Word-of-mouth marketing company BzzAgent is launching a new product today, seeking to create a better way for brands to engage consumers. Called BzzScapes, the new tool acts as a social media tool as well as an extension o the company’s client services.
So what is a BzzScape? It’s a web-based, social destination where people can create a page for any given brand, and add information about that brand as they see fit. A mix between a product review site and Facebook public profiles, BzzScapes aim to provide an open forum for consumers and brands. While anyone can create a brand page on BzzScapes, brands also have the ability to have one created, or to claim one that has been created for their brand. BzzAgent will offer a series of BzzScapes-specific tools for brands to use for things like market ressearch and managing their brand online.
Below is an interview with BzzAgent Founder and CEO Dave Balter, who speaks on the objectives for BzzScapes, as well as how it fits into the social media conversation.
Kristen Nicole: As part of a word-of-mouth marketing company, what do brands get out of the new BzzScapes?
Dave Balter: They get an ongoing relationship with a unique group of self-identified brand advocates. We’ve had third-parties like Keller Fay and Northeastern University study our user base. And what they found is interesting: BzzAgents tend to have larger social networks than the general population, enjoy trying new products, and are more likely to enjoy sharing their brand experiences with people they know. So marketers can seed promotions with these advocates, ask them questions, and observe which online content they find is most important.
Kristen Nicole: In what ways does BzzScapes engage consumers?
Dave Balter: It engages consumers by contributing to their sense of social currency. They are seen as an authority on a brand – by us, by marketers and by their fellow community members. For our Agent community, that is a very powerful driver. We also imagine our Agents will find it fun – the whole notion of a “digital scavenger hunt” in which they fan out to find the coolest, most original content. Our focus group feedback really drove the “fun” element home. The community will also be energized when brands start participating with these BzzScapes and soliciting their opinions and advice.
Kristen Nicole: How are you reaching out in order to help initiate te conversation between brands and consumers?
Dave Balter: We are promoting this heavily to our 550,000 Agent-community. We are also running a contest in which one of the most active BzzScapes participants will win a job with us – a 6 month, part-time job as OmBzzman that pays $100/hour.
Kristen Nicole: Is BzzScapes competing with Facebook Fan Pages, which interestingly added the stipulation that fan pages need to be created by a verified employee?
Dave Balter: We think it’s a complement to Facebook Fan Pages. It’s essentially a companion community. Facebook’s Fan Page model, as you point out, is a “top down” structure: brands to consumers. Ours is a “bottom up” system: consumers to brands. Theirs is about scale; ours is about engagement. Flip sides of the same coin. We also envision a network of communities created largely by the members, not by the brands themselves. Everyone in BzzScapes is on equal footing.
Kristen Nicole: Is this competing with any other services like Squidoo?
Dave Balter: From a conceptual standpoint, it’s a logical comparison. So I imagine people may compare BzzScapes to Squidoo. But the difference is stark: BzzScapes is all about brands, 100%. Squidoo is about topics. The content is very different, and therefore so too is the composition of the audience. The other difference is that each BzzScape is a collaboration between many people, whereas Squidoo lenses tend to be controlled by a single author.
Kristen Nicole: Yelp got backlash for the way in which it allowed brands to control the reviews pertaining to their particular company. Do you anticipate any backlash for your format, which allows brands to activate BzzScapes that have initially been created by consumers?
Dave Balter: Our user base is different from that of most social networks. They come to our site with the intention of connecting to brands. Brand participating in BzzScapes is a natural extension of that. Say you’re a huge fan of Nike and you create the Nike BzzScape to show your passion for that brand. Imagine if a brand manager from Nike then sought your advice on a new model of sneakers and sent you some sketches. Or gave you a sneak preview of a video they hadn’t widely release yet. Pretty cool, right? Our members have show they love this dynamic, and respond by telling their social networks very quickly.