Interesting press release ^W^W blog posting on the collaboration between Technorati and Edelman (“the largest independent global PR firm” – not sure how many other firms would be competing in the ‘independent global’ category for the prize…).
The release is rather short on substance to warrant the tag “partnership”: this is more like the 1999 version of ‘partnership’ – we’re chatting together and looking for ways to make money:
Technorati is accelerating the development of fully localized versions of our service in Chinese, Korean, German, Italian and French. … [snip]
Edelman is providing support for this accelerated development effort and will have access to these new sites as they are in development and testing this year. They will be working with their international clients on how to listen to and engage the blogosphere. How to move away from one-way, command and control marketing towards the conversational era we’ve entered.
So: Technorati is trying to be multilingual, multinational and multicultural (ie not just speaking to/about The Valley). Edelman is elbowing its way into the comms and marketing budgets of big clients, telling them how to ‘engage’ the blogosphere.
Just because a room is full of flies it doesn’t make them easier to catch, and the notion that the ‘blogosphere’ is coherent, can be addressed logically or that it’s a sort of ‘oasis’ where the big beasts of the savanna congregate, allowing the marketing hunters to take potshots at them, is fundamentally flawed.
This ‘blogosphere’ is more akin to watching a swarm of locusts: you have little warning of the swarm forming and so it appears a force of nature; you have only the most general idea of the direction the swarm will follow, but when it’s passed boy do you know they were hungry!
A former chairman of mine had an aphorism that the person who profits most in a gold rush is the one selling shovels, and there’s a nugget (sorry!) of truth in that for the current push to monetise the blogosphere.
Edelman are by no means digital slouches, and they gave a great account of themselves at the recent Blogging for Business conference where Guillaume du Gardier spoke with insight and pragmatism. In linking with Technorati, Edelman will have direct access to the online behaviour and shifting interests of a class of internet user that’s at the leading edge of behaviour. This will give them a sort of “lab” to assess behaviour and commercial opportunities so that they’re prepared for the late majority of adopters.
In advance of any such learning, however, there are clear pointers for companies looking to use digital channels to address or influence consumers: have a product with integrity, fit for purpose and need; listen and respond to customers insofar as it’s commercially sensible to you, but don’t pretend to be a co-op or to run your product by focus group (see first point!); give voice to your staff and customer service teams – don’t route all comments via your legal department!
Other than this the rudiments of customer communications, research and planning all stand. The new ‘blogosphere’ serves only to increase the speed at which customers can move away from you or – most painfully – the speed at which inept, inauthentic, manipulative, hollow and formulaic marketing rubrics can be exposed and mocked.