Sunday, June 29, 2008

Marketing to the Social Web by Larry Weber

When we think about marketing on the web, our mind often turns to the cheesy blinking advertisements on the side of the page. I find the ones that dance are the most annoying, maybe because there is no way an actual human can move that way. This is also compounded by the fact that my eyes, invariably move toward it. Usually lower mortgage rates don’t elicit this kind of movement. At least they don’t from me.

While I don’t have a business to build, I do have a blog. Actually I have two. The one I keep on Blogger is for my more straight laced, professional, brainy ideas. While I like Blogger and think it is easy to use, it can sometimes be a very lonely experience. From my dashboard on Blogger I can see that I have had visitors to my page, but few leave comments which leaves me wondering whether people stumbled onto my page by accident and then quickly left, or if they stopped and read. If my blog generated any thoughts or ideas, few mention the.

My blog on Multiplyis a more social event. I have a network of friends whose blogs I read and who I know read mine. I know because Multiply tells me which Multiply members have read my posts and when. Someone that is not part of the social network can read the posts I put up as public, but cannot comment on them.

Since I have this personal connection with blogging, I thought that this book might be interesting and I was surprised at how much I learned.

The author, Larry Weber, does not have a blog. I looked. He has been the subject of many blogs and does an occasional hosting or two. According to his bookjacket bio he has “spent thirty years building global communications companies included Weber Shandwick Worldwide and the W2 Group. He is also the founder and Chairman of the Massachusetts Innovations and Technology Exchange, the nation’s largest interactive advocacy association.

The book addressed in a very clear manner how marketing on the web is very different from the traditional marketing used on other mediums. Again, using a conversational tone he explains the differences between the social web and how if marketing is to be successful in the blogosphere, there needs to be a mind shift in the marketer. If you approach this arena in the traditional manner, you will end up with a straight broadcast of your goods and that the people you are trying to reach are first interested in a social interaction before getting to the purchasing transaction.

Weber does a great job of laying the groundwork for people new to this type of marketing. While looking for research on my paper I took notes from chapters with such titles as “Engage Communities in Conversation (To Generate Word of Mouse) and the Blog Strategy (Everybody’s Talking At Me). Again, the author’s sense of humor and ease of writing style makes you smile first and then read on.

Weber’s professional experience and knowledge is also helpful in furthering his point. When he discussed whether CEO’s should have a blog, he presents both sides of the coin. If your CEO is not a comfortable writer and what comes from “his” blog ends up being the work of your Public Relations Team, then no, he should not have a blog. If a CEO is looking for a way to keep in touch with the pulse of his employees and customers and feels comfortable putting themselves “out there,” then yes. An example of a successful CEO Blog was given as the Blog of John Mackey from Whole Foods. He recently blogged about the topic of his company's salary cap here. Please take time to read the comments left on his blog.

Which leads to another point that Weber makes: when you open up yourself to the web you need to open up yourself to the comments left for you. Many blogs have a way of screening and permitting what comments will be viewed, but you need to again, adjust your mindset to allowing the bad in with the good. Blocking bad news can be counter productive, as he cites Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystem’s Chairman quote “Always worry about what people aren’t telling you.” (Weber, 175)

Weber also tells of companies that encourage their employees to blog. Included in this chapter are tips for successful blogging, like making it personal, and suggestions for rules and guidelines for your employees who blog. IBM has a very liberal policy in that, while their employees should state that they work for IBM, they need to include somewhere on the blog that they don’t speak for the company.

While the book is written for businesses, there is a great deal here to be applied to libraries. Weber even mentions libraries and their futures stating that libraries have always been able to create a “special place” in our culture and that is what blogs and social networks strive to mimic. A place to belong.

I would recommend this book to those libraries who are thinking of making a place for themselves outside of the brick and mortar building of their library. There are different rules in the blogosphere and this book offers some useful and accessible information to help newcomers navigate them.

Weber, Larry. 2007. Marketing to the social web: How digital customer communities build your business. John Wiley & Sons, Inc: Hoboken, NJ.

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