Citizen Marketers | Jackie Huba

Summary of: Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message
By: Jackie Huba


In the age of social media and rapidly evolving technology, certain individuals known as citizen marketers are playing an increasingly significant role in the realms of pop culture and marketing. Through their authentic, creative, and non-commercial expressions, they’ve managed to capture the attention and imagination of millions. These citizen marketers come in four flavors: Filters, Fanatics, Facilitators, and Firecrackers. Discover how their passion and enthusiasm are changing the relationships between consumers, businesses, and the market, and learn about the unique challenges and opportunities that await businesses in this new era of citizen marketing.

The Power of Citizen Marketers

George Masters’ animated film featuring an iPod went viral, despite not being an ad. This demonstrated how citizen marketers hold significant influence. Additionally, journalist Jeff Jarvis’ blog post about Dell’s poor service inspired a movement that forced the company to improve. Similarly, fans of Fiona Apple used a website to prompt the record company to rerecord an album she was unhappy with. These examples demonstrate how the skills of citizen marketers, who work without corporate influence, can be leveraged to change the relationship between individuals and corporations. The spread of their creations is driven by their sincerity and ability to connect with audiences, making them a valuable asset for marketing in today’s world.

Four Types of Citizen Marketers

Citizen marketers come in four varieties, each with their own unique characteristics. Filters sift through all types of media and package information and analysis in their own way. Fanatics are true believers and evangelists who either praise their subjects or attack them. Facilitators build communities and mediate discussion boards while some work with companies. Firecrackers burst onto the scene and create viral content, but disappear just as quickly. Mike Kaltschnee and Jim Romenesko are good examples of filters while fanatics can be found in sites like those focusing on McDonald’s or Barq’s root beer. One site even tried to persuade HBO against cancelling a series. The facilitators build communities, and some even work with companies. Firecrackers create viral content, often inspiring other fans to create parodies or imitations. Citizen marketers have a powerful influence on the world, and understanding their different roles can help marketers better understand and harness this impact.

The 1% Rule in Social Media

The 1% rule, which states that roughly 1% of visitors actively contribute content, while the rest lurk, is consistent with the uneven distribution of power in online communities. This concept holds for social media sites, including Wikipedia, Yahoo Groups, QuickBooks, and TiVo. Starting a community and expecting high activity from members is unrealistic, so it’s essential to know how to manage the few who do post. Payment undermines the value of one-percenters’ contributions, so giving them some form of ownership rather than treating them as employees is a better option. Regardless of the commercial potential of their work, hobbyists should be regarded as partners who have created something useful for the community. Social media platforms allow for the exponential power of the individual voice.

The Power of Democratic Access

The story of and Yahoo highlights the ongoing conflict between democratic forces and corporate attempts to control information. Time Warner’s tried to create the world’s best website, but their slow and cumbersome model, which forced users to employ only certain models, never took off. On the other hand, Yahoo, built by two simple design students, offered easy and democratic access. The differences between them represent the power of community-driven markets and the importance of democratic access to information. This applies not only to the online world but also to real-world communities, where word-of-mouth is crucial.

The Rise of Techno-Artistic Mashups

Technology has facilitated the creation of “mashups,” where two or more data sources are combined to produce new content. Examples of these include a crime map in Chicago and new dialogue for existing film clips. The increasing accessibility of digital cameras and software means that new media are now viewed as raw material for individuals’ creativity, and as a result, society must adjust quickly. The rise of citizen marketers is changing the traditional media industry, producing new forms of democratic and collaborative interactions. The shift from a few media producers to interactive media is as revolutionary as Gutenberg’s printing press. The speed of change in digital media is incredible, and podcasts are already cutting into traditional radio audiences. To succeed, any new medium must cater to its community, be easy to use, and transparent in communication. Online platforms such as MySpace function more as electronic outgrowths of personalities than traditional media.

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