The world is moving so quickly in terms of the public’s dizzying uptake of social networking and new media technologies that many company executives struggle to know where to look in terms of trends and inspiration.
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Of course when the business world experiences tsunami-like change, such as what is occurring currently, companies keep their eyes peeled: firstly to see what their competitors are doing; and secondly to see what others in similar types of industries locally and overseas are doing.
That’s all well and good, and it’s research that needs to be done, but in today’s information-overloaded, hyper-connected marketplace, it’s recommended to look even further afield for inspiration and ideas.
May I suggest, in addition to looking at the usual suspects in their industry, that companies check out what’s happening at the smaller part of town, and then lower their eyes even further to what a cadre of forward-thinking, high-profile individuals are doing in their particular niche.
Why? Because much of the action is at the smaller-end of the market. Individuals (and small, nimble companies and non-profits) are showing the way. Of course, it’s easier when you’re a smaller operation to change tack quickly and morph to stay in-sync with an ever-evolving marketplace, but that doesn’t mean bigger companies can’t learn a thing or two from them.
Welcome to the world of the ‘micro maven’.
I recently released a book that examines how companies can leverage social media and content marketing to build a mini-business empire about their personal brand, the central tenet of which is based around the emergence of a new breed of creative entrepreneur I call ‘micro mavens’.
Micro mavens leverage the power of the internet and social technologies to build a global platform for their personal brand; along the way they create sustainable business enterprises that in most cases are virtual and can be operated anywhere there is stable internet connectivity.
Some micro mavens, however, parlay their reputation and brand equity into more traditional businesses with partners and staff. For example, retail liquor merchant Gary Vaynerchuk built his formidable personal brand off the back of a daily video blog called Wine Library TV, which at its peak attracted something like 80,000 viewers a day. Today, Vaynerchuk and his brother AJ run Vaynermedia, a brand consulting agency that focuses on social media. Vaynermedia was founded in mid-2009; it now has offices in New York and San Francisco and, according to the company’s LinkedIn page, employs more than 200 staff. Vaynerchuk is also a prominent investor in tech startups. In all likelihood none of this would have happened had Vaynerchuk not built his brand on a global basis using content marketing and social media.
Micro mavens operate at the ‘pointy end’ of marketing and PR. The fact they can grow their profile and build not insignificant-sized international businesses without outside investment is testament to the smart way in which they operate.
Three lessons bigger companies can take from micro mavens:
- The combination of creating interesting and relevant content, plus being active via social media, has huge potential and can pay major dividends in terms of building trust, reputation and brand visibility. Key takeaway: put content marketing and social media activity at the heart of your company’s public relations and marketing effort; think ongoing and long term, not short-horizon campaigns and instant results.
- Growing and cultivating a base of fans, followers, advocates and enthusiasts for your brand is one of the most powerful, not to mention sustainable and cost-effective, marketing strategies available. Key takeaway: contribute in a positive way to people’s lives. Add value through being helpful and providing utility to customers versus always going in for the (sales) kill.
- Authenticity and a sense of openness and transparency are admirable traits that people find attractive in a brand. Key takeaway: social media has given companies the tools to be more ‘human’. Put your people front and centre, take customers ‘behind the velvet rope’ and give them a glimpse inside your organisation.
Micro mavens are the product of today’s ideas-based economy; they sit at the forefront of a global trend that’s building momentum all the time. You could do worse than observe how they go about their business and perhaps instil some of these learnings in your own organisation.