A Web 2.0 Buzz Marketing Strategy - How to Get Your Product Known through Interaction

You can work hard to get your product known through what is called "viral marketing" or "buzz marketing", but if you don't know the basics of why social media are that way, you might as well stay home with your knitting.

Recent work and study on social media marketing led me again back to Colin MacDougal and his Constant Conversation. In this, he mentions interviewing Google's Matt Cutts and working out what he calls "Visitor Experience Optimization" - essentially, saying that content is king and is what the search engines are (and everyone else should be) working on ensuring that the visitor has valuable experiences.

Looking for "Matt Cutts Interview" came up with the same thing - a gem here:

Graph theory vs social networking vs buzz marketing: which of them is most important for a new webmaster to study? What resources would you recommend for learning about each of them?

"I'd study buzz marketing. If you capture the fancy of the web, you won't need to worry about graph theory--you'll get links on your own. Plus, once you know what a clique is in graph theory, you can never go back. Instead of asking "does this link make sense for my users?" you'll be wondering "Am I too close to a clique?" and that's just not healthy. :) Other people could provide better resources than me, but The Tipping Point and Freakonomics are good reads."

Searching for buzz marketing lead me to Ralph Wilson, who limited viral marketing to these principles in his explanation:

"Elements of a Viral Marketing Strategy

Accept this fact. Some viral marketing strategies work better than others, and few work as well as the simple Hotmail.com strategy. But below are the six basic elements you hope to include in your strategy. A viral marketing strategy need not contain ALL these elements, but the more elements it embraces, the more powerful the results are likely to be. An effective viral marketing strategy:

  1. Gives away products or services
  2. Provides for effortless transfer to others
  3. Scales easily from small to very large
  4. Exploits common motivations and behaviors
  5. Utilizes existing communication networks
  6. Takes advantage of others' resources"
However, this falls short, exceedingly. He makes no mention of Malcolm Gladwell ("Tipping Point") or Seth Godin ("Unleashing the IdeaVirus"). Practically, this is a mere explanation of what you see from your end of the elephant. It doesn't tell you how to get the beast in motion, and ignores the fact that "viruses" are interactive - the elephant has as much say as the elephant trainer.

Gladwell pointed out the jobs of "Mavens", "Connectors", and "Salesmen" in spreading viruses to and past the Tipping Point. (And what started this particular post was that recurring term Maven, which is a key to the Review of Maven Matrix Manifesto that I'd recently completed.) Godin added "Sneezers" to the list - and examined the whole necessary structure of the message itself - how "sneezable" it needs to be.

Part of my work in studying this area earlier had lead me to issue the following book as an excerpt of the much larger "An Online Millionaire Plan."

--/ Sponsor /--

Creating The Web 2.0 Buzz: Beyond Search Engine Optimization

You can create a Web 2.0 Buzz which can get you both immediate and long-lasting results beyond "search engine optimization" as currently practiced.

How do you do that?

  • Most SEO is built around establishing keywords prominently on your pages.
  • Web 2.0 uses all the "New Media" to spread the word for you.
  • When you use your keywords in your social bookmarks, your site becomes "viral" - other people spread it for you.
  • Using audio, video, and slideshows, people tell others about your stuff.
  • And search engines love Web 2.0 more than static pages.
  • So use "New Media" to promote your static pages and get top real estate in the search engines.
This book gives you all the theory and examples of how you can create a Web 2.0 buzz and use it to bring paying subscribers to your mailing lists.

---/ Back to our post /---

I wrote and edited extensively on viral marketing based on data in the above book. A sample of applying it shows up in this slidecast:

But back to Dr. Wilson and our disagreements:

There are a lot of factors in creating a buzz, but the key point is participation. People have to want to share your message and contribute to it. In the days before the Internet, viral buzz was created in magazines (Colliers, among others) and newspapers ("yellow journalism" and it's successors today) and books (the "pulps"). Each of these had a method of keeping readers wanting the next edition, the sequel.

And those great stories caused excitement in their readers, who discussed them at length among themselves and kept them alive - in the oral tradition known as "word of mouth".

A great example of this type of writing modernly was Louis Lamour, who had a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter (named for the stunt of having the hero literally hanging off a cliff) - and the only way to put it down was to stop in the middle of each chapter.

The tradition of stories continues. Collier and other great advertising copywriters told continually that the story is what made the ad. And continuing series (such as the classic Volkswagen ads, and Mac serials) just made the message continue on and on and on.

When the Internet evolved and approached its Web 2.0 critical mass, that is really the underlying basic that even Gladwell and Godin missed:

Stories are how people think.

Literally. People are living a story, with themselves as the center focus. They reach out to experience others' stories and compare this with their own. This is how they figure out if they're improving or "de-volving". And so the successful oral traditions on this planet continue into our Internet Age.

With Web 2.0, we then reach the point, as MacDougal says, "In a nutshell, Web 2.0 is simply user-generated content." So everyone is contributing their own story, but at the same time able to contribute to everyone else's.

This is the popularity of "mash-ups" where soundtracks are changed, where different clips are re-edited, re-purposed into completely new output. Plots, characters, meanings are changed. But none of this is particularly destructive - it's all part of creating new content from existing resources. The audience is participatory with the stagehands and the actors, directing as well as viewing. The speed of swap is mind-boggling.

As Matt Cutts related to MacDougal, search engines are engaged in intense search for all this new content. Search engines emulate the human condition. They are tools which try to duplicate the way we think, help us find what we are looking for - even when we don't particularly know. So the visitor experience is key and vital. People are constantly looking for new stories to help them think through their lives.

There has been an intense set of changes with the search engines. They have been gradually shifting over to the Web 2.0 mindset, away from their start with static pages. Now you can "take over" prime search engine real estate literally within minutes if you know how to market it through the social media. For now, since the bulk of the web is still rooted in their static origins, you can hold these positions for some time.

But you can also see, with the Stumbleupon plug-in, you can find who has been there before you, if any of them were by someone you know, and what the basic rating of that page is by that community. You can even search within Stumble-upon, where you get a series of simple user experiences on an "I feel lucky" basis.

But what about our storyline...

When you post to the web now, you need to be able to involve your audience, as well as being willing for that audience to involve you. Nothing is truly static. And you can create intense effects without even creating a static page of your own.

I'd hazard that the bulk of the most influential Web 2.0 sites are where they allow you to post your own creations for free.

Now here is where the "ease" and "smoothness" of the message transfer occurs. Most of these social media sites have incredibly easy interfaces - which can be customized to almost infinite degrees so that you take charge of how you see it and how you look to others.

But the story is king.

Because the story is the stage where the audience and the actors mix. It's an interactive and inter-relational space.

Stories then go beyond the linear scope of fixed plots and linear approach.

Viral and buzz are the words which are interchangeable here. But one doesn't actually start a virus, one invites one to happen. And the originator must, as in any true conversation, be willing to listen - to become the effect of others' cause.

The days of sheer intrusive one-way flow advertising and marketing are over. Now we have ClueTrain conversations with our clients. There are no more customers or consumers. There are only people that you interact with and service - people that you are working with to help them improve their lives.

And all these companies and corporations which are stuck in that one-way marketing flow are losing their "customers" and "consumers" over to those new entities which are interactive with them, willing to shift and change in order to improve the quality of their service. Look around, anything shrinking is still stuck in that old pattern. All that are expanding have established real conversation with their clients - and continue to attract new clients through word-of-mouth, not interruptive advertising.

So how to do Viral/Buzz marketing?

There is no set pattern for this constantly evolving, er, uh, um... -- thing.

I'd say that the greatest ongoing buzz marketing right now is our online gaming communities. Entire economies are being created in these arenas, where people can interact with each other and reinvent themselves as they want. They can enter and leave the space at will.

Online gaming communities approach the ideal marketplace. All participate, any can help others, any can join in commerce or refrain.

Short of that - and not all of us have the intense discipline and willingness to "submerge/emerge" into that type of environment to do our shopping and to get our news and entertainment.

So the next best thing is the Internet.

Here's one preliminary approach to creating a buzz about a product:
  • Basic is to tell a story.
  • Next from that is to enable interaction.
  • Meanwhile, lead your clients over to your product and allow them to tell you about it and help you improve it. You're working to tailor-make your product to that niche you've targeted.
  1. Create at least a couple of characters which have a goal and a conflict. (Story)
    While Luke Skywalker had the main decisions in Star Wars, he didn't have all the conflicts. Other characters had their own goals and his friends often conflicted with Luke's progress - or chided him about his lacks. (ref: Joseph Campbell's "Hero With A Thousand Faces")
  2. Align their goal to your product in some fashion. Either they are looking for your product, or presenting it, or using it to achieve whatever goal they have.
  3. Enable audience participation at every - single - step. They must be able to vote it up or down, comment on it, even change the script if this is possible. (Interaction)
  4. Leave it open for a sequel - and don't be the only writer possible. Star Wars had many, many authorized and unauthorized stories which were prequels to the prequel, sequels to the sequel, and filled the gaps in the story line, as well as creating what-if's far beyond the scope of the movies itself. (Invite the audience to help your product evolve.)
How you do this depends on your resources. But in these days, you can actually do it with no major corporate sponsorships and it can even be done without owning a domain name. You don't have to know code, although it's helpful if you can create short videos...

An ideal would be to create a gaming platform, an online community where the participants evolve the rules. But the scope of studies down this line are beyond this post.

Suffice it to say that the Internet
already is an online gaming community, where the search engine companies are continuing to change according to the demands and wishes of the users. No one is really in charge of anything, but there are major players who empower other players - the ones who can guess their rules.

It's not just viral, it's more than buzz - I'd say that this strategy would be a ripple-tidal effect.

You want to continue chucking pebbles into that pool until you affect the tides on the rest of the continents on every shoreline you want to affect.

- - - -

Yes, I do have a test case in mind. But you're going to have to find it - or it will find you at some point, depending if I run out of pebbles.

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