Thank you sir, may I have another?

“From this moment on, the Delta’s are on Double Secret Probation.”

-Dean Wormer

Oh, the things we do to be liked.  We survive “hell weeks” and orientations.  We eat disgusting things and physically exert ourselves past what we think is possible.  We wear humiliating costumes and sing 80’s metal ballads in public (what, just me?).  We do it all because it feels good to be a part of something exclusive.  Well, guess what.  It feels like that for everybody.

“No Girls Allowed.” “Beefsteak Club Members Only.” “The Seven Society.”  The appeal of something that is exclusive is almost limitless.  We are programmed to want to be a part, to partake in the secrecy, to feel special by association.  The fraternity is a perfect example of the things we do to belong and National Lampoon’s Animal House may be the best frat movie ever made.

What would you do to belong?

While the movie doesn’t revolve around the pledging of a fraternity, pledging rituals do litter the scenes of Animal House and do demonstrate the lengths people will go to to be a part of an exclusive group.  There are many important lessons to be taken from the desire to belong displayed in Animal House.

Perception is Reality:  Delta Tau Chi might not be the best house on campus (in fact, it is actually the worst), but that doesn’t stop Kent and Larry from pledging to be a part of it.  “There are only a limited number of these coins left…” “Get ’em before they’re gone…”  We’ve all heard the staid marketing lines before, but the amazing thing is they still draw at us on some level.  The simple idea of something being exclusive or limited draws us to want to be a part of it, whatever the reality of the situation might be.  How can you make yourself or your brand seem exclusive in this age of digital media?  Do you charge membership fees?  Do you only sell one of every product (i.e.  Do you only have blog posts up for 3 days before you archive them for “Members Only”?

“Exclusive Availability”:  The Internet has changed the way we communicate as a culture.  While I’m advocating that you make yourself seem exclusive to draw people in, I’m not telling you to shut out the world.  That’s the opposite of how social media works.  You still have to be helpful and available to people who need you.  Comment on others’ blogs, write an ebook and give it away for free.  Some people have free information but offer another, more exclusive place for more serious followers (see Third Tribe Marketing from Chris Brogan.)  Even though Pinto and Flounder were treated like crap and taken advantage of for most of Animal House, the Deltas still had them around, they still went to the parties, and when it came down to it, they were still protected by the group.

Getting Away With Murder:  Okay, that’s a little drastic, but the simple fact of the matter is that people will do far more to be a part of something that is exclusive than for something they feel is commonplace.  You don’t see people waiting days in line to buy Diet Dr. Pepper from Target every Tuesday when it is delivered, but you will see people waiting to be one of the first to buy an iPad.  Dedicated followers will battle the elements for weeks dressed as Ewoks or Klingons to get tickets to movies, what are your followers willing to do for you?  People are even willing to undergo physical pain to join fraternities (“Thank you sir, may I have another?”).  Find a way to set yourself apart from the crowd and bring people to you rather than always be chasing.

Your homework assignment this week is to comment with other ways you can think of that you could make your online social media presence more exclusive.  Whether that be simply your personal brand or maybe a blog you write for the company you work for.  What can you do to set yourself apart and be a group that people are dying to join?

Class dismissed.


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About Joey Strawn

Digital marketing sociologist and public relations specialist with experience on national and local campaigns with a love for film and the things it says about our culture and business. Joey is the Senior Social Media Strategist at ISM in Nashville, TN and is in the business of helping people and companies deal with the new universe of social media in their marketing and PR endeavors.
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