Yesterday I published the second installment of my new Microsoft Conversations podcast series. It’s a conversation with Marty Collins, senior marketing manager with the solution architecture group responsible for msdn.microsoft.com/architecture and skyscrapr.net. She wanted to interview me about the relationship between blogs and technical marketing, and I wanted to hear her thoughts on the same subject, so we wound up interviewing each other.
I gave Marty my take on how professionals — not only in the field of software, but also much more broadly — can and should use blogs to communicate their public agendas. And in response to her questions about how marketers can appropriately reach out to bloggers, I referred to the three-part series on high-tech PR in the age of blogs that I wrote back in 2002 and 2003. My bottom-line advice was and is: if you want to attract bloggers’ attention, point them to other bloggers who are authentic and credible. Three years ago that seemed like an exotic approach, but times have changed and it seems quite natural today.
Here’s an indication of how much times have changed. The folks that Marty markets to are solution architects, many of whom blog. On their blogs they raise questions, discuss options, and air concerns that intersect with her marketing agenda. What if her team of architects were able to monitor those conversations, and parachute in to respond where appropriate? That’s her plan. I think that it’s radical, will provoke controversy, but is ultimately clueful.
You could of course monitor those conversations using the existing suite of awareness tools: search, link aggregation, tag aggregation. But a new breed of power tools is emerging, and she’ll be using the ones provided by Visible Technologies.
Let’s think this through. I write a blog entry about problems with calendar sharing, as I did yesterday. It mentions products from Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Those companies watch my blog, and respond by injecting advice as comments on the blog entry. Am I shocked at this unwanted intrusion into my blog? Or am I grateful to receive useful information that I was lacking? Both outcomes can (and will) occur. These emerging brand awareness technologies will be abused by some marketers who will use it the wrong way. But there will also be right ways to use it.
Would-be abusers of this method will need to confront a couple of realities. First, if the comments you try to inject don’t add value to the conversation, most bloggers will just deflect them as spam. If for some reason they can’t or don’t, your comments will become part of a public record that’s easily discoverable and will undermine the reputation you were trying to enhance.
The incentives, and the checks and balances, are in place to do this right. I’ll be fascinated to watch this evolve.
Update: Although I’ve presented Marty’s plan as a form of marketing, which it is, I neglected to add that she also sees the underlying technique as a form of customer service. Today, for example, an A-list blogger like Dave Winer need only mention a problem with a product or service, and many voices — including maybe the provider of that product or service — will chime in to help. What if that ability to draw a response were democratized? What if any blogger could simply mention a problem with a Dell computer, and have a Dell support person notice and chime in right there on the blog with a solution? Very cool idea.