SIX. Using blogs as a sounding board for product launches / feedback. What better form of instant feedback can you get than the comment mechanism? It's fairly easy to use, so the irritation barriers are low. You can post anonymously if you fear reprisal.
Certain people just need to learn to switch on public posting, especailly on Blogger Blogs (too many instances of blogs that require a blogger account to post a comment).
How to generate valuable feedback and sift through large volumes could prove trickier. Not impossible - just having the comments there in the first place is a step in the right direction...
Take some local examples. Social blogs (where you're unlikely to find any marketing justification / value for the blog - except the social community that could be marketed to) like Mushy Peas and So Close have both been featured on TV / Radio and get well over 50 comments per post, if not more. Wired Magazine's blogs can get up to 100 comments per post... While other more controversial topics on blogs and social media sites can get 1000's upon 1000's of comments.
Firstly - let's just acknowledge the potential here. Whatever the topic, you have a exponentially growing community of people who are willing to take the time to tell you what they think.
If this potential is carefully approached (unlike the Walmart incident), product take-up testing, brand interpretation, new launches, new ideas could all be soundboarded using a social media platform. For pretty much the time it takes to write, analyse and host a blog. Powerful?
SEVEN. Social Media can also provide a company with the ability to REACT when something goes right or wrong. Let's take a scenario - you post about a new product, 100 comments come in (all bad). A couple of benefits present themselves.
1. You can RESPOND.
2. At least you've received this feedback before you took that product to market
3. Analytics tools give you the power to track exactly where traffic to that article might be coming from. Is your product international? If so, feedback relevant. If not - the options change again.
Of course, as with any marketing venture - things can go horribly wrong. But these cases are where we learn our best lessons. Take the iBurst scenario. iBurst starts a blog - opening their customer care department up to the feedback mechanisms of the social web. It backfires. 127 complaints get deleted without a response. Marketing faux par #1. But lesson learnt?
EIGHT. Being (and staying) ahead of the pack. Something has got to be said for a brand associating itself with new, pervasive technology. Is this going to drive traffic back to your brand site? Well, it certainly won't take traffic away... Are you going to be able to measure how your blog affects the bottom line? Probably not. Are you going to make piles of cash? Perhaps - but it seems their is a general anti-advertising sentiment towards blogs in general. Money would have to be made through other means.
BUT. Do not ignore the subtleties. Every time someone links to your blog, or blogs about a thought / product of yours - your opinion, your brand or your opinion is being talked about.
Remember the old adage: a customer that has a bad experience will tell 30 people, whereas a good experience might get a single mention? Perhaps THAT is changing. Good stuff gets blogged about all the time - in fact, not many cynical blogs seem to hog the limelight - unless of course they rely on humour.
If you get yourself out there - and you're doing cool stuff - it's just a matter of time before it gets talked about. Talking leads to evangelism... and that's a place we all want to be.
NINE. It's putting the power back in the hands of the consumer. Whether you Digg this article or not may be outside my sphere of influence. But let's not forget - YOU now have that power.
We Digg, we Reddit, we NewsKick, we Newsvine, we Del.ic.ous, we swarm, we stack... all POWERFUL, IMMEDIATE commuunity applications that enhance daily information gathering, empower consumers to vote on the information they enjoy and help us, the broader community at large, to weed out the good information from the bad.
Would we have had these tools if there wasn't a swing to social media?
TEN. You're reading this post. It's social media working before your eyes!