Although I read the original Wired article on The Long Tail I have to confess, I've never read Chris Anderson's longer explanation in his book of the same name. Although I started the audio version a couple of times, I couldn't finish it. Well over the holidays I scored a discounted version of the second edition in the bargain book section at Borders and have been working my way through it.
It's been useful seeing the more detailed explanation, but nothing I would describe as an "A Ha!" moment until I came across the following table. Ladies and gentleman, the following table explains EVERYTHING when it comes to our state of Internet marketing. Let me show you the table first, then I'll describe why it is soooo explains so clearly our state of Internet marketing (Let me first set the context, this table describes how consumers use "filters" to make purchasing decisions. Pre-filters decide what gets produced, and post-filters decide what to consume after it is already been produced):
|Record label scouts||Playlists|
|Department store buyers||Customers*|
In each row, the table illustrates a different head of the tail filter and attempts to correlate it to it's corresponding long tail tail filter. So why does this explain everything? Here's a hint, look at the words that I've highlighted.
So, as I've described before, the Web 2.0 participation by Puerto Rico Internet users is abnormal. It's really kind of interesting when you think about it. While most local Internet users do take advantage of post-filters, like Google rankings, suggestions in Amazon, NetFlix recommendations, and product reviews, very few contribute their own post filter data. So what we end up with is a globalized post filter influencing a very regionalized consumer base. This, for me, explains why it is sometimes so difficult to identify, from the Internet, what's "hot" in Puerto Rico, no matter where it lands on the power curve of availability and consumption.
No conversation = No Long Tail
So, as I see it, since we know that Internet Marketing is really a free-for-all conversation between marketers and consumers as well as consumers and consumers, since Puerto Rico specific post-filters are so scarce what it really means is that there is no Puerto Rico specific conversation going on. To their credit, I bet local marketers intuitively know this, and therefore still prefer to use pre-filters to impact the local consumer. So instead of venturing out into the conversation, local marketers stick with the tried and true marketing strategies based on traditional advertising.
One could just as easily submit, however, that local marketers haven't yet made the connection between their own personal Internet behavioral patterns and how they should approach using the Internet to market their brand. As I mentioned, while they rapidly consume other's post filters, they can't make the connection between post filters and their own brand. For me, that explains why most local Internet Marketing still tends to be a one way push of branding outward, instead of the normal long tail conversation. Another example would be how local brands try to use Facebook, the clear lowest common denominator of Web 2.0 in Puerto Rico. They either try to use ads, or they simply try to fill fans news feeds with a bunch of news feed spam.
Now, here's where it gets really confusing. While I submit that Web 2.0 participation by Puerto Rico Internet users is abnormal, that does not mean that it does not exist at all. What I believe is the problem, is that it is too widely dispersed as to be useful. What is badly needed is a way to gather and condense post filter information so that it becomes easier to access and easier to analyze. If the comments, reviews, and recommendations created by local users were collected from the hundreds of thousands of web sites we visit, then the aggregate consensus of the likes and dislikes of Puerto Rican consumers would be easier to identify.
In addition, as I've stated it many times before Internet Marketing is all about the conversation. So for Pete's sake please, would the local Marketing community join the conversation going on all around them. Facebook and Twitter are not billboards! They are communities full of living breathing consumers who are eager to engage in a conversation about what they want and don't want, and by the way, they HATE SPAM.
Here's a quick piece of advice for every brand in Puerto Rico that wants to get it's message out to the local consumer. Hire, or pick from within your company, the most Internet savvy 18-24 or 25-35**, year old person, regardless of their preparation and dedicate them to engage in conversations on the Internet FULL-TIME. Of course, this should be someone with excellent customer service experience and impeccable writing skills in Spanish and, if possible, English. Put them through an intense marketing indoctrination of what message you want communicated and then turn them loose. That's it! Do that and I bet you're going to be infinitely more successful in your marketing.
** The reason I wouldn't go with someone any older, is that there is an inverse relationship between age and the willingness and adaptability to really "get" the Internet.