March 2007 - Online Strategies

Paid Blogging and Forum Posting: New Ways to Generate Buzz

By Tony Sziklai

DRTV marketers are actually very savvy PR people. Because the stakes are so high, they have to be good at getting the message out-if they don’t, their call centers will sit idle and their retail orders will dry up. An entertaining infomercial or innovative product can generate the kind of buzz (i.e., word-of-mouth endorsement) that most Madison Avenue PR firms can only dream about.

With that said, many traditional DRTV marketers fail to develop online strategies for generating buzz. I am talking about the kind of bona fide buzz that leads to direct orders and retail contracts.
Most of the DRTV marketers I talk to are unaware of the PR tools that pure-play Internet marketers use, such as online press releases, paid blogging and paid forum posting.

These tools tie into search engine optimization and can have a significant impact on the bottom line. In the July 2006 “Online Strategies” column, I wrote about online press releases. This month, I will explain paid blogging and paid forum posting.

Paid blogging is the process of paying bloggers to write about your product or service in their blogs. For the uninitiated, a blog (short for web log) is an online self-publishing tool that allows anyone to write their own newspaper, magazine or journal. A typical blog contains links to other blogs, websites and media related to its topic, including videos. Most blogs allow readers to leave comments, creating a highly interactive and fresh slant to the content.

Technorati, a blog-tracking site, registers a staggering 66 million blogs. They estimate that 175,000 new blogs and 1.6 million new posts are created every day. These are mind-blowing statistics considering that mainstream blogging is only a few years old.

One of the first companies to offer a paid blogging service is Florida-based PayPerPost. Advertisers create an account on PayPerPost by making an initial deposit via credit card or PayPal. After creating an account, the advertiser then creates a posting assignment (called an “opportunity”) for bloggers in the PayPerPost network. The advertiser describes what the bloggers should write about, what calls to action and links to use and what price the advertiser is willing to pay for each post. If PayPerPost approves the “opportunity,” it is released to the network, where interested bloggers select it and create posts.

PayPerPost reviews each blogger’s post to ensure that it matches the advertiser’s requirements. Posts must remain live for 30 days and typically live on indefinitely in the blog’s archives. This emphasis on quality makes PayPerPost a powerful service-one that generates limitless buzz in an increasingly influential blogosphere. “Our goal is to connect advertisers with the largest, highest quality network of bloggers who are eager to review, promote or endorse products, services and websites,” says PayPerPost CEO Ted Murphy.

My experience with PayPerPost was good. I was surprised by the quality and enthusiasm of the posts and did see a measurable lift in online sales. High-quality posts ended up costing $10 per post on average, which was a pleasant surprise. I suggest testing paid blogging by using a dynamic tracking link that distinguishes blog sales from other sales. If you also are interested in branding, paid blogging definitely will get your company and product name in front of many at-work and educated consumers who you might not be reaching otherwise.

Another way to generate online buzz is paid forum posting. Around since the early days of the Internet, forums are message boards where people hold online discussions, express opinions and post content, including links to websites, photographs and videos.
There are two kinds of paid forum posts: posts in other people’s forums and posts in your own forum (also called “forum seeding”). In both cases, you pay a posting company to register in a forum and then create new topics or replies to existing topics that plug your product.

There are many companies that do this. Most offer fixed price packages that specify a minimum number of new members, posts, topics and words per post. While not as pervasive as blogs, forums can be found in each product category-including fitness, health, beauty, kitchen, household, electronics and tools.

Creating your own forum is not difficult. There are many readily available forum software packages that can be downloaded off the Internet. A competent web developer can have a forum installed and configured within a matter of hours.

If managed correctly, forums can generate repeat traffic to your website, lower your customer service call volume and generate believable testimonials and useful feedback about your product. The key thing is to moderate the forum to ensure quality and prevent malicious or overly negative posts. Forum posting companies can help you jump start your forum by laying a foundation of helpful and engaging posts. It also doesn’t hurt to have internal staff participate in the forum, especially to answer questions and create more authoritative content.

I have experienced mixed results with forum posting companies, so make sure you start with a small test to gauge the quality of their work. Some forum seeding packages start as low as $20, which is a very inexpensive test by DRTV standards.

The search engines love blogs and forums. The reason for this is simple: fresh content. The search engine algorithms prioritize news, blog posts, press releases and other forms of date/time-stamped content above static content. The paid blogging and forum posting that you do will show up on the search engines, so be mindful of what keywords you use. Most posting companies will work with you to emphasize certain keywords in blog titles, text and links. If you do not have the resources to manage a posting campaign like this, it may not be a bad idea to hire an interactive marketing firm to help you with planning and execution. The amount of extra web orders, calls and retail orders you get may surprise you.

Tony Sziklai is vice president of information technology at Moulton Logistics Management in Van Nuys, Calif. He can be reached at (818) 997-1800, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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