Ah, another rant about Scoble. He’s got a fresh “rant” (rant is in parenthesis because it’s pretty mild by my standards) about a group in Microsoft that created a website to market a product, but (to Scoble’s way of thinking) missed the boat as to how to go about it.
He’s got a point.
I use the Web in two quite different ways that might result in me spending money on our products. The first is just to find information. What are you selling? What does it do? Where can I buy it? How muh will it cost? As long as I can do a simple websearch and your information page pops to the front, I’m probably happy.
The second kind of marketing is a bit subtler. Microsoft’s Channel 9 pages are a good example. They are more informal, less structured pitches, presented in a conversational style, and often as a result of actual discussions with developers and to some extent, consumers. Currently in the Channel 9 Video Forum, I see tours of Microsoft facilities guides to developing on bluetooth and CLR programming, and descriptions of new technologies like Avalon 3D. These aren’t so much to get me to buy products, but to understand and buy into the Microsoft Brand.
And they are effective. There is little doubt that I have a more positive view of Microsoft and their products by actually watching this stuff.
So, what’s my beef?
To my mind, it’s the intermixing of marketing and conversation. I guess that you could say I’m a bit of a skeptic about the whole Cluetrain idea. It’s not that it’s wrong or bad, it is just one of those seductive ideas that goes from keen insight to useless cliché in a very short time.
But I think there is something slightly more disturbing about companies who are trying to apply the Cluetrain ideas. Take, for example the Microsoft Presspass site that Scoble recommends as an example of “the right way to do it”. The thing that I find disturbing is just how much it looks like a real news site, with real journalists asking real questions. But it’s not. It’s just the Microsoft marketing department, asking their own company softball questions. Look carefully at the Q&A articles. Look carefully at the formatting. The fact that you can get an RSS feed to have these scarefully sculpted press releases delivered into your mailbox.
Color me skeptical, but I see this site as perhaps more effective than the site which angered Scoble, but no better for me. I should be skeptical of virtually every claim made on such a website, because it is so obviously the work of strong, vested interests. Their products might indeed be just what I need, but to really evaluate the needs I need access to unbiased information, and this ain’t it. It is really just the same old marketing recast into the guise of the new trendy “conversation”.
Having an RSS feed and making your press release look like news doesn’t establish a conversation.
Sometime soon: companies don’t converse. At best two individuals do. Using the term “conversation” to describe an interaction between a company and an individual is a demeaning use of the word “conversation”.