Monday, April 30, 2007

Which Conversation Are You Having?

I just wrapped up my 'chapter' for the e-book 'The Age of Conversation'. My chapter is entitled 'Breaking Marketing Barriers from the Top of a Harley'. In it, I talk about how many companies and their customers are speaking entirely different languages:
The problem is that in many cases there are two communities; the company, and its customers. Each community has its own wants and needs, and its own way of talking to each other. As a result, neither group really understands or trusts the other.

But when a company makes an effort to join its customers in its space, that barrier begins to fall. The ideas and language of the company begins to seep into the customers’ space. Likewise, the thoughts and opinions of the customers start to become understood by the company, and shape its marketing messages. Slowly, the line that divides a company from its customers begins to disappear.

But when you look at Harley-Davidson, both the company, and its community of customers, are talking in the same language. Both groups believe that 'Harley Riders Rock'.

How does a company reach the point where it understands and is speaking the same language as its customers? You'll have to buy the e-book to find out. And speaking of the e-book, here's the updated Who's Who list of its contributors:

Gavin Heaton
Drew McLellan
Valeria Maltoni
Emily Reed
Katie Chatfield
Greg Verdino
Mack Collier
Lewis Green
Ann Handley
Mike Sansone
Paul McEnany
Roger von Oech
Anna Farmery
David Armano
Bob Glaza
Mark Goren
Matt Dickman
Scott Monty
Richard Huntington
Cam Beck
David Reich
Mindblob (Luc)
Sean Howard
Tim Jackson
Patrick Schaber
Roberta Rosenberg
Uwe Hook
Tony D. Clark
Todd Andrlik
Toby Bloomberg
Steve Woodruff
Steve Bannister
Steve Roesler
Stanley Johnson
Spike Jones
Nathan Snell
Simon Payn
Ryan Rasmussen
Ron Shevlin
Roger Anderson
Bob Hruzek
Rishi Desai
Phil Gerbyshak
Peter Corbett
Pete Deutschman
Nick Rice
Nick Wright
Mitch Joel
Michael Morton
Mark Earls
Mark Blair
Mario Vellandi
Lori Magno
Kristin Gorski
Krishna De
Kris Hoet
Kofl Annan
Kimberly Dawn Wells
Karl Long
Julie Fleischer
Jordan Behan
John La Grou
Joe Raasch
Jim Kukral
Jessica Hagy
Janet Green
Jamey Shiels
Dr. Graham Hill
Gia Facchini
Geert Desager
Gaurav Mishra
Gary Schoeniger
Gareth Kay
Faris Yakob
Emily Clasper
Ed Cotton
Dustin Jacobsen
Tom Clifford
David Pollinchock
David Koopmans
David Brazeal
David Berkowitz
Carolyn Manning
Craig Wilson
Cord Silverstein
Connie Reece
Colin McKay
Chris Newlan
Chris Corrigan
Cedric Giorgi
Brian Reich
Becky Carroll
Arun Rajagopal
Andy Nulman
Amy Jussel
AJ James
Kim Klaver
Sandy Renshaw
Susan Bird
Ryan Barrett
Troy Worman

That's a damned stout list! Keep in mind that the e-book is being dedicated to the memory of Sandra Kerley (CK's mom), and all proceeds from the sale of the e-book will benefit Variety, the Children's Charity. Just think, you spend a little, you get great marketing advice, AND you get to help children around the world! Now THAT is a win-win situation! More background on Variety and its history can be found here.

UPDATE: David Armano gives a sneak-peek at his chapter for 'The Age of Conversation'.

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Friday, April 27, 2007

My Involvement in the Nikon D80 Blogger Program

My Nikon D80 digital camera arrived yesterday, so my participation in the D80 blogger program has begun. Since a lot of people have been interested in this program, I wanted to spell out exactly what my involvement would include.

First, the main reason why I agreed to be involved in this program is because Nikon was specific in stating that I was under ZERO obligation to blog about the camera or the pictures I take with it. That wasn't a condition for getting or keeping the camera, and if it had been, I wouldn't have participated. Nikon's only caveat was that IF I choose to talk about the D80 or the pictures I take with it, that I disclose my involvement in this program.

Second, this is a 6-month 'loaner' program. I am given free use of the camera for 6 months. After 6 months, I can either return the camera to Nikon, extend the program for another 6 months, or buy it at a yet-to-be disclosed editorial discount.

Now for me, my involvement going forward hinges on two key points:

1 - Do I blog about the camera and the photos I take with the camera?

2 - Do I disclose if a picture I post here was taken with the D80?

I want to thank everyone for the feedback they have left here, as you all greatly helped me clarify my position on both these points.

First, I will ONLY blog about the D80 and the pictures I take with the camera IF I decide to buy the D80.

That was the easy part, but the disclosure issue is a bit more thorny for me. Again, Nikon made it clear that I do not have to disclose which pictures I take with the D80. But I feel I should, then again, if I make a special mention here of each and every picture I take with the D80, then do I cross the line from disclosure to promoting the D80? I think yes.

So my compromise is that I have created a Flickr account, and will ONLY post pictures taken with the D80 there. Some of them may also be posted here in posts, but the point is, if you want to know which photos I am taking with the D80, all you have to do is click over to my Flickr account and there they are. If you don't care and don't want to know, you won't.

One final note: While I will not be blogging about the camera unless I buy it, I will be extensively blogging about the program itself. Truth be told, this is the main reason why I wanted to participate. There have been several similar programs in the past year or so, but I haven't really seen any bloggers that focused on covering the program itself, and that's what I wanted to do. I think it will interest my readers, and can also serve as valuable feedback for Nikon, as well as helping other companies that might be considering launching a similar blogger outreach program. And it gives me my first chance to work with a company as a recipient in a program such as this.

So I think that covers everything. I am going to leave this post up on the sidebar, and create a spot for it there. Again, thanks to everyone for their feedback, and I can assure you that it definitely influenced my thinking here!

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Thursday, April 26, 2007

BusinessWeek Takes Closer Look at 'Active' Blogosphere

Blogspotting's Heather Green has an interesting post today digging into the recent 'State of the Blogosphere' update from Technorati. Specifically, she contacted Dave Sifry to get to the bottom of one of the most questioned stats; exactly how many of the 70+ million blogs that Technorati tracks, are still active?

Green writes that Sifry claims that number is only 15.5 million, or 21% of the total number of blogs that Technorati tracks. Sifry calls a blog 'active' if it has been updated in the last 90 days. Sounds pretty INactive to me, but that's his call.

Green adds;
Excited to try out a new way of connecting with folks online, people flocked to blogging. But after 3 months on average, most bloggers realize that writing about their politics, launch haunts, or co-workers isn’t for them, says Adam Sarner, an analyst at researcher Gartner Inc. Sarner argues that, since the audience reading blogs continues to grow, this classic tech cycle of hype and maturity is good news for the remaining blogs. Those left standing are the influencers that attract audiences and advertisers.

And I also think that many of these blogs that are going dark, are from companies/individuals that started blogging as a way to generate income, and quickly dumping the endeavor when they realized that it was actually going to take a real commitment to get results from a blog. For example, in late 2006, I remember Technorati was showing 1,600 blogs labelled as 'marketing' blogs in its directory. A few weeks ago I rechecked that figure, and it was over 23,000. It's probably more than that now.

Besides, blogging has a steep learning curve. I've been blogging for about 20 months now, and I still learn something new about the medium almost every day. But the flipside is, there's now more good information available to newcomers on how to start and maintain a blog, both for the individual, and the company. That will make the process much easier for everyone that follows.

Interesting reporting by Green, but I see this as the inevitable shakeout that had to be coming to the blogosphere. Those that aren't committed to the space will go away, and leave less clutter for the rest of us to wade through. That makes the better blogs that continue to grow and thrive, that much easier to find, and more influential. I see that as a good thing.

UPDATE: CNET and TechMeme pick up on the story.

Technorati Tags:

Free MarketingProfs Virtual Conference Coming in June

I wanted to give everyone a heads-up about a very cool FREE virtual conference that MarketingProfs is giving in June. The conference is entitled "What's New in the Finding Customers Online: MarketingProfs Business-to-Business Marketing Forum", and is a day-long event and will include several industry leaders participating.

According to MP's Chief-Content Officer Ann Handley;
Throughout the day, speakers like Forrester's Laura Ramos, Digitas's Greg Verdino, Jeff Thull ("Mastering the Complex Sale"), Bill Lee of the Customer Reference Forum, and representatives from Google, IBM, Cisco, and Citrix will serve up the latest ideas for finding and keeping customers, and staying current with technologies and techniques.

Sounds pretty sweet, and if you want to find out exactly what is on tap, here's the event's complete schedule, and you can register here for the June 13th event.

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 53

Here's the standings for Week 53:

1 - Seth's Blog - 6,156 (+14)(LW - 1)
2 - Creating Passionate Users - 12,711 (+27)(LW - 2)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 22,904 (-131)(LW - 3)
4 - Gaping Void - 26,257 (-993)(LW - 4)
5 - Marketing Shift - 48,150 (-3,194)(LW - 5)
6 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 62,866 (-978)(LW - 6)
7 - Daily Fix - 62,943 (+136)(LW - 7)
8 - Converstations - 71,752 (-3,210)(LW - 8)
9 - Influential Interactive Marketing - 74,127 (+3,645) (LW - 10)
10 - New School of Network Marketing - 76,888 (-557)(LW - 9)
11 - The Viral Garden - 82,446 (-1,115)(LW - 11)
12 - Logic + Emotion - 86,862 (-348)(LW - 12)
13 - Coolzor - 98,721 (+693)(LW - 13)
14 - Marketing Hipster - 101,585 (+489) (LW - 14)
15 - Brand Autopsy - 132,803 (+1,033)(LW - 15)
16 - What's Next - 142,827 (-2,926)(LW - 16)
17 - Jaffe Juice - 147,316 (+1,779)(LW - 17)
18 - Marketing Headhunter - 157,939 (-1,666)(LW - 18)
19 - Church of the Customer - 172,081 (-2,699)(LW - 19)
20 - Diva Marketing - 173,114 (+1,268)(LW - 21)
21 - Marketing Nirvana - 176,267 (-5,576)(LW - 20)
22 - CK's Blog - 184,640 (+7,990)(LW - 22)
23 - Experience Curve - 204,619 (+4,203)(LW - 23)
24 - Servant of Chaos - 208,533 (LW - UR)
25 - Spare Change - 218,713 (-6,795)(LW - 25)

This week marks the start of Year Two of the Top 25 Marketing Blogs. Gaping Void has been slipping a bit lately and is leaving the door open, but no one is close enough to take advantage. Rohit Bhargava's Influential Interactive Marketing has been quietly moving up in recent weeks, after cracking the Top 10, and this week moves up to #9.

There's a sizable rift between the Top 14 blogs and the rest of the Top 25, but A-Listers Jaffe Juice and John Moore's Brand Autopsy are sneaking back up into the fray. CK's Blog continues to stride upwards and is now firmly entrenched in the Top 25. Experience Curve is also enjoying a nice winning streak.

Servant of Chaos, after just missing the Top 25 for literally weeks, knocked the cover off the ball to land in the Top 25 at #24.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Technorati Tags:
, ,

LinkedIn Launches Company Blog

Our good friend Mario Sundar is already making his mark at LinkedIn as the site's Community Evangelist, by announcing today that the site is launching its first blog. He also recently posted about his '3 tips before launching a corporate blog'.

Remembering the advice I gave last week in my 'Eight Steps for Revitalizing Your Company Blog' article, what should LinkedIn's blog content focus on? Should the online site focus on its own offerings, or instead on helping its readers maximize their networking efforts?

I bet Mario knows. If you're a company that's considering adding a blog, you should know as well. (Hint: It's about the readers, not you.)

Congrats again to Mario and the LinkedIn team for the launch. I have no doubt that under Mario's watchful eye, we'll soon be referencing LinkedIn's blog as a case study for corporate blogging done right.

UPDATE: Mario adds in the comments "I believe the goal of the company blog is to get the company (meaning those working internally) talking to the users and vice-versa."

Technorati Tags:
, ,

When ideas are cheap...

Seth points us to this site, which shows us the correct spelling for the word 'definitely'. Notice that this very simple site has been Dugg almost 5,000 times already.

One of the great things about social media is that any idea, no matter how simple, can become an overnight sensation.

One of the not-so great things about social media is that there are so many ideas, that we sometimes gravitate toward and spread certain ones simply because of their novelty.

Technorati Tags:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Email subscriptions to The Viral Garden now available

The Viral Garden's number of daily feed readers and visitors is now at an all-time high, so I decided it was time to add email subscriptions. Actually, I just discovered that FeedBurner offered this service, but anyway. For those of you that don't like to use RSS readers, just pop your email addy in the box on the sidebar, and FeedBurner will shoot the posts straight to your email!

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Monday, April 23, 2007

Australians taking it upon themselves to create a vibrant community

Want to know how to create a vibrant community online or off? Give people a sense of ownership in something bigger than themselves.

Asi tells us of such efforts by the Australian city of Port Phillip Bay, which has launched a Sustainable Community Progress Indicators initiative. The city wants to bring the community together to improve everyone's experience, and to improve the quality of life for residents. The city is also measuring progress, such as tracking how many 'smiles per hour' residents should expect within the city from the other residents that they encounter. They have even set up a 'Smile Spies' program where residents volunteer to track how many people are smiling on certain streets.

My advice? Set up the 'Smile Spies' with a blog and have them blog about their efforts, and take pictures of residents that they encounter that are smiling. And make sure to talk to as many of them as possible, and get their names on the blog. People love seeing their names in print or online ;)

Asi adds that the city is also throwing street parties designed to get the community members out and to meet each other, usually for the first time. Other areas that the city is concentrating on include getting the word out about the area's falling crime rate, keeping housing affordable, and encouraging residents to shop locally, while working with merchants to make sure all of resident's shopping needs are being met. Here's a list of all the major facets of the plan.

Gavin, Shouty, have either of you been to Port Phillip Bay? Are other cities in Australian implementing anything similar to the SCPI?

And more importantly, what lessons can marketers take from Port Phillip Bay's initiative?

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Friday, April 20, 2007

Speaking of Nikon and freebies to bloggers...

Lotsa people chiming in on both sides of the Nikon D80 Blogger Ambassador program here yesterday. Good stuff everyone. But the other side of the coin might be Heather Armstrong's 'experience' with Nikon.

Every day at her blog Dooce, Heather posts new pictures, and has been for years. She has a disclaimer at the top of her blog stating that she posts pictures everyday, and says that she takes all the pictures with a Nikon D70 she bought a few years ago, which is one notch below the D80 many of us will be receiving shortly. If you've never read Dooce, then please go check it out ASAP, as I've said before, Heather might be the best marketer in the blogosphere, and is definitely one of the best writers.

But last year at SXSW, she had an interesting confession concerning the pictures she posts at Dooce: "I've gotten thousands of emails from people saying that they bought the camera because of those photos... So here I've given Nikon hundreds of thousands of dollars of business, and they've never paid me for it." She later added that Nikon has never contacted her about her postings on Dooce.

My question is, should they? The above statement was made in 2006, so assuming that Dooce's thousands of daily readers are still buying Nikon D70s because of Heather's pictures, it's quite conceivable that her one blog has given Nikon $500,000 to a million in retail sales of the D70.

And Nikon has never contacted Heather about this.

Should they?

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Coke Gets a Second Life

Ah nothing like a creative post title to start the weekend off with a bang! Coke has launched its first foray into online world Second Life with its Virtual Thirst promotion. The initiative, designed by Crayon, lets SL users create a 'vending' machine that vends an 'experience' rather than cans. You can submit your idea in the SL community, or in written form, as images or videos.

Jaffe explains how Crayon and Coke worked together to create the promotion: "We worked closely with them to take a ground-up approach by extensively collaborating with the SL community – as advisors, developers, project managers, journalists and judges."

Karl had a great point that Coke doesn't make the same mistake with this promotion as it did with the disastrous 'The Coke Show', in that here, the initiative takes place in Second Life, ie where the community is. And I also agree with him that I'm not sure if this passes anyone's 'who gives a damn' test, then again I'm not in Second Life, and I do think it's smart that they are holding the promotion there, and letting SL users judge the winners.

It sure as hell beats holding a Coke-Mentos copycat geyser-video contest on a Coke site and wondering why no one shows up.

Technorati Tags:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nikon's Blogger Outreach Program for D80 Already Generating Buzz

When you tell a group of bloggers that you're going to send them a thousand dollar camera to play with, it's not hard to imagine them blogging about it ASAP. That's just what I and many of the 50 other bloggers that have been selected to participate in Nikon's blogger outreach program for the D80 have done.

Again, that part was expected. But I've already seen two top bloggers that AREN'T receiving a D80, blog about how great the program, AND camera is. Karl Long and Josh Hallett have both blogged about how they love the program and camera, and have both posted stunning pictures taken with their D80s. And seeing this simply gets those of us that are waiting on our D80s that much more excited about getting to use ours.

Something that's getting a bit lost in the shuffle here is that Nikon's PR firm, MWW Group, employs at least two well-known bloggers, Tom Biro and Chris Thilk. Think that makes a difference to have social-media experts in tow when designing a brand ambassador program aimed at bloggers? Of course it does.

As I've said before, a well-designed promotional program that's aimed at bloggers will generate a ton of positive buzz in the blogosphere for the program itself. That's a bonus to the buzz generated for the product.

Lewis adds in the comments: "At the end of the day, I prefer that writers not accept any freebies, except loaners, and that every post, every article, every photograph in this case, carry a disclaimer when the product is a loaner.

My gut tells me, however, that for me, reviewing products that I did not purchase or businesses that I have a personal stake in, is just not the right thing to do."

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 52

Here's the standings for Week 52:

1 - Seth's Blog - 6,170 (+30)(LW - 1)
2 - Creating Passionate Users - 12,738 (+28)(LW - 2)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 22,773 (-355)(LW - 3)
4 - Gaping Void - 25,264 (-1,644)(LW - 4)
5 - Marketing Shift - 44,956 (-3,414)(LW - 5)
6 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 61,888 (-838)(LW - 7)
7 - Daily Fix - 63,079 (-2,796)(LW - 6)
8 - Converstations - 68,542 (-1,858)(LW - 8)
9 - New School of Network Marketing - 76,331 (-5,189)(LW - 9)
10 - Influential Interactive Marketing - 77,772 (+1,032) (LW - 10)
11 - The Viral Garden - 81,331 (-1,025)(LW - 11)
12 - Logic + Emotion - 86,514 (+2,636)(LW - 12)
13 - Coolzor - 99,414 (+1,278)(LW - 13)
14 - Marketing Hipster - 102,074 (+13,585) (LW - 14)
15 - Brand Autopsy - 133,836 (+517)(LW - 15)
16 - What's Next - 139,901 (-5,485)(LW - 16)
17 - Jaffe Juice - 149,095 (+3,473)(LW - 17)
18 - Marketing Headhunter - 156,273 (+201)(LW - 18)
19 - Church of the Customer - 169,382 (-11,560)(LW - 19)
20 - Marketing Nirvana - 170,691 (-8,870)(LW - 21)
21 - Diva Marketing - 174,382 (-8,553)(LW - 20)
22 - CK's Blog - 192,630 (+12,289)(LW - 24)
23 - Experience Curve - 208,822 (LW - UR)
24 - Emergence Marketing - 210,240 (-4,648)(LW - 25)
25 - Spare Change - 211,918 (-7,463)(LW - 23)

This year marks the end of Year One of the Top 25 Marketing Blogs. If you want to see what the first Top 25 list looked like, click here. If you're wondering, only 12 of the blogs in this week's countdown were in the first Top 25.

As for this week, Logic + Emotion and Jaffe Juice continue to claw their ways back up the totem pole. And Marketing Hipster came within a whisker of being the 14th blog with an Alexa score of less than 100K.

CK's Blog had another nice week, and Experience Curve re-enters the Top 25 at #23. Servant of Chaos inched even closer to the Top 25 this week, and is now less than 10K from making the Top 25.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Nikon Launches Blogger Ambassador Program For D80

Nikon and its PR firm MWW Group have launched an ambassador program to promote the Nikon D80, which I am honored to have been selected to participate in. The initiative puts a D80 in the hands of 50 'online personalities' to let them use the 10 MP digital camera for 6 months. At the end of those 6 months, we can either extend the program for another 6 months, purchase it outright at an 'editorial discount', or return the camera to Nikon, no questions asked.

Here's what ultimately led me to participate, this passage in the material I received inviting me to join: "There is only one requisite for receiving this camera: Should you decide to talk about your experience with the D80 we send you, in any forum, you must let people know that you got the camera on loan from Nikon. We want you to be as candid and transparent as possible about where you got this camera and what you're doing with it."

Smart move, it would have been very easy for Nikon to have said "We only ask that if you receive the camera, you make a point to tell others of your involvement, and clearly identify any pictures you take with the camera." By adding the above language, Nikon instead isn't putting any pressure on those involved to promote the camera, only asking that we disclose our involvement with the program if we do. Which of course is something we would have wanted to do anyway. BTW, it should surprise no one that a couple of pretty smart bloggers work for MWW.

BL has an interview up with the MWW Group's Tom Biro about the program.

Another cool aspect to the program is that "All of the funds Nikon receives from the purchase of these cameras will be donated to an organization with solid roots in photography and education."

So get ready to see more pictures on here shortly, as well as my opinions on the D80. As I told Tom, this means I now have no excuse not to have a Flickr account and photostream set up here.

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Your Company Blog Sucks, Here's How to Fix it

My latest post is up at Daily Fix, as well as my latest article for Marketing Profs. Both are covering what happens when a company starts blogging, then they run into problems.

Think about it, there's plenty of information available to companies telling them why and how they should START blogging, but there's very little advice available to them if their blogging efforts don't take off like they had hoped.

Late last year I wrote an article for Marketing Profs entitled Ten Steps to Starting a Company Blog (Premium membership required). The article was one of the more popular ones on the site last year, but I always had the intention to follow it up at a later date with a companion article that would focus on how to 'fix' a company blog if it wasn't getting the results a company wanted.

Then a couple of months ago, I came in contact with a company whose blog needed just this type of help. On the surface, the company thought they were doing everything right. They were blogging almost daily, especially during the week, and several high-level execs were involved in the writing, from the CEO on down.

The problem was, there was zero interaction with their readers. When I found their blog, the last 15 or so posts had netted a grand total of one comment. The company was falling into a common trap of positioning the blog as a promotional tool for the company, instead of positioning the content from the reader's point of view.

Which is one of the main areas I hit on in my article for Marketing Profs, entitled Eight Ideas for Revitalizing Your Company Blog (and yes it is FREE!). I talk about several ways that companies can save their blogs, and discuss ways to help build readership by giving their visitors a reason to become readers. The companion post to this article is headlining at Daily Fix today, entitled Your Company Blog Sucks, Now What? Please check them out and feel free to forward them to any companies that you think need to fix their blogging efforts ;)

UPDATE: John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing blogs about the article adding "Mack shares simple truths about building and feeding a blog audience. The piece should be required reading for any blogger, seasoned or just getting started." Thanks John!

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Want more customers, or more fans?

In my post yesterday on how music artists and fans belong to the same community, Spike adds this comment: "I guess the difference between the terms "customer" and "fan" are too much to overcome for some companies."

Then a few minutes ago, I saw via LifeHacker that Ben and Jerry's is giving away free Ice Cream Cones today.

Most companies have two ways of looking at such a promotion:

1 - We can't do this, because we'll probably lose money

2 - We have to do this, because we'll probably gain fans

The vast majority of companies will take Option #1. The vast majority of companies also aren't as successful as Ben and Jerry's.

There might be a connection.

UPDATE: Kevin adds in the comments, "Ultimately, the marketing blogosphere is begging executive leadership to choose faith over facts. I think customers are begging for this, too."

Technorati Tags:

Encouraging positive WOM, circa 1900

While I was helping CK pack her mom's apartment recently, she insisted that I take her mom's gorgeous antique sewing machine for my mom. Identifying exactly who made the machine and how old it is has proven to be a bit of a challenge. We were encouraged to find that Sandra had kept the instruction booklet for it, but unfortunately the crumbling pages held nothing to identify the manufacturer.

But it did hold this advice for the machine's owner: "Always speak a good word for your machine whenever and wherever you can."

Technorati Tags:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mind The Gap Episode 4 is....

...once again being held hostage by GoDaddy. I recently bought and was going to use that URL to host the episodes, but GoDaddy is still trying to figure out how after 3 weeks to redirect my podcast episodes to that URL from their previous home,

And GoDaddy sucks, BTW. Thankfully my email question as to WHY episode 4 of MTG is being held hostage has been received by GoDaddy, and I should expect a response within 24 hours.

And one of GoDaddy's competitors should expect to get my hosting business within 24 hours as well.

Technorati Tags:

Music artists and their fans are part of the same community

Today Spike blogs about a new promotion by the band KMFDM where the band is asking its fans to call into a hotline and tell them what the band means to them. KMFDM will take some of the messages and make them part of their next album. So the fans have a chance to literally become part of the band's music.

Spike then asks the question: "Why are bands so far ahead of the rest when it comes to engaging their fans?"

This one is easy to answer, because the bands ARE the fans. Spike mentions that one of Brains on Fire's other writers, Justin, is a fan of KMFDM's music. Guess what? KMFDM is also a fan of their music. So the band and Justin belong to the same community of fans of KMFDM's music.

I'll defer again to a quote from Creating Customer Evangelists on why reaching out to 'fans' is so important: "They know your target audience better than you because they are the target audience."

KMFDM is part of their target market, their fans.

This is why I continually harp on how important it is for companies to find ways to join their communities of customers. Being able to match your wants and needs directly to those of your customers is terribly powerful and gives your company a huge advantage over your competition.

And you don't have to be a band to reach out to and join your fans. Willie Davidson, grandson of one of the co-founders of Harley-Davidson was once asked if the company did any market research to determine their customers' wants and needs. "Oh sure" answered Willie, "we stay in constant contact with our customers. We ride with them all the time."

Technorati Tags:
, , ,

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Case Study: Fiskateers

BL Ochman has a great recap of the Fiskateers movement that Fiskars and Brains on Fire created. I've blogged about this movement before and it's a wonderful example of a company building a vibrant community around its existing evangelists.

BL adds:
"The four lead Fiskateers attend tradeshows and lead classes in scrapbooking at stores in their regions (and beyond). They build relationships with storeowners. They also have online chats with product developers so corporate officials can feel their customer excitement and passion.

The Fiskateers' enthusiasm and dedication to the program is authentic. "This truly is a movement of devoted crafters just wanting to have fun and share their love," says Stephanie, one of the four Fiskateers."

Why aren't more companies looking to create similar movements to empower and create brand ambassadors?

1 - It's too much work.

2 - It's too damned scary for them to think of giving their customers that much marketing control.

3 - There are too many marketing execs that are either too dumb or too scared to tell their bosses that the company's evangelists can market its products better than they can (That's where we consultants come in).

This is a classic example of what happens when a company joins its community. Fiskars has reached out to and empowered existing scrapbookers to market to their fellow enthusiasts. They could have spent that money on beaming one-way marketing messages at the same audience, but it wouldn't have been as effective, or relevant. If you're a scrapbooker looking for supplies, who has the more credible recommendation, the company that makes those supplies, or the fellow scrapbooker that uses those supplies? Fiskars is reaping the rewards of being brave enough to shift control of its marketing message to its community.

As Spike says, "Want power? Then give it away."

UPDATE: In the comments section, Cheryl, one of the four lead Fiskateers that write for the group's blog adds "Oh my . . . I love being a lead Fiskateer. The relationships built and friendships gained, the memories created . . . all in the name of Fiskateers loving 'all things Fiskars'. It's something I will always cherish . . . my tools, the fun, my fellow Fiskateer friendships."

Notice that the Fiskateers are also actively monitoring the blogosphere so they can respond to what any bloggers are saying about them. Hope all you multi-billion dollar corporations that are looking for ways to better get in touch with your customers are paying attention.

Technorati Tags:
, ,

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Talkin' Business Networking with Josh Hinds

Josh Hinds recently interviewed me for his Business Networking Advice site, and we networking. We talked about what business networking is, why it's important, and ways to improve your networking skills. Thanks to Josh, and you can check out my interview here.

Technorati Tags:

Friday, April 13, 2007

Bloggers Going Mainstream

Friday is normally when I have a Viral Community News roundup, but today I wanted to focus on some of my blogging friends that have had some primo mainstream exposure recently.

First, as many of you have read, David Armano recently penned an excellent article for Business Week entitled 'It's the Conversation Economy, Stupid'. As I told David, the article does a great job of helping to get companies up to speed with what's happening in social media and how we are using these tools to communicate, but it doesn't talk over their heads. Just scares them enough to wake up and realize they are getting left behind. Hopefully. David also has a great recap on how this article came to be at L+E. Kudos to Bruce Nussbaum and the rest of the staff at Business Week for being smart enough to let one of our thought leaders have the podium.

Also, recruiting guru Harry Joiner of Marketing Headhunter fame was again recently sourced by The Wall-Street Journal in an article entitled 'How Blogging Can Help You Get a Job'. I remember talking to Harry around this time last year about how companies would begin to look at snapping up the better bloggers. Course it didn't really start happening as soon as I thought, but it's getting there. Harry says The WSJ found his blog and contacted him about helping them, so there's proof that blogging helps with getting mainstream exposure, and vice versa.

And speaking of getting a job from blogging, congrats again to Mario Sundar of Marketing Nirvana fame, for being named LinkedIn's Community Evangelist. I am sure that Mario's blogging had a ton to do with LinkedIn picking him for their CE, and as others have said, he's a stellar choice. Mario has a wonderful followup on the '5 steps to let your dream job find you'.

Congrats guys, it's inspiring to see that the mainstream is starting to pay attention to some of the wonderful minds that are in this space!

Bonus link: Good to Know let's us know that The Z-List Rolls On....

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Origin of the Message

My latest post is up at Daily Fix, and I talk about Targeting the People Who Matter. It was prompted by a recent email pitch, but let's apply the core of that post to the KFC pitch I received below. If you were handling KFC's PR and could send out just one email, who gets it?

1 - The social-media consultant whose marketing blog has 600-700 readers a day

2 - The fast-food customer whose personal blog has 6-7 readers a day

Seems like a no-brainer, right? Let's add some more info:

1 - The social-media consultant whose marketing blog has 600-700 readers a day, but who never eats at KFC

2 - The KFC evangelist whose personal blog has 6-7 readers a day

The ORIGIN of the message is just as, if not MORE important than the message itself. Ben and Jackie have a great quote in Creating Customer Evangelists on why companies should reach out to their enthusiasts:
They know your target audience better than you because they are the target audience.

Evangelists who blog might not have the 'reach' of bigger bloggers, but they have something the bigger bloggers do not; the incentive to spread your message.

Technorati Tags:
, , , ,

You be the Marketer: KFC's Mosquito Tone Ad

Here's a recent email pitch I received:
Kentucky Fried Chicken has created a new, innovative marketing tactic and we thought you'd be interested in a story. KFC is introducing a new TV advertisement today, which is embedded with the MosquitoToneTM - a high frequency tone allegedly heard by only segments of the population.

Can you hear this buzz? The sound is too high-pitched for many adults to hear because most people begin to lose the ability to hear high frequency tones starting at age 20. The MosquitoTone is now used by kids in classrooms for text messaging. KFC is now bringing this high-tech concept to their ad to perk the ears of all age groups nationwide - and they can cash in - viewers who spot the sound can win online.

So do you think this 'tactic' will generate buzz, or laughter?

Technorati Tags:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 51

Here's the standings for Week 51:

1 - Seth's Blog - 6,200 (-149)(LW - 1)
2 - Creating Passionate Users - 12,766 (+4,153)(LW - 2)
3 - Duct Tape Marketing - 22,418 (-1,562)(LW - 3)
4 - Gaping Void - 23,620 (-1,125)(LW - 4)
5 - Marketing Shift - 41,542 (-2,749)(LW - 5)
6 - Daily Fix - 60,283 (-4,983)(LW - 6)
7 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 61,050 (-452)(LW - 7)
8 - Converstations - 66,684 (-4,518)(LW - 8)
9 - New School of Network Marketing - 71,142 (-4,435)(LW - 9)
10 - Influential Interactive Marketing - 78,804 (-4,316) (LW - 11)
11 - The Viral Garden - 80,306 (-11,155)(LW - 10)
12 - Logic + Emotion - 89,150 (+4,530)(LW - 12)
13 - Coolzor - 100,692 (-1,494)(LW - 13)
14 - Marketing Hipster - 115,659 (+17,326) (LW - 15)
15 - Brand Autopsy - 134,353 (-40)(LW - 16)
16 - What's Next - 134,416 (-4,520)(LW - 14)
17 - Jaffe Juice - 152,568 (+7,066)(LW - 21)
18 - Marketing Headhunter - 156,474 (-12,228)(LW - 18)
19 - Church of the Customer - 157,822 (-13,826)(LW - 17)
20 - Diva Marketing - 165,829 (-12,123)(LW - 19)
21 - Marketing Nirvana - 167,923 (-8,870)(LW - 20)
22 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 196,639 (-13,149)(LW - 22)
23 - Spare Change - 204,455 (-20,474)(LW - 23)
24 - CK's Blog - 204,919 (LW - UR)
25 - Emergence Marketing - 205,592 (LW - UR)

There was no Top 25 last week, so there's no shortage of big moves both up and down this week. Marketing Hipster has had a nice run and continues to streak toward the Top 10. Also, there's a bit of an A-Lister revival happening as both Logic + Emotion and Jaffe Juice have begun to hit their strides again.

A pair of returning blogs this week, as both CK's Blog and Emergence Marketing return this week. EM BARELY edges out Experience Curve for the final spot. Servant of Chaos continues to chip away and gain ground on the Top 25 and once again just misses the countdown.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Technorati Tags:
, ,

What price an excited community?

$4 million a year, $32 million over 8 years.

The contract amount for Alabama's new football coach Nick Saban isn't just gaudy, it's unprecendented. Saban's $4 million a year easily makes him the highest-paid college football coach ever. And many people say it will be impossible for Alabama to recoup that massive expenditure, including many of the Crimson Tide's own fans.

But President Robert Witt saw the hefty price tag to land Saban as an investment in the football program, and the school as a whole.

"It's an investment, not an expense," Witt explains. "And it has a public relations payback that is even more important."

What it has also done is light a fire under an already rabid fanbase. Each year Alabama opens its final spring football practice, dubbed 'A-Day' to the public. The practice is held at Bryant-Denny Stadium and is designed to be as close to an actual game environment as possible, down to splitting the squad into two teams, and having the team's regular radio announcers call the game on the radio. The event is free to the public, and the largest crowd the practice has ever attracted is thought to have been around 35,000.

Expectations are for 70,000 this year. Again, to watch a football practice.

"The hiring of Nick Saban has created a buzz across this state and the Southeast like nothing I've ever seen," Witt said.

And it's a classic case of appealing to and energizing your evangelists. The excitement among the Alabama fanbase over Saban's hiring has been infectious, converting casual fans into rabid supporters. Another reason why Witt wanted Saban was because he knew that added excitement statewide would result in a spike in student-interest in enrolling at the University of Alabama.

"A strong sports program is an invaluable asset in getting us on the radar screen of gifted students," Witt adds.

Still, many college football fans say that it will be all but impossible for the school to recoup this $32 million investment. Saban's $4 million salary makes him the highest-paid college football coach, moving him ahead of Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, who makes a shade under $3.5 million a year. Oklahoma's athletics program generated $26.1 million the year before he arrived in Norman, and $64.6 million in 2005.

Ah the power of exciting your community.

Technorati Tags:
, , ,

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Companies don't fear blogs, they fear uncertainty

BusinessWeek's Bruce Nussbaum has a great take on a recent McKinsey study that says that while companies are excited about technologies such as P2P and social networks that allow customers to talk to each other, they are still scared of blogs, which allow customers to communicate with them.

Nussbaum adds, "The great challenge to companies these days is to learn how to let consumers in, how to open a conversation with them that is honest and real. It looks like lots of managers have yet to get that signal."

Karl offers his take: "Blogs, on the other hand, are written by humans that talk to other humans -- employees to customers, employees to partners, employees to investors, employees to stock markets, employees to press (or at least that seems to be the terrifying image)."

I think that's part of it. But I think the bigger issue is, companies have never really let their customers have a chance to talk to them, and the uncertainty over what they would say scares them. And letting customers say it on THE COMPANY'S BLOG makes it scarier.

But if companies would view a blog as a chance to collect feedback from customers, and then let that feedback shape and change their future marketing to make it more effective (And remember, more effective = costs less), the medium would be more popular as companies move forward. And it's not just with blogs, how many companies honestly reach out to their evangelists and do everything they can to empower them to market for the company? Damned few. Again, it's uncertainty=fear.

And fear=paralysis. Which is why so many companies are scared to move. Unfortunately, stopping in the middle of the road isn't the best alternative.

Technorati Tags:

Monday, April 09, 2007

The State of the Blogosphere

Technorati has it's latest 'State of the Blogosphere' report up. These reports are always fascinating reading as we see how this space that we love is changing and evolving.

There were a few key points that I took from the latest update:
  • The number of blogs that Technorati tracks just continues to grow, and is closing in on 75 million.
  • Technorati is now tracking 120,000 new blogs being created every day. At that rate, the service should track its 100 millionth blog before the end of the year.
  • The use of tags for posts is really taking off, with now over a third of all blog posts having tags. I think this is a natural sign of a medium that's maturing and its users are becoming more familiar with the space and how to better organize information here.
  • The volume of daily posts appears to be leveling off, but there are still around 1.5 million new posts being created every day.
  • Blogs continue to gain mainstream acceptance. In October of last year, 12 of the Top 100 sites were blogs. By the end of the year, that number was already up to 22, with Engadget and Boing Boing leading the charge. IMO, Tech Crunch will eventually settle in as the most popular blog.

Very interesting reading, as always. Check out the current report here.

Technorati Tags:
, , ,

The Time Has Come to Join the 'Conversation Age'

Have you noticed that so many companies continue to struggle to come to grips with how to reach their customers? Especially online, customers are communicating by using tools such as blogs, podcasts, and wikis, and companies are left wondering what in the world is happening. They are on the outside looking in, and wondering how they can break through the clutter and begin to speak and converse with customers in their space, using their tools.

That's where the brainchild of Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan comes in. Gavin and Drew had the idea to bring together up to 100 of the top social media minds together to create a comprehensive e-book on this new 'Conversation Age' that we have entered into. The book will serve as a primer and explanation of what these tools are, and more importantly, how they are being used to change the landscape of how companies and customers communicate.

Here are the contributors to date:

And if you want to join us, you have until April 11th, or THIS WEDNESDAY to click on the above picture and email Drew. There's 2 big reasons why you'll want to help. First, the book itself is being dedicated to Sandra Kerley, mom of CK. Given that CK seems to have gotten her community-building skills from momma, I think Sandra would love this. CK found out about this while in Guntersville last week and it REALLY helped with a horrible week.

Second, the book will be sold for a small fee, and all proceeds will be donated to Variety International, the Children's Charity. Variety takes its name from The Variety Club, a group of 11 'high-rollers' in show business that created a sort of social club for themselves in the Roaring Twenties. Their futures were forever changed on Christmas Eve, 1928, when a baby was abandoned outside a theater in Pittsburgh, with the following note:
"Please take care of my baby. Her name is Catherine. I can no longer take care of her. I have eight others. My husband is out of work. She was born on Thanksgiving Day. I have always heard of the goodness of show business and I pray to God that you will look out for her.

A Heart-Broken Mother"

The men took it upon themselves to become Catherine's godfathers, and underwrote her support and education. The group cared for Catherine for 5 years, then decided that she deserved a 'real' family, and after screening 300 applicants, gave Catherine to a deserving family. Catherine went on to serve the Navy during the Korean War, was a registered nurse in Vietnam, and eventually married and raised a family of four children.

The publicity from this story inspired the creation of the Pittsburgh office of Variety International, and also sparked other members in show business to create similar offices around the country. Today, that reach has expanded worldwide, with Variety helping children in Australia, Barbados, Canada, Channel Islands, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. Variety provides everything from schooling and hospital care, to Christmas parties for children around the world.

I think we are all truly blessed to be in a position where doing something as trivial as creating one page of content can help the lives of children around the world. I've always thought that as this blog's reach grew, that it was my responsibility to use some of that influence to draw attention to others, and this is an incredibly worthy extension of that idea. The authors above have answered that call, and now you have the chance to do the same.

Drew and Gavin are holding open 100 author slots for the book, and you have until THIS WEDNESDAY to email Drew if you want one of the remaining slots. All you do is email Drew and tell him the topic you want to discuss. Drew says the e-book's audience is "anyone who has to create marketing tools in this Conversation Age. It might be a small business owner, a CMO, a marketing student, an agency type, a marketing blogger, or even a professor who is teaching tomorrow's marketers."

And we need your help. The more quality contributions we have, the better the product, which means we can sell more copies of the e-book, and by extension help more children around the world. I'm touched and honored to have been asked to contribute, and I hope that you'll email Drew so that you can join us in this wonderful project.

Technorati Tags:

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Strength in the storm

I know I am way late to the party, but I can finally add my name to the long list of bloggers and marketing professionals that have been lucky enough to meet the dynamo that is CK. As many of you already know, CK is just as genuine in person, and even more amazing. And she carried herself with class and strength during an absolutely horrific week. Both CK and her sister Melissa did an absolutely amazing job of honoring their mother all week.

And I made sure that CK gave me a pic of her sister Melissa. Melissa also handled a horrible week with strength and grace. This pic is of the Kerley girls along with Ruth, and both it and the pic of CK and I was taken at the Celebration of Life Ceremony for Sandra Kerley (CK and Melissa refused to have a 'funeral'). Ruth is one of several of Sandra's friends in Guntersville that reached out to CK and Melissa and did everything they could to help. Seems that CK got her community-building skills from her mama ;)

And the final pic is of Melissa and her good friend Jacky, who came all the way from New Orleans to help CK and Melissa. Jacky also has a claim to fame; immunity to CK's action-points ;)

I know that CK said in her latest post that she wanted to honor her mom. After seeing both CK and Melissa handle this last week with equal grace, dignity, and utter strength, I can say that they did exactly that. The set of circumstances they were literally thrown into was absolutely unimaginable, which made their flawless response even more amazing. It loses so much here, you really had to see how well these two incredibly strong women handled the last week to believe it.

Technorati Tags:

Monday, April 02, 2007

EMI Goes DRM-Free, Jobs Expects Other Labels to Follow

The reports that the music industry is dying may have been premature.

Today in London, Steve Jobs and EMI announced that the music label will make its entire digital music catalog available DRM-free beginning in May (excluding The Beatles' music). This move comes almost 2 months after Steve Jobs made a plea to the music industry to dump DRM completely. The RIAA balked at the suggestion, but EMI quickly announced that they were indeed considering this move. Apparently they are considering it no more, it's now about to become reality.

iTunes will get first shot at selling EMI's tracks DRM-free beginning in May. The tracks will sell for an additional 30 cents, at $1.29, and customers that have previously purchased tracks by EMI artists can 'upgrade' their track for 30 cents. The upgrade gets you a DRM-free version, and superior sound quality as the DRM-free tracks have a bitrate of 256Kbps, compared to the 128Kbps for standard iTunes tracks.

Somewhat lost in the hype over EMI losing its DRM, is that Jobs added during today's joint presentation with the label that he expects HALF of the tunes available on iTunes to be DRM-free by year's end. He also added that he will reach out to other labels beginning today to offer them the same deal.

This is a huge publicity coup for both Jobs and EMI. It will put pressure on other labels to follow suit, but also gives the labels the price increase that they were demanding. And the fact that this deal is happening is almost a pseudo-admission by EMI that they realize that music piracy isn't going to cripple their business as labels have claimed since Napster became popular in the late 90s. In fact it should be a boon for EMI's artists, as anything that makes it easier to distribute digital music, leads to more sales.

As EMI is about to find out. When they do, look for the other biggies to follow suit.

Technorati Tags:
, , ,