A “handful of companies”:http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/81/blog.html run successful, high traffic blogs. A “handful of bloggers”:http://www.bloglines.com/topblogs run high traffic blogs that can benefit companies who want to place strategic banner ads. Overall, though, a strategy that involves buying ads on blogs or running a blog for your company isn’t the most effective strategy for influencing the blogosphere.
Blogs can’t be dismissed as a trend. The over 13.5 million voices online are covered more often in the press and linked to other blogs and websites more often than ever. The voice of one blogger can spread to hundreds of bloggers and readers within hours. Just search the recent London Bombings and you will realize that “London bloggers had incredible influence on the news”:http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2005/07/london_bombings.html.
So, how would you go about harnessing the influence of the blogosphere to spread the word about your company? Could you pay bloggers to speak highly of your product or service?
The short answer is no way.
Hiring bloggers to say something nice about your company is risky, at best. The more influential the blogger, the more likely they are to be extremely autonomous. They have built their audience through trust. They won’t likely risk causing irreparable damage to their reputation by advertising to their readers. Not that incentives won’t ever work, but even more important is conversation.
Most bloggers run their blogs to open up lines of communication. Whether they are musing about business ideologies or talking about their latest vacation, there is the expectation that someone will read these posts and may even post a comment or ping them. This is where the conversation begins. If CMOs spent more time engaging in these conversations, they would automatically create online advocates.
Every blogger I know has posted a beef about customer service or faulty products. However, I hear very few stories from these same bloggers that the companies they diss online have responded to their frustrations. Similarly, many of us have posted praise about a product or service. Once again, the response from the companies receiving this praise (whether through comment, email or trackback) is almost nil.
This type of engagement marketing is free and can be extremely powerful. The CMO could set aside an hour a day to search “Technorati”:http://www.technorati.com, “Feedster”:http://www.feedster.com or the like to find what bloggers are saying about their product and to respond to as many of those posts as possible. The only trick to this is that the response has to be from a human, in a human voice and stem from a true desire to engage the blogger in discussion.
This is just one of the ways to engage the blogosphere in effective online marketing. Next week, I will showcase some successful corporate blogs (and discuss why) as well as what _not_ to do if your company or client decides to launch your own blog.