Web 2.0 marketing is messy, inefficient, slow, and sometimes painful. It requires lots of typing, some self revelation, and a vastly expanded playing field. On top of that, when you get a bunch of customers together, you can’t focus on selling them.
Yesterday’s article in the Wall Street Journal describes “The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World.” They provide the standard outline of how it’s done, and how it’s working. I’m now going to tell you why it’s hard.
As a SCORE counselor, I see many startups and small businesses struggling to figure out how to market online. So I decided to take 2008 and try these new techniques myself to market on behalf of our chapter, SCORE Chicago. By standing in the clients shoes, I thought I could provide more practical advice.
I started blogging, I podcasted, I joined Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. I created Flickr and YouTube accounts. I created online press releases and set up social networks. And I wrote a series of blog posts which gather how-to links on web 2.0 marketing techniques in my Online Marketing Series. I’ve written 18 posts on How to Start a Social Networking Website.
So people say to me, “I’m now on Linkedin. I’ve set up a business profile on Facebook. Nothing happens. What’s going on?”
Here’s the problem, the challenge. All this requires an uncomfortable shift of mindset and focus. Take it from one who’s been drinking the web 2.0 Kool Aid and trying to adapt.
It’s Messy. As the above Wall Street Journal article says, “Don’t control, let it go.” This means when people post crazy things on your blog or when the wrong people want to be your friends, you should not edit or ignore. Your resulting public posture has warts and irrelevancies and big red kiss images.
It’s Inefficient. I complained to Christopher Rollyson, a thought leader and master at helping companies to use Linkedin for sales and research, about how hard it was to find potential customers on sites like Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. He gently gave me a mindset adjustment. In essence, he said:
Work on being helpful to and building your network, and then let them point you to the people you need to reach. Don’t think about gathering a list of people and sending them your messages. Post questions like “Who knows anyone who is starting a business?” or “Does anyone need help learning how to blog?”
That’s more inefficient than my old-fashioned, targeted emails.
It’s Slow, Time-Consuming. To really be effective in an online community, you have to investigate and join its groups, offer useful individual responses, review lots of profiles and initiate contact with those who might share your interests. I did this for a month in Facebook, and it does work. I found several people who wanted free help to read a business plan or grow a business. But, boy, does it take time. You can automate the content updating in social networks to some extent, but “friending” is by nature personal. I looked through profiles of members of the Chicago Entrepreneurs group. I sent emails, asking about their business, their challenges. This one-on-one is both its power and the time sink.
It’s Sometimes Painful. Both for the person who is the public face and for the organization, Web 2.0 requires exposure, self-revelation. You have to be willing to publish your picture (see above) and enough personal details about yourself to be real. I swallow and update what I’m reading on LinkedIn, I have posted a picture of myself on an elephant in Facebook. Your company has to accept a more real image, too. SCORE Chicago would like not to be perceived as old white guys, but in fact most of are members are just that. When I create a Flickr feed of counselors at a SCORE Chicago branch, you can see what you really will get. We would like clients to think we have more racial and gender diversity than we do. Further, SCORE Chicago is not yet comfortable posting counselor reviews which would promote our best counselors over others.
It Means Typing. All this interaction requires lots of typing. And sitting in front of the computer for hours. While many have mastered two finger emails, this requires more. Not all are willing to live at their computers. Maybe you have to have a laptop so you can sit in different chairs while you do this.
It Means Incentives, Free Products. People, customers, don’t just sign up for your blog newsletter, join your online community. You have to offer discounts or cash rewards, or create custom products like white papers to get them to participate. As the Journal article says, “Give customers a reason to participate.” You also have to promote those incentives, both on and off your site. More pricing breaks, more product creation work.
It Involves an Expanded Playing Field. One web 1.0 marketer friend lamented the good old days when all you had to do to reach corporate training executives was buy a postcard ad in a card deck that everyone in the field received. Maybe place an ad in Training magazine. Now you have to interact on numerous websites and blogs. As the Journal says, “Listen — and join — the conversation outside your site.” You have to monitor what people are saying about your company on Digg, Delicious, Twitter, CompanyBuzz, etc. You have to have a process for gathering all this information, analyzing it, and deciding how to act on it.
You Can’t Sell Directly. Now this is really a hard one. You finally manage to get people signed up for your online community or coming to your blog. But when you’ve finally got potential customers in one place, “Resist the temptation to sell, sell, sell” says the Journal. Listen and consider customer ideas instead. The difficulty is, of course, that they often want what you can’t deliver, or something your competitor is selling instead. Good information, but you’re really like to book revenues, not list two-year-out product modifications.
I agree with the Journal’s recommendation to experiment. That’s what I have been doing. The experimentation, the learning, has been fun. I struggle to keep all those plates twirling as I try the next big thing.
Web 2.0 marketing does, however, require a mental paradigm sift. I’m working on this. At the same time, I want to focus on what is most productive, most important for marketing SCORE Chicago.
What’s your experience using Web 2.0 tools? Blogging? Online Communities? All you devotees of Web 2.0 Kool Aid, are there easier ways of doing this?