Does Patron Tequila need its own social network?

Ok, so I don’t have to tell you that social networking is popular.  You’d have to be pretty much dead to not know that MySpace, Facebook, and other social networks are all the rage.  But let’s say you’re a brand of tequila, for argument’s sake, let’s say you’re a premium brand.  Should you have your own social network?

The answer is no.  Common sense dictates a number of reasons why Patron shouldn’t have their own social network, including:

  1. Scale.  All networks, from the early network of people with fax machines all the way up to social networks like Facebook, can be valued in a well-understood equation that basically says if there are N people in a network, it’s value is N times N.  (See Metcalfe’s Law at Wikipedia)   Patron, with it’s narrow interest focus, has no chance in hell of ever approaching Facebook in scale, so it’s a loser before it starts.  As an aside, as of July 2007 Facebook had 30 millions users, making it’s value 9 x 10 ^ 14, or 900,000,000,000,000
  2. Niche.  Niche social networks are booming, but they really have to focus on something elemental about the user.  Many of my friends in San Francisco belong to the Good Reads social network, where they rate the books they have read.  Common sense tells you that a narrow niche like reading isn’t going to get as many people as Facebook, and yet those that join it are likely to be avid about their hobby and probably maintain both Good Reads profile and a Facebook profile.  However common sense should cause you to ask, "Is a love of a particular brand of tequila enough to keep people on the tequila’s social network?"  The answer of course is "not likely".  PS Check our the knitting social network, Ravelry.  It’s exactly the right strategy for a niche.
  3. Passion.  I drink Patron Silver, extremely chilled.  It’s my favorite thing to drink when I’m in the mood for something alcoholic.  But it and the other two Patron brands are not enough to cause me to maintain a social network.  There’s just not enough to talk about, and not enough new content that will keep me engaged.  In fact if you look at it, all the content seems to be perfectly written, as if Patron is paying people to write, or simply republishing event calendars.  There is no passion.

If you honestly can’t muster up passion and either scale or niche, you shouldn’t have your own social network.  Most good nonprofits will be passionate niches, so they can get away with this strategy.

So Shabbir, you big curmudgeon, what should Patron have done?

A winning social networking strategy for Patron, or any brand that can’t muster up a satisfactory ‘yes’ to the formula above would be:

  1. Go to the people.   Instead of trying to bring people to your social network, go to theirs.  Start easy, by creating a group on Facebook.  It’s easy, requires no programming, and instantly gives you access to 30 million users.
  2. Stuff the channel.  Take your already existing content, events, publications, etc, and start posting it to your group.  You can turn on moderation for features like the photos area, discussion board, and the wall until you have a handle on managing the group.
  3. Loosen up a little.  Treat the site like a blog and post things relevant to your topic but not written by you.  In fact if you have a blog, you can just repost the entries for it on your group’s wall.  The goal is to take your existing content to the audience, not create a giant content burden for yourself.

For Patron, how would this look?

  1. Start a Patron Facebook group.
  2. Focus on the Patron brand and start taking every tasting event and shove it into the Group’s calendar.  Tasting events are the standard marketing technique for spirits brands and generally the big challenge is trying to get the right people to them.
  3. Stuff the photos bin.  The production of tequila is something that most people know nothing about, and yet Patron probably has, or can cheaply commission, someone to photograph steps of the entire process.  Do so.

I believe this strategy would work well for most brands and after the period of experimentation we’re in, this will probably become the strategy du jour for most brands that realize they need a network, but don’t have the gravitas to host that network.