BroadcastBloggers's Blog  > 2011 May

The Back Fence

Fifteen years ago, I was on the planning committee for a community craft fair. We printed hundreds of flyers inviting crafters to participate, and hundreds more to distribute throughout the neighborhoods in our area. A large portion of our budget was used to buy an ad in the newspaper. On the week of the fair we posted signs all over the place: "Community Craft Fair - Thataway."

Six months ago I organized a 5K run for a non-profit foundation. We advertised on popular runners' websites. I wrote about the event on my blog and on Facebook. Tickets were sold through an online event planning service. Donations were made through PayPal. Even after the run, money was still coming in, due in large part to the continual buzz generated by participants through social media.

Do I even have to tell you which event was more profitable and less labor-intensive?

For decades, the principal marketing model has been one of deluge: Flood the community with promotions about a product or service in the vague hope that a handful of customers will bob to the surface.

There are three significant problems with this approach to marketing:

It's expensive. Print ads cost companies thousands of dollars; television and radio promotions several times that.

It's inefficient. Most of the folks who see or hear those ads either don't pay attention or are not looking for the product or service being offered.

It's outdated. We live in the era of the global marketplace, and the doorway is the internet.

Today, businesses and brands are finding a promotional home online, thriving on the relationship model of blogging, tweeting, and posting. Social media has become the back fence over which the world is chatting about products, services, events, causes, and issues.

When a stranger in a television ad advises us to use "Ship to Shore Travel Agency," we might consider them when planning our next getaway. But how much more likely are we to make a "Ship to Shore" call when a friend comes home from Tahiti, tanned and happy and raving about the agency's fantastic service, low rates, and personalized attention?

Blogging is all about connections. It's about a reader trusting a writer because they've developed a comfortable rapport through months, even years, of online interaction. The blog doesn't have to have a huge following; it's the nature of the social environment on that blog that counts. When a blogger makes a recommendation to readers who know and trust them, those readers seamlessly transition into supporters, customers, even advocates.

The result? Customers go looking for services, instead of businesses scrambling to find customers.

A community of bloggers having meaningful conversations about your product may seem counterintuitive when you are accustomed to shouting over the competition. But social media offers a strategic, focused approach to marketing, eliminating the ocean of over-communication and allowing your message to float naturally along the stream of personal engagement.

Come stand at our back fence and listen a while. You're really going to like what you hear.