One-to-One: A Powerful Blogging Secret, Revealed

April 25, 2007

Here’s something extremely powerful about blogs that most people don’t know: The blog is the perfect one-to-one marketing device. If you start a blog, you can get just about anyone to read it, pay attention to it, and even respond to it with a personal email.

I’ve started two blogs, and in both cases, I’ve been amazed at how seriously they’ve been taken, right from Day One.

For example, soon after launching them, I sent links to my blogs to a handful of prominent CEOs I’d never met. At the time, practically no one had read the blogs — they were simply too new. One of them had racked up a grand total of 30 views over its brief life up to that point. Yet, I received personal replies from several of those targeted CEOs almost immediately.

A combination of factors makes this kind of response possible: First, free or low-cost tools like TypePad and WordPress make any blog, even by a complete publishing novice, look professional. Second, it’s very difficult for readers to tell a tiny blog from very large and influential ones. Third, it’s easy to create a blog that has strong appeal to very specific audience segments — even, should one so choose, to a handful of highly influential individuals.

Oh, and one more thing — you can give a blog mention to the person(s) or group(s) you want to elicit a response from. This greatly amplifies the three factors cited above — sort of like the difference between just opening a soda and shaking it first.     

The takeaway is that you can send personal emails to highly placed executives all day long and get nowhere: But create a blog appealing to that person’s specific interest, and you’re no longer just you — you’re “the media.” 


Can the User-Generated “Shell” Be Controlled?

April 16, 2007

In offering his “shell” metaphor for user-generated blogs and comments during a speech last week (see previous post), science-fiction author Bruce Sterling asked rhetorically whether the perceptions created by such opinions can be controlled.

(Backing up a second: Sterling’s “shell” is the layer of commentary that users apply to products and services online.) Now — can marketers control these opinions?

Sterling’s contention was an unequivocal, “No.”

Some major-league marketers agree. Mark Tutssel, Worldwide Creative Director at Leo Burnett, put it this way, as reported in the Financial Times: “Marketers must learn to let go of the control they think they have over their brand. Once consumers have interacted with brands, they will not go back to being shouted at by marketers.”

Sterling and Tutsell have it right.

Bruce Sterling’s Useful “Shell” Metaphor

April 14, 2007

I had a chance to hear Bruce Sterling, the science fiction writer and author of the seminal book “Shaping Things,” speak yesterday. Among other things, he described an interesting metaphor for the ratings, reviews, blog opinions and other comments that products and services accumulate on the Internet via user-generated content.

Sterling proposed thinking of Internet opinions as a “shell” laminated onto the space occupied by the actual product or service.  

One question his description provoked from the audience was particularly insightful: Is this shell of opinions more important than the product or service itself?

Sterling asserted that it is not, but I would contend that a brand’s perception is everything — and that the shell of user-generated content is a critical shaper of marketing success or failure.

In Search of Thought Leaders

April 9, 2007

Over at sister blog Usertainment Watch, I received an email praising me for being a “thought leader in the video blog world.”

Though the sender likely was trying to butter me up in hopes I’d give a client some exposure, his comment actually was reasonably accurate — though as much by default as anything else.

Seems to me that user-generated content is in need of more “thought leadership.” By that, I mean flag-bearers who gain large blog followings, present at conferences, appear on business cable channels and so forth.

But several candidates are just about there.

I’d count Jonathan Carson, CEO at Nielsen BuzzMetrics (blog: Mouthpiece), among them. Also Jeff Jarvis, who’s offered some helpful insights on UGC’s impact on media at BuzzMachine.

Others are Andy Sernovitz, author of Word of Mouth Marketing, and Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, authors of Citizen Marketers.  

And though Federated Media’s John Battelle hasn’t weighed in yet, odds are he will.

The problem with most of these candidates is that their focus isn’t on user-generated content per se, but rather on aspects of it, or relationships to it. 

I’d be interested in your thoughts — on UGC thought leadership.