With so many companies trying to figure out how to leverage social media and blogs to their marketing advantage, one key point often gets missed. "Just talk to them!" If more companies would spend half the time reading blog posts and responding to them that they spend obsessing about how to get more people to blog about them, they'd be way ahead of the game. In fact, Mack Collier points to a great example of a big company doing exactly that and taking the time to engage their customer evangelists in conversation.

The example starts with a blogger, Chris Brogan writing about his love of Saturn and how GM could better leverage their customer evangelists.

...every Saturn owner I know is hip, Internet-savvy, and excited as hell about being part of the Saturn family. And it's that last part that says why GM should come out and get us.

I've owned FIVE Saturns. Yep. Even though my last one was a used car and had problems from the day I bought it, I went and bought a new one the moment that one died. Five. And when people ask me about my car, I tell them about buying five. I tell them about my brother's Saturn (since sold), and my tax lady's Saturn (passed 350,000 miles, and they still wouldn't let her buy a new one).

See the crazy exuberance?

What caught Mack's interest (and my own) are the comments that follow the post.

There are some insightful points in there about how companies can better leverage social media and online evangelists. One of my favorites comes from a poster who talks about her experience as a Mini Cooper owner. She explains that MINI often sends "surprise" packages to owners featuring cool MINI schwag and says:

It also taught me a fundamental rule about marketing- if you have a great product, your customers will be your best advertising ever- because they will be passionate about your product and do more spontaneous pitching to friends and strangers than you could ever do in a commercial of any sort.

What really caught people's eye however was Saturn Communications director Kyle Johnson showing up and putting his two cents in.

Check out Saturnfans.com. Charlie Eickmeyer does a great job of connecting Saturn owners.

Edmunds.com also has numerous forums for Saturn owners @ www.carspace.com. Along with Saturn, they just ran a promotion to send a blogger to the Frankfurt Motor Show. The winner is a 21 year old senior at Michigan State by the name of Eric Tingwall.

Johnson went on to invite Brogan to contact him for further discussion.

The interesting thing here isn't just that a company as large as Saturn is taking the time to engage bloggers on a one on one basis. It's the trickle effect that happens when companies do so.

Chris Brogan responds to Johnson and points out:

And what I'm saying is this: for all of the big companies out there NOT getting it, you've gotta do what Kyle just did: find the conversations. Get onto the social nets and find them, and then, if there's value, show us what you've set up. It might be cool. It might not. But we'll at least know.

And Brogan is right. Word started to spread that Johnson had shown up at Brogan's blog and more than a dozen posts on marketing blogs are now discussing the conversation. The positive buzz created simply by engaging the customer is likely worth almost as much as the information gleaned from the direct contact.

Mack sums it up nicely:

Look at the companies that are spending these millions trying to create ads and videos that will 'go viral', when all they have to do is spend some time reaching out to bloggers and having a conversation with us. That's the quickest way to get bloggers talking about you.

And it's free.

September 12, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


From my count, Chris' post has had about 4 or 5 new links today alone, including yours. Doesn't Jaffe call this 'using New Marketing to prove New Marketing works'?

LOL, I think so. :)

It's funny though, now that you mention it. I often find myself wondering how often a "good" move on the web is done with full knowledge that the buzz generated around the action will be as beneficial as the action itself.

Think on the Stormhoek wine campaign. Talk about the marketing aspect of the campaign probably equaled or surpassed the actual talk about the product. Here we are a few years later and Stormhoek is still selling wonderfully.

I feel so floored by where this all went. I'd spoken to a few people doing hushhush projects for really big brand companies, and they were saying, "Well, we're out there TRYING," but I had no idea that I'd establish first contact the way I did, draw Scoble into the conversation, and then make a strange connection.

I am a firm believer that social media and social networks are where things like this will continue to happen. Did I influence anyone to buy a Saturn? Who knows? But I bet you this: plenty of people paused and thought, "Well, at least they're out there where I am."

Thanks for the link and for the conversation. Stop by again some time. : )

"Think on the Stormhoek wine campaign. Talk about the marketing aspect of the campaign probably equaled or surpassed the actual talk about the product. Here we are a few years later and Stormhoek is still selling wonderfully."

Exactly. This is what companies don't realize, the simple ACT of reaching out to bloggers often becomes the story.

Perfect example, last year Chris Thilk posted at his blog, Movie Marketing Madness, that a rep from Universal Studios had read his blog and contacted him offering to talk to him about any of the marketing that the studio was doing to promote Miami Vice, which came out last summer. Over the next 2 weeks, over FORTY blogs linked to MMM simply because the Universal rep had reached out to a blogger. It even started a mini-campaign to drum up promotion for the movie among bloggers.

All because one person at one company took 15 mins out of their day to talk to one blogger. Pretty good tradeoff for Universal, if you ask me.

see it, it may be exactly what you are looking for

Would someone please get this post in front of http://www.performancebike.com/ for me. I've been emailing every address I could find for that company asking them to contact me. I'd love to blog about them but I need more products to review.

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