As more and more of our lives get locked up in the various electronic boxes we’re all attached to all day, we can get along with less and less human contact. But people love to meet other people with whom they share ideas and interests and talk face to face. When we do, we find out that what unites us is even more than we imagined. If companies really want to join the conversation, then what’s next online is offline.
It works for political organizations like MoveOn.org, which organize house parties, picnics, protests and meetings via the Internet. In fact, this type of political action combing the Internet and the outernet has revolutionized politics. And it will work for lot of other companies that want direct connection with their customers.
About 15 years ago Utne Magazine started the Utne salons. It required elaborate planning, much phone calling, faxing and mailing to start and join a salon in your neighborhood. Hundreds were formed, including one I joined, and many wonderful associations were begun.
At its peak in 1995, Utne’s Neighborhood Salon Association had 25,000 members in some 600 groups meeting monthly across the continent and in several foreign countries. Utne eventually decided that the movement had become a force all its own and let go of its role in overseeing salons. Many of these people are still getting together
That same concept, using social media tools like blogs, emails, wikis, peer to peer ratings and podcasts, could start a huge movement for a publisher today. Second Life is great, and it’ll spawn great creativity and many imitators. LinkedIn, blogs, and all the online communities in the world are wonderful, and they foster conversation and cooperation where before there might have been silence and alienation.
But people hanker for face to face contact with kindred spirits. A wonderful thing happens when people with much in common meet in person. They eat and drink together, make deals, fall in love, form deep friendships. Nothing beats face to face for niche groups. And that’s a huge opportunity for companies that really want to join the conversation and not just pay lip service to it..
Sure a virtual quilting bee that only uses blue thread can meet online, as can the one that only sews with red thread. But there is nothing like the real thing.
If I were a marketer with thousands of niche markets, I would be looking for ways to get them together in person. Too much work? Cost too much money? Not if you do it right. The UTNE salons cost nothing but time. The effort all came from the members.
Something to think about…..