Will I see you at Learn About Web?

Next Friday, I'll be making my first trip out to the Pacific Northwest to the Kennewick area of Washington state for Learn About Web. Learn About Web is a small biz conference put on by Craig Sutton and the good people at Bright Web Marketing. It's focused on getting small businesses up to speed on online marketing, and I'll be speaking on Blogging for Business. My good friend Jennifer Laycock will be giving the keynote. Here's the class schedule, and for $129, it really is a steal. Unfortunately I will be in and out pretty quickly, but if anyone is planning on making the event, definitely let me know so we can meetup while you're there!


posted by Mack Collier @ 10:03 AM, , View blog reactions




Removing your 'perfect' filter

One of the highlights of last week's Digital Marketing Mixer for me, was the chance to spend some time talking to Chris Brogan. We had met briefly at SXSW, but I hadn't really gotten the chance to pick his brain. I did last week and I asked him the question I think we all would like to know the answer to:

"How in the HELL do you create that much content?!?"

Chris explained that when he gets an idea for a blog post, that he has to immediately get it down. This has ALWAYS been my problem, I can get the ideas, but I won't put them down until I think I have the 'perfect' angle on them. This is a big reason why I rarely post at Daily Fix and Search Engine Guide anymore. Ann and Jennifer are two of my dearest friends in the world, and so many of the post ideas I have for their blogs I end up nixing, cause I don't think they are 'good enough' to be on their blogs. I put my 'perfect' filter in place, and the end result is that I kill a TON of post ideas for both Daily Fix and Search Engine Guide. I remember one time I posted something here, and it immediately got a lot of comments. Ann emailed me wanting to know why I didn't post it on Daily Fix, and I explained that 'I didn't think it was good enough to go there!'

One of the things I kept telling the people I talked to in Scottsdale was 'don't overthink social media'. But I realized I had been doing the same thing with my post ideas. My best posts are usually the ones I write in 10 mins. No editing, just put the idea out there, and publish it. When I overthink it, I spend 2 days tweaking and changing the post to make it 'perfect'. And it almost always ends up being a less valuable post than it would have been.

And I started thinking about the blogs I read regularly. Not every post is a classic, in fact many aren't. But I keep coming back cause once a week or so, they write an amazing post. Or maybe it's once a month. The key is, they give me a reason to keep coming back.

So thanks to Chris' feedback, I have tossed my perfect filter in the garbage. So far, I think it's working, as I've gotten up nine posts on all three blogs (this will be #10), with a couple more posts planned for today and tomorrow.

Is this a problem for you as well? Are you spending too much time trying to make your posts 'perfect', or are you like Chris, and can quickly verbalize your ideas and get them out there? What are your secrets?


posted by Mack Collier @ 8:57 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 126

Here's the standings for Week 126:

1 - Duct Tape Marketing - 243,000 (+27,000)(LW - 1)
2 - Church of the Customer - 233,000 (+25,000)(LW - 2)
3 - CopyBlogger - 44,452 (+5,172)(LW - 3)
4 - Web Strategy by Jeremiah - 16,238 (+938)(LW - 4)
5 - Search Engine Guide - 12,578 (+676)LW - 5)
6 - Chris Brogan - 11,259 (+4,974)(LW - 6)
7 - Logic + Emotion - 10,615 (+7,209)(LW - 10)
8 - Influential Marketing - 7,334 (+2,836)(LW - 9)
9 - Daily Fix - 6,251 (+431)(LW - 7)
10 - Jaffe Juice - 4,945 (+103)(LW - 8)
11 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 3,413 (+191)(LW - 11)
12 - What's Next - 3,238 (+484)(LW - 15)
13 - Converstations - 3,182 (+229)(LW - 13)
14 - The Viral Garden - 3,167 (+185)(LW - 12)
15 - Conversation Agent - 2,915 (+59)(LW - 14)
16 - Techipedia - 2,451 (+138)(LW - 16)
17 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 2,263 (+970)(LW - 22)
18 - Being Peter Kim - 2,027 (+202)(LW - 17)
19 - Emergence Marketing - 1,849 (+162)(LW - 18)
20 - The Social Customer Manifesto - 1,739 (+170)(LW - 20)
21 - Social Media Explorer - 1,661 (+164)(LW - 21)
22 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 1,631 (+37)(LW - 19)
23 - Techno Marketer - 1,523 (LW - UR)
24 - Spare Change - 1,331 (+82)(LW - 23)
25 - Movie Marketing Madness - 1,284 (+126)(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.

One of the best weeks ever for the Top 25, as 24 of the blogs were up, with the 25th being Techno Marketer, which re-entered the Top 25 this week. I think this is especially significant considering that this represents two weeks of movement, since the Top 25 took last week off with me in Scottsdale. Several tight bands are forming, with spots 4-7, 11-15, and 18-23 all becoming very competitive. Good to see, especially with the rising tide lifting all blogs.

Servant of Chaos and Customers Rock! just missed the cut this week. 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 @ 10:18 AM, , View blog reactions




MPDM recap: Crushin' it in Scottsdale!

"The problem is, these companies don't want to work. I get it. I'm a consultant, I get it! You come in, you do this, you do that....they'd much rather give some agency $100,000 to run ads in the New York Post, commercials, pizza boxes, direct mail, and Stern radio ads, and they're done, right? They're clowns, don't feel bad for them. Let them die!

Don't spend time trying to convince people this is right, because let me help you...this is right! Go find the people that get that this is right, and crush it! Build your brand equity, and when the big companies come to you because you've been crushing it for so long, charge them a shitload!" - GaryVee during the MPDM keynote


I've blogged about this before, but I have three qualifications for events that I agree to speak at:

1 - I want the chance to teach others what I have learned about blogs and social media

2 - I want the chance to learn from others

3 - I want to be inspired

On these notes, my trip to Scottsdale last week for Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer was a home run. One minute I was talking to people that are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with social media, the next I was lucky enough to talk to people about getting their social media efforts off the ground. Being inspired by Chris Brogan one minute gave way to later seeing the sincere look of relief in an attendees eyes when I explained that 'You can do this!'

Marketing Profs did a great job of patterning the social media track as being entry-level for the most part, but being taught by true thought leaders and experts in this space. It's no surprise that every session was jam-packed, and so many people told me how excited they were after hearing the sessions.

This is what you should want from an event; to learn, to meet great people, and to go home inspired.

On that note, here is Gary Vaynerchuk's amazing keynote:


posted by Mack Collier @ 11:33 PM, , View blog reactions




"I have three packages to give you over the next 40 mins"

This morning while I was trying to write up my MPDM recap and sound witty on Twitter, a courier knocks on my door and tells me he has a package for me.

Ok. He then explains that he has to deliver the package at approx. 10:00 am. No biggie, I'm still with him there. Then he gives me the clincher; he explains that he has two more packages, and that he has to wait till 10:20 am to give me the second one, and 10:40 to give me the final 'heavy' one.

A bit confused, I ask him if he can just give me all three now and he explains that he can't, he can't give me any of them before or after the set time. So he sits in my driveway for almost an hour, waiting to complete his deliveries, which he promptly and accurately did.

The materials came from a very large company, one that you have all heard of. And the included letter explains that 'You're part of a handful of digital and social influencers we're reaching out to regarding a multiyear, companywide transformation.'

Now obviously, this company did this because they want me to blog about the promotion itself. And I am torn on how to do that, because on one hand, I think that this company spent a LOT of money on this that could have been better spent elsewhere. But at the same time, this company is making their first steps into social media, and there will be growing pains for them, just as there were for us all.

So I applaud their effort, but am not sold on the execution. But that's ok, trying is the important part.

Here is what I would suggest for this company, and any big company that is thinking about spending a lot of money to connect with 'bloggers and social media influencers'.

1 - Don't. Sending bloggers stuff to get us to blog about it is soooo 2006. Sure it can lead to a ton of initial buzz, but if there's no followup and if the buzz doesn't lead to the start of creating connections with your customers, then it's still money wasted.

2 - Target your online evangelists before you target 'social media influencers'. I get totally wanting to reach out to bloggers to encourage them to write about your social media initiatives. But your online evangelists already have a built-in incentive to talk about you. They WANT to. And the size of their readership really doesn't matter, their wanting to promote you is what counts. If I had the choice between targetting 25 'social media influencers' that might blog about me, or 25 blogging evangelists that I *knew* would go gangbusters to promote me, I'm picking the latter every time and twice on Tuesday.

3 - Invest time over money. Don't just throw wads of cash at promotions that are designed to 'generate buzz' among bloggers. Instead, invest TIME in creating and strengthening connections and hopefully relationships with your online customers. There is a LOT of listening involved, especially at first. The conversation can happen later, after you have a better idea of what to say. Yes it will take time, and yes it will be a lot of work. And if done properly, will be worth every second.


Remember with social media you shouldn't 'focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate'. You want to use social media as a channel to better connect with your customers, as a way for you to better understand them, and for them to better understand you.

And I should add the caveat that the materials I received today are the first wave of apparently an ongoing 'campaign' as the company wades into the social media waters. So their coming efforts could be much more in-line with what I have suggested here.

What do you think? What would be your advice for any major corporation that wanted to start using social media?


posted by Mack Collier @ 9:41 AM, , View blog reactions




The 'Social' part of Social Media


One of the top goals I set for myself for 2008 was that I wanted to attend and speak at as many conferences as possible. Originally, the thinking was that I needed to do this to in order to network and get my name out there as a social media consultant. I figured that meeting and connecting with people and friends I had met online would be a pleasant byproduct.

Then when I arrived at SXSW back in April, something weird happened. As we all know, I am an introvert, so I was a bit surprised when I arrived in Austin for SXSW to be getting hugs from people I had never officially 'met' before. This was the part that floored me; how easily connections made online passed over to offline connections.

So it was with much anticipation that I was looking forward to meeting and reconnecting with friends at the Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer last week in Scottsdale. It was a good mix, as I got to meet for the first time friends like Sonny Gill, Frank and Pamela Martin, Becky Carroll, and Donna Tocci. And I got to reconnect with so many people, like Ann Handley, AmberCadabra, Beth Harte, Connie Reece, and Chris Brogan.

I cannot stress this enough: go meet the people you are connecting with online. It doesn't have to be at a big conference. It can be a local tweetup, a Social Media Club meeting, or at your grocery store. It doesn't matter, just find a way to take your online connections and cement them into offline relationships. Looking back, I will probably say that 2008 was one of the most personally and professionally rewarding years of my life, simply because of all the amazing people that I have now come to know. And I am getting off track a bit because I wanted to sum up what a great event the Digital Marketing Mixer was. But these amazing people that I got to laugh with and learn from are what mean so much to me. This is what so truly excites me about social media. The tools themselves are pretty boring. But what these tools allow me to do...the people that they let me connect with that I otherwise would never know, that's invaluable.

I'll save my 'official' #mpdm recap for tomorrow's post, but please, if you aren't already, start making plans to meet the people that you are friending/following online. It will literally change your life, as it has mine.


posted by Mack Collier @ 10:33 AM, , View blog reactions




Attention companies: Pick your social media influencers carefully


Over the last year or so, I have seen a big spike in the interest companies have in learning more about social media, and especially blogging. This is a good thing for obvious reasons, but I am a bit worried that many companies are patterning their efforts after the wrong people.

Many companies, when they begin doing some internal research into blogging, try to quickly identify the 'experts'. The people that have built their blogs up to massive traffic and exposure levels, with the thinking being that if it worked for them, it will for any company. The problem is, as many prominent bloggers become 'cewebrities', they shift their usage of SM a bit, and start using these tools as a way to promote themselves. Or as I say, they start 'broadcasting'. They rarely reply to blog comments anymore. They have thousands of followers on Twitter, while only following back a fraction of that amount. While these 'experts' can show you how they built their level of influence, they don't use social media tools in the way that your customers are likely to.

So if you are wanting to follow social media influencers that use these amazing tools as a way to interact with others and as a way to build community, I suggest you begin paying attention to the following people. I've included their blog and Twitter profile link. These are ten people that I am learning from, and they can teach you much as well.

Connie Bensen (Blog - Twitter): Truly community-minded, Connie uses both her blog and Twitter as ways to share and build knowledge for others.

Richard Binhammer (Blog - Twitter): Dell's social media efforts are legendary, and Richard is a big reason why the company has such a good reputation in this area. If you are wanting to see how your employees could connect with their customers via social media (and especially via Twitter), then pay close attention to what Richard is doing.

Jason Falls (Blog - Twitter): Jason has for the last year or more, developed a strong reputation in the social media area, by not only using social media as a way to connect with others, but adding in an offline element and constantly connecting with people in real life at conferences and events.

Beth Harte (Blog - Twitter): Beth might think that she doesn't belong on this list, and that's exactly why she does. Beth has come out of nowhere the past few months to quickly establish herself in the social media space, and has already locked up several speaking gigs at local and national events. For anyone that thinks that 'it's too late for me to start blogging', Beth proves that it's never too late.

Tim Jackson (Blog - Twitter): The BEST example of a small company/brand using social media that I have ever seen. Period. I'll refer to a post I did recently about the amazing results that Tim has achieved for the Masi brand via social media, but if you are a small biz/brand that wonders if blogging and social media can really make a difference, then start following what Tim is doing, because the results he has achieved, with almost no help and no money, are staggering.

CK (Blog - Twitter): My favorite saying about social media is 'don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate'. No one understands this better than CK. CK is tirelessly meeting and connecting with the people she meets online, and was one of the driving forces behind Blogger Social, which is still hands-down the best blogging 'event' that I have attended. CK knows that social media is about sharing.

Jennifer Laycock (Blog - Twitter): What I love about Jennifer (as does everyone else), is that she has such a wonderful knack of taking seemingly foreign and complex ideas (like social media) and breaking them down into simple terms that people that are new to this space can relate to. She really looks at these tools through the eyes of the 'newbie', and her posts at Search Engine Guide are wonderful tutorials on how you can get started off on the right foot with social media.

Amber Naslund (Blog - Twitter): Like Beth Harte, Amber has come out of seemingly nowhere to make her mark on the social media space. Besides quickly growing her blog and SM presence, she has also quickly established herself as a top-notch social media consultant, quickly landing multiple clients, including Radian6.

Connie Reece (Blog - Twitter): Connie is a true social media maven, and one of the earliest people to create a vibrant network for themselves on Twitter. Yet the more her network and level of influence grows, the more Connie shares of herself and her time, which is exactly why you should be paying attention to her.

Mario Sundar (Blog - Twitter): Mario is another example of a person that's working in the corporate world, but effectively using social media to connect with customers. Mario is constantly leveraging the natural ability of SM as a connecting tool, to solicit and act on feedback from LinkedIn's members.


This list is made up of people that are not only emerging leaders and influencers in this space, but they also are happy to share their expertise with you. But keep in mind that while this list is a great starting point, the REAL influencers that you should be seeking out, are your customers. Find and embrace your online customers and evangelists.

And if you manage or are involved with social media efforts at your company, who are your influencers?

Pic via Flickr user backpackphotography


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




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 125

Here's the standings for Week 125:

1 - Duct Tape Marketing - 216,000 (+2,000)(LW - 1)
2 - Church of the Customer - 208,000 (+3,000)(LW - 2)
3 - CopyBlogger - 39,284 (+277)(LW - 3)
4 - Web Strategy by Jeremiah - 15,300 (LW - UR)
5 - Search Engine Guide - 11,842 (-40)LW - 4)
6 - Chris Brogan - 6,275 (-3,718)(LW - 5)
7 - Daily Fix - 5,820 (+37)(LW - 7)
8 - Jaffe Juice - 4,842 (+71)(LW - 8)
9 - Influential Marketing - 4,508 (-1,805)(LW - 6)
10 - Logic + Emotion - 3,406 (-40)(LW - 9)
11 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 3,222 (-30)(LW - 10)
12 - The Viral Garden - 2,982 (+14)(LW - 12)
13 - Converstations - 2,953 (-82)(LW - 11)
14 - Conversation Agent - 2,856 (+68)(LW - 13)
15 - What's Next - 2,754 (+14)(LW - 14)
16 - Techipedia - 2,318 (+7)(LW - 15)
17 - Being Peter Kim - 1,825 (LW - UR)
18 - Emergence Marketing - 1,687 (No Change)(LW - 17)
19 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 1,594 (+30)(LW - 18)
20 - The Social Customer Manifesto - 1,569 (+13)(LW - 19)
21 - Social Media Explorer - 1,497 (+40)(LW - 21)
22 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 1,293 (-780)(LW - 16)
23 - Spare Change - 1,249 (-8)(LW - 22)
24 - Movie Marketing Madness - 1,158 (+42)(LW - 23)
25 - Customers Rock! - 851 (-4)(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.

A few blogs, such as Chris Brogan's, Influential Marketing Blog, Techno Marketer, and The Social Media Marketing Blog had bigger than normal drops, which were probably just FB glitches. Otherwise, it was a fairly decent week for the Top 25, with 13 blogs up, 9 down (including the 3 big droppers). Web Strategy by Jeremiah and Being Peter Kim are the new entries this week, with Techno Marketer and Shotgun Marketing Blog falling out. BTW I had to get nostalgic for a minute when I realized that Being Peter Kim entering the Top 25 means that four of the five original members of the Z-List have now made the countdown. Does my bloggin' heart good!

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 @ 9:41 AM, , View blog reactions




What is social media marketing and how can you use it effectively?


Peter Kim asks an interesting question, wanting to know the definition of the term 'social media marketing'. On the surface, it seems like an easy question to answer. It's just marketing using social media, right?

Well...

Many companies are no doubt working under this assumption. I think the problem with viewing SMM as being simply marketing through a new set of tools (social media), is that you assume that the 'new' tools function just like the 'old' ones do. The difference, in fact the KEY difference, is that while many of the 'old' tools such as TV ads, radio spots, and coupons are ONE-WAY communication channels, social media is TWO-WAY. And the quickest way for a company to totally botch its efforts with social media, is to treat social media as being a ONE-WAY communication channel.

When you realize that the customers you are trying to reach via social media can quickly and easily interact WITH you, then that changes the dynamics of the interaction. Suddenly, you have to go from blasting a one-way broadcast, to trying to engage your customers.

Another key difference in marketing via social media, versus marketing via 'traditional' channels is this; social media does NOT work well as a direct-monetization tool. But it works famously well if you try to INdirectly monetize your marketing efforts via social media. Again, different tools, different set of rules. People aren't using social media to receive your advertisements, they are using social media sites and tools to connect with each other, to interact and share content and information. If your company effectively uses these tools in the same way, then an INdirect result will be that your company's awareness online, especially among those active on social sites, will grow. As a result, that should lead to a boost in positive online mentions of your company. Which should lead to increased sales. It all happens INdirectly.

On the flipside, if you launch a blog and all you do is tell customers to 'buy your stuff', then your efforts not only won't work, but you will do harm to your company's image. At SBMU, I referenced Graco's blogging strategy. Instead of using its blog as a direct-promotional tool, Graco positioned its blog as a vehicle to reach parents, and to discuss parenthood with them. Very little promotion of the company is involved, instead, it's a blog written by parents, for parents. As a result, mentions online of Graco have almost doubled since Graco launched its blogging strategy, and positive mentioned have increased from 68% to a staggering 83%. That's the power of a well-positioned blog.

If you want to utilize social media successfully as a marketing tool to grow your business, then you have to use social media sites and tools in the same ways that your customers do, and for the same reasons. You have to accept the community's rules, you can't make your own. Social media isn't a one-way broadcast/promotional channel, it's a two(many)-way interaction/communication channel.

What say you? If you're a social media consultant (or if you are trying to sell social media to your company), how do you explain social media marketing to your clients? How do you make them understand how social media marketing works as opposed to the traditional marketing channels that they are used to?

Pic via Flickr user dogfrog


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




Company Blog Checkup: Avis

On the Avis-UK blog, the company claims that it is "the first car rental company to start a blog". Ok I believe them, as I can't recall another competitor that has one (please leave a comment if you do know of a car rental company besides Avis that's blogging).

The blog seems to be positioned as primarily being a travel resource for its readers. This makes perfect sense, because if you are renting a car, odds are its because you are traveling. The blog does have some self-promotional elements, but frames these posts in a 'tell us what you think' way, so that even when they are promoting themselves, the readers are encouraged to give feedback. Nice touch.

When we look at comments on the blog, we see that about half the posts have comments, and those that do usually have between 1 and 4 comments. But I noticed something interesting, in the posts that have multiple comments, there is usually at least one comment/reply left by Rob White, who according to his bio on the blog, is Avis's UK Marketing Manager. Now if the blog team have made a conscious choice to let Rob handle most of the comments, especially customer-service related ones, that's one thing. But if Rob is simply taking the lead in replying to comments, I would like to see the other bloggers also spend more time replying to comments. Many posts only have one comment, and when a reader comments the first time and never gets a reply, they will often make that first unanswered comment, be their last one on the blog.



Next up, let's tackle the posting schedule. The blog averages about 2 posts a week, which is about the minimum you'd like to see from a company blog, especially one with multiple authors. But I also noticed several gaps of 5 or 6 days inbetween posts. Hard to develop a readership that way, I think simply tightening the existing 2-a-week posting schedule to have a new post up on Tuesday and Thursday, would greatly improve the blog's chances of growing its readership.

Finally, let's examine the sidebars. I see one thing (missing) that I really hate, and one part that I really like. First, notice that yet again, we have another blog that does NOT have pictures up of its bloggers on the front of the blog. Now the blog does have a link on the front of the blog to the bloggers' pictures and bios. But when you click over to see their pictures and bios, note the positions that these bloggers hold within Avis. 'Head of Customer Support', 'Head of Region South', 'Intranet Webmaster', 'Head of Marketing', and 'Marketing Manager'. These are SENIOR marketing and customer service people with Avis-UK. Why in the world would you NOT want to have these people's pictures on the front of the blog? These are the people that you WANT to be connecting with your blog's readers. Oh well, guess that's why social media consultants like me are needed, but it's still frustrating.

But one thing that the Avis-UK blog does that I love, is it runs a poll on the sidebar. This is a great way to quickly and easily get feedback from readers, and it also gives the readers a sense of having more input into the direction of the content on the blog. Love it.

Otherwise, the sidebars look pretty blah and plain. The lack of blogger pics is very noticeable as all you see is one 'box' after another with the red border. Nice to be consistent with branding, but it needs to be punched up a bit. The majority of the 'must-have' elements are present, including Topics, Most Popular Posts and Recent Comments (yay!) . I would like to see a blogroll, there's plenty of travel-oriented sites and blogs that could be added that help bolster the blog's positioning as being a resource for travelers.

Overall, I think Avis-UK's blog is a decent effort. Not spectacular, but not a disaster either. A few tweaks here and there would definitely help.

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

Content: 28 (Out of a possible 35) - I like the positioning as being a resource for travelers.

Comments: 19 (Out of a possible 35) - Fair, but a bit more interaction from multiple authors in the comments section would help tremendously.

Posting Schedule: 6 (Out of a possible 15) - Would like to see the 5-6 day gaps between posts eliminated, and one more post a week would be nice as well.

Sidebars: 8 (Out of a possible 15) - Definitely needs the blogger's pics on front page, and a blogroll, at least.

Total Score: 61 (Out of a possible 100)


If anyone from Avis 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 @ 10:05 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 124

Here's the standings for Week 124:

1 - Duct Tape Marketing - 214,000 (+5,000)(LW - 1)
2 - Church of the Customer - 205,000 (+5,000)(LW - 2)
3 - CopyBlogger - 39,007 (-2,103)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 11,882 (+194)LW - 4)
5 - Chris Brogan - 9,993 (+1,162)(LW - 5)
6 - Influential Marketing - 6,713 (+48)(LW - 6)
7 - Daily Fix - 5,783 (+119)(LW - 7)
8 - Jaffe Juice - 4,771 (-77)(LW - 8)
9 - Logic + Emotion - 3,446 (+38)(LW - 9)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 3,252 (+24)(LW - 10)
11 - Converstations - 3,035 (+54)(LW - 11)
12 - The Viral Garden - 2,968 (+53)(LW - 12)
13 - Conversation Agent - 2,788 (+75)(LW - 13)
14 - What's Next - 2,740 (+56)(LW - 14)
15 - Techipedia - 2,311 (+43)(LW - 15)
16 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 2,073 (-21)(LW - 16)
17 - Emergence Marketing - 1,687 (+16)(LW - 17)
18 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 1,564 (+21)(LW - 18)
19 - The Social Customer Manifesto - 1,556 (+19)(LW - 19)
20 - Techno Marketer - 1,464 (+88)(LW - 20)
21 - Social Media Explorer - 1,457 (+99)(LW - 21)
22 - Spare Change - 1,257 (+39)(LW - 22)
23 - Movie Marketing Madness - 1,116 (-86)(LW - 23)
24 - Customers Rock! - 855 (+63)(LW - 24)
25 - Shotgun Marketing Blog - 660 (+1)(LW - 25)


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.

Nice bounce-back week for the Top 25, with 21 blogs being up, and every blog holding the same spot it did last week. Chris Brogan's blog had another monster week, and both Techno Marketer and Social Media Explorer had nice gains to pull them closer to The Social Customer Manifesto and Greg Verdino's blog.
No new entries this week, and 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 @ 8:45 AM, , View blog reactions




Three big marketing and social media events for October

There's a trio of kickass conferences/events coming up later this month. The first is Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer in Scottsdale, Arizona on the 22nd and 23rd. At this one, I'll be conducting a special Blog Lab where I will critique the company blogs of three attendees. The idea is to cover what they are doing right, and what they are doing wrong, and to use both as a teaching tool about how to create a successful company blog.

So if you are planning on attending the DMM, feel free to email Kathy at Marketing Profs and let her know that you want your company's blog to be considered for the Blog Lab. And please include your blog's URL. Three of the submissions will be selected, so get your blog on the list ASAP!

The second event is the Blog Well that Andy Sernovitz's Gas Pedal is conducting along with the Blog Council where several major companies will discuss their ongoing social media programs. The companies that will be presenting include representatives from Cisco Systems, Graco, The Home Depot, Intel, Kaiser Permanente, UPS, Walmart and Wells Fargo. Blog Well will happen on October 28th in San Jose, California. And now Gas Pedal has a few tickets for sale on eBay, with proceeds benefitting charity.

And finally, Ben and Jackie's SWOMFest will happen on October 30th, in Austin, Texas. Ben has a great post up that tells you why you should be attending the first SWOMFest, but the short version is that almost every major authority on WOM marketing in this country will be there. Period. Don't believe me? Here the list of the current attendees. And that's besides getting to learn WOM from the pair that literally invented the idea of 'customer evangelism', as well as other speakers. And of course they have events during the conference, including an 80s Halloween party, DJs, and free beer.

On top of ALL of this, if you are still looking for a to reason attend SWOMFest, Ben and Jackie will be giving 45-minute conference calls to the next 10 people (as of last Thurs) that register for SWOMFest. I talked to Jackie on Friday, and she said that there were still slots left as of that time, so you should definitely jump on this special offer ASAP. In fact I'm trying desperately to work it out so I can attend SWOMFest as well, so hopefully I'll see you there!


posted by Mack Collier @ 8:53 PM, , View blog reactions




Company Blog Checkup: Chronicle Books

When I arrived at Chronicle's blog, my initial thinking was that the blog should be positioned as being written by book-lovers, for book-lovers. And at the top right, the blog explains that it's about "What we're reading; what we're publishing; what makes us laugh; and what excites us." Ok, let's see how they do.

The most recent post details how members of Chronicle Books went to New Orleans on a recent project for Habitat for Humanity, to help finish a house in the area. This has nothing to do with books or the publishing industry, but I like posts like this, because it lets us see pictures of the company's employees, and makes it easier for us to connect with them. The blog also has many posts that talk about the inspiration behind certain books, such as this post. I like this approach because it promotes the product, but it does so in an indirect way, that makes it more interesting to the reader. Which is what good content is all about, being interesting and valuable.

The problem I see with the content is that for a book publisher, it can be a struggle to be consistently interesting. For example, if you love a good Southern cookbook, posts about other topics or types of books that you really don't care for, may struggle to hold your interest. I think a way to 'get around' this, is to focus on people. And here's a hint for blogging companies; your customers and employees are almost always more interesting than the product(s) you sell. So what might work would be more posts that talk to authors and tell us what motivated them to write/create the book that's being posted on. Or talk to customers about their love of books. As you pull back the curtain a bit and help us connect to real people, the blog content becomes much more interesting.



Now let's look at the comments. Most posts don't receive comments, and the few that do, only get 1-2 in most cases. A notable exception is this post, where the blog talks about its fall cookbook releases, and offers to give prizes to five readers that respond with their favorite fall dish. Contests such as this are a great way to get more comments from readers, but of the 15 comments that the readers left to this post, the bloggers themselves left zero. Which is a mistake, as I think the bloggers missed a great chance to engage readers, note that in many of the comments, readers are telling about their favorite fall dishes, and how they relate to their lives. Great chance to forge connections with readers, that was lost, IMO. The idea of having a contest to get more comments was good, but there needs to be better follow through. You want to approach it as giving readers a reason to comment, but then you need to react in a way that makes them want to KEEP commenting on other posts.

Next up, let's tackle the posting schedule. The posting schedule, at least recently, is pretty stout, with basically a new post up every weekday, with an occasional two posts in one day. I'm ok with double-posting on occasion, as long as there aren't other days with no posts. This doesn't appear to be happening, so the posting schedule looks just about perfect.

Finally, let's examine the sidebars. The first thing I always look for is, do I see pictures of the authors, and links to their bios? I do not, so that's a 5-point loss right there on the score for sidebars. This is vitally important because I need to see the people that are writing this blog. Because when I do, it makes it much easier for me as a reader to connect with them. Simply human nature at work.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, at the top of the blog there is a blue box that tells you why the blog is here, and that asks readers to leave a comment and 'join the conversation'. I like this. Moving down, we see most of the 'greatest hits' are there, such as search, subscriber button, categories, archives, etc. I like that Chronicle has a link to its Facebook page, and would like to see the section on Recent Comments moved up where the Categories section is. Always make every effort to put as much exposure as possible on your readers. There's also a modest blogroll (Blogs We Like), which could be a bit longer, but it's still a nice touch to have some non-company sites/blogs there.

Overall, I'm not sure how to take Chronicle's Book Blog. I think it's a decent blog, but it doesn't really excite me. I think the focus needs to be more on a love of books, or a blog that written 'by book-lovers, for book-lovers'. I think if there were more posts with the authors themselves, and a larger focus on the customers, that the blog would be far more interesting. And as silly as it might sound, having pics up of the bloggers and their bio is always a nice touch.

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

Content: 25 (Out of a possible 35) - Decent, but I think more 'what inspired this book?' type posts with writers, would help.

Comments: 9 (Out of a possible 35) - Some comments, but not many, and I think the bloggers could do a bit better job of engaging the readers that are commenting.

Posting Schedule: 15 (Out of a possible 15) - Very nice, looks to be a new post coming up every weekday. Just what you look for from a company blog.

Sidebars: 8 (Out of a possible 15) - As with most areas of the blog, decent, but not great. Adding pics/bios gets this score up to 13.

Total Score: 57 (Out of a possible 100)


This week I am going to try something different. In keeping with my earlier post about how those of us that are active in social media need to spend more time teaching, I am going to make Chronicle Books an offer. If Chronicle contacts me either here, or via email by next Thursday (October 9th), I will give them a free 30-minute consultation on their blog. We'll go over their blog, and I'll explain my suggestions for how the blog can be better positioned moving forward. All Chronicle has to do to get this free 30-minute phone consultation is respond either here, or by emailing me at mack.collier@gmail.com. I will later update this post and let everyone know whether or not Chronicle took me up on my offer.

If anyone from Chronicle Books 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 @ 9:33 AM, , View blog reactions




The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 123

Here's the standings for Week 123:

1 - Duct Tape Marketing - 209,000 (-16,000)(LW - 1)
2 - Church of the Customer - 200,000 (-14,000)(LW - 2)
3 - CopyBlogger - 41,110 (-1,538)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 11,688 (-549)LW - 4)
5 - Chris Brogan - 8,831 (+82)(LW - 5)
6 - Influential Marketing - 6,665 (-366)(LW - 6)
7 - Daily Fix - 5,664 (-389)(LW - 7)
8 - Jaffe Juice - 4,848 (-199)(LW - 8)
9 - Logic + Emotion - 3,408 (-161)(LW - 9)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 3,228 (-5)(LW - 10)
11 - Converstations - 2,971 (-177)(LW - 11)
12 - The Viral Garden - 2,915 (-165)(LW - 12)
13 - Conversation Agent - 2,713 (-43)(LW - 15)
14 - What's Next - 2,684 (-363)(LW - 13)
15 - Techipedia - 2,268 (-29)(LW - 16)
16 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 2,094 (-84)(LW - 17)
17 - Emergence Marketing - 1,671 (-150)(LW - 18)
18 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 1,543 (-69)(LW - 20)
19 - The Social Customer Manifesto - 1,537 (-158)(LW - 19)
20 - Techno Marketer - 1,376 (-34)(LW - 21)
21 - Social Media Explorer - 1,358 (+9)(LW - 22)
22 - Spare Change - 1,218 (-56)(LW - 23)
23 - Movie Marketing Madness - 1,202 (-65)(LW - 24)
24 - Customers Rock! - 792 (-5)(LW - 25)
25 - Shotgun Marketing Blog - 659 (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.

Only two blogs were up this week in the Top 25. I checked my own subscriber numbers and it seemed that Feedburner was reporting some flaky results for subscribers that were accessing my blog's feed via Bloglines. For example, on Sunday it surged up about 200 suddenly, then it's lost 300 since then. So if your numbers look off, check and see how your Bloglines numbers have been doing over the past few days.

Otherwise, Shotgun Marketing Blog is the lone new entry this week, with Biz Solutions Plus and Every Dot Connects just missing the cut. I noticed that Experience Curve had redesigned, and apparently doesn't have the Feedburner count chicklet anymore. Karl if you add that chicklet back, let me know and I'll be happy to put EC back in the Top 25. 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 @ 9:27 AM, , View blog reactions