There's nothing like the word of a trusted source when it comes to selling things online.
As the author of a business book that is hitting the stores during a dramatic downturn in the business-book industry, I have found myself going to considerable lengths to drum up as much publicity as possible.
In the process, I have learned a great deal.
One thing that has become evident is the tremendous power of personal endorsement online. As a first-time author, I have become a statistics junkie -- watching the ratings of my book on Amazon.com on a daily basis. (I'm lying. I actually check several times a day.) And I do the same with my own site logs. I scan the figures to see where people are going and how many visit the page devoted to my book.
Watching sales and traffic can become an addiction -- and can be about as useful as watching a stock price 10 times a day.
Spikes in site traffic and sales were attributable to publications and people in our industry making recommendations to their audiences. MarketingSherpa ran a giveaway contest for "Net Words" through its weekly newsletter. Ezine-Tips and WordBiz (published by ClickZ's Debbie Weil)did the same. The latter two added personal recommendations (and I thank them all).
Each time, traffic to my site and sales of the book jumped -- significantly. The fact that these mentions and recommendations by trusted industry sources resulted in a spike in sales is really no surprise. What's the point here?
The point is this. If the endorsement by a trusted source is such a powerful sales tool, why don't we see more of it? Why don't we see e-commerce sites built around the voice of a trusted expert? Where is the Oprah Winfrey of the Web?
It is particularly surprising that the Web hasn't fostered and developed further the concept of the trusted source. The Web loves the sound of individuals' voices. Individuals, as compared to large corporations, fit much more comfortably within the ecology of the Web.
Yes, Martha Stewart is online. But in many ways, her site is simply a compilation of things copied and pasted from her other media properties.
And never mind the Stewarts and the Winfreys. Where are the Web's very own celebrities? Why hasn't About.com spawned any endorsement celebrities? Or Epinions? Where are the celebrities from Dmoz and Yahoo!?
If online celebrities can't fight their way out of the background clutter by themselves, perhaps a company or two should take notice.
Perhaps Ford might want to devote a home-page link and a page or two to support the voice of a trusted spokesperson on driver safety.
Maybe 1-800-Flowers could find space on its site, and maybe a newsletter, for a third-party expert on floral arrangement or gift giving.
I think there is a large, untapped opportunity here, waiting for someone to fill the vacuum.
Or maybe I'm just not aware of online celebrities who already exist. If you know of any real ones, please let me know through the email link in my bio below.
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Nick Usborne speaks, writes, and consults on strategic copy issues for business online. For Web sites, e-mails and newsletters, he crafts messages that drive results. He is the author of the critically acclaimed bookNet Words - Creating High-Impact Online Copy.
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