Thursday, January 31, 2008

Does the size of a blog's community affect its conversation?

A few days ago Lewis left a post at Daily Fix that John Moore left this comment to:
Dissenting opinions are something the MP Daily Fix could benefit from.

My immediate knee-jerk reaction to reading this was to think that DF was hardly unique in this regard, that most of the blogs I read have little disagreement in the comments section.

But then I got to thinking about the blogs I do read, and realize that there was a common bond, in that I knew and liked these bloggers. And their readers liked them. These were people that had popular blogs and that had built vibrant communities for themselves, communities of readers that love what they write.

Then I got to thinking about what happens when I read an 'A-Lister' blog. Usually it's someone that I really don't know, so I quickly scan their post, but I spend most of my time reading the comments.

Why? Because there are usually more comments (because the blog has more traffic), but there's also more disagreement. This disagreement usually spurs discussion, and that's what captures my attention.

I thought about how my reading habits differ for blogs as I read Ann's latest post. Ann's new blog only has 2 posts, but already has close to 60 comments. But I'm not there to read the comments, I want to read Ann's writing. I'm sure most of the other readers, and commenters, feel the same way.

But when I read Scoble's blog, it's the comments that capture my attention moreso than his posts. Because he is almost always challenged early and often by his readers. So he has to re-examine and even defend the points he's making. And sometimes he can't, and will admit that he was wrong and that a commenter was right.

I think what happens when a blog has a close community, is that many times the readers have great affection for the writer, and even if they disagree with something the blogger has written, they are less likely to comment. But with Scoble, his audience is too large for him to know everyone. Many of his readers don't know him at all, so if they think what he's posting is BS, they feel no reason not to call him on it.

Have the rest of you noticed this? Personally I love it when someone presents a counter-point to mine, because that makes it more likely that people that agree with either side of the issue will chime in. Which means the conversation has a better chance to grow.

Pic via Flickr user Clearly Ambiguous


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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 92

Here's the standings for Week 92:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,357 (+207)(LW - 1)
2 - Duct Tape Marketing - 1,829 (-1)(LW - 2)
3 - Search Engine Guide - 1,782 (+64)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,148 (+27)(LW - 4)
5 - Daily Fix - 1,055 (+14)(LW - 5)
6 - Brand Autopsy - 761 (+20)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 672 (-10)(LW - 7)
8 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 666 (+34)(LW - 10)
9 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 9)
10 - The Engaging Brand - 634 (+4)(LW - 8)
11 - Jaffe Juice - 624 (+12)(LW - 12)
12 - What's Next - 616 (No Change)(LW - 11)
13 - Diva Marketing - 615 (+17)(LW - 13)
14 - Conversation Agent - 583 (+21)(LW - 14)
15 - The Viral Garden - 531 (-10)(LW - 15)
16 - Six Pixels of Separation - 508 (-2)(LW - 16)
17 - Converstations - 450 (+7)(LW - 17)
18 - Branding and Marketing - 418 (-3)(LW - 18)
19 - Servant of Chaos - 383 (+11)(LW - 21)
20 - Chaos Scenario - 377 (No Change)(LW - 19)
21 - CK's Blog - 375 (No Change)(LW - 20)
22 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 345 (+1)(LW - 22)
23 - Customers Rock! - 344 (+7)(LW - 23)
24 - Experience Curve - 326 (+7)(LW - 24)
25 - The Lonely Marketer - 315 (+3)(LW - 25)

A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing Blogs are ranked according to the number of sites/blogs linking to each, according to Technorati. The number you see after the blog name is how many sites/blogs Technorati claims have linked to the blog in the last 6 months. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many links the blog gained or lost from last week's Top 25. The final stat tells you what position the blog held in the Top 25 Last Week (LW). If you see this; (LW - UR), it means the blog wasn't ranked last week.

Decent bounce-back week for the Top 25, as only 5 blogs were down. Seth's Blog had another big week and has added over 300 links in the last 2 weeks. Search Engine Guide also had a big week, and is closing in on Duct Tape Marketing for the #2 spot. The seven blogs from #7-#13 are now only separated by 57 links. The final seven blogs all either added links, or had no change.

No new blogs in this week's Top 25.

Next update is next Wednesday.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why TargetGate won't be another Dell Hell

Target has become the latest company to go on record as saying that it does not respond to bloggers. Actually the company went a step further and said that bloggers aren't its 'core guest'.

Wow it feels like 2005 all over again, doesn't it?

It all started when Amy Jussel from spotted the Target billboard to the right, and saw something other than a woman making a snow Angel. Amy felt that the billboard 'targetted' the wrong message for young girls, and emailed her complaint to Target. The company would later email her the following response:

“Good Morning Amy,

Thank you for contacting Target; unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.

Once again thank you for your interest, and have a nice day.”

Jussel noted that in searching her blog's visitor logs, she noticed that Target had been visiting her blog and reading her posts about the company.

The New York Times also contacted Target, who replied that “We do not work with bloggers currently,” said a company spokeswoman, Amy von Walter. As the NYTimes points out, Target won't talk to bloggers, but WILL talk to a MSM source that's writing a story about how they won't talk to bloggers.

Gavin asks if this episode will become Target's version of Dell Hell. I don't think so for a couple of reasons:

1 - Dell went first, and had a first-mover DISadvantage. This is a big reason why Dell Hell erupted, because it was so completely stunning that a major company would admit that they ignore a sizable portion of their customer base.

2 - Dell Hell centered around defective products and shoddy customer service. TargetGate centers around a billboard that some people see as highly offensive to women, while some people see as a woman making snow Angels.

Also, Dell Hell was a major story created by the blogosphere that MSM finally reported on. TargetGate had gotten plenty of coverage with bloggers previously, but I've heard more about this story from bloggers in the day or so since the New York Times wrote about it, than I did in the last few weeks. In some ways, the NYTimes piece is helping to make this a story. Dell Hell didn't need any help.

But none of this excuses the fact that it is absolutely unforgivable for a major corporation, in 2008, to have a policy in place that states that it ignores bloggers. To go a step further and basically imply that bloggers don't represent Target's 'core guests', is the height of ignorance. Amy might be a blogger, but she was also a Target customer that contacted the company with a complaint. And she was all but ignored.

BTW when the NYTimes contacted Target and they claimed that they don't work with bloggers currently, the company clarified that statement by adding “But we have made exceptions. And we are reviewing the policy and may adjust it.” IOW, the company may change their policy if the story you are writing causes a big enough stink.

Target may avoid a Dell Hell-type backlash over this episode, but that might not be a good thing. Dell was able to capitalize on the blogger revolt during Dell Hell by re-examining the blogosphere, and how they should relate to bloggers. As a result, Dell is now offered as one of the finest examples of a blogging corporation.

I wonder what our opinion of Target and how the company relates to the blogosphere will be in three years?

UPDATE: Within 15 mins of posting this, and someone from has already been here to read the entry. How long will it take someone from to make their way here?

Pic via Flickr user bennett4senate

Thanks to CK for reminding me about this story.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Should Apple be blogging?

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' immediately comes to mind. Apple has always taken a very standoffish stance toward bloggers and the blogosphere. In fact, some bloggers have been told by the company that what they say isn't important enough to read, that they are 'just a blogger'. Wait...didn't Dell get raked over the coals unmercifully for doing almost the same thing?

But both Dell and Microsoft, two of Apples' biggest competitors, have employees that blog, and publically engage bloggers. While Apple and Jobs seem to ignore social media until forced to respond, Dell and Gates are encouraging their companies to not only test the social media waters, but to dive in.

But how did embracing blogging help Dell and Microsoft? In both cases, it helped change the conversation that we were having about each company. Dell went from being aloof to human when they stopped ignoring bloggers during Dell Hell, and started engaging us in our space. Microsoft went from being the 'Evil Empire', to being human once thousands of their employees started blogging, and Robert Scoble started Channel 9. Gates should still be sending Scoble a royalty check on the goodwill that he helped build for Mr. Softie.

In both cases, blogging helped Dell and Microsoft better connect with its customers and the conversation we were having about each company changed a bit. But does Apple really want or need its conversation to change? As I mentioned when Jobs announced the Macbook Air at MacWorld, both Apple and its customers are having the same conversation. Both groups loooooove its products.

But Apple apparently doesn't love bloggers. Jens Alfke recently quit Apple, and cited the company's stance toward bloggers as one of the reasons why he decided to leave:
And then there are blogs. Apple doesn’t like them, not when they talk about it. (Big surprise.) I’ve heard it said that there are hardly any bloggers working at Apple; there are actually a lot more than you’d think, but they mostly keep it a secret. (I could out a few people, including at least one director…) I think Apple’s policy on blogging is one of the least enlightened of major tech companies; Microsoft in particular is surprisingly open.

I believe in being individual, and open. It always got on my nerves that there were so many things I couldn’t write about (not confidential information, of course, just public stuff) without the very real chance of waking up to a testy email the next day.

The great thing about blogging is that it can help change two conversations (company and customers), into one direct channel between both groups. But only if the company is willing to open itself to feedback from bloggers. Right now it seems that Apple's closed and controlling culture won't allow this to happen.

But times and conversations change. Perhaps the question isn't 'Should Apple be blogging?', but rather 'What could cause Apple to change its stance toward bloggers and blogging?'

Bonus Link: Former Apple employee Steve Chazin adds that "And all us bloggers do their viral marketing for them. Apple, it's time to open up and let your employees blog free! We can use the help."

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

And I would be completely remiss...

....if I didn't mention that the dynamic Ann Handley, chief content officer for Marketing Profs, and mastermind behind Daily Fix, finally has her own blog. It is appropriately titled A n n a r c h y (best blog name since Get Shouty). And you have to love that header. That classic Mustang has been completely upstaged!

Here's her first post, already up to 30 comments (feel free to leave yours!).
A n n a r c h y will give us the personal (read: non-marketing) side that we've been hoping to see from Ann for a while now. Congrats sis!


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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Company Blog Checkup: Corner Violin Shop

Often when a business starts blogging, they go it alone. Many are small businesses, and might not be able to afford thousands to let a professional set up their blog for them. Thankfully, getting up and running with a blog can be done very quickly and for free, with a platform such as Blogger. This appears to be what the Corner Violin Shop has done with their blog, and let's see how their efforts have fared.

As always, let's start with the content. The Corner Violin Shop sells musical instruments (primarily A. Cavallo violins, it appears) and accessories both at their retail location, and online via e-tailers such as Amazon and eBay. The store promotes some of its items for sale, especially online, but also does a nice job of updating readers on local concerts, as well as the musical instrument markets. The store also posts interesting YouTube videos it comes across, and in the most recent post, updates its readers on the marriage of one of its employees. This is a good move, because it helps to make readers feel more connected to the actual people behind the store.

The posting pattern for the blog is sporadic, but on average there's about 2 new posts a week. This is a decent amount, but again it is vital that a blog 'trains' its readers to know when to expect new content. We can't assume that our readers are subscribing to our feed, so creating and maintaining a regular posting pattern is vital.

Let's move to comments, but also talk about how comments can relate to content. I went back about six weeks into the Corner Violin Shop's archives, and only found one post that had a 'real' comment (another appeared to be spam). But the post that had the only comment was left by a reader to a post featuring several pictures of the store itself, explaining how the store tries to re-arrange its displays in order to increase foot-traffic around the Holidays. This might seem pretty inconsequential to a business, but readers in general respond to any post like this that makes the business seem 'more real'. I would bet that similar posts showing pictures of the employees of the Corner Violin Shop performing their tasks would be an even bigger hit.

But let's return to comments. There's almost none, and this isn't an uncommon situation for a blogging small business. I'll say it again, but most of the growth that a blog enjoys, occurs as a result of time spent OFF the blog. A small business might not be able to devote as much time on other blogs and social sites attempting to engage readers. But what a small business can at least do is make sure its blog address is on all its materials that its customers receive, and can also encourage its customers to visit the blog for updates on the business itself, as well as other information that readers can find value in.

Finally, let's look at the sidebar and header. The blog features an extremely handsome header, dominated by a portion of a violin, and clearly displaying the store's name, address, and telephone number. Excellent. We start out at the top of the sidebar, and I'm looking for pics/bios of the blog's writers. Only thing I get is a link to the Blogger profile for a sales manager identified as 'chg'. I need more than that, specifically, a picture and an actual bio. This can easily be done with blogger by writing a post that will serve as your bio, and then linking to it there after you publish.

Going down, we have archives, and somehow the blog has 'Blogging Topics', which are actually categories. Anyone that can find a way to put categories on a Blogger/Blogspot blog deserves major props as it's a PITA. Moving down, the blog adds several links for blogs/sites related to violins, and even a few focusing on their local area, which is Omaha, Nebraska. More goodness, as this is a very easy way to provide value to readers.

Moving toward the end of the sidebar, we see a widget that displays items the shop is selling on Amazon. After that, we have a widget designed to display relevant posts from around the blogosphere. Great stuff. Finally, the blog includes almost every possible option for subscribing to the blog's feed. This kicks ass, but I would move this to the top of the sidebar, and possibly add a 'What is RSS/Feeds?' link under the subscriber buttons, which would explain the advantage of subscribing. Overall, the sidebar is a very solid effort, and taken with the header, is probably the strength of the blog.

As a whole, the Corner Violin Shop's blog is a decent blog and probably very similar to many small businesses that decide to start a blog themselves. My key suggestions going forward would be to give us more pictures/information on the writers and workers themselves, and to also do everything possible to get the word out about the blog to existing customers. If possible, also spend some time online on forums and social sites contributing to the community. Doing so is a wonderful and vital tool in promoting your blog.

And here's the scoring:

Content: 29 (Out of a possible 35) - Very much enjoy how the blog goes into the 'craftmanship' of making violins, while also giving us information about the employees themselves, and the local music scene.

Comments: 5 (Out of a possible 35) - I may be a bit generous with this score, as I went back several months and found no comments to any of the posts. But the blog produces solid content (when new posts are up), so this suggests to me that the business would benefit from spending time OFF the blog, in order to grow its readership by increasing awareness.

Posting Schedule: 3 (Out of a possible 15) - Very sporadic posting lately, it seems that one of the writers recently left the business, and posting has been very lax since then, it appears.

Sidebars: 13 (Out of a possible 15) - Very nice mixture of musical sites and blogs, and like that there's now a pic of the bloggers, and links to their Blogger profiles. Do wish the old 'violin' header was back that had the store's location and contact information.

Total Score: 50 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from the Corner Violin Shop wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me. If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services. And if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 91

Here's the standings for Week 91:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,150 (+133)(LW - 1)
2 - Duct Tape Marketing - 1,830 (-1)(LW - 2)
3 - Search Engine Guide - 1,718 (+39)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,121 (-46)(LW - 4)
5 - Daily Fix - 1,041 (-4)(LW - 5)
6 - Brand Autopsy - 741 (+1)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 682 (-21)(LW - 7)
8 - The Engaging Brand - 630 (-46)(LW - 8)
9 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 9)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 632 (-12)(LW - 11)
11 - What's Next - 616 (-29)(LW - 10)
12 - Jaffe Juice - 612 (+14)(LW - 13)
13 - Diva Marketing - 598 (-19)(LW - 12)
14 - Conversation Agent - 562 (-7)(LW - 14)
15 - The Viral Garden - 541 (-8)(LW - 15)
16 - Six Pixels of Separation - 510 (+10)(LW - 16)
17 - Converstations - 443 (-7)(LW - 19)
18 - Branding and Marketing - 421 (-33)(LW - 18)
19 - Chaos Scenario - 377 (No Change)(LW - 21)
20 - CK's Blog - 375 (-87)(LW - 17)
21 - Servant of Chaos - 372 (-4)(LW - 22)
22 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 344 (-5)(LW - 23)
23 - Customers Rock! - 337 (-48)(LW - 20)
24 - Experience Curve - 319 (-15)(LW - 24)
25 - The Lonely Marketer - 312 (-17)(LW - 25)

A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing Blogs are ranked according to the number of sites/blogs linking to each, according to Technorati. The number you see after the blog name is how many sites/blogs Technorati claims have linked to the blog in the last 6 months. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many links the blog gained or lost from last week's Top 25. The final stat tells you what position the blog held in the Top 25 Last Week (LW). If you see this; (LW - UR), it means the blog wasn't ranked last week.

Another down week for the Top 25. We had a decent start with Seth and Search Engine Guide posting big gains, but it kinda got away from us after that. The blogger/podcaster segment was well-represented as both Joe Jaffe and Mitch Joel saw their blogs with decent gains.

No new blogs in this week's Top 25.

Next update is next Wednesday.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Is $3 Million better spent on top-down, or bottom-up?

It's that time of the year again. Time when we hear the exorbitant prices that advertisers will pay for a 30-second megaphone blast of advertising during the Super Bowl. It seems that the price tag this year for 30 ticks of advertising-goodness will set you back close to $3 million.

This got me, and others wondering if there might be a better way to spend $3 million. My thinking is, instead of going for a top-down blast of one-way advertising, what if a company spent that $3 million on a bottom-up effort designed to engage and excite customers?

First, let's hire a community manager. Someone that is absolutely passionate about the idea of listening to and empowering customers. People like CK, Tara Hunt, Chris Brogan, and Connie Bensen. I asked Connie via Twitter about salaries because I knew she had done some checking into this (here's a great post on her blog going into more detail). She said the salary range she found was $50K and up. Let's set the salary/cost for this position at $100K.

Second, let's hire some bloggers. But not really bloggers, people that will write at a blog, but that also understand the importance of engaging readers and fellow bloggers in their spaces. People that understand that much of the work required in growing a blog happens OFF the blog. Perhaps it would be more accurate to think of them as 'community advocates', people that understand the importance of engaging with current and potential customers online, and giving them a voice within the company. You'd be looking for people like Lionel Menchaca, Tim Jackson, and Jeremiah Owyang. Let's say the salary for these positions would be $60K each, and let's hire 5 for a total cost of $300K.

But what about offline? One of the great things that LinkedIn did last year was to start having meetups with its users. This is absolutely important, because a company needs face-to-face time with its customers, and it's also great to let customers meet and come together to form a community. Let's say you do 20 of these across the country at a cost of $5K each. That's still only $100K. And really if you think about it, this is about your evangelists (is your average customer going to want to attend a party to meet you? Probably not). So since these meetings are about meeting and bringing together your evangelists, let's create a position to facilitate the offline meetups. You're looking for someone that understands the importance of customer evangelists. Someone like, obviously, Ben and Jackie. Let's set the salary for this position at $100K.

Even with all this, we are still only at $600K. That's five seconds of Super Bowl advertising. There's no doubt areas I have overlooked, and there's probably more money that could and does need to be spent, but I don't think it will come anywhere near $3 million. And I also don't think the 30-second SB ad would be anywhere near as effective as this 'grassroots' marketing effort.

There's a fundamental marketing truth in play here: It is much more expensive to attempt to create the conversation for your customers, than it is to listen to and engage in the existing one. SB advertising might be sexier to big companies, but that doesn't mean it's as effective.

Pic of Kathy Sierra at SXSWi via Flickr user Brianfit


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Monday, January 21, 2008

When two conversations become one...

In my How to Market Like a Rockstar post from last month, one of the tips I gave was to 'Make sure you view your company and its products as your customers do.'

Look at this pic of Jobs with the new Macbook Air. That smirk just screams 'This thing looks cool as shit, doesn't it?' Which is probably the exact reaction that Apple evangelists everywhere had when they saw the Air for the first time.

If your company is having the same conversation that your customers are, that's an incredibly powerful marketing advantage.

Pic via this DF post.

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The 'spark' is spreading...

Love this comment that Tim Jackson left to my recent DF post about an industry conference that he attended recently :
I can't even remember the total number of blogging related conversations I had, but it was several each day of the conference. At one point, I was "holding court" with a small group, ranting (as I always do) about blogging. Instead of the curiously annoyed or disinterested looks of years past, many people were listening and even taking notes. My point is that the "tipping point" is coming- if it hasn't already arrived. My industry is very, very slow to embrace changes like this, but it is doing it. It's a very exciting time for me.

This is what excites me, and is why the 'blogging is dying' nonsense is just that. Companies and managers like the ones that Tim talks to are just now catching the spark and realizing that there's actually something to the ideas that they were quick to dismiss as 'just a fad' in years past.

But here's my question: Let's say that five years from now, most managers are using social media as effectively as Tim is now. What will marketing look like then?


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Friday, January 18, 2008

Company Blog Checkup: Stonyfield Farm

Stonyfield Farm was one of the first companies to jump into the blogosphere, having blogged in one form or another since 2004. The yogurt company has constantly experimented with the blogs, at one time having several, but for the time the company only has two, one of which is The Bovine Bugle. In what seems to be a growing trend, Stonyfield Farm has handed the reins of The Bovine Bugle over to a non-employee, letting organic farmer Jonathan Gates focus on his organic farm, and some of the ingredients that go into Stonyfield Farm's products.

As always, let's start with content. The Bovine Bugle gets off to a good start, by focusing not on promoting Stonyfield Farm's products, but instead Gates tells us about his everyday life on his organic farm. Gates also makes excellent use of pictures on the blog, not only adding pictures of the farm and cows in almost every post, but frequently adding slide shows as well. In this post, entitled 'Cold enough for ya?', Gates makes his point with a picture of a cow with an icicle hanging from its mouth. That's cold!

Now let's move to the comments section, and our first signs of trouble. At the end of several posts, this request is made:"Want to ask farmer Jonathan a question about his organic dairy farm? Click onto "comments" below and leave your question. We'll be sure he gets it soon."

That's a great move to encourage comments on the blog, but the problem is, there doesn't seem to be any follow-through. In checking the past few month's posts, I noticed that several readers had taken up the blog on its offer, and were leaving questions for Gates in the comments. But none of the questions that I saw had been answered in the comments. Perhaps Gates is answering the comments via email, but to the readers, it sends the message that their questions are being ignored. Not a good sign. And my guess is that this is also contributing to the low comment count. Most posts don't have any comments, and those that do only have one or two. And yes, those comments usually include unanswered questions. Simply answering the questions that readers ask in the comments, on the blog, would likely double or even triple the number of comments.

Finally, let's tackle the sidebar. First, Stonyfield Farm does a good job of telling us who Jonathan is, and includes a picture right at the top of the blog. Good move that many blogs don't include. There's an unwritten rule about company blogs from the reader's point of view, and that is the more we know about the company and its bloggers, the more likely we are to trust what they write. Having a clear and easily identifiable bio and picture for every writer is a must.

One thing that I find interesting is that The Bovine Bugle makes it painfully easy to subscribe to its blog, via RSS, email, or it's e-newsletters. All the information is up top on the blog, and I would guess that the blog has very decent subscriber numbers, as a result.

Further down the sidebar, we see the usual suspects; archives, recent posts, search. But the blog does add several links associated with environmental topics, which should resonate with Stonyfield's likely audience.

And then moving down to the bottom of the blog, I am pleased to see that The Bovine Bugle has a link to its SiteMeter stats, which it thankfully makes public. I say thankfully, because by examining the site's traffic patterns and referrals, we may get a better idea of the blog's success as a communication tool for Stonyfield Farms.

First, SiteMeter says that the blog is averaging 161 visitors a day over the last week. That's not bad at all for a company/small business blog. Looking at the last year's traffic, it seems to have been fairly flat for much of the year, but has been rising since October, and it looks like this month The Bovine Bugle is on pace for its best traffic and page views total in at least a year.

But there's more information we can gleam from SiteMeter. Remember earlier when I addressed the low number of comments? That's a bit confusing, since the content is pretty good. I am guessing that the fact that most of the questions asked in the comments are going unanswered, could be making the other readers less likely to comment. But I also have a hunch that The Bovine Bugle isn't drawing much traffic from other blogs. A quick check of the blog's traffic referrals shows this to be the case. Looking over the last 100 referrals to The Bovine Bugle, not a single one is coming from another blog, according to SiteMeter.

This tells me that Jonathan likely isn't leaving comments on other blogs, and also that not too many other blogs are linking to The Bovine Bugle. We can't really see if Gates has been commenting on other blogs, but a quick Technorati check verifies that The Bovine Bugle has only had 7 sites link to it in the last 6 months. And only two sites have linked there within the last 100 days (good news, this will be the third link).

Now I want to make it clear that I'm not picking on Gates and saying that he's doing a bad job. I would be willing to guess that he has never been coached on any of these topics, and these are areas that I would expect a blogger to understand, but not an organic farmer that blogs. And it's quite possible that no one at Stonyfield Farm knows to coach him on any of these areas. And to be fair, the value of commenting on other blogs and responding to your own comments are ideas that are still lost to many bloggers as well.

But my suggestion to Gates would be to first start participating in the comments section. From the comments the blog has received, it appears that readers are enjoying the content he is producing, and also appear to want to 'talk' to him via the comments. Second, I would make a point to visit readers on their blogs. If a reader that leave a comment has a blog, follow them back to their blog, and leave a comment. Even if it's nothing more than 'Thank you for the comment you left at The Bovine Bugle!'. Knowing that their comment is appreciated makes a HUGE impact on readers!

Finally, if there's any time left, join Twitter. There, you could promote The Bovine Bugle's posts, but also talk to your readers. Also promote your Twitter account on The Bovine Bugle, and encourage your readers to follow you there, and follow them back. If Gates were to spend more time replying to comments, leaving comments on his readers' blogs, and possibly some time on Twitter, I would not be surprised to see The Bovine Bugle's traffic double within 6 months. If not sooner.

And now let's get to the scoring:

Content: 32 (Out of a possible 35) - The blog does an excellent job of showing how the organic farm functions, and how its animals are treated.

Comments: 22 (Out of a possible 35) - Many posts get comments, but very few get replies from Jonathan, even though many comments specifically ask for him to reply.

Posting Schedule: 9 (Out of a possible 15) - About 2-3 new posts a week. Which is about average.

Sidebars: 11 (Out of a possible 15) - Love the pic and bio of Jonathan at the top of the blog. But none of the links in the top header actually go anywhere.

Total Score: 74 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from Stonyfield Farm wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me. If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services. And if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New posts up everywhere

I think this is a first for me, today I have new posts up at three blogs. Over at DF, I have a post up about the great job in promoting Masi Bicycles that Tim Jackson does at his MasiGuy blog.

A couple of great quotes in the comments, first this one from Tim:
Engaging people in a conversation is what it's all about; if YOU aren't having that conversation with your customers or potential ones, you can bet your entire marketing budget that somebody else IS... and it might just be me.

Then Cam adds his thoughts on why Tim's blog helps Masi:
Masi borrows Tim's credibility to get inserted into the conversation.

Great stuff and I hope companies will pay close attention to Tim's blog, because I think 2-3 years from now, such successful blogging efforts will be fairly common. Or at least I hope they will. At any rate, Tim is WAY ahead of the game here.

And finally, I also have a new post up at Search Engine Guide today. There I look at some examples of companies and small businesses that have seen real business growth that they attribute to blogging and engaging bloggers. Like Masi seeing sales double since Tim has started blogging at MasiGuy. Gourmet Station seeing 30% sales growth in 2006, and then 40% last year, which it mainly attributes to blogging. Then there's Stormhoek, the winery that sold 40,000 cases of wine a year before it embraced the blogosphere. As of last March, the company claimed to be selling 40,000 cases a WEEK.

This blogging thingie has business legs, it seems.


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The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 90

Here's the standings for Week 90:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,017 (-17)(LW - 1)
2 - Duct Tape Marketing - 1,831 (-10)(LW - 2)
3 - Search Engine Guide - 1,679 (No Change)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,167 (-2)(LW - 4)
5 - Daily Fix - 1,045 (-36)(LW - 5)
6 - Brand Autopsy - 740 (-2)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 703 (-6)(LW - 8)
8 - The Engaging Brand - 676 (-41)(LW - 7)
9 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
10 - What's Next - 645 (No Change)(LW - 11)
11 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 644 (-60)(LW - 9)
12 - Diva Marketing - 617 (-12)(LW - 13)
13 - Jaffe Juice - 598 (-13)(LW - 14)
14 - Conversation Agent - 569 (-70)(LW - 12)
15 - The Viral Garden - 549 (-11)(LW - 15)
16 - Six Pixels of Separation - 500 (-5)(LW - 16)
17 - CK's Blog - 462 (No Change)(LW - 19)
18 - Branding and Marketing - 454 (-10)(LW - 18)
19 - Converstations - 450 (-45)(LW - 17)
20 - Customers Rock! - 385 (-56)(LW - 21)
21 - Chaos Scenario - 377 (-7)(LW - 24)
22 - Servant of Chaos - 376 (-65)(LW - 20)
23 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 349 (-41)(LW - 23)
24 - Experience Curve - 334 (-44)(LW - 25)
25 - The Lonely Marketer - 327 (LW - UR)

A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing Blogs are ranked according to the number of sites/blogs linking to each, according to Technorati. The number you see after the blog name is how many sites/blogs Technorati claims have linked to the blog in the last 6 months. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many links the blog gained or lost from last week's Top 25. The final stat tells you what position the blog held in the Top 25 Last Week (LW). If you see this; (LW - UR), it means the blog wasn't ranked last week.

No shortage of big moves to the downside this week. My guess is that this is more Technorati tinkering with their calculations, than everyone suddenly decided to stop linking to many of the most popular marketing blogs. Even in the mess, there were some blogs that made moves up the rankings, CK's Blog and Chaos Scenario were up 2 and 3 spots, respectively. I believe that's the highest Chaos Scenario has ever gotten, and might be a record for CK's Blog as well.

The lone new entry is The Lonely Marketer, which checks back in at #25. Don't be surprised if many of the blogs that were down this week, aren't back up next week.

Next update is next Wednesday.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What role does your blog play?

I blogged a few days ago about how I'm spending more time on Twitter lately. As a result, I've dramatically increased the number of people I am following, and thankfully, a lot more people are following me.

But I've begun to notice that everytime I 'get on' Twitter, as soon as I start leaving messages to other users, I begin to get referrals here from Twitter users. And I also usually get more follow requests. Sure I get some referrals and follows when I'm not on Twitter, but both seem to spike as soon as I get on Twitter and start pecking on the keyboard.

And I'm definitely not alone, Paul Chaney recently check his referrals and found that most of the traffic to his blog was coming from social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and other blogs.

I think this is a sign of the times. Two years ago if you wanted to find me or most other bloggers online, you found them at their blog, or you possibly bumped into them commenting at another blog. Now they could be on Facebook, or Twitter, or some are still on MySpace.

The blog, at least for me, has gone from being my main/only touchpoint with the rest of the blogosphere, to being one of several places where you might find me. And one of several places where I might find you. Many of my regular commenters (PS you guys kick ass) aren't on Twitter from what I can tell, and the majority of the people I know on Twitter, have never commented here. So each place has its own community in a way. There's some overlappage, but each has its own unique identity.

This is why I never understood the whole 'blogging is dying' bellyaching from some bloggers a few months ago. It's not that blogging is dying, it's just that there are now more options and formats for connecting with other people online. If used properly, I think all the social pieces can fit together and make the sum larger and more valuable than it was. But I think that whether it's an individual wanting to grow their personal brand, to a company that wants to better reach its customers, we have to look at the complete social media pie, and consider that blogging is now one of many social touchpoints.

What are your thoughts? Is your blog's role different now than when you started it? Still the same?

Pic via Flickr user place light -on a project


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Monday, January 14, 2008

Companies remain in the shadows of the blogosphere

Ike has once again blogged about a positive experience with a company, and once again that company has failed to reach out to him. But this time, the company, Canon, did visit Ike's blog, and Ike even added screenshots of the hits registered via his Sitemeter account.

Over the past couple of years, I've noticed a dramatic uptick in the number of companies that come to this blog via searches. A few months ago in the span of an hour, people from Walmart, GM, Kodak, and Dell all arrived here from Google searches for their company's name. I've heard similar stories from other bloggers, so it appears that as a whole, companies are beginning to realize the need to monitor the blogosphere, and are doing so.

But more often than not, the monitoring doesn't lead to further action.

The question is, do companies simply not want to respond, or aren't sure how? I tend to think it's the latter. I also think that many of the hits that we see from a company are coming from your average employee that decides to do an 'ego check' to see what's being said about his/her company in the blogosphere. If they come across a post such as Ike's that should be responded to, they either ignore it, or mention it to a boss that probably doesn't know what's the best way to respond, or that they should respond. My guess is that most companies see a positive mention in the blogosphere, and think 'hey that's neat, shows we are doing a good job!', then move on.

This also reminds me of a recent article from CRMBuyer that quoted Jeremiah Owyang as saying that 2008 would see companies for the first time, start to set aside budgets for social media. This is a big reason why I think so many companies aren't getting past the 'monitor' stage to move to engaging bloggers online. Because they don't understand how to respond to bloggers, and don't have anyone on staff that can show them how.

If Jeremiah is right, we may see companies begin to move past the monitor roadblock later this year. That's when the fun REALLY starts!

Pic via Flickr user edcrowle


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Friday, January 11, 2008

The Best Damn SXSW Panel is ON!

The hand-wringing is over, and the smoke has cleared. We've received word that SXSW has officially approved 'The Future of Corporate Blogging' Panel that Dell suggested months ago.

So who is going to be on the panel?

The 4-person panel will feature myself, along with....

Dell's Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca
LinkedIn's Community Evangelist Mario Sundar
PR diva extraordinaire, Kami Huyse

If I weren't on this panel, I would have paid money to see it. Lionel and Mario are the driving forces behind two of the very best corporate blogs on the internet, Direct2Dell, and LinkedIn's Blog. Both 'get it' when it comes to building and growing a blog's readership and community. And Kami, besides being one of the most popular PR bloggers on the internet, has been one of the leaders of the movement to develop measurement tools to let companies gauge the effectiveness of their blogging, and social media efforts. This is one of the biggest reasons why many companies aren't blogging now, because they aren't sure how to tell if their efforts are working.

I'll be moderating the panel, which basically means my job is to stay out of the way and let the smart people talk. We've been told that the panel will run on either March the 10th or the 11th. I'll post updates as soon as we find out for sure.

BTW Texas Bloggers, who will be in Austin? I've already heard from Cam, Paul, Ben and Jackie, and I believe Connie said she would be at SXSW as well. Anyone else attending?

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Company Blog Checkup: Mahindra Tractors

Mahindra is a company that produces tractors and other farm equipment. With their 'Life of a Farm' blog, they have turned the keys over to one of their evangelists, Joel Combs. Smart move? Let's take a look...

As always, let's start with content. In general, there are two approaches that most company blogs take; they either focus on themselves, or their customers and the role that their products and services play in their lives. Thankfully, Mahindra has taken the latter path. Mr. Combs' posts give his readers a look inside his life as a Mahindra evangelist living and working with the company's products on his 170-acre farm. As always it should be pointed out that letting an evangelist blog at your company blog is a daring move, and in general I tip my hat to companies that are willing to do this.

For the most part, Combs' posts detail his daily work on his farm, including the projects that he is undertaking, many of which are aided by his use of Mahindra products. But he also keeps his readers up to date on other topics such as the Kentucky weather, and the progress that his children are making in school. But above all else, the content is focused on his life on his farm, and its content that appears to be resonating with the blog's readers. The blog also pulls pictures from a Flickr account, and Combs does a nice job showing not only Mahindra products in action, but also what his life is like on his farm. The post formatting and structure isn't always perfect, but I think that is almost a plus, because it comes across as being authentic. Combs isn't a blogger writing about life on a farm, he is a farmer blogging about his life.

Let's now check the comments. Check out this one left to the blog's latest post:
i just happened upon your blog about 2 to 3 months ago and must say i am hooked…i am a country girl at heart but only live on 3.5 acres in california….i enjoy hearing about the country life you live and am glad to hear that it still exists…thanks for keeping my country heart afloat..merry christmas to you and your family…

This comment is a classic example of why a company blog works best as a tool to provide value for customers first, instead of as a direct selling tool. This person enjoys the blog and Combs' writing because she can relate to Combs' life. The positive feelings and enjoyment she has for Combs' writing will likely transfer at least somewhat to Mahindra's products, since those products play a role in Combs' life.

Life of a Farm Blog has one of the more active comment sections I've seen on a company blog. In fact, it has a perfect example of a community on a blog. Combs' does a great job of replying to almost every comment left, and is very warm and friendly in doing so. You can also tell that the blog's readers have great empathy for Combs, as most make a point to either relate their own experiences on their own farms or attempt to help Combs' better complete his current projects. It might be a stretch to say that Life of a Farm Blog's readers are devoted to Combs, but it's obvious that they are quite fond of him, and his responses make it obvious that he greatly appreciates their comments.

Now let's move to the sidebar. First, we have a picture of Joel on his Mahindra tractor, and a link to an 'About Me' section. A picture and bio for every blogger should be a must for a company blog, but many don't add one. Unfortunately, there's not a lot else on the sidebar. We have a link to subscribe to the blog's feed, the archives, one category, and a few links to Mahindra products and sites. While the content portion of the blog does an excellent job of providing value for its readers, unfortunately the sidebar doesn't offer much value to anyone that would live on a farm, or enjoy a lifestyle similar to Combs'. This is another area where many blogs fall short.

If I were Mahindra, I would add links to the blogs from any regular commenters, as well as a few popular blogs/sites devoted to farm life. This alone would go a long way toward ensuring that the sidebar's value is more in line with the value Combs creates in his posts.

Overall, Life of a Farm Blog is like most company blogs in that it excels in some areas, and falls short in others. Thankfully, the blog's strengths are in the two most important areas; content and comments. I also think that this blog is the perfect example of the saying 'good is the enemy of great'. This is a good blog. But with a few minor changes, such as adding more reader-relevant links on the sidebar, the blog could become a great one. Mahindra may be subscribing to the 'if it aint broke, don't fix it' line of thinking when it comes to the blog, especially considering how popular Combs appears to be with his readers.

And now let's turn to the scoring:

Content: 31 (Out of a possible 35) - Love how the blog is positioned from the view of Joel as a farmer, instead of Joel as a Mahindra customer. Still, at times it seems there's a tad too much 'selling' of Mahindra products happening.

Comments: 34 (Out of a possible 35) - Most posts have several comments, and Joel does a solid job of replying and engaging readers. Wonderful example of a company blog having a vibrant community.

Posting Schedule: 4 (Out of a possible 15) - Very sporadic posting, with the blog averaging about one new post a week.

Sidebars: 7 (Out of a possible 15) - Love the pic and bio of Joel, but otherwise the sidebar is pretty bare.

Total Score: 76 (Out of a possible 100)

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

Thanks to Jonathan for the tip about Mahindra's blog.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New posts here, there, and everywhere...

One of the resolutions I made for myself for this year was to write more. Going forward, I'm going to shoot for 7-10 new posts here a week. Also, I'm going to try to write more at Daily Fix, hopefully getting at least a new post up every week. So far so good, as I've got two new posts at Daily Fix this week.

The first is a post I wrote yesterday that goes more deeply into some of the advantages I am seeing from using Twitter. I go into some of the stats behind my own Twitter usage and how it's affecting traffic here, as well as how the total number of Twitter users is trending.

Today's DF post goes into the findings from a new study by Deloitte on how media and digital content is being used and distributed. Some interesting results, it appears that social content is continuing to grow, and so is video.

Finally, I have a new writing gig to announce. From this point forward, in addition to writing here and at DF, I'll also be writing for Search Engine Guide. And as luck would have it, my first post is up today. Today and tomorrow I am running a 2-part series on how to get more comments on your blog. Today's posts looks at what you can do at your blog to encourage more comments, tomorrow I will look at some ways that you can encourage readers to comment by leaving your blog (sounds counter-intuitive, but it will make sense in the end!).

So please check out each post, and add your own thoughts if you can. One advantage to writing for another site is that I will now be able to draw more attention to some of the smart ways that the rest of you are utilizing social media!


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The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 89

Here's the standings for Week 89:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,034 (-68)(LW - 1)
2 - Duct Tape Marketing - 1,841 (-198)(LW - 2)
3 - Search Engine Guide - 1,679 (-23)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,169 (-4)(LW - 4)
5 - Daily Fix - 1,081 (-29)(LW - 5)
6 - Brand Autopsy - 742 (-21)(LW - 6)
7 - The Engaging Brand - 717 (-31)(LW - 7)
8 - Influential Marketing - 709 (-18)(LW - 8)
9 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 704 (-16)(LW - 9)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
11 - What's Next - 645 (-5)(LW - 12)
12 - Conversation Agent - 639 (-17)(LW - 11)
13 - Diva Marketing - 629 (-14)(LW - 13)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 611 (-29)(LW - 14)
15 - The Viral Garden - 560 (-26)(LW - 15)
16 - Six Pixels of Separation - 505 (LW - UR)
17 - Converstations - 495 (-14)(LW - 16)
18 - Branding and Marketing - 464 (-5)(LW - 18)
19 - CK's Blog - 462 (+1)(LW - 19)
20 - Servant of Chaos - 441 (-19)(LW - 20)
20 - Customers Rock! - 441 (+1)(LW - 21)
22 - Every Dot Connects - 393 (+2)(LW - 23)
23 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 390 (-28)(LW - 22)
24 - Chaos Scenario - 384 (-5)(LW - 24)
25 - Experience Curve - 378 (-95)(LW - 17)

A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing Blogs are ranked according to the number of sites/blogs linking to each, according to Technorati. The number you see after the blog name is how many sites/blogs Technorati claims have linked to the blog in the last 6 months. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many links the blog gained or lost from last week's Top 25. The final stat tells you what position the blog held in the Top 25 Last Week (LW). If you see this; (LW - UR), it means the blog wasn't ranked last week.

If your blog was down this week, you were in good company. 21 of the 24 blogs in last week's Top 25, were down this week, including every blog in the Top 18. But CK's Blog broke the down streak at #19, and Customers Rock! and Every Dot Connects were also up. The Top 10 continues to tighten, with SEG continuing to close the gap with Duct Tape Marketing, and the #6-9 blogs are in a small 38-link band.

The lone new entry is Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation, which makes an impressive debut at #16.

Next update is next Wednesday.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The conversation (still) carries on....

...with or without you.

Jennifer writes today
of a bad experience at her local Panera Bread:
Sometime during the last two weeks, Panera put a new policy in place that required wifi users to "log-in" to the wifi access once an hour. Since I work here for roughly three hours every time I come in, that means I have three interruptions to my work flow....I've been coming here two mornings a week for more than six months. The staff knows me, the kitchen folks know me, the couch in front of the fireplace has an indent the shape of my rear on it. In other words, I am a very regular customer. Based on how often I tell people about going to Panera to work both in real life or on my blogs, you might even call me a brand evangelist.

I represent the customer you don't want to annoy. Not because there's anything special about me, but because I'm the type of customer who is already enamored with the brand and therefore willing to put up with the occasional inconvenience. If I get annoyed by what you're doing, chances are high that new customers will be annoyed as well. The difference is those new customers will simply walk out the door and never come back. The loyal customers will probably at least complain and give you a chance to fix things.

And this of course returns us to another plea for companies to PLEASE monitor what your customers are saying about you on their blogs. Remember a few days ago when I blogged about how Ike was running a countdown on his blog for how long it had been since Blockbuster hadn't contacted him about the good customer service he received? He added in Twitter the other night that he finally gave up and took the countdown off his sidebar.

Want to know how painfully hard it is to monitor the blogosphere? Let's walk you through this ordeal, with Panera Bread as the example.

1 - Go to

2 - Click on 'more' at the top left, then from the list, click 'Blogs'

3 - Type in 'Panera Bread' and click 'Search Blogs'.

4- There's your results. And notice the top one? Yeah, it's Jennifer's post.

5 - Click on the 'RSS' option under 'Subscribe' on the left sidebar. That will save this search as an RSS feed in your feedreader, and now every time someone blogs about Panera Bread, it will show up in your feed reader.

Total time: <60 seconds.

Jennifer explains that not only should Panera Bread be monitoring the blogosphere, but that this also present an opportunity to Panera Bread's competitors:
A smart competitor to Panera Bread (say Atlanta Bread Company, Camille's or any other casual cafe) would be watching to see what consumers are saying about the company as well. As much as I love Panera, I do not love being forced to log back in every hour so that I can continue working. If I found out that a competitor with a similar environment and equally good food let me work without interrupting me, I'd make the switch.

And if anyone from Panera Bread actually reads this and subscribes to the 'c'mon who cares about what one blogger says?' mentality, check out Jennifer's post, and more specifically, notice what it says to the right of her post's title? It says that yesterday 10,500 people feed readers accessed her site.

So that means that over 10,000 feed readers (not visitors, feed readers) could be reading today about how Panera Bread disappointed one of their brand evangelists.

Yeah. And to further drive the point home, here's an Alexa comparision of Search Engine Guide's traffic, version the traffic to Panera Bread's website:

It's a bit small, but the line on top that's well above the other, represents Search Engine Guide's traffic. So Jennifer's post complaining about the experience she received at her local Panera Bread was broadcast to a far larger audience than the one that Panera Bread's website enjoys.

Makes it easy to see what companies can potentially lose when they don't invest 60 seconds to monitor the blogosphere, doesn't it?

Pic of Panera Bread cups via Flickr user powerbooktrance


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Cloverfield campaign expands with foreign news casts, attack footage

I've spent some time blogging about the fascinating viral campaign for this summer's release The Dark Knight, but there's also a very interesting campaign leading up to this month's release of the Sci-Fi thriller Cloverfield. I haven't really kept up with the campaign, but the movie itself appears to revolve around some mystery creature/monster going on a rampage.

There has been several viral sites for this campaign as well, and now there is 'news footage' from around the world of a recent 'attack' by the monster on an oil platform in the atlantic. Here is the story and footage from an Italian report:

The company that owned the platform, Tagruato, has issued this 'release' on their website concerning the incident:
There has been an altercation at the Chaui Station. Although details are limited at present time, be assured that Tagruato is taking every measure necessary to ensure the safety and well being of all staff and crew. Specialty teams have been deployed, and are working aggressively to restore harmony at the site.

The cause of the problem is currently being investigated, although it is suspected that an eco-terror cell is responsible for the disturbance.

We have top investigators on our side. Everything will be resolved shortly, and all problems will be fixed. If you have any questions, please contact us at +81-3-5403-6318 for further instructions.

This is another example of how the reality/movie line is blurring in movie marketing. And it's also a great example of how to make your marketing fun. First Showing has more videos, and I love this comment from one of their readers:
I'm really impressed by this campaign.
And honestly, the newscasts are imho the best foreign specific content produced by Hollywood. E.g., the Russian newscast is really authentic, without any accents, with realistic messages. The same is Japanese and German versions.

I think, even if the movie won't rock, the whole viral story becomes part of the history of modern popculture.

Building excitement and letting fans have fun in the process. Sounds like a winning marketing campaign to me.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Giving Twitter another look...

Ten months ago I wrote here that I just didn't see what the big deal was about Twitter. But recently I've been thinking that perhaps I should give the service another chance, and CK mentioning how much she enjoyed being on Twitter was the clincher for me.

But I decided that if I was going to dive head-first into Twitter, that I needed to change how I was using the site. When I wrote last March that I didn't 'get' Twitter, it was mainly because I was only following about 40 people, and most of those people wouldn't be on the site when I was. If someone would follow me, I would follow them back IF I knew them. If not, I wouldn't. IOW, I was basically trying to see what value I could extract from Twitter. It didn't seem like much to me, so I stopped using it.

So when I decided to give Twitter a second chance a few days ago, I decided to switch gears. I went from only following a few dozen people, to following as many people as possible. I quickly added any friends that I wasn't following. Then I went through the lists of people my friends were following and added any people that I noticed several of my friends following. Finally, I added people/bloggers/marketers that I knew of, but that hadn't really talked to before. People like Chris Messina, Micki Krimmel, Jim Long, etc.

The hundreds of diverse points of view made for an absolutely fascinating experience. In between amazing marketing/social media discussions with people like Shel Israel, Ike Pigott and Connie Reece, I read about Xeni Jardin's account of what she was experiencing on her vacation in Guatemala, and New Media Jim detailing a high-speed chase with a carjacker.

This experience has hammered home this point for me about social media: it works best when you view it as a way to create value, not as a tool to extract value. When I didn't 'get' Twitter before, it was because I was trying to extract value from it, without really providing any. For example, before I was only following a few dozen people, and used Twitter mainly as a way to link to my own blog posts. I wanted more followers, but was using the service mainly as a way to pimp my own posts.

But now by following everyone first, I am using Twitter as a tool to create value, instead of just extracting it. I still link to many of my new posts, but I also link to posts and articles that OTHER people write that I believe the people I am following will find VALUE in. I try to contribute to discussions as I can, and treat Twitter as a community.

I've gone from following about 100 people a couple of weeks ago, to over 500 now. I've 'only' gone from about 150 followers to over 300, but that's ok. Now that I am viewing Twitter as a community, I'm getting far more value from it than I can give back.

The end lesson for companies, and myself, is that if you want to get value from social media, you need to first create value for others. Attempting to extract value without providing any is a recipe for frustration.

Thanks to Armano for suggesting I write this.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Song BMG becomes last major label to dump DRM

Sony has become the last of the four major music labels to commit to stripping DRM (Digital Rights Management) from the music it sells, according to Business Week. Sony's move follows Warner Music Group saying it would drop DRM last month, with EMI and Universal taking similar stances in earlier 2007.

The final major label committing to dump DRM comes almost 11 months to the day after Steve Jobs fired a missive on Apple's website calling for all music labels, especially the 'big four' to dump DRM:
The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

DRM was likely already headed the way of the Dodo, but Jobs' plea certainly accelerated the process. One can only hope that this move will also be another domino falling toward the end of the RIAA, which becomes even less meaningful in a DRM-free music world.

At any rate, this is a red-letter day for music fans, and whether they realize it or not, the industry itself. As Terry McBride, Nettwerk CEO stated when I interviewed him last year, the key to the future of the music industry is to "put the music where the music fan spends their time and allow them to consume it how they want."


Hat-tip to Eric Rice for tweeting about this story.


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