Sunday, June 29, 2008

Poll results, and a social media case study!

Thanks to everyone that voted in this (first) week's poll question about what type of content you wanted to see on The Viral Garden. You said that you want to see more social media case studies, and advanced social media strategies. Here's the final results:

Social Media case studies - 42.9%
Advanced social media strategies - 28.6%
Social media 101, help! - 14.3%
Blogging 101, help! - 7.1%
Less social media, more marketing - 7.1%

So taking these results into consideration, I'll try to put more of a focus on case studies and advanced strategies from this point forward, starting with the results of Sea World San Antonio's social media campaign to create excitement for their new roller-coaster.

And here is this week's poll question:

"Which social media site/tool is the best for conversations?"

And your options are:

1 - Twitter
2 - Friendfeed
3 - Plurk
4 - Blogs

I'll run this question till next Sunday, and post the results then. Thanks again to everyone that voted in last week's poll!

Now, for the promised social media case study:

Sea World San Antonio worked with Kami Huyse to create a campaign to boost awareness for the water park's Journey to Atlantis roller coaster. Kami utilized social media to create buzz for the ride, including reaching out to bloggers in the coaster community (yes, apparently there is a group of bloggers that are passionate about roller coasters), as well as creating videos and pictures of the ride. In the comments section here, Kami claims the campaign (entirely social media) drove 200,000 visitors to the park in 2 months, and had a cost of 22 cents per impression, vs $1.00 per for an advertising.

Three things I love about this campaign:

1 - Sea World and Kami got the coaster evangelists involved. And more specifically, the blogging coaster evangelists. They brought them in and let them see the ride, ride the coaster, and created content specifically for them. This is an excellent example of targetting your influencers.

2 - They did #1 as a way to get a relationship STARTED with the coaster community. How many times have I said that companies need to find their evangelists online, and reach out to them? This is exactly what Sea World did, and by reaching out to these fans, they have now created the foundation for a relationship that can benefit both groups from now on.

3 - It got a very prominent blogger, Shel Israel, and Fast Company TV involved. Shel came down to Sea World San Antonio to interview the park as well as Kami about the campaign. This was a very smart move, because it gives social media bloggers a reason to get excited about the campaign. And yes, I am a bit embarassed to admit that I hadn't heard of this earlier.

Here's where Kami gives an overview of the campaign last year, and here's her recap from a couple of months ago. Also, here's the interview that Shel did with Kami for Fast Company TV, a recap from Jeremiah, and a post containing some (misguided?) criticism of the campaign's reported results. Great stuff and a great example of utilizing social media in an awareness campaign.

Pic via

Thursday, June 26, 2008

So can businesses use Plurk?

Ever since Plurk 'suddenly' burst on the scene earlier this month, there's been debate over what value the site has. Obviously, it has a ton of 'fun' value for those of us that are almost addicted to the quirky site and the community of friends and users that we constantly bump into.

But for many of us that are looking at Plurk through a social media consultant's eyes, we have wondered if we could validate recommending Plurk to our clients? Simply put, is there value for businesses in being on Plurk?

For a while, I thought that, at least for now, Plurk didn't offer as much professional and business opportunities as its much bigger brother, Twitter did. But then I started to watch how Tim Jackson was using Plurk. I'd seen Tim use Twitter sparingly for the past few months, occasionally popping in for a few tweets, then disappearing for another week or so.

But with Plurk, Tim has dived in. He's constantly on the site, and it's clear that his popularity among Plurk users is skyrocketing. What I think is also happening is that as Tim becomes more popular, the affection the Plurk community has for him, bleeds over into positive feelings for Masi, his employer.

Often times Tim will mention on Plurk that he's working on a new post with pictures of Masi bikes. The response from Plurk users is to say that they can't wait to see the pics, and then they immediately go to his blog and comment as soon as he publishes the post. Other users have begun seeking him out for advice on what type of bike they should buy. I've even seen him promote a competitor's line.

The end result is that Tim, by being Tim, has established himself as a valuable member of the Plurk community. And he's also won the trust of his fellow members, and in the social media space, you cannot put a price on that. Tim is tapping into the ease of communication that Plurk's format gives, and is using it to create and build connections with other people.

And a byproduct of his growing influence on Plurk is that Masi's exposure grows. The fondness and trust that we have for Tim, likely begins to transfer to Masi.

Which is, of course, the beauty of social media. It's not about how you can use these tools to immediately impact your bottom line. It's not about how can you 'game' this space. It's about being authentic and understanding that IF you use these tools as we do, and for the same reasons as we do, that business growth WILL be a BYPRODUCT of your time spent in this space.

The question I'm wondering is, if you become a friend/fan of someone like Tim on a social site like Plurk, does that make you more or less likely to also feel better about their employer?

UPDATE: Per CallKathy's request, here's a link to Tim's Plurk profile so can get an idea of how he uses Plurk, and follow him (or laugh at his thumb).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 111

Here's the standings for Week 111:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,183 (+243)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 6,283 (+20)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 1,900 (+34)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,437 (+6)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,302 (-24)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 947 (+4)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 825 (+11)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 769 (+7)(LW - 8)
9 - Brand Autopsy - 712 (-13)(LW - 9)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
11 - Conversation Agent - 627 (+4)(LW - 11)
12 - Six Pixels of Separation - 609 (-2)(LW - 12)
13 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 604 (+1)(LW - 13)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 602 (+16)(LW - 14)
15 - What's Next - 482 (-8)(LW - 15)
16 - Diva Marketing - 452 (-4)(LW - 16)
17 - The Viral Garden - 429 (+1)(LW - 17)
18 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 421 (+5)(LW - 19)
19 - CK's Blog - 418 (No Change)(LW - 18)
20 - Converstations - 417 (+4)(LW - 20)
21 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 402 (+8)(LW - 21)
22 - Every Dot Connects - 385 (No Change)(LW - 22)
23 - Social Media Explorer - 383 (+1)(LW - 23)
24 - Techno Marketer - 380 (+6)(LW - 24)
25 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 368 (+7)(LW - 25)

A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing & Social Media 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.

A bounceback week for the Top 25, with 17 blogs being up to only 5 down blogs. The Top 10 was especially strong, with Seth posting a huge 243 link gain, and 7 of the Top 10 blogs being up, with only 2 down. The back-half of the countdown was also very solid, with every blog from #17-25 either being up, or unchanged this week.

No new blogs this week. Next update is next Wednesday.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Philly TV station paying local bloggers to stream news content

An interesting twist on the blog-monetization debate is occuring in Philadelphia, where CBS channel 3 is offering local bloggers the chance to make money by streaming their content. The station is giving bloggers the chance to add an embeddable widget to their blogs which will stream breaking news as well as headlines from top stories:
In line with delivering breaking news, CBS 3 will supply the widgets with real-time news feeds of local headlines and images to ensure updated content on partner sites 24-hours a day. The headlines and updates link back to their full stories and videos, available on the CBS 3 site at

The widgets will also include ads and have a rev-share component so that local bloggers that embed the widgets on their sites can share in the revenue generated from the advertising.

What do you think of this? I've long been a proponent of bloggers being able to monetize their content IF they can find a way to provide added value to their readers at the same time. That 'if' is often the stumbling block to a win-win monetization idea.

But to me, this idea sounds like it could be a winner. By adding the widget, bloggers are giving their readers another source of valuable content. 'Local' blogs aimed at the Philadelphia market are no doubt going to have a readership that's predominantly local. This audience would likely find value in receiving breaking local news. And obviously CBS 3 benefits by increasing their exposure.

Would you offer a widget like this on your site to stream someone else's content in order to get some extra cash from it? If you frequently read local blogs, do you think having a widget with breaking news (and ads) would give you more value, or less?


Monday, June 23, 2008

Is the rise of social media leading to Workplace 2.0?

A new study by Universal McCann (referenced first by MediaPost, then Jaffe), says that social media is surging in popularity among that magical 18-34 demographic. In fact, UM found that 85% of this group says that they use one or more Web 2.0 platforms to communicate with others.

The study also found that the percentage of this group that publishes blogs doubled in the last year, up from 5% last year, to 10% now.

Graeme Hutton, senior vice president-director of consumer insights at UM, gives his theory on the increased publishing and reading of blogs among this group:
We think that's do to the increased use of social networking, and blogs are an integral part of using them. Two years ago, asking people about blogs, people were shaking their heads. I think now it's taking off because social networks are taking off. RSS feeds, which make reading blogs easier, have become an integral part of the way people communicate and exchange content. People may have been doing it before, but may not have realized it. Now they're recognizing it for what it is.

Not sure I completely buy that, but socnets are definitely a factor in the increase of blog readership, esp among the 18-34 demo.

Yet what's most intriguing to me is what impact this group's rising social media use will have on the businesses they currently, or will soon work for. Seems Naomi is thinking along these same lines. Let's be honest, so much of the reason why businesses aren't embracing social media is due to ignorance, and a fear of change. It's easy to dismiss these social sites and tools as being fads, when you've never actually used them.

But as more companies hire workers that are fluent in these tools, likely replacing ones that were not, we'll start to see the cultures at these companies change dramatically. It's much easier for a company to consider these social tools, when their employees are already using and talking about them internally. Ignorance will give way to understanding, and that transformation will lead to social media being seen as a viable way for companies to connect and communicate with their customers.

Companies like Dell give us a glimpse of what can happen when social media internally transforms a company's culture. My guess is the average corporate workplace culture of 2013 will be significantly more open to social media than it is today. The hires that are made between now and then will play a great part in this internal transformation.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I've been tinkering with the blog over the past few days, and have made some changes. First, I've added a poll to the blog's sidebar. I love this because it's a way for you guys to have more input here. What I'm going to do is run the poll till next Friday, then ask a new question. On every Friday I'll announce the poll results, write a post about the topic of the poll, and then announce the poll question for the next week. Again, I think this will be a fun way for you guys to have a bigger say into what we talk about here. This week I'm asking what topics you want to see covered here, and so far it seems that you guys want more social media case studies and posts on advanced social media strategies. If you haven't had your say yet, please vote!

Secondly, I've added a LiJit search widget to the sidebar, replacing the stale one from Technorati. I'm still tinkering with the setup of the widget, but as I understand it, when you search with it, you can get results from my blog, as well as 'my network'. I have to get the 'my network' portion set up.

Finally, I've overhauled my Speaking page. I've added several conferences and events that I'll be speaking at in the Fall, with hopefully a few more coming soon. I'll be giving you more information about each conference/event as we get closer to the Fall. I've also added a video interview that WebProNews did with me at last Spring's SBMU. If you want to have me speak at your conference or private event, please email me and we can talk more.

Friday, June 20, 2008

NASA's big news is also big for Twitter

It's not exactly every day that NASA gets to announce to the world that it's discovered water-based ice on another planet. But that's exactly what happened on Thursday.

And if you wanted to hear the news before anyone else in the world, then you had to be on Twitter. Via this tweet, the MarsPhoenix rover announced to the world that crystals collected earlier on the Red Planet, were indeed made up of ice.

This is obviously a big coop for Twitter, but also for NASA as well. NASA has committed to using Twitter to rely constant information about the activities of the MarsPhoenix rover, which now has over 20,000 followers. This is a great way to educate the public on exactly how the $420 million NASA invested in the MarsPhoenix is being spent.

I am a fan of space exploration, but I admit that I often wonder exactly what gets accomplished on all these shuttle missions and every time they send up another expedition. Thanks to NASA educating us via Twitter, I can see EXACTLY why the Mars Phoenix mission is so important, and why the findings are so significant. I can see making a discovery that could ultimately lead to finding life on another planet for the first time as being worth the investment, even if it is priced at $420 million.

And this also goes to the heart of why social media works so well, as communication channels. NASA is tapping into these very qualities to educate us on why this mission and its discoveries are so critically important. My guess is that will greatly help the space agency when it lobbies for more funding for future expeditions.

BTW for the record, when NASA breaks news of this magnitude on Twitter, I think we can officially kill the 'is Social Media a fad?' question. Agreed? kthxbai


Thursday, June 19, 2008

How well do you know your audience?

I'm now writing for three blogs. A big reason why I decided to do this is because each blog is read by a slightly different audience. I think.

Here, I believe the audience is people that are active in social media, and have a solid basic understanding of these tools. You guys are using these tools and familiar with them. When I ask you which you like better, Twitter or Plurk, you have used both sites and have a definite opinion.

At Daily Fix, I *think* the audience leans more toward corporate marketers that have some understanding of social media, but still have much to learn. They are familiar with most of the social sites and tools, but might not have used them yet. They have probably heard of Twitter and possibly used it, but would scratch their heads over Plurk. Again, I *think* this is DF's audience.

At Search Engine Guide, I *think* the audience is mostly small to medium business owners and marketers that have some basic idea of social media, but want to learn more. They might have heard of Twitter, but most probably don't use it. Plurk would completely confuse them. Again I *think* this is SEG's audience.

So I decided to add a poll widget to the sidebar that will give you the chance to vote on the content you want to see here at The Viral Garden. Your choices are Advanced Social Media Strategies, Blogging 101, Social Media case studies, social media 101, and Less Social Media, more marketing.

I'll try to update the poll question every week or so, and this will hopefully be a fun way for you guys to have more input into the content that's created here! So please let me know what you think by taking the poll!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 110

Here's the standings for Week 110:

1 - Seth's Blog - 8,940 (+28)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 6,263 (-45)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 1,866 (+25)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,431 (-49)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,326 (-66)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 943 (-58)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 814 (+104)(LW - 9)
8 - Daily Fix - 762 (-19)(LW - 7)
9 - Brand Autopsy - 725 (-4)(LW - 8)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
11 - Conversation Agent - 623 (-6)(LW - 11)
12 - Six Pixels of Separation - 611 (-1)(LW - 12)
13 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 603 (-6)(LW - 13)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 586 (-18)(LW - 14)
15 - What's Next - 490 (-34)(LW - 15)
16 - Diva Marketing - 456 (-13)(LW - 16)
17 - The Viral Garden - 428 (-9)(LW - 17)
18 - CK's Blog - 418 (No Change)(LW - 20)
19 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 416 (-10)(LW - 19)
20 - Converstations - 413 (-17)(LW - 18)
21 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 394 (-2)(LW - 22)
22 - Every Dot Connects - 385 (-15)(LW - 21)
23 - Social Media Explorer - 382 (+14)(LW - 25)
24 - Techno Marketer - 374 (-4)(LW - 23)
25 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 361 (-14)(LW - 24)

A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing & Social Media 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.

Very similar to last week, with Seth and Chris Brogan's blogs being up, almost everyone else was down. Influential Marketing had what I assume is a Technorati-snapback, suddenly adding 104 links. I wouldn't be surprised to see more blogs do this in the next week or two. Social Media Explorer had a nice 14-link gain, and moved up to #23.

No new blogs this week. Next update is next Wednesday.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Technorati Tags:
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Getting individuals excited while trying to create a community

As you might have heard, I've been spending a lot of time with Plurk lately. One think that differentiates Plurk from other microblogging sites is that each user has a 'karma' number. Most of us didn't really know much about this number, other than it seemed to be tied to which emoticons you get, as you hit 25 you get about a dozen new ones to use in plurks, at 50 you get about another dozen.

But there was no shortage of speculation about how this number was calculated. But earlier this week, Plurk better explained how their karma score was calculated on their blog. One of the ways they explain to raise your karma score is by plurking each day, and getting responses to your plurks.

Unfortunately, over the last couple of days, I have noticed a big increase in plurks that basically repeat themselves. Here's an example:

12:36am 'Wow it's already after midnight, getting sleepy!'

12:39am 'Ok getting close to bed-time!'

12:43am 'I have GOT to close Plurk and go to sleep! Nite guys!'

12:45am 'Ok I am REALLY going now! zzzzzzzzz'

Now that looks like 4 plurks for the price of one to me. I'm also noticing that the people that do this tend to also be the ones that constantly update their karma levels, and mention how it must be going up because of all the plurks they are leaving!

I understand Plurk's thinking here, they believe if they tie karma scores to participation, that an active and lively community-site will be the result. The problem is, unless that community is already in place, then all you have is a buncha individuals looking out for their best interests, not what's best to help create a community. You have individuals looking to do whatever it takes to get their karma scores up, while everyone else is looking at their timelines and seeing the quality of plurks being left going downhill fast.

And it's not just Plurk. Think back to how the Z-List grew and evolved. At first, the Z-List was truly a community-driven project. Everyone on the list at first realized that it was about putting the spotlight on other deserving bloggers. Which caused it to take off like a rocket. Unfortunately, it eventually grew to the point where it reached bloggers that had no sense of the community that was pushing it, and started using the list to promote themselves, not the larger community. That's when it began to fizzle and lose steam.

This is what I'm beginning to see with Plurk. At first it was like we had all found this cool new hangout. Now that everyone is beginning to realize how they can boost their individual karma, the quality of plurks being created as a whole, seems to be falling. Now to their credit, The A-Team has been very receptive to community-feedback so far, so hopefully they'll consider changes to the karma system, or scrapping it altogether.

But the bigger question here is, does any sort of ranking/authority system that puts the focus on the individual on a site such as plurk, hurt the chances that a community will form? Or is the question too broad? Could competition spur individuals to create something that a community can form around? That certainly seems to be working for Threadless, but not as well for Plurk.

As with so much in life, it seems the devil is in the details.


Hire Mack!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Why is Plurk a big deal? Two words: Threaded Conversations.

The other night I was on Plurk and left the site for about 30 mins. When I came back, I saw that Tim Jackson had plurked about 15 mins earlier that he had chips and beer for dinner.

And that plurk already had 75 replies.

What I've noticed in the last week or so is that Plurk's format, which encourages you to 'let your hair down', is the perfect pair for threaded conversations. I've seen plurks get 100 replies in an hour, and a few have gotten close to 200 replies in a day or so. A plurk getting 50 replies is fairly common.

And no, we aren't just talking about our horrible eating habits, this thread about social media strategies has over 120 replies, this one on basic Plurk functions has over 170 replies, and this one from Ann Handley discussing social media thought leaders has almost 200 replies.

What Plurk has done is marry a funky format that encourages people to 'just be themselves', to the ability to have threaded conversations. These two characteristics play off each other to allow plurks to blossom into conversations with dozens of replies in minutes. And as these two dynamics work together, it encourages people to connect and become more comfortable with each other. Which just leads to even more robust conversations.

Which is why threaded conversations is a game-changer for the microblogging format. Dismiss Plurk all you like, but it's cookin' up some goodness that *will* seriously shape and impact the microblogging format from here on out.

Bonus Link: If you're new to Plurk, this post has some tips to get you started.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 109

Here's the standings for Week 109:

1 - Seth's Blog - 8,912 (+4)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 6,308 (-11)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 1,841 (+1)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,480 (-29)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,392 (-4)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 1,001 (-263)(LW - 6)
7 - Daily Fix - 781 (-100)(LW - 7)
8 - Brand Autopsy - 729 (-48)(LW - 9)
9 - Influential Marketing - 710 (-126)(LW - 8)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 12)
11 - Conversation Agent - 629 (-29)(LW - 13)
12 - Six Pixels of Separation - 612 (-19)(LW - 14)
13 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 609 (-64)(LW - 10)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 604 (-64)(LW - 11)
15 - What's Next - 524 (-35)(LW - 15)
16 - Diva Marketing - 469 (-44)(LW - 17)
17 - The Viral Garden - 437 (-91)(LW - 16)
18 - Converstations - 430 (-40)(LW - 18)
19 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 426 (-30)(LW - 19)
20 - CK's Blog - 418 (No Change)(LW - 20)
21 - Every Dot Connects - 400 (-18)(LW - 21)
22 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 396 (-16)(LW - 22)
23 - Techno Marketer - 378 (-7)(LW - 25)
24 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 375 (-19)(LW - 23)
25 - Social Media Explorer - 368 (LW - UR)

A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing & Social Media 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.

Seth and Chris had up weeks, while everyone else took what appears to be a Technorati-induced header. Many blogs, including this one, lost dozens of links, and given that TRati had already been reporting some quirky results recently, I'll assume the big dips are coming from the site and there hasn't been a suddenly collapse of the marketing/social media blogosphere. All will likely be back to semi-normal next week.

Social Media Explorer is the lone new blog this week. Next update is next Wednesday.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Technorati Tags:
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Hire Mack!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Twitter vs Plurk, who wins?

The last week or so has seen a flurry of talk on Twitter about a new micro-messaging site called Plurk. Plurk lets you leave 140-ish character messages to friends, so it immediately garnered comparisions to Twitter. It's quirky timeline UI and odd graphics (headless animals?!?) makes it a clear contrast to Twitter, whose animals all have their appropriate body parts.

Two things I have noticed after using Plurk for the last week:

1 - Almost everyone HATES it when they first use it.

2 - The people that keep using it anyway usually find that they like Plurk once they get a hang of the UI and functionality.

So which site is better? Which one wins? Will Plurk be the competitor that finally 'kills' Twitter?

All of these questions are the wrong ones to ask. Plurk offers a different experience than Twitter. And whereas Twitter is aimed at adults, Plurk's graphics and UI is more aimed at teens. But its environment encourages adults to act like teens. This creates a very open and fun experience.

What Plurk has done is keep the 140/160 character limit that's the backbone of micro-messaging competitors such as Twitter and Pownce, but has created a completely unique interface and branding. If you are a fan of micro-messaging/blogging, you should welcome this because Plurk is pushing the boundaries of the space. Now the next competitor in this space is more likely to keep the 140-ish character format, but offer an even different experience aimed at a different market.

But what does all this mean to you? Is Plurk worth your time?

The thing I love about Twitter is that it's a place where you have fun, but that you can also network and see professional gains as well. Plurk is a place where we can all 'let our hair down' (hit-tip @BethHarte), and is sorta the Happy Hour version of Twitter.

But that also means it has the potential to become a huge time sink with little to show for those hours other than a lot of fun. Which is fine, but it definitely means you might have to balance the time you spend there.

As with everything else concerning Plurk, your mileage may vary. I think it's a great little micro-messaging site and a load of fun. Give it a few days and see what you think. But again, don't just visit it once and never come back, because you likely WILL hate the layout the first time you see it, especially if you are a fan of Twitter.

Here's some additional tips to help you navigate Plurkville:

1 - The timeline shows the most recent plurks (messages left on Plurk) at the left. As new ones show up, the older ones are pushed further to the right.

2 - Read a plurk by mousing over it. If you want to reply to it, simply click on it and a drop-down menu pops up where you can leave your reply. Here is the beauty of Plurk, as conversations are organized beneath each plurk! And if you want to keep up with just one conversation (as the plurk you are replying to will continue to move to the right of the timeline, making it harder to keep up with), on the drop-down menu for the plurk, click 'Plurk page'. This gives the conversation its own page in a format that's very similar to Twitter. Hat-tip to Connie Reece for discovering this!

3 - You can set which plurks are seen on your timeline. You can watch only those you have left, private ones left for you, and those left by you and your friends. Do this by clicking the drop-down menu on the right side of the bottom of the screen. You can also select the day you want to watch.

4 - If you mouse over a person's name, an arrow pops up, leading to a drop-down menu that lets you leave the user a private plurk, view their profile, or view their friends.

5 - If you absolutely hate the plurk interface and are ready to run screaming back to Twitter, try out the mobile version of Plurk, it's closer to what you are familiar with from Twitter.

But give Plurk a shot before you dismiss it. And how can you not love the error page that Plurk showed a few lucky users? Hat-tip to Sonny Gill.

UPDATE: As an interesting aside, as soon as this post went live, I posted a link to it on both Plurk and Twitter. In the next 30 mins, I got 9 traffic referrals from Plurk, 8 from Twitter. But I only have 137 people following me on Plurk, and almost 10 times that (1,366) following me on Twitter. Not sure what that proves, but I think it's interesting.


Hire Mack!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Talking Social Media with Dell's Amie Paxton

Recently, Dell's Channel Community Manager, Amie Paxton, was nice enough to ask me my thoughts on social media and especially the marketing impact it can have on small businesses.

We talked about some examples of small businesses that are effectively using social media in their marketing efforts, and this is the key point I tried to drive home:
But in all of these examples, each SMB is growing itself by using social media as a communication tool, not as a marketing tool. This is a subtle, but terribly important distinction to make. In the future, the businesses that utilize social media to grow will be the ones that view these tools as ways to better connect with and form relationships with their customers. Instead of viewing social media as simply a new set of channels to push marketing messages through.

In short, don’t focus on the social media tools themselves. Instead, focus on the connections and relationships with your customers that these tools can help facilitate.

You can read the interview here. I first met Amie and several of Dell's finest at this year's South by Southwest. Great people that are passionate about the potential that social media gives them to connect with and learn from their customers.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 108

Here's the standings for Week 108:

1 - Seth's Blog - 8,908 (-33)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 6,319 (-16)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 1,840 (+15)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,509 (-21)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,396 (+17)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 1,264(-66)(LW - 6)
7 - Daily Fix - 881 (-20)(LW - 7)
8 - Influential Marketing - 836 (-1)(LW - 8)
9 - Brand Autopsy - 777 (-11)(LW - 9)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 673 (-4)(LW - 12)
11 - Jaffe Juice - 668 (-13)(LW - 11)
12 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 13)
13 - Conversation Agent - 658 (-24)(LW - 10)
14 - Six Pixels of Separation - 631 (-9)(LW - 14)
15 - What's Next - 559 (-22)(LW - 15)
16 - The Viral Garden - 528 (-25)(LW - 16)
17 - Diva Marketing - 513 (+3)(LW - 17)
18 - Converstations - 470 (-5)(LW - 18)
19 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 456 (No Change)(LW - 19)
20 - CK's Blog - 418 (No Change)(LW - 20)
20 - Every Dot Connects - 418 (+2)(LW - 21)
22 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 412 (+6)(LW - 22)
23 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 394 (-5)(LW - 23)
24 - Servant of Chaos - 393 (-1)(LW - 24)
25 - Techno Marketer - 385 (-3)(LW - 25)

A reminder that the Top 25 Marketing & Social Media 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.

Slightly better week for the Top 25 with 5 blogs up, and two of them in the Top 5. Otherwise it was another downer. I'm beginning to wonder if this is part of a larger trend of people not posting to their blogs as much, and as a result traffic and links are falling? I know that Twitter alone is cutting into the number of blog posts I write each week. How are the rest of you faring? This is another reason why I think we all as individuals (especially those using our blogs as personal branding tools), need to spread the wealth in the social media space, and go where the people are. Agree? Disagree?

Otherwise there are no new blogs this week. Next update is next Wednesday.

Next update is next Wednesday.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

How (and why) I follow over 900 people on Twitter

If you’ve read my posts here for any length of time, you can tell that I am a huge Twitter evangelist. The site’s ability to let me communicate and network with an ever-growing number of people continues to amaze me. But as I talk to people on and about Twitter, they are also amazed at how I can follow (currently) over 900 people on the site. I reply that as I follow more people, I get a richer Twitter experience.

Here’s how I believe most people get started on Twitter. First, they follow their 10 or so closest online friends. After a while of doing this, they begin to wonder what the big deal is, because they are likely emailing all these people already, so what does Twitter bring to the table?

So next they likely go through and add another 20 or so experts and pundits from their particular industry. Now they follow around 30 people. But there still doesn’t seem to be much on Twitter for these people. Since they are only following 30 or so people, updates are few and far between, because it’s likely that only a few of those 30 people are ‘on’ Twitter and using it at the same time they are. I think it’s at this point that many people decide that Twitter isn’t really that big of a deal, and stop using the site.

This is where I found myself around Christmas of last year. I was following about 40-50 people and had about 100 or so following me. Twitter really didn’t seem like it was worth all the time and fuss to me, but I had a few friends that kept raving about the site and telling me to give it another chance.

So I did. But I knew that in order to give Twitter a real ‘chance’ to win me over, I had to change how I was using the site. So I went through and added another 50 or so marketing bloggers and social media notables. This alone got me to the point where I was getting updates every few minutes, where previously I might only get new tweets from the people I follow every 15 mins or so.

Then I started asking everyone on Twitter who the ‘power’ Twitter users were that I should be following. Many names were shared, and several people told me to check out the Tweeterboard 100, which claims to rank the 100 ‘top’ Twitter users. I went through the list and added just about everyone listed.

This changed my Twitter experience completely, because now for the first time, I was following people that I didn’t know, and that weren’t coming from a marketing/social media background. So suddenly my Twitterstream (what I call all the new tweets coming in from the people I follow), was much richer and diverse. Suddenly, I was following people from many different backgrounds with many different viewpoints and stories to tell.

By this point, I was following around 300 people, and updates were coming in every minute. And the conversations! Some people were discussing social media and ‘what’s hot’. Some were discussing their vacations, some were giving play-by-play (tweet-by-tweet?) of the NBA or NFL game being played.

The point was, now I had multiple conversations around multiple topics happening all the time. There was almost always something striking my interest, and prompting me to want to share my opinion and ‘talk’ to others. And again, this is what makes Twitter such an amazing networking tool. As you follow more people, it becomes much easier to find topics to talk about with your followers. As I have talked to my followers, we become friends, we contact each other off Twitter, and there you go.

So how many people can I follow? Where’s the breaking point? I’m not sure. Another point is that as you spend more time on Twitter, you become adept at ‘scanning’ the tweets from the people you are following. I know which topics appeal to which people. And using Twhirl makes this much easier, as Twhirl makes the tweets that are replies to me a different color and makes a different sound when these come through. So this makes it much easier to keep up with and respond to others.

And as I talk to other people on Twitter, I *always* add followers. Jennifer Laycock and I were both on Twitter recently talking about getting links from blogs and Twitter, and which we thought drove more traffic. Other people joined in the conversation, and after about 30 mins or so, we had about 10 people joining us by chiming in their thoughts. Jennifer and I compared notes later, and we both realized that we added followers on Twitter almost as soon as we began the conversation. What happens is that people that are following the people that are talking to us see the conversation that their friends are engaging in with us, and decide to follow us as well.

So if you’ve started using Twitter and think you’ve hit a wall, try adding more people that are NOT in your industry. This will completely change the experience you are getting from Twitter, and it might just be for the best!


Monday, June 02, 2008

My flyswatter can kick your flyswatter's ass!

A byproduct of living in the South in the Spring and Summer months (which cover about 9 months out of the year), is dealing with swarms of flies. The little pests drove me to Wal-Mart recently looking for a flyswatter.

Now a flyswatter is hardly a purchase that requires much consideration. You plop down a dollar and get a thin piece of rectangular plastic glued to a thin piece of metal. But I discovered that the only flyswatter my local Wal-Mart sells, is the 'Sergeant Swat'.

If Chuck Norris had a flyswatter, the Sergeant Swat would be his weapon of choice. This thing weighs literally a half a pound, and I think you could probably break someone's arm if you had a mis-swat. And the best part is, you don't even have to use it, simply picking up this beast makes flies disappear, with a barely audible 'sheeeeeiiiiiiittteeee' screeching across the room.

But I love the flyswatter's marketing. Below is a shot of the reverse of the item, explaining how 'precision manufactured flapper and super strong steel handle creates the most lethal flying pest killing apparatus the world has ever seen.' Below that, it tells us the Sergeant Swat has 888 'civilian' uses, including 'redneck badminton', and 'beer can crusher'.

All this, for 92 cents.

Remember that in my post on How to Market Like a Rockstar, I pointed out that simply having fun with your marketing is often overlooked. This is a freakin' 92 cent flyswatter people, and yet Willert Home Products has found a way to brand this item and create some hilarious packaging for it. They have found a way to make a flyswatter, of all things, interesting.

If Willert can create interesting branding and marketing for a product as boring as a flyswatter, then your company has no excuse.


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