Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A new perfume, (another) new blog

I'm working on an (almost) new perfume. It's a variation on a perfume I did slightly over a year ago on the theme of Patchwood, a new aroma chemical. (Yes, "chemical," ugh! But the whole world is chemical and that includes you. Sorry about that.)

Anyway, I'd been working to smooth out some bumps in the formula when I read about a new social networking blogging site that, according to some, has really hit it with the ultra trendy.

So naturally (or not so naturally) I opened an account and, for starters, decided to post some comments on the steps I'm going through to develop this new Patchwood perfume. You can read all about it and follow the story there.

While I've done a good deal of writing in my life and while My writings have been financially rewarding, I'm not much at this "keep up the heat" kind of social network interaction that has become so popular for marketing, but neither have I ignored it. I now understand that today life isn't complete unless you have an iPhone, Blackberry or equivalent. (I'm now carrying the Blackberry in my left pocket and the iPhone in my right. I like each of them for different reasons. One doesn't seem to replace the other.

But this isn't about devices. It's about how we communicate today. I've had a Facebook page for ages but, until I started using the Facebook iPhone app I never paid much attention to it and rarely returned the individual messages I received.

Now, thanks to the iPhone -- which I still look at as something of a toy -- I can sit watching TV and, during the commercials, check Facebook feeds, email, etc -- kind of like playing a video game. It's the most fun since PAC-Man.

But it's more than fun. Through Facebook I've connected with people I have known in the past but who I haven't seen for years. And now, living away from the big city, through these media I can still, easily, keep in touch with the wider world. It's the internet at a far faster pace.

And, as you've probably discovered by now, it's being used by companies, large and small, to sell things, like perfume.

The social networking sites, unlike the traditional website, have greater marketing power because they create communities, communities interlinked by common interest.

When I first started to use the internet to sell, a friend introduced me to the concept of having one or more forums on your website. They were interactive and dynamic in drawing appropriate visitors and, for a time, they were great for improving your standing with search engines and, ultimately, for making sales.

But forums became difficult, and then almost impossible to maintain. Flamers, spammers, advertisers, hackers all sought to disrupt your forum and take it over for their own playground. So one by one, forums that had sincere purpose and nice followings disappeared. But the urge to interact did not.

Blogs offered some of the virtues of forums without the pain since the software was given to you (you didn't have to set it up yourself, on your own website) and comments could be moderated -- they didn't get posted until the owner approved. The old spammers continued to try to post crap -- crap disguised as legitimate interactions -- but this was pretty easy to weed out (although I have let some slip by me.)

But again, blogging is a slow and time consuming way to build a community. Those who do it successfully -- Victoria Frolova -- for example -- put out a steady stream of thoughtful writings.

But if your head is into some new perfume you're developing, there isn't much room in it for thoughtful writing, much less a steady stream of thoughtful writings.

So we get Twitter. 140 characters that -- in most cases -- say nothing. Or, say "this is what I had for breakfast today." Who cares?

But Twitter plus Blogs start to add up. Twitter is a quick way to TELL people what you've done. Then they're directed to your blog.

Facebook, for me, has been a slow eye opener. The tools to build your own community are intense. When I look at "friends" suggestions I find myself reading a virtual who's who of the perfume business today -- the smaller, independent perfumers -- both the creators and the bloggers -- and discover many I know by name and some I know from personal encounters. And then, with Facebook, you're introduced to the "friends of friends" who you might want to make friends of your own.

And now there's Tumblr, yet another social networking site no doubt headed for success. At least I'm giving it a try.

All of this comes down to something rather simple. It's the reason companies like Coty, Parlux, and Elizabeth Arden sponsor so many celebrity perfumes. To sell, you have to have a fan base. Wal-Mart has its fans. Lady Gaga has hers. If you don't happen to own Wal-Mart and if you don't have a following like Lady Gaga, you're still free to DEVELOP your own following using social media. Developing a following is the first step toward being able to successfully market your perfume.

Don't kid yourself. Your perfume may be great but the world isn't going to beat a path to your door UNLESS you've gone out there and gathered up fans.

How do you do it? Nobody can tell you. But, if you have enough creativity in you to create perfume, perhaps you also have enough creativity in you to find ways to develop a following.

The great thing about all this internet social networking stuff is that, for now, it's all free.

The "cost" is the time and energy you put into developing effective ways to use it.

Good luck!