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March 05, 2009



Well said, all marketing campaigns needs capital. Advertising's capital is $. You keep throwing $ at it and it keeps going. You stop and it stops. Companies have to understand that the type of capital they need to throw into social media to get coverage is people's time and expertise and not money. The incentive should be to wow bloggers (or to be less bling bling, to interest them) and not buy their influence.
Now it's harder and it's different from throwing $ in an advertising campaign, it requires a change in how companies operates.
From where I seat, high tech seems to me where the shift is happening with 1000s of people blogging at sun, microsoft, adobe...may be because high tech products are easy fit for social media.

Sean Corcoran

Hi John,

As the author of the "sponsored conversation" research I completely agree that sponsored conversation is a form of paid media. Earned media is typically much more effective and I advise marketers to go that route first and foremost to create true WOM. However, there are times where the world of paid media and earned media meet. There are several examples of this such as celebrity endorsments, Refer-a-friend programs, WOM agencies (such as BZZAgent), product placement and product samples. Sponsored conversation (i.e. fully disclosed blog posts) fit in this model. It's a way for a marketer to provide an additional incentive to influentials to start a conversation about their brand. What's key, as you mention, is that they are fully disclosed so readers truly know the difference. Then smart marketers will listen and engage the conversation that is created by the community. It may not be as effective as pure earned media but it sure can be more effective then forms of traditional paid media.

Sean Corcoran


Great post, John. Thanks for pointing out the distinctions.

Paul Chaney

John, WOMMA's code of ethics is an admirable standard, but, can or should it apply across the breadth of the social mediasphere? At present, it is only applicable to WOMMA members and not everyone sees themselves as a word of mouth marketer. Technically speaking, we all are I suppose, but I think most see it as a particular discipline or form of marketing.

But, again, given that it's an admirable standard, how do we move it outside the ranks of WOMMA and into the larger landscape?

John Bell

@sean - getting people to "care enough to share" about a brand or issue requires understanding what is important to them. Some folks just want to share on a topic they are expert at. Some want some sort of social capital they can share with their audience. Some want the respect and recognition they deserve and that comes with offering them the vacuum cleaner to try out or the flight to Omaha to meet the designers and talk about next features. Inviting people into "sponsored conversations" like that can be a powerful driver of word of mouth. How do we scale?

Not by paying cash. We scale by creating a bigger conversation and inviting more influencers in. we scale by layering on paid advertising that promotes the conversation by driving content down through the ad channel.

Jeremiah Owyang

Thanks John, you bring light to the topic at hand

It gets dicey and gray when you compare cash vs products.

In the case of Kmart/Brogan, for example, Kmart doesn't have any 'products' of their own, so they provided them with a $500 shopping spree. If they had a product, likely they would have given them that.

Where does the line start and stop when it comes to giving consumers products vs giving them cash?

In the end it doesn't really matter as long as in either case, it's authentic and transparent.

Pam Pugmire~Idaho Real Estate

It's great that you brought up the distinction between media and word of mouth.
The more transparent this platform remains, the more trust we will enjoy from the public, and therefore, the longer this will be a trusted and sought-after medium.
Kudos to WOMMA for taking a precautions to avoid a huge backlash later!!!

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