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The Secret to Succesful Blog Marketing: Invite ‘Em Into A Conversation
by Chas Edwards, Wednesday, Mar 8, 2006 6:00 AM EST
In 2001, I was involved in building CNET Networks’s “engagement marketing” programs. In the early days, engagement marketing meant convincing prospective customers to provide contact info so that the vendor’s sales reps could go have a “conversation” with them.
Successful marketing on Weblogs today–and on traditional sites as they begin to imitate the participatory nature of blogs–means a different kind of engagement. It requires that the conversation begin at the first point of contact between the brand and the consumer.
Inviting consumer participation is the stock-in-trade of Weblog authors, and it’s what has driven the enormous popularity of the top Weblog sites. Exceptional, proprietary content (think ESPN.com) or meaningful personalization (think myYahoo) certainly engenders loyalty. But so does inviting readers into the content experience–and publishers can accomplish the latter even without the editorial and product development war chests on hand at Disney or Yahoo. Reading group blog Boing Boing, you’ll notice that most posts end with “thanks, so-and-so!” It’s a publication created as much by its readers as by its four editors. Those four editors, meanwhile, have attracted 2.2 million readers! Given the sense of ownership those readers-slash-contributors feel, perhaps it’s no surprise that when Boing Boing surveyed them, more than 80 percent of them reported to reading the site once a day or multiple times a day.
And once readers get the participation bug–when listeners are given a chance to talk– they can’t seem to stop. Across a dozen sites affiliated with Federated Media, including GigaOm, 43Folders, Wi-Fi Net News, TechCrunch and Gadgetopia, 60 percent of readers publish their own sites. It’s hardly a leap of faith, then, to assume that great online marketing campaigns need to do the same.
Hey, if the pundits and journalists can give their readers a turn at the keyboard (gasp!), surely marketers can do the same–especially if there’s a scalable way to do it.
Conversational marketing doesn’t need to mean staffing a 700-person call center to hold up your end of the conversation. Here are a few examples of simple, scalable and highly effective advertising conversations.
Lenovo figured laptop buyers would have a greater inclination to buy a product they had a hand in designing. But instead of flying wannabe industrial designers to company headquarters at Raleigh, N.C., Lenovo set up a site that allowed buyers to vote for the color (black or titanium?) on the next line of ThinkPads. A small but significant step toward conversational marketing: the company gave its customers a mechanism to talk back. As I write this, 183,394 people have voted so far.
Hotel Web site Quikbook ran a static 150×60-pixel GIF ad on Boing Boing with some custom copy, “A directory of wonderful hotels,” to play on Boing Boing’s tag line, “A directory of wonderful stuff.” It was an effort to tell Boing Boing’s readers that Quikbook wasn’t “targeting” them based on their “demographic profile.” Instead, with a single line added to their banner, they were asking to join the unique conversation already in progress on the site. So when one of Boing Boing’s readers–Xeni Jardin, also one of Boing Boing’s editors–had reason to try the service, she blogged about her satisfying experience. Quikbook’s servers had a workout that day!
Enterprise-search vendor FAST Search & Transfer invited its customers into a face-to-face conversation–for those willing to pay $600!–at its FastForward conference in Miami. One of the featured speakers was John Battelle, Federated Media’s CEO, but more significantly in this case, the author of Searchblog. Given that many readers of GigaOm, TechCrunch, TechDirt and especially Searchblog have participated in online conversations with John, FAST included John’s name in the ad copy that ran on those sites. An invitation to talk to John in person! According to Julie Ginches, FAST’s senior director for PR and analyst relations, “the blog campaign pushed the conference over the top. Not only did it sell out the remaining seats, it also created the groundswell among the industry leaders who brought enormous energy to the event.” In addition to paid sign-ups, the campaign brought 700 visitors to the conference information site.
In the works: A leading software vendor has enlisted several authors at FM’s B2B sites to help write advertising copy that will spark a conversation with their readers. Now we’re talking!
If you too are trying to crack the code on “conversational marketing,” join me at OMMA Hollywood, March 27-28, and bring your own war stories to share with me. I’ll be on the “Marketers as Publishers? How Client-site Video, Gaming and Podcasts Impact the Media Mix” panel, Monday March 27, 4:30-5:15pm, hoping to listen as much as I talk!
Chas Edwards–who blogs at ChasNote.com–is vice president of sales & market development for Federated Media, a network of independent Weblog sites, including Digg, Fark and Boing Boing. He will be speaking at OMMA Hollywood, which will be held March 27-28.