“Markets are conversations. Trade routes pave the story lines.” –The Cluetrain Manifesto
The Rise of “Consumer Conversation”
In 2006, the phenomenon of “consumer conversation” became an inescapable reality and focus for marketers. Ad Age ranked the term number nine on its list of “10 words or phrases that are so 2006.” Esteemed marketer and author Joseph Jaffe has announced that his upcoming book will be titled Join the Conversation. The ubiquity of this phrase signifies that marketers are beginning to accept the fact that consumers are becoming increasingly empowered and influential. Acceptance of this fact does not, however, equate to an ability to react to it. Many marketers are left befuddled when strategizing in this new environment.
It is not enough to acknowledge change. We are living in sink-or-swim times where learning to swim requires a deep understanding of what has changed, as well as a tactical plan for succeeding in the new environment.
Many marketers are devising strategies (for better of worse) that leverage the social nature of the Internet. Much to my surprise, it appears that many paid search engine marketers are not as quick to embrace “the conversation” as fellow marketers operating in other interactive channels. The abundance of irrelevant and untimely paid search results makes it apparent that many search marketers rely heavily on automated tools to control much of their search processes. While many of the automated tools on the market provide the search marketer with tremendous value, it is apparent (when analyzing a paid search results page) that these tools leave some marketers in a complacent state.
The result is that marketers are missing many opportunities and leaving money on the table. This complacent nature can be dangerous. Search is a conversation, and conversations require two parties; a keyword (the query) and either paid or natural results (the answer). If a marketer does not learn to actively listen to consumer questions in real-time, she will inevitably be left out of many conversations.
“We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?” from the 95 these of The Cluetrain Manifesto
Feeding Your Search Strategy
Search Strategist Emily Las constantly refers to the speed of search. “We are not servicing our clients properly if we are not working at the speed of search,” she says. Having worked closely with Ms. Las, I have acquired a precise understanding of the implications of her statement. First, her statement refers to the rapid way in which search engines gather information. Second, her statement refers to the rapidly changing nature of online buzz and the necessity for search marketers to not simply listen to the buzz but to be nimble enough to quickly respond to it. Let’s consider a hypothetical situation in which company X, a retailer selling portable music devices, has just launched a search campaign.