Indirect Marketing: How Well Does it Work?

indirect-routeAlthough it may not be a new concept, indirect marketing has experienced tremendous gains in popularity in recent years. Chalk this up to the growing influence of the social network as a culture-shaping force. That said, does marketing through these channels in an indirect fashion actually pay off? Is there even a way to accurately measure the influence of that kind of promotional effort?

As web workers, we’re no strangers to social networks. In fact, they’re probably part and parcel of what you consider your active working time every day. But how do you use them? Take Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki), for instance. He’s fairly direct when it comes to marketing via those channels. In fact, he’s often accused of spamming because of his approach.

The indirect approach, which one might attribute to someone like John Hodgman (@hodgman), basically involves being so interesting, funny, useful, or bizarre that people can’t help but try to find out more about you, and, as a result, the products or services you offer. Key success factors for indirect marketing include not looking like you’re trying to actually sell anything, the art of which is described well in this article at

I use indirect marketing as much as the next online worker, but recently I’m more skeptical as to how well that method is actually working. I notice spikes when I post new information, but generally speaking, my social network audience appears to be jaded enough to pass up any links they may come across without direct guidance.

I’ve come up with three theories why my indirect approach might not be that effective. First, it could be that in general, indirect marketing requires a certain degree of authority beforehand to be really effective, which would explain why it works for people like Guy Kawasaki and John Hodgman.

Second, it may be that I’ve split my focus too much, providing so many links on my various social network profiles that people are overwhelmed, can’t detect a sense of priority or importance, and don’t bother to visit any at all. Indirect marketing, though a soft sell, seems to work best when focused and kept simple.

The third, and most cynical theory, is that as internet users become more savvy, they also become more impervious to even indirect approaches, and simply know a soft sell when they see one. If this were true, the logical next step would be to ask “What’s next?” for internet marketing.

What do you think? Is indirect marketing an effective method of promotion for web work? How do you measure the effectiveness of your indirect marketing? What alternatives can you suggest?