Friday, June 15, 2007

The (bloggin') times they are a changin'...

One of my favorite 'projects' from last summer started with this quote from Chris Thilk:
Want to know why my column next week on Miami Vice is going to be so cool? Because someone from Universal Studios took half-an-hour out of his day to call and chat with me about it.

And with that, the 'Spontaneous Marketing Campaign' for the movie Miami Vice was launched.
That's why I think it's our responsibility to ourselves, and companies that are smart enough to embrace bloggers, to reward their efforts. I think we need to send a clear message to Universal that their 30 minutes spent talking to Chris was the best promotional move they will make this week. We all need to link to Universal Studios, and tell the story of how they were smart enough to embrace bloggers.

And that's exactly what many of us did. Over the next few days, around 40 blogs picked up on this story. Even heavyweights such as Cinematical and Church of the Customer joined the fray. One rep at one studio taking a few minutes out of one day to talk to one blogger, eventually netted tens if not hundreds of thousands of people being positively exposed to Universal, and Miami Vice. We wanted to make sure that Universal's efforts were rewarded, because at the time, it was still painfully unusual for a company to even acknowledge bloggers, let alone reach out to them.

But that, apparently, was 2006.

When I started the Company Blog Checkup series a few weeks ago, my thinking was that I'd hear from some of the companies I'd blog about, but most would pass. Instead, all 3 companies profiled so far have responded, and each one has been even more responsive than the previous. And over the last couple of weeks, I've heard from other bloggers that have said that they too have been contacted by the companies or organizations that they have recently blogged about.

It seems that the new media landscape is finally seeing the shift we were all hoping for. My thinking all along was that companies would initially resist the blogosphere and social media in general, as it was something they didn't understand, and that they likely viewed as a 'fad'. Then as it became obvious that there's 'something to this whole social media thingie', these companies would want to reach out to the people that use and are familiar with these wonderful tools. I think we are reaching this point now.

Which goes back to the point that Ryan made a few days ago about how companies need to incorporate social media into their marketing efforts as soon as possible. Companies such as Kodak, HomeGoods, and Dell that are now in the blogosphere, already have a tremendous headstart over their competitors that are still on the sidelines trying to convince themselves that the beach is safer than the open water.

Unfortunately, 'safe' is the new 'risky'.


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 Ryan Karpeles said...

Right on, Mack. Safe is incredibly risky. But the rules of "safe" are actually changing. They're dynamic, and that's a VERY good thing.

What used to be risky is now just smart business. Being transparent was risky. Now it's essential. Talking to bloggers was risky. Now it's a huge advantage. And so on...

However, once all the risky stuff becomes safe, our challenge will be to keep doing the unsafe. The more we stretch our comfort zone (and even break through it), the more success I think we'll have.

P.S. Thanks for the link love :)

Pierre said...

You're right Mack. And along with Ryan, the whole process of a company reaching out and using social media tools is very important to begin or further implement now.

If not for the glamorous reasons we usually champion (customer service, perceptual proximity breeding closer client affinity, etc...

Then at least for the reason of climbing the learning curve now so you don't look like the brand behind the times, when your competitors are already ahead of you in this regard and slowly taking your customers away.

Thank-you for being a leader in our community in this field.

Patrick Schaber said...

I'm definitely seeing an increase in contact from companies I blog about. If I don't get a direct email, I can check my analytics and see hits from the company. They're watching and engaging which says a ton about blogging!

Anonymous said...

My first impression of your post was that it was sort of a veiled threat. That is, if you don't talk to us when we talk about you then there could be trouble. I see no obligation for them to talk to anyone they don't want to.

On the other hand, I believe your point is more along the lines of the publicity that works for both parties when they work together. The Microsoft and Nikon situations notwithstanding. Since most blog audiences are small I'm not sure that the benefit is equal. It has to start somewhere, and clearly the future of writing is changing.

Why is writing for a blog called blogging, but writing for a newspaper is not called newspapering?

Mack Collier said...

"My first impression of your post was that it was sort of a veiled threat. That is, if you don't talk to us when we talk about you then there could be trouble. I see no obligation for them to talk to anyone they don't want to."

Agree completely. No company is under any obligation to talk to or even acknowledge any blogger.

In fact, I can think of a company that took this very stance. They even had a policy that said that they will not respond to bloggers.

The company? Dell. They later figured out that this policy probably wasn't such a good idea, and as we can see from just their level of interaction on this blog, they are now reaping the rewards of changing their stance toward bloggers.

Heck just over a decade ago, many companies thought there was no reason why they should be on the internet at all. Then companies like eBay and Amazon created models that capitalized on this space, and other companies took notice.

That was my point, that social media and customers looking for tools to express themselves online, aren't going anywhere. Companies can either bury their heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge these tools, or they can get their hands dirty and figure out how to use them, and more importantly, how to use them to commmunicate with their customers.

The smart companies are the ones that will do this. The ones that play it 'safe' are the ones that will be playing catch-up to the ones that played it 'risky'.

Nudge Marketing said...

Hey Mack,

I totally agree with this idea of a company taking the time to interact with bloggers.

It seems that thanks to the viral aspect of the blog world a company spending 30mins on the phone to a blogger (and thus seeing the story spread like wild fire) is now much better ROI than spending 30mins of the phone with a journalist from a major news paper (and thus seeing a 25 word piece on page 27 of the paper). Would you agree?


Anonymous said...

What fraction of blog sites have enough of an audience and a sufficiently high rate of action to make a viral event happen? Studies have shown that the typical action rate of 0.1% or less will not sustain a movement. They happen but it usually takes a large population to begin with or the thing dies out. The idea has to have such an impact that it causes 1% or more to take action in a population of 100,000 or more. How many blog writers have that kind of audience? How many times can they express an effective call to action?

Mack, I believe you may have the audience. Perhaps a few more of the Viral 25 but that may be about it for this crowd. I include myself in the majority of blog writers that have little or no pull at this point.

I think blog writers should aspire to make an impact by the totality of their body of work. They should be working to demonstrate capability and skill in their manner of expression and the material they cover. Perhaps the next Ralph Nader is out there but you can be there were a lot of journalism students who thought they would ride that train. A very small number did.

Social networking has great potential as a medium of customer communication. It does empower people to be bolder and to find others who can unite for a common cause or better treatment. I'm just not sure that the noise will generate effective change. What if the nay sayers clog the system with flames and profanity? When the network is no longer social and the companies close them down or control the content there will be no trust or value. What will we do? We will need to find regulated and managed media that can deliver a message with authority - kind of sounds like a newspaper to me.

Just throwing some fuel on the fire...