Earlier this week I ran across a post that smartly drew a metaphor between marketing to consumers and ‘finding the kitchen’ at a party. You probably know the drill – people gravitate to the kitchen during parties, no matter how much you try to migrate the group to other areas. This is an outstanding metaphor for brands who want to connect with people on the web (or anywhere for that matter).Listen

I recall sitting down at an impromptu meeting last year where I was the lone ‘social media guy’ presenting on the fly to a room full of entertainment biz execs and marketers. The conversation drifted to ‘we need to drive traffic to our website,’ to which I paused and asked the question ‘what is the ultimate goal of interacting with this audience?’ See, web traffic should not be the goal – sales should! In other words, who cares how many people come to your website if they don’t buy anything (or do something else you’re hoping they will do for you)? When I posed the question, I got a lot of blank looks and a couple of people talking about how they ‘needed’ web traffic for this or that, but there was no compelling rationale for not providing content and engaging with the audience via social media vs. the websites they had created for their artists. Basically they were lukewarm to the idea of engaging with their audience too much on social platforms unless we were specifically driving them back to their sites (to consume essentially the same content). By holding back, they forgot where the kitchen was.

The above example is no doubt played out again and again on the social web day after day. We’ve all seen it – Facebook posts or tweets that are essentially only recycled sound bytes from ads, promotional offers, etc. Come to our website, buy our stuff, talk about us, etc., etc. To return to the kitchen metaphor, why not just hang out in the kitchen, wherever that might be? In other words, if the target audience is on Facebook, engage with them there! If they are communicating on targeted blogs or forums, find a way to add value to those conversations. Our job as marketers is to make the cash register ring, regardless of whether or not we run up web visits to any specific site.

Of course not everyone will end up hanging out in the kitchen – they might like the basement game room more, or perhaps the back yard, or the deck. The point is, let them decide where they are most comfortable hanging out, and join them there. Maybe the kitchen is Facebook, the game room is Twitter, the back yard is the mobile web. If you have a broad audience, you’ll have different places to pay attention to. Just like a party is more fun when you let people hang out where they want, you’ll encounter less resistance if you engage your audience on their terms, in their space. Just make sure you’re a good host. Nobody likes a lame party.

Definitely check out the post by Kaila Colbin that inspired this post and reminded me of that meeting last year. You can also connect with Kaila on Twitter here.