Help me get to Austin!

One of the first company blogs I profiled in my Company Blog Checkup series was Dell's Direct2Dell. That checkup led to my getting the chance to begin talking to Dell's Digital Media team, as well as Lionel Menchaca and the rest of the company's blogging team.

Those discussions led to Dell extending to me the very generous invitation to join a panel the company has proposed to South By Southwest (SXSW) for next year's festival. The panel will be on The Future of Corporate Blogging. Here's what Dell sees the panel entailing:
A candid discussion about what it takes to be the most relevant and engaging corporate blogs in business. Are corporate blogs relevant? What, if any, will replace this medium? How has and will this medium evolve? A behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to 'feed the machine,' manage (internal and external) expectations, plan for growth, deal with opinionated customers, etc.

As it stands right now, I would be on the panel, along with Dell's chief blogger and Digital Media Manager Lionel Menchaca, and possibly two additional panelists to be named later (again, 'watch this space'). Now here's where I need your help. If this sounds like a panel you'd like to see at next year's SXSW, then please click here and vote on the panel. The majority of the panels that are picked for SXSW will be chosen based on how highly they rank with voters. I think the panel will be a great opportunity to explore where corporate blogging is now, but more importantly, what's in store for the future, and what possibilities this space holds.

And it would also be a great chance to meet as many of you as possible that will be attending SXSW, so hopefully the panel will be approved and I can see you there!


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posted by Mack Collier @ 8:16 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 71

Here's the standings for Week 71:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,757 (-91)(LW - 1)
2 - Gaping Void - 3,636 (-31)(LW - 2)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 2,524 (-7)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,228 (-14)(LW - 4)
5 - Search Engine Guide - 1,151 (-21)(LW - 5)
6 - Diva Marketing - 1,058 (+3)(LW - 6)
6 - What's Next - 1,058 (+6)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 1,026 (-21)(LW - 8)
9 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 783 (-7)(LW - 9)
10 - Influential Marketing - 779 (-4)(LW - 11)
11 - Converstations - 762(-23)(LW - 10)
12 - Church of the Customer - 726 (-8)(LW - 12)
13 - Jaffe Juice - 696 (-7)(LW - 13)
14 - The Viral Garden - 657 (-10)(LW - 14)
15 - Brand Autopsy - 596 (-6)(LW - 15)
16 - Branding and Marketing - 577 (No Change)(LW - 16)
17 - Marketing Roadmaps - 562 (+7)(LW - 18)
18 - Servant of Chaos - 543 (-18)(LW - 17)
19 - Customers Rock! - 531 (+7)(LW - 20)
20 - Conversation Agent - 530 (+7)(LW - 21)
21 - Marketing Headhunter - 521 (-9)(LW - 19)
22 - Coolzor - 495 (-2)(LW - 22)
23 - CK's Blog - 466 (+6)(LW - 23)
24 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 437 (-19)(LW - 24)
25 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 407 (LW - UR)


A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing Blogs are ranked according to the number of sites/blogs linking to each, according to Technorati. The number you see after the blog name is how many sites/blogs Technorati claims have linked to the blog in the last 6 months. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many links the blog gained or lost from last week's Top 25. The final stat tells you what position the blog held in the Top 25 Last Week (LW). If you see this; (LW - UR), it means the blog wasn't ranked last week.

The women bloggers again had their way with the Top 25, as almost every blog that features a female blogger was up. Four of the Top 8 blogs now have female bloggers. But floating under the radar was Influential Marketing, that again moved up a notch, this time to crack the Top 10.

Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog was the lone new entry in this week's Top 25.




Next update is next Wednesday.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 9:22 AM, , View blog reactions




Amazing what you can find when you're not looking for it

I've blogged early and often about how companies are spending more time actively reading and monitoring blogs. A great sign. But there's still no shortage of bad pitches in my inbox every day ('Dear Blogger' and ones from PR firms that invite me to interview their client so I can better promote them are my favs), and some bloggers have even adopted pitch policies.

Above all else, we want to see companies and marketers enter this space the right way. We see everyday the enormous possibilities that exist for companies and marketers that wish to work with bloggers, instead of just viewing us as an avenue to blog about their projects.

Case in point: Chris at Movie Marketing Madness made this incredibly generous offer:
So here’s what I’m thinking: I’ve got 12 Pownce invites that are just sitting there. I’m always encouraging movie marketers to try something new and so I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. So I’m going to create The MMM Pownce Challenge. Here’s how it works:

Up to 12 people responsible for a movie’s marketing campaign can drop me a line (see the Contact Chris page on the left) and I’ll send you an invitation to Pownce AND spend up to 30 minutes on the phone with you working out how you can integrate it into your campaign. That’s an invite and 30 minutes (during my lunch hour) on the phone with a New Media Specialist to figure out if this can work for you. Plus I’ll cover how this works out here on MMM. Any takers?


A day later he posted this:
24 hours later and still no takers on my offer of a Pownce account and help in integrating it into a movie marketing campaign. Remember - this is open to anyone involved in a movie’s marketing efforts. Just drop me a line and I’ll set you up with a Pownce invite and provide a bit of brainstorming help. There is no cost to you so if you feel like experimenting without spending a lot (or any) money this might be just the right thing to satisfy that urge.


Funny what you can miss when you only read a blog when you have a pitch for the blogger, isn't it? There's some movie studios and marketers that are SERIOUSLY leaving money on the table here.


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posted by Mack Collier @ 7:07 PM, , View blog reactions




Q&A with Josh Hallett is live at Marketing Profs

Continuing my series of interviews with some of the presenters/panelists at Marketing Profs B2B Forum, "Driving Sales: What Works, What's New, What Sticks", this week I talk to Josh Hallett. At the conference, Josh will be moderating the Bringing B2B Blogging to the Next Level panel, with the panel consisting of CK, Douglas Karr, Phil Gomes, and Deborah Franke. We talk about maintaining a company blog, how to utilize a blogger-outreach program, and how to use social media effectively. You can read the interview here.

And speaking of conferences and panels, I may have some big news soon, so 'watch this space.'

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posted by Mack Collier @ 11:23 AM, , View blog reactions




Breaking News: Blogging can increase sales!

I was catching up on my feed-reading this weekend, and came across an episode of Diva Marketing Talks that featured Donna-Lyons Miller of Gourmet Station, and Tim Jackson, Brand Manager for Masi Bicycles. A great discussion about the benefits of adding social media to your marketing mix.

But what perked my ears up was when both Tim and Donna discussed how sales at their companies have changed since they started blogging.

Tim reported that: "In the time I've been with the company, within the first two years we have doubled sales. And obviously it would be nice to say that it's all about the blog, because I'm such a blog proponent, but I know that that's been a key ingredient to it, because it's allowed me to reach people."

Donna adds that for Gourmet Station: "Our business is really growing nicely on a very very small marketing budget, and I attribute a lot of that (growth) to the blog. In 06 our growth was 30% and in 07 year-to-date it's 40%."

These quotes got my attention, because it's the validation that companies are looking for from blogs. We can talk all day about how blogging removes barriers, how better understanding your customers leads to more efficient marketing, and how the conversation monetizes itself. But until companies can see proof that blogging increases sales, many of them can't wrap their minds around what the big deal is with blogging and social media.

Ask Donna and Tim, they'll be happy to tell you.

Bonus link: Stormhoek's sales increase five-fold in less than 2 years, thanks to blogging

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posted by Mack Collier @ 5:02 PM, , View blog reactions




Say, what if we tried that 'conversation' thingie?

Christopher points to a great Ad Age article about how companies are starting to rethink how they view social sites from a marketing point of view.

"What's been a challenge is figuring out a model that expands the beauty of social networking," says Debra Aho Williamson, analyst at eMarketer. That's partly because it's easier to buy display ads and sponsorships than to create completely new programs; it's also not exactly clear how to monetize a role as a long-term, relationship-building tool."

Baby steps. You can see that marketers are starting to understand that there MIGHT be a better way, but as the quote above ("it's also not exactly clear how to MONETIZE a role") suggests, companies are still wanting to view social sites/media as simply a potential revenue stream.

Then we have this ray of light:
Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, hopes the roles of Facebook and MySpace evolve into more conversation-monitoring and relationship-nurturing.

"I understand the entertainment dollars are easy, but to be able to come to these brands with a real solution -- not just inventory -- for helping them manage their brands or conversation around their brands is an opportunity," he said.


Bingo. And remember, the conversation monetizes itself.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 8:24 AM, , View blog reactions




Technorati is tracking over 100 million blogs

The blogosphere has reached another milestone. According to Technorati's About Page, the service is now tracking over 100 million blogs, and is adding 175,000 new blogs every day.

Thought for the day: What's your guess on how many blogs Technorati will be tracking a year from now, and how many new blogs will be added every day?

More than 100 million and 175,000 a day? Less?

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posted by Mack Collier @ 12:40 PM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 70

Here's the standings for Week 70:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,848 (-128)(LW - 1)
2 - Gaping Void - 3,667 (-9)(LW - 2)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 2,531 (-13)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,242 (-78)(LW - 4)
5 - Search Engine Guide - 1,172 (-4)(LW - 5)
6 - Diva Marketing - 1,055 (+8)(LW - 8)
7 - What's Next - 1,052 (-4)(LW - 6)
8 - Daily Fix - 1,047 (-4)(LW - 7)
9 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 790 (-18)(LW - 10)
10 - Converstations - 785(-55)(LW - 9)
11 - Influential Marketing - 783 (+2)(LW - 11)
12 - Church of the Customer - 734 (-13)(LW - 12)
13 - Jaffe Juice - 703 (-20)(LW - 13)
14 - The Viral Garden - 667 (-31)(LW - 14)
15 - Brand Autopsy - 602 (-1)(LW - 15)
16 - Branding and Marketing - 577 (+14)(LW - 17)
17 - Servant of Chaos - 561 (-38)(LW - 16)
18 - Marketing Roadmaps - 555 (+20)(LW - 18)
19 - Marketing Headhunter - 530 (No Change)(LW - 19)
20 - Customers Rock! - 524 (No Change)(LW - 20)
21 - Conversation Agent - 523 (+23)(LW - 22)
22 - Coolzor - 497 (-5)(LW - 21)
23 - CK's Blog - 460 (-14)(LW - 25)
24 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 456 (-36)(LW - 23)
25 - Experience Curve - 450 (-26)(LW - 24)


A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing Blogs are ranked according to the number of sites/blogs linking to each, according to Technorati. The number you see after the blog name is how many sites/blogs Technorati claims have linked to the blog in the last 6 months. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many links the blog gained or lost from last week's Top 25. The final stat tells you what position the blog held in the Top 25 Last Week (LW). If you see this; (LW - UR), it means the blog wasn't ranked last week.

Women bloggers unite! The W-List has helped boost many of the female bloggers, as they represent the majority of the moves upward this week. Toby's Diva Marketing had perhaps the most significant move, up 2 notches to #6. Susan Getgood's Marketing Roadmaps continues its comeback with another strong week.

No new members this week, but I would expect the list to become a bit more volatile as we head into the fall, and blogging ramps up. Speaking of which, I want to apologize for the fewer posts here, and comments elsewhere lately, as client/life issues have slowed the blogging down a bit. That should change right after Labor Day, as you'll start seeing more of me here, as well as leaving comments on other blogs!




Next update is next Wednesday.

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Q&A with William Arruda is live at Marketing Profs

In case you've been under a rock this summer, Marketing Profs has a mega-conference happening in Chicago in October. The conference, entitled 'Marketing Profs Business-to-Business Forum, 2007' features a killer lineup of speakers and panelists, including:

David Armano
William Arruda
Paul Barsch
CK
Paul Dunay
Josh Hallett
Douglas Karr
Jonathan Kranz
Andy Sernovitz
Karen Breen Vogel
Roy Young

and many many more...

And the luncheon keynote is none other than Chip Heath, co-author of Made to Stick (which was featured recently in the Marketing Profs Book Club).

As we get closer to the conference, which is October 1st and 2nd, I'll be running a series of intervews on MarketingProfs.com with some of the speakers. First up is William Arruda, who gives us some invaluable advice on how to cultivate and improve our personal brand, which is something we can all improve upon! You can check out the interview here.

Here's the lineup for the event, and if you want to register, here's that info.


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posted by Mack Collier @ 10:13 AM, , View blog reactions




Company Blog Checkups for Everyone!

Earlier this summer, I started the Company Blog Checkup series. Based on the positive response it's generated with readers and companies (including an invitation from Dell to join its media team on a conference call to discuss its blogging strategy), I've decided to offer the Company Blog Checkups as a consulting service. The checkup is available in two forms:

1. - Remote. Here a detailed analysis of your company blog is provided, judging its content, visual appeal, posting schedule, and the ability of your writers to effectively use comments as a tool to provide and encourage valuable feedback from your blog's readers. All analysis is aimed at positioning your company blog to give the reader the best and most relevant experience as possible. After receiving my detailed analysis of your company blog, I provide you with up to one hour of time on the phone to completely explain my report so that you understand all of my findings and recommendations.

2. - On location. With this service, I provide the same detailed analysis of your company blog that I do in my remote service, and then discuss my findings and recommendations with you on-site. The big advantage to this service is that I can work with your writers in-person to coach them on how to create content that readers will respond to. And when your readers do respond, I show your writers how to effectively respond to comments your readers leave. I also demonstrate how you can track what others are saying about your company on their blogs and sites, and how to properly respond to posts and comments they leave.

If you would like more information on either of these services, including a free quote, please email me.


posted by Mack Collier @ 6:08 PM, , View blog reactions




Company Blog Checkup: Turkey Hill

It's summer, we are all fondly recalling the days when the temp was only 98, so what better time to review a company blog about ice cream? Turkey Hill's Ice Cream Journal serves up the scoop on its people and products, but how are the readers responding?

First, I'm not sure who the author is for Ice Cream Journal. Ernie Pinckney, the 'official ice cream taster' has his picture and an 'Ask Ernie' section set up on the sidebar. But all the posts are signed as being authored by 'Turkey Hill Team'. As I've said before, I think that's a no-no, we need to know exactly who is writing a blog's posts, and they need their pic and bio prominently displayed on the blog.

Now let's move to the content. I think the content of the Ice Cream Journal really taps into the potential of a company blog. When you first hear of a company blog for a dairy that sells ice cream, your thought might be 'Ok they'll blog about ice cream, then what?' But Ice Cream Journal not only blogs about its products, but also the people that create the ice cream, where it is created, and the people that buy it. There's posts about diary-farm tours, pictures of Ernie as a toddler, ice cream recipes, and even pictures of reader's pets after enjoying some Turkey Hill ice cream! They also throw in contests and reader polls. Ice Cream Journal taps into a fundamental truth about a successful company blog; it's not about the product, it's about the people. The people that create the product, and the people that buy it.

Ice Cream Journal is all about the comments. The only post I could find from the last two months that had less than 10 comments, was one left yesterday. Many posts have 20 or more comments, and someone from the 'Turkey Hill Team' had replied to almost every post. Often, the blog's authors would either offer to send readers items, or asked them to send pictures of their pets, etc, based on the comments readers were leaving. As always, the number of comments is a great way to judge the strength of the community on any blog, and Ice Cream Journal seems to be doing an excellent job of encouraging and responding to reader comments.

Now let's move to the sidebar. Ice Cream Journal has a section explaining what the blog is, search, and a section for email subscriptions, all at the top of the blog. Then we move down and see a reader poll and a section inviting readers to 'Ask Ernie' their 'technical' questions about the ice-cream creation process. Then we finish with archives by month, categories, and a nice collection of ice cream-related links. Finally, we have a couple of RSS buttons. I think for a company blog, there should also be a section explaining exactly what RSS is, as I would assume that many readers to the average company blog have no idea what the content-delivery system is, or how it could benefit them.

Overall, I really like Ice Cream Journal, and I think it's a wonderful example of why many companies should strongly consider adding a blog to its marketing efforts. The blog has a very vibrant community and connection between blog authors and readers. This connection allows Turkey Hill to not only learn a great deal about its customers (hint: free market research), but it also allows the readers/customers to learn more about Turkey Hill. And let's be honest, there's no shortage of ice cream makers and if you want to pick up a half gallon of french vanilla, you've got plenty of options. But overall, most of us will go with the brand that we know and trust. And the next time I'm on an ice cream run, I'll probably pick up a carton of Turkey Hill's.

And now for the scoring:

Content: 31 (Out of a possible 35) - All ice cream, all the time. The blog even has recipes and advice on curing the dreaded 'ice cream headache'.

Comments: 30 (Out of a possible 35) - Insane number of reader comments, yet few replies from Ernie and Turkey Hill. But most posts still get at least 50 comments, many over a hundred.

Posting Schedule: 13 (Out of a possible 15) - Averaging about 4-6 posts a week, which is excellent.

Sidebars: 13 (Out of a possible 15) - Love the pic and info on Ernie, and notice how the blog has a description for each blog on its blogroll!

Total Score: 87 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from Turkey Hill wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both. 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!



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posted by Mack Collier @ 9:08 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 69

Here's the standings for Week 69:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,976 (-289)(LW - 1)
2 - Gaping Void - 3,676 (-6)(LW - 2)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 2,544 (-32)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,320 (-37)(LW - 4)
5 - Search Engine Guide - 1,176 (+2)(LW - 5)
6 - What's Next - 1,056 (+42)(LW - 8)
7 - Daily Fix - 1,051 (+7)(LW - 6)
8 - Diva Marketing - 1,047 (+29)(LW - 7)
9 - Converstations - 840(-52)(LW - 9)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 808 (-13)(LW - 11)
11 - Influential Marketing - 781 (-25)(LW - 12)
12 - Church of the Customer - 747 (-139)(LW - 10)
13 - Jaffe Juice - 723 (-22)(LW - 13)
14 - The Viral Garden - 698 (-29)(LW - 14)
15 - Brand Autopsy - 603 (-11)(LW - 16)
16 - Servant of Chaos - 599 (-41)(LW - 15)
17 - Branding and Marketing - 563 (+2)(LW - 17)
18 - Marketing Roadmaps - 535 (+44)(LW - 23)
19 - Marketing Headhunter - 530 (+17)(LW - 20)
20 - Customers Rock! - 524 (-23)(LW - 18)
21 - Coolzor - 502 (No Change)(LW - 21)
22 - Conversation Agent - 500 (+3)(LW - 22)
23 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 492 (-46)(LW - 19)
24 - Experience Curve - 476 (LW - UR)
25 - CK's Blog - 474 (-12)(LW - 24)



A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing Blogs are ranked according to the number of sites/blogs linking to each, according to Technorati. The number you see after the blog name is how many sites/blogs Technorati claims have linked to the blog in the last 6 months. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many links the blog gained or lost from last week's Top 25. The final stat tells you what position the blog held in the Top 25 Last Week (LW). If you see this; (LW - UR), it means the blog wasn't ranked last week.

We did slightly better this week, with 8 of 24 blogs up this week. Four of the Top 10 blogs were up, and four of the blogs from 17-25 were up, but the middle blogs were down. Remember that Technorati rolls off links after 6 months, so if a blog's link count is going down, it means it's getting fewer links now than it was back in February. So I think it's quite possible that we are simply in the middle of a 'summer swoon'.

Experience Curve, a longtime Top 25 member, re-enters the list at #24. This comes after Marketing Roadmaps, a charter Top 25 member, re-entered the list last week, and this week smokes it up 5 notches. CrapHammer, Flooring the Consumer, Community Guy, Marketing Hipster, Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog and Marketing Nirvana are all on the verge of cracking the Top 25.




Next update is next Wednesday.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 8:52 AM, , View blog reactions




Music Marketing Madness

If you've read The Viral Garden for any amount of time, you know that one of my passions is discussing music marketing. And ironically, these posts, which are among my favorites, almost always receive little or no comments. They get a few links, but as far as community feedback, there's not much there. But again, I love them, and I guess the blogging lesson here is that you have to provide content that your readers find value in, but you also have to write about YOUR passions as well.

Now that the spontaneous sermon is out of the way...there's several music marketing-related stories I've read recently that I wanted to touch on;

1 - Universal is experimenting with selling DRM-free music online. But perhaps the bigger story is, it won't be via iTunes, but instead through Rhapsody. The 'experiment' will begin next Tuesday, and run through the end of next January. Amazon and Google could be added to the mix, according to HypeBot. HypeBot also has a great quote; "DRM Free Won't Save the Industry, But it Empowers Those That Can".

2 - I've been spending some time with Facebook recently, as I think everyone has. I'm starting to get the hang of the applications, but I still haven't found a music application that I like. I saw that Paul has added a widget from Apple to his blog that shows his iTunes purchases. But what I'd like to do is add an application that will let users preview, download, and BUY the music. Does such an application exist? And what about downloads, would any music that is podsafe be ok for downloading? Several of Nettwerk's artists have podsafe music, as I've blogged before TheDonnasMedia has a boatload of downloadable music from the band. I would think this music would be ok in such a situation, but not sure. I'd like to add music only from labels and artists that support podsafe music, and again, give visitors the ability to buy the music. Anyone know if anythng like this exists? Maybe Terry and Erin can create such a widget for Nettwerk's artists.

3 - If you haven't checked out Christine Kane's blog, start now. And then check out how many comments each post is getting. I think this shows why a blog works so well for music artists; because fans want more contact and exposure to their favorite artists. Christine is able to use her blog not only a promotional vehicle, but perhaps more importantly as an avenue to get to know her fans, and let them get to know her. The blog does a great job of putting Christine on the same level with her fans, and that's very powerful. It converts casual fans into evangelists, and encourages casual readers to become fans. This is a great case-study for using social media to build and excite a fanbase.

4 - Love this quote from newcomer Kate Walsh, who literally recorded an album in her producer's basement and raced to the top of the UK iTunes chart, almost exclusively due to online exposure; "Instead of raising your price and selling fewer albums, reduce it and get more people listening to the music,” she explains. “It makes sense.” Bingo. The quickest way to sell more music, is to expose as many people as possible to it.

5 - A story on how obscure bands are getting their push from blogs. The article, as most MSM entries do, focuses on how exposure via one of the bigger music blogs can catapult an unknown band into the blogosphere's consciousness. But the truly untapped power of the blogosphere as a music marketing tool, is in reaching out to the average blogger with the average readership that is VERY passionate about music. You don't have to target a StereoGum or Pitchfork with a million hits a month. Artists would be MUCH better served to go after music fans that have a few hundred or thousand readers a week. Why? Because unlike the big boys, these bloggers have a vested interest in promoting artists that they are fans of. If I were with the marketing dept with any label, one of the first things I would do is make a list of every blogger that's a fan of the artists I promote, and I would reach out to them ASAP. Doing this is basically empowering evangelists to be themselves. Oh did I mention it's free?


UPDATE: Two of my favorite bloggers, and two of the smartest, Jackie and CK, both blog about control, and giving people your product on THEIR terms, not yours.


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posted by Mack Collier @ 9:33 AM, , View blog reactions




Company Blog Checkup: Annie's Homegrown

Annie's Homegrown has a simple philosophy; Eat Responsibly, Act Responsibly. And from their About page, they add, "From the beginning, Annie impressed upon us the necessity of operating responsibly by giving back to the community. Because if you don't take care of the folks who are taking care of you, everything gets ugly. And anyone who thinks an ugly planet is a healthy planet is a wackadoo." So we should expect that their weblog, Bernie's Blog, would focus on healthy food as well as a healthy environment.

Before heading to the content, an important clarification should be made. Bernie's Blog is a character blog, meaning it is written from the point of view of a character, in this case Annie's mascot, the rabbit Bernie. Character blogs are always a risky endeavor, as some readers find it hard to take the blog seriously, if the company is proposing that a rabbit is authoring the content. Still others can see it completely in line with the brand, and a sign that the company is having fun with itself.

Now let's move to the content itself. A quick glance of the post's recent posts shows Bernie tackling subjects such as global warming, recycling, and organic farming. A good move by Annie's to focus not on its products, but wider issues that readers are concerned about, which are consistent with the company's 'eat responsibly, act responsibly' mission. Also, with almost every post, Bernie makes a point to encourage readers to leave their own thoughts and opinions on the topic that Bernie has raised.

Encouraging comments is a very nice move, but oddly enough, there are very few comments left on the blog. For example, the 10 posts currently showing up on the blog's front page, have a combined 1 comment. This is equally confusing when you consider that the topics being raised by Bernie (recycling, global warming, organic foods), are topics that usually elicit strong opinions from readers, which would in theory lead to more comments. This causes me to wonder if readers are being turned off by the fact that Annie's is presenting the blog as if it is being written by a rabbit. At one point the author even posts a picture of a real rabbit, claiming it is his picture. Bernie's blog appears to be doing everything that USUALLY leads to a steady stream of comments, but for whatever reason, it's not working in this case.

The blog's posting schedule is adequate. It seems that on average, there's a new post up every 2-3 days, which translates into 2-3 posts a week. Ideally I'd like to see 3 posts from Monday-Friday, but 2-3 a week is probably close enough.

Finally, let's move to the sidebar, or in this case, sidebarS. Bernie's blog features a 3-column format which is very difficult to pull off effectively, but the blog looks great. The center column features the posts, and is given plenty of room. This normally results in the outside columns being too narrow, but that's not a problem here. The right sidebar features links to Annie's Homegrown's pages on MySpace and YouTube, which is great. From there we have Bernie's bio, categories, and several environment-related links. Bernie's blog also offers several options for feed subscribers, including email subscriptions. Finally, they offer links to the archives, and an interesting box that features 'Headlines from the Green Blogosphere'. Great stuff.

Now let's move to the left sidebar. This sidebar is mainly reserved for self-promotion, as it includes links to the company, its products, and programs. This is perfectly fine, since Annie's Homegrown did such an amazing job in giving relevant links on the right sidebar. All told, Bernie's Blog does as nice a job in properly utilizing sidebars as any blog featured thus far in the Company Blog Checkup series.

Excluding the lack of comments, Bernie's Blog appears to be a very strong effort. But you simply cannot ignore the fact that readers, for whatever reason, aren't commenting. If Annie's Homegrown were a client of mine, I would suggest they at the very least have a 'real person' start posting on the blog on a regular basis, say one post a week. After a month or two, track how readers have responded to these posts. My hunch is that you'll find that the posts authored by REAL people, as opposed to the company's mascot Bernie, will get a better response from readers. One of the great strengths of blogs is that they allow actual customers to finally have a line of communication with actual members of the company. That builds a level of respect and understanding between both parties. But this is usually made more difficult if the customers are getting the chance to talk to a real person, that's claiming to be a rabbit.

If anyone from Annie's Homegrown wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both.

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 (even if it's your own company's blog), feel free to email me!


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posted by Mack Collier @ 4:20 PM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 68

Here's the standings for Week 68:

1 - Seth's Blog - 10,265 (-64)(LW - 1)
2 - Gaping Void - 3,682(+19)(LW - 2)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 2,578 (-65)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,357 (-19)(LW - 4)
5 - Search Engine Guide - 1,174 (LW - UR)
6 - Daily Fix - 1,044 (+5)(LW - 6)
7 - Diva Marketing - 1,018 (-112)(LW - 5)
8 - What's Next - 1,014 (+6)(LW - 7)
9 - Converstations - 892(-43)(LW - 8)
10 - Church of the Customer - 886 (-5)(LW - 9)
11 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 821 (-9)(LW - 10)
12 - Influential Marketing - 806 (+14)(LW - 11)
13 - Jaffe Juice - 745 (-16)(LW - 12)
14 - The Viral Garden - 727 (-10)(LW - 13)
15 - Servant of Chaos - 640 (-33)(LW - 14)
16 - Brand Autopsy - 614 (-14)(LW - 15)
17 - Branding and Marketing - 561 (+1)(LW - 17)
18 - Customers Rock! - 547 (-9)(LW - 18)
19 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 538 (-74)(LW - 16)
20 - Marketing Headhunter - 513 (-9)(LW - 19)
21 - Coolzor - 502 (-9)(LW - 20)
22 - Conversation Agent - 497 (+4)(LW - 23)
23 - Marketing Roadmaps - 491 (LW - UR)
24 - CK's Blog - 486 (-15)(LW - 22)
25 - Biz Solutions Plus - 474 (LW - 24)


A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing Blogs are ranked according to the number of sites/blogs linking to each, according to Technorati. The number you see after the blog name is how many sites/blogs Technorati claims have linked to the blog in the last 6 months. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many links the blog gained or lost from last week's Top 25. The final stat tells you what position the blog held in the Top 25 Last Week (LW). If you see this; (LW - UR), it means the blog wasn't ranked last week.

Another weak week for the Top 25, with 16 blogs down and only 6 up. It will be interesting to see if this is merely the summer slowdown, or if it continues into the fall. Something I did notice, we hear a lot of talk about how there appears to be more male than female bloggers, but half of the Top 10 now features blogs either written or co-authored by female bloggers.

Speaking of female bloggers, Search Engine Guide debuts in the Top 25 at #5, while charter Top 25 member Marketing Roadmaps rejoins the fun. Last week Jennifer Laycock, SEG's editor and chief blogger, contacted me and wanted to know if I could include SEG in the Top 25. I told her that while I was a fan of her work and thought SEG was there content-wise, I couldn't include SEG because they didn't allow comments. A short while later she emailed me back to let me know that SEG had changed the format to enable comments, so now they're in!

CrapHammer, Experience Curve, Flooring the Consumer, Community Guy, Marketing Hipster, Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog, Tell Ten Friends, and Marketing Nirvana are all on the verge of cracking the Top 25.




Next update is next Wednesday.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 8:55 AM, , View blog reactions




Eight Steps to Creating a Successful Online Community

My latest premium article is up at Marketing Profs, entitled 'Eight Steps to Creating a Successful Online Community'(membership required). Based on the emails and amount of traffic referrals I was getting this morning, I had a feeling that the article was being well-received. Then this afternoon, Marketing Profs' Managing Editor Val Frazee emailed me to let me know that MP's Customer Service team had emailed her the following:
The phone is ringing off the hook today, and email support traffic is high. It's all from people who want to access today's Premium article.


Glad everyone is enjoying the article, and if you're a Marketing Profs premium member, please check it out!

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posted by Mack Collier @ 4:35 PM, , View blog reactions




10 Ways You Can Use Feedburner to Improve Your Blog

Back in February I noticed something interesting; my daily feed readers had caught my daily traffic. That got my attention, so I started spending a lot more time analyzing my feed statistics, and a lot more time analyzing Feedburner. I quickly found that Feedburner has a ton of great features that every blogger should be using to deliver, optimize, and track their content.

1 - Burn a feed. Just sign up for a free account, give your feed a name, (http://feeds.feedburner.com/YourBlogName) and there you go. And once you burn your feed.....

2 - Add subscriber buttons to your site. You can add a generic RSS button, or choose from dozens of others such as ones for Google Reader, Netvibes, Bloglines, etc. Just pick the button you want, your blogging platform, and Feedburner gives you the HTML code! And readers are more likely to subscribe if you offer a button for the reader they are already using and familiar with, so it helps to give your readers a few options here.




3 - Track your subscriber stats. This is where the fun starts! Feedburner lets you see how many people are reading your feed each day, where they are coming from, what browser they are using, what type of feed reader they used, and many other stats. One advantage is that you can tell which feed readers your readers are using to access your feed. For example, I started out having just a generic Feedburner chicklet, plus one for Bloglines. But I started tracking my feed stats, and noticed that many people are also accessing my feed by reading it through Google Reader, Netvibes, and NewsGator, so I added buttons for those readers as well.


4 - Consolidate your feed tracking if you have a Blogger/Blogspot blog. If you have a Blogspot blog, this is big news. Feedburner has added the ability to redirect all your blog feeds to the one you burn with FeedBurner. The advantage to doing this is that you can get a much more accurate view of how many subscribers you have, and how they are reading your content. I did this a few weeks ago and my reported number of daily feed readers almost doubled. FeedBurner's blog has the skinny on how to make the switch.

5 - Give your readers the ability to subcribe to your feed via email. This is a great way to give your readers another option for receiving your content. Many people that are interested in getting your feed in their inbox probably aren't able to read your blog on a regular basis, and want to use the email option to stay up to date. FeedBurner offers a handy little form you can add to your blog, and then lets you see exactly who is subscribing to your feed via email, and how many times the feed is being read each day via email. I added this back in April, and am now up to around 35 subscribers. Doesn't sound like a ton, but over a month's time, that's over a thousand times my feed is being read via email that might not have otherwise. As always, the more options you can give your readers to let them read your content on THEIR terms, the better.

6 - Track your visitors and site stats. Feedburner also lets you track how many visitors your blog is getting and where they are coming from. Just add some simple code to your blog's template, and you are good to go. The package isn't exactly the most robust I've ever seen, but if you just want to get an idea of how many people are visiting your blog and want content they are looking at, this does the job just fine. Also, Feedburner just made several of its stats services free, that they previously charged for.

7 - Add Feed Flares. These are great to give your feed a level of interactivity with your readers. You can add flares that display how many comments the post has, how many Technorati links, let your readers email you, etc. Flares are also available to let readers add your post to Del.icio.us, Facebook, Digg, and other social sites.



8 - Put a Headline Animator in your emails and on your blog. This is a neat little feature that you can add to your emails and blog that gives your blog's name and scrolls the title to your latest posts, with a link to them. It also has a subscriber button for the feed. I haven't started using this feature yet, but it seems like a great way to promote your posts in your email sig.






9 - Track item use. This lists you see how many times your posts are being viewed, and how many times readers are clicking through to the blog. As with other stats, you can customize it to look at daily, weekly, monthly, and all-time results. A good way to see how popular your posts are, and could suggest which ones readers want to click on to read the comments.

10 - Link/Photo splicer. This service lets you send links you have added to bookmarking sites such as Del.icio.us, and photos from sites such as Flickr. Both your bookmarks and photos will be merged with your blog feed.

The bottom line is that Feedburner has so many great features that they are bound to offer some that any blogger can find value in. And their recent acquisition by Google has already brought about some great changes for bloggers. If you're ready to get serious about optimizing your blog's feed, Feedburner has all the tools you'll need.

PS: If you want to subscribe to The Viral Garden's feed, just click here!


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posted by Mack Collier @ 6:58 PM, , View blog reactions




Company Blog Checkup: Fiskars

As I've said before, I salute companies that are bold enough to create a blog for their evangelists. Fiskars, a company that produces crafting, school, and home products, went a step further, and gave their crafting and scrapbooking evangelists a name; The Fiskateers. And then they gave them their own website, and blog.

I normally like to start with the content, but let's instead start with the first thing you see when you arrive at the Fiskateers' blog; its header. In this case, the header includes pictures of the four Fiskateers that write for the blog; Stephenie, May, Cheryl and Holly. Also, when you click on each picture, you are taken to a bio for that author, including some of their likes and dislikes, as well as their tastes in crafting and scrapbooking. The header is large but not overbearing. A very good start.

Now let's move to the content itself. The Fiskateers put the focus squarely on crafting and scrapbooking projects and ideas, which is perfect. And more than that, the authors spend time relating their experiences while creating their projects, which is another way to make it easier for readers to find value in the post, and a way to join the conversation. There is some promotion on the blog, but it is totally natural, as the authors will simply tell their readers about an exciting product or website they have found. Some of these products are from Fiskars, but many aren't.

The Fiskateers do an excellent job of posting regularly. In fact, the authors post almost everyday, and usually have 2-3 posts a day. This is another reason why letting evangelists write for your blog is a good move. Because evangelists, by definition, are passionate, and if you take people that are passionate about a subject, they are more than likely going to post more often about that subject. But I don't like the fact that The Fiskateers' blog is set up to truncate posts. What's even more confusing is that many of the posts are only a few sentences, and clearly don't need to be shortened, but are anyway.

Something else I noticed about the posts is that the blog occasionally features a 'guest' blogger, as it appears that The Fiskateers occasionally invite regular readers to post. Also, the authors hold frequent 'giveaways' for their readers, based on the stories they share, etc. Nothing major, but a great way to show readers that their feedback is appreciated, and the readers appear to love these contests.

Now let's move to comments. First, every post I saw had comments. And many had 20 or 30, even 50 or more comments. This is obviously a telltale sign of a blog that has a vibrant community. What IS confusing to me though, is that none of the authors appear to be replying to comments on the blog. If Stephenie, May, Cheryl or Holly read this, please give us some information on your policy toward comments. It could be that the authors are emailing readers instead of leaving comments.

Finally, let's look at the sidebar. If there's a weak spot to The Fiskateers' blog, this is probably it. The only links are to Fiskateers-related areas. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's plenty of room for craft and scrapbooking-related sites and blogs. I'm sure some of the many commenters have blogs that could be linked to from the sidebar. And there's no RSS options on the sidebar. I would add some buttons, and probably a section explaining exactly what RSS is. I will say that the blog is set up so there is a link to subscribe to each author's feed at the end of their post. Very nice touch.

Just reading the posts and the comments left on the blog tells you all you need to know about the blog's effectiveness. The readers that comment are obviously huge fans of the writers, and the content. There's an obvious connection between the writers and readers, and that's a big reason for the vibrant community that The Fiskateers are enjoying. The bottom line is that this is the best example I have ever seen of a blog written by evangelists, and in many ways one of the best examples of creating a vibrant online community. If your company is blogging or considering starting a blog, The Fiskateers blog is a great example of the type of excitement and community you should be striving to create.

And now for the scoring:

Content: 31 (Out of a possible 35) - Content is focused on scrapbooking and crafting, with minimal direct promotion of Fiskars' products.

Comments: 32 (Out of a possible 35) - Every post seems to get comments, many get dozens.

Posting Schedule: 15 (Out of a possible 15) - Averaging well over a post a day, with postless days being a rarity.

Sidebars: 11 (Out of a possible 15) - Absolutely in love with the writers having pics and links to excellent bios on the blog's header. There's also archives and categories in the header, but the siderbars themselves are a bit bare.

Total Score: 89 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from Fiskars or one of The Fiskateers wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both.

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 (even if it's your own company's blog), feel free to email me!



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posted by Mack Collier @ 2:51 PM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 67

Here's the standings for Week 67:

1 - Seth's Blog - 10,329 (-50)(LW - 1)
2 - Gaping Void - 3,663(-16)(LW - 2)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 2,643 (-39)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,376 (-21)(LW - 4)
5 - Diva Marketing - 1,130 (-9)(LW - 5)
6 - Daily Fix - 1,039 (-41)(LW - 6)
7 - What's Next - 1,008 (-3)(LW - 7)
8 - Converstations - 935(-55)(LW - 8)
9 - Church of the Customer - 891 (+1)(LW - 9)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 830 (-25)(LW - 10)
11 - Influential Marketing - 792 (+6)(LW - 12)
12 - Jaffe Juice - 761 (-26)(LW - 11)
13 - The Viral Garden - 737 (+94)(LW - 14)
14 - Servant of Chaos - 673 (-26)(LW - 13)
15 - Brand Autopsy - 628 (-4)(LW - 15)
16 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 612 (-5)(LW - 16)
17 - Branding and Marketing - 560 (-34)(LW - 17)
18 - Customers Rock! - 556 (+7)(LW - 18)
19 - Marketing Headhunter - 522 (No Change)(LW - 20)
20 - Coolzor - 511 (-7)(LW - 22)
21 - CrapHammer - 508 (-41)(LW - 18)
22 - CK's Blog - 501 (+1)(LW - 23)
23 - Conversation Agent - 493 (LW - UR)
24 - Biz Solutions Plus - 489 (LW - UR)
25 - Flooring the Consumer - 480 (-40)(LW - 21)


A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing Blogs are ranked according to the number of sites/blogs linking to each, according to Technorati. The number you see after the blog name is how many sites/blogs Technorati claims have linked to the blog in the last 6 months. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many links the blog gained or lost from last week's Top 25. The final stat tells you what position the blog held in the Top 25 Last Week (LW).

As for this week, it was fairly timid, with 17 blogs down, and 9 of the Top 10. Past the Top 10, Influential Marketing continues its methodical march up, moving up another notch this week. A sizable gap has developed between #18 and the rest of the Top 25. The final 7 spots are pretty tight though, with only 42 links separating the rest of the countdown. For the record, all of the Top 25 is ranked as being within the top 8,000 blogs on the internet, again according to Technorati.

Congrats to Conversation Agent and Biz Solutions Plus for both breaking into the Top 25 for the first time. Community Guy, Marketing Roadmaps, Marketing Hipster, Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog, Tell Ten Friends, Marketing Nirvana and Shotgun Marketing are all on the verge of joining them.




Next update is next Wednesday.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 8:55 AM, , View blog reactions