The Hashtag Model: Monetizing And Mobilizing Via Get-Togethers, Both Locally And On Twitter
Monetizing the Mommyblog: An ABDPBT Personal Finance Series
This is the sixth in a series of posts on the topic of monetizing mommy blogs featured on ABDPBT Personal Finance. The models I’ll be discussing have not yet been implemented on a large number of blogs, and thus the use of them is still pretty experimental. You can try these at home, but for the love of God, please BE CAREFUL. You can read all of the Monetizing the Mommyblog posts here.
Today’s model of monetizing is probably the most controversial one I’ve addressed so far, but I learned more about Twitter parties when I was at Mom 2.0 in February, and I thought it was worth sharing some of them here. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Twitter parties, basically they are an organized discussion/event that take place at a special time on Twitter, where everyone is invited to follow along by using a hashtag (you can find hashtags by looking for the # sign in front of a term on Twitter, usually at the end of somebody’s tweet). Personally, I find Twitter parties supremely annoying, but apparently some people must like them because people continue to throw them and participate in them, so it occurs to me that I might be missing some of their appeal.
The information for this post is taken from a panel originally entitled, “Creating Experiences Combining Online and Offline Campaigns for Maximum Impact and Results” at Mom 2.0, which featured Rachael Herrscher (Today’s Mama), Jyl Johnson Pattee (Mom It Forward), Allison Czarnecki (Petit Elefant) and Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) as panelists. The first three panelists regularly use get-togethers (whether local, on Twitter, or at conferences) as a means of making money and bolstering their blog’s community (The Cambria Cove Suite is an example of one of Allison Czarnecki’s sponsored parties, and you can read more about it here). (Jenny Lawson’s inclusion on the panel was — I believe — to get more people to come to the panel; however, the ostensible purpose was to have her speak to the utility as a mobilizing force across geographical distances, as demonstrated by her success with creating the “Red Dawn Moment” of getting “WOLVERINES!” to become a trending topic on Twitter. You can read about that movement here, but the basic idea is that Jenny got people to start randomly declaring “WOLVERINES!” on a mass scale, at random times, and for no immediately apparent reason except for the “joy of it.”) Below are some observations, issues, and tips if you want to get more involved in the Twitter party phenomenon.
- Throw Parties For Small Businesses In Your Area. The basic idea behind The Hashtag Model is that you bring your online life into the world offline by hosting events using local sponsors. For example, early on, Rachael Herrscher (Today’s Mama, put on an event with a local business in her area. She got them to sponsor the event and then she invited all of her local friends and contacts to attend. The idea is that all of the attendees will go to the party, have a good time, and then associate the brand with that good time. Also, because it is a local event, the business has now achieved positive advertising placement with people who are able to patronize their establishment. This kind of a get-together is by necessity something that is limited to people who are geographically desirable to the small business, so the party has to take place locally and not on Twitter. However, with a small business that is online, you could potentially organize the same kind of thing to take place online or at a conference full of people who spend a lot of time online.
- Throw Parties At Conferences. The Social Luxe Lounge at BlogHer 2009 was a successful pre-BlogHer pampering and social event thrown by Allison Czarnecki (Petit Elefant) that featured blogging awards, free manicures and pedicures, drinks, food, and generous swag bags (while supplies lasted). The idea behind The Social Luxe Lounge was the same as that of the Cambria Cove Suite, but on a much larger scale, for more bloggers and with the help of more sponsors. By all accounts, the Social Luxe Lounge was a huge success — and I was actually at the Social Luxe Lounge myself, and it was a great party. The unifying principle is the same: get a group of people together, create a positive experience that they will forever associate with that brand. In addition to smaller sponsors, the Social Luxe Lounge was sponsored by Swiffer, and it appears that they were very happy with their placement. Another Social Luxe Lounge is planned for BlogHer 2010.
- The Appeal of Twitter Parties — Still Somewhat Obscure. The idea governing the Twitter party is the same as its real life counterparts — create a conversation/event, sponsored by a brand, that will lead to a positive brand experience for people involved. I get the theory, and I get why people who throw Twitter parties would want to participate: the brands like it because it’s a positive association on Twitter with their brand, and possibly exposes more people to their brand, and the bloggers sponsoring it like them because they get paid. What is less clear to me is the appeal for people participating in the Twitter party without getting paid — I do think there are giveaways involved on occasion offered to people who follow these Twitter parties, and perhaps if you are a huge fan of an involved blogger, it would be a draw, but other than that I cannot really understand it. I’m hoping that people who like Twitter parties and have more experience with them will chime in here and let me know why I’m wrong.
- Negative Associations. Naturally, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut about some of the situations being described on this panel and being touted as valuable to sponsors because they create a “positive brand association” for them, given my observation of several negative outcomes for these kinds of things in the hands of social media. In order to explain how they create these opportunities, the women on the panel had said that they liked to take the conversations they were already having and then figure out how to weave in a brand to that discussion. The example they brought up was some discussion about beet jello (yes you read that right) that they had been having with another blogger, and how the blogger had brought beet jello for them to try. They said, for example, that they could have used Jello as a sponsor for this, as a conversation on Twitter, or whatever, hypothetically. So then I said, “But, the social media campaigns you’ve brought up as examples all have negative associations with them that I can think of off-hand (the Social Luxe lounge was a success, but the “swag hag” rumors about BlogHer 2009 will always be associated with it and parties like it; the beet jello anecdote they told involved them all feeling like they were going to throw up after eating a bite of beet-flavored jello, etc.) — how do you pitch this to sponsors? How do you pitch a positive brand association when there are going to be negative ones as well?” What they said was, “It’s social media, and you never know what is going to happen,” which is fair. I think the real answer is that these brands would rather that they have some input in the conversation, even if they know that there will be some negative fallout.
What do you guys think of these kinds of events? I think there’s a clear return on investment with the real-life in-person get togethers, but I’m a little bit more skeptical of the Twitter parties. I did notice that they’ve started implementing these kinds of placements in the Real Housewives franchise, most recently with the party thrown by Jill on the Real Housewives of New York City and sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue. My guess is that we are going to start seeing more and more of these kinds of events.