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Content, community, and context in internet marketing

In the early ’90s, the hottest screen saver product around featured flying toasters, which has since come to symbolize the triumph of marketing for a product that no one really has to have. But what about your marketing? Focus on the three C’s of Internet marketing: Content, Community, and Context. Marketers that take these principles to heart can do more than shine, they can go supernova.

Flying Toaster!

Image by Afroswede via Flickr


It’s the fortunate marketer who has input into product design and technical details, and who bases that input on market research and real, live, customer interaction. I think of those product specifications as content–the sum total of what you get when you get the product. But sometimes, for some products, that ability to influence content isn’t available to marketers. The product is what it is and the marketer has to figure out what to do with it. What do you do then?
Who, for example, wants an outlet wall? For an outlet wall to sell it has to have the right community. It has to be in the places where people who want that will find it interesting. For that product to succeed it has to be in a place where people get excited about all that electrical goodness, a place where the tech questions can be answered and the excitement can build so that the product moves from being a curious oddity out of place somewhere to being a must-have in its niche.
Internet marketers have a unique opportunity to find communities for products in completely new ways. Niche communities such as Hacked Gadgets surely would salivate over the prospect of all those available outlets. Every single product has a community out there which would be receptive to it, you just have to find it or make it and then and nurture it. Once place to get great advice on how to do that is the FeverBee blog.Got your community? Next, provide some context.
Context comes from anticipating answering the so-what? question from your target community about your product. Again, the Internet is superior in its capacity to offer customers a variety of contexts for your product.

  • Show it in use with a video. Just how many things can we plug into that outlet wall? How about lots of battery chargers?
  • Play an audio file of it in operation (just how quiet is that ultra-super-quiet dishwasher anyway)?
  • Post reviews from customers talking about their lives with the product. Post tweetbacks and blog mentions to acknowledge product buzz.
  • Offer listings of accessories and options.

There’s plenty of products out there that looked like dross until the community was found for them and the context provided. Who here was using a computer in the 1980s? Screen savers were trivial oddities then. By end of the decade they became personal expressions of humor, or even astute ways to guard a personal investment from dreaded Burn In, and something people shelled out cash for even though it was by definition unproductive and repetitive software. The community of home users was where screen savers went wild. Context was provided through comparison to the dreadful CRTs we abused our eyes with at work; we much preferred flying toasters to green pictures drawn with letters and numbers.
If you find yourself stymied by lack of influence over the product content, take a glace at community and context. The opportunities there might be more numerous than the opportunities to influence the product. And definitely they’re more fun.

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