I met Dave Balter the founder of BzzAgent here in London yesterday.
I liked Dave in person, and I give him a lot of credit for his willingness to converse with his critics (“engaging the resistance” is what I call that). We swapped stories and reflected on the way of the world, and I found out a bit more about his business.
I still have my doubts about some aspects, but I was impressed by the thoroughness with which Dave has implemented the idea. He’s got 75,000 people signed up, and I was interested that he finds most of them are not taking up the reward points they get for their work. He’s obviously doing something that appeals to intrinsic motivation. He’s thinking of stopping the reward system, or swapping to making charitable donations which I think is a smart idea.
What Tom criticises is the motivation of Bzzagents in promoting products, especially if they don’t declare their interests. I guess that remains in question.
But if I were a middle ranking marketing guy trying to get my head over the corporate parapet, I’d give serious thought to pruning my market research budget and/or my ad budget and trying out one of Dave’s campaigns. Oh, and Dave produces more metrics than you could shake a stick at, for those who have a secret altar on which to worship the Lord of Measurability…
And yes, it would be better for a business to create products that generate their own buzz without having to “rent” their boosters. Then again, I get the feeling that you couldn’t really get many of these folks to promote stuff they actually don’t like (except for the odd nutter demonstrating “loyalty beyond reason”).
And compare this to boring old market research, where you can spend thousands for some theoretical information.. whereas this way you actually get a ton of feedback and get to sell some stuff in the process.
Whether the world needs to sell more stuff… well that’s a whole different question.
Dave’s thinking of setting up in the UK, and wonders if it would work here.
[UPDATE] The guys at pc4media shed more light on intrinsic motivation for buzz/
[UPDATE]Some clear thinking by Christoper Carfi here