Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The heard word

These days it’s old news to say that marketing is a conversation, and that companies who ignore the blogosphere do so at their peril. (See Jarvis, Jeff for more.) Along with several other co-workers at FeedBurner, I’ve made monitoring the blogosphere part of my routine, thanks largely to services like Technorati. By setting up saved searches in Technorati, I can see whenever anyone around the world talks about FeedBurner — whether they’re in Norway, Delaware Australia (see comments), or more recently, Australia. (OK, so with the update it seems like they talk about us a lot in Australia. There are other examples, but most of them involve languages I don’t speak. Sue me.)

It’s that most recent comment from Australia on Sunday night that is a textbook example of why engaging people is so important. In this case, Vicki opted to leave FeedBurner, in part because our explanation of how we help people leave the service confused her — and appeared to be only available if you pay us. (To be clear: it’s not.) I commented on her blog, then we followed up with an IM session where I figured out where the confusion stemmed from, and was able to clarify for her how things worked.

Result? In just two days, Vicki went from an unsatisfied user to a very satisfied user. What’s most intriguing is how universally positive people are about this kind of engagement, regardless of their feelings about FeedBurner in general. This isn’t particularly hard — it doesn’t take a lot of time, and it’s nothing but upside for us as a business. We rely on positive word of mouth, and when we see anything that asks a question or (gasp!) complains, we make sure they hear from us in a constructive way.

I’m certain this will be standard fare in a few years for marketers, but it’s surprisingly still the exception rather than the norm. And the more uninformed (or misinformed) information that stays out there unrefuted, the more likely it is to spread, and do real damage to the company. By contrast, simple corrections generate tremendous goodwill, and may even win over some users that might have stayed away. Seems like a no-brainer.


  1. Rick,
    Just for the record, I'd be in Brisbane Australia and not Delaware. My server however is somewhere in the US so it probably is in Delaware. Just goes to show how global things are these days.

    Oh and I use Technorati/Feedster/etc in a very similar way to you both for my personal site and for anyone who happens to talk about my employer.



  2. It is a no brainer. But too many businesses and politicians won't monitor the blogosphere, much less join the conversation. Besides the lack of needed skills, fear plays a big part. The old rules of not acknowledging bad press, especially when it hasn't came from key people or places, won't work anymore. Then add to the mix the blogosphere's speed to move a message and the fact that it doesn't allow businesses and politicians to craft a response and test that message in the manner that only a few years ago worked rasies their anxiety level even more.

    Those who are not paralyzed by fear and take that big step into the blogosphere can gain a relationship and understanding of their customers, supporters, products and competitors which has much greater rewards than any penalties of speaking without a net will incur. You and your company already know this.