7 Marketing Trends in 2017, Part 5: The Velvet Rope Revolution

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Where do you find you’re having more conversations today? In public forums like Twitter? Or do you find you’re having the majority of your conversations in private settings:

  • Facebook groups
  • Slack
  • WhatsApp
  • Google chat
  • MMS/group texts

If you said the latter, you wouldn’t be alone. In fact, you’d be in a significant majority – a velvet rope revolution. As we detailed in the previous trend, “dark social” or velvet rope communities have become the dominant way people communicate with each other.

Why? Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen civility online degrade to the point where even ordinary people receive death threats focused on them and their children, sustained hostility, and urging by others in the public to kill themselves.

Combine this with the trend towards being friends with people who agree with us and excluding dissenting voices, and we have the recipe for the velvet rope revolution.

The Velvet Rope Revolution: Implications

The most difficult challenge the velvet rope revolution presents is analytics. We cannot see inside velvet rope communities. We cannot extract data from them to understand them, to work with them. Thus, we cannot effectively manage them.

Consider how most digital marketers approach influencer marketing. Using simplistic scoring methods (how many followers does this influencer have?), they look for the loudest voices, then throw cash and incentives at the influencer. While this is good for the influencer, it isn’t necessarily good for the marketer.

Examine how people in velvet rope communities actually operate. Yes, there are likely influencers and/or community leaders, but the community behaves as a unit. A topic of discussion may come up and many individuals in the community participate, all behind closed doors. If the topic is which brand of X people should buy, there’s no way for us to identify which individual person in the community is most likely to influence the conversation. In fact, chances are that influence in situations like this behaves like a network effect, where the multitude of voices is more influential than a single loud voice.

In one example I saw at a marketing event, a community member showed a group they were part of, a private group of over 500 mothers. Individually, analytics software likely would not have identified any one person as especially influential, but the group behaved as one cohesive unit. When a group member released a new product, the entire group participated in promoting it. A group member published a new book on Amazon and nearly overnight, 500 five-star reviews appeared.

What To Do About the Velvet Rope Revolution

How do we succeed in the velvet rope revolution? Unlike the early days of influencer marketing, we will not be able to take shortcuts. We will be able to use audience curation techniques in some cases to reach members inside communities, but for the most part, we will need to take the very manual, very labor-intensive, very time-consuming process of building actual relationships with our audiences.

We will need to act as our communities do, grooming ambassadors to help usher us into conversations we’re not yet a part of.

We’ll need extensive market research to identify where our communities of influence exist, and who might be able to broker introductions for us.

We’ll need to behave as good citizens in order to be invited to the members-only party.

The velvet rope revolution is here. Have you earned your place in it?

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2 responses to “7 Marketing Trends in 2017, Part 5: The Velvet Rope Revolution”

  1. Vincent Johnson Avatar
    Vincent Johnson

    “If you enjoyed this, please share it with your network!”

    I like what you did there at the end and it’s built into more all your posts.

  2. This blog makes me wonder if we’ll go back to email marketing on certain elements of content marketing, because it can provide better tracking.

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