It’s not about listening to customers, or even communicating with them. The future of social marketing is now all about collaboration.
The public sector often looks to business as a role model. Unfortunately, it too often looks to older business models lagging behind in new ways of thinking even when those new ways are fully applicable to the public sector. Those working in City Halls all to often see members of the community as best clients with problems to be solved then move on or worse as the problems themselves. Not as sources of information or insight about the community and not as co-leaders in creating that community. Efforts then to “Sell” or “Brand” the community flounder, if there is no beef behind it, no matter how slick the promotional material.
While the term “Branding” leaves a bad taste for many in the public sector, who see it as a matter of marketing fluff, communities still have a value to communicate, not only to attract developers and new businesses, also to help local businesses and residents define their community for themselves.
Branding though is probably the wrong starting point. It should really be community building with the emphasis on community and building from the ground up. When that is done successfully, which means authentically, demonstrating the true wealth and value of the community, that community has been “Branded”. The marketing or promotional effort merely communicates that fact to those that need to be made aware of it.
Social media is a means not and end. Social media can be a useful tool in both branding products or in community building for on-the-ground communities as it has shown to be useful in building communities around common interests online.
Brandon Evans, writes about the three phases of social marketing. Each of these can also be applied to improving governance of our communities.
- Phase One: Social Listening equates to getting city hall to listen.
- Phase Two: Social Management equates to getting city hall to address issues of importance to the community.
- Phase Three: Collaborative Marketing equates to the community itself coming up with and implementing the solutions to its problems.
This is not “Mad Men” style marketing for either promotions by private businesses or, if applied, for community governance because in both cases the role of customer and citizen is redefined. This redefinition is not only a result of the change in social media marketing, it is also the basis for it. It recognizes people as sources of ideas through crowdsourcing and as advocates of those ideas.
There is a problem if a brand such as Skittles does a better job of engaging its customers than most city halls do of engaging their community.