16 December 2010

Hyper Island II: The Network

NEW YORK – Every day at Hyper Island starts with a “morning reflection”. You get a chance to stop, consider what you’ve learned and how to apply it. Then you share insights in group discussions. It’s mandatory to take a lot of notes, which I’m repurposing here as a blog post.

Networks are the Base Unit of Communication

I learned a lot on Day 1 but the one thing that most changed the way I think was the concept of Networks. Your Network is the list of people you choose to read, listen to, and interact with.

Our lecturer, Mark Comerford, said this: “Networks are the base unit of communication. If you don’t reach the Network, then you don’t reach me.”

That was a radical idea for me, not because of my experience with mass audiences, but because I made a mental shift some years ago from mass audiences to one-to-one communication. My newer paradigm has been that Digital, Data and Direct all work together, allowing us to engage people in ways relevant to them, and measure the results.

In a bit of self-analysis, I realized that I had seen each individual person as their own gatekeeper – and that is true, by the way. What I had been missing is the fact that each individual person relies on their Network to be a gatekeeper. The implication for marketers is to figure out how you are going to offer something of value to these Networks.

That value is what matters to the Network of people. The currency of the Network is stuff that’s interesting to its members.

What My Network Taught Me This Morning

After a few minutes of journaling, we sat in a circle – a Network, if you will – and shared our insights.

My good friend and colleague, Terry Corrigan, shared something that anyone coming from a traditional ad agency background, big or small, would want to hear.

Terry observed that “the digital space isn’t about selling, it’s about being useful.” Many of you know this. He went on to describe how “being useful” builds brand equity.

Many traditional agency people and their traditional clients think about brand equity as a function of the TV advertising. What we say, how it looks, what products we choose to advertise – all of these contribute significantly to a brand’s equity.

The same applies to digital programs. Best Buy’s Twelpforce and Zappos customer service build brand equity. Motrin’s ignorance of the space hurt their brand equity. Brand equity is your reputation.

This point is significant because many clients ask about the ROI of Social Media. Instead of dissembling because we don’t know how to calculate the ROI, we should make the impact on brand equity part of the answer.

Time again for lunch. You can follow our Hyper Island Master Class on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #HIMC.

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