So, what do you do, as a blogger with ethics, when a company write to you to promote their product? Well, first of all you check out the product.
Now, according to Sharon Dupont who contacted me, the product in question:
provide[s] a simple Web 2.0 service that allows bloggers to include syndication feeds, like news headlines, posts from other blogs or podcasts, into their blogs without any programming knowledge required. We hope that our take on the “problem” might be of use to both bloggers and web surfers.
All well and good (I’m not saying I’d USE the product myself but some might be interested).
Now, I’m not in the habit of plugging things on here without good reason, and so before I posted this I emailed Sharon to ask her a few questions, primarily about the company behind the product, and if whether they were deliberately targetting blogs as a form of marketing.
That was a several weeks ago. I’m still waiting for a response.
There are many companies, let’s call them “traditional” companies (with offices and products that come in boxes), who ‘get’ the internet. They realise that an online presence can help their business. Some of these companies also realise that blogs can be used to improve communication with their customers, and the really enlightened ones have worked it into they way the work.
Yet some companies still see blogs as a ‘free ride’, presuming we’ll hawk their goods for them. They seem oblivious to the possible downsides (this post is one), and whilst I don’t feel sorry for them it does annoy me. There is no good reason why a successful company can’t have a blog and make that blog work. Or at the very least there is no good reason why a successful company can’t at least UNDERSTAND how they could WORK WITH bloggers.
An example: at the recent BlogHer conference in the States, a car company turned up at one of the social events with a couple of soft-top cars. They allowed people to take them for a spin, didn’t try and sell and largely contributed to the whole ‘fun’ ethos of the event. They didn’t hand out marketing brochures, or push their product in any way. Yet they benefitted. How? Numerous mentions of the fun people had in their cars, photos galore in Flickr, and we all now that Google loves links and they got a barrowload of them (barrel? barrow? hmm that’s an odd one).
Obviously this is a form of marketing but, when conducted in such a fashion as to be unobtrusive and actually giving something BACK, then I think it works. Wouldn’t you love to take a spin in a convertible on a nice sunny day? Of course you would.
Now it’s all well and good for a large corporation to provide such freebies but I think blogging can help smaller companies as well. Putting aside the fact that ANY kind of web presence is no longer good enough (if I want to stay in your hotel, let me see the rooms, check availability and prices please) then the success stories will be the companies that realise that it’s not the size of the audience that visits your site, it’s that the RIGHT PEOPLE VISIT YOUR SITE.
[insert penis related “size doesn’t matter” pun here]
If I run a business from my home, say a dog walking service, then it will benefit me more if my website is known to people that are in my area, have a dog, and would like their dog looked after during the day. Currently the best way to do that would be target dog shows, leaflet some houses in the area, or just get chatting to dog owners in the area.
Blogging may fit into that equation, but I’d see it as more of an add-on, a way of providing a human face to the business in an online context. For the moment, as blogging becomes increasingly popular it will continue to drive more and more ‘referrer business’ into all types of businesses. Those that are web-savvy now should be able to reap some benefits.
As for Ms. Dupont, I won’t mention the company/product name here as they don’t deserve the publicity (if you are really interested, google the quote), and here’s a tip for anyone with a business online. Be transparent. If you want me to invest my time and blog in your product, if you contact ME in an effort to market your product, presume I’ll do some research into the company behind the product and I’ll definitely want to be able to see the name of the person who contacted me listed somewhere on your site.
Blogging is huge, the numbers are startling, but until some businesses wise up it’s largely going to remain the remit of the hobbyists.