Viral is Dead, Let it Spread Instead

Real estate firms that are thinking about implementing social media marketing strategies should pay attention to Charlene Li‘s predictions. Li’s series of five interviews paint a road map of the social media future firms ought to be considering today:

melded identities


social algorithms (see also my earlier post on trust indicators in social networks)

open platforms

privacy and permissions

organizational trust

Her thinking mirrors that of Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, who essentially argues in his white paper “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead” that marketers need to shed the terms “viral” and “memes” and adopt “spreadability” as a benchmark.

What Jenkins points out, and Li implicitly endorses, is that humans are not passive hosts that propagate marketing messages. Rather, humans take an active roll in transferring and transforming marketing messages. Thus, marketers need to rethink their approaches to conceiving of, executing on, and managing marketing campaigns by migrating away from command and control modalities to adopting more of a marketing midwifery role.

I think that Li’s and Jenkins’ thoughts also pertain to CRM definitions. Let’s shed the agri-centric CRM labels like “cultivate,” “nurture,” and “harvest” for terms that recognize a consumer’s role in allowing themselves to become part of a CRM system, rather than passive victims of that system. Terms like “engagement,” “conversation,” and “partner” align with Li’s and Jenkins’ sentiments, seem more respectful of an individual’s role in a CRM system, and are reflective of the fact that consumers are active participants in a firm’s “relationship management” processes. And assuming that a firm’s client services division performs at high levels of consumer satisfaction, this ethos shift also has the potential to empower “engaged” consumers to spread the word of a firm’s client services successes (much like Li relates in her Comcast example in the above “organizational trust” interview).