Sunday, January 28, 2007

Conversational marketing -- and a strange email I got this morning

MediaVillage has a feature on "conversational marketing," a kind of, sort of new approach to word-of-mouth marketing through social media:
Conversational Marketing, explains Troja, "is the marketing strategy of connecting directly to the marketplace through online conversation. It is a direct and completely transparent interaction with customers, potential customers, brand fans and brand detractors. The conversation," he says, "is initiated through ad units in blogs, Internet forums, social networking sites, message boards and any other forum that features two-way conversation. It allows people to talk about themselves in relation to a marketer's products."
Your online identity can become entangled with the products you adore. If you like talking about a product anyway and you show loyalty, the company might as well leverage that to create new marketing opportunities -- right? One of the pathbreakers in conversational marketing is Ford, but pathbreaking is often challenging:
"Of course, the challenge is now to ensure Ford engages in a meaningful dialogue…, Hespos adds. "They need to have Ford bloggers at the ready to respond to comments and address everything that gets brought up in the 'Community Buzz' section of the Ford Bold Moves site and elsewhere on the Internet. Already from blog comments, I can see that some people are skeptical as to whether Ford is really listening and whether they're prepared to engage in real dialogue."
"Ford bloggers" is an interesting concept. How do you encourage a community to form without astroturfing it? Well, that brings me to a strange email I got this morning:
Dear blog author:

We recently came across your site,, while searching for bloggers who blog about Ford issues.

A small group of us have started a new site called Ford Bloggers . Our intent is to bring Ford bloggers closer together, and make a positive contribution to the Internet community.

Would you be interested in joining Ford Bloggers ? Please take a few minutes to have a look at what we are trying to do, and if you are interested, there is a sign up page to get the ball rolling. We would greatly appreciate your support in this endeavour.

If you do not feel that your blog would be a good fit for Ford Bloggers , but enjoy this subject area, come visit us and one of our member bloggers. You can also check our FAQ Section to learn more about Ford Bloggers .

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you on Ford Bloggers .

(I removed the embedded Javascript from the links above.)

I think this was precipitated because I wrote a post on the Volt a while back -- pretty thin grounds for contacting me with this sort of offer. Is this site a result of Ford's marketing arm? Perhaps -- but probably not. I googled the name of the author, Craig Cantin, and found out that he's sent out practically identical emails for Christian bloggers and Green bloggers. Cantin also has his own Blogger blog, which describes him as "a social conservative with a green conscience." So is he a profiteer? An enthusiast with many enthusiasms? A marketeer? I find the whole thing to be fascinating.

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