Castles, Towns, and Missionaries

I’m meeting more and more corporate marketers who understand the value of social media, but don’t know how to use it. I’m seeing a trend of at least 3 different adoption strategies, listed out below.

Often they want to repurpose their corporate marketing brochures, videos, and pass them on to social channels –without understand that content, often has to change. Corporate “top-down” content doesn’t do well on YouTube, brochures and press releases don’t do well on blogs, and a marcom’s product announcement on a podcast is going to have limited traction.

Corporations are adopting at least one of the three styles of Social Media Marketing:

Locked in the Castle
Keeping the good stuff close to your domain.

Example: Creating videos, audio, and blog posts, but keeping them behind registration, or for clients only.

I’m seeing a handful of corporations in the past year, require registration for videos and podcasts that limit people from accessing them. The risks include: limiting the organic spread of your hard earned content, and not benefiting by the natural word of mouth network. Of course, the flip side is that those that do register are truly hungry for the content, and self-selecting themselves further down the funnel.

Building roads to Towns
Reach adjacent towns by enticing them with content, and provide them with links (roads) back to your land.

Example: Creating brand related images, publishing in flickr, and providing a link in the image notes back to the corporate domain

Some marketers are realizing that they can put a great deal of product and company content on social media tools for free, but by providing links back to the corproate site in comments, in the post-roll of a video, or mentioning a call to action at the end of a podcast extends their reach. By providing these ‘hooks’ to content, you can hope to entice people, who will embed, share, or consume your content, and then eventually click on the links to move closer to your corporate website.

Traveling Missionaries
Missionaries spread to new communities.

Example: Creating campaigns in social networks (like Facebook) where communities already exist, but with no links back to the corporate domain, and no blatant advertising.

The truly savvy marketers are learning to find communities where they exist, becoming that community, and not worry about ‘driving traffic’ back to the corporate website as a measure of success. I’ve a few clients that have figured out how to experiment with ‘off domain’ success. There are risks too, this strategy could give up complete control to the members, and could result in a brand backlash or few people caring about a brand’s products.

When it comes to social media marketing, which style is your corporation going to adopt? each has a strength –and weakness –so it’s best you understand the elements and benefits of each.

13 Replies to “Castles, Towns, and Missionaries”

  1. great post! some things I see:
    1. make the corporate site relevant (provide content – with more than just a marketing purpose)

    2. one definitely needs to go out into the communities at large & engage in discussion (expecting people to come to the corporate site is arrogant). Give them a reason

    3. and for your castle analogy – don’t build a moat. If the corporate website is an island (ie: no linking to other sites and encouraging the movement of traffic to & from related communities – then it will be lonely because Google’s new algorithms respect linking) and linking is what it’s all about – collaborating, participating, providing etc. Customers will respect & appreciate that.

    4. if an org. thinks it’s about control then they need to forget about utilizing social media because they’re not ready

  2. Jeremiah,

    I like the “adopting at least one of the three styles”. I like the 3rd approach much better and I suspect in the future thats the way the world culture will change.
    The challenges are in terms of measurability.


  3. I think there is also a subsect that might be called The Nomads.

    They rove from one idea/strategy to the next without really putting efforts into fostering one community or the other. Being lackluster in their sincerity, they are usually not taken seriously because of their notoriety for casting a wide net and seeing what sticks rather than really trying to make a connection.

    I think an example of this would be NBC about a year ago. They have since circled the wagons a bit, but at one time they had pulled out of deal with YouTube in favor of a desktop NBC Direct client, streaming video on their site, hulu and a few other side-distribution models. They faced heavy criticism for hulu until it became clear to the online community that they were actually going to invest some time and resources into making it a positive user experience.

  4. It’s good to see you take that position with the missionaries. I think they do good work, too. And what’s come out of this post for me is thinking more about the castle’s position to the town. Towns do all the commerce. Towns make things happen. And yet, castles govern.

    So if I’m building along your mindset, and we’re doing this like a video game, would I allocate 30/60/10 to castle/town/missionary?

    What would you do?

  5. It sort of depends on your goals, doesn’t it? The community I’m building is very intentionally closed and private in an attempt to create a true peer value.

    That said, we’ve been messing with Twitter as a way to give our members a way to stay connected (besides site RSS and the weekly email) but also as a way to pique the interest of those who aren’t in the community. We may one day open a door way for peer referral as well.

    As the community expands, we also are thinking about using private groups on other sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to extend the “networking” and peer capabilities of our program.

  6. Excellent post Jeremiah and thanks for labeling these buckets I have not had names for!

    I think two things are necessary to ask myself.
    What is my goal for this particular campaign?
    How can I build a nice mix between the castle, road to town, and missionary scenarios?

    Over the past few years there was an evolution to these scenarios for me as I refined my best practices. I started out unknowingly performing each scenario you describe. In some cases we would do email capture campaigns, in other cases we would be building roads, and then creating missionaries.

    I would say that coming from a brand oriented company stakeholders were very hesitant to go the missionary route. They did not see the value in creating portable interactive content that did not lead back to Rome. Too much of this can create a smoke and mirror effect and actually cause a disconnect from the goal. I do have examples where too much control was given to the users and in the end as great as most of the users found the campaign, there were a few people who were let down which was never the intent. There has been pletny of points where we had to stop and re purpose something.

    Then we positioned a mix of all these scenarios to be able to slide the benefits of each into the big picture while still satisfying stakeholders expectations. Between the video blogs created placed inside a portable container that was designed to suit the brand, to the 3-45 second teaser clip that closes out with a CTA towards the landing page where there may or may not be a barrier to entry. Then leveraging the pool of people within social profiles and making sure the content can be consumed at whatever level of participation they desire.

    Some people are your opinion leaders and trend setters who will rebroadcast your content via blogs, emails, bulletins. Some people won’t be evangelists but they will place your content on thier pages. Other people will cross a barrier to gain access to exclusive 1st looks at new content. Other people won’t do either but will stop by where your content lives and check it out from time to time.

    So I think the goal should be to create an environment where all three scenarios can happen without creating a barrier to entry or alienating any one type of user. Still engaging, still compelling, still reinforcing trust in only a few steps. In an ideal execution I would like to be able to identify each scenario and drop users into these categories so I can learn who are my ‘die hards’ in the castle, who are my townspeople helping brand my content, and then who are the people that are ‘lurkers’ and how do I bring them up in the ranks and develope more loyalty and more trust. I think we are at a point now where we can serve content in a ‘have it your way’ fashion.

    Long reply but really like this post!

  7. It really depends upon the goals and objectives for offering the social media features as to how you grant access. One size does not fit all and only leads to poor results.

    For B2B lead generation, you do want to offer some open access to entice conversion to registrations. But then for the real engagement which uncovers the need, the community/network needs to be the castle. This also works best for complex technology support communities where access is limited to customers. There is nothing wrong with this approach and it works quite well for a large number of technology and service oriented companies.

    For building brand awareness, you want to use a combination of the roads and missionary strategy. You’ll want to engage people wherever they may be in a relevant way to build awareness. But eventually, you’ll still probably want to drive them to your site to capture their data for future campaigns and offers.

    In short, you need to sharpen your objectives for the offerings and tie them back to concrete corporate goals. Then the strategy can be developed as to what type of sites, campaigns, and access that you will use to achieve those objectives.

  8. I like the ‘castle’ metaphor. However, one thing keeps bugging me: the walls of the ‘castle’ are largely irrelevant now: annotation software like Fleck, Diigo or Shiftspace allow anyone to add a “comment layer’ on top of any website and share it with the world. Even if the corporate website does not have forums or a blog, nothing prevents you from creating your own comment thread using any of the above. If you use Weblin, you can even host a chat-fest with your avatar and others right on the doorstep of or if you want.

    To piggyback on your analogy, with these applications, anyone can be the ghost of the castle 😉

    (For some reason I can’t explain however, these services have never caught on, despite tremendous potential. Any idea why?)

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