More on BzzAgent

I met Dave Balter the founder of BzzAgent here in London yesterday.

He’d suggested meeting after reading my own fairly sceptical posts on Bzzagents. (John Moore, Tom Guarriello and Christopher Carfi have all been critical too.)

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

8 thoughts on “More on BzzAgent

  1. Tom Guarriello

    Just a “yes, and” to your noting my questioning of BzzAgents’ motives. In addition, I’m concerned about the relationship distortions that arise from undeclared intentions. Not to belabor the point, if I’m out to surreptitiously convince you of something’s “coolness” without you being aware of that intent, our communication, and relationship, is fundamentally inauthentic. More inauthenticity of this type (and the suspicions it will breed) is not what I think we need today.

  2. Johnnie Moore

    Jeff, yes, I think awarding to charity in some way – would be good. I think they might think of ways to do it that do not relate directly to the success of individual campaigns; that might go some way to mitigating the problem Tom raises. I get the feeling BzzAgent are keen to accommodate criticism and still have a business that works.

  3. pc4media

    Being Involved in the Process is The Reward!

    Johnnie Moore has a great post about bzzagent. He has been a pretty vocal critic of them. He met up with Dave Balter recently and learned this…I still have my doubts about some aspects, but I was impressed by the

  4. Tom Guarriello

    Contributing to charity is great.

    How does that deal with the fundamentally deceptive premise of the business? This is a business that has cleverly tapped into a modern social phenomenon (people’s willingness to surreptitiously influence others in exchange for being recognized as “cool”) that encourages deception. Using the proceeds for charitable ends seems besides the point.

    Am I missing something?

  5. Tom Guarriello

    I trust the “free sample” motive a little more, especially because people doing so might not be as reluctant to spill the beans about their incentive.

    I’m interested as hell in this whole area, too, Johnnie, ’cause, despite my criticisms of BzzAgents, I trust nothing more than the passionate recommendations of someone who’s found something that’s really cool.

    See, Kevin Kelly’s CoolTools, if you haven’t already.

  6. Johnnie Moore

    Tom, so it makes sense that the motivation of people who recommend things is of great interest to you, because recommendation is so important.

    Like you, I find this area very interesting.

    And Cool Tools looks a fun site…


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