As word of mouth marketing has proven to travel further, faster and more effectively than traditional marketing, the development of a comprehensive online advocacy program is vital to promoting any idea, product or person.
It is popularly understood that highly-influencing opinion leaders are capable of influencing between 100 and 1000 consumers; obviously, influencing the influencers is a more effective strategy in terms of time, money, and staffing.
One must break the Internet down into communities and conversations, breaking them down further into influencers and opinion leaders, and then delivering a marketing message in such a way that is relevant and appealing enough to not only be received by these taste-makers but to be impressive enough for them to tell all their friends about what you have to offer as well.
Online advocacy requires a series of key steps, which are derived from two basic strategies: top-down and bottom-up.
Despite the simplicity of the terminology, the strategy itself isn't this simple, it largely reflects two very separate approaches to targeting and reaching a given audience. In essence, these terms relate naturally to the picture that they paint – top-down buzz marketing being the strategy in which taste-makers or community leaders are defined, targeted and appropriately messaged to (online outreach); bottom-up buzz marketing, on the other hand, targets the everyday consumer via online engagement.
While Online Outreach (OO) is a structured approach to marketing to a given demographic, Online Engagement (OE) is much more organic and relies upon the natural echo chamber of the Internet - or the ability for messages to virally spread from community to community naturally. Additionally, online outreach requires the development of a topical and category-based Affinity Site Index (ASI) which be defined as a collection of Birds of a Feather (BoF) blogs, forums, and websites.
Affinity Site Index Development
Marketing to the entire Internet is impossible as it is a constantly growing and changing entity – one cannot broadcast to the Internet given its scope of millions of sites creating billions of pages.
For this reason, it is important not only to define an audience that can reasonably be reached, but also to be mindful of the constant evolution of the Internet.
Do not limit your concept of the Internet to the "blogosphere;" Instead, adopt a more Web 2.0 approach to marketing by allowing the community to include message boards, Wikis, social networks, social bookmarking sites, email lists, podcasts, vlogs, forums, IRC, SMS, IM, MMORPGs, Webcasts, Skypecasts, groups, online video games, 3-D virtual worlds (such as Second Life).
To kick off any Online Advocacy Program, our team spends considerable amounts of time researching and developing your BoF Affinity Site Index. This research is devoted not only to finding out where your current audience lives online, but also to finding like-minded communities that may be interested in your message. This includes thorough investigation within blogosphere; collecting hundreds to thousands of message boards, usenets and forums; scouring social bookmarking, social media and photo and video sharing communities.
Following campaign and client research and Affinity Group Index development, online outreach officially begins by collecting contact information for community taste-makers.
Deciphering individuals from taste-makers is a key task within this processes. The Affinity Group Index is also vetted for appropriateness and for communities that tend to be receptive to the marketing message as well.
It is also important to note that while online engagement is very heavily focused towards reaching out to consumers within message boards, forums, usenets and other communities where the nature of online dialogue is participatory, online outreach is geared toward reaching out blogs, sites and online media outlets in which the tone is online dialogue takes a more editorial tone.
The primarily goal of any Online Advocacy Program - to build relationships between the you and the community leaders