Blog Marketing: SMO III
I have written several articles on social media optimization that discuss a number of ways to utilize it for marketing purposes. Studying social media optimization has to be intense, hands on, and ongoing. But there is one part that I simply mentioned and did not go into, called blog marketing. When all is said and done, apart from the big community sites, we have to look at the little community sites and the not-so-little communities that they are spawning. But first .. the bad news.
The Bad News
The bad news is that paid bloggers anchor their marketability to factors beyond their control. Indicators, like Alexa rankings and Google Page rank, are touted by bloggers eager to one-up their competition and get themselves a cut of the advertising dollars. This has led to web sites like www.searchking.com and www.payperpost.com facing difficulties because Google hand-picked them and their publishers for downgrading in terms of PageRank and possibly in their rankings.
This could lead to the destruction of several blogging networks if bloggers were to decide to take their business out of these networks (which may not be a bad thing). The Google downgrading of blogs that use PR as a marketing tool has even been going on with small web sites that sell text links. I’m noting their fall from grace in terms of PageRank and SERPs.
The Real Bad News
Another piece of bad news is the total lack of discrimination that the blogs exhibit when pursuing the almighty dollar. To put it simply, blogs are not picky. Fortunately, most networks do not support adult web sites, but the same cannot be said of gambling sites and online "Viagra" sites. Not to knock our SEO friends who promote such sites, but the total lack of discrimination puts tech posts right next to online poker posts and MMA posts (a top Payperpost blogger).
With total disregard for categories and themes (check this out), I seriously wonder how many visits these blogs get and how long people spend on them. Needless to say, right now blog ads are getting a bad name, but as a model they probably will be around for a long time. It is a good idea to use them as part of any focus in social media, both paid and free.
We will look at other blog networks (like www.techcrunch.com) that have built networks and individual super blogs that draw a lot of traffic, like www.problogger.net. First, let’s look at whether blogging ads serves any purpose.
One of the biggest reasons you should blog is the same reason you are on Digg. You want to reach influencers, which are bloggers who reach out to thousands of fellow bloggers in the same community, like www.engadget.com and www.gizmodo.com for tech blogs and problogger for Internet marketing and blogging. These influencers are where industry heavyweights, geeks, and netizens go to check out the latest hype, the latest news, and the most off-beat stories. You have to get the attention of these influencers not only through paid advertisements on their sites, but also by pumping them full of the off-beat news that bloggers like.
Give the biggest blogger in the niche you are targeting an exclusive once in a while. Blogs empower people to express their knowledge and opinions to anyone who cares to listen. This is important for marketers because consumers now control part of the conversation and can influence a brand’s future based on their personal perceptions. And you can’t take the user’s opinion for granted anymore. The people who browse blogs spend more time (blogs are built for content), spend more money, and are more tech savvy than your average surfer. He/she is probably more highly educated and more opinionated (and hence more likely to complain if you offer a bad service).
You have to create a relationship with influencers. They can ruin you with a bad story and you can’t hide things from them. And unlike most big news agencies, some of them actually check your press releases (ask Dan Rather). They have to respect you enough so that if a bad story breaks about your organization, you can actually get your voice heard — and you won’t look like some corporate prig because an editor would actually vouch for you.
And you have to get a blog of your own, or you may not get much love from the blogosphere. Blogging is pretty much the extreme sports of the web. If you are into yourself and your organization, nobody will read you. If you are out there you will get traffic (and respect from your community), but you could also be looked at as a freak by your more stodgy corporate customers. So think Wired.com instead of HP.com. According to Heidi Cohen, corporate blogs require a level of transparency. As a result, they may not work for all types of companies. Corporate bloggers should have access to everybody in the organization. Having a blog makes you look like a person and not just a piece of some soulless corporate machine.
Know everything there is to know about your target audience. Research them heavily, buy the studies (wherever they can be found), find out about what they do and what avenues you can use to reach them, and especially, figure out the blogs to which they go and subscribe. The value of market research and knowing your consumer cannot be over emphasized. According to Julie Woods of Cymfony, "It can reveal pain points, consumer language around your product, market changes, and competitive actions."
In turn, these findings can direct your marketing and creative approach. They may also reveal other terms you should be tracking. Study trends online to know what the blogosphere is doing, react honestly and do not talk down to your users (future or present). As an example of what not to do, let’s look at Nikon’s handling of some poor reviews concerning one of their cameras.
Nikon D2X versus Influencer
Nikon was accused of encrypting the electronic format for their digital camera, rendering the pictures taken on it unfit for editing on Photoshop (now which genius came up with that bright idea?). The influencers, in this case, were in Adobe user forums, www.boingboing.com and www.slashdot.org. Nikon responded several times, with the most concise comment here. Nikon’s responses were said to be incomplete and, in some cases, meaningless. The ensuing tangle resulted in many users commenting that they would rather buy a Canon camera (albeit one that supports open standards). Nikon has been shown first hand what a few influential technology sites can do to a giant company in a competitive area. And not all of us have Nikon’s deep pockets (at least not yet).
Track what the web is saying about you and search where bloggers search (www.technorati.com); pay your way in if all else fails (if you have the money). Buy advertising space and become an integral part of the site, and as sure as the sun rises in the east, you probably will not have any negative reviews written about you on that blog. If that sounds too negative for you, you can call it "creating a conflict of interest." And above all else, remain a source of interesting news and rumors.
The company that has engaged people the most is the one that has been the source of rumors, gossip, and more lies than a tabloid magazine. It is a company whose every product is endlessly reviewed and given high marks for "innovation." They have succeeded in turning television advertisements (those boring snippets that seem to pop up every couple of minutes) into viral ad campaigns that people watch and then recommend that their friends watch. It is Apple.
Apple’s stock prices fell as of January 22 simply because (you won’t believe this) business was too good! Investors were terrified that Apple could not keep their earnings up over and over as they have done for the past ten years. Ten years is enough evidence to the contrary if you ask me. And how does Apple do it?
Backing it up
As they say in the NFL, "it ain’t bragging if you back it up." Apple makes a lot of claims concerning the superiority of their hardware and I have not (honestly) met an Apple user who is not happy. I sometimes type (or browse) using a Mac, a very old Mac. Microsoft is just catching up in terms of GUI with Vista.
However, this is not an Apple article. The point is, if you tell a blogger your product does A and B, then it better do A and B, or you will catch grief. Now say it can do C (make C totally new), and you will be the toast of the blogosphere as commentators rave about your great product. The downside is if you make lemons, you will get pasted on forums, blogs, and comment boards.
By creating videos that are interesting and that have interesting names (don’t ask me how, I haven’t begun my directing career yet), you could have your videos all over the place. Musicians and companies now post their advertisements and viral videos with video sharing tools on sites like Youtube that allow websites and blogs to embed videos. If your video catches on, bloggers will put up a post on it — after all, bloggers need content, just like everybody else. Aside from this technique, sometimes – like Apple – you must keep the rumor mill going.
When all is said and done, blog advertising is getting a bad rap now. But blogging is here to stay and you’d better take advantage of this one-of-a-kind social media model.