Yesterday I spent the day at a small conference here in Columbus put on by Ohio Web Leaders. They'd asked me to come and speak about blogging for business and blog marketing to a mix of small business, PR types and in-house marketers. Now I always try to break things down into every day life examples, but thanks to an off handed comment about Nutella, I had a chance for a great object lesson.
During a morning session on social media and social networks, Bill Balderaz of The Buzz Saw shared some information about different companies that had collected followers on Facebook. One of the companies he mentioned was Nutella, which currently has just under 140,000 fans on Facebook. What's interesting is that Bill made an offhanded comment about not even knowing what Nutella was, which sparked a conversation among the attendees. We explained that it was a dreamy chocolate-hazelnut spread. Then he asked what you did with it, and I told him I eat it with animal crackers, but in Europe, they melt it and put it on crepes and ice cream. The conversation lasted about three minutes, and made for an interesting little aside.
As he continued in his talk, I had an idea of how to introduce an "object lesson" to my talk. So I snuck out the back door and drove down the street to a grocery store. Once I got there, I picked out two boxes of animal crackers and three jars of Nutella. (I couldn't buy two for the talk and not buy one for myself!)
We went to lunch and sat through a panel discussion on how companies are handling online marketing in-house. By the time I got up to give my talk on blogging, nearly everyone in the room had forgotten about our little Nutella conversation.
During the course of my talk, I shared some insight into pitching bloggers. I talked about the need to research the blogger, to read their blog, to follow them on social networks and to get a feel for who they are. I talked about how to put pitches together and the differences in pitching men and women. I explained the concept of women as "gatekeepers" of their relationship and the need to equip them to spread the word instead of asking them to share their contacts with you.
Then I moved on to tracking the conversation about your company online. I shared a little bit of insight into free tools like Technorati and Google Alerts and how you can set them up to trigger emails to you whenever someone mentions your company or your product. Then the object lesson began.
Here's a recap of what I shared...
Let's say this conference we're attending was taking place online and the conversation was happening via a blog or a social network. That would leave a text record of everything we'd talked about so far today. If I worked for, say...Nutella and I had this type of tracking setup, I would have gotten an email notice about Bill's talk this morning. I would have been able to go to his blog and read his comment about how Nutella had a ton of followers online and I would have learned that Bill had never had Nutella.
With that being the case, I might go and look Bill up to find out who he is. With a few searches, I'd quickly learn that Bill writes a column on buzz marketing for Duct Tape Marketing, a hugely popular site that reaches a ton of readers. I'd know that getting a mention in Bill's column could give me some good exposure.
Since Bill says he's never had Nutella, I might want to give him a chance to try it. [At this point, I reach into my bag by the podium and pull out a jar of Nutella to set on the podium in front of me.] Of course, if I'd read through Bill's comments on his blog post, I'd learn that he not only didn't know what Nutella tasted like, but he also didn't know how you eat it. Since some folks like to eat it on animal crackers and since animal crackers travel well, [at this point I reach into bag and pull out a box of animal crackers] I might approach Bill with both Nutella and animal crackers and ask him if he'd like to see what all the fuss is about. [At this point I walk over and hand the Nutella and animal crackers to Bill, who is chuckling.]
[The audience gets it and they all laugh a little bit. It's easy to see how tracking the conversation can open up doors of opportunity to get further coverage on blogs.]
Now, if Bill was a woman, I might change my approach a little bit. Since we know women like to guard their relationships and don't particularly like it if you ask them to share contact information with marketers, [I pull out a second jar of Nutella and a second box of animal crackers] I might decide to send Bill TWO of each item with the invitation to pass the second one on to a friend he thinks might enjoy trying Nutella. I'm putting my trust in Bill that he'll make a good choice on who to share the product with.
[And poof, we see the subtle, yet important difference in trying to pitch female bloggers.]
If I'd had time to take the example further, I might have brought out a case of Nutella and a family size bag of animal crackers and explained that if I wanted to reach Twitter users or "geeks" I'd suggest they throw a party and let me provide the Nutella and cookies.
The example made for some laughs (and gave me an excuse to buy some Nutella) but it also drives home a solid point. Most of the people in the room listened to Bill's little aside about Nutella that morning and thought nothing more of it. As a marketer, my brain immediately said "well geeze, Nutella needs to get in touch with Bill and have him try the product."
Of course it's important to note that this type of marketing isn't just about scoring blog mentions these days. Twitter has created a conversational environment free of the "I need a topic" constraints of blogging. That means even if Bill didn't blog about how much he loved the Nutella, there was as chance he might Twitter about it.
Considering I've already headed off to Etsy this morning to purchase some "Fat Daddy" Cupcakes simply because I saw someone Twitter about how fantastic they are, I can see the power of the potential cross-over conversation. In fact, if you go and look on Tweetscan to see who has mentioned Nutella in twitter posts in the last few days, you'll see a wide range of conversation. You'll also see how the conversation spreads among users.
It's easy enough to write off those passing conversations as something that doesn't matter. It's easy enough to focus only on the negative or positive comments and to try and follow-up with them. In reality, each and every mention of your company online is a chance to make an impact. Taking a few minutes to find out the context of the conversation and the reach of the writer can go a long way toward helping you find an opportunity to gently plug your product online.
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.
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