Why free works

The other night on Twitter, Tara mentioned that she was going to TED this week. I must admit that a few days ago, my knowledge of exactly what TED is was sparse at best. I knew it was some sort of conference, I remember seeing Katie gushing about it before, but that was about all I knew.

So I decided to check out the conference's site, and get some more information. Apparently, it costs $6,000.00 to attend! Are you kidding me?!? I later found out from Tara that she was attending a simulcast of it in Aspen, Colorado for HALF that! What the hell?!?

But I also noticed how Tara mentioned that she had been looking forward to attending TED for at least a year now. Something was definitely up.
Then I found this: The TED Talks section. For the next day, I downloaded and viewed probably close to a dozen of the talks, soaking in all the knowledge.

And now I want to go to TED too. Thanks to an evangelist(BTW check out the goodie bag Tara got at TED, yowza!) and a lot of FREE content, I have gone in a couple of days from not believing that anyone would pay $6,000.00 to attend a conference, to hoping I can next year.

The thing is, TED could easily charge a premium membership to have access to the TED Talks. But instead, they give these fascinating presentations away, and they become promotional tools for the conference itself.

This is why free works. When you make your knowledge and ideas as easily accessible as possible, you win. Don't think of how you can monetize your knowledge, think of how you can share it.

Social media is a great enabler when it comes to free. It can change the way you look at the world, and as the latest TED talk below shows, possibly even the universe (RSS readers, you can view the presentation HERE).






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posted by Mack Collier @ 11:36 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 96

Here's the standings for Week 96:

1 - Seth's Blog - 8,693 (+66)(LW - 1)
2 - Search Engine Guide - 1,993 (+34)(LW - 2)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 1,249 (+425)(LW - 6)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,210 (-5)(LW - 3)
5 - Daily Fix - 1,106 (-1)(LW - 4)
6 - Brand Autopsy - 812 (-7)(LW - 5)
7 - Influential Marketing - 713 (No Change)(LW - 7)
8 - Jaffe Juice - 692 (+11)(LW - 9)
9 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 680 (-14)(LW - 8)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
11 - What's Next - 626 (-11)(LW - 11)
12 - Conversation Agent - 573 (-19)(LW - 13)
13 - The Engaging Brand - 572 (-31)(LW - 12)
14 - The Viral Garden - 566 (-6)(LW - 15)
15 - Diva Marketing - 564 (-23)(LW - 14)
16 - Six Pixels of Separation - 549 (+4)(LW - 16)
17 - Converstations - 439 (-3)(LW - 17)
18 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 411 (+8)(LW - 19)
19 - Servant of Chaos - 395 (-5)(LW - 18)
20 - CK's Blog - 375 (No Change)(LW - 21)
21 - Experience Curve - 365 (-12)(LW - 20)
22 - The Lonely Marketer - 353 (-14)(LW - 22)
23 - Every Dot Connects - 345 (-12)(LW - 24)
24 - Chaos Scenario - 331 (-8)(LW - 25)
25 - Branding and Marketing - 308 (-20)(LW - 23)


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 top 3 blogs had big weeks, after that, the rest of the Top 25 was pretty blah this week. Most blogs were down, but many only shedded a handful of links. It's worth noting that Jaffe Juice moved up another notch this week, to #8. I think #7 is the highest that JJ has ever been, so the blog is doing pretty well right now. Past the Top 10, the #12-16 blogs have created a tight band, with only 24 links separating the blogs.

No new blogs in the Top 25 this week, with Customers Rock! and Brains on Fire just missing the cut.




Next update is next Wednesday.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 9:46 AM, , View blog reactions




Is it enough to just add a blog?

Jason Falls tweeted a couple of days ago that Rupp Arena is now on Twitter. The interesting part is that the Twitter account comes after Rupp Arena just launched a blog for the site as well. So it appears that the facility decided to launch the blog AND Twitter account at the same time.

I think this is the beginning of a trend as businesses are now starting to experiment with social media and realizing that it doesn't begin and end with a blog. I hope to hear Mario and Lionel to talk more about this at SXSW, but I'm encouraged to see businesses playing with these tools to see what is out there. At the same time, it worries me to see some businesses that are still almost oblivious to the very tools that their competitors are using to alter their cultures and change the way their very business functions.

Just like a blog, Twitter isn't a necessity for every business, but I do think that every business should use every tool available, social or otherwise, to discover what their customers are saying about them. With that comes a better understanding of the tools themselves, as well as the customers. But being a disinterested bystander is no longer a viable option, if it ever was.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 11:26 AM, , View blog reactions




SXSW news and PARTAY info!

First, SXSW has finally set our panel time and updated their website. The panel I will be moderating on The Future of Corporate Blogging will be on Tuesday the 11th at 10:00 am. It includes myself along with Dell's Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca, LinkedIn's Community Evangelist Mario Sundar, and Communication Overtones' Kami Huyse. The entire schedule for the Interactive panels is now up here. There will especially be some kick-ass panels on the future of music and music marketing on the 11th.

Now, onto the parties. Jackie gave me a heads-up about the Weirdly Wired Party at SXSW on the 9th. I am going to try my best to make this one as it has a pretty impressive list of confirmed attendees, and is growing quickly. I RSVPed last night when it had 125 confirmed guests, now it has 222. It will also be at the Austin City Limits studio, which is very cool.

But I can DEFINITELY confirm that I will be at the Conversation Starters on the 10th at the Iron Cactus. Here's the description:
Over drinks and appetizers, you'll have a chance to share ideas with a number of people who have volunteered to start conversations: Shel Israel, Robert Scoble, Jeremiah Owyang, Charlene Li, Chris Heuer, Mack Collier and Lionel Menchaca, as well as several Federated Media authors.

Yeah, I have no idea what they were thinking letting me get involved in this either. And I've heard from several other top bloggers that will be there as well, and if you want to attend, make SURE you go here and register as soon as possible as SPACE IS LIMITED!

Now all I need to do is find a kick-ass party for the 11th. I'm working on that, any ideas?

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posted by Mack Collier @ 8:54 AM, , View blog reactions




The secret behind why evangelism makes good marketing sense

I love this quote from Maker's Mark CEO Bill Samuels on why his company wanted to reach out and empower their evangelists(emphasis added):
We enjoy talking to our customers one-to-one. It really is in our nature. We never worry about the fact that this is inefficient because we are only talking to 50 or 60 or a thousand or ten thousand instead of a million. Which you do when you try to slap everybody on the ass with an advertising message. Because we know that our next customers are going to come from their efforts, not from our efforts.



Bonus Link: Becky tells us how Fallen got an evangelist for life.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 10:51 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 95

Here's the standings for Week 95:

1 - Seth's Blog - 8,627 (+23)(LW - 1)
2 - Search Engine Guide - 1,959 (+69)(LW - 2)
3 - Logic + Emotion - 1,215 (+1)(LW - 3)
4 - Daily Fix - 1,107 (-1)(LW - 4)
5 - Duct Tape Marketing - 824 (-1)(LW - 6)
6 - Brand Autopsy - 819 (-7)(LW - 5)
7 - Influential Marketing - 713 (-14)(LW - 7)
8 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 694 (-19)(LW - 8)
9 - Jaffe Juice - 681 (+19)(LW - 9)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
11 - What's Next - 637 (-10)(LW - 11)
12 - The Engaging Brand - 603 (-6)(LW - 12)
13 - Conversation Agent - 592 (-17)(LW - 13)
14 - Diva Marketing - 587 (-15)(LW - 14)
15 - The Viral Garden - 572 (-4)(LW - 15)
16 - Six Pixels of Separation - 545 (+9)(LW - 16)
17 - Converstations - 442 (-7)(LW - 17)
18 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 403 (+8)(LW - 19)
19 - Servant of Chaos - 400 (+3)(LW - 18)
20 - Experience Curve - 377 (-3)(LW - 20)
21 - CK's Blog - 375 (No Change)(LW - 21)
22 - The Lonely Marketer - 367 (+6)(LW - 22)
23 - Every Dot Connects - 357 (No Change)(LW - 24)
24 - Branding and Marketing - 328 (-30)(LW - 23)
25 - Chaos Scenario - 339 (+3)(LW - 25)


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 Top 25 treaded water this week, taking a half-step back after being strong for the first couple of weeks in Feb. Search Engine Guide had another big week and seems to have entrenched itself in the #2 spot. Jaffe Juice also keeps its upstreak alive with another solid week. It seems that Technorati has put Church of the Customer and CK's Blog in the sandbox, as neither have been updated in the past few weeks. It's interesting to note that all of the Top 19 blogs on the list have at least 400 links. Pretty impressive.

No new blogs in the Top 25 this week.





Next update is next Wednesday.

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




How to market in a world of friends and friendlies, when you are neither

Look at the above picture, and see if you can spot the marketer.

A - The singer on stage?

B - The crowd?

Or is it really secret answer 'C', the singer AND the crowd?

Everyone is a marketer. The singer is creating a product for the customers that paid for it. But notice that the crowd is whipping itself into a frenzy, and they are feeding off each other's excitement. And the excitement has spilled back onto the stage, where the singer has her arms in the air, mimicing the audience.

Everyone belongs to the same community.

I thought of this example this morning when I ran across this post from Kami. She tells how her HP suddenly needed to be replaced, and how she reached out to Dell's Richard Binhammer for advice. Richard then drove to his local Best Buy and called Kami from the sales floor walking her through which model she could get from her local Best Buy.

Then I realized that I am constantly bumping into Richard online, in many of the same places that I am, such as here on my blog, on Facebook, and even on Twitter. And through all our interactions, I cannot remember a single time when Richard has directly promoted a Dell product to me.

IOW, Dell has become a part of my community. Be it on here, on Facebook, or on Twitter, Richard, as a Dell representative, is using these same tools in the same ways and for the same reasons that I am.

This is the key to how marketers can thrive online using social media and social networks. You have to use these tools in the same ways and for the same reasons as we do. If you're a marketer, this is how you can meet friendlies, and convert them into friends. In fact I'd say it's likely the only way.

PS: In a weird sort of way, I am tired of writing about how well Dell is doing in reaching out to and engaging bloggers. Tired because I keep waiting for other companies, especially their competitors, to follow suit. I want to write about someone else for a change. But as Marianne points out, at least one of Dell's competitors is totally missing the social media boat.

Pic of The Donnas via Flickr user tatu43

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posted by Mack Collier @ 3:04 PM, , View blog reactions




Friends, friendlies, and why I like Twitter better than Facebook


Chris Brogan has come up with a great term for all those people that you know on places like Twitter, Facebook, and even MySpace, the people that you know of, that you share some information with, but that aren't yet your friends.

Chris calls them 'friendlies'.

This also reminds me of Kathy Sierra's idea that the success of an app lies in how quickly it can move its users past the 'I Suck' threshold. Likewise, I think the success of a social app or site depends on how well it helps us convert friendlies into friends.

I've had plenty of 'friendlies' on MySpace, on Facebook, and on Twitter. But these days, Twitter is the only site that I spend any time with. I cancelled my MySpace account months ago, and now barely access my Facebook profile on a weekly basis. But I use Twitter almost daily.

Originally, I was very excited about Facebook. The biggest reason why, was the belief that Facebook would help me better connect and build connections with all these 'friendlies' I have, so that they could become my friends.

But I found out that Facebook, at least for me, didn't really work well in converting friendlies into friends. But Twitter does. Probably because it has interaction built-in. Where Facebook is built on sharing information, Twitter is built on exchanging it. It's built on conversation, and that leads to stronger connections which help convert friendlies into friends.

If I were building a new social app/site/network, I would focus on how quickly and easily it allows friendlies to come together and become friends.


Pic via Flickr user PhototPJ

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




We've hit the Blogger Social Red-Zone!

We're down to the final 48 hours of registration for Blogger Social! This event was already shaping up as THE must-attend event of the year, but as we wind down to the final hours there are now over sixty people attending! And just in the last few days several of the top bloggers and marketers on the net have signed up, such as Cam Beck, Mike Sansone, Ryan Karpeles, and Jennifer Laycock! I just checked and there are now bloggers from SEVENTEEN of the Top 25 Marketing Blogs attending! Are you kidding me?!?

Registration ends on Friday for this once-in-a-lifetime event. And keep in mind that if money and/or time is tight, you can sign up for either the Friday or Saturday events only.

Here's the lineup so far:
Susan Bird
Tim Brunelle
Katie Chatfield
Terry Dagrosa
Matt Dickman
Luc Debaisieux
Gianandrea Facchini
Mark Goren
Gavin Heaton
Sean Howard
CK
Valeria Maltoni
Drew McLellan
Doug Meacham
Marilyn Pratt
Steve Roesler
Greg Verdino
CB Whittemore
Steve Woodruff
Paul McEnany
Ann Handley
David Reich
Tangerine Toad
Kristin Gorski
Mack Collier
David Armano
Ryan Barrett
Lori Magno
Tim McHale
Gene DeWitt
Mario Vellandi
Arun Rajagopal
Joseph Jaffe
Rohit Bhargava
Anna Farmery
Marianne Richmond
Thomas Clifford
Lewis Green
Geoff Livingston
Kris Hoet
Connie Reece
CeCe Lee
Toby Bloomberg
Seni Thomas
Darryl Ohrt
Joe Kutchera
Paul Dunay
Marshall Sponder
Chris Kieff
Tara Anderson
Jason Falls
Paul Soldera
Roberta Rosenberg
Saul Colt
Todd Andrlik
Nathan Snell
Ryan Karpeles
Mike Sansone
Jennifer Laycock
Neil Vineberg
Cam Beck
Mike Arauz
John Rosen

Ready to register? Of course you are, so click here!

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posted by Mack Collier @ 7:05 PM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 94

Here's the standings for Week 94:

1 - Seth's Blog - 8,604 (-996)(LW - 1)
2 - Search Engine Guide - 1,890 (+49)(LW - 2)
3 - Logic + Emotion - 1,214 (+51)(LW - 4)
4 - Daily Fix - 1,108 (+50)(LW - 5)
5 - Brand Autopsy - 826 (+53)(LW - 6)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 825 (-1,003)(LW - 3)
7 - Influential Marketing - 727 (+58)(LW - 8)
8 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 713 (+25)(LW - 7)
9 - Jaffe Juice - 662 (+31)(LW - 11)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 9)
11 - What's Next - 647 (+25)(LW - 12)
12 - The Engaging Brand - 609 (-23)(LW - 10)
12 - Conversation Agent - 609 (+31)(LW - 14)
14 - Diva Marketing - 602 (-7)(LW - 13)
15 - The Viral Garden - 576 (+34)(LW - 15)
16 - Six Pixels of Separation - 536 (+20)(LW - 16)
17 - Converstations - 449 (-1)(LW - 17)
18 - Servant of Chaos - 397 (+3)(LW - 18)
19 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 395 (+55)(LW - 22)
20 - Experience Curve - 380 (+49)(LW - 23)
21 - CK's Blog - 375 (No Change)(LW - 19)
22 - The Lonely Marketer - 361 (+41)(LW - 25)
23 - Branding and Marketing - 358 (-14)(LW - 20)
24 - Every Dot Connects - 357 (+11)(LW - 21)
25 - Chaos Scenario - 336 (+6)(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 very strong week for the Top 25, with 17 blogs up, and only 6 down. It should be noted upfront that both Seth's Blog and Duct Tape Marketing had huge losses, which I assume given that both blogs lost around a thousand links, are more Technorati-hiccups than reality. Also, both The Church of the Customer and CK's Blog have had no change in their link counts in a few weeks, which I assume is also a Technorati glitch. Among the up moves, Jaffe Juice again finds the Top 10 after a lengthy absence. At the other end of the Top 25, both Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog and Experience Curve had big up moves, both jumping up three notches.

No new blogs in the Top 25 this week.





Next update is next Wednesday.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 9:04 AM, , View blog reactions




Social Media Stunner: Blogging Music Fans Really CAN Increase Music Sales!

Almost two years ago at BMA, I had a 'brainstorm' post that centered on the idea of music labels finding their blogging fans, and giving them a free copy of their favorite artist's CD. That idea later led to '100 CDs for 100 Bloggers'.

The idea was simple: Take an artist that's about to release a CD, the example I used was The Donnas, and find 100 of their fans that have a blog. Offer to send these blogging fans a copy of the soon-to-be released CD, if they will agree to review the CD on their blog(no I'm not crazy about saying that you have to review the CD in order to get it, but that was added to make the idea more appealing to control-hungry labels). The 'catch' was that the artist, in this case The Donnas, would take an hour or two and personally sign and inscribe every CD to the fan they are sending it to.

My guess was that the average blogging fan of The Donnas was already thrilled to be getting the new CD from the band, but when it arrived and they discovered it was autographed, they would go positively apeshit, and immediately blog not only about the CD, but the promotion itself. My guess was that this would result in a TON of positive exposure in the blogosphere for the CD, right before it releases. The probable impact that would have on sales was pretty easy to guess.

I had a few music labels contact me wanting to discuss how it would work, even had Marc Fisher from The Washington Post reference '100 CDs for 100 Bloggers' on the site:
Music blogs are coming up with ever more creative ways to replace the record store clerk--Mack Collier's 100 CDs for 100 Bloggers idea is an encouraging sign that music blogs may yet prove to be supportive of the recording artists
But in the end, no label I talked to ended up following through on the idea, and I quite frankly got tired of trying to convince them that this idea would work. Hell anyone that understands how ideas travel in the blogosphere could see it was a slam-dunk winner.

Well now it seems there is research to back up the theory that blogging music fans can increase music sales of their favorite artists.

Researchers at New York University's Stern Business School charted the number of blog posts about a new CD release for a month before and a month after its release to see if blog posts about a new CD release had any impact on sales.

The report, entitled 'Does Chatter Matter?', tracked the sales of 108 CDs and discovered that there was a positive correlation between number of blog posts, and sales. Not earth-shattering, but here's more precise findings.

According to HypeBot, a new CD release that had at least 40 blog posts about it in the month leading up to release, enjoyed sales that were 400% higher than those for the average release.

A new CD release that had 250 or more blog posts about it in the month leading up to its release enjoyed sales that were 600% higher than those for the average release.

The study also found that blog posts about a new release affected sales more than how many 'friends' the artist had on MySpace. The study attempts to explain why blog chatter matters:
Our hypothesis is that blogs and social networks matter independently for the following reasons. First, we believe that a considerable amount of effort goes into writing good blogs, and their authors feel passionate enough about the topic to spend the time writing and sharing them with others. Readers recognize good blogs and pay attention to them. Secondly, while blogs are largely unfiltered, some blog sites tend to have more authority than others. In other words, reputation helps them attract traffic that is in turn influenced by their content.


This is Social Media Marketing 101: Find your evangelists online that are already using social media tools, and empower them to market for you. Maybe a few labels will actually be smart enough to try it out, now that the research backs up the theory.

But I ain't gonna hold my breath.

Pic of Velvet Revolver via Flickr User Edvill

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posted by Mack Collier @ 5:53 PM, , View blog reactions




Should Erin Esurance meet her fans?

Yesterday I referenced Chris' post about how he felt Esurance wasn't using social media and networking to properly leverage the growing popularity of its character Erin Esurance. Fans of Erin are blogging about her, and even dressing up as the character that's part super-agent, part insurance-agent.

But as Chris pointed out, Esurance seems to be in no hurry to reach out to the company's evangelists and citizen-marketers:
Correct me if I’m wrong here but doesn’t the fan site show that there is a lot of interest and goodwill out there for Erin Esurance? I seems me that a little bit of work on the part of Esurance and they could solidify a very loyal fan base and become a cult classic.


This sentiment was echoed in the comments left by Kristin Brewe, Esurance’s Director of Brand & Public Relations:
Our approach is a bit different than what you would like to see for Esurance for 3 important reasons (and they’re slightly inter-related too):

1) fan commitment
2) category constraint
3) our views on corporate and social

In terms of fans, we’re generally pretty happy when people make tributes to the character we’ve created and developed. (Admittedly, there’s some weird stuff out there, but with the Internet, that would happen no matter how many friends we have on MySpace. To any marketers who think they’re in control of a brand once you’ve launched a related meme in the public sphere in the Internet age, “Forget about it.”) The countless people who submit storylines, make art, write songs, create mash-ups, dress up as Erin, and contribute their creativity are what our brand’s all about. So making sure that we inspire public creativity is our main job, in terms of the social network side of things. (And that’s in addition to other important jobs, like sales.)

Within our category, we are more constrained than other businesses as a financial services provider, even though we have pushed the boundary a bit on the standard financial services image. For example: We can’t necessarily do auto-adds on MySpace, without vetting our friends personally. (e.g., Does any company want to find out that their company was friends with someone featured on “To Catch a Predator?” Doubtful.) Personally vetting friends on an app like MySpace takes time, and as one of the comments pointed out, that’s a resource, which can be hard to come by in any environment, but particularly a high growth one. I saw some great ideas above about being an expert on insurance, and also about having Erin engage in experiential marketing. Unfortunately on the first count, giving insurance advice is tough, as the product’s regulated, with strict rules about what can and cannot be said by whom. And, if we just went the experiential route without the insurance, it might be a dialogue that was slightly inappropriate for an auto insurance company to engage in. Those would obviously both be very doable if we were in cosmetics, however.

Which brings me to point #3– the appropriate factor for corporate/social. What’s appropriate in a social setting may not be appropriate in a corporate context, and vice versa. One of the reasons people have created social networks is to escape advertisers and mass messages. Though an anti-corporate vibe permeates our culture, it is more concentrated in online communities. People want to have dialogues with the circles they define, rather than have that intruded upon. Companies relentlessly pursue consumers (a word I hate, as it’s so passive!), and they perpetually invent ways to hide from us advertisers. Rather than continuing to push, shout, and chase, perhaps we advertisers should listen to that message and back off a bit, providing people with content that they can choose to peruse and adapt and mold so that, if and when they do decide to contribute to a brand’s meaning, that’s authentic, rather than merely something we paid for (an inauthentic connection). To us, that’s a social network, in the truest meaning of both words.


First, this comment sounds more like a prepared statement. Second, it seems that Kristin is saying that 'we have people out there that are promoting us for free, so why rock the boat?'

But do a Google Blog Search for 'Erin Esurance' and see what comes up. Notice that HALF of the results on the first page (sorted by date) are reactions to Chris' post. All bloggers wanting to know why Esurance is ignoring them. And all of this happened in the last week. One blogger has managed to trump a whole lot of evangelists that Esurance is all but ignoring.

Now let's revisit the selected comments that I quoted yesterday from Kraft Senior Brand Manager Ericka Gettman, who discussed Kraft's decision to start blogging in support of a product launch:
This was/is honestly about three people who feel passionate about their product and wanted to do something different to talk about it. We're more than happy to engage in dialogue here or any other forum. For real....Anyhow, definitely appreciate all the advice and support relative to our foray into blogging. We totally agree with the notion that a blog shouldn’t be a one-time deal, rather a continuous conversation. We started our Love My Philly blog last fall and the intent is to keep on blogging with people that are just as passionate about cream cheese as we are...I’m proud that Kraft has been supportive of our various initiatives and allowed us to experiment a bit. Only a sign of good things to come!!

To me, Ericka's comments have a completely different tone than Kristin's. From reading this, I get the sense that Kraft is willing to take chances and see what is out there with social media. And I sense that this was her honest opinions pecked off in a few minutes on a laptop, not a 'prepared statement'.

But on the flipside, what could Esurance do to embrace its fans? Granted, some of the 'media' being created around Erin Esurance definitely isn't something you'd want to see/discuss around the family table. Still, Esurance can always tap into the 'fun' side of their ads and Erin. Why not encourage fans of Erin to send in pics of them dressed up as the character, so they can put them on their website? Better yet, why not have meetups for fans of Erin where they can come dressed up, or have an artist draw them alongside Erin, and while there, also get some insurance advice from pros there. Hell better still, have the people giving advice ALSO be dressed up as Erin Esurance. Why not?

The point is, Esurance's customers are having fun with the brand, why can't Esurance return the favor? Doing so is an EXCELLENT way of showing your fans that you ARE listening, which makes it more likely that you'll gain even more fans.

Saying that 'the customer is in control of the brand' is great, but you have to follow through on the words. Erin's fans are telling Esurance that they like their branding, and think it's hip and fun. Now it's up to Esurance to tell their fans that they hear them.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 11:37 AM, , View blog reactions




And I heard 'em say...

Recently representatives from Kraft and Esurance have chimed in on a couple of blogs with their thoughts on blogging, social networking, and what role companies should play in these areas.

First, here's some of the comments that Kraft Brand Manager Ericka Gettman left to my recent Daily Fix post about Kraft's latest foray into blogging:
This was/is honestly about three people who feel passionate about their product and wanted to do something different to talk about it. We're more than happy to engage in dialogue here or any other forum. For real....Anyhow, definitely appreciate all the advice and support relative to our foray into blogging. We totally agree with the notion that a blog shouldn’t be a one-time deal, rather a continuous conversation. We started our Love My Philly blog last fall and the intent is to keep on blogging with people that are just as passionate about cream cheese as we are...I’m proud that Kraft has been supportive of our various initiatives and allowed us to experiment a bit. Only a sign of good things to come!!


And now these selected comments from Kristin Brewe, Esurance’s Director of Brand & Public Relations, left to this post by Chris about how Esurance isn't doing as much as they could to build social media/networking efforts around the popularity of its character Erin Esurance:
Our approach is a bit different than what you would like to see for Esurance for 3 important reasons (and they’re slightly inter-related too):

1) fan commitment
2) category constraint
3) our views on corporate and social

In terms of fans, we’re generally pretty happy when people make tributes to the character we’ve created and developed. (Admittedly, there’s some weird stuff out there, but with the Internet, that would happen no matter how many friends we have on MySpace. To any marketers who think they’re in control of a brand once you’ve launched a related meme in the public sphere in the Internet age, “Forget about it.”) The countless people who submit storylines, make art, write songs, create mash-ups, dress up as Erin, and contribute their creativity are what our brand’s all about. So making sure that we inspire public creativity is our main job, in terms of the social network side of things. (And that’s in addition to other important jobs, like sales.)

Within our category, we are more constrained than other businesses as a financial services provider, even though we have pushed the boundary a bit on the standard financial services image. For example: We can’t necessarily do auto-adds on MySpace, without vetting our friends personally. (e.g., Does any company want to find out that their company was friends with someone featured on “To Catch a Predator?” Doubtful.) Personally vetting friends on an app like MySpace takes time, and as one of the comments pointed out, that’s a resource, which can be hard to come by in any environment, but particularly a high growth one. I saw some great ideas above about being an expert on insurance, and also about having Erin engage in experiential marketing. Unfortunately on the first count, giving insurance advice is tough, as the product’s regulated, with strict rules about what can and cannot be said by whom. And, if we just went the experiential route without the insurance, it might be a dialogue that was slightly inappropriate for an auto insurance company to engage in. Those would obviously both be very doable if we were in cosmetics, however.

Which brings me to point #3– the appropriate factor for corporate/social. What’s appropriate in a social setting may not be appropriate in a corporate context, and vice versa. One of the reasons people have created social networks is to escape advertisers and mass messages. Though an anti-corporate vibe permeates our culture, it is more concentrated in online communities. People want to have dialogues with the circles they define, rather than have that intruded upon. Companies relentlessly pursue consumers (a word I hate, as it’s so passive!), and they perpetually invent ways to hide from us advertisers. Rather than continuing to push, shout, and chase, perhaps we advertisers should listen to that message and back off a bit, providing people with content that they can choose to peruse and adapt and mold so that, if and when they do decide to contribute to a brand’s meaning, that’s authentic, rather than merely something we paid for (an inauthentic connection). To us, that’s a social network, in the truest meaning of both words.

I want to comment on this more in a post tomorrow, but a couple of things struck me about the tone and what was said from both Kristin and Ericka. Granted, I didn't republish everything that each person said, so you can read Kristin's full comments here, and Ericka's here.

But just from reading these comments, do you see anything significant about the responses? I see a few stark contrasts, and was wondering if anyone else spotted the same things I did, or something else that I missed. Like I said I'll touch on this more tomorrow, but was interested in your thoughts.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 10:02 AM, , View blog reactions




Great example of using bloggers in a promotion

I'm a big fan of promotions where everyone clearly benefits. I think ooVoo has come up with just such an idea, with their 'My ooVoo Day With...' promotion. Jaffe explains that ooVoo is a Crayon client that offers video chat with up to 6 people at once.

To get the word out about the video-chat capability of ooVoo, Crayon has created the 'My ooVoo Day With...' promotion. What will happen is there will be slots set aside for up to 6 vloggers/podcasters/bloggers to participate in each chat. Scott has a list of the people that have signed up so far, and it's a pretty impressive list of many of the top social media movers and shakers. People like Chris Brogan, Jaffe, Steve Hall, Geoff Livingston, Susan Reynolds and Connie Reece.

Now obviously, ooVoo wants to make sure that the influencers have access to their video chat, so they can play with it, and hopefully talk about it and encourage others to use it. But the vloggers/bloggers/podcasters that participate also get something back. ooVoo has agreed to donate $1,500 to the charity of the host's choice. I asked Jaffe via Twitter about this and he said that ooVoo is looking to donate more than $20,000 to charity, and it all may be pooled to help blogger Susan Reynolds in her fight against cancer via the Frozen Pea Fund.

This is a great idea, because everyone clearly wins. ooVoo wins because they will get their product in the hands of the influential people in the social media space. The vloggers/podcasters/bloggers involved benefit because if they host a chat, another $1,500 is donated to charity. And the fact that ooVoo is willing to donate to charity also benefits them with additional publicity, like this very post.

This taps into a fundamental truth of successful marketing, especially online: If your audience can CLEARLY see the benefit to them, your efforts are much more likely to succeed.

If you want to participate and host a chat and see another $1,500 go to charity, check out Jaffe's blog for more details.

UPDATE: Scott clarifies in the comments that ooVoo will donate $1,500 to charity for each HOST, not participant. Sorry about the confusion.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 8:33 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 93

Here's the standings for Week 93:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,600 (+243)(LW - 1)
2 - Search Engine Guide - 1,841 (+59)(LW - 3)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 1,828 (-1)(LW - 2)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,163 (+15)(LW - 4)
5 - Daily Fix - 1,058 (+3)(LW - 5)
6 - Brand Autopsy - 773 (+12)(LW - 6)
7 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 688 (+22)(LW - 8)
8 - Influential Marketing - 669 (-3)(LW - 7)
9 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 9)
10 - The Engaging Brand - 632 (-2)(LW - 10)
11 - Jaffe Juice - 631 (+7)(LW - 11)
12 - What's Next - 622 (+6)(LW - 12)
13 - Diva Marketing - 609 (-6)(LW - 13)
14 - Conversation Agent - 578 (-5)(LW - 14)
15 - The Viral Garden - 542 (+11)(LW - 15)
16 - Six Pixels of Separation - 516 (+8)(LW - 16)
17 - Converstations - 450 (No Change)(LW - 17)
18 - Servant of Chaos - 394 (+11)(LW - 19)
19 - CK's Blog - 375 (No Change)(LW - 21)
20 - Branding and Marketing - 372 (-46)(LW - 18)
21 - Every Dot Connects - 346 (LW - UR)
22 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 340 (-5)(LW - 22)
23 - Experience Curve - 331 (+5)(LW - 24)
24 - Chaos Scenario - 330 (-47)(LW - 20)
25 - The Lonely Marketer - 320 (+5)(LW - 25)



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 strong week for the Top 25 with 13 blogs up, and 8 down. Seth's Blog had another big week, and Search Engine Guide overtook Duct Tape Marketing as the #2 blog. In fact 6 of the top 7 blogs were up, which is always a good sign. The end of the Top 25 continues to tighten, with only 55 links separating the final 7 blogs.

Every Dot Connects re-enters the Top 25 this week at #21.





Next update is next Wednesday.

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posted by Mack Collier @ 7:19 AM, , View blog reactions




Marketers and bloggers dish their 'best kept secrets'

Anita Campbell and Ivana Taylor have compiled a wonderful list of 'marketing secrets' from some of the world's best-known marketers and bloggers. People like Seth Godin, Jackie Huba, Drew McClellan, John Jantsch, Liz Strauss, Yvonne DiVita and twenty other experts, and they also let me speak my peace. The post has a ton of great marketing and blogging advice, and already has over 70 comments.

But I must protest at having my thunder completely stolen. Here's my 'secret':
Success in blogging is dependent upon having a built-in direct benefit to others. For example, many companies want to approach blogging as a way to sell products to customers. But blogs don’t work well as a direct-selling channel. The key is to first provide a benefit to readers by creating content and community that offers them value. By giving readers a direct benefit, the company then benefits indirectly by seeing sales increase as a result of their blogging efforts. But if the company instead tries to directly promote themselves, readers will see no value in this, and the blog will die.

And IMMEDIATELY under this is Guy Kawasaki's secret, which is "Do the opposite of what bloggers think you should do." Ugh, I can't win!

Seriously, I really appreciate Anita and Ivana letting me participate in this project and you really should stop by and check out the post, as well as the comments!


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posted by Mack Collier @ 7:27 AM, , View blog reactions