Hype, Measuring the Hype, and Too Much Hype

I am surprised by the number of entrepreneurs that I meet with and talk to who don’t have a true online communications strategy, which I’ve blogged previously. Whether or not a company has a blog or some other form of incremental content, there is a conversation going on with or without them. Take the tracking of “social bookmarking” on g-metrics, for example. The number of instances of this phrase used online has rocketed in the last month. Are all of the companies in the space engaged in this discussion? Or, a query of “in-game advertising” on Blogpulse reveals that April has been a big month for blog discussions in this category as well. What is Massive or IGA Partners doing about it? So while companies like NewsGator and Topix.net do a very good job of keeping its name active in the blogosphere, many companies do not. I think that start-ups even in the most infantile stage should be thinking about the role that online communications should play in their strategy. Effective communications can attract customers, partners, employees, and yes, even venture capitalists.

However, there is a danger in playing the hype too much. Yahoo’s Buzz Game is “a fantasy prediction market for high-tech products, concepts, and trends,” which tries to predict “how popular various technologies will be in the future.” Its goal is to provide a real-time marketplace to measure the hype on a company or category. While I fully realize the intention of this game is purely for fun, it is perhaps perpetuating the notion that all that matters is the hype and buzz. Just because this market predicts Friendster to be the premier social network in the future, it isn’t necessarily so. A good business is not made on hype alone.

I think that the key with any online communications strategy is balance. There is a conversation going on, so join it. But hype is just that. A positive conversation will continue from your own lead – if you have a great product and solid business.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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