Technorati: Blogs are mainstream

Last week it felt like 2006 all over again, as Technorati issued a massive State of the Blogosphere update. While this is the first update on the state of the blogosphere from TRati in what seems like a couple of years, it had a ton of interesting stats and conclusions.

One of the first assertions TRati makes is that blogs are now mainstream. And I can't argue with them.

TRati cites several sources on blogging and blog readership, including a recent eMarketer study that claims that monthly blog readership among the US internet population reached 50% last year. I referenced this same study in my Blogging for Business session at last week's SBMU, and eMarketer went on to predict that monthly blog readership would hit 67% of the US internet pop by 2012. If eMarketer is correct, right NOW over half the people in the United States that are on the internet, are reading blogs on a regularly basis, and by 2012, two out of every three people will be.

As far as demographics, TRati's findings seem to be more or less in line with what I've seen from other sources. The majority of bloggers are male, are affluent, and a much higher percentage of Millenials and Gen Xers are reading and writing blogs, than other age groups.

Other key findings:

But for companies, I think the case for investigating a move into the blogosphere becomes increasingly compelling. Blog readership and growth are BOTH slated to grow by 33% over the next 5 years, and as the above findings show, the vast majority of bloggers are already using blogs as a channel to discuss companies and brands.

Customers are increasingly moving to blogs to create and participate in conversations about companies and brands. Why wouldn't these companies and brands want to become an active participant in these conversations?


posted by Mack Collier @ 10:23 AM, , View blog reactions




Blogger Campaign Case Study: HP's 31 Days of the Dragon

I'm really surprised that this has gotten more attention, but Hewlitt-Packard recently published some incredible results for its recent '31 Days of the Dragon' blogger promotion for its HDX Dragon laptop. Here's the claimed results:


What HP did was give an HDX Dragon laptop to 31 bloggers, letting each one give away the laptop to its readers, in a week-long contest. Each day, a new blog started a new week-long contest. HP's PR firm contacted me about the program's results just as I was leaving for SBMU, so I didn't have time to get much info from them about the promotion, but they did answer a couple of questions for me:

Q - How did you determine which bloggers to reach out to? Did you go by perceived traffic or a certain niche, etc?

A - The 31 bloggers that were selected to participate in the program are widely known as influencers of the online community. By teaming with Buzz Corps, an Austin-based influencer marketing agency, we were able to interact with these selected bloggers on a level that surpassed a superficial business relationship. Buzz Corps’ established relationships were able to provide us with the opportunity to engage the bloggers on a more intimate level.

We worked with Buzz Corps to choose sites or blogs of all sizes– some with several million readers and others with a narrow, more focused approach. All of the bloggers we worked with had great content and were written by influential people. In fact, key considerations for Buzz Corps in identifying these influencers included that they kept up with several hundred products and services a year, had huge followings, and their readers trust their posts, reviews and recommendations.

Working with Buzz Corps allowed us to leverage their existing relationships to introduce bloggers and their communities to HP and the HDX Dragon system and, ultimately, initiate a conversation around the Dragon system. We were pleased with how successfully we were able to engage the online community and enter the social media space through conversation and getting the online community directly involved with all aspects of the product and campaign.


Q - Love the fact that you have numbers to back up the campaign's success, as this is what my readers are telling me they want, case studies where ROI can be quantified. But how did you measure an 84% increase in sales, and 10% overall? Specifically, how does this track back as being a direct result of your campaign to target influential bloggers? Also, how did you measure the 14% increase in site traffic?

A - Our number one means of tracking results came in sales and we reported the sales and site traffic numbers through month-over-month data from hpshopping.com. We set out to sell the HDX Dragon, a flagship product that wasn’t selling 9 months after it’s launch. This campaign drove people to hpshopping.com to look at the HDX Dragon more closely. Another interesting result that came from the campaign was the lasting traction that we garnered-- not only did these results break sales records, but participating sites saw a steady increase in traffic as much as 5x following the 2 months after the "31 Days of the Dragon" contest ended.

Additionally, we tracked well over 380,000 links on Google using the exact phrase “31 Days of the Dragon” with no media spend and the estimated collective reach is well in excess of 49 million from the 31 participating sites, reciprocal links and other sites covering/mentioning the giveaway since its inception. By taking these numbers to the lowest common denominator, we’re able to provide good, hard, honest numbers.


Apparently, none of the bloggers were paid to participate in this promotion, but due to the high retail price of the laptop ($4,500-5,000), Buzz Corps did make a payment to the winners to help them offset the taxes they will have to pay for receiving the laptop.

Overall, the results are very impressive, but not shocking to those of us that are active in this space. What I would like to see HP do next is use the success of the '31 Days of the Dragon' promotion as incentive to develop stronger ties with bloggers, especially the company's blogging evangelists. It's great to boost awareness/sales by giving stuff away, but simply taking the time to create and cultivate relationships with bloggers and blogging customers can work wonders as well.

Congrats to HP on a very successful blogger promotion. Let's hope this success leads to blogger outreach initiatives from here.

I am a social media consultant that helps companies utilize blogs and social media as a way to connect with their customers, and grow their businesses. If you would like to learn more about how I can help you do the same, click here for an overview of the services I provide, click here for my bio, and if you have any questions, feel free to email me.


posted by Mack Collier @ 8:37 AM, , View blog reactions




Attention Social Media 'experts', we need to stop pontificating, and start teaching


Back in March, I attended my first South by Southwest, and honestly loved the conference. The main reason why I loved the event was because I got to meet so many people that I had connected with in the blogosphere and other social circles. I was warned beforehand that 'you don't go to SXSW for the panels, you go for the people', and that assessment was spot-on. There were hundreds of panels, and I could really only find 10 or so that seemed even slightly interesting. And the panels themselves seemed to be little more than a group of social media 'rockstars' giving their opinions on a topic in a very large room, then after an hour it ends, everyone moves outside, where the 'rockstars' hob-knob with each other, and the rest of us mingle.

But a month later, I attended the first SBMU. And the difference in the two events couldn't be more glaring. Speakers actually attempted to TEACH attendees how to use marketing and social media tools. Speakers actually interacted with attendees. Speakers didn't use the event as a way to promote themselves, they used their time to educate and inform. When sessions ended, the hallways were lined with speakers firing up their laptops and working with attendees to help them with their website/social media/branding issues. Meeting a Chris Brogan or Pistachio is (and was!) great, but that look of sincere appreciation in the eyes of a small business owner when they say 'Thank you for taking the time to explain this to me!' is priceless.

And it caused me to change the way I think about which conferences I will be attending and speaking at, moving forward. It's no coincidence that the three conferences I'll be speaking at this fall, are all heavy on teaching. I specifically wanted to speak at SBMU-Columbus, the Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, and Learn About Web, because all three events are run by people that understand that it's not about putting 'rockstars' on stage, it's about teaching people how to use these tools to grow their businesses. It's about creating the session topics first, then picking the speakers. Not bringing in 'rockstars' and telling them they can speak about whatever they want, if that's what it takes to get them to agree to come.

Remember guys, it's not about us, it's about everyone else. We talk about how social media is all about sharing and connecting, so do we really mean that? Do we spend our time teaching, or do we spend it trying to be 'seen' with the 'right people'? I fear that many companies are getting the impression that the best way to use social media, is to use these tools in the exact same way that Scoble and Jeremiah Owyang do. That everyone is a bleeding-edge early adopter, and that they have to know every new social site/tool immediately. That's partly our fault, because instead of investing time to actually TEACH these companies how to use these tools, many of us are busy following around the A-Listers as well. Not every business should be blogging and on Twitter. But every business SHOULD know enough about these tools to decide for themselves which ones, if any, they should be using. We should be spending more time educating these businesses on what these tools are, and how to use them properly as a channel to communicate and connect with their customers.

Let's stop being 'broadcasters' and stop worrying about being 'rockstars', and spend more time sharing our knowledge and helping others that want to use these tools. Many of us are doing this already, but as a whole, I think we can, and should be doing more.

What do you think? When you go to marketing/social media conferences, do you go to learn, or to meet your favorite bloggers? Let me know what you think, I've only been to a few conferences, but this is the impression I have gotten from the ones I have been to, and from talking to others that have attended other events.

I think social media conferences should be focusing more on teaching and sharing knowledge, and less on 'rockstars' and chasing A-Listers. Agree or disagree?

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for a TON of great comments, like this one from Geoff Livingston: "Besides expertise is best honed by teaching others. Frankly, you learn more that way." Exactly.


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




SBMU promises big, delivers bigger

After being lucky enough to have gotten to attend and speak at both Small Business Marketing Unleashed conferences, I can give three reasons why this conference is so amazing:

1 - A wonderful learning environment

2 - A ton of fun activities

3 - Zero egos

As with the first SBMU earlier this year in Houston, SBMU-Columbus was a complete blast. For two days, we covered the marketing spectrum, from email marketing, SEM/SEO, branding, viral marketing, and blogging/social media. What I really love is that we had every level of expertise as well, from experts to novices. So everyone learned something. Personally what I loved is that this wasn't like many conferences where you had social media/marketing 'experts' pontificating to each other, you got the chance to talk to business owners that are actually USING these tools. It's great to talk theory, but I love connecting with people that are using social media RIGHT NOW to grow their company.

And from a social media/blogging point of view, I was interested in seeing how the attitudes of the SBMU attendees to this one differed from the ones in Houston back in April. In Houston, I was honestly a bit surprised to find that everyone was curious about blogging. In Columbus, my Blogging for Business session was practically SRO. And the questions showed that the curiosity was moving toward 'how can I make this work for my business?' David Wallace has an excellent recap of my session at Search Engine Guide. In April it seemed that many knew that blogging was important, but not sure why. The attendees in Columbus were starting to figure out that blogs were important, and many had already launched their blogs and were starting to see results. Great signs indeed. Also another interesting tidbit; Jennifer Laycock said that roughly 40% of the attendees at SBMU, came from Twitter. And the conference seemed to be about twice as big as the first SBMU. I would suspect that the next SBMU in Spring of 2009 will sellout, based on how well-received this one seemed to be by attendees. Sidenote: At one time on Monday, the term 'SBMU' was the second most-popular term on Twitter.

As for the conference itself, Day One was organized around sessions that explained 'why this stuff is important', while Day Two was organized around workshops that explained 'here's how you get started using what we talked about on Day One'. And what I love about SBMU is that all the speakers attend each other's sessions/workshops. So I am doing a session on Blogging for Business, designed to help small businesses understand how blogs could benefit their business. So I am speaking to people that are new to these tools, but I also have bloggers such as CK, AmberCadabra, Jennifer Laycock, and BethHarte in attendance. So they help contribute to the content of the session as well.

And Robert and Jennifer, when organizing the event, put in plenty of chances for the attendees to network, and have fun. There were networking lunches both days, as well as a dinner on Day One. They also added a special Speed Networking event at the nearby COSI that wasn't officially part of SBMU, but many speakers and attendees were there, and proceeds benefited COSI. Of course, Monday night's dinner was a blast, with good food, good conversation, and an Aussie losing at Jenga! Bottom line is that SEG did a great job of creating an atmosphere that was fun for the attendees, and this just makes it that much easier for us to connect with each other, and that means we learn more.

Seriously guys, I keep going on and on (and on) about SBMU because it really is a wonderful event and I want to meet you at the next one, which is tentatively set for next Spring in Houston. For the price, it is an absolute steal. Everything about the event is positioned with small businesses in mind. It's inexpensive, it stresses learning and how-to, over speeches. Everyone is accessible, in fact all the speakers go out of their way to tell you to let them know if they can help you with anything. In fact, the reason why I haven't gotten this post up quicker, was because I have been furiously attempting to answer email questions from SBMU attendees. And I love doing it! The gang at Search Engine Guide did a stellar job with SBMU-Columbus, and I cannot wait for the next one! Those of you that I met this week, it was so glad to see you, and those of you that couldn't make it, go ahead and start planning on making the next one, trust me, it will be SUCH a huge benefit for your business!

BTW a huge pat on the back to Jason Falls, who spent last weekend at Blog World Expo, and couldn't attend SBMU. Finally, after seeing Beth Harte, AmberCadabra and myself constantly yammerin' on about how amazing SBMU would be, told us that if we would get a gang together and meet him for dinner, that he'd DRIVE from Louisville to Columbus to meet us on Tuesday night. So that's what he did, and we had a freakin' blast. Jason, David Alston, Amber, Beth, Sage Lewis, Wayne Smalls, CK and myself capped a wonderful 2 days by having an impromptu Tweetup in Columbus. And thanks to David for taking some great pics, here's his set for the Tweetup.

To everyone I met at SBMU, to Vicki, Robert, Rachel and Jennifer for organizing SBMU, and to Jason for driving freakin' 6 hours in one day to meet for our Tweetup, thank you. All of you made this week a truly great one for me. Let's do it all over again in April!



Flickr pics via DavidAlston, Sage Lewis, SmallBusinessSEM.com and jackiebaker330.


posted by Mack Collier @ 12:56 PM, , View blog reactions




Blogging Workshop links

Hello Columbus! I'll be mentioning several blogs, tools and sites in my Blogging Workshop on Tuesday, and here are the links so that you can check them out for yourself!

Monitoring Tools:

Google Blog Search

Technorati (add your blog/site's URL minus http:// to track links to your blog/site, ex: http://www.technorati.com/blogs/YOURSITEURLHERE)

Twitter Search

Bloglines


Examples of blogging platforms:

MasiGuy's blog

LinkedIn's blog


HomeGoods' OpenHouse Blog

Starwood Hotels' The Lobby


Examples of blogs with great content:

NewCastle Square Realty blog

Patagonia's The Cleanest Line blog

Innocent Drinks' Daily Thoughts blog


Examples of blogs that do a good job with comments:

Life of a Farm blog

Turkey Hills' Ice Cream Journal blog


Examples of blogs that have strong posting schedules:

Kodak's A Thousand Words blog

The Fiskateers Blog

Graco's Blog


Examples of blogs with good sidebar elements

Corner Violin Shop

Wal-Mart's Checkout Blog


Tracking blog traffic/subscribers

SiteMeter

FeedBurner


Sites you can use to grow your blog traffic

Twitter

Twitter Packs

Twitter Local

Twellow

Plurk

Plurk about asking Plurk members if there are small business uses for Plurk

LinkedIn's Q&A section

Friendfeed


posted by Mack Collier @ 8:46 AM, , View blog reactions




Blogging for Business session links

Hello Columbus! I'll be mentioning several blogs, tools and sites in my Blogging for Businss session on Monday, and here are the links so that you can check them out for yourself!

Stats on current and projected blog readership and creation from 2007-2012.

Breakdown of which age groups are reading blogs and blogging on a weekly basis.

Information on Graco's blogging strategy and the results they have seen. Graco's blog.

Newcastle Square Realty's blog.

Avis' UK Blog.

Dell's Direct2Dell blog.

MasiGuy's blog.

Tim's Plurkshop on how companies can use social media to connect with their customers.

Toby Bloomberg's profile of Tim's social media/blogging efforts with Masi.

MediaHunter's interview with Tim about Masi's marketing efforts.

Link to recent case study I did with the ROI for Tim's social media marketing efforts for Masi.


posted by Mack Collier @ 5:40 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - 122

Here's the standings for Week 122:

1 - Duct Tape Marketing - 225,000 (+2,000)(LW - 1)
2 - Church of the Customer - 214,000 (+2,000)(LW - 2)
3 - CopyBlogger - 42,648 (+2,576)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 12,237 (-63)LW - 4)
5 - Chris Brogan - 8,749 (+244)(LW - 5)
6 - Influential Marketing - 7,031 (+344)(LW - 6)
7 - Daily Fix - 6,053 (+4,959)(LW - 23)
8 - Jaffe Juice - 5,047 (LW - UR)
9 - Logic + Emotion - 3,569 (+2)(LW - 7)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 3,233 (+14)(LW - 8)
11 - Converstations - 3,148 (+62)(LW - 10)
12 - The Viral Garden - 3,080 (-6)(LW - 10)
13 - What's Next - 3,047 (-82)(LW - 9)
14 - Experience Curve - 2,823 (+15)(LW - 12)
15 - Conversation Agent - 2,756 (-11)(LW - 13)
16 - Techipedia - 2,297 (-25)(LW - 14)
17 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 2,088 (No Change)(LW - 15)
18 - Emergence Marketing - 1,821 (No Change)(LW - 16)
19 - The Social Customer Manifesto - 1,695 (+55)(LW - 17)
20 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 1,612 (+8)(LW - 18)
21 - Techno Marketer - 1,410 (+23)(LW - 19)
22 - Social Media Explorer - 1,349 (+30)(LW - 20)
23 - Spare Change - 1,274 (No Change)(LW - 21)
24 - Movie Marketing Madness - 1,267 (-1)(LW - 22)
25 - Customers Rock! - 797 (-50)(LW - 24)


The Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs are ranked according to the number of subscribers, according to FeedBurner. The number you see after the blog name is how many subscribers accessed the blog's feed, according to FeedBurner. FeedBurner (and I had to look it up to make sure) tracks the number of times your blog's feed is accessed, and matches it against the IP address of the computer making the request, to approximate the number of subscribers that access your feed, and report this as the number used in the Top 25. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many readers 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.

Fourteen blogs up this week with 7 down. Compared to last week's 13 up and 8 down, that's a good sign. Also strength at the top, as only one blog in the Top 10 was down. It seems that the Top 8 positions are pretty much locked down for the near future, but #9-15 could see plenty of shuffling in the coming weeks.

Jaffe Juice cannonballs back into the Top 25 this week at #8, making Joseph the lone new entry. Shotgun Marketing, Biz Solutions Plus and Every Dot Connects just missed the cut. Remember if you want to have your blog be considered for inclusion in the Top 25, make sure you add the Feedburner feed count chicklet to your blog.

BTW posting here will be very lax the rest of this week, and next week. I'm knee-deep in preparing for SBMU, so that and client work is making Mack a very busy boy right now. But I will get back in the swing when I get back from SBMU, which of course will be amazing, and I hope I can meet some of you there!




Next update is next Wednesday.


posted by Mack Collier @ 9:24 AM, , View blog reactions




Sitemeter does bad, then good with site redesign


Sunday morning I woke up to discover that I couldn't log-in to my SiteMeter account. The site wouldn't accept my password, and said it had no record of my username, email address, or password. I also noticed that the 'look' of the site was different.

Something was definitely up. So I decided to go to Twitter and see if anyone else was having a problem logging in. I went to Twitter search and put in 'SiteMeter' to see what the Twitter community had to say about SiteMeter.

And they had a BUNCH to say!

Apparently, SiteMeter sometime late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, rolled out a 'redesigned' version of their site. And Twitter users were NOT happy. Screen after screen of search results greeted me from Twitter users reporting also having difficulties logging in. Those that could, were horrified at the changes that SiteMeter had made. Many were stating that they either were going to dump SiteMeter, or had already. I tried for almost two hours to log-in to my SiteMeter to view the trainwreck for myself, before finally giving up.

But later that afternoon, I decided to try SiteMeter again. I was greeted by a message stating that the site was down because it was in the process of rolling back to the PREVIOUS version. Apparently, SiteMeter had heard the same sea of complaints about the 'new' version that everyone else had. Then on their blog, they issued an apology that stated that:

Our intention is and has always been to offer you, our customer’s better tools and more accurate data. Obviously we fell short of this. The first thing we need to do, moving forward, is to roll out new product releases in parallel to our current platform. This will give everyone a chance to try out, evaluate, and comment on our new concepts.

We would also like to take this opportunity to ask those of you who had issues or concerns with the new site to participate in future beta testing. We had originally asked for Beta Tester in two of our newsletters sent earlier this year so we’re eager to build our beta group even larger. If you’re interested in participating please send us an email using our support ticketing system with BETA TESTER in the subject line of your email.

In the near term we’ll be evaluating the performance issues and feedback from our community. If you have additional input that would help us build you a better product we’d like to hear from you.

We apologize for the botched rollout and will do our best to make sure the next time we do this it has your full support and blessing.


And as you can see here, the tone became decidedly more positive after users began to realize that SiteMeter had not only rolled back to the previous version, but had apologized.


Also, it appears that SiteMeter began using a Twitter account during this turmoil, another good sign. Which again points to how vitally important it is for companies to monitor what is being said about them online. If SiteMeter was monitoring Twitter when the site redesign rolled out, and it appears they were, then they could instantly get a feel for the feedback coming from users that were getting their first look at the new site. And they could immediately see that the response was overwhelmingly negative. They could see users announcing that they were leaving.

Interesting sidenote; I've been finalizing the content for my Blogging Workshop at SBMU, and I decided that I wanted to give attendees a quick overview of a few tools such as SiteMeter, for tracking blog traffic. But if the redesign had stayed, it meant I would have had to change my workshop to expose the attendees to another stat-tracking site besides SiteMeter, due to their changing their site and the information they track. But since SiteMeter rolled back, I can now show attendees how to use the site, and I feel more comfortable evangelizing it to attendees, based on how they listened to, and responded to their users.

This is why I keep telling companies that negative feedback left about your company is an opportunity! SiteMeter's users were telling the site that they had better do something fast, or they were going to lose them. If SiteMeter had ignored their users, today their userbase would likely be significantly smaller, with many of those users likely going to a competitor such as StatCounter. But since they listened and ACTED on the feedback from their users, they likely won most if not all of them back, and they look better for listening.

Well done SiteMeter, good job of salvaging what could have been a very bad situation.


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




Company Blog Checkup: Starwood Hotels

The first thing that you notice when you arrive at Starwood's The Lobby blog is how absolutely gorgeous it is. And I think they have done an excellent job of capturing the 'blogsite' look that seems to be popular now. Just stunning.

Ok now that I've calmed down from my gushing, The Lobby is a blog devoted to Starwood Hotel's Preferred Guest loyalty program. As always, two ways to focus the blog's content; on the program itself, or on the customers that the program is aimed at. The Lobby does the latter, by serving as a travel resource for visitors. The blog offers posts on local attractions for locales all across the globe. It also gives us advice on dining, as well as 'offbeat' attractions. There is some promotion involved as the blog occasionally talks about specials running at certain hotels that it operates, but I think that would be content that visitors to The Lobby would be interested in, and could aid them in planning their next trip.

I think as a whole, the content of The Lobby is pretty solid. It seems to be devoted mainly to the places that customers would be traveling to, which is fine. However, I would like to see a few more 'how-tos' and 'tips' type posts. Like stuff that you need to pack for an overseas trip, or preparations you need to make before traveling to Australia (or China, or Egypt, or...). There may be some of these posts on the blog, but I would like to see them spotlighted with their own tab at the top of the blog, as the other categories are.



Now, let's move to the comments. Almost no posts have any. This is always curious when you have a blog that's producing solid content, but has no comments. My guess is that the writers are spending little, if any, time on other social sites interacting with their visitors. It appears that Starwood is not on Twitter, that would be a good place to start. For the writers of The Lobby blog, I would make a list of the places where you think your customers might be spending their time (Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, message boards), and start interacting with them there. That will make it easier for them to find you, and my guess is you'll start to see more readers leaving comments, as a result. As always, the best way to grow your blog, is to leave it.

Now let's move to the posting schedule, and I also think we get a better idea of why many posts aren't getting comments. There's just too damned many posts! It appears that The Lobby is organized around 4-5 main 'topics', and is attempting to post a new post about EACH topic EACH weekday! The result is having 3-5 new posts up every weekday! Yowza! It's great to have new content constantly posting to the blog, but what happens is that each post is only 'new' on the blog for an hour or two, then it's bumped down the blog by the latest entry. So that means that it doesn't have as much of a chance to be noticed by readers.

For example, as I'm writing this post, I've left just 3 posts on here in the last 7 days. But each post has at least 15 comments, and they average 23 per. Part of the reason why, is because each post appeared at the top of my blog for at least 24 hours. It gave them more time to be noticed and commented on by readers. My advice to Starwood would be to cut back to 1 new post each weekday (which is still a LOT of posts for a company blog!), and have your writers spend that extra time on other social sites interacting with your customers. My guess is that your traffic would increase, as would your links, and you'd see that suddenly you'd start getting comments on almost every post. Try it and see what happens, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the results!

Finally, let's move to the sidebars. First, I have to say that I am in love with what The Lobby has done with its header. Notice that under the gorgeous header image, it has taken its main categories, and put them as tabs that you cannot miss if you tried. Such as 'Explore', 'Savor', 'Inside', 'Celebrate'. I *love* this because it helps organize the content for the reader. Almost all blogs have categories, but Starwood has put them up where they are most accessible to the visitor. Gold.

As we all know, I am a stickler for companies having pictures of their writers on their blog, and at least a link to their bios. The Lobby does this, sorta. First, they have a small picture of the writer of each post at the bottom of that post, with a link to their bio. And on the sidebar, they have a 'Meet the Experts' section that rotates, showing the pic and quickie bio for one writer at a time. If you click on it, you can see them all. I wish the Meet the Experts section was higher on the sidebar (or at the top), as it's pretty buried now.

Also, when you click on the 'More Info' tab at the top, then you suddenly have several options that should be default, IMO. Such as Archives (which only seems to link to posts in June?!?), several options for sorting posts (similar to categories), 'recommended articles' and 'recommended links'. In particular, I would like to see the 'recommended links' move to the blog's main page/tab, and be called a 'blogroll'. I would also like to see more travel-oriented and non-Starwood sites on there.

Overall, I think The Lobby is a better than average effort that does many things well, and misses the mark occasionally.

And now let's break down the scoring for the blog:

Content: 28 (Out of a possible 35) - Love how the content is focused on travel, but would like a few more 'how-to' posts, and more thoughts from travelers/customers.

Comments: 4 (Out of a possible 35) - Solid content, but almost no interaction in the comments section. Suggest writers spend more time OFF the blog, in order to build its awareness.

Posting Schedule: 10 (Out of a possible 15) - Actually a case where less would be more. If the volume of posts were cut back to one every weekday, it would be perfection.

Sidebars: 11 (Out of a possible 15) - Pretty solid, although a beefier blogroll and writer pics up top would help a bit.

Total Score: 53 (Out of a possible 100)


If anyone from Starwood Hotels wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me. If your company would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, or if you want to launch your own blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services.

Next week I'll profile another blogging company, and if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me! For a list of all the blog that have been profiled so far in the Company Blog Checkup series, click here.


posted by Mack Collier @ 9:01 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 121

Here's the standings for Week 121:

1 - Duct Tape Marketing - 223,000 (+3,000)(LW - 1)
2 - Church of the Customer - 212,000 (+3,000)(LW - 2)
3 - CopyBlogger - 40,072 (-2,708)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 12,300 (+127)(LW - 4)
5 - Chris Brogan - 8,505 (+186)(LW - 5)
6 - Influential Marketing - 6,687 (-298)(LW - 6)
7 - Logic + Emotion - 3,567 (+3)(LW - 7)
8 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 3,219 (+16)(LW - 9)
9 - What's Next - 3,129 (LW - UR)
10 - Converstations - 3,086 (-133)(LW - 8)
10 - The Viral Garden - 3,086 (+23)(LW - 10)
12 - Experience Curve - 2,808 (+33)(LW - 11)
13 - Conversation Agent - 2,767 (+54)(LW - 12)
14 - Techipedia - 2,322 (+22)(LW - 13)
15 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 2,088 (+9)(LW - 14)
16 - Emergence Marketing - 1,821 (-8)(LW - 15)
17 - The Social Customer Manifesto - 1,640 (-32)(LW - 16)
18 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 1,604 (LW - UR)
19 - Techno Marketer - 1,387 (+20)(LW - 17)
20 - Social Media Explorer - 1,319 (-13)(LW - 18)
21 - Spare Change - 1,274 (LW - UR)
22 - Movie Marketing Madness - 1,268 (+27)(LW - 19)
23 - Daily Fix - 1,094 (-17)(LW - 20)
24 - Customers Rock! - 847 (-2)(LW - 21)
25 - Shotgun Marketing - 754 (+33)(LW - 22)


The Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs are ranked according to the number of subscribers, according to FeedBurner. The number you see after the blog name is how many subscribers accessed the blog's feed, according to FeedBurner. FeedBurner (and I had to look it up to make sure) tracks the number of times your blog's feed is accessed, and matches it against the IP address of the computer making the request, to approximate the number of subscribers that access your feed, and report this as the number used in the Top 25. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many readers 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.

Thirteen blogs were up this week, with eight seeing their subscriber counts fall. This is in contrast to how Technorati had been tracking falling link counts for the last several months. I think this validates the assumption that linking between blogs is falling, while blog readership as a whole, is still growing. The linking behavior is simply moving away from blogs, to other social sites, which is fueling a growth in readership, as new audiences are being exposed to these blogs. So perhaps the blogosphere isn't imploding after all. We'll have to keep an eye on how readerships track moving forward, but my guess is that we'll see most blogs continue to add subscribers.

What's Next, Spare Change and Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog are new additions to the Top 25 this week, with Biz Solutions Plus and Every Dot Connects just missing the cut. Remember if you want to have your blog be considered for inclusion in the Top 25, make sure you add the Feedburner feed count chicklet to your blog.




Next update is next Wednesday.


posted by Mack Collier @ 8:44 AM, , View blog reactions




Attention Heart: Be careful, you're about to blow it!

As the Republican National Convention came to a close on Thursday night, thousands of balloons fell from the ceiling, and Heart's song Barracuda began to fill the arena. The song was a nod to a nickname that VP candidate Sarah Palin earned earlier in her political career.

But Heart was NOT amused, and Universal Music Publishing along with Sony BMG quickly fired off a 'cease and desist' letter to Republicans, over their use of the song to end the RNC.

Now, assuming that the Wilson sisters are Obama supporters (or simply don't like McCain and/or Palin), I can understand why they wouldn't be thrilled with the RNC using their song. But thanks to the RNC, a completely new generation of music fans are likely 'discovering' the song, and Heart's music as well. Why would the band want to kill buzz that's literally fell into their lap?

First, the Wilson sisters should have THANKED the McCain campaign for being fans of their song, and promoting their music. Because that's exactly what just happened.

Second, since they do now have a lot of sudden interest in their music, how can they use this interest as a tool to leverage support for Obama (again, asssuming they are Obama supporters)? This is a lesson that 'big label' music has always struggled with, but you don't attempt to control how your fans purchase your music, you accept their behavior, and make it as EASY as possible to engage in their current activities. Right now people are buying Heart's music, so we need to ENCOURAGE that activity, not stifle it.

Third, announce that while the Repubs might like the song Barracuda for McCain/Palin, that Heart thinks of Obama as more of a 'Magic Man', an obvious nod to their hit of the same name.

And here's the kicker: Heart should set up a contest on their website between Republicans and Democrats. Offer both singles, Barracuda (Republicans) and Magic Man (Democrats) for sale on the site. Add that a set amount of proceeds will go to charity. Add a ticker that shows which side Repubs or Dems are selling more songs, and thus 'winning'.

Now if Heart was REALLY smart, they would be engaged in social media and have buttons available that could let fans show their support for either McCain/Palin (Barracuda) or Obama/Biden (Magic Man). These buttons could be added to their blogs or other social profiles, and link back to Heart's site where they could purchase the song of their choice.

End result for Heart? Sales of both songs go through the roof. The band is exposed to a completely new generation of fans. A lot of money is raised for charity, which further benefits the band in the form of even more buzz.

Or maybe the band should issue a C&D and attempt to kill the first meaningful buzz Heart has had in 2 decades.

BONUS: Ike comes up with the perfect name for this promotion: I HEART DEMOCRACY! Gold.




Pic via HeartTribute


posted by Mack Collier @ 9:12 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 120

Here's the standings for Week 120:

1 - Duct Tape Marketing - 220,000 (LW - 6)
2 - Church of the Customer - 209,000 (LW - 8)
3 - CopyBlogger - 42,780 (LW - 2)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 12,173 (LW - 4)
5 - Chris Brogan - 8,319 (LW - 3)
6 - Influential Marketing - 6,985 (+12)(LW - 7)
7 - Logic + Emotion - 3,564 (LW - 5)
8 - Converstations - 3,219 (LW - 20)
9 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 3,203 (LW - 15)
10 - The Viral Garden - 3,063 (LW - 25)
11 - Experience Curve - 2,775 (LW - UR)
12 - Conversation Agent - 2,713 (LW - 12)
13 - Techipedia - 2,300 (LW - 13)
14 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 2,079 (LW - 19)
15 - Emergence Marketing - 1,829 (LW - UR)
16 - The Social Customer Manifesto - 1,672 (LW - UR)
17 - Techno Marketer - 1,367 (LW - 23)
18 - Social Media Explorer - 1,332 (LW - 18)
19 - Movie Marketing Madness - 1,231 (LW - UR)
20 - Daily Fix - 1,111 (LW - 10)
21 - Customers Rock! - 849 (LW - UR)
22 - Shotgun Marketing - 721 (LW - UR)
23 - Biz Solutions Plus - 541 (LW - UR)
24 - Resonance Partnership Blog - 301 (LW - UR)
25 - MediaPhyter - 116 (LW - UR)


The Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs are ranked according to the number of subscribers, according to FeedBurner. The number you see after the blog name is how many subscribers accessed the blog's feed, according to FeedBurner. FeedBurner (and I had to look it up to make sure) tracks the number of times your blog's feed is accessed, and matches it against the IP address of the computer making the request, to approximate the number of subscribers that access your feed, and report this as the number used in the Top 25. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many readers 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.

As of this week, the Top 25 Marketing and Social Media blogs are now being measured according to FeedBurner's count of daily subscribers. FeedBurner tracks the number of times your blog's feed is accessed on a daily basis by subscribers, and blogs can post this number on their blogs. The ones that do, are considered for inclusion in the Top 25.

As when the Top 25 moved from Alexa to Technorati as its measuring stick, this week's countdown sees a LOT of shuffling. First, several blogs were dropped from the Top 25 because they don't report their FeedBurner subscriber number on their blog. This included Seth's Blog, Six Pixels of Separation, Brand Autopsy, Jaffe Juice, Damn! I Wish..., Diva Marketing, Every Dot Connects, What's Next, and Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog. I'm pretty sure that many if not all of these blogs would make the Top 25 ranked on Feedburner subscribers, so if any of you add the FB chicklet to your blog, let me know either via a comment here, or shoot me an email, and I'll be happy to add your blog back to the list. If you want to do this, from the dashboard of your Feedburner account, click Publicize, then Feed Count.

So this also means that there's several new faces on the board. These include Experience Curve, Emergence Marketing, The Social Customer Manifesto, Movie Marketing Madness, Customers Rock!, Shotgun Marketing, Biz Solutions Plus, Resonance Partnership Blog, and MediaPhyter.

Remember if you want to have your blog be considered for inclusion in the Top 25, make sure you add the Feedburner feed count chicklet to your blog.




Next update is next Wednesday.


posted by Mack Collier @ 12:29 PM, , View blog reactions




Twitter = Speaking in Public



Last week, for a day or so, I broke one of my key rules for participating on blogs and social media sites:

Don't discuss politics or religion.

But in spending some time on Twitter last week, I was shocked at some of the political 'talk' I saw. I was stunned to see very intelligent people throwing around generalizations and insults as if they were candy. Others have seen the same thing, I'm encountering more and more people that say that they are either spending less time on Twitter now, or have stopped going there at all, now that we are in the height of the political season.

Still, the experience reminded me how much passion that people have invested in some topics. And it drives home the point that when you are participating on social sites, you are speaking in public. I'm amazed at how many smart people that REALLY get social media, forget this. Many of us are dealing with companies and teaching them about how 'Google never forgets', but we seem to be ignoring the very lessons we are trying to teach.

And it's not just political talk, I've been noticing people blurting out distasteful comments that I can't see them ever saying in public. Even companies are getting in on the act.

So I think we all need to step back and remember that when we get on Twitter, our personal brand comes with us.

BONUS: Beth Harte has a wonderful post on twitter and your branding. She raises many of the same points I do here, but does a better job with them.


posted by Mack Collier @ 10:50 AM, , View blog reactions