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Open Source Marketing!

Note: This post was part of the “Marketing That Works” Ideas Contest, showcasing 20 of the most innovative marketing ideas from the blogosphere’s up and coming marketers. We’ve since picked a winner – check out this post for the details! 🙂

Open Source MarketingWriting articles is hard work.

I’m sure you felt that, yet it has always been a good way to market business. I found 37signals because of their awesome blog, yet we could only do so much.

What if we did what developers did to market themselves?

Open source.

While open source marketing is what they used to build credibility, we can use open source to build backlinks, to reach new customers and know how to innovate our marketing.

It’s better to learn by example, so here are some examples that might apply to your business…

Open Source Blog Marketing

You saw this coming. Let’s say you run a marketing blog. After writing the article, “How to get more traffic” you wrote five tips which are:

  1. Pay attention to SEO
  2. Comment on other blogs.
  3. Link to other blogs.
  4. Guest blog
  5. Write good content

After posting the article on your WordPress site, you wrote at the bottom

Did you like it?

If they mouse clicks yes, the usual Share buttons appear, then another message at the bottom that says,

Don’t just share, show us your passion. Improve the article, learn how to make a video or an infographic.

Show us what you got. Click this to get started. We’d love to see what you’ve done.

Comment and show the link to your work.

If they clicked no, they will get a message

Sorry, we screwed up. Why don’t you improve it?

Then you get a new backlink that starts off with, “I improved this article by adding social media tips”

A bunch of new tips were included like “Provide share buttons”

The guy shared his article a lot more and thanks to the built in backlinks, you get more exposure. Sure, you may not look like the smartest guy, but that’s where part 2 comes in.

Once he gets a hundred Likes, you offer him the chance to post his article on the original site. If he says yes, you got a decent guest poster on board to boost your credibility.

If he said no, you thank him and watch the backlinks increase as people will be curious about the original article and will have new ideas for you to improve on. As a bonus, you know where to get guest blog next time.

Another possibility is to make a cooking blog and encourage people to make their own version of the recipe.

Affiliate Managers go Open Source

Let’s say you sell a video editing software and wrote tips on how to make a better film and showed how your software could help them.

At the end of the article, write a challenge to improve the article with a prize. There is a catch. Their remix should sell the most number of copies of the software. They get the standard affiliate fees, but the winner gets something extra.

Not only do you get better content, some of them probably will make a YouTube video to beat the rest. Others might write better tips. The best part is you could see which content works better and learn how to get more people to buy it.

Open Source Film, Publishing and Entertainment

Let’s say you made a trailer/sample chapter and posted it on the Internet and challenged the people to improve or continue it. You put all the files you used to make the trailer on the Internet to make their lives easier.

If it was a trailer, there would be new edits or parodies to extend the reach if your campaign. You can even encourage them to create their own speculation of what will happen in the movie/book/comic and host in your site to increase the hype.

Open Source Hotel Marketing

Since my dad owns a hotel, maybe I could use the minutes I spent observing him to help him market.

For articles, it could be a customer service blog. It could be giving tips, then the customers can rave about your service and tell others about how customer service should be done with pictures videos and everything. That seems improbable, but an open sourced Zappos blog might look like this.

Another possibility is to make a blog/trailer that showcases the nearby attractions to the hotel. Open source it, so that the tourists can actually say their opinions on the places (probably passionate ones) using their own pictures, videos and maybe their experience.

Or content on restaurants nearby or inside the hotel. Open source it. If there’s an Italian restaurant, there might be fanatics willing to shed light on the matter and their expertise would be greater than the hotel owner.

How do these links back to the hotel?

Great nearby attractions make people want to stay nearby (at least that’s how my trips were) If a lot of great restaurants are nearby, tourists will want to try ’em all and stay near. A blog that preaches is common. A blog with people personally telling their own experience which actually agrees with what was preached would be better.


Why should they pick the nearby areas to your restaurant? Why should they bother to lift a finger?

Why Open Source Marketing Will Work

The targets of this marketing campaign are creators and I personally struggled to write a novel. Anything that could help me break through writer’s block helps. Sites like Plinky thrived because of people who need to get through their writer blocks. Anything to make me create more with less effort would grab my attention. Anything I’m passionate about (tourist spots, restaurants, etc. This is just for the hotel example. In reality, I’m a big Kamen Rider, Super Sentai fan who has just been converted into a brony) would be painless to write and a hell lot of fun.

They probably came across the work, because they were interested in the topic it dealt with, so it’s more probable that they will share their expertise.

One thing that every business needs is to be badass. No amount of marketing (in the traditional sense, but marketing is built in the product) could make me buy anything from a business that’s less than badass.

Open sourcing content leverages people’s passion while making it more painless to create. You are giving creators who are passionate on the topic the resources for them to make creating their own work much easier.

Sharing something you created is easier and is more likely to gain trust (learned that the hard way when I tweet out some links I like from TechCrunch, but some of my friends thought there might be a virus) In a world where there are a hell lot of patent trolls, I think open sourcing your stuff is a decent leverage. Teaching can rake in some customers, helping others teach can take it to the next level.

The most important part to remember is the fork in Github. You can download the software. You can edit the source code, but forking allows your changes to be seen by the world and the original creator can merge his work with yours (if he liked it), launching you into greater fame and letting the original creator have better software. If it isn’t merged (or combined with the original work), it’s okay. You were able to create and that’s something remarkable.

Ideas are a dime in a dozen. Try it out and test it if it works. Show some of your open source marketing. Write the name of your industry and the tactic you used based on the idea and share it with us.

Start now by innovating this very post!

(But first, leave me a comment and let me know if you like it!) 😉

Note: This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Kenley Tan

Kenley Tan (@henshinger) is an author and programmer. He's currently working on EpicGraph, a start up that intends to make it easier for books to go viral, and on his NaNoWriMo novel, Lucifer's Gauntlet.

16 thoughts on “Open Source Marketing!

  1. Probably one of the most creative posts I’ve read in a long time.

    As much as I like the concept, doesn’t “Wikipedia-ing” your articles throw in some numerous dangers of having your content lose a lot of it’s meaning?

    • That is actually great point and my answer is yes. It will get into trouble at some point, but there’s always the original source that others could check out. It might also become a better version.

      For example, “Elementary, my dear Watson” was never really said in any Sherlock Holmes book(at least from what I’ve read), yet that’s the thing people think about when they think of a line from Sherlock Holmes. “Nice guys finished last” was also something similar. That was never the original quote.

      So there might be some misinterpretations, but it might get an improvement., Of course, we can never discard the possibility that it might get worse. Either way, the more memorable idea will spread.

      Thanks for reading, Gregory!

  2. Kenley, I agree with Greg — this is UBER creative, and I LOVE IT.

    Brings a little Wiki vibe to the blog world, and I’ve been intending to collaborate on a post, like hip-hop collaborates on songs.

    So, that being said, I added a quote, because quotes are my style. See if you like it 🙂

    Excellent job, I tried to tweet it after I edited it, but it gave an error, so I’ll do it the ‘normal’ way lol

    • Jason, thanks for reading!
      I want to see the post that you came up with. Can you put the link on a comment right here or even tweet it to me(@henshinger)?

        • Jason, I think it was kind of a misunderstanding. The idea was that you literally grab a copy of the blog post which you can post immediately. Here’s the link

          It’s actually a copy of the blog post, but you can edit it and share it on Twitter right away without the hassles of copying and pasting it.

          You see it uses Hashify which gets the text content written by people and then converts it into the URL, so your version of the content gets shared.

          I didn’t want the content to be stuck right here. I want other people to use their own versions of the idea and make it very simple, but I guess the link wasn’t really clear. Sorry about that.

          • You were clear enough for me, Kenley 🙂

            I did all that, but when I clicked the Save button at the top and the link to tweet it, I got an error.

            I’ll try again when I’m in the zone for it 😀 I’ve already posted the quote like 3 times lol

  3. Thanks for doing that, Jason F, because now I got to read this post too. Wow, I am deeply impressed, which has not happened a lot to me lately. Yes, open source marketing will work, it will get readers participating again – if the content is good, of course – and it will be fun. Am going to think about this real hard and ask some programmers and I’ll be in touch again.

    • Yeah, Kitty, I added a quote from Darwin and saved it, but the stylish blog-post innovation platform seemed to have a hiccup.

      The quote was:

      “It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin

  4. Does that work like crowdsourcing? I thought that concept is nice, as everybody chip in to help. As for open source marketing, i am not so sure how it will work. Nevertheless it is worth a try

    • They’re similar, but different. An example of something open source is Linux. There are many kinds of Linux like Ubuntu, Mint, Debian, etc. because of this. Crowdsourcing implies that you are asking the crowd to respond to your request. Open source as defined by Wikipedia is “open source is a philosophy,[1][2] or pragmatic methodology[2] that promotes free redistribution and access to an end product’s design and implementation details.” That way it is easier for people to remix and do what they want with you gave them.

      Crowdsourcing(based from experience) asks the crowd to do something specific, but the output is still under the control of whoever asked the crowd.

      Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Control freaks would prefer crowdsourcing over open source. People who prefer collaboration would go for open source.

      Thanks for reading, Zac! Did I get something wrong?

  5. Hey Kenley,

    That is a very interesting approach to marketing. My first reaction isn’t to do it, but I’ll keep ruminating it until perhaps something comes out of it for my company!

    Thank you for your creative ideas 🙂



  6. This is amazing Kenly… A admire you for creating this great idea. Thank you for sharing the info, I will apply these ideas of marketing. I think they are very useful.

  7. That is a very interesting article to read. I really like the ideas and concepts. Providing this kind of information is a big help. I will definitely follow all the creative information that you have mentioned in this article. Thanks for the very informative post.

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