Impulsively splurging on a pair of high heels is a common act, but when it comes to expensive tech items such as mobile phones, televisions, or computers, most customers like to do some background research before buying. Since technology is a considered purchase category, consumers tend to base their decisions to buy or not to buy on firsthand reviews and product information from tech experts and independent bloggers online. This form of earned PR has always been valuable to brands selling tech products, but harnessing it to engage customers has been difficult -- until now.
NetShelter Technology Media, a company founded by brothers Peyman and Pirouz Nilforoush in 1999, launched a solution to this marketing problem called inPowered. Leveraging NetShelter's network of tech influencers, which comprises more than 4,500 familiar, trusted independent blogs including 9To5Mac, CrackBerry.com, Chip Chick, and SlashGear, the inPowered platform gives brands advertising options by enabling them to see which blogs are influencing target customers, use blog content to generate product awareness, and turn blog readers into customers.
Pirouz Nilforoush, president of NetShelter, explains that the inPowered platform curates influential stories, distributes them to relevant audiences through paid advertisements, encourages audiences to consume and share editorials, and measures their response using analytics. "We work closely with brands based on their objectives to help them determine what different types of content would be most compelling and would create the best experience for the end user," he says.
The inPowered platform shows users influence points, which measure the most influential blogs and stories using an algorithm that considers user engagement, Pirouz says. Brands can then feature the blog content in advertisements which are rolled out across NetShelter's blog network as well as the brand's own media pages.
The advertisement features a snippet of blog content, which users can click to read more. Once they click on the preview, a pop-up overlay of related blog posts from NetShelter's influencer network appears without removing users from the page, and they can choose to click through to the article of their choice. From there, users can share the content with their friends over various social networks. Marketers can use inPowered's analytics to see how many times a blog post has been shared and viewed over the 30 different social media sites that NetShelter tracks.
"What starts in the blogosphere as an influential story propagates all the way to the mass consumers," says Peyman Nilforoush, NetShelter's CEO. With a paid ad placement promoting independently earned media, the result is a hybrid of paid and earned media.
NetShelter's network also helps bloggers, who gain exposure and increase blog traffic as their content is shared and promoted by brands.
Along with the release of inPowered, NetShelter also announced an integration with Facebook, which lets brands post videos and content from the NetShelter influencer network to their Facebook pages in order to reach audiences there.
"We started this product because we want to create a more compelling experience for the consumer," says Peyman. He says that the advertisements and posts create excitement about products while also informing and educating consumers, essentially delivering value to them, which makes them more likely to share with others. While providing customers with value through advertisements is a good strategy for any industry, Peyman and Pirouz believe that it is especially effective for brands in the considered purchase category, since consumers are actively seeking out content.
"Users are on blogs because they're constantly looking for engaging and compelling content, and as an advertiser if you're able to provide that to them, that is far more engaging," says Pirouz.
"As an industry, display [advertising] has not been really cutting it for brands," he continues. "And our whole inspiration for why we're doing this is we believe that the consumers deserve better, and we believe that if you create something more compelling, it will make it more successful and ultimately it will also help marketers to be more successful."