Feeling Anti-Social Media? Relax! It's Really Nothing New

Paul Gillin Says Marketers Shouldn't Fear Bottom-up Publicity

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For marketers panicked by the prospect of managing social media, here are two words: calm down.

Social media are expanding the universe of people that marketers need to influence, but the rules of engagement aren't much different than they were before.
Paul Gillin
Paul Gillin is author of 'The New Influencers: A Marketer's Guide to the New Social Media.'

There's nothing new about bottom-up publicity. Toyota achieved its reputation for quality three decades ago not because it said its cars were good but because thousands of customers told Consumer Reports its cars were good. The only difference today is that we don't need mediators or researchers. People can speak for themselves, and the conversations that result are richer and more diverse than anything you can find in a survey.

Just ask Grand Central, a web-based service that simplifies people's lives by consolidating their phone numbers into one number. Before launching early this year, it engaged some key bloggers by giving them free access and soliciting their advice. Then it took steps to improve the product based on what the bloggers said.

The positive blogger reception soon infected the mainstream media. The New York Times' David Pogue even produced a video that plays like a love letter to Grand Central. The company's website features testimonial plaudits from more than 6,000 customers. Mainstream media can't ignore grass-roots support like that.

Grand Central's marketing firm is Comunicano, a Del Mar, Calif.-based agency that builds a blogger relations component into all of its publicity programs. Another of its clients is Nokia, which sends a select group of mobile-phone enthusiasts new phones to play with and write about. Then it posts links to all reviews, both good and bad, on a special website. The program is so successful that Nokia is on its eighth blog-based campaign.

Innovation isn't limited to technology. Fidelity Investments previews new products and services at FidelityLabs.com and invites customer comments. And you all know what happened when shoemaker Converse created ConverseGallery.com and invited enthusiasts to upload videos about their Chuck Taylor sneakers. More than 1,800 did, and sales doubled within months.
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