Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Stunts or conversational marketing

Scott Monty followed in the footsteps of his boss, Joseph Jaffe, and asked the online community online for help to purchase a product. In Scott's case a snowblower. 5 months ago, Joseph asked for an iPhone in exchange for a podcast sponsorship. (Both from Crayon fame.) And Grant Prouly, one of Jaffe's readers, asks for a Macbook Pro.

Now, before I go any further, let me clear about one thing: I believe participatory media and social networks are great for people helping each other out. With thoughts. Conversations. Money. Prayer. And this post is not about slamming people in need.

However, these two sentences in Scott's post concern me:
"If this angle doesn't work out - and I have very low expectations - perhaps Toro, Sears or Lowes are paying attention. It would be an interesting project for them to be involved in."
Is this a real project? Is it more than asking friends to help out? And, even more important, is this the state of conversational marketing?

Didn't I just read in 'Join the Conversation' from Joseph Jaffe that:

"81% of marketers believe that in 5 years they'll be spending as much or more on conversational marketing vs. traditional marketing"

or was I dreaming? Now, I'm agreeing with Jaffe that small ideas are the way to go but how small can ideas be before companies just walk away from any conversational marketing tactics?

Let's face it, some brands believe in conversational marketing, understand the philosophy and idea behind it. But they need to understand how conversational marketing can scale, how they can reach potential/potential customers and how to convert them. Or brands won't spend a dime utilizing conversational marketing.

There are ways of doing it. Scalable ways. Efficient ways. And it will take the whole social media community and a lot of work to convince brands to spend their money on these tactics. In order for conversational marketing to really take off, we need fresh ideas, fresh voices and fresh thinking. And executives of cutting-edge companies to move the conversation forward and advance our thinking.

I'm not sure bartering for iPhones and snowplows will do the trick. But I'm sure we need less tricks/stunts and more thought leadership and case studies.


Scott said...

Dear Uwe,

I tend to agree with what you've written here. My goal was not so much to create a social media experiment that would have necessarily benefitted from a brand's involvement, but probably more a move out of sheer desperation than anything else.

If any of the brands I mentioned do pick up on the mention, it's more a test to see if they're paying attention to what's being said about them. If I were in a marketing position at one of these entities, I'm not sure what I'd do. Ignore it? Post a comment? Send a discount voucher? It's hard to say.

But the point is that when something remarkable happens - whether it's a community rallying around someone or a brand making a difference in someone's life - it gets press. If a company is savvy enough to understand and discern the relative impact an influencer can have, they'll know how to effectively respond.

That post was more personal than professional in nature; please understand that it does not reflect what I think is a gold standard in conversational marketing. It was basically just a plea for assistance. Had I really intended to mount a conversational marketing effort in the quest for snow removal, I would have taken a much different approach.

Perhaps I can get partial forgiveness for posting that entry in complete desperation - I was downing ibuprofen and gearing myself up for the latest shoveling effort...

My challenge now is to somehow pay back the generosity that my community has extended to me. In some respects, I've paid it forward by participating in a number of similar community-based efforts (the Frozen Pea Fund, sending a blogger to Cambodia, a fund for a dance studio, etc.). But asking for myself just isn't what I do, and I really feel the need to somehow turn this around. Maybe Doug Haslam had it right with a "Will It Blow" idea.

John Johansen said...

Being another Boston resident, I can say that the snow storms we've already gotten this year have been harsh. It's more than we typically get this early in the season.

As for the intent of the post, having met Scott, I believe it's sincere. The social media community (especially out here in Boston) is very close-knit. I'm not surprised to see people rallying to help out.

To the broader question about if this kind of request is an acceptable practice in social marketing. I think that comes back to the relationships we build. Relationships are two-way connections. There's plenty of discussion on social media blogs about giving by providing insightful content or conversations.

The subject of taking is generally stigmatized by association with companies that use social media insincerely (i.e. fake blogs). But when people connect through social media, taking is a natural part of the relationship. Yes, it can be abused but in the proper context it can actually strengthen relationships.

Per Scott's video he's already reaching back to the people who helped him and building stronger connections with them.

I think this is an excellent example of what our extended social networks can do on a personal level. And it's very encouraging.