In my first interview (“The Art of Generating Buzz”) with Emanuel Rosen, I didn’t get a chance to provide his answers to questions that I face as the co-founder of an online business. Being the mensch that he is, Rosen shared his expertise with me, and I would like to share his answers with you. To refresh your memory, Emanuel Rosen is the author of the national bestseller The Anatomy of Buzz (Doubleday, 2000) and The Art of Generating Buzz Revisited: Real-life Lessons In Word-of-Mouth-Marketing (Doubleday, 2009).
Question: As a method for marketing a new product or service, which do you think is the more powerful: Twitter or Facebook?
Answer: Twitter has a couple of advantages at the moment. First, it gives marketers direct access to customers. If someone tweets about Volvo, the car maker can start a dialogue with that person. Access to customers on Facebook is more hierarchical: As a marketer, you can have a dialogue with people who identified themselves as fans of your brand or category. Then, you hope that they will spread the word to their friends. On Twitter, you have access not only to those who are most passionate about your brand, but to anyone who mentions it. This is powerful stuff as long as marketers use it to improve the customer’s experience and not to spam people. As marketers abuse the privilege of direct access, we can expect this advantage to erode.
A second advantage derives from the nature of relationships between people on Facebook versus those relationships on Twitter. On Facebook the relationships are two-way. To define them as “strong ties” or “friendships” would be a stretch in many cases, but the links are stronger than on Twitter, where you can pretty much follow anyone and they don’t have to follow you back. This means that Twitter has more weak ties, which is actually a good thing in terms of how fast and wide information spreads.
Things in this space change rather quickly and Facebook has some strengths too, not the least important—a huge audience. If your potential customers are mainly on Facebook, the advantages of Twitter listed above don’t mean much to you, and you should launch on Facebook, which brings me to my last point: Whenever I’m asked an “or” question, I always question the very need to make a choice. Companies can pretty easily try both Twitter and Facebook and see which one works best for them.
Question: How can I generate more buzz for Alltop?
Answer: I would start by listening to the current buzz about Alltop. Actually, I did some of that already by reading a few hundred random comments about Alltop on blogs and on Twitter. Based on this very rudimentary research, it seems that most of the buzz about Alltop is generated by bloggers who are featured on Alltop. These folks love the recognition and are proud to share it with their readers. This is good buzz, but it must be complemented by comments from folks who use the service and are excited about it. It’s especially important since Alltop wasn’t designed for power users but for the average web surfer. So here are seven things that you might want to do:
Get authentic user stories. Start an initiative such as “how I use Alltop” or “why I love Alltop”. Make it clear that you are not looking for “it’s the coolest thing” but for very specific examples for how the service helps regular people. Such an initiative does a couple of things: First, it helps users articulate why they like the site. Second, it can give other users some new ideas for how they could use Alltop.
Feature a short testimonial video on the front page.The current tutorial video does a good job explaining the concept. Add another one with user testimonials who tell, in their own words, how Alltop helped them. Again, make sure the stories are specific and the benefits concrete. Ideally, every visitor could find someone like himself or herself in these videos.
Involve people through voting. Let the public vote for the top three entries in each category or for whatever makes sense. This will get the bloggers buzzing to their readers. Check out American Express’s campaign, Partners in Preservations, which used a similar idea. In that campaign, the public had to vote on which historical buildings in each city will get a grant for preservation.
Take the current users to the next level. Even among the bloggers featured on Alltop, a lot of the comments are about how cool it is that they are now on Alltop and not enough about how they benefit from using it. The more time they spend with Alltop, the more likely they are to talk about it. Perhaps a trivia game or a treasure hunt on Alltop will encourage them to explore other categories, not only the one that classifies their blog.
Provide more Good stuff. People who believe in a cause tend to be more proactive in spreading the word. Consider a special promotion that involves the categories classified on Alltop under Good. Two examples for campaigns that may give you some ideas: Toms shoes and http://www.freerice.com/
Listen to more buzz.In addition to listening to what people are saying online, conduct face to face, email, and phone interviews to get a sense of how much users are really buzzing about Alltop—and if they are not recommending it, why not?
Continue the dialogue with users. Alltop has done an impressive job in seeding different areas of interest with users and involving people in creating new categories. There are lots of smart people out there, and I’m sure many of them would be delighted to share their ideas of how to spread the word about Alltop.
I asked these questions because I wanted to know how to generate more buzz for Alltop, but his answers are applicable to any online business that’s trying to generate buzz—and who isn’t? It’s not too often that you can get free consulting from a maven like Rosen, so take what he gave me and apply it to your online business too.