More Conversation, Less Marketing
August 7, 2008 2:44 PM   Subscribe

[DoMyHomeworkFilter] When commercial businesses post comments on a blog, what does "best practice" look like to you? And what companies have this conversational part of "conversational marketing" down to an exemplary science?

I need to produce a short guide for PR people and marketers - traditionally aka Satan's Hounds - who are preparing to dip their toes into posting comments on blogs in their niches, whatever they may be.

I have an exhaustive list of Do Nots - no astroturfing, don't try to sell products in comments, don't write or post in boilerplate marketingspeak - but I am so traumatised by seeing this done so badly so often that I'm having a hard time coming up with any Do items.

These people are wading in regardless of what I say, so I'd just like to help them not crap on people's lawns. I'm interested in how people see comments from commercial entities, what makes some comments OK or even positive to you while others are unacceptable - where that line is, and what it looks like to you. And if there's some company or organisation out there doing this really well, I'd love to know who they are so I can study what they're doing right.

posted by DarlingBri to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do: Provide a contact number that reaches a real person.
posted by orthogonality at 3:00 PM on August 7, 2008

Do: Be helpful and informative.
Do: Use profile and comment URL fields instead of pasting company URLs in the body of the comment.

Do not: Disparage competitors.

Frankly I'd focus more on the Do Not's, since keeping an open playing field for their participation should be paramount. It will help prevent the desire to post boilerplate, which they will invariably descend if they don't think they can post anything outside of the Do's.
posted by rhizome at 3:14 PM on August 7, 2008

Do: follow Dov Isaacs's example. He is an employee of Adobe who is also a frequent participant on forums relating to Adobe products. He is honest and straightforward and helpful, and not a shill. Google "Dov Isaacs" + forum for some examples.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:26 PM on August 7, 2008

Best answer: This is more for message boards than blogs per se, but anyway... I'm a member of Ravelry, the big "knitting 2.0" site, and there are a number of yarn manufacturers and retailers who are on there. I run the "Australian Knitters" group and thankfully I haven't had anybody really try to abuse our boards. The suggestions I've given to commercial people when asked are to genuinely become a part of the community; don't just do drive-by posting or commenting. The head of marketing for Australian Country Spinners (probably the biggest yarn company down here) is a great example of this; he's got his own knitting blog and it's obvious that he and his wife really are into the hobby themselves. PR/marketing people should also respond to comments promptly, and try to deal with the inevitable critics (and there will be some) via e-mail instead of the boards. For the sellers who are plugging their own shops, we try to get them to keep all of their updates together rather than starting a new thread every time they add something to their store. We ask people not to spam, which is defined as posting the exact same thing to lots of different boards. If you can't be bothered to write it for us in your own words, we don't want to hear it. So far we haven't had anybody disparage the competition, but that would be a huge no-no in our community. All in all our group is really receptive to retailers and manufacturers, but we like to feel as if we have a dialogue with them, not as if we're simply a market they can shout ads at.
posted by web-goddess at 3:33 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: #1 tip: Post something relevant! I run a multi-user blog, and have had numerous company PR/marketing-y people leave comments in response to various posts about products/companies/services. Sometimes they're really helpful, whether I post a glowing review of a neat product and the CEO (!) of the company replies, or a fellow blogger complains about problems with something and someone actually answers the question / suggests a good fix. In those times, I'm insanely impressed with the company.

Other times, they'll post something wholly irrelevant, such as copied-and-pasted boilerplate linking to their website. In those cases, they've done more harm than good: it seems like they're hijacking the post about my misery with their product to try to hype that product.

Perhaps this is a better way to do put it: Do: Remember that you're responding to one person (albeit in view of many people), and give him/her helpful, relevant response. If you can't, don't comment, or you're going to make things worse.

Oh, and Do: Remember that, even if you post anonymously, it's pretty obvious when a company tries to hype its own product online. And it looks doubly bad: not only are they spamming their product, but they're doing so in a sleazy way. So be totally upfront about who you are and what you're trying to accomplish, because we're going to assume it anyway.
posted by fogster at 4:59 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

No drive-by posting, as the web-goddess said. No trashing the competition. No self-linking.

Do read through and find the most interesting blogs in your market niche and follow them for at least 2 weeks before commenting. A very popular blog is like a mini-community, and commenters are often interacting with the blogger and other commenters.

Do offer information if someone has a question that may be related to the topic but not necessarily shilling your product. (For example, let's say that you are in PR for Pull-Ups diapers. And you are following a mommy blog. A working mommy who has a toddler and is stressing about potty training. Throw out an interesting research tidbit that comforts the mom or offers some original advice. Like, "If it makes you feel better, research from the Medical College of Wisconsin showed that neither daycare or working parents affects toilet training. Let me know if you need more information or would like the report.")

Do thank a blogger if they have written about using your product and they are complimentary.

Do invite a blogger who has been critical about the product to give you more info about their experience offline, either in a phone call or as part of a focus group. As long as you can back this up with a sincere effort to really want to learn from the consumer.

Do check out companies who have successfully reached out to bloggers and other consumers online. (I like Rejuvenation's incorporation of the digital content of their fan base, as well as their CEO's willingness to engage and address issues in his own blog.)
posted by jeanmari at 5:12 PM on August 7, 2008


...not market your company this way.

Either participate in the conversation naturally, or GTFO of the blog's comments. If you think of it as "marketing" you've already failed.
posted by toomuchpete at 5:51 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Comment marketing is like a wig. You don't notice it when it's done well, but if it's done poorly it looks ridiculous.

The biggest do - participate in the conversation. Your comments should flow naturally with the discussion.
posted by 26.2 at 9:14 PM on August 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone. These answers are really, really helpful. I appreciate all the framing here - I'm very, very conservative in what I think is the acceptable standard for commercial interaction in blogs, and it's been sincerely helpful to see that my views align nicely with the hive mind's.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:13 AM on August 8, 2008

Do: post as yourself, instead of as a sentient corporation.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:39 PM on August 8, 2008

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