Priming the Pump
Definition: to do something in order to make something succeed for example: covertly setting money in a tip jar before anyone else has left "real" tips in order to ease the flow of tips by making customers feel more at ease with the idea of leaving money.
'Priming the pump' is a smart and well-established technique. We could spend several articles de-constructing how and why. In the meantime, let's just accept that people do it because it works.
In this article, I propose that 'priming the pump' is fundamental to beBee's strategy, on several levels:
Activity : Big Shallow Numbers
beBee loves its Big Shallow Numbers, which prove that they're the powerful new kid on the block - especially as compared to LinkedIn.
It would be nice if both services were transparent about how-they-count-"Views", but it's pretty obvious that beBee keeps track of activity in a way that allows it to claim a much higher viewership audience than LinkedIn. A common-sense look under-the-hood reveals the trick - but it doesn't really matter: Marketing has its numbers - and a message.
Another way in which beBee creates the profile of high activity and 'buzz' is by posting a lot of articles, which generate a lot of comments. We'll explore how it's done a little later in this article ...
Buzz: The Confluence of Influence Marketing and StealthbeBee likes to identify itself as "the Affinity Social Network" and does so consistently and with great vigor. One thing that really identifies the beBee Aficionado is their strong emotional advocacy for the beBee platform. This enthusiasm and cheerleading is very effective for a particular set of marketing techniques:
The underlying premise is "... focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers."
- LinkedIn calls its partisan advocacy cheerleaders "Influencers". beBee calls them "Brand Ambassadors". Techniques differ. Intent is consistent.
..."also known as buzz marketing, is any marketing strategy that advertises a product to people without them knowing they are being marketed to. There are many techniques in stealth marketing..."
... is another variation on the theme. "To keep the product or service in the unconscious mind means repetition is needed, so if a buzz is created around a product and it is shared amongst friends it enables repetition ... One of the goals of this interaction is to cause an emotional reaction".
... "describes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence."
The definitions offered here come primarily from Wikipedia: Guerrilla Marketing. It's worth reading in its own right - and offers a pretty good thumbnail on beBee's multi-channel approach to "priming the pump".
* the confluence (and ethics) of guerrilla/stealth/viral/influence marketing is a much-discussed topic for many social media & marketing professionals in the current economy. It deserves an article-rant in its own right.
Subsidy : You get what you pay for
beBee employs - literally - a large number of its users (50+ as of mid October, 2016) to act as 'brand ambassadors'.
The reward for Brand Ambassadorship is that you are promised an equity position* in the company. Granted, the actual value of your equity is speculative (beBee does not publicly announce 'how much it's worth' - but you're a already believer anyway). In any case it's undeniably a form of compensation.
beBee states that the role of the Brand Ambassador is
- Boost beBee on the Internet (outward facing marketing)
- Invite your contacts (provide membership & sales leads)
- Write stories (produce content)
- Share content (promote & proliferate)
Unstated - but clearly high on the agenda - is also to "comment" actively on beBee articles, thereby enhancing the image&sense of activity. In fact, creating 'buzz' internally appears to be a major function of the Brand Ambassador. More later...
* the equity position of Brand Ambassadors
"For every 1% of equity that beBee books for them our Ambassadors would receive $262MM."
beBee states definitively and legally - if not clearly - that "beBee Ambassadors may (emphasis mine) receive equity shares of stock in beBee at some future time" and beBee also states that this is "a potential (emphasis mine) benefit".
Legal scholars, nit-pickers, and apologists will point out that there's no actual, legal commitment to compensation.
Even so, I will continue to refer to the Brand Ambassador arrangement as equity-compensation-for services
- that's clearly how beBee markets Brand Ambassadorship
- that's clearly the expectation of the Brand Ambassadors
But, let's be clear:
beBee Brand Ambassadors provide their services 'on speculation'*
*The dilemma of "work on spec" is a major, painfully popular topic for many professionals in the current economy. It deserves an article-rant in its own right.
the beBee Pump Primers (BBPP's)
The title of this article is "priming the pump". Ultimately, that comes down to the actions of individuals. Let's take a look at who does the work:
For purposes of this ongoing discussion, I count both "speculative equity" beBee Brand Ambassadors and beBee management & staff employees as beBee Pump Primers (BBPP's) because they all share a common financial-reward-driven stake in the market success of beBee.
Beyond BBPP's: A large proportion of the engagers on beBee are what I tend to call wanna.bees. Are they purely selfless aficionados or are they motivated by the hope of becoming equity partners? Does it matter? In any case, 'the usual suspects' appear regularly as contributors and comprise a significant subset of the beBee culture.
In practical terms, the pathway from aficionado to Ambassador is well-defined: a high proportion of wanna.bees are appointed as Brand Ambassadors.
the role of the influential 'ambassador'
My definition of the beBee Pump Primer (the BBPP):
- beBee customer members who have been designated as "beBee brand ambassadors"
- beBee management and employees
The rationale for combining these two groups of 'pump primers' is:
- Both groups engage actively in partisan advocacy (s.a. cheerleading & promotion)
- Both groups are compensated specifically for those activities
An Insightful Question renders Useful Metrics
How many Articles, Likes, Views, Shares and Comments are supplied by beBee's compensated spokespersons (BBPP's)?
I don't just share my opinions with you just because this is the socialNet so I'm entitled, I did a another little 'reality check' on my based-on-observation-assumptions. I examined the articles in the beBee dashboard, just as I did in the Mirror Analyses.
This time I looked - not for content (What was being said) - but rather for agency (Who was saying it).
The overall/general trends and pattern were not all that surprising, though I was a little taken aback at how big the numbers were. Here ya go:
- Half (at least) of the articles are either authored by or "pointed to" by BBPP's.
- A significant proportion of the comments on any articles are authored by BBPP's
- Many articles are "double whammies" : a BBPP-authored post is also "pointed to" by another BBPP
- Quite a few articles are "triple whammies": the BBPP-authored post that is "pointed to" by another BBPP is then commented on by multiple BBPP's
Net/Net: beBee 'ambassadors' and employees comprise a huge proportion of the traffic on beBee
This lies at the heart of beBee's 'priming the pump' strategy
the informal TakeAway
Much of beBee's content, engagement, and promotional "buzz" is created by people who have (or believe they have) an equity stake in the enterprise.
beBee's numbers should probably be viewed in this context.
the Minefield of Analysis
I anticipate vigorous pushback from beBee Aficionados. If their reaction goes true to form, it will range from indignant "how dare you?" to dismissive "what's the big deal?" to whiny "why do you hate beBee?", with a goodly bit of personal invectivethrown in, as well. Often there's some semi-apologetic mis-direction, too, "well, LinkedIn is even worse!" Bottom-line:
beBee is not a welcoming or supportive environment for critical opinion.
... and so, I copy&paste my standard disclaimer:
my Disclaimer (and Boilerplate Apologia)
Painful experience with beBee Aficionados obliges me to add this disclaimer to any article which appears to treat beBee with anything other than breathless wonder and admiration:
"Well, I've probably really stepped in it this time. People can usually tolerate numbers - even if they refuse to respond to them. Analysis is often reacted to as criticism. And criticism is usually perceived as being negative.
The numbers are the numbers. My observations are pretty much on the level of 'obvious', 'understandable', and 'common sense' - or at least how I've intended them.
If you feel the need to ask "Why do you hate beBee, John?" Please don't.
By way of context, you might check out my many snippily critical posts on LinkedIn (They go back for years).
I've been analyzing and advising - or complaining (if you must) - about social media for a while. I've got some dirt-under-the-fingernails experience and skills, as well as a passion, to make socialnNets work - for everybody.
But that's a whole 'nother rant ...
As you may've noticed, I don't do a whole lot of judging in my articles about beBee - I try to keep most of my writing at the level of reportage -"just the facts". Of course, everything isn't necessarily transparent. Sometimes you must interpret. I try to do so in a straightforward manner.
Even so, some partisans feel that my exposure and presentation of facts is 'judgmental'. Too often, they don't react well.
Hence: the standard Disclaimer above.
Here's a little more context on my approach to the topic of 'priming the pump':
"Priming the Pump" is an effective and proven strategy.
- beBee primes the pump across several aspects of its business.
Priming the pump marketing techniques can be "dark-ish"
- The success of viral/stealth/buzz tactics are often based on indirection, emotional motivation, and covert techniques
A socialNet that bases itself on trust and affinity owes its audience the Courtesy of Transparency.
I don't dispute the ability of a beBee Pump Primer (BBPP) to have an opinion or express it.
- A common standard of journalistic ethics is to reveal any "vested interest" you may have in the content you produce.
beBee Pump Primers (whether speculative-equity Ambassadors or paid Employees) should be clearly identified as such - both within and outside of beBee
In view of this, I propose that beBee's 'ambassadors' and LinkedIn's 'influencers' be re-branded - appopriately - as Promotionalists
Well, there ya go. I hope I've provided some useful context for examining - and perhaps consciously shaping- our environment. I've always liked the observation:
We Don’t Know Who Discovered Water, But We're Pretty Sure It Wasn’t a Fish
The keyword is ... Perspective
(c) copyright John Vaughan / The Communication Studio
Visit The Communication Studio website jcvtcs.com