Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The One Thing That Made Social Media So Awesome Is the One Thing That's Ruining It

When this blog launched in early 2006, within a couple of months it had about 30 readers. The interesting thing was, I knew about half those readers personally, because they commented on almost every post I wrote.  As a result, I got to know them. I knew who they were, where they lived, what they did.  They commented here, I would go and read their blogs and return the favor. We knew each other and there was a real sense of community.

Then a few months later, people started buzzing about this new site called 'Twitter'. I finally took the plunge and joined Twitter in March of 2007.  It took me a few months to get the hang of it, but when I did, I loved it. Suddenly, I had the ability to connect with ANYONE and EVERYONE.

Looking back, in a way it was like opening a digital version of Pandora's Box. The thing about being connected to everyone is that you really don't know anyone. I hear so many people that have been in social media as old as I have lamenting the fact that we miss how it was 'in the good ole days'.  Before Facebook, before Twitter.  When blogs dominated the social media landscape. None of us had thousands of 'followers', but we actually KNEW the people we were connected to.  Maybe it was only 50 people or even 10, the fact remains that actually KNOWING 10 people is better than being connected to 1,000 strangers.

Look at Facebook over the past year.  Each time we go to Facebook, our Newsfeed is a stream of political posts.  I would constantly think 'OMG I had no idea she was that crazy about politics!'

(Sidenote: It's amazing to me how many people that market themselves as 'social media experts' will then get on Facebook and make complete fools out of themselves over politics. Effectively breaking every rule that they claim to teach companies about how not to act on Facebook.  But I digress...)

I'm constantly seeing posts/updates/tweets left from a follower and think to myself "Wow I had no idea they felt that way!"  Which is really my way of realizing that I had no idea who this person was.  I probably followed them because they were either the friend of another friend I barely knew, or they were on one of those 'People you should follow on Twitter' lists.

The bottom line is that social media makes it easy for us to connect with everyone, but more difficult to really truly KNOW anyone.

And that's a problem I think many of us are dealing with, and I'm not sure what the answer is. I do know that more and more I find myself missing 2006 and the days of your blog being a front porch where just a few close friends met and chatted. That turned into 2017 where a few thousand strangers come together and throw links to our latest post at each other.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Looking back on 2011

I was checking recently and realized I hadn't written a post here in over a year! I couldn't bear to let all of 2011 go by without even a single new post at The Viral Garden, so here we are.

I've been doing a lot of planning ahead for 2012 recently. And obviously that planning is influenced in great part by what's happened in 2011. This was an interesting year for me; my consulting business actually shrank this year, compared to last. But that was mostly due to hosting 7 Live #Blogchats throughout the year. The income from those events allowed me to focus my business more on training and consulting projects, and less on project execution work. Looking forward, there are many opportunities to expand the #Blogchat brand, and it looks like that will be an even bigger portion of my business in 2012.

But in reviewing 2011, I wanted to share some of the lessons I've learned from this year:

1 - Failure is your friend. There's too much potential in this space to have a fear of failure. In January, I had a heart-to-heart with my checkbook and realized that I wasn't going to be able to go to South By Southwest this year. I just couldn't rationalize spending $2,500 to go to the event. I was about to throw in the towel, when I had an idea: What if I tried to find sponsors for a Live #Blogchat event at SXSW? What if it didn't work? I figured I had nothing to lose, if I failed, that just meant I wouldn't go to SXSW, and hell I wasn't going anyway, so why not? I wrote up a post saying I wanted sponsors, and waited to see what happened. Within an hour of writing the post, I had a deal in place for the main sponsorship, and I was off to SXSW.

I've watched others in this space, and I've noticed the same thing: They are trying things even though they know they might fail. The thing about failure is this: If you DO fail, then you can LEARN from that failure, and improve your efforts the next time you try. This might be the biggest lesson I learned from this year. And BTW, it's not a coincidence that the loudest hecklers are usually the ones that never fail because they never risk anything.

2 - The line between the 'online' and 'offline' world is rapidly disappearing. This actually became a bit of a problem for me this year. Most people only know me from online interactions, and as such, assume I am an extrovert. But my close friends know that I am actually very introverted. Social Media is a wonderful outlet for me, because it's a way for me to very comfortably connect with complete strangers. But in an offline setting, I am still very uncomfortable connecting with strangers. I really noticed this at Blog World, I went to a few 'parties' at night after the day's sessions, or even in the hotel bar at night, and I was very slow to engage others. Which can create a misconception if someone only knows me from online, and they assume I am very outgoing in person. Then they see me at an event, and I am quiet and reserved. It can give them the false impression that I just didn't like them, or was 'stuck up'. This is something I am trying to work on, and will continue to do so in 2012.

3 - If you want to find out who your real friends are, ask for help. Thankfully, I haven't had to ask for a lot of help this year, but I've known friends that had real personal and business issues that forced them to call on their networks for help. Every time, they told me the same thing: A few people that they didn't think they had a close connection with, went out of their way to help them, while a few people that they thought were their close friends, couldn't be bothered to help in the slightest.

4 - There are two types of content creators: Those that want to draw attention to themselves, and those that want to draw attention to their ideas. I've also learned this year that I am definitely in the latter group ;) Neither group is better than the other, per se, it's about understanding who you are, and where your comfort zone lies.

So those are some quick thoughts on the year that was. And I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I promise it won't be another year before we talk again ;)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Should I be buying Twitter followers?

As a stats freak, I am constantly examining sites that claim to tell me more about my social media efforts. For example, I follow a few sites devoted to analyzing my Twitter network and giving me more info on my network, who is following me, how many followers I am gaining, etc.

Most of these sites have an area where people can buy an 'ad' promoting them so people can follow them, similar to the one on the right. Twice now on different sites I have seen people that I know and am following, that have bought ads for themselves so that others will follow them.

Now personally, I would never do this, and what irks me about this is that in both cases, these are people that are acknowledged as being 'social media experts'. And these people regularly trumpet the value of social media as a way to authentically engage with people. And yes, they are often propped up for their large number of Twitter followers.

Which it appears, at least in part, they have bought.

And I don't want to mention who these people are, because I don't want the discussion to revolve around them, but rather what they are doing. As I said, I could never do this, and it feels inconsistent to me with their message that building networks authentically is what works.

But maybe I am off my rocker. Do I need to just accept that 'biggest number wins', and realize that I need to do whatever is necessary to inflate my number of followers/readers/friends in order to appear more 'credible'?

What do you think? How would you feel if someone that you viewed as a 'social media expert' had 'bought' half of their 50,000 Twitter followers? Would you be outraged, or would you think they were making smart use of the existing business environment? Is this just another sign that Twitter is all just a 'numbers game'?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Does Ad Age simply not get social media?

If you've read The Viral Garden for a while, you know that I was a bit critical of Ad Age when they first started using the Power 150 on their site. Honestly, I don't read the site very often, but today I decided to peruse the site and I found a few articles I liked, and commented on a couple of them.

Although I had registered with Ad Age years ago, I probably hadn't left a comment there in 2-3 years. So after I left a couple of comments, I realized that I should probably update my profile information so that it included a link back to when I left a comment.

And that's when I realized something. Check the below screenshot I took of the comments section of one of the articles I replied to:

Check out the names of the commenters circled in red. More specifically, check out what is MISSING in those red circles. That's right, there's no link given when a person comments on a post. But there IS a link give to the comment itself. If you click on the timestamp to the right of your name, you are then given a unique link to the comment you just wrote.

So Ad Age won't let you link back to your site when you write a comment, but they WILL let you link back to YOUR COMMENT. So they see your commenting as a way for them to gain more links back to their site, with none for you.

How very Web 1.0 of them.

A very basic rule of social media marketing is that you want to encourage and reward the behavior that you are wanting customers/visitors to engage in. Ad Age should want more comments on its articles for several reasons:

  • More comments = More traffic. We want to read posts/articles that have vibrant discussions.
  • More comments = More comments. If I see that a post has a vibrant discussion, I am more likely to read it, and more likely to add my 2 cents.
  • More comments = More links. Articles that have a great discussion makes it more likely that I will promote that article to my networks.
  • More comments = More value. A vibrant discussion in the comments improves the overall value to the reader.
  • More comments = More subscribers. If Ad Age is consistently creating content that has vibrant discussions in the comments, I am more likely to subscribe to that content.
So if getting more comments per article is a GOOD thing, why wouldn't you go out of your way to reward visitors that are engaging in that behavior? Besides that, adding a link back to my site via my name in the comments is a very simple way to say 'Thank You'.

Come on, Ad Age.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Heading to Austin, want to meet up?

Next week I am heading out to Austin to work with Dell on a project (Disc - Dell's a client, here's more info on the project). But while I am in town, we wanted to have a tweetup! So next Weds nite at the North by Northwest restaurant and brewery, we'll all get together for a nite of merriment, laughs, and probably a social media conversation or three. Most if not all of Dell's social media team will be there (Including @LionelatDell and @RichardatDell), along with some of Austin's finest social media leaders such as Connie Reece and Simon Salt. And of course I'll be there. Rumor has it that a few rockstar out-of-towners will be crashing the event, but that remains to be seen ;)

The festivities will start at 5:30, and if you are interested in coming, please RSVP as there are already 16 people confirmed, and a few others have said they will show up. Here's all the info on the event.

BTW, if you're in Austin and would like to meet up, shoot me an email. I am going to be super-busy, but will be in town for most of next week, so maybe we can work out a quick handshake, at least. Sound good?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I won't speak for free

In March of 2008 I had a pair of 'firsts' that were both scary as hell for me at the time. First, I flew on an airplane for the first time in my life, and second, I spoke at SXSW. Actually I moderated a panel, but it was the first time since graduate school 5 years prior, that I spoke in front of an audience.

Now as an introvert, an introvert that had never spoken professionally at the time, my first thought when I was contacted about moderating a panel at SXSW was "There's no way I can do this!"

My second thought was "There's no way I can't do this!"

So although I was literally worried sick about speaking at SXSW, I went ahead with it. It ended up being one of the best decisions I've made in the last 2 years, and now I actually love speaking at social media conferences, something I would have never imagined this time two years ago. And I've gotten to be a pretty good speaker, I get good reviews every time I speak, and at every event I have had at least one attendee tell me afterward that my presentation alone justified the cost of the event for them.

For each event I speak at I spend on average 10 hours creating the slide deck, and about 20 hours rehearsing the presentation, unless it's an existing presentation/deck, then that time is much less. The end result is that I spend anywhere from 15-30 hours preparing/rehearsing the presentation, and lose a minimum of one day due to travel, usually two days.

So there's a pretty big time commitment necessary for me to speak at an event. And yet even with the time investment required, even though I have spoken at most of the biggest social media events and get rave reviews when I speak, I still have conference organizers that contact me expecting me to speak at their event for free.

And when I say 'free', I don't mean that they won't pay a speaking fee. I mean that they won't cover a speaking fee OR any of the speaker's travel costs TO the event.

About a year ago, I adopted a strict policy for speaking at events: I won't speak for free. If you want me to speak at your event, the bare minimum requirement is that you cover my travel. I'll probably require a speaking fee as well, but one certainty is that I won't be paying to come speak at your event so you can sell more tickets. I have turned down a lot of speaking requests in the last year because the event organizers wanted me to speak for free.

I won't. Period.

I'm sorry, but if you are an event organizer, my expertise and time are both worth money, and I'm going to ask for it. I've worked with event organizers before, so I understand that very few social media conferences are cash cows. But a lot more could be compensating their speakers, even if it's only their travel to the event.

Besides that, it's the right thing to do.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Experiencing social media vs monitoring it

Over four years ago, I wrote this post about the importance of companies understanding their customers. I wanted to focus on this section:

What happens when you better understand your customers is that you can better serve them by anticipating their wants and needs. And the best part? As we correctly anticipate the consumers' wants and needs, and fill them, a trust is developed, which leads to the consumer lowering their defenses and letting us interact with them on a deeper level. This leads to a greater understanding of their needs, which means we can more quickly and effectively meet these needs, and thus the cycle is created.

Understanding your customers is general is obviously incredibly important, but you should also understand how your customers are using social media. This is something that often is overlooked when we advise companies on how to get started with social media. We teach them of the value of monitoring social media, of tracking company and industry mentions. Of knowing what's being said and where it is being said.

But that's only half the battle. The 'why' gives meaning to the numbers. What social tools are your customers using? Why are they using them? What information are they looking for, and how do they want it to be delivered to them?

The numbers alone don't tell the whole story. For example, last year a couple of studies came out that challenged Twitter's popularity. The studies claimed that people were flocking to Twitter, but then they stopped using the service after a few months. But the studies were looking at how Twitter users used the Twitter WEBSITE. Many Twitter users move on to a Twitter client such as Tweetdeck or Seesmic after becoming comfortable with the service. So the numbers suggested that people were leaving Twitter, when in fact they may have simply been leaving the Twitter website, for a Twitter desktop client.

You should definitely monitor social media, but ultimately, you should strive to understand the people, not the numbers. If you can reach the point where you understand how and why your customers are using social media, then you can begin to use social media to connect with them on terms that they are comfortable with. And when their comfort level increases, then your customers will more freely connect with you, and this helps you better understand them. And when you better understand them, you can better meet their wants and needs, which in turn will prompt them to more easily understand you. And thus a cycle is created and eventually the understanding on both sides reaches a point where trust enters into the equation.

But it all starts with focusing on the people, not the numbers. Be aware of the numbers, but understand the people behind them.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

How 'social' should companies be?

My policy on who/how many people I follow on Twitter has become much more lax in recent months. These days, I follow back most of the people that follow me. The downside to this is that a lot of these people will immediately unfollow me as soon as I follow them back, I guess in an attempt to 'pad' their follower count.

So every few weeks, I like to go through my Twitter network and 'cleanse' it. I will unfollow a lot of the people I am following that aren't following me, and at the same time I will try to follow back people that followed me that I somehow missed. I was doing this today (using Twellow), and I began to notice a trend as I was going through the people I was following, that weren't following me.

I was following a LOT of people that write for Mashable, that weren't following me back. I finally found SEVEN people that identified themselves as writers for Mashable, that weren't following me back. I'm not talking about people that occasionally write for Mashable, these are seven paid writers for Mashable, not counting Cashmore (he isn't following me either).

I checked the ratio of people they follow to those that follow them. The 'best' ratio I found was one writer that was following back roughly 33% of the people that follow him. The worst was less than 10%.

I got to thinking about this, and honestly I'm not sure of the significance. Will I stop promoting Mashable on Twitter because none of their writers will follow me back? Probably not. Now do I think it's hypocritical for the site to bill itself as 'The Social Media Guide' and only follow back a fraction? Yeah, a little. Is that enough to make me change how I share their content with my network? Probably not.

So at the end of the day, who cares? That's what I'm wondering about. If a company is at all connected to social media, whether it's via content they aggregate, or create, or distribute, or services they offer, are these companies held to a higher 'standard' when it comes to using social media? If an agency brands itself as being 'experts in making companies social', and they aren't using social media to be social themselves, is that a disconnect? Are they expected to be more 'social'? Should they be? At the end of the day does it really matter?

What do you think?

UPDATE: As I continued to go through the people I am following that aren't following me back, I noticed that I also had several from Twitter. Which is really ironic.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is your blog chasing numbers or dollars?

If you think about it, Twitter can get you in trouble sometimes.

You are cranky, it's been a long day, you need to vent. So you write a nice stress-relieving post to your blog. Totally out of character with what you normally write, but you need the release.

And wouldn't you know it, everyone loves the damn post! It gets dozens of RTs on Twitter, and traffic spikes for the day as you are left scratching your head. "So you mean to tell me that every day I am plugging along blogging about my biz, and getting little interaction, but the post where I rant about my day is the one that everyone loves?"

Yep, it happens that way sometimes.

But here is where you have to be VERY careful. While it's great that you got a lot of RTs and a nice bump in traffic from that post, did it make you any money? Or if you are looking for more comments, or more email newsletter signups or whatever metric you track to judge your blog's success. Did that ranty post move that needle?

Because if it didn't, those numbers might be temporarily good for your ego, but long-term it probably won't mean much.

And I see bloggers do this ALL the time. Even 'popular' ones. I have done it myself in the past. This is probably the most popular post I have ever written. It got dozens of comments, hundreds of RTs, and traffic during the day it was published was equal to what I would normally get in two weeks.

But I never had a client tell me they contacted me because of that post. The clients I've gotten have mostly been from writing 'dry' content that didn't get a lot of RTs, but it helped a company solve a social media business problem they were having. It established my expertise, and made them feel comfortable in reaching out to me.

Now that's not to say that the occasional ranty post or one that's completely different from your standard blogging fare isn't a good idea. Because you SHOULD shake things up every once in a while. But in general, if your blog posts aren't reaching your desired audience, how valuable are they?

Chasing numbers is fine, as long as the dollars are following them. Otherwise it's just an ego play.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Want to be a social media expert? Break stuff.

Recently I did something to that I thought I'd never do. For a couple of weeks, I switched the feed for from a full to a partial feed for subscribers. I *hate* reading blogs that publish partial feeds, because it forces me to click over to the blog to read the entire post.

So why would I do this to one of my own sites? Because I didn't *know* what would happen. I didn't know how readers would react. I didn't know if there would be fewer comments, or more. For the record, neither traffic nor comments seemed to be affected, so I switched the feed back to full.

That's the thing about social media, it's still new. For all the '10 Steps to Building a Better Blog/Facebook Fan Page/Twitter Presence' posts, we don't KNOW what all the rules are. And the people that use social media the most efficiently, are often the people that have broken the most stuff. They are the ones that tinker, that experiment. They constantly change their blog's layout, or the content on their Facebook page. One of the reasons why I love Twitter is because the way I use Twitter is constantly evolving. I am always tweaking and changing the way I use the tool to connect with other people.

Want to be a social media expert? Break stuff. Color outside the lines. Write longer posts than you usually do, write shorter ones. Ignore all the rules.

When you think you've mastered one tool, that's probably the best time to mix things up. I remember Kathy Sierra once wrote that experts are often the people that always think 'there must be a better way' to do something, no matter how 'good' they got at it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How to make a (blogging) name for yourself

When I started blogging in 2005, no one knew who I was. Actually many people still don't, as evidenced by the fact that many people think my name is 'Mark' ;) But over time, a few people did figure out who I was, and I wanted to share with you how I got my name out there, in case it might help you. In short, I did two things:

1 - I was relentless in embracing the people that were commenting on, and linking to my blog. I started reading, linking to, and commenting on any blog that linked here, or if the blogger commented here. I even started a post series called 'Viral Community News' that only focused on posts/articles from people that were commenting here, and linking here. These days I've moved my linking and commenting mostly to Twitter. This created a vibrant community here, and these bloggers helped promote me to their readers and contacts as well.

And as the individual bloggers that I embraced developed their own communities, that meant I was being exposed to an even larger audience. No reason why this can't work for you as well.

2 - I challenged bloggers when I thought they were wrong. More importantly, I challenged the so-called 'A-Lister' bloggers. Now there's a difference between disagreeing, and being disagreeable. I didn't purposely LOOK for name bloggers to disagree with, but if a big name blogger said something I didn't buy, I would leave a comment saying so.

And sometimes I was dead wrong. But in the end, I expressed my opinion, and I think that sometimes stood out if no one else was disagreeing with the points raised by the blogger. This is big because I don't think we see enough of this on blogs today. And when we do see someone challenging a blogger, they often go overboard, usually writing a post that outright attacks the blogger, in an apparent effort to draw attention to themselves.

The ironic part is that most bloggers WANT their readers to voice disagreement with them sometimes. Because if someone here raises an opposing point, that then opens up the door for OTHERS to agree with that blogger, and suddenly the chances of getting more comments and a richer conversation, greatly increases.

So in closing, if you are a newish blogger looking to make a name for yourself, try going out of your way to comment/link to the bloggers that do the same for you, and don't be afraid to voice your opinions. What other tips can you offer for new bloggers looking to make a name for themselves?

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Guide to Leveraging #blogchat For Your Own Personal Gain

As #blogchat has continued to become more popular on Twitter, it means that more people are discovering the chat for the first time, which is awesome. I'm seeing new participants every week.

However, I'm also seeing a few people that are trying to capitalize on the popularity of #blogchat, by trying to bring extra exposure to their own efforts. Since most of these efforts seem to be mostly irritating the #blogchat community instead of exciting them, I decided to create the Guide to Leveraging #Blogchat For Your Own Personal Gain. This guide can easily be applied to any other twitter chat. The end result is that I *want* you to be able to leverage #blogchat as a channel to bring more exposure to your blogging efforts. I really do...but it won't happen unless you follow these guidelines:

1 - Understand that you have to make deposits before you can make withdrawals. What this means is that if you expect the #blogchat community to pay attention to your site, you need to first pay attention to the #blogchat community. You need to 'earn' the right to our attention. How do you do this? One good way is to first PARTICIPATE in a few #blogchats. Give us a chance to get to know you, who you are, and why we should care about what you are doing on your blog.

And an important clarification needs to be made here. By 'participating', I don't mean that you simply start linking to your blog posts DURING #blogchat. No, I mean that you join in the DISCUSSION happening during #blogchat.

2 - Stay on topic. If next week we decide to discuss ways to analyze your blog's stats to optimize content and YOU link to your latest post on choosing a Wordpress template AND you add the #blogchat hashtag to your tweet, then you are spamming the #blogchat channel on Twitter. Period.

3 - Promote other people. Let's say in the above example you clearly haven't written a post associated with that #blogchat topic, but you know that Jake has. Link to his post and add the #blogchat hashtag. By doing this you are creating value for the #blogchat followers and participants. This GREATLY improves the chance that we will click your next link.

4 - Use common sense. This isn't rocket science people, it's just social media. If you never participate in #blogchats and the only time we see you use the #blogchat hashtag is when you are tweeting a link to your newest blog post (that has nothing to do with the current #blogchat topic), then you are spamming us. And you know you are, so stop. It's not providing any value for us, and as a result, it's not helping you either.

So in closing, here is how to leverage #blogchat correctly for your own personal gain:

1 - Participate and join in on #blogchat discussions.
2 - Only promote your links if they are relevant and add to #blogchat discussion.
3 - Promote the work of other #blogchat participants.
4 - Use common sense. If it even smells like spam, it probably is.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The problem with case studies

When I speak at social media events and conferences, my presentations are usually very well received and the audience typically finds great value in them. The main reason why (I think), is because I tell stories. My presentations always include a lot of case studies from companies that are successfully leveraging social media to grow their businesses.

But case studies alone aren't that significant, and many companies misuse them. Because too many companies want to hear successful case studies, then replicate what those companies did.

The key isn't copying another company, the key is to understand what worked, and why. Then take the lesson learned from that case study, and apply it to your own efforts.

Graco launched a blog and saw amazing results. But just because blogging has worked for Graco doesn't mean it will work for your company. The success didn't lie with the blog, it was in how Graco created and executed its blogging strategy.

Is your competitor seeing Twitter drive sales to its store? Awesome. Does that mean that you need to get on Twitter too, or that you need to understand how your competitor is leveraging social media to grow its business?

Social media case studies are incredibly valuable IF you can learn how and why social media worked in that particular instance, and apply that lesson to your own efforts. Otherwise you'll always be chasing the 'next big thing', and never quite catch it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

How conversational are Twitter's power users in the social media space?

Stefano alerted me to a Twitter screenshot that suggests that a Twitter homepage redesign is coming. An interesting element of this redesign would include showing what percentage of the user's recent tweets were replies to other users. I've always been interested in how people use Twitter, especially as a conversation platform.

So Stefano's screenshot got me to wondering how some of Twitter's 'power' users are using Twitter, and what percentage of their tweets are replies. So I went to TweetStats, and pulled up the stats for a few dozen of Twitter's power users, and found the following. First you'll see their Twitter name (with link to their TweetStats), and then the percentage of their tweets that include a '@'. Now it should be noted that if a user leaves a tweet like "@bethharte just wrote this great post on SM ROI -", that would still be factored in the percentage, even though it obviously is someone mentioning Beth in a link, not replying to her. Still, the percentages give you a good idea of which power users and 'influentials' in the social media space are using Twitter as a conversational tool, and which aren't:

  1. ComcastCares - 95.34%
  2. AmberCadabra - 83.01%
  3. LizStrauss - 82.21%
  4. BethHarte - 78.04%
  5. JeffPulver - 74.94%
  6. KrisColvin - 72.84%
  7. MackCollier - 72.27%
  8. TheBrandBuilder - 71.96%
  9. JSPepper - 71.07%
  10. ShannonPaul - 69.79%
  11. GeekMommy - 69.32%
  12. MariSmith - 69.26%
  13. ConnieReece - 69.01%
  14. MediaPhyter - 67.87%
  15. MarketingProfs - 67.67%
  16. ConversationAge - 67.52%
  17. Armano - 64.09%
  18. ChrisBrogan - 61.2%
  19. ShelIsrael - 59.96%
  20. BeckyMcCray - 59.18%
  21. GaryVee - 58.28%
  22. MarshaCollier - 55.51%
  23. ServantofChaos - 54.81%
  24. CSPenn - 49.15%
  25. Loic - 48.17%
  26. Scobleizer - 47.67%
  27. JasonFalls - 46.51%
  28. PRSarahEvans - 45.55%
  29. ProBlogger - 44.85%
  30. CopyBlogger - 44.03%
  31. MissRogue - 40.24%
  32. GapingVoid - 39.93%
  33. GuyKawasaki - 29.04%
  34. BrianSolis - 28.48%
  35. Pistachio - 28.16%
  36. JOwyang - 26.09%
  37. SteveRubel - 25.05%
  38. MitchJoel - 17.4%
  39. SkyDiver - 11.99%
  40. Mashable - 3.77%

Now there are obviously a few caveats here. Some users, like Comcastcares and AmberCadabra, are using Twitter to provide customer service support as part of their jobs. So that partly accounts for their high reply percentages. On the flipside, some users like Mashable are using Twitter to mostly promote their own stories, so they have few replies. What I think would be interesting would be to see for each user what percentage of their tweets are promoting themselves, and what percentage are promoting someone else.

Still, I think it's an interesting list, take from it what you will ;)

PS: You can check your own Twitter stats by going here -

Monday, April 05, 2010

Upcoming Social Media Conferences for 2010

Recently I was doing some research putting together a list of upcoming social media conferences, and since so many of you are looking for the same information, I thought I'd share my list with you here. I'll keep this updated as I find/hear about new conferences, and if you know of a social media conference that's coming up, please leave a comment so I can add it to the list!

Arizona -
Oct 17-20 BOLO 2010 - Scottsdale, AZ

California -
April 19+ Emerging Communications (eComm) America - Burlingame, CA

April 20-23 NewComm Forum 2010 San Mateo, CA

April 22–23 Forrester’s Marketing Forum 2010 Los Angeles, CA

April 27 Social Business - Mountain View, CA

April 30+ Wisdom 2.0 Conference Mountain View, CA

May 28+ Lightning in a Bottle Irvine, CA

June 9-11 Social Media Summit @ Cisco Headquarters - San Jose, CA

June 14-15 Agency Side - San Diego, CA:

June 16-18 Social Media Conference - Beverly Hills, CA

Florida -
May 03 2010 Search & Social Spring Summit Tampa, FL

Illinois -
April 28 Social Media Bootcamp - Chicago, IL

April 30-May 2 SOBCon - Chicago, IL

May 12-13 Employee Engagement, Social Media and HR 2010 - Chicago, IL

May 14-17 The 2010 NARM Music Business Convention - Chicago, IL

Kansas -
April 29-30 The Free State Social - Lawrence KS

June 4-6 Small Business Social Media Summit - Hutchinson, KS

Massachusetts -
April 8 Social Media Marketing (SMM) | Central Massachusetts
- Natick, MA

May 3 Social Media & Community 2.0 Strategies - Boston, MA:

May 4-5 MarketingProfs B2B Forum - Boston, MA

Michigan -
April 16-17 FutureMidwest Royal Oak, MI

Missouri -
April 19 Social Fresh - St. Louis, MO

Nevada -
July 16-17 Versus Conference - Las Vegas, NV

October 14-16 Blog World Expo - Las Vegas, NV

New York -
April 17 Seven on Seven - New York, NY

July 26-28 Strategic Social Media for Healthcare - NYC

December 8-10 Sm@rt Social Media - Reno, NV

North Carolina -
May 17-19 Search Exchange - Charlotte, NC

Pennsylvania -
May 25 Social Media Plus - Philadelphia, PA

Tennessee -
August 13 At Big South Social Media Summit - Nashville, TN:

Texas -
Sept. 16-17 Social Media Optimization Summit - Dallas, TX

Washington -
June 8-9 Search Marketing Expo – SMX Advanced Seattle - Seattle, WA:

Wisconsin -
May 13-15 unGeeked Elite - Milwaukee, WI:

Online -
May 4-25 Social Media Success Summit 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Has Twitter jumped the shark?

Twitter is slowing turning us all into broadcasters.

That seems to be the case among the people I am following. Even among my close contacts, I'm noticing that there are few actual conversations happening, it's mostly a stream of personal updates, with the occasional link thrown in.

To prove this, I decided to check the recent tweets from my contacts on Twitter. I am following over 15,000 people now, so Tweetdeck is a godsend, because it allows me to segment those followers into groups so I can be sure to keep up with people more easily.

One of the groups I have created is 'My 100', which are close friends and business contacts who I absolutely want to keep up with.

I decided to go to the tweets from My 100 and see how many tweets from this group would pass before I found a tweet where someone was leaving a reply to someone else. In other words, how many tweets would pass by before I found a tweet from a member of My 100 who was engaged in a conversation with someone else.

73 tweets passed before I found a person replying to someone else (God bless you, @ShannonPaul). SEVENTY THREE!!!! I figured the number would be a dozen, at most. Now granted, there were several RTs in that, but 72 tweets passed before I found one where someone was actually talking to someone else.

BTW just for the hell of it, I decided to conduct the same experiment on my All Friends column. There a mere 17 tweets went by before I found one left directly to another person.

It seems we are shifting from using Twitter as a conversational tool, to using it as a broadcasting tool. We are no longer talking WITH Twitter members, we are talking at them. I'm doing it as well, I checked my TweetStats, and now 72% of my tweets are replies to others. That's good, but at one point I was pushing 80%.

Are you guys seeing the same thing? Or am I just being bitchy because everyone isn't using Twitter the same way I am? Long-time readers of The Viral Garden will remember that in the Summer of 2008 I went on and on about how amazing Plurk was. A big reason why, was because of all the amazing conversations a small group of us had there.

I miss that. And I really haven't seen it on Twitter in several months.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

OptSum: Getting out of the Social Media Bubble

For the last three days I've been in Dallas attending and presenting at the Social Media Optimization Summit. The event was organized by Tami Siewruk and her team, and in many ways, I was an outsider. Which was a good thing.

The event was aimed primarily at the apartment industry and property managers. While Tami put together a very solid lineup of social media speakers, such as Jason Falls, Chris Penn, Geno Church, Charity Hisle, myself and others, many of us had little visibility in Tami's 'space'. This was great, because it meant that the audience, for the most part, had no pre-conceived notions about us, and our ideas and teachings had to stand on their own merits.

What I loved about the audience was that every thought we put forward was refocused through the lense of 'how does this work for my industry?' Normally when I speak at a marketing/social media event, the audience isn't this laser-focused on one particular sector or industry. But the people I met at #optsum were passionate about learning more about social media, and how it can work with and be incorporated into their current marketing efforts.

But I have to admit, as the event unfolded and I sat in on several workshops, I began to get a bit worried about my workshop. My Think Like a Rockstar workshop was focused on how rockstars create fans for their music, and how companies can replicate this via social media to create excitement for their own efforets. It was definitely the black sheep of the agenda, but somewhat to my surprise, there wasn't a chair left when the workshop started. I think that's because these people are passionate about their tenants and WANT to connect with them and were excited about the potential of using social media as a way to create and nurture relationships with their customers. It was very inspiring to see!

And speaking of inspiring, I loved how all the attendees were so passionate about Tami and her events. This is the first time when I have had attendees refer to a series of conferences as being 'life-changing events', but I heard that description more than once. Tami is planning on having a similar event (only bigger) back in Dallas in September, and if you are in the apartment industry (or even if you aren't), I highly recommend you attend!

BTW if you couldn't make it to Dallas, here's the slidedeck from my Think Like a Rockstar workshop:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This is MY idea...

From 1966 to 1968, Adam West and Burt Ward played Batman and Robin in the very campy, and very popular series 'Batman' for ABC. The series portrayed Batman and Robin as being very cartoonish, and often as inept as the villains they were chasing. DC Comics took its lead from the success of the ABC series, and began publishing stories in its Batman comics that were similar in stance and tone to the very funny and satirical shows being shown in the Batman television series.

About a year or so after the Batman series ended, a writer named Denny O'Neil and an artist named Neal Adams began collaborating on new Batman comics. At this point the Batman comics were still taking their lead from the campiness of the Batman series, and the writers and artists that worked on Batman comics were encouraged to do so as well. O'Neil and Adams not only didn't agree with this stance, they thought it was ridiculous. They wanted to see Batman return to his roots as a brooding force that fought evil from the darkness and shadows, not a campy superhero that fought in tights.

So bit by bit, Adams and O'Neil began to make subtle changes to way Batman was written and drawn. If a script called for Batman to appear in broad daylight, Adams would change it to a night scene. They made Batman more menacing to criminals, more violent, but at the same time, he became more cerebral, going from being bumbling in the TV series, to 'the world's greatest detective'.

Slowly, O'Neil and Adams took the idea of what and who the Batman was, and made it their own. Most fans consider the O'Neil and Adams work on Batman in the early 70s to be one of the greatest collaborations in comics history. In fact, much of the present image you see of Batman, in movies such as The Dark Knight, is heavily influenced by the work of Adams and O'Neil, four decades ago.

So what does this have to do with social media?

One of the complaints you hear often in this space is that there are no new ideas. We are all simply rehashing the same ideas over and over. We've become an echo chamber.

To a large degree, that's correct. But instead of simply looking for new ideas, sometimes it's just as effective to take an old idea, and make it your own.

Twitter launched in the summer of 2006, and from Day One, users of the site were suggesting to their friends who they should be following. We all did this, but Micah Baldwin was the first to take this idea and make it his own, with the creation of #followfriday early last year.

How often do you see someone promoting a post or work they have done in a blog comment? Many people do this, and many more people probably would LIKE to do this, but don't want to seem too self-promotional. Becky McCray created the Brag Basket on her blog, and solved this problem. She took an existing idea, and made it her own.

For as long as there have been blogs, there have been bloggers wanting other bloggers to link to them. We all want more links, and we all want to be found by more readers. This is why I started The Z-List in late 2006. The idea was simple, you highlight any blogs that you think others should be reading, and link to them. I took an existing idea (linking to other blogs, asking for blog links), and made it my own.

The point is, instead of chasing 'new ideas', how can you take an existing idea, or an existing activity, and add more value? How can you take that idea, and make it your own? Sometimes improving the wheel makes more sense than trying to re-invent it.

Pic via Cover Browser

Monday, March 15, 2010

Heading to SXSW-Music? Want to get in on a social media scavenger hunt?

Typically I don't blog about work I'm doing with clients, but if you'll be in Austin later this week for SXSW-Music, I wanted to give you the heads up on pretty cool a project I'm working on.

One of my current clients is Rock Saga, a 5-day alternative rock festival that will be taking place in Jamaica over Memorial Day Weekend (May 27th-31st). The festival itself will be extremely cool, the heart of which is a 2-day Battle of the Bands concert, but there's also a Miss Rock Saga Competition, and more parties on the beach than you can shake a stick at. The Battle of the Bands will be composed of 24 bands selected by the fans at the website, and all together $30,000 in prize money will be awarded. And of course, it's in Jamaica in May, so that alone is reason enough to get excited!

So we wanted to make sure we were in Austin during SXSW-Music to help get the word out about the festival. And the thought was that while we are there, that we should give away some tickets. But instead of just handing out tickets, we decided to make it fun for everyone, and try doing a scavenger hunt!

What we'll be doing is this: On the 17th, 18th and 20th, we'll have a team in and around the Austin Convention Center where the majority of SXSW-Music will be taking place. This team will have several pairs of tickets with them, 2-day weekend passes to the Battle of the Bands that would normally sell for $199. If you want to win a pair of these tickets, you'll have to find them. It could be that one of the team members will have them, or they could be hidden somewhere in the conference center. We'll tell you which, and will post hints to where you can find the tickets (or the person that has the tickets) on Rock Saga's Twitter page, and on their Facebook Fan Page. So if you want to play along, make sure you follow Rock Saga on Twitter and Facebook!

This is a bit of an experiment, so we'll see how it goes. The festival itself will be a blast, so in keeping with that spirit we wanted to have some fun with promoting it during SXSW, and thought it would be cool to let you guys get in on it as well! We'll be building off this in the coming weeks and will be using social media in other ways to promote Rock Saga.

If you'd like to learn more about Rock Saga, check out the site, and if you would like to join us as a sponsor, there's still some room left, just email me and I can put you in touch with the people that can help you out. And if you're a band that would like to join the Rock Saga lineup, go to the site and submit your band, then have your friends vote you up, you could get added to the festival!

Oh and if you think the scavenger hunt idea is cool and want to tell your friends on Twitter, I'd appreciate that as well ;)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Are you ignoring one of the most important rules of blogging?

The most agonizing and frustrating blog post I ever wrote, was my first one.

It took me FOUR days to write that post. Actually it only took about an hour to write, but it took me four days to have the courage to hit 'Publish Post'.

And it wasn't because I was insecure about the post itself, it was because according to what I had read on other blogs, it was a 'bad' post. In preparing for the start of my blog-writing, I read a LOT of blogs in an effort to discover the 'tips' for writing a great blog. And one of the 'rules' for blogging I read over and over again was 'Make sure the post is only a couple of paragraphs long, otherwise it will be too long and readers will lose interest.'

My post was at least two pages long. So I stared intently at the screen trying to figure out a way to shorten the post to 2 paragraphs, and still tell the story I wanted to tell. After 4 days I realized that it couldn't be done, and hit 'Publish Post'.

Just like that, my blogging 'career' began by breaking the blogging rules. And I have to admit, it felt damn good!

I've been thinking about this recently because I'm really struggling to find 'new' blogs that get and maintain my interest. And I wonder if part of the reason why is because so many new bloggers are following the 'rules' of blogging. In 2005 and 2006, we didn't have Copy Blogger and ProBlogger to tell us the what the 'best' way to blog was. We all had to make our own rules, to a great extent.

But now, there's a zillion blogs giving you 'Ten Steps to Creating the Perfect Blog". Hell I've written those posts myself. And on the one hand these do definitely improve your blogging, but at the same time if everyone is following the same format, then it becomes MUCH harder for a blog to stand out.

Another example of purposely not following the blogging rules was the Z-List. This was the thing that first got me on a lot of people's radars. The premise was absurd to some; Take a list of blogs you think are under-appreciated, then invite everyone else to add their own favorite blogs and share the list. With one BIG caveat; You can't add your OWN blog to the list. Even though my blog wasn't on the original Z-List, I ended up gaining a few hundred links from the Z-list, and a few other blogs got several hundred.

So while you are following the 'rules' for better blogging, don't forget that you can always make and ADD your own rules. That might be the most important blogging rule of all.

Pic via Flickr user atibens