Avoiding Commoditization in a Social World

Some would have everyone believe that social networking has completely eliminated the ability to frame the discussion about your destination. Positioning, as it were, is no longer necessary because, with the consumer in control, it doesn’t matter what you say or who you say it to anymore — no one is paying attention.

We are a social network of storytellers.

From the beginning of time, information has been passed mouth to ear, generation to generation through the fine art of storytelling. Most stories worth paying attention to have a point, a moral or lesson, a reason beyond just being. Your personal stories, and those about your destination, are no different.

Imagine, for a moment, that you have moved to a new town and joined the chamber of commerce. Or a new trade or industry association. Or taken on a new job. You attend your first meeting and the host asks you to step up in front of the audience and tell everyone a little about yourself. What do you say that will make others in the room the least bit interested in getting to know you better?

Will you talk about why you joined and came to the meeting? Do you have a story, core values, a mission or goal in life? Do you tell them about your career and company, your family, personal interests, hobbies and your favorite pet? Or do you just stand there, fumbling for the words?

If you’re smart, you’ve taken the time to think about what you’re going to say before you get put in the spotlight. It helps you to differentiate yourself from the rest of the people in the room (beyond the nice tie or pumps you picked out for the event) and gives everyone clear expectations of the value you bring to the table.

As they get to know you better, and you them, their experiences with you help to shape their perceptions of your character. How well you listen and show genuine interest in their points of view. Your actions and how well they align with how you talk about yourself. Do they talk about you to others the way you intended? Are they complimentary about what you bring to the table? Or do they dismiss you, or worse, talk poorly about you behind your back?

The same social rules go for your destination.

Positioning helps you to determine your core messages, which stories help to communicate them, and which are irrelevant, likely to be misinterpreted or best kept to yourself. If you listen to your customers and prospects and relate to them in their terms, they respond positively. If you live up to your promises, you make friends. If you make your destination relevant to their human condition, you gain advocates. If you fail to set realistic expectations, promise something you can’t deliver, or succeed at attracting a customer that will never be happy with what your brand has to offer, you will lose.