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Searching in your own network: why brands need to enter the stream

June 17, 2009

Here’s a statement sort of made by Fred Wilson:

“Passed links convert better than paid links”.

Paid links, in this case, are SEM. Search Engine Marketing. It’s an effort to chase the long tail by getting a message about a thing in front of the person who’s interested in the thing at the time they are interested.

My very un-technical definition is meant to show off something marketers have known for a long time: get the message in front of buyers and make more sales.

That’s classic SEM and the reason Googleites has gourmet chefs in their cafeteria. But things are changing a little, as Fred said. Twitter and Facebook (and other networks) are becoming ‘network’ search engines. I can go to Twitter or Facebook and write: what should I have for lunch?

Or, “what should I buy my almost 3-year old for her birthday?”

Or…insert your brand’s questions here.

That’s network search. And it’s Fred’s theory that those links will convert more than SEM links will. And I think he’s right.

Because an answer in that stream comes from people (and brands) who’ve I’ve allowed in.

The brands that enter that stream the best are the ones that are most likely to be the shared links. Which brings the obvious question: how does a brand enter the stream? How does Joe’s Dry Cleaner enter into the conversation about good dry cleaners?

I think the answer is one part brand, one part digital presence. Brand is the well-used term to denote a sense or feeling or word or notion about a product or service. that’s accomplished through marketing, advertising, product experience, WOM, etc.

That’s the first part. The second part is needling your way into the stream in a subtle way. This is a little harder. The good news: it’s dead easy if you’re doing the first part well (we get fans to some Facebook pages without really trying because people love the brands). I’m more and more convinced that historically good advertising equals fans.

But that’s just part of it. The other part is creating just enough content that people can share. Content equals many things. It can be deals: although those have expiration dates. It can be inside looks at the brand. Or it can simply be those nuggets of information that inform purchase decisions. The facts. Give people that, and you’ll give people things to share.

And hopefully, they will.

Especially if you replace ‘people’ with ‘best customers’.

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