"Participation Is Marketing"

Bimmercs_mountainsI was recently interviewed over at the Buzz Bin, and one of their questions got me thinking a bit more.  The question was, “What are your thoughts of the concept ‘participation is marketing?’”   My answer: “I totally agree. Speaking as a consumer, when I notice that a company takes an active, helpful role in community interactions, I am impressed and more favorably inclined to their brand.”

I decided to do a quick spot check on one major brand.  If I could identify a situation in which it was obvious that they benefit by participating with engaged consumers, would they already be doing so?

I chose BMW at random.  Here was the process…

Google search on “BMW” brought up organic search result #8: AutoBlog.  Specifically, “Posts from the BMW Category at AutoBlog.” 

(Please note how wondrous, surprising & cool it is that a blog pops up in the first 10 Google search results for a major brand.)

Next: regardless of its impressive organic search ranking, is AutoBlog worth paying attention to?  Let’s check Technorati.  “There are 246,930 links to this URL.”  (Authority 4,154, rank 146).  Pretty darn good.

What’s the most recent post in the BMW category at AutoBlog?  A May 24 “spy shot” (and article) regarding the BMW 1–Series Coupe.  The article has 11 comments, and (as of this writing), 14 inbound blog links.  Not a vast wave of consumer interaction, but – given AutoBlog’s overall site traffic and also the fact that the post is just a day old – it’s not trivial volume, either.  (A quick scan of some of the other BMW postings at AutoBlog showed a fairly consistent amount of user interaction.) 

Clearly there is an active community congregating at AutoBlog’s BMW site, and while at first glance the number of active users is relatively small, we can extrapolate from the site’s outsized Google & T’rati rankings that anyone searching for “BMW” on the web is going to quickly find this site.

Thus the opportunity.  I read through several posts and comments, and did not note anyone from BMW participating in this community.  How cool would it be for these brand enthusiasts to interface directly with a BMW representative on a regular basis?  Pretty cool.  And more importantly, it would show visitors to the highly-trafficked blog that BMW truly cared about its customers and prospective buyers.

I recognize that there are challenges for any company to scale and train and monitor a group of “community managers” that could serve as adjuncts to the marketing group.  But what’s worth doing that isn’t going to be a challenge?

I also acknowledge that this was an unscientific approach.  For all I know, BMW is engaging “big-time” in other parts of the blogosphere.  They might even be represented in deeper sections of the AutoBlog. 

The “failure,” in my opinion, is that BMW is not taking advantage of this easily-recognized opportunity to engage, consistently, in a place that is so prominently impacting their brand, via AutoBlog’s high placement in a quickie Google search on the term “BMW.” 

If you’re not paying attention to what’s being said about your brand within the Top 10 search results, how “engaged” can you claim to be?

Posted on: May 24, 2007 at 12:47 pm By Todd Defren
3 Responses to “"Participation Is Marketing"”


  • Meredith Bove says:

    True engagement is the key – especially for the big brands who give lip service to customer-centricity.

    As a PR professional, I see many companies disengaged not because they don’t care, but because they lag behind in the adoption of new media. My job is to make the case for being part of the conversation and to explain the costs of non-participation. It’s difficult, but becoming easier as more and more executives enter the blogosphere.

  • Herbert says:

    Many car companies fail horribly to engage with their consumers. This year for example almost [URL=http://www.northamericanmotoring.com/forums/showthread.php?t=100092]1000 MINI enthusiasts[/URL] gathered at the [URL=http://www.tailofthedragon.com]Tail of the Dragon[/URL] in NC for almost a week of motoring and only on MINI rep showed up. In previous years (this is an annual event) there was no MINI presence at all. That is the definition of “losing” a captured audience.

  • Thanks for the shout out. I agree, BMW and many others miss this opportunity to engage with their audience. It’s a question of two primary issues 1) corporate fear of the Wiki culture (see Wikinomics) or 2) simply mismanaging the brand. Probably a healthy combination of both by Bimmer’s brand managers. Thank God we’re an Audi family!

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