Conversational Advertising

There has been buzz about conversational marketing recently, including exposure on Poynter and Performancing.

I think conversational advertising works primarily for the following groups:

  • those who can give away their entire product free because they realize that the viral buzz around it will cause many more follow on customers...this works especially well if the product is informational related or downloadable software that has negligible per unit cost

  • network based companies that can offer a free trial (perhaps even lifetime free trial) of a high value product which increases in value through subscriber growth. Think VoIP companies, etc.

When CashKeywords sponsored Threadwatch it was a hit, largely because they offered the option of getting their entire product free of charge. Typically though marketers are greedier and/or short sighted, you get people who:

While idealistically conversational marketing should work great there are many fundamental errors with it.

  1. People are skeptical of advertising.

  2. By default the group of people asked to comment on an ad are going to be more inclined to offer negative feedback.
  3. The people who buy and like your product and comment on it would likely give you more useful feedback directly.
  4. Threads often run on tangents. If it is a paid ad the odds of the tangent being a negative one are much higher.
  5. Most legitimate companies have made a few mistakes and/or have a few skeletons in their closet. If they have not made any mistakes then they probably are not interesting enough to be comment worthy.

The problem that makes conversational marketing sound appealing is that many of the best content providers do not make near enough off their content due to limited ad sales resources and content topic selection of hypersaturated low value topics.

As an ad buyer, when I am buying ad space in hyper-saturated markets I respect the fact that there is going to be under-priced ad inventory. Marketers market on spyware because it has a positive ROI. Marketers market on stolen or garbage content funded by Google AdWords because it is profitable.

When doing the pay per influence model you don't buy the influence of those with reach. If they are selling that they lose their credibility...and eventually their reach. All you are merely doing is overpaying for ad space near their content.

Look at the Superbowl. Those ads are likely overpriced largely because they give advertisers such large exposure. Now some of them may have viral follow up elements that add value in other ways, but most ads do not do that.

I sell conversational ads on Threadwatch and get like 1 enquery a month. Not much considering that is one of the 10 or so most powerful sites in this industry.

I have also cut back most of my ad spend for this site outside of AdWords because most of it offers a net negative ROI...whereas I might make a slight profit with AdWords.

Do I get some love from conversational marketing? You bet your ass I do. In the last couple days I stumbled across this SEO Book mention and another great thread at Digital Point. That is conversational marketing. You commenting on this thread is likely going to be good conversational marketing. Sites that make you feel you know the owner will continue to grow in reach.

You can't make happy customers want to give positive feedback on someone else's site by advertising there. They have to already want to do it. And you can't pay for it or some people will question it for being fake.

Published: February 22, 2006 by Aaron Wall in marketing


Andy H
February 22, 2006 - 5:57am

Make it easy on yourself man... bring back "regular ads" on TW.

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