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.