Robert Niles at OJR passes on a story about his experiences where companies have decided advertising on a particular niche-interest site is something they do not because they’re seeing huge sales or responses numbers from those efforts but simply because they need those interest-based communities to survive. By supporting these sites, whether their forums or blogs or whatever, they give people who are important to the survival of their industry – and by extension their specific company – a place to come together and indulge in their enthusiasm. The parallels he draws are between these influencer-catering watering holes and local news coverage.
It’s an interesting thought and one that I hadn’t really considered before. At what point do companies say “These publications/sites/communities get people excited for our product. Supporting them is very much worth the advertising spending even though we’re not going to see huge sales spikes from doing so.”
I suppose the line would come where the amount of perceived monetary loss resulting from people not being able to get their freak on about a particular subject is greater than the amount of money being spent on the ads themselves. As Niles says, there’s many an advocate for simply reducing advertising to math that’s based on ROI and shelving any efforts that don’t clear that hurdle sufficiently.
A lot of people – including myself – are always encouraging companies to “join their communities” but we too often limit our own thinking to tactics including commenting on blog posts, interacting on forums or making sure industry writers are included as press. But this sort of financial support is important too. It’s not anything close to “sponsored conversations” or anything like that. It’s just an ad buy that has long-term strategic value. This looks beyond pure monetary ROI or even specific corporate goals and embraces the notion that what’s good for the community is truly good for the industry as a whole by, through their support, giving enthusiasts an ongoing place to hang out.