Consumerist Fisks My Spin

Consumerist posted some choice words on my Spin column from today. Unfortunately, their comments seem to be by invitation only, so I couldn't respond to them on their own site. I'll do it here and hope they pick up on it somehow. I laughed out loud that the title for their post was "Why Marketers are Douchebags" - ballsy. If I had thin skin, I might even be offended.

“What To Do With The Haters” - seems a riff on “player haters.” Player, hustler, thief. Is this the dynamic, the company is the playa with all the bling and we are just scrubs, hating on them?

I think they read into it too much. But I do think I may have been a little flippant with the headline this week. I couldn't think of a headline-worthy term for "someone who is angry at a company."

We hate the term “Conversational Marketing” and don’t understand why the first two letters are capitalized. It’s not a theological discipline.

Yeah, well, I like the term. I'm using it, and I'm going to continue to capitalize it. As far as I'm concerned, it IS a theological discipline.

“Hi, I’m Betty Backbrace and I’m here to win your heart.” Not the strongest opening bid. We also hate the term “netizen.”

I rather like the term. I've been using it for about a dozen years now. The important point here, and the reason why I used the term, is that companies shouldn't jump into the blogosphere with both feet if they're intent on using corporate-speak and legal language to address their customers. They should act human - like they do when they talk to people on their favorite message board as a private netizen.

The article assumes a combative relationship between the marketer and complainer. The complainer is attacking the company and you must defend. There can only be one Highlander.

The article is an attempt to give people in the corporate world some advice for interacting with their most vocal critics. So yeah, the overriding assumption in the article is that there are some people out there who are pissed off. I think it's a non sequitur to assume that I was suggesting a combative relationship, though. You'll notice that the advice I gave wasn't suggesting arming oneself with a flamethrower and asbestos underwear. I thought it was pretty damn constructive.

DO figure out how to solve the problem. DON’T simply offer clarification on how your company is justified in actions that pissed the consumer off. DO give a damn. DON’T be a defensive asshole.

I agree 100 percent with this.

On the face of it, we agree with this article. Marketers should engage with customers online in a clear, honest, human fashion. However, first they need to unplug the mannequins, replace their staff with real people and then kill themselves.

I also agree with this, save for the "kill themselves" part, obviously.

My columns dealing with Conversational Marketing over the past few weeks can be summed up pretty much with the following:

  1. Be a human being and speak in a human voice
  2. Speak with substance, not hollow words
  3. If you are like most of us and actually do stuff on the Internet (like post to blogs, message boards, social networking sites, etc) you already know how to do #1 and #2. You just need to step out of your corporate voice.
What's wrong with that?