Monday, September 15, 2008

What is it that I do?

I was sitting on the beach with my family over the weekend and was asked by a friend what it is that I do. This is an interesting question. First my background - I was a TV Producer for about 10 years. I’ve always had a passion for photography and have been very computer and web savvy. About two years ago I got a job with a company specializing in putting other businesses into virtual worlds. There was a rush of excitement over virtual worlds in the television, film, and general corporate world two years ago and I was able to get in on the ground floor. With my background in TV production and computer knowledge, it was a great fit. I was a Producer/Project Manager for various campaigns in 3D environments. Eventually the pendulum swung the other way and the excitement over virtual worlds was replaced with a fear and general apprehension about 3D environments. While I very much enjoyed this job, the industry itself could not sustain and so I found myself after working at home for 1.5 years looking for something similar without the commute. A friend of mine from the former company I worked for referred me to a web 2.0 marketing company telling me that it would be perfect for my background. I spoke to the two owners, Chris Abraham & Mark Harrison, and after a couple of very interesting hour long phone conversations and back and forth emails, I was brought on board as a Project Manager soon to become the “Director of Client Services” for Abraham & Harrison - still working from home.

Abraham & Harrison is a web 2.0 marketing company specializing in conversation engagement. Basically what this means is that if you have a product or company that you want spoken about on the internet or developed buzz around, A&H is the company to make that happen. There are a couple of different ways of promoting online engagement. One of the main ways that A&H uses to promote a product or campaign is through blogger outreach. Online blogger outreaches are similar to traditional marketing in that a demographic or “universe” is chosen as the potential audience, however, instead of direct mailings, TV, or radio advertisements, the universe is researched and built from the “blogosphere.” There are millions of bloggers who write about everything from being a mommy to their passion for food. This is an enormous audience of potential promoters for a product if the right avenue is taken to engage the blogger.

After the demographic is filled with bloggers of a certain genre (blog name, URL, blog title, topic, name of blogger, email address) a Social Media News Release is built. An SMNR is a basic who - what - when - why of the campaign. Another very important element of the outreach is to “come bearing gifts.” Who doesn’t like to receive a present? The gift does not have to be a tangible item, but information, exclusive access, or even the gift of helping others is widely accepted in an outreach. After the SMNR and targeted audience is built, a message model is created. The message is the hook. No one wants to read a pageful of information in an email, so a streamlined message must be created to hook the blogger into visiting the SMNR and then to engage them to blog about the campaign. Personalized response in a short amount of time is KEY to a successful outreach. This means that as soon as a blogger responds with either a positive or negative email, that email must be replied to by a real person in a reasonable amount of time (1 hour to one day). This lets the blogger know that a real person is writing to them and not some automated spam-bot. This also allows a relationship to be established with the responder and blogger.

Other methods of promoting a campaign Abraham & Harrison uses are through grassroots outreaches and using social networking sites like Facebook & MySpace. A grassroots outreach is basically a “hitting them where they live” promotion. A group or forum is an excellent way to reach a community of individuals interested in the same thing. By reading about what the group is interested in and then leaving comments to blog postings and engaging in forums, spreading the message of the campaign and conversation engagement can be accomplished. Social networking communities, while are closed off from the openness of the internet, offer a way to engage those already interested in certain topics. Creation of groups, profiles, fan pages, and causes offer another venue to spread conversation.

So in a nutshell - Abraham & Harrison is a web 2.0 marketing company specializing in online promotion by engaging people in conversation.

I think that telling a story is cool. As a TV Producer I told stories though what the camera recorded and how it was edited. As a photographer I tell stories through still images. On the web stories are told through websites, blogs, social media news releases, micro-blogging (twitter, Facebook status, instant messages) and in general online conversation.

Obviously our ability to engage bloggers we have never met into writing about a topic they might never have been interested in (or might never have written about) and then maintaining that relationship campaign to campaign is our speciality.

I like the fact that our company specializes in an area where traditional marketing companies are not well versed. I like to be the expert in a field that is not populated and I think we need to take advantage of the fact that we are the social media experts.