Inspired by the events of last month, where my previous article circulated like wildfire across social media, I got to thinking, who are the people that make the news and inspire the conversation?
Where once newsmen of undisputed social standing made and reported the news, today the news is made by “us.” But within this nebulous “us,” are groups or archetypes, who are the eyes and ears, mouths and wrists that make the news. I resolved that there are actually three types of people, all of whom contribute in their own way to the banter and hot topics of the day: Sideliners, Joiners and Leaders.
Sideliners: My guess is that most of us are Sideliners. And by the way, that’s what makes the world go ‘round. Most people are followers, voyeurs in this day and age, that like to look, read and mumble to themselves, but who very seldom comment or out themselves publicly. These are the people who are seen but never heard.
A more vocal party, but fewer in number, are the Joiners. Those people that care to share everything, from the miracle births of their little ones to their well-reasoned political views to their personal and professional accomplishments, no matter how big or how small. Since Joiners fancy themselves one step above the masses and of a certain nobility that makes us interested in what they have to say, no commentary would be complete without the requisite picture or visual that reinforces their all-important point.
Finally, we have the Leaders. The social commentators who prophetically declare what we are experiencing today, how it will change in the future and what we can anticipate that’s new down the road. This group is the most exclusive, and a position among them must be earned through education, experience, money or moxy, listed in order of ascending importance.
If we sit and ponder these three groups, they offer a view of our societal structure as a whole, one that’s been in place since the dawn of time. Think Adam (the Sideliner), Eve (the Joiner) and the Serpent (the Leader). But what’s interesting about these groups today, is that they are so much more public – there for the look-see -- and by choosing one path or the other you are self-selecting, but publicly stating, who you are, what you’re about and how you want to viewed, at least for the moment. What’s different is that our position among them is fluid, while we may be a Joiner today, tomorrow we may choose to sit on the sidelines, or vice versa.
Marketers today need to embrace this ever-changing social ecosystem, where you can cast yourself anew with the stroke of a pen, or more accurately, the pulse of a keyboard. And they must be as fluid and flexible as the members of their communities demand. Influence the Leaders, incite the Joiners and intrigue the Sideliners. This will ensure a level of social engagement that will ultimately impact behavioral change. And possibly inspire those Sideliners to act!
Susan Cantor is principal and COO of Thinktopia, a New York-based global strategic brand innovation firm, and has worked with brands including Levi’s, Wrigley, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, American Express and PayPal. Before that, she was President and CEO of the New York office of Lowe Worldwide, representing firms including General Motors and Unilever. She lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters.
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