Peer-to-peer vs. Corporation-to-customer

It’s so interesting to see how different companies are approaching this world of word-of-mouth marketing and outreach. And on one issue, we’re seeing two pathways emerge when it comes to leadership of the community (and when I say ‘community,’ I mean offline and online ” not just online, so get your head out of the social media clouds for a moment).

Pathway one is picking someone from inside the company to ‘lead.’ They figure that they are already towing the company line. They know the dos and don’ts. They are trusted by others in the company to say the right thing and put the best interests of the company first. This is corporation-to-customer.

Pathway two is finding those folks out there in the world that are passionate (or ‘influential’ ” bleh) about the industry or brand, empowering them with knowledge and tools and then bringing them into the fold. This is peer-to-peer.

So now let me tell you why peer-to-peer works better: Because it’s peer-to-peer. I don’t care how good your intentions are if you come from inside the company, you’re still from inside the company and people aren’t going to trust you completely. You are a PR tool. You are doing your job.

It’s been proven that the vast majority of people trust people ‘just like me.’ One of my favorite things that Holly, Fiskateer #1, said to us during her training was, ‘I’m a crafter FIRST. And a Lead Fiskateer SECOND.’ This is the honest, transparent perspective that only someone from the outside can bring. So the people in the community know where their loyalties lie. They are not part of the machine. They are part of the community.

Now I’m not saying that those that lead communities from inside the company are all bad. There are a lot of them out there doing a great job communicating to the community. But from first-hand experience, it is multiple times more powerful and more successful when you hand the reigns over to those in the community, step back, and let them lead. Because that’s trust. That’s dedication. That’s truly becoming a fan of your fans. It’s putting your money where you mouth is. And instead of just talking about listening and trusting and being transparent, now you’re putting those things into practice.

Hard work? Oh yeah. Very. But worth every single moment of it. So before you appoint that PR or marketing person to lead your community, consider empowering those that are out there already. Because peer-to-peer will trump corporation-to-customer seven days a week and twice on Sunday.

Believe it.

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