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November 19, 2008

Why Blogger Outreach Can Fail

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On Wednesdays, I usually share SEM Synergy Extras with the readers of this blog. And while this week’s show covered excellent topics — thanks, Sage Lewis! — there is another issue on my mind today: blogging, buzz and community building.

It’s a relevant subject in our social media world — one where bloggers are the big influencers being courted by corporations to hype some new product release or, in the case of Pepsi, logo update.

In her article on Pepsi’s latest new media outreach attempt, Jennifer Laycock explains her reaction to the campaign, namely, that corporations are missing the mark by not reaching out to their evangelists. She asks how long it will take before companies stop focusing on marketing to bloggers and start marketing to their customers. This is the difference between hype and buzz.

What Pepsi’s doing now will generate hype. There will be numerous blog posts on the subject. I imagine that some will be favorably skewed — I know I’d want to gush if Pepsi hand-picked me to be one of its 25 influencers. Then others, like those in our industry, are going to write posts deconstructing the campaign, pointing to what it says about the increasing shift to social media marketing. This word-of-mouth will put Pepsi on the radar [As opposed to where they are now? It’s Pepsi, for Pete’s sake. –Susan] and the new logo will see a flash of interest. But there won’t be the aura of trust that occurs when a message comes from a true evangelist. When evangelists share the message out of genuine support for the product, buzz is generated because those listening want to learn more about it and try it themselves. Hype can develop into a bubble just waiting to burst, but buzz is flexible as it builds, grows and spreads.

As I see it, social media isn’t about talking to the people that other people listen to. It’s about talking to the people who care about what you have to say. Building a community where those people can communicate is key.

The FriendFeed Pepsi room is a good place to start building a community — creating a place to gather is a fine first step. But it looks like Pepsi hasn’t yet shaken off its old media habit of trying to control the conversation. While joined by like interests, no community will agree on everything, including your corporate message.

Pepsi is on the right track and deserves a pat on the back for their embrace of new media marketing channels. The real challenge, though, is getting it right. Remember that the moment your message hits the Web, the conversation isn’t yours anymore. Be involved in the communities around you. And, most importantly, focus on talking to the people who care.

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3 responses to “Why Blogger Outreach Can Fail”

  1. Josh writes:

    I’m on the digital team at PepsiCo and we have all been following the various debates/conversations around this program closely; hype v. buzz and influencers v. evangelists. I want to reinforce that we’ve been connecting with evangelists through e-mail, Facebook, Youtube, Myspace and a huge number of programs through our brands. Our goal with this program was to target new audiences and give the company an ‘embassy’ online for users to connect with and engage with us directly. We were not necessarily expecting that everyone we reached out to initially would write about this campaign; we were looking to introduce ourselves to a new audience and lay a foundation for future relationships-which is an important component of social media. That said, all of the feedback we are receiving is valid and we are thrilled to be sparking such conversation. One thing I want to stress (and I know my colleagues from PepsiCo are expressing this across the web) is that we are following the conversation and learning every day. We are just getting started…and we’re thrilled that you are joining us for the ride.

  2. Virginia Nussey writes:

    It’s excellent to hear about how PepsiCo is following and participating in the conversation! From what you’ve said, it looks like Pepsi is taking it to the next level and really focusing on the community that cares.

  3. andrew wee writes:

    @Josh

    Just curious.
    If you’re part of the digital team and you’re aiming to start conversations, introduce yourself to the community, etc, I’d think that creating legitimacy by including your first name and last name is a step forward in the right direction, vs posting as a Josh or a Mike on blog or forum posts where your primary keyword pops up.

    Authenticity, legitimacy and engagement are efforts that require time and effort, and laying a credible foundation underpins these efforts.



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