Let me start off by saying that I think Walt Mossberg, Tech columnist for The Wall Street Journal and co-executive editor of All Things D, is a brilliant tech journalist and I’ve admired him since I began reading the WSJ in college. This is not meant to be an against the man himself, just a conversation around the current state of journalism and word-of-mouth marketing.
Walt, and several others (like David Pogue of the New York Times), write and share for media outlets that reach a wide audience. Once in a while, I naturally stumble upon these outlet reviews within my Zite app or through Twitter or Facebook. But honestly, these journalists have to play to a wide audience and offer me very little in what I’m looking for. I am interested in products that help me be more efficient in daily life as a 30-something tech professional who is often on the road, domestically and internationally. Sure, there may be some younger journalists at WSJ, All Things D, NY Times Bits, etc., but I organically and accidentally get my recommendations from my peers in person and on various social networks and aggregators like Zite. No publication can always be so precise.
I have never been an advocate for Klout, but they apparently they acted upon their statement in a conversation we had in 2011.
Recently, Sony, via Klout, contacted me and nine others in the NYC area, to try out their new laptop, the Vaio Duo. The “perk” was that they would give us brand new Duos and fly us out, in a helicopter no less, to The Hamptons for a night. I bit. I was thinking, “I don’t know what my Klout score is but I know that it’s not high. This is something they only do for major players.” But then I started do some research and it appeared that the idea was to market this laptop to, well, professionals who travel.
Most of who were “perk’d” joked that there was someone we knew that had way more influence than we had. Why us? As I started to get to know these other folks, I soon began to realize that we all had something in common: Travel. Granted we all have a decent online footprint, but not massive audiences.
Frankly, I get asked by friends and family almost daily about tech products specific to their needs. “What laptop,/mobile/tablet/app/software/social network/eye apparatus/etc. should I get since I…..?” In person, forget about it; I get my “brain picked” before I can ask about their kids, job or life. Through social networks, they know that I work in the tech industry and am often travelling around.
Our ages probably ranged from 25-40, but I can tell that all of us were that friend. Klout made it easy for Sony to find us.
The Real Influencer?
What will determine what someone buys? Of course, it depends. While I’m sure that Sony reached out to the major media publications and the likes off Mossberg, Pogue and those from tech blogs, I think adding the combination of ads and other forms of top-down targeting along with this “middle-down”, specific approach will help get the word out about their product.
My friend, Lachlan, was visiting NYC on the Sunday I returned from The Hamptons. I told him about the trip and brought out the laptop from my overnight (I met him before going home) bag. He played around with it, looked at his wife and seriously stated, “THIS is exactly what I’ve been talking about. I need this.” It could have been a Klout AND Sony commercial.
There are 1000s out there like me and it’s now easy for the average joe to find one of us, that is looking for something very specific. I’m not saying that the tech writer is going the way of the newspaper photographer. But, I kind of am.
As for the Vaio Duo
I would NEVER have bought the Vaio. I’ve been a Mac and Google user for years and wouldn’t even consider purchasing Windows or Sony machine. This also appeared to be a trend among the others that Sony had selected.
Being a Mac fanboy since 2005, I had little expectations of working with Windows on a regular basis. The hardware has me using it daily though. It’s way too early to write a proper review on it, but I do love it so far. I keep finding myself touching the screen on my MacBook Air. I personally won’t be switching my life out of the Apple and Google ecosystems, but when friends ask about options, I now have an understanding of Sony products and a deeper knowledge of the benefits and drawbacks of Windows that I can confidently bring to the table.