Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ego Marketing

Since I've joined Twitter, I've had a lot of fun following people I know in real time, getting blog updates, and having some conversations with new people. I'm having a hard time understanding people who are "following" over 1,000 people (I found one person who was following over 15,000 people--insane), particularly since I'm only following 15 or so people.

Then there's the feature that allows me to see who is following me. This can be a bit of an ego-boost in some ways (hey! I'm being followed by 16 people!) but in other ways, I'm finding it's a new method for spam. I call this Ego Marketing, because it relies on the "followed" person to click over and see who's following them, rather than a direct contact from the Marketer (i.e. an email or phone call). The method relies on my willingness to check out what new people are following me, feeding into my own sense of self importance.

I have to give credit to these Ego Marketers for the idea; I'm always interested in the myriad ways of using social media for branding/marketing/public relations. However, while the initial catch is clever, these Ego Marketers have a long way to go to get their targets to make the leap from a simple profile view to visiting their actual websites and buying something.

Two examples from my follower list today: users ringernation and christianet. Ringernation grabbed my attention first, because he had filled in a first name, Jonathan, which made him seem more like an actual person. But once I clicked over to his profile, with its tiled Sprint-logo background, I realized that his tweets were mostly about how to get great cell phone service.

Christianet had me suspicious at first, because of the "christian" part of the username. But since Christian is a first name too, I clicked over to check out this one. I found a list of news article tweets, based on Catholic Church events. Was christianet trying to convert me? I was piqued by the " John Paul II Warned About the Dangers of Secular Feminism" link, and clicked. (After all, it's always important to know what dissenters are saying about Secular Feminism.) If I had been more clever, I would have noticed all the news articles had roughly the same URL in their links. I was redirected to a site claiming to help me end my infidelity and save my marriage, Break Free From the Affair. After a short spiel about the agony that my affair must be inflicting on me, there's an offer to sell me a book on how to fix all my problems and save my marriage, or dump my lying spouse and become a better person without him.

This second Ego Marketing tactic is more sophisticated that ringernation's. Firstly, it draws the target into the profile, without explicitly stating what is being sold on Twitter. Instead, the target has to click through to the Ego Marketer's website, drawing traffic to his official site, and upping the chances that the target will stay and read through and then buy something. Secondly, the tweet-bait left by christianet uses something that will pique the interest, rather than being a basic faked conversation. And this tweet-bait works in two ways: 1) it pulls in a pre-determined audience of self-identifying Christians, which would be a natural feeding trough for a marriage-counseling based product. Christian families are often concerned with the state of their marriages, and the product itself would appear to them. 2) the charged topic of Christianity and feminism, sinning, and other biased issues pulls towards people like me, who are more Left-leaning, who will also be more likely to click through. And even if they haven't bought anything, they are driving up traffic, and hopefully writing outraged posts about the content, which in turn brings more traffic, higher status in a search engine rank, and more publicity. (There's a reason I'm not linking to him--you can find his Twitter profile on your own).

I'm sure as Twitter continues to grow, there will be more and more Ego Marketing, and even more savvy strategies to lure in potential targets. I'd be curious to know what the success rate is for these companies.

2 responses:

Tiffany said...

Kate,
I like the term ego marketing. I think it may apply even more broadly than you describe... it will be interesting to see how Twitter plays out over time. Questions I keep having include, what's the point of microblogging if it's all just the same stuff that's on my regular blog? Or, like you, is there any value in following so many people? I can barely keep up with the small number I've amassed... so if you've got to follow a lot to be followed, is there any purpose in this other than, as you've brought up, feeding one's ego?

Lots of interesting issues here.... thanks for the thought provoking post!

Kate Hutchinson said...

@Tiffany-

yes, I think Ego Marketing could be used more broadly, and it applies well to the sort of marketing that takes place through other social networking sites, like Facebook for example.

I intend to keep my followed group small, and only to people that I am genuinely interested in. For me there's no value in amassing followers simply for the brag value.


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