Political Bloggers and Phone Sex Industry Discover HitTail

HitTail Best Practices Feb 23, 2007

It is endlessly interesting watching people comment on the funny search phrases that HitTail brings to their attention. And from a quick survey of these sites, it’s heavy in marketing and real estate companies (which you can see just through Googling HitTail). I can almost track the path and industry verticals through which the HitTail meme is traveling. Unsurprisingly, the epicenter was the SEO industry, where I actively sought out old friends from my early days at SEF and whichever SEO online communities they went out to form on their own. The reception was better than I could have hoped for. I learned that equity built up nearly a decade ago can still be tapped. Amazing! But that’s not the subject of this post.

Watching HitTail get discovered by “verticals” that need it is the interesting thing. What we in marketing call verticals, are simply like-minded people who know eachother and their field, but not necessarily much else (yeah, you won’t find that definition many places). They have narrow, yet tall “silos” of interest, such as it were. It plays off of Geoffrey Moore’s concept (of Crossing the Chasm) that markets are defined by a base of potential customers who have the ability to talk with eachother through industry associations, tradeshows and newsletters. Of course my copy of Chasm is from 1991, so today it includes communication through the Internet.

So, markets or verticals can spring up quite suddenly, based on rapid ad hoc associations that can be formed through social networking software. There can even be entire markets lurking beneath the surface of the Internet that you never know about, due to their websites and forums being by invitation only, membership, and behind password protection. I am increasingly discovering this hidden world of the Internet as they increasingly discover HitTail.

Political groups that organize prior to elections is one, and the phone sex operator (PSO) industry is another. To protect the identities involved, I’ll leave out the specifics, but following links back from the Search Hits tab, I was able to discover them. In both cases, when I asked for a login, they gladly obliged, and I therefore was able to jump into their discussion and offer advice on the very same day the discussion was created.

Yes, real-time is important in being an effective member of the discussion. Learning about such links the next day (if you’re lucky to get the whole URL and querystring) is not good enough.

You need to know almost as quickly as they link to you.

Anyway, I jumped into a delightful conversation with a number of businesswomen, fielded their questions, and watched as the appeal of HitTail snaked into an unexpected vertical market. And the same happened with politics. It’s almost hard to imagine fiercely determined political bloggers not using HitTail to keep their voice from being drowned out. But how am I going to let them know?

In the typical “don’t pitch” approach I’ve been taking, I seed HitTail with blog posts on the topic. You might call it “bait and wait” as an alternative to pitching a story, which is so common in the media. Then, I do nothing further, moving onto other areas in my long tail suggestions, which I think may pay off as well. But somewhere along the line, someone mentions something in a forum somewhere, and perchance links to us. I know immediately, because I check the Search Hits tab at least once a day. Then, I follow the link back to see the discussion.

If it’s an open forum, you can read the post, register, and jump in. Often I wait until they’ve had a chance to discuss it, so I don’t bias the discussion one way or the other. I like seeing the objective opinions of HitTail, and to see if others in the community “get it” from the advocate’s first post. Sometimes the do, sometimes they don’t. I register and jump in to answer questions. Everyone’s flattered I’m there and care about them, and things are good.

But every once in awhile, the forum is password protected. And that’s where it’s really interesting. I discovered a few specialized marketing forums sharing power-tips. They all unilaterally let me in to discuss HitTail. But recently, the other two “markets” I mentioned also let me in. It’s only then that I realize how universal HitTail is.

A tool to amplify your voice in the increasingly noisy Internet is a secret weapon that people have been waiting for. The ability to do it while “playing nice” (not using SEO spamming techniques) and in a way that the average blogger can do is nothing short of miraculous to many folks. And the final step is getting over that oh-so-polarizing concept of the long tail. People either just don’t get it, or they can’t believe anyone can’t. So, what do political activists and phone sex operators have in common? The need to make their voice heard and get their message out. They have the need for HitTail in common.

And I can’t wait to discover what verticals are the next to discover HitTail.

2 comments
  1. Martin Kelley

    Hi Mike,
    I know you’re the HitTail evangelist, but another real-time service I’ve become addicted to lately is Reeferss.com. It’s simply a little javascript bug that takes the referrer heading and turns it into a RSS feed. I have one on all my sites and scan it throughout the day via my Netvibes.com page (I talked about my tracking methods in a recent post called “Analyze This.”

    Last week Referrs-via-Netvibes picked up a visit from a site I didn’t know. I followed the link and spent maybe ten minutes checking it out before going back to work. A few minutes later an email came in from the site’s webmaster letting me know he had just added the link. That hit of course had come from the webmaster proofing his new link. Once finished he started composing an email but I knew about the link before he even hit send. This happens all the time. Through referrals I find out about references on discussion boards and about new blogs or sites that have barely launched. (I also use the RSS of less real-time sources such as Technorati and Google’s blog search to see when “competitors” get linked).

    HitTail collects this same data–the “Search Hits” listing–but I don’t see any indication that you make it available as an RSS feed. HitTail may theoretically work in real time, but in practice I’m not going to log in to the HitTail site as often as I’ll scan an RSS feed (especially since all my HitTail installations have separate log in credentials). You’d have to put some gibberish in the RSS feed’s URL to insure privacy as a way of keeping competitors from signing up on your HitTail RSS feed but that’s pretty simple. The HitTail suggestions could also be their own RSS feed. I’d certainly sign up to those feeds in an instant and ditch Referss, which is effective but completely non-secure.

    Thanks for your blog, it’s becoming regular reading for me!

  2. Mike Levin

    Thanks for the comments, Martin. Yes, making the referrers and suggestions available over RSS has been on the table a few times. We still may do it. Privacy, as you pointed out, is the #1 concern. The second concern is avoiding building a spam-cannon. We know how we would do it though, if the interest is there. Anyone else? Let us know!

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