Viral Community News
Saturday, June 30, 2007
1 - Chris tells us that the next Indiana Jones movie is finally shooting, and gives us some marketing news.
2 - Mike at ConverStations has been having a tough go of it recently, so make sure you stop by send him your well wishes.
3 - Drew has announced that his blog just received its 2,000th comment, and prior to its 10-month anniversary. VERY impressive!
4 - Big Ann Handley news, as first Ann makes her debut as writer for one of the most popular blogs on the internet, The Huffington Post. Be sure to stop by and congratulate her, as this is a pretty big honor. And in other news...
5 - Marketing Profs has relaunched with a new look. I like it, it's very clean, and I love the 'About Us' page.
6 - Gianandrea has announced that he is following one of his passions, and will become partner in Dune Restaurant, located in the heart of Rome. G says there will likely be a blog soon (which again, I think would be perfect for tourists), but check out the restaurant's website. Is that not gorgeous? Very stylish, gives location, background, menu, everything. And I love the music! Congrats again G!
7 - Matt has the latest edition of Buzz Friday up.
8 - Gavin explains 'why you blog'.
9 - CK is announcing that she'll be appearing soon on Jaffe's Across The Sound, and is wanting everyone to let her know what they should discuss. So chime in!
10 - Paul gives a MASSIVE recap on the whole 'Hurricane Kohls' kerfluffle that he unleashed earlier this year. The bottom line is that the customers blame the employees, and the employees blame the customers. Yeah that's a healthy environment.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing
iPhone and the magic/curse of 'perceived value'
Friday, June 29, 2007
Well today is ground zone for the massive hype that has surrounded the launch of Apple's iPhone. It seems everyone(well most everyone) is standing in line for hours for the chance to pay $500 to $600 for a smartphone.
A cool phone? Absolutely. A gorgeous phone? You betcha. But it's still a $500-600 phone.
And for the people that are going home with one or a pair today, they are likely just fine with that. Everyone knows that Apple is going to sell a TON of iPhones today.
Many people are making guesses at how many iPhones will be sold this year. I think that number depends on Apple's ability to capitalize on the perceived value that the iPhone has today, and convert it into ACTUAL value.
Today is all about the hype. Hype that has been building for months around the iPhone. But after the hype fades, will the value as well? Will the iPhone be buggy? Will the glass screen crack or break easily if dropped? Will AT&T's network be able to handle demand? Or will it and the iPhone perform flawlessly and be a successful product line much like the iPod?
We just don't know at this point. But what we do know is that Apple is going to sell a ton of iPhones today on what users are viewing as its 'perceived' value. That value will quickly expire, and then the device's actual value will come into play.
How the iPhone's actual value measures up to its perceived value, will determine its future.
Bonus link: Laura Ries chimes in on Seth's prediction that iPhone will sell 2 million units this year (analysts say up to 3 million will be in stores today), and more next year. Laura doesn't think it will be a long-term success, and offers to buy Seth an iPhone if it is. Seth might get an iPhone, but I don't think it will come from Laura.
What do you think? Will iPhone be a long-term success? Will it be the revolutionary product that the iPod is? Or will it fizzle after the hype dies?
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, iPhone
Company Blog Checkup: Stormhoek
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Stormhoek is a South African winery that has done an excellent job of leveraging blogs to promote its brand. In 2005, the winery began working with blogger Hugh MacLeod of GapingVoid fame, and later launched a promotion where bloggers received a free bottle of Stormhoek, with no strings attached. The idea created quite a buzz in the blogosphere, and it resulted in the company's sales doubling in less than 12 months. Then the company followed that promotion in 2006 with a '100 geek dinners in 100 days' idea. Both ideas were great examples of a company utilizing social media in its marketing efforts. So of course when I started the Company Blog Checkup series, I knew that I wanted to review Stormhoek's blog.
First, let's start with content. You would expect that a blog about a winery would likely cover their offerings, as well as coverage of the wine industry. Mission accomplished here. But where the blog shines is in leveraging the blog itself as a promotional tool, as well as other sites. For example, Hugh links to pics of Stormhoek wine on Flickr, and then builds an impromptu promotion around it. He states on the blog that readers can get either free wine, or vouchers for cash off Stormhoek, if they will post pictures of themselves in the Tesco chain with Stormhoek. Then Stormhoek makes a point to post some of the pictures that readers have sent them, as well as posting an email from a customer. Great way to let the customers have a sense of input into the blog, and it also lets Stormhoek show pictures of their customers with their products. Very smart move.
But as with a few of the other blogs I have profiled so far, posting is sporadic. Stormhoek has only posted 4 entries so far this month, with the last one being on the 9th. A reader even left a comment to the most recent post asking why no one was posting. Yikes. There appears to be at least 3 writers for the blog, so I'd try to get each writer to commit to one post a week. It's very hard to develop a community for a blog without regular posts.
One final point on content, note that in this post, Hugh adds a link to the reader's site. Remember how I keep stressing about the need for companies to promote their readers, and link to them if they have a blog/site? This is a great example of what I am talking about.
Now let's turn to comments. Stormhoek probably does the best job of replying to comments of any of the companies that I have profiled so far. And I noticed that at least three different writers had left comments. This is so simple to do, and for some reason most companies miss the importance of comments, but Stormhoek is all over it.
Finally, let's move to the sidebar. The usual suspects are there, as well as links to.....non-company blogs! Ok not many, but some is better than none. Complete contact info is there, but I would really like to see a section clearly identifying who the writers are, and their bios, along with pics. And a link to some sort of page/site that tells customers where they can buy Stormhoek would be good too.
Overall, I think Stormhoek's blog is pretty stout. I'd like to see 3 posts minimum a week, and a section for the writers on the sidebar. Those tweaks alone would make the blog exceptional. Even so, the blog is already a great example of writers that are properly utilizing comments from readers, as well as promoting them via pics and links. Great stuff.
And now here's the scoring:
Content: 26 (Out of a possible 35) - Some direct promotion, but usually the content is about the wine industry itself.
Comments: 18 (Out of a possible 35) - Few comments, but the writers do a decent job of replying to what is there.
Posting Schedule: 2 (Out of a possible 15) - 1 post in the last 5 months. Yikes.
Sidebars: 10 (Out of a possible 15) - Love the 2 sidebars and the Flickr pics set it off. But no pics and bios for the writers keeps this from being a perfect 15.
Total Score: 56 (Out of a possible 100)
If anyone from Stormhoek wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both. And if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me, or leave a comment here!
If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Stormhoek, Company Blog Checkup
Wal-Mart is blogging? They believe they are, with a 'blog' they are calling Life At Wal-Mart, their 'associate blog'. Wal-Mart has gotten themselves into hot water in the past (along with PR firm Edelman) for their deceptive 'Wal-Marting Across America' blog, so a well-run communication effort here would be muchly appreciated.
Unfortunately, that's the last thing we get from Life At Wal-Mart. First, let's look at the propaga....er....content. Apparently, Wal-Mart takes posts from employees from the corporate to store level as their source material. That's a good move. But the posts are such obvious attempts at PR-spin that it's laughable. Here's a few of the post titles:
"For the last six years my family and myself have had the privilege of working for Wal-Mart"
"There is not another company I would rather work for than MY Wal-Mart!"
"Thank you so much Wal-Mart for helping me in obtaining an education and developing personal skills that are priceless."
"I still can not believe everything that the company has allowed me to achieve"
The 'content' consists of an embarrassing stream of such posts, all praising anything and everything that is Wal-Mart. The posts themselves cover the topics you would like to see the company address; the work environment, customer service, and Wal-Mart's community service. But the content is so obviously pro-Wal-Mart that it's impossible to view it as objective, or the writers as credible. Also, the posting is very erratic, with only a few posts per month, and the author of every post is identified as 'Wal-Mart Facts'. Obviously, every post author should have their name at the bottom of their post(s).
So with a setup like this, you're probably interested in seeing how the writers handle what would likely be an avalanche of comments for each post, right? Well how Wal-Mart handles comments, is to block them. That's right, the 'blog' doesn't allow comments. A bad 'blogging' effort just took a massive turn for the worst. Just for future reference, if your company is considering launching a blog, and you do NOT want to allow comments, then don't blog. Trust me on this one.
Finally, let's turn to the sidebar, which is probably the 'high' point of the 'blog'. The 'blog' actually does a nice job of organizing the content by categories which are easily accessible on the sidebar (you can tell I'm trying to find something good to mention here, can'tcha?). The 'blog' also does a (shocking) good job of giving you company info, including store locations, employment opportunities, etc. No non-Wal-Mart links on the sidebar, which should shock no one at this point. And there is no sidebar area identifying who writes for the 'blog'. There should be a section for the authors, with a clear bio and picture of each.
Overall, this is not a blog, even if Wal-Mart wants to position it as such. This is a poorly-crafted PR tool to attempt to position Wal-Mart in the best light possible. In the end, it does the exact opposite. By leaving such incredibly pro-Wal-Mart posts, and blocking comments, the site is giving the impression that the company has something to hide, and is fearful of letting their customers have a voice.
And their concern is somewhat understandable, as Wal-Mart has as many detractors as any company in the world. But 'efforts' such as this only make that problem worse, not better. Wal-Mart either needs to completely open this site and make it a real blog, or scrap it. I doubt they will do either.
I came very close to not profiling this 'blog', because with every entry, I like to point out the good, with the bad. Almost every company blog hits high and low points, and other companies can learn from both. But Life At Wal-Mart is just a disaster. I can see no area where the blog does even an above average job.
Then again, that might be where Life At Wal-Mart can help the rest of us, as being the perfect example of what NOT to do if you launch a company blog.
If anyone from Wal-Mart wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both. So far every company profiled in the Company Blog Checkup series has had at least one representative leave feedback, and I openly encourage Wal-Mart to do so as well.
And today will be a double-dip for the Company Blog Checkup, as I'll be profiling another company later, so be sure to check back!
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Wal Mart, Company Blog Checkup
Here's the standings for Week 62:
1 - Seth's Blog - 10,091 (+134)(LW - 1)
2 - Creating Passionate Users - 8,460 (No Change)(LW - 2)
3 - Gaping Void - 3,779 (-2)(LW - 3)
4 - Duct Tape Marketing - 2,526 (-198)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,410 (-46)(LW - 5)
6 - Diva Marketing - 1,138 (-70)(LW - 6)
7 - What's Next - 1,032 (-20)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 1,031 (-5)(LW - 8)
9 - Converstations - 988 (-36)(LW - 9)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 852 (-7)(LW - 10)
11 - Church of the Customer - 806 (+46)(LW - 13)
12 - Jaffe Juice - 798 (-50)(LW - 11)
13 - The Viral Garden - 784 (-24)(LW - 12)
14 - Influential Interactive Marketing - 750 (+5)(LW - 14)
15 - Servant of Chaos - 638 (-55)(LW - 15)
16 - Brand Autopsy - 623 (-45)(LW - 17)
17 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 622 (-54)(LW - 16)
18 - Branding and Marketing - 592 (-42)(LW - 18)
19 - Coolzor - 579 (+32)(LW - 23)
20 - CrapHammer - 533 (-57)(LW - 19)
21 - Community Guy - 525 (-53)(LW - 20)
22 - Flooring the Consumer - 522 (-52)(LW - 21)
23 - Marketing Headhunter - 518 (LW - UR)
24 - Customers Rock! - 505 (-47)(LW - 22)
25 - Shotgun Marketing - 477 (-66)(LW - 24)
Several of the Top 25 Marketing Blogs were down this week, but I think it's mainly more tinkering from Technorati, especially when you see that most of the blogs from 15-25 were down in the same 40-60 links range. Only Seth's blog was up in the Top 10, but Church of the Customer had a decent jump to move up to #11.
Marketing Headhunter returns to the Top 25, and makes a nice splashdown at #23.
Next update is next Wednesday.
The Viral Garden, Marketing, Top 25 Marketing Blogs
Eight Steps to Creating Brand Evangelists
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
My latest (premium) article is up for Marketing Profs, entitled Eight Steps to Creating Brand Evangelists:
Whereas many companies use traditional marketing tactics to send a one-way promotional message to customers, brand evangelists can communicate with customers in their space. This is a very powerful difference: It shifts the communication from being one-way to creating an actual dialogue; and whereas many people simply do not trust advertising, a recommendation from a fellow customer is credible.
But how can companies encourage their customers to become brand evangelists?
I've also added a link in my Articles I've Written section.
Bonus link: Want to learn more about creating evangelists? Talk to the masters.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Brand Evangelists
What's your comment policy?
Monday, June 25, 2007
Earlier, I was spending some time on Monster's blog. On first blush, this is a pretty solid company blog. The content is focused on the job-seeker's needs, and the sidebar links to additional sources that would benefit the reader. The blog even has a link to the writers' Del.icio.us bookmarks!
Then I saw the company's comment policy on the sidebar, that reads as follows:
Comments are moderated; they should appear on the Monster Blog within one business day.
Is this a good or bad comment policy for a company blog? Dear readers, what say you?
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing
Over the last year or so, 'event-blogging' has become more popular. But the Asheville Citizen-Times is upping the ante as The Smashing Pumpkins roll into the North Carolina town for a 9-show gig.
Susan Ihne explains:
Music is not my forte. I had no idea who the Smashing Pumpkins were when they announced a nine-day play date in Asheville.
Thank goodness for Entertainment Editor Tony Kiss, who quickly put it in perspective: This is a BIG deal.
When the 8,478 tickets sold within minutes, I knew he was right.
And then with $20 opening night tickets scalping for $950 or more, I decided I’d never doubt him again — at least when it comes to music....So, when Kiss puts his seal on a big deal, we start planning.
A couple of weeks ago, we launched a social networking site called smashville.com to connect band fans from around the world.
It’s where you’ll find our coverage — photos, video, audio and stories — of the band’s time in Asheville.
Fans are invited to share their thoughts in blogs, photos and video at the site throughout the band’s stay. About 60 have signed up so far.
Before each show, we’ll have a video of the smashing of something pumpkin. A ceramic pumpkin, a can of pumpkin filling, a frozen pumpkin pie, and a plastic pumpkin — whatever we can find.
The paper ran an article yesterday claiming there were 'about 60' members signed up at the time. I just checked and the site says there's 182 now. Members have already added numerous pictures and videos of the band, mostly concert shots.
I think this is another sign of how the social-media landscape is changing. People are more comfortable with these tools, and willing to experiment and play with them to see what happens. Good news for those that are willing to test the social-media waters, and another reminder that the clock is ticking for those who are still on the shore.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Smashing Pumpkins, Music Marketing
Which Wich's local social media play to go national
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Over at Daily Fix on Tuesday I blogged about Chris Thomas' local Which Wich promoting his blog after Chris started blogging about their sandwiches. In the entry, I added this:
My only complaint is that I could find zero mention of Chris' series on the Which Wich website, or blog. Sounds like Which Wich's main office could take a lesson in how to embrace and empower its brand evangelists from Chris' local shop.
Later on Tuesday, Which Wich added this entry to their blog, promoting Chris' series. Then today, the chain blogged that Which Wich founder Jeff Sinelli flew in to Franklin to have lunch with Chris at his local Which Wich.
Then today Chris comments on my Daily Fix post to let us know that the chain will be stamping ALL bags in ALL locations with his blog addy by the end of the week.
I had no idea this chain existed a week ago, now it's getting free coverage on some of the top business and marketing blogs on the internet. All because the chain was smart enough to embrace one of its brand evangelists. But guys you seriously need to overhaul your blog, check out my Company Blog Checkup series.
Start by adding Chris' blog to your sidebar.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Which Wich
Company Blog Checkup: LinkedIn
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
LinkedIn created waves earlier this year in the blogosphere when it made the surprisingly smart move of hiring Mario Sundar, one of the most popular and respected marketing bloggers, to be its Community Evangelist. Soon after that, the networking site announced that it was launching a blog. The blog has been up and running for a couple of months, and now that they've had time to get their feet wet, how does it stack up?
The first thing that strikes you when you arrive at LinkedIn's blog, is how incredibly clean the layout is. Seriously, is that not gorgeous? It's very minimalist, but the plain white background is contrasted by the pictures of EACH author in EACH post, and the Flickr photo set on the side. Just love it.
Now let's move to the all-important content section. First, I noticed that as with many company blogs, posting is sporadic. For example, there's only been 6 posts on the blog this month, and 2 of them have been left in the last 3 days. Again, many companies don't have a regular posting schedule, and I think an easy way to solve this problem, especially for a blog with multiple writers, is to simply have each writer commit to a set number of posts a week. It appears that LinkedIn has at least 4 regular writers, so why not have each commit to at least a post a week? Then if anyone else wants to occasionally post twice in a week, that gets you up to 4-5 posts a week, which is fine for a company blog.
LinkedIn seems to be focusing its subject matter mainly on posts related to its community of users, and site features. Good choices (although I would like to see more posts on networking and careers in general). The blog notifies users of community-oriented offline events, which are also a great way to foster evangelism for the site. But just from scanning the number of comments left, it's obvious that the posts that are related to explaining some of the site's features are easily the most popular. And just from scanning the recent posts, you see that you have to go back to last month to find one of these type of 'tutorial' posts. This needs to become a weekly feature ASAP. Pick a day, say every Wednesday, to tackle a different LinkedIn feature, and explain it in depth to LinkedIn's users. What the feature is, and how we can utilize it effectively. My guess is that you could even expand this and leave a post on say Monday asking for readers to give their feedback on what topic they'd like to see covered in Wednesday's post, then pick the winner from reader comments (which is also a great way to give your readers a greater sense of ownership over the content of the blog).
Now let's turn to comments. Attention to comments seemed to be hit or miss. The writers seemed to do a pretty good job of replying and addressing comments left for the 'instructional' type posts, but were a bit lax in the others. So many of the people I talk to about LinkedIn simply have no idea how to use the service. For the most part, I am in this category as well. So I think it really behooves the staff at LinkedIn to do everything they can to encourage conversation, because I believe there's a lot of people out there that want to learn more about LinkedIn and how to properly use it. BTW the 'instructional' type posts seemed to easily be the most popular, again based on solely number of comments.
Finally let's look at the sidebar. All the 'greatest hits' are here, the archives, recent posts, a button to subscribe, and LinkedIn also clearly spells out its comment policy, which I think is a nice touch. And they also include a cool Flickr set. Inbetween the Flickr set, and having pics up of EACH author in EACH post, LinkedIn is the first company I have seen that is all over using pictures to give their blog a sense or personality. They even do a better job with this than the Kodak blog did.
But the problem I see on the sidebar is that I don't see any non-company links. Where is a link to a site to help me with relocation? A cost-of-living calculator? Career guides? Again, I am assuming that if someone is using LinkedIn regularly, they are either looking for work, or workers. So I would tailor my sidebar around offering content with the reader in mind. Or what about a del.icio.us section for articles that the writers tag as they come across them? There's a ton of blank space on the sidebar that could be utilized for this.
All in all, LinkedIn has the usual mix of some good and bad areas. I absolutely love the look of the blog, and I think it's the best company blog I've featured so far for using photos on the blog. On the flipside, I think the posting needs to get on a regular schedule, and the content and commenting needs a bit more attention.
Now having said all of that, I would be completely remiss if I did not point out that LinkedIn's blog has only been up for 2 months. So any of the criticism should be taken with the assumption that the blog is still to some degree a work in progress (as they all are). In fact I started not to even profile the blog now, and instead wait a few more months, but I figured that it's sometimes easier to act on advice when you get it at the start, rather than after a blog has gotten 'set in its ways'.
And I can verify that Mario does spend time on other blogs replying to users' comments/posts about LinkedIn, and encouraging their feedback. This is a HUGE plus for the company, and it's exactly why they were smart to snag Mario as their Community Evangelist.
And now let's go to the scoring:
Content: 29 (Out of a possible 35) - The blog is positioned as a resource to show users how to better use its features, and to give examples of users that have successfully done so.
Comments: 23 (Out of a possible 35) - Most posts get comments, but few get over 10, and the writers could be more active in replying to LinkedIn's users that comment.
Posting Schedule: 11 (Out of a possible 15) - The blog averages about 3-4 posts a week, but I do see some gaps and multiple-post days.
Sidebars: 8 (Out of a possible 15) - Love how each writer has their pic and link to their LinkedIn profile on their posts. But I don't see a blogroll, although I do like the Flickr photos and explanation of the comment policy.
Total Score: 71 (Out of a possible 100)
If anyone from LinkedIn wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both. And keep in mind that every company so far has responded to their Company Blog Checkup with their own feedback, so I know LinkedIn wants to continue that streak, right guys?
If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services. And if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me, or leave a comment here!
UPDATE: Mario Sundar, LinkedIn's Community Evangelist, leaves his feedback in the comments.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, LinkedIn, Company Blog Checkup
Here's the standings for Week 61:
1 - Seth's Blog - 9,957 (+1,004)(LW - 1)
2 - Creating Passionate Users - 8,460 (No Change)(LW - 2)
3 - Gaping Void - 3,781 (+104)(LW - 3)
4 - Duct Tape Marketing - 2,724 (+1,629)(LW - 5)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,456 (+34)(LW - 4)
6 - Diva Marketing - 1,208 (+465)(LW - 11)
7 - What's Next - 1,052 (+356)(LW - 13)
8 - Daily Fix - 1,036 (+64)(LW - 6)
9 - Converstations - 1,024 (+62)(LW - 7)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 859 (+7)(LW - 8)
11 - Jaffe Juice - 848 (+89)(LW - 10)
12 - The Viral Garden - 808 (+42)(LW - 9)
13 - Church of the Customer - 760 (+36)(LW - 12)
14 - Influential Interactive Marketing - 745 (+63)(LW - 15)
15 - Servant of Chaos - 693 (-2)(LW - 14)
16 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 676 (+4)(LW - 16)
17 - Brand Autopsy - 668 (+34)(LW - 18)
18 - Branding and Marketing - 634 (-3)(LW - 17)
19 - CrapHammer - 590 (+1)(LW - 20)
20 - Community Guy - 578 (-13)(LW - 19)
21 - Flooring the Consumer - 574 (-9)(LW - 21)
22 - Customers Rock! - 552 (-13)(LW - 22)
23 - Coolzor - 547 (-1)(LW - 24)
24 - Shotgun Marketing - 543 (-15)(LW - 23)
25 - CK's Blog - 527 (-6)(LW - 25)
(EDIT: I got Logic + Emotion's link count wrong earlier, it's been corrected now)
A ton of huge moves up this week. Some of the moves are all but impossibly large, so my guess is that Technorati is tinkering with their link-counting system. Especially given that the blogs with the big moves are mostly blogs that are at least 2 years old. Also noticed that Creating Passionate Users continues to be stuck at 8,460 links, and I don't see how CPU could have stayed on that exact number for what, 3 weeks in a row now?
At any rate, congrats to Diva Marketing, What's Next, Daily Fix, and Converstations for all joining the 1,000 link club.
No new blogs this week, but if TRati keeps tinkering, that could change quickly.
Next update is next Wednesday.
The Viral Garden, Marketing, Top 25 Marketing Blogs
Sandwiches, social media, and brand evangelism
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
My latest post is up at Daily Fix, and I talk about how sandwich shop Which Wich is incorporating social media into its existing marketing, to highlight one of its brand evangelists.
Which Wich is a shop that offers 51 sandwiches, and Chris Thomas just loves them:
I just love the place. I love the wiches. I love the house chips. I love the sweet tea. I love the ordering experience. I love that they encourage you to be creative with the back of your ordering bag. I love the brand.
So Chris decided that he was going to not only eat all 51 of Which Wich's sandwiches, but he was going to let his readers decide which one he should pick for each entry, then he'd review the one they choose.
After seeing Chris show up for several days in a row, his local Which Wich started talking to him and found out that he was doing his review series on his blog. So the shop decided to add Chris' blog URL to every bag they use!
So check out my DF post, I also talk about how his readers are reacting to the series, and what Which Wich's home office is doing about this (hint: not what they should be). And thanks to Michael Morton at Marketing Monster for letting me know about this!
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Brand Evangelism
Dell does good, then bad, then apologizes
Monday, June 18, 2007
Following Dell's actions online over the last few days has been an interesting study in how companies are grappling to come to terms with the 'new marketing' landscape. On Friday after I left my Company Blog Checkup on Dell's Direct2Dell blog, both Richard and John Pope from Dell left comments here, and I later talked to John and we'll try to set up a 'brainstorming' session for later this month. This is exactly the type of interaction we bloggers have been begging companies to engage in, as we knew the benefits that would result from companies having a better grip on the potential of social media, and communicating with its customers online.
But there was another story developing in the blogosphere on Friday concerning Dell, and this one put the company in a different light. On Thursday, The Consumerist posted '22 Confessions of a Former Dell Sales Manager'. The post was basically a collection of 'tips and tricks' on how to get the best deals on Dell products and services. On Friday, The Consumerist posted that Dell had sent them a 'takedown' email, 'demanding' that the post be removed. Anyone cringing yet? To be fair to Dell, The Consumerist claims that Dell 'demanded' that the post be removed, but the two emails that they posted from Dell requested that the post be removed, the word 'demand' was never used, and no threats were made by Dell.
But even so, I think we can all agree that even asking The Consumerist to take down the post was just about the worst possible move for the company. I told John this and added that the move makes 'Dell look like a bully with something to hide.' And I thought this response from The Consumerist's lawyer nailed the ramifications of Dell's action to the wall:
In addition, as I am sure you must realise - and there is certainly a history of this with Dell already - consumers tend to react far better when a company responds collaboratively to criticism, than when they act heavy-handedly or dismissively. Removing this story would be far far more damaging to Dell, I assure you, than responding to it on the Dell blog or elsewhere, since in telling our readers that Dell shut down our reporting, we would unleash a chaos of fury and acres of criticism in the press. Forget any legal position you may want to take, meritorious or not, I am deadly serious when I say that I simply cannot recommend this as a course of action. I've seen it happen before and it is really not pretty and I have no doubt that you will regret it.
Of course, it is your decision whether you want to pursue this matter, but I advise you to talk to the team that had to deal with the falllout from the Jeff Jarvis affair before you decide to try and silence your critics. Work for the customer, not against them.
Amen. Dell responded on Saturday by posting 'Dell's 23 Confessions' to Direct2Dell;
Now's not the time to mince words, so let me just say it... we blew it.
I'm referring to a recent blog post from an ex-Dell kiosk employee that received more attention after the Consumerist blogged about it, and even more still after we asked them to remove it.
In this case, I agree with what Jeff Jarvis had to say: instead of trying to control information that was made public, we should have simply corrected anything that was inaccurate. We didn't do that, and now we're paying for it.
Yep. Dell ran into trouble when it tried to CONTROL the conversation, instead of trying to participate in it. As I was reading Dell's 23 Confessions, I was thinking that there really wasn't much to this (besides the upfront apology, which was perfect), and that I would have added a point about going to one of the sites that mention the coupon codes to get the best deals. Then I saw that point #18 was 'There are a number of Web sites that aggregate Dell coupon offers. Just Google “Dell coupon codes.”' Good stuff. I think most online customers know this, but it doesn't hurt to tell them anyway.
And this morning, The Consumerist acknowledges that Dell has admitted their error in asking the site to remove its 'confessions' post.
When the smoke clears, I think this is another fine example of how companies and their customers often speak two different languages. Dell no doubt thought that it was in their best interest to attempt to convince The Consumerist to remove the 'confessions' post. However, almost anyone that read The Consumerist knew immediately that this was a bad move. And I noted that the tone of the comments to The Consumerists' post this morning were more in support of Dell's move to admit their blunder.
And I even get the impression that there may be more than one conversation happening within Dell itself. In fact if you read the emails from Dell that The Consumerist posted, then read Lionel's mea culpa at Direct2Dell, it's obvious that he feels sending the takedown request was a mistake.
BuzzMachine posted on the 'takedown' episode, and I said this in the comments: "I think Dell deserves criticism when they make missteps with social media, as does any other company. But I think we also owe it to them, ourselves, and this medium, to make sure that the criticism is constructive, and tempered with the knowledge that that are at least in these waters."
UPDATE: TechMeme has picked up on the story
Cartoon via Gaping Void
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Dell
Viral Community News
Saturday, June 16, 2007
1. - Now there's a set with some serious smartitude. This is from Jordan's Flickr stream, and shows the man behind Tell Ten Friends on the set of The Lab with Leo Laporte. I loved watching Leo's shows Call for Help and The Screen Savers on ZDTV and then later Tech TV. Jordan when will your episode be airing, and will it be online?
2. - Jennifer is at it again. After running her very entertaining 'Thirty Days' series at Search Engine Guide in 2005, where she launched a new business online in 30 days, this time she's launching a business without the help of Google search results. An interesting exercise to educate business owners on how to build web traffic via alternative search methods. The series is called 'Hide and Speak', and here's Part 1, and here's Part 2.
3. - Matt continues his popular 'Buzz Friday' series at Techno Marketer.
4. - Blogging Diva Toby has a nice roundup of some of the marketing blog resources out there, including The Viral Garden's Top 25, Todd And's Top 150, and links to the recent interview series that Philippe conducted.
5. - Drew asks an interesting question. He asks if Seth was full of crap, would you call him out? Apparently Drew missed last summer's SethGate episode ;) Ugh, I almost hate to even get into this because these type of 'debates' pop up every few months and there's never any type of resolution, which is mainly why they keep popping up.
Instead, I'll try to ask my own interesting question; If Seth started a new blog today and his name wasn't attached to it, would it be a success? For example, if he started blogging as 'Bob Arnold', and there were no clues, visual or otherwise, that it was really Seth behind the blog, would it be popular? Especially if he didn't allow comments, as he doesn't on his current blog.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing
The (bloggin') times they are a changin'...
Friday, June 15, 2007
One of my favorite 'projects' from last summer started with this quote from Chris Thilk:
Want to know why my column next week on Miami Vice is going to be so cool? Because someone from Universal Studios took half-an-hour out of his day to call and chat with me about it.
And with that, the 'Spontaneous Marketing Campaign' for the movie Miami Vice was launched.
That's why I think it's our responsibility to ourselves, and companies that are smart enough to embrace bloggers, to reward their efforts. I think we need to send a clear message to Universal that their 30 minutes spent talking to Chris was the best promotional move they will make this week. We all need to link to Universal Studios, and tell the story of how they were smart enough to embrace bloggers.
And that's exactly what many of us did. Over the next few days, around 40 blogs picked up on this story. Even heavyweights such as Cinematical and Church of the Customer joined the fray. One rep at one studio taking a few minutes out of one day to talk to one blogger, eventually netted tens if not hundreds of thousands of people being positively exposed to Universal, and Miami Vice. We wanted to make sure that Universal's efforts were rewarded, because at the time, it was still painfully unusual for a company to even acknowledge bloggers, let alone reach out to them.
But that, apparently, was 2006.
When I started the Company Blog Checkup series a few weeks ago, my thinking was that I'd hear from some of the companies I'd blog about, but most would pass. Instead, all 3 companies profiled so far have responded, and each one has been even more responsive than the previous. And over the last couple of weeks, I've heard from other bloggers that have said that they too have been contacted by the companies or organizations that they have recently blogged about.
It seems that the new media landscape is finally seeing the shift we were all hoping for. My thinking all along was that companies would initially resist the blogosphere and social media in general, as it was something they didn't understand, and that they likely viewed as a 'fad'. Then as it became obvious that there's 'something to this whole social media thingie', these companies would want to reach out to the people that use and are familiar with these wonderful tools. I think we are reaching this point now.
Which goes back to the point that Ryan made a few days ago about how companies need to incorporate social media into their marketing efforts as soon as possible. Companies such as Kodak, HomeGoods, and Dell that are now in the blogosphere, already have a tremendous headstart over their competitors that are still on the sidelines trying to convince themselves that the beach is safer than the open water.
Unfortunately, 'safe' is the new 'risky'.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing
Company Blog Checkup: Dell
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
There might not be a more embattled blogging company than Dell. A former policy of not replying to bloggers helped set off Dell Hell, which the company will be feeling the Google affects of for a very long time. Dell launched its blog One2One almost exactly a year ago, and has since renamed it 'Direct2Dell'. The blog met with mixed results on launch, but how does it look now?
Let's start with the content. Without looking at the blog, you might expect that the type of content you'd want to see on a Dell blog would be a good mix of discussion about Dell's products, the technology behind them and the industry in general. And some discussion of the company itself, for example how it deals with customer service issues, and perhaps some time spent on discussing the company's views on the environmental issues associated with its products.
From a content standpoint, Direct2Dell does a decent job. There's discussion of Dell's offerings, product distribution, and some industry news. It doesn't go overboard with self-promotion, although there's no shortage of it either. But I think there's an incredible opportunity to improve the blog's content that Dell is completely missing, and it's right under their noses.
Earlier this year, Dell launched an interesting site called IdeaStorm. The site calls on visitors to submit posts on services or products that they would like to see the company offer, or ways to improvement Dell's existing products and services. Visitors can then vote each idea up or down in a format very similar to Digg. It's a wonderful way to give Dell's customers a feedback mechanism.
But instead of just linking to IdeaStorm on Direct2Dell's sidebar, why not take some of the more popular IdeaStorm entries submitted by its community, and publish them on Direct2Dell? This would accomplish two very important things for Dell:
1 - It makes Direct2Dell's content more interesting to the blog's readers, because it's content that's created by its readers.
2 - It shows that Dell wants to give their customers a sense of ownership in the blog. That's a great way to help grow readership and enthusiasm.
If I were Dell, I'd do this ASAP. Maybe set aside a day each week for entries from IdeaStorm. This could also possibly lead to Dell eventually inviting some of the IdeaStorm contributors to become full-time writers for the Direct2Dell blog.
The sidebar features collapsible menus for the usual suspects; categories, most comments, subscribe, etc. They also include an area to suggest a topic for the blog, which is a great idea. But Dell also has a menu for a blogroll, that actually includes several blogs and sites. The one thing I noticed was that they don't link to BuzzMachine. If I were Dell, I'd swallow my pride and add Jarvis to the list. Otherwise, Direct2Dell's blogroll is better than most other company blogs. One addition to the sidebar I would suggest would be an About section, with headshots and links to bios for all the writers.
Dell appears to be doing a decent job of replying to reader's comments. I did notice a few times that it seemed that one of the writers would reply to the first comment, then no more, or there were a couple of posts that had several replies with none from anyone with Dell. Not huge offenses, but something to keep an eye on.
Overall, Direct2Dell is a fairly solid blog. There's no glaring weaknesses, but on the flipside, there's no areas where it truly excels. If anything, it seems that the blog needs more personality, and perhaps more visibility from the blog's writers. Both literally by including pictures on the sidebar, and with a bit more interaction in the comments. And again, I'd definitely find a way to let members of the IdeaStorm community have input into the blog's content.
And now for the scoring:
Content: 30 (Out of a possible 35) - Good mix of product information, as well as customer service concerns, and even a dash of sustainability and social media talk, along with the occasional technology post. Good mix that seems to be resonating with Direct2Dell's readers.
Comments: 25 (Out of a possible 35) - Most posts have comments, but the writers aren't very active in replying on the blog. However, since many readers are leaving comments about technical or customer service issues, Dell may be contacting them directly via email.
Posting Schedule: 14 (Out of a possible 15) - Blog has right at a post a day, with an occasional gap.
Sidebars: 10 (Out of a possible 15) - Has most of the right elements, but it's hard to find some, such as a great blogroll that's collapsed, and having bios/pics of all the writers, but making you click through to find them.
Total Score: 79 (Out of a possible 100)
If anyone from Dell wants to discuss this checkup, feel free to either leave a comment here, or email me. And the keep in mind that the interaction bar has been set pretty high after the first two Company Blog Checkup entries. Representatives from both Kodak and HomeGoods' blogs were kind enough to participate in the discussion here, as well as contact me via email.
If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blog and social media consulting services.
UPDATE: Richard at Dell adds in the comments: "...All these various ideas are under consideration both in terms of where we are going, staff to accomplish and that kind of thing. What has been raised here is similar to one of the several ideas, and because we are listening to what people have to tell us, your ideas are being added to the mix."
Nother UPDATE: Just talked to John at Dell and he let me know that BuzzMachine has just been added to Direct2Dell's blogroll.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Dell, Company Blog Checkup
Here's the standings for Week 60:
1 - Seth's Blog - 8,953 (+433)(LW - 1)
2 - Creating Passionate Users - 8,460 (No Change)(LW - 2)
3 - Gaping Void - 3,677 (-43)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,422 (-5)(LW - 4)
5 - Duct Tape Marketing - 1,095 (+359)(LW - 10)
6 - Daily Fix - 972 (+3)(LW - 5)
7 - Converstations - 964 (+13)(LW - 6)
8 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 852 (+16)(LW - 7)
9 - The Viral Garden - 766 (+3)(LW - 8)
10 - Jaffe Juice - 759 (+12)(LW - 9)
11 - Diva Marketing - 743 (+28)(LW - 11)
12 - Church of the Customer - 724 (+12)(LW - 12)
13 - What's Next - 696 (+21)(LW - 14)
14 - Servant of Chaos - 695 (+6)(LW - 13)
15 - Influential Interactive Marketing - 681 (+6)(LW - 14)
16 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 672 (+13)(LW - 16)
17 - Branding and Marketing - 637 (LW - UR)
18 - Brand Autopsy - 634 (+15)(LW - 17)
19 - Community Guy - 591 (+1)(LW - 18)
20 - CrapHammer - 589 (+14)(LW - 20)
21 - Flooring the Consumer - 583 (+7)(LW - 19)
22 - Customers Rock! - 565 (+1)(LW - 21)
23 - Shotgun Marketing - 558 (+17)(LW - 22)
24 - Coolzor - 548 (+11)(LW - 23)
25 - CK's Blog - 533 (+3)(LW - 25)
A couple of blogging's big fish made huge splashes this week, as both Seth's Blog and Duct Tape Marketing made major moves. Seth's jump locks him down at the #1 spot, and John jumps 5 big spots to #5. Otherwise, there were no big moves up or down among the rest of the Top 25. Only 2 of the remaining 22 blogs were down, and interestingly they were the #3 and #4 blogs.
Branding and Marketing is the lone new blog this week, with Tell Ten Friends, Marketing Nirvana and Biz Solutions Plus just missing the cut.
Next update is next Wednesday.
The Viral Garden, Marketing, Top 25 Marketing Blogs
The hits just keep on coming. First Marketing Profs' Book Club (hosted by CK) featured Ben and Jackie's Citizen Marketers, then Round Two put the spotlight on Al and Laura Ries' The Origin of Brands. Round Three launched yesterday, and it features one of the most well-received business/idea books of the last year, Made to Stick. Cam has also written an excellent summary which you can download.
So if you've read the book, this is a great chance to not only discuss it with others readers, but the authors themselves. As did Ben, Jackie, Al and Laura, Chip and Dan are also participating in the discussion!
So stop by, if you haven't joined the MP Book Club, you can still do that here, and join all the fun.
Or if you just want to browse, click on the logo below!
PS: Don't forget that Marketing Profs FREE virtual B2B Marketing Conference is today as well! Click here to get the info and sign up! It runs today from 10 am EST to 6 PM.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Book Club, Made to Stick
Search referral of the day
Monday, June 11, 2007
Just had a visitor arrive here by doing a search for "cingular has screwed old att customers".
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing
Big news in the social media space, as Sony has launched a blog for the Playstation. Of course it would be totally unfair to review it now, so the blog may show up on a future entry in the Company Blog Checkup Series in a few months. I did notice that comments are enabled, and they have gotten a LOT of them!
But I do think this is an interesting opportunity for Sony to gain some new fans for their console. If utilized properly, the blog could be a great way to give background information on how video games and consoles are designed and created, even how in-game marketing deals are structured and implemented. Here's how they see the blog heading forward:
At the moment, we’re thinking about sharing all sorts of things here, ranging from product news and title announcements to developer updates and industry opinion posts – all of which will come straight from the people here inside SCEA who are working, thinking and playing with this stuff every day. Look to the categories on the sidebar for some initial thoughts we have on future post themes.
We'll see what happens, based on the above quote from one of the blog's writers, I have a feeling that it will be heavy on self-promotion. Karl what do you think so far?
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Playstation
Often times, I'll see a post that sounds significant, but that also appears like part of a larger idea that I'll want to talk about later. A perfect example is Ryan's recent post on why companies need to embrace social media now, rather than later. Then I saw Paul mentioning Russell's post on the Future of Business, and how he believes its design, and not branding.
Then for the second time in about a week, I received a flyer in the mail notifying me that satellite internet was finally available in my area.
This got my gears working. Broadband internet is currently available to just over half the households in this country. By the end of 2011, that figure is expected to jump to 70%.
Think about that for a minute. That's a roughly 40% increase over the next 4 years. I think it's safe to assume that technology will also continue to make our computers faster and more powerful, that upload speeds for our internet connections will increase, that we'll have many more tools available to us to create and share content.
Which means citizen marketing will continue to increase as well. But all this adds together to mean that there will be a LOT more information out there, and our need for filters will increase as well.
Which also means that the traditional branding model of companies telling customers what they should think and feel about their product, will continue to lose effectiveness.
Then my mind swung back to Ryan's post on the importance of companies diving into the social media waters now, rather than later. His point is that the earlier a company becomes immersed in social media, the quicker they will understand these tools, and be able to leverage them while they are still highly effective. The longer companies wait, the more these communication tools become common place, and their ability to differentiate and improve your business declines.
Then I went back to Russell's post about how branding is no longer the future of business. His main point seemed to be that all too often, the 'brand' and the 'product' are two completely different things, and that frequently, the brand is a sort of band-aid that's used to attempt to cover up an inferior product.
But then, all these ideas began to swirl together for me. Going forward, technology will give us the ability to create and share more content. We're already seeing this, which is a big reason why social media is taking off. And those companies that embrace social media the soonest, will reap the biggest rewards. Finally, branding in the traditional sense of a company telling its customers what to believe about its product(ie one-way marketing communication), is fading away.
So what happens if citizen marketing does continue to rise as our ability to create and share content increases? What happens to companies that do decide to dive into the social media waters and use these tools to better understand and communicate with their customers? What happens as 'one-way branding' continues to march toward extinction?
My guess? Social branding.
Let's say you have Company A that's steadfast in its refusal to embrace social media. It continues to attempt to tell its customers what they SHOULD think and feel about its products. They call this 'branding'. But these customers, that Company A refuses to communicate with, are increasingly using social media to create their own content, and to create their own 'branding' for Company A's products. Which means everyone, the company, and the customers, are doing their own branding for Company A. This obviously results in a muddled and ineffective mess.
But Company B is incorporating social media into its marketing communications package. It is discovering how these tools can be used to communicate with its customers, and how these tools allow for both sides to better understand each other. As a result, Company B and its customers create its brand together. What's more, the branding is a part of the product (which was supposed to be the idea all along), which makes it even stronger.
And its already happening. Look at how companies like Jones Soda and Threadless are making their customers partners in the product creation and branding process.
"We started this company with the philosophy that the world does not need another soda," said Peter van Stolk, the founder and chief executive of Jones Soda. "That forced us to look at things differently: How could we create a new kind of connection with customers, let them play with the brand, let them take ownership of it? Everything at this company is about sharing ownership of the brand with our customers. This is not my brand. This is not our soda. It belongs to our customers."
I think you're going to see more companies adopting this stance. That breaking down barriers between company and customers can work wonders. That customers want, and will soon EXPECT to be able to talk to and help shape a company's future direction. The smart companies will be the ones that accept this change, and share their brand with their customers so that together, they can create something much stronger than either group could alone.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Social Branding
Are you trying to create customers, or fans?
Friday, June 08, 2007
I've got two new posts up at Daily Fix for this week. The first talks about the marketing mindset at Maker's Mark, and how the distillery views its customers as 'friends'. I also talk about their ambassador program and how they use it to 'shift' control of its marketing to its ambassadors and give them the responsibility of recruiting more customers for Maker's Mark.
Then today I also talk today about how CBS responded to, and then reached out to Jericho's fans to save the show. In both cases, I don't think we're trying to talk about a company and network that tried to create new customers, but rather, that had the marketing mindset of attempting to create new evangelists/fans.
I blog here often about music marketing, and a big reason why is because so many artists have the marketing mindset of trying to create new fans, not new customers. Someone once told me that it was just 'easier' for artists to create fans, than it was for companies.
While I somewhat agree with that position, I don't believe it's pure accident that music artists know how to create fans. For example, let's look at how the band Tesla is launching its new CD, Reel To Reel.
First there's the CD itself. It costs around $14, or the price of an average CD. But when you open it, you discover that it comes in a double-CD case, but with only one CD. You receive the second CD for free, if you attend any Tesla concert on the band's upcoming tour. Why is this a good move? Because the band is basically giving you a free CD for attending a concert, because it likely knows that if you see one of the band's concerts, you're more likely to become a fan.
Then there's the tour itself. It was launched in May in the band's hometown of Sacramento, with a FREE concert that included a preview of Reel to Reel, and a special listening party after the concert where the band stayed to autograph copies of the CD.
Again, does this sound like the band is trying to create customers, or fans for its music? If it simply wanted to create customers, all Tesla had to do was include $1 off coupons in the Best Buy and Wal-Mart circulars good toward the band's new CD. But its marketing is instead aimed at getting people to the band's concerts, because they know that if they can, they will likely love the experience, and become fans.
It's all about your marketing mindset. If a Kentucky distillery can create evangelists/fans just as easily as a rock band can, then your company has no excuse.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Maker's Mark, Tesla
Jericho Fans Send CBS 'Nutty' Message
Thursday, June 07, 2007
When fans of the CBS series Jericho learned that the show was going to be canceled following this season's episodes, they were none too happy. So they decided to take their inspiration from one of the show's characters, literally.
In the final episode of last season, one character replies 'Nuts!' when the fictional town in Kansas is asked to surrender. So taking their lead from the show, fans sent nuts by the ton to CBS's offices in New York.
25 tons, to be exact.
Geno adds that fans also sent 30,000 emails, and donated $15,000 to the state of Kansas to aid in recent tornado damage. The massive fan-based revolt has earned a return of at least 7 episodes for Jericho, according to CBS. In addition, CBS has said that it will release the first season to DVD this summer, and will also rebroadcast the episodes.
Then CBS did something which is genius, they saw the power of Jericho's fans, and have decided to tap it:
"A loyal and passionate community has clearly formed around the show," Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, said at CBS.com. "But that community needs to grow. It needs to grow on the CBS Television Network, as well as on the many digital platforms where we make the show available. We will count on you to rally around the show, to recruit new viewers with the same grass-roots energy, intensity and volume you have displayed in recent weeks."
In other words, they just 'gave' the show to its biggest evangelists. That's gold.
And what about all those nuts? Nedra points out that the network donated the nuts to to City Harvest, a hunger relief program and State Island Project Homefront, which sends care packages to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Great stuff. I think we are all patting the fans of Jericho on the backs for winning the battle for their show, but I think we need to also acknowledge that CBS comes out smelling like a rose. They listened to their fans, and then helped 'give' ownership of the show to its fans, then turned a nutty situation into a way to help others. Plenty of 'new marketing' lessons here for everyone.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Jericho
The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 59
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Here's the standings for Week 59:
1 - Seth's Blog - 8,520 (+68)(LW - 2)
2 - Creating Passionate Users - 8,460 (No Change)(LW - 1)
3 - Gaping Void - 3,720 (-8)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,427 (+21)(LW - 4)
5 - Daily Fix - 969 (+22)(LW - 5)
6 - Converstations - 951 (+37)(LW - 6)
7 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 836 (+36)(LW - 7)
8 - The Viral Garden - 763 (+21)(LW - 8)
9 - Jaffe Juice - 747 (+11)(LW - 9)
10 - Duct Tape Marketing - 736 (+35)(LW - 12)
11 - Diva Marketing - 715 (+9)(LW - 11)
12 - Church of the Customer - 712 (+2)(LW - 10)
13 - Servant of Chaos - 689 (+18)(LW - 13)
14 - What's Next - 675 (+9)(LW - 14)
14 - Influential Interactive Marketing - 675 (+24)(LW - 15)
16 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 659 (+11)(LW - 16)
17 - Brand Autopsy - 619 (+1)(LW - 17)
18 - Community Guy - 590 (+19)(LW - 18)
19 - Flooring the Consumer - 576 (+13)(LW - 19)
20 - CrapHammer - 575 (+15)(LW - 20)
21 - Customers Rock! - 564 (+17)(LW - 21)
22 - Shotgun Marketing - 541 (+7)(LW - 22)
23 - Coolzor - 537 (+5)(LW - 23)
24 - Tell Ten Friends - 532 (+11)(LW - 25)
25 - CK's Blog - 530 (+5)(LW - 24)
First, an explanation. You now see that we have the blog name, then the number of links that blog has. The next number you see, (in parentheses) is how many links the blog gained or lost since last week. The final stat, the LW number, is where the blog ranked in last week's Top 25. Again with Technorati, higher number is better, since we are ranking the countdown based on number of links.
Now that the FAQ is out of the way, notice that Seth leapfrogged Creating Passionate Users to regain the #1 spot. I'm sure there will be a flurry of incoming links when/if Kathy ever posts again, but Seth could build a comfortable lead if that doesn't happen soon. Also interesting is that 23 of the 25 blogs saw their link counts increase. I think this will pretty much be the norm every week. And there weren't any really huge moves up or down. Converstations and Drew's Marketing Minute had big weeks, as did Duct Tape Marketing, which rejoined the Top 10.
No new blogs this week, but Marketing Nirvana and Biz Solutions Plus just missed the cut.
Next update is next Wednesday.
The Viral Garden, Marketing, Top 25 Marketing Blogs
In last week's Company Blog Checkup for Kodak, I pointed out that Kodak should make a point to find and link to its online evangelists. Home furnishings chain HomeGoods has one-upped them, and made their evangelists the writers for their OpenHouse blog! But is that enough to equal a great company blog?
HomeGoods is a low-price home furnishings chain according to its main site, and OpenHouse is its blog. At OpenHouse, 5 of HomeGood's customers write for the blog. HomeGood does a nice job of disclosing upfront that none of the bloggers are paid, and states that the chain asked several thousand of its 'most passionate customers' if they would be interested in writing for the blog, and from that group chose Alli, Janice, Deb, Cathy, and Betty. Again, they are turning the blog over to their evangelists, which is a very bold move.
One of the first things I do when looking at a company blog, is examine the blog's comments. Are they getting any, and are the ones they do get being replied to? The bloggers at OpenHouse do a fantabulous job of replying to comments, and joining the conversation. I even noticed one writer replying to a particular commenter and telling her that she always left the best comments. Great stuff. A quick scan showed that the last 10 entries had a combined 46 comments, and every post had received at least 2 comments. That's a great sign of a healthy blog. And to be honest, I think this is one of the biggest advantages of using online evangelists as writers for your blog, because they are more likely to understand blogs, and the importance of reading and replying to comments.
Next we shift to the all-important discussion of the blog's content. You might think that if a company blog is written by customer evangelists, that we shouldn't have a problem with too much self-promotion, but that's not always the case. Customer evangelists are extremely passionate about their favorite store/brand/company and WANT to promote them, and show everyone how great they are. And I think we have a bit of this going on with the writers at OpenHouse. Ideally, the blog would focus exclusively on home furnishings and decorating. But at OpenHouse, there's no shortage of discussion of how one of the writers found an item at a great price at their local HomeGoods, even going so far as to mention how some items were a fraction of the price that competitors charge.
And then there is this snippet I found from the blog's 'Code of Conduct':
Advertisements and Solicitations. Do not post advertisements or solicitations concerning, or market or promote, any business or commercial self-interest. Do not post comments that contain any overt promotional messages from competitive companies.
Uh-oh. It appears that HomeGoods is saying that they can promote their products, but that you can't promote your's. So if one of the writers just gushes about finding an item for $50 at her local HomeGoods, and a commenter points out that Michaels has the same item for $35, will that comment be yanked? Based on the language above, I would guess so. That's dangerous water to tread in, as bloggers get diaper rash VERY quickly when you start censoring their comments.
My advice for the writers at OpenHouse would be to tone down the promotion of HomeGoods products a bit. Some promotion is fine, but overall I think it would be better to have less promotion, and let your readers 'come to you' in terms of trying to learn more about the products. If a reader asks in the comments for more information about a product in a posted picture, then you let them have it, because they have just given you permission to promote HomeGoods' products to them.
Now let's move to the sidebar. From an organizational standpoint, OpenHouse's sidebar is very clean and functional. They have recent posts, categories, archives, and a place to search the blog, and meet the bloggers. And something they add which I think is great, is an area featuring reader-submitted photos of items they purchased from HomeGoods. That is a great way to let satisfied customers promote the chain, and it's on the sidebar, so the promotion isn't intrusive. But they commit the same blogging sin that Kodak did in that they have NO non-company links on the sidebar. There HAS to be some home decorating/furnishing resources on the web that HomeGoods could be linking to. Remember guys, position your blog from the reader's point of view, not yours. Is the reader coming to your blog to learn more about HomeGoods' products, or because they have an interest in home decorating and home furnishings? Assume it's the latter.
Overall, I think OpenHouse is a better than average effort. The writers are all over managing comments, but need to tone down the promotion for HomeGoods a bit. Shift your thinking from discussing great buys at HomeGoods, to more of a discussion about great decorating ideas. Some promotion of HomeGoods' products is fine, but at the same time, don't be afraid to promote a great find at a competitor either. Might seem counterintuitive, but if I see a writer for a HomeGoods blog mentioning a great home furnishing buy at Target, that makes me far more likely to respect and trust that writer.
And again, the promotion is simply evangelists evangelizing HomeGoods. This is what evangelists do. I think the onus falls on HomeGoods to stress to the writers to position OpenHouse as a blog for readers that love home decorating and home furnishings, not as simply home decorating with products from HomeGoods.
And now to the scoring:
Content: 31 (Out of a possible 35) - I'm not a fan of truncated posts, but otherwise the content seems to be perfect, focused on interior decorating, not HomeGoods products.
Comments: 32 (Out of a possible 35) - Not every post receives comments, but the ones that do usually have many, because the writers do an amazing job of replying to comments left by readers.
Posting Schedule: 10 (Out of a possible 15) - The blog averages a new post about every 3 days. Which isn't bad, but sometimes it will have no posts for several days, then 2 in one day. I'd like to see those spread out to close the gaps.
Sidebars: 15 (Out of a possible 15) - Love the pics of the writers and links to their bios. I could quibble about the collapsible menus, but all the features are there either way.
Total Score: 88 (Out of a possible 100)
If anyone from HomeGoods wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me. If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blog and social media consulting services.
UPDATE: Stephanie from Hill-Holiday, the agency that worked with HomeGoods to create the OpenHouse blog, adds in the comments:
...As you’ve noted, we found that there are many HomeGoods shoppers that are really passionate about the brand, and typically share their great finds with family and friends through word of mouth. We thought we’d tap into social computing tools like blogging in an effort to amplify the conversations that were already occurring naturally, albeit offline. We’ve been really pleased with the traction the blog has gotten in the month or so that it has been live. And we are of course indebted to the five fabulous women who agreed to embark on this effort with us, and bring so much fun and energy to the project.
Nother UPDATE: Alli and Cathy, two of the writers for the OpenHouse blog, have also chimed in with their comments.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, HomeGoods, Company Blog Checkup