The reason that viral maketing has been on my mind lately is because of a company named Matrixstream IPTV Technologies. Aaron Keogh is the Director of Business Development at Matrixstream and he's decided to promote a new IPTV product using the blogosphere and podosphere. Aaron has been sending out introductory emails to every podcaster and blogger he can find in an effort to get us to blog or podcast about his new product. I've actually received two of them through different channels now.
I'm going to screw this up, but as near as I can tell IPTV is to television what VoIP is to telephones. It's TV over the Internet utilizing a small box that plugs into your Internet connection and television. Sounds cool, no? Personally, I have enough problems with my VoIP line even at 3Meg down and 512K Up (and yes, I actually get those speeds) so I don't think there's much more you can push through the pipe at my house. But this isn't a post about IPTV, it's about viral marketing.
One on hand I'm very impressed that a relatively mainstream company is putting so much faith and resources into the spheres. On the other hand, it's called viral because, like a virus, we're all just supposed to catch it. Somebody sees something cool and blogs about it. A few other bloggers notice and start talking about it. A podcaster comes across one of these blogs and talks about it. Before you know it, we all have Technorati and Flickr accounts. Asking for viral marketing seems incongruous.
Even worse than being incongruous, asking for viral marketing can turn spammy. I did a and came up with an interesting result. I found hundreds of identical comments posted to technology related blogs all over the world. Here's the stock comment that Aaron leaves on blogs:
Just wondering if you’d be interested in bloging / podcasting about Matrixstream’s cutting edge video on demand and IPTV Technology ( TV over broadband ). This is a technology that allows the consumer to receive a potential for unlimited VOD / IPTV content up to 1080P in H.264 codec over any broadband connection on a PC Player or set top box for TV ( IMX1020 1080P High definition STB - the world’s first 1080P H.264 STB ) If you’d like to see pictures and video’s of the this new STB you can go to www.matrixstream.com/presskit . Let us know if your interested.I did a finer Google search specifically for the phrase "Just wondering if you’d be interested in bloging / podcasting about Matrixstream’s cutting edge video" and it turned up 80 hits from all over the globe. 80 cut-and-pasted comments.
Yours Truly Aaron Keogh
To Aaron's credit, he did personally call me once which was a nice touch. Unfortunately, when I called Aaron back it was quite obvious that he had no idea who I was and a little more research showed that I definitely was just a number on a list. As a blogger and a podcaster, that makes me feel used. I'm usually flattered when a company calls me up and asks me if I'd like to talk about their product on the show. However, when I see the same email and comments that were sent to me pasted verbatim all over the Internet, then I just feel used. I feel like an 'eyeball' or a 'seat' or even worse...a 'consumer'. Aaron isn't just asking for viral marketing, he's spamming the world while he does it.
Companies that want to tap into the power of the spheres are doing the 'right thing' (tm). A cool new product that catches the eye of the right blogger or podcaster can skyrocket it into the global spotlight. Indeed many a company's server has blown up when their hitherto unnoticed little site was mentioned on Slashdot or Memeorandum. Don't make the mistake of thinking that bloggers and podcasters don't know what they bring to the table and for God's sake, don't make the mistake of thinking that we don't know how to find out lots about you and what you're doing. I guarantee that we're better with the blog and web search tools than most company PR people out there, so don't spam us and expect us not to find out.
In summary - don't fear the sphere (Hey! That rhymes!) - understand it. The entire reason that podcasting works is because it's personal, it's campy, it's niche, and it's about relationships. If you want me to talk about your product, you need to talk to me about it, not at me. You can most certainly talk to other people about it, but I want a personal email and not a stock comment or email that you've sent to hundreds of other people.