(For maximum appreciation, play the instrumental beginning of The E Street Shuffle (live) and picture Bruce Springsteen in his raspy voice narrating telling the story. Go ahead; show some imagination, you can do it.)
You know it was right about 1975, I think so, on a day, a day just like this. Me and my buds were just hanging out doin’ nothing, but having the time of our lives. This cat Paul’s older brother was emphatic about this new and upcoming rocker, Bruce Springsteen. Somehow my friends, the Hoven Road Gang (not a real gang, just some of us wild and innocent kids doing the shuffle), got the message before the rest of the world caught on to this phenomenon. The influence of a cool, older brother – this had its merits.
A few months later the world would learn of the magic, the alluring simple charisma of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. On Oct 27, 1975 Bruce made the cover of Time and Newsweek. (See a good story – “The Hype Hits The Fan: Springsteen on Time and Newsweek 10/27/75”) Time and Newsweek, not bad for generating some attention in music circles and way beyond.
If there was soundtrack of my childhood it would have to be Bruce and the ESB. When I hear Bruce do old time classics, I still get emotional for the nostalgic influence he had on my life “Growin’ Up.” But it is not this influence that I want to address here. What does this have to do with social media … one hell of a lot…
Let’s go back to the older brother – that is “word of mouth” marketing at its best. Paul’s brother was an influencer. He had the power to move a crowd in a direction. This is exactly what brands would love … having an advocate as their spokesperson doing promotion for them in a grass roots play. But there is a key element you must not forget – value. There is no doubt the brand (Bruce Springsteen) delivers value to his existing and potential audience. Bruce released unprecedented value – both his recorded musical genius and engaging presence live doing 4 hour plus shows back then.
While word of mouth is one form of influence, clearly nailing the front page of Time and Newsweek was a paramount. Just think of the awareness this generated to an untapped audience. This was a pole vault launch for Bruce. No, he did not set out to have something go mega-viral. He was just doing what he knew best and perfected his “product” with maximum value. You should not set out to make something viral. Most people that start with this objective fail. You deliver the best and maybe it goes viral.
Influence is an old marketing concept, but as applicable today as ever. In today’s social media world you can increase awareness by having a strategy that accomplishes exactly what I learned in 1975. Both the grass roots effort and the mega-ness of what Bruce accomplished by being on the cover of Time and Newsweek. As an example, I look at what Tony Hsieh (Zappos’ CEO) is doing with his soon to be released book, “Delivering Happiness.” He is giving away a free copy of the book to those that agree to write about the book in their blog. I applied and received 2 copies of the book in the email. I am reading the book now (love it) and I will blog about it shortly. This is a social media grass roots effort.
In those days, Time and Newsweek were much more influential then current times. Today, social media has a number of powerful crowd sourcing channels. What kind of exposure do you think you get when your piece hits the front page of Digg? What do you think is the outcome of getting a mention in a Mashable article? In a social context things like these along with YouTube and other channels are the equivalent to Time and Newsweek in their hey-day. And the Internet makes these channels potentially more powerful because of viral possibilities.
Comments and reviews appear everywhere. What do you think the ramifications and positive or negatives on yelp are.
So here are my suggestions:
1) Build or deliver something great – you must start there.
2) Do NOT look to have a viral strategy, BUT
3) Do look at the social outlets where your target audience is at.
4) Plan valued content, not selling collateral.
5) Deliver relevant, helpful content at the social outlets where your target audience exists.
6) Plan incentives to make advocates do the marketing for you. (Does not always need to be a give-away. Sometimes simple recognition works.)
7) Look at social media as a way to connect with your potential audience and build relationships with them. (DON’T SELL.)
In wrapping up, I guess there is just one thing left to do … In the words of the impresario and rock concert promoter, Bill Graham, “Thank you very much for coming. Would you welcome please, the chairman of the board, the great one, Bruce Springsteen:”