Mark Shelley and I are currently working on an article introducing the concept of Hive Marketing and its relevance to social media. For the uninitiated, hive marketing is the notion of bringing together supporters of a brand or organization into a community of shared interest (the hive), so they can feed off of one another, share experiences, and extend the depth of their knowledge about the brand. This interaction serves to confirm their decision to embrace the brand, and makes them more effective brand evangelists given they are now armed with a greater depth of information. In essence, they become more effective storytellers and brand ambassadors because of their experience in the hive. The expectation is that they will leave the hive and share their passion for the brand with the rest of the world, and back it up with all that they have learned within the hive.
Along comes social media. From our perspective, social media is the supreme Hive Marketing instrument. Imagine a hive with bees buzzing all around it. Although it might not be apparent at first, the bees are all involved in a common effort: sustaining life by gathering pollen from flowers and making honey. In the hive, there is organization and purpose in what first appears to be chaos. For me, that has proven to be a useful metaphor for social networks. We often run into people who feel that social media is just a “big waste of time.” But these are people who don’t understand the social web and how it is connected to the power of community and the power of the hive. Within the social web, people with shared interests come together in groups, in what may appear to an outsider as an unorganized mess, to exchange information and ideas. They feed off one another’s passion for the brand or subject matter; their point of view is often confirmed or reconfirmed, and their passion is ignited. When they end up leaving the hive (or the social network), they are ready spread the word with an authentic and credible voice. These individuals have the potential to become your most effective marketers, generating buzz through word-of-mouth on the Internet and in your local community. That communication has a power that your institutionally generated marketing will never have.
I did a presentation last week on the topic of marketing in a recession. During that talk I briefly touched upon Hive Marketing. Below is a video clip from my presentation that introduces the subject.