What on Earth is Astroturf Marketing
It is believed that the concept of astroturf marketing was coined by US Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas to refer to situations in which people with no political agenda present grassroots perspectives on major issues. Simply put, astroturf marketing is the notion of promoting your product or service in forums designed for discussion and not for advertising where the promotional message is projected in a context that is in no way related to promotion. What makes astroturf marketing so attractive for many is its high-impact character and negligible cost. The platform in which astroturf marketing is leveraged usually involves audiences that do not expect any advertising to take place. More often than not, any form of advertising is strictly prohibited on these platforms and there are strict penalties for violators.
Two Ways for you to Astroturf-Market your Product or Service
Here are two unique ways in which you can astroturf-market your product or service and not even have to pay to do so. Please be sure to follow the ethical guidelines we have recommended.
Post Intelligently to Special Lists and Discussion Groups
There is no knowledge domain on the planet today that does not have an associated discussion group, bulletin board, message board or listserv. If you happen to be a manufacturer of metal castings for automobiles, chances are that there is a discussion list for this industry. Promoting your product on such lists can be hugely rewarding because many potential customers also subscribe to these types of lists not to mention consultants and contractors. But since you can rarely advertise on these lists and in many cases, can‘t advertise even if you wanted to pay for it, visibility on these platforms can be tricky to achieve.
Consider the following. When commenting on a topic, a thread or a hot issue, use the signature feature in your e-mail client. Your signature should include:
• Your real name
• Your designation or title at the company
• The name of your company
• A “one line“ short descriptor such as “the New England photocopying experts“
• Physical mailing address
• Phone number and URL
• e-mail address
Never modify your signature once you start using it except on rare instances in which information needs to be updated. Chances are that your list administrator won‘t ever object to this form of veiled marketing not only because there are others doing it but also because this practice has gained momentum and is gradually becoming ubiquitous. Your posts should always be original and intelligently crafted. The value addition should be worth the time it takes to read your post on the list.
Carve your Niche in Blogosphere
Setting up your own blog on a free hosted blogging platform such as Google‘s Blogspot, TypePad or WordPress can generate significant ROI for your time and effort. However, it has to be done right. If you start posting your company‘s marketing collateral on your blog, it will drive away more traffic than it will generate. Therefore, it is a wise idea to engage in constructive commentary in your blog posts. For instance, did you “almost“ make a mistake yesterday when hiring a manager? What was the mistake and how did you prevent it? Have you just come across a new vertical search engine for your industry? What is your assessment about its functionality? How extensive is it? Mention your company and the services you provide but only in a context and that too in passing. Contrary to what many believe, you don‘t have to post to your blog every day. Post two or three times a week. It is the quality of the content that matters, not the quantity. Always provide links to your company‘s website, preferably, to specific and relevant pages when possible. This can generate valuable back- links for you. Your name at the end of each blog entry should also link to your company‘s home page and not to your profile on the blog site which is what most bloggers do.
Never Become or Use a Meat Puppet
A meat puppet is an anonymous and fictitious entity that you either create or pay to create in order to present your point of view. Using a meat puppet while astroturf-marketing is both unethical and impractical. Even the courts disapprove of such gimmicks. Communicate your message judiciously on the Internet and watch your ROI soar.
Astroturf your way to success in your online endeavors!