Many IT companies are encoring their employees to blog. Microsoft is a great example with many of their developers promoting Microsoft technologies. What differs this form of communication to their normal advertising? It's more personal, thus easier for us to trust.
What is viral marketing?
Viral marketing is basically a company actively pushing the word-of-mouth. In the old days when your mate said that the brand 'Snuff Milk' is great you knew you could trust him. But off-course, he's your mate. Now with the Internet and globalization, our contact network expands and information sources have multiplied. Blogs seems like a personal type of information source. But how can you be sure it is? Obviously the blogs over at MSDN you know will be promoting Microsoft software. But in other situations you might not know who the person behind the blog actually is and what his/her agenda really is. Today I received an e-mail from a company who have understood that bloggers can have power and that readers will be influenced by what they think is unbiased views. Unbiased in terms of not relating to companies, not in terms of personal opinions.
The publisher Manning e-mailed me offering a free e-book. Now why would they do that? Well if someone (me for example) blogs about that book in a positive way, that will give them a much more reputable communication to potential buyers than if they bought a banner-ad on a web-site. Personal communications has been very powerful up until now. It still is. But when you have companies actively trying to encourage this word-of-mouth effect. In some cases the person recommend the product might actually get paid to do so. Weight-loss programs is a good example of this. You might have seen a house-wife who wants to earn a quick buck with 'lose weight - ask me' buttons.
As a marketer I greatly respect and value the word-of-mouth effect. It has got us a great deal of business. But if viral marketing continue in it's form as we see today I am worried that effect will turn into something negative in many situations.
The book is 'Explorer's Guide to the Semantic Web' and actually looks quite interesting. Unfortuanly I don't think I will read it because I really don't see the value in it for me. If I do though I will write a review so the guys over at Manning will be happy (or unhappy depending on the review).
A final note: I am not saying that this particular situation is a bad move. What I am saying is based on viral marketing as a whole and the negative effects on it. We (24SevenOffice.com) have disussed ways of doing viral marketing. But it's hard to come up with a sucessful idea that will actually work on a large scale, and also it's a fine line between viral marketing and spamming and other negative marketing approaches.