond your control. "Control is slipping out of control." You can work with them, do things that make them more likely to treat you well, and minimize any damage. And by all means, don't try to fake citizen marketers!
McConnell and Huba also author the Church of the Customer Blog that covers these same topics.