Thursday, July 31, 2008

Company Blog Checkup: Fandango

Earlier this week I was looking for showtimes for The Dark Knight (which was excellent, BTW) at my local theater. I was quickly redirected to, and did some snooping and was surprised to discover that the movie ticket-selling company has a blog, appropriately titled Freshly Popped - The Movie Blog. Let's see what it looks like.

From a content standpoint, Fandango is positioning the blog as a source for movie info. Everything from how existing movies are doing at the box office, or trailers for new and upcoming releases. A few days ago the blog had a very nice series of daily updates from San Diego's Comic Con, which is the comic book industry's largest fan event, and a hot spot for movie studios looking to drum up interest for upcoming movies.

I like this approach but if I can find one 'problem' area, it's that the site has too LITTLE promotion. I see no posts about how to use Fandango, features that the site, or blog has. I see that the blog allows you to create a profile and become a 'fan' of the bloggers, and they can 'fan' readers as well. Very interesting and when the biggest 'complaint' you can find about a blog's content is not enough self-promotion, that's a good sign.

Now let's move to the comments. Despite the solid content, very few posts receive comments, and those that do usually only get 1 or 2. But a rare exception was this one covering The Dark Knight's opening. It received 27 comments, but it appears that none of them came from the blog's writers. That is a BAD sign. Also, you have to create a Fandango account to post comments, which is another hoop to make your readers jump through in order to leave feedback.

Now let's move to the blog's posting schedule. The blog does a pretty solid job with its posts, having published 20 for the month of July. That's an average of 5 a week, and is pretty good. I did notice an occasional gap of 3-4 days with no posts, but nothing major. One quirk I did notice is that every post is authored as being by Chuck Walton, one of the blog's three writers. But many of them will have From Stacie Hougland: or From Lizerne Guiting: at the first of the post. My guess is that only Chuck is a registered author for the blog, and they haven't changed it to add the other two writers. It's not a major thing, but would be nice if it was corrected. The bigger issue is that the blog does have new posts up on a regular basis.

So if the blog has solid content and regular posts, why the lack of comments? I think some of it is definitely due to the writers not responding to existing comments. But I also think that the blog being buried on Fandango's main site is hurting traffic. I literally found the blog by accident when I clicked on 'Movies' on the navigation menu across the top of the blog. This opened up a sub-menu of 9 options, the 6th of which was 'The Movie Blog'. If there was an extra tab added to the nav menu for the blog, it would increase its visibility dramatically.

In addition, I would guess that the blog's writers aren't spending much, if any, time on other social sites and blogs. If the blog's writers would spend a bit more time on their reader's blogs, and Twitter, I think it would raise the blog's visibility dramatically. I would even be ok with one less post a week, if it meant the writers could spend more time interacting with their readers on other social sites.

Finally, let's move to the sidebars. First thing I notice is, ta-da!, a nice pic for each blogger. Perfect! I'd like to see a better bio for each writer, but that's minor, the main thing is having the picture for each writer at the very top of the blog, good stuff!

Unfortunately, the sidebars are pretty weak otherwise. There's a sparse blogroll with 2 sites from E! Online, and four from Fancast. Given the dozens upon dozens of great blogs that could be here, it seems a shame to only have 6, and those coming from 2 umbrellas (hint: Add Movie Marketing Madness). There is an archives section, but no categories, no recent comments, no subscriber buttons. There is a small 'Help' section on the right sidebar, but even that seems cumbersome.

Overall, I think The Movie Blog is a decent blog that has the potential to be a lot more. If Fandango were to spruce up its sidebars and make a commitment to interacting with commenters, the blog could become a stellar example of a company blog.

And now let's move to the scoring:

Content: 33 (Out of a possible 35) - Very solid. In fact this is one of the rare cases where I think the blog doesn't have ENOUGH self-promotion, instead of too much. An occasional how-to post about using Fandango, and the blog, would be recommended.

Comments: 12 (Out of a possible 35) - Few posts have comments, and the ones that do apparently aren't getting responses from the bloggers. If the bloggers started responding to commenters, this score would easily double.

Posting Schedule: 13 (Out of a possible 15) - Another high point for the blog. There were a few gaps of 3-4 days, and if these were closed, it would get the score up to 14 or 15.

Sidebars: 7 (Out of a possible 15) - Love the pictures of the bloggers, but the sidebars are pretty weak otherwise, and lack many of the basic features you'd expect to see.

Total Score: 65 (Out of a possible 100)

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

Next week I'll profile another blogging company, and if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me! For a list of all the blog that have been profiled so far in the Company Blog Checkup series, click here.

New York Times shows how out of touch it is with bloggers

Ah there's nothing like a good ole old vs. new media struggle. A few days ago, the New York Times published a story on Blog Her, but rankled quite a few bloggers by publishing the story in their Fashion and Style category. Of course the subtle message was that the paper thought that these successful (and female) bloggers belonged in the 'well isn't that cute!' bucket, instead of being taken seriously and placed in the more appropriate Business or Technology sections.

Among the outraged bloggers was Amber Naslund, who blogged about the issue, and reprinted a portion of the letter that she wrote to the NYTimes about the article's tone and placement.

Well it seems a NYTimes editor saw Amber's post, and asked Amber to call her. The editor told Amber that they weren't going to publish her letter as it was, and asked her to edit it if she wanted it to be printed. The problem, according to the editor, was that Amber questioned the article's placement in the Fashion and Style category, and the editor said that wasn't up to her control. Amber explains that:
But she went on to explain that the Times’ sections operate somewhat autonomously, and when one section gets a good story, they would never “give it away” to another section. She said that the section in which a story was placed was not something they “controlled”, but that it was based on which section editor got the story or whom the reporter chose to pitch.

So I guess that means that if Brett Favre comes out of retirement, the NYT sports editor better hope they get the story before the business editor runs it first? Right.

Amber had a very even-handed post that included a blueprint for how the NYT (and other companies) should handle interacting with bloggers. I get the impression that the editor approached this from the point of 'how can I make this go away?'

I've said it here before, but a blogger that's writing about your business is a GOOD thing! You should make every attempt to engage these bloggers and attempt to start a dialogue with them. Sure, some bloggers simply want to rant and 'start trouble', but many have real concerns, and if you will make an honest attempt to reach out to them and sort their issue out, you will often convert an angry blogger into a blogging evangelist for your business.

Anyway, give Amber's post a read, as it definitely gives great advice for companies on how to properly engage and communicate with bloggers. Hopefully a certain NYT editor or two will take its lessons to heart.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 116

Here's the standings for Week 116:

1 - Seth's Blog - 8,838 (-164)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 5,936 (-264)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 2,218 (+74)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,387 (-38)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,240 (-66)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 934 (-12)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 823 (-58)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 683 (-45)(LW - 8)
9 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
10 - Six Pixels of Separation - 651 (+10)(LW - 11)
11 - Brand Autopsy - 630 (-63)(LW - 9)
12 - Techipedia - 583 (-28)(LW - 13)
13 - Conversation Agent - 561 (-68)(LW - 12)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 550 (-25)(LW - 15)
15 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 546 (-33)(LW - 14)
16 - What's Next - 461 (+4)(LW - 16)
17 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 450 (-1)(LW - 17)
18 - Diva Marketing - 441 (+3)(LW - 18)
19 - Every Dot Connects - 411 (+10)(LW - 23)
20 - Social Media Explorer - 410 (+2)(LW - 22)
21 - The Viral Garden - 407 (-22)(LW - 19)
22 - Converstations - 405 (-5)(LW - 21)
23 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 404 (+5)(LW - 24)
24 - Techno Marketer - 380 (-8)(LW - 25)
25 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 376 (-50)(LW - 20)

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.

If you're scratching your head and wondering how the hell your blog lost another 60 links this week, you're in good company. Over half of the Top 25 blogs lost at least 20 links this week. Which either means that the marketing/social media blogosphere is imploding, or that Technorati is proving to be as reliable as Twitter during a Steve Jobs keynote.

Which is making me seriously consider switching to another metric/site for ranking the Top 25. I've been tracking Technorati long enough to realize that if most blogs lose 50 weeks suddenly this week, that TRati will 'add them back' next week. But the problem is, the readers which stumble upon THIS week's rankings might see that Blog X lost 50 links, and think it's cause the blog sucks, not because of a likely TRati hiccup. And of course, we've previously discussed that so much linking is done OFF blogs these days, and TRati doesn't catch any of that.

So now the question becomes (he groans as he writes this), what would replace Technorati? Ideally, I would like to use the Feedburner subscriber counts, but unfortunately, only 11 of the current Top 25 blogs display this information on their blogs. If anyone knows of a site that collects this info, that might be a solution. I just dont want to switch to FB counts and then have to tell bloggers that they'll have to add the count widget to their blog in order to be ranked.

And if you'll recall, I stopped basing the Top 25 on Alexa because of reliability issues with the data it was reporting, and now we are back to the same place with Technorati. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them, but ideally I would like to rank the blogs according to ONE metric, simply because I honestly don't have time to collect data from 2 or 3 different sources and then add em up and spit out a ranking from all that mess.

No new blogs this week, and the next update is next Wednesday.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What part of SOCIAL in social media is so hard to understand?

'Social media is a great way to get your message out'

'The key to being successful on Twitter is having a lot of followers'

'I just want to use my blog to promote my business'

I've read and heard the above and similar quotes from business owners in the past few months. And they really help drive home for me the great divide that exists between how companies approach social media, and how users/customers actually use these sites and tools.

And some recent studies back this up, such as this one from Forrester Research about B2B blogging. The study offers that many companies are struggling with their blogging efforts, and proposes this solution:
B2B marketers should embrace strategies prominently used by mainstream bloggers to attract readers, build conversations, and engage community members in sharing their experiences with their online peers, the report's author advises.

In order words, if a company wants to successfully utilize social media to grow their business, they need to use these tools and sites in the same way that the people that they are trying to reach.

Here is a quote from my friend CK's speech during Blogger Social:
The lesson that social media has taught me? Now that we're all connected and empowered to easily share our views and viewpoints, the world isn't getting's getting smaller. And the lesson that this community has taught me? The world needs to start acting like it.

Because we act like it every single day.

Note the disconnect. When talking about social media, many companies focus on keywords such as 'followers', 'promote' and 'reach'. While the people that are immersed in these tools everyday, use terms like 'connected', 'empowered' and 'share'.

If you want to successfully use social media to grow your business, you MUST remember this: social media sites and tools are COMMUNICATION channels, not BROADCAST channels.

The quickest way to fail with social media, is to use these wonderful tools to push a message at your audience. If you want to concern yourself with targeting the right 'keywords' on your blog (another concern I've heard from blogging businesses), then focus on these; sharing, interacting, communicating, and empowering.

Focus on using these tools as your customers do, and for the same reasons. Otherwise, you're just broadcasting.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Small Business Marketing Unleashed is only 2 months away!

We're just eight weeks away from an event that I am very excited to be participating in, the second Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference! The next SBMU will take place on September 22nd and 23rd, in Columbus, Ohio. If you are a SMB that needs help with your online marketing, branding, SEO, SEM, blogging, copywriting, or want to better understand social media and viral marketing, then SBMU is the conference for you! Seriously, it's all under one roof, and the 'early-bird' registration rate is good through August 29th, and an absolute steal at only $750.00.

So what makes SBMU so much different than the other business/marketing/social media conferences out there? Two things:

1 - The event is purposely capped at only 100 attendees, and no more than 25 attendees for the Day Two Workshops. The idea is to foster a learning environment where attendees can have as much interaction with the speakers and each other, as possible.

2 - The speakers are excellent, and totally accessible. The speakers stay for the entire two days, and we attend each others' sessions. In addition, there's a ton of meeting time built into the framework of the event, between sessions, and at night, to encourage that you have as much time as possible to talk to the experts and have them help you with your specific business challenges.

The two points above work together to create an incredible learning environment, and I told Jennifer that she should change the 'u' in SBMU from Unleashed, to University. It really is small business bootcamp and the first SBMU was such a hit that this second event was added. The original hope/plan was that the first SBMU would be successful enough to warrant it becoming an annual event in Houston each April. But the feedback from the attendees was so overwhelming positive, and the 'classroom' format was such a hit, that Robert and Jennifer decided to add a second SBMU event.

Seriously, if you are a SMB business, you owe it to yourself to attend SBMU. The $750 current rate will pay for itself several times over, just ask Jerseymomma! Also, in addition to our online branding and blogging workshops and sessions, CK and myself will be doing a special Blog Clinic for attendees. The format will be similar to the Company Blog Checkup posts I do here, meaning we will cover the same areas.

I'd love to meet you at SBMU, I believe several attendees from the first SBMU will be at this one, and also AmberCadabra and BethHarte will be there as well. If you are planning to attend, please leave a comment so we can connect before the event! Registrations are coming in at a much faster rate than the first SBMU, so make sure you get locked into one of the 100 slots by registering today! Also, Jennifer recently posted to the SBMU Blog that there are currently some dirt-cheap airfare rates to Columbus via Travelocity! Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Plurkshop #9 Recap: The Downsides of Social Media and Social Networking

As I've written about before, I'm a big fan of Plurk. What I love about Plurk is how the format and threaded conversations encourage users to have a much greater level of interaction and connection than you find on some other social sites. And a great example of this is the creation of Plurkshops. Plurkshops are where someone on Plurk agrees to 'host' a conversation around a set topic, at a set time. These have been fantastically popular, with most now averaging 400 replies an hour.

The latest Plurkshop was hosted on Thursday by marketing expert Lewis Green of L&G Business Solutions, on the topic of The Downsides of Social Media and Social Networking. I'll recap the conversation here, but please make a point to review the thread for yourself here as Plurkshops always have so much good information that it's hard to catch all of it in one post.

First, Lewis asked us how effective are our blogs in reaching our audience/customers? He cited a recent Pew internet study that said that 'only' 50% of internet users read blogs (Lewis clarified that Pew reported 35% read blogs in 2006), and added that for any individual blog, that readership is obviously only a very small fraction of that. He asked us how we can reach our intended audience, if we aren't?

Teeg made a great point that she can reach an intended audience by sharing links on other social sites, and by adding a relevant context. She explains that doing so on one social site netted her 350 hits in an hour. Greg Hollingsworth added that the threaded conversation format on Plurk allows us to add greater context to each link, as opposed to Twitter.

Lewis then asks if it really helps your business if your blog has a large readership, and how do you reach your customers if they aren't reading blogs? Marjorie, Greg Hollingsworth and myself all noted the importance of going out and finding your customers, going to other blogs and social sites, or even message boards and forums, and interacting with them there. This helps raise your blog's awareness with the group of customers that you are trying to target.

Lewis then asks why would businesses spend time with social media? Janechin reminded us that social media needs to be a long-term business strategy, not an attempted short-term fix. Lewis then makes the claim that most of a blog's readers are already customers for that company, and the company wants to see them converted into evangelists, if they aren't already. Greg Hollingsworth then makes the great point that social media in a business-sense isn't simply about connecting, it's about engaging on that connection.

Greg then added that most businesses are using social media to attempt to draw in new customers. Sonnygill added that he believes this is because upper management at many companies see blogs as selling tools. Cambeck clarified that social media can be used to draw in new customers, or reach existing ones. Lewis then claimed that social media should not be the main way to reach your customers, or to build a business around. (BTW I agree with Lewis that in MOST cases this is true, but if social media is the main way that your customers are connecting with each, and offers you the best way to reach them, then you need to follow their lead).

We then discussed how focusing on only new customers could lead to deteriorating relationships with existing ones. I maintain that in most cases, embracing and empowering your existing evangelists is more important, and they will help you draw in new customers with their excitement and enthusiasm for your brand. Lewis echoed this, saying that the main goal should be to service existing customers well, so they will draw in new customers via positive WOM. BethHarte then pointed out that social media is a great way to stay in touch with customers and keep them involved. Marjorie added that "current customers may love the attn and then turn into your evangelists who can complete your marketing cycle for you".

Marjorie then asked for examples of companies that are successfully using Twitter to reach their customers, and Dell, Zappos and Comcast were mentioned. Adreich added Flock.

Janechin offered that companies that attempt to use SM to establish their brand would become frustrated very quickly, and Lewis agreed (Stormhoek might argue this ;)).

DaveWebb asked for examples of the 'downsides' of SM and SN. Lewis said that many businesses simply not understanding how to use social media, is a downside. Marjorie added that businesses can run into trouble quickly with SM if they don't pick the right people to run their efforts. I added that a downside to SM can be if companies are using it without making sure that their goals for the initiatives match their overall business goals and objectives. Connie echoed this, and BethersJR added you can run into problems if you dont monitor what is being said about your company. Greg added that another problem is when companies attempt to use social media as direct marketing, and measure it as such. BethHarte added a great point in that companies can run into problems if they only look at Dell and think that SM can be a 'fix all'.

Connie then discussed companies creating their own socnets. Teeg added that this can work if it's an area that isn't being serviced by an existing socnet. Connie cautioned that it's only wise to do so if a company-created socnet helped the company achieve its larger business goals.

Alanwolk then added an interesting point, he implied that what works for blogging social media consultants in building their audience probably wouldn't work for our clients. Alan says this is because bloggers link to bloggers, and don't want to offend each other. I disagree with this because first, offending another blogger is usually the quickest way to get them to link to you and other bloggers to link to you. Mike Arrington has long said that he gets many links from 'fights' he gets in with other A-Listers.

But to the more relevant point, I think good bloggers grow their audience by creating valuable content for their readers, and interacting with those readers in THEIR space, as well as their own. This is something that any blogging company can, and should replicate. Much of Dell's blogging success doesn't happen on Direct2Dell, it happens on other blogs and Twitter. It happens because Dell has employees out interacting with and responding to current and potential customers on OTHER social sites. This is what other blogging companies must do as well to grow their audiences.

BTW please read the thread for yourself because I purposely did NOT cover every point raised. I tried to cover the main ones that generated the most conversation, but there's still plenty of great points and quotes in here!

If you want to get info on future Plurkshops, make sure you follow Plurkshops on Plurk!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Company Blog Checkup: Sub Pop!

If you haven't heard of the independent music label Sub Pop!, you have assuredly heard of some of the artists that they've worked with. Bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Mudhoney. And thanks to the magical AmberCadabra, I have discovered that the label also has a blog. Let's see what it looks like.

First, it's almost as if the label has two blogs. First at the main site you have 'news' posts that are positioned as a blog with comments. These are truncated, which I am not a fan of. Then from the main site, you can click through to the label's actual blog. This is a bit confusing, and I would like to see the label merge these two sections together.

The content does a decent job of letting us learn more about the artists, and has a few 'interview' type posts. I like these, but I think the readers would respond better to more 'behind the scenes' info. Instead of posting about the new MudHoney release, why not give us pictures and info on what it's like to be backstage at a MudHoney performance? Tell us what happens during a soundcheck, and what a 'Day in the Life' of a rockstar is REALLY like! This is the type of content that's unique, and would get readers excited and talking about the blog. Additionally, this type of content gives us a deeper connection with these artists, and makes it more likely that we will become fans of their work (which results in us buying more of their stuff).

Now let's move to the comments. Most of the blog's posts have comments, and some have over 5. This is good for a company blog, but it could be argued that given the focus of the blog, that readers would be more likely to comment. I am a bit concerned about many of the posts not having replies from the bloggers. You shouldn't reply to every comment, but if a post garners 5 comments, then it's only courtesy for the blogger to stick their head in and leave a quick 'thanks guys!', if nothing else. I did see a few comments from the writers, but if they were a bit more proactive about responding to comments, I would expect to see the blog average around 5 comments a post. Which is pretty good.

Now let's take a look at the blog's posting schedule. While the main 'news' stories are updated very frequently on the main page, the blog itself is only averaging about one post a week. Again, if the 'news' site and blog were merged, the posting frequency would be much better.

Finally, let's move to the sidebars. Sub Pop! has gone with a 3-column format for its blog, giving it two sidebars, and even a very thin 3rd sidebar on the left. I love this, but the problem is that all these sidebars have resulted in a very thin posting area. If Sub Pop! could extend the width of the posting area by about an inch, it would look perfect, IMO. This should be a fairly easy coding tweak.

The sidebars do a good job of giving you any possible information you would need to know about upcoming tours, releases, or if you want to buy merchandise or even MP3s. The promotional aspect is nailed. But my pet peeve rears its ugly head again; I see no pictures of the bloggers, and no links to their bios. Also, the downside to having all that space on the sidebars, is you have all that space. Which makes me wonder why with all that cyber-real estate available, the blog doesn't have a blogroll? Now I will be the first to admit that I'm not a frequent reader of music blogs but why not add links to Stereo Gum, Pitchfork and HypeBot to the blog at least? By linking to other blogs/sites, all you do is provide more value for your readers, and increase the likelihood that those sites will link BACK to yours.

Overall, I think this is a very 'safe' blog. It's not a terrible blog, but the entire layout from the content to the sidebars is waaaaay too heavy on self-promotion for my tastes. I think if the content was changed to reflect a more 'behind the scenes' look into 'what it's REALLY like to be a rockstar', that the blog would look and feel 100X better. Now having said that, I do appreciate the fact that Sub Pop! even has a blog, as far too much labels are unwilling/scared to death to interact with their artists' fans. So I give them props for the effort, but think it definitely needs some refining in the above mentioned areas.

Without further adieu, let's get to the scoring:

Content: 24 (Out of a possible 35) - Decent, but I think a little less self-promotion and more content that gives us a better connection with the artists themselves, as well as a more 'behind the scenes' look at the music industry overall, would make a big difference.

Comments: 25 (Out of a possible 35) - I like that the blog is getting comments, but I'd like to see the writers be a bit more proactive about replying to existing comments.

Posting Schedule: 5 (Out of a possible 15) - Right at one a week. Adding some of the news entries to the blog would get the posting frequency up to a decent level.

Sidebars: 8 (Out of a possible 15) - Not having pics/bios for the bloggers docks this score 5 points, and another couple for not having a blogroll.

Total Score: 62 (Out of a possible 100)

(Edit, as John R Hopkins points out on Plurk, the first URL I gave was to their 'news' site, which is formatted exactly like a blog and allows comments. Its posts are truncated and you can view them here. I've edited the post to reflect the actual blog, and not the 'news' site)

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

Next week I'll profile another blogging company, and if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me! For a list of all the blog that have been profiled so far in the Company Blog Checkup series, click here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 115

Here's the standings for Week 115:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,002 (-115)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 6,200 (-35)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 2,144 (+95)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,425 (-12)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,306 (+12)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 946 (+14)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 881 (+17)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 728 (-11)(LW - 8)
9 - Brand Autopsy - 693 (-7)(LW - 9)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
11 - Six Pixels of Separation - 641 (No Change)(LW - 11)
12 - Conversation Agent - 629 (+2)(LW - 12)
13 - Techipedia - 611 (+2)(LW - 13)
14 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 579 (-13)(LW - 14)
15 - Jaffe Juice - 575 (-8)(LW - 15)
16 - What's Next - 457 (-3)(LW - 16)
17 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 451 (+7)(LW - 17)
18 - Diva Marketing - 438 (-2)(LW - 18)
19 - The Viral Garden - 429 (-10)(LW - 19)
20 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 426 (-2)(LW - 20)
21 - Converstations - 410 (+1)(LW - 21)
22 - Social Media Explorer - 408 (+8)(LW - 23)
23 - Every Dot Connects - 401 (-2)(LW - 22)
24 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 399 (+10)(LW - 25)
25 - Techno Marketer - 388 (-6)(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.

Fairly sideways Top 25 this week, with 10 blogs up, 13 down. The usual suspects stayed hot, with Chris Brogan's blog, Influential Marketing, and Damn! I Wish... all gaining links again this week. The final 10 spots are now separated by a mere 69 links, so expect plenty of shuffling in that range in the next few weeks.

No new blogs this week, and the next update is next Wednesday.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Company Blog Checkup: Newcastle Square Realty

My friend Ann Handley vacations there, and they also gave us Hawkeye Pierce, so I'm a fan of the state of Maine. And so are the people at Newcastle Square Realty, who are using a blog to connect with their customers in coastal Maine. But how effective are their efforts? Let's find out.

Whenever I look at a blog for the first time, I am immediately drawn to the content and positioning of the blog's posts. What I'm looking to see is if the blog is being positioned from the business' point of view (heavy on self-promotion), or the reader's (posts provide information that the reader can find value in). Upon arriving at the Newcastle Square Realty Blog, I am greeted with a post about a Reggae music festival this weekend in Damariscotta, Maine. From there I find posts on local events such as a fire on the river, a 4th of July parade recap, and a picture of a resident making a deposit at a local bank, from a horse-drawn carriage.

The blog does an amazing job of letting you see the beauty of coastal Maine. All you have to do is scan the pictures and you quickly discover that the area is full of gorgeous scenery, festive events, friendly people, and a diversity of wildlife. And if you are considering a move to this area of the country, this is what you want to see. You want to learn more about this area, and what it has to offer.

But you also learn in the process, that Newcastle Square Realty understands this area. By providing blog readers with information and content they can find value in, NSR has also established themselves as being credible realtors, by showing their knowledge of the area they service. Also, notice how the realtor positions itself in this post that updates blog readers on the real estate market for coastal Maine. The post gives readers a recap of how buying and selling is trending in the area, and what the outlook is. Only at the end of the post, does NSR offer a plug for their services, which is completely acceptable. In short, NSR has just nailed the content.

Now let's move to comments. Most company blogs, especially those for smaller businesses, have few comments, and the blog for Newcastle Square Realty is no exception. As I have written about countless times, the best way to grow your blog, is to leave it. Spending time interacting with potential customers on other blogs, forums, Twitter, and other social sites, will help drive them back to read, and comment on your blog. NSR's blog does have a few comments, and the blog's authors do seem to attempt to reply to readers, although I did see a few chances for interaction that weren't acted on.

Now let's examine the blog's posting schedule. The frequency of posts for the blog is fairly lax, averaging about one a week. I'd like to see at least two a week from the blog, as a post a week makes it much harder to build a consistent readership. The blog seems to do a great job of highlighting local events, perhaps the writers could commit to one post a week related to local events (perhaps for the weekend?), and another post to cover other topics. My guess is that if the blog were to consistently have a minimum of 2 posts a week, that the blog would enjoy a bump in traffic of at least 25%, likely much more.

Finally, let's move to the sidebars. First, I see no pictures of the writers. Anyone that's read this blog for ANY amount of time knows what a sticking point this is for me. A business that blogs HAS to have pictures of their writers on the blog. Why? Because it helps us trust you. And that's vital for a realtor, whose business is so dependent on establishing trust with their customers. I see that Jim Cosgrove has his picture on his posts, but that needs to be moved up to the top of the left sidebar, right under the About Us section. I'd like to see a link to Jim's bio right under his pic, as well as the same for Tom and anyone else that works for NSR, that writes for the blog.

Otherwise, the sidebars are very solid. You have all the likely suspects; categories, subscriber buttons, archives and recent posts. Additionally, the blog adds a section highlighting recent comments (and commenters), and a very robust and varied blogroll. Finally, and I absolutely LOVE this, the blog has a link to videos on YouTube that the realtor has created that give customers an aerial view of the coastal Maine region. Brilliant!

Overall, the Newcastle Square Realty Blog is a decent effort. The blog just crushes the content portion, which is incredibly important. I'd like to see more posts and better interaction with readers, but all-in-all, this is an above average effort.

In the previous post in the Company Blog Checkup Series, I unveiled a new scoring system for the blogs that I profile. The system scores the blog on four areas; Content (35 points), Comments (35 points), Posting Schedule (15 points) and Sidebars (15 points), for a total of 100 points possible. Here's how the Newcastle Square Realty Blog fared:

Content: 34 (Out of a possible 35) - The posts are completely positioned with the reader's best interests in mind. Pure gold.

Comments: 19 (Out of a possible 35) - A weakness, but this score could easily be improved if the writers spent a bit more time interacting with readers on other blogs and social sites. This would drive them back to the blog and boost the number of comments left.

Posting Schedule: 5 (Out of a possible 15) - Again, a weakness that could easily be improved. If the blog had averaged just one more post a week, I would have given it a 10.

Sidebar Elements: 10 (Out of a possible 15) - If this blog had pictures with links to the bios for each writer on the sidebar, I would have given it a perfect score.

Total Score: 68 (Out of a possible 100).

If anyone from Newcastle Square Realty wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me. If your company would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services.

Next week I'll profile another blogging company, and if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me! For a list of all the blog that have been profiled so far in the Company Blog Checkup series, click here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

LiJit search widget has been removed

I did a Google search for 'viral garden' just now, clicked on the top Google result (this blog), and was more than a little shocked and embarrassed by what I saw. As the picture to the right shows, the LiJit widget had served up several posts I have left here that you could click on. But as you can see under those posts, it also served up something that I didn't know it would, and certainly didn't give it permission to provide.

An ad. I completely apologize to all of you for this, and I promise you that I had no idea it was happening. And it seems that others are just now discovering this is happening as well.

So as a result, the LiJit widget is gone as of now. Sorry, but that's a SERIOUS breach of trust to me, and one that I won't allow. If I had known this was happening, I would have never agreed to put the widget on here.

I've talked in length here about monetizing blogs. My view is that I am COMPLETELY fine with bloggers attempting to monetize the content they create. But I also think that putting ads on your blog is probably the worst way to go about it. It doesn't make you much money (unless you have Tech Crunch's traffic), and it offers little to no value for readers. I'm not opposed to monetizing this blog, but if I ever do so, it will be done in a way that also provides value to you, as well. We co-create the content here, so we BOTH need to benefit from any monetization that occurs here.

But again, I do apologize for the ads being served up, and will begin looking for another search option for you. My LiJit contact was Tara Anderson, and she has been quite pleasant and very patient with my many many questions. I guess I should have asked about ads, but it never occurred to me that they might be added without my knowing about them. Again, my sincere apologies.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And in other news....

Here's some links to some other sites I've been popping up on this week, please check them out!

Over at Search Engine Guide, I have a pair of posts up. This one from yesterday focuses on how Newcastle Square Realty is using blogging to reach its customers. And today's post shows a fascinating conversation that happened today on Plurk, which serves as a great example for businesses that are wanting to use the site to grow.

And I also have a pair of new posts up this week at Daily Fix. This one from Monday looks at the value of the 42,000 comments that Dooce's Wii promotion garnered. And this one from today talks about what a great networking tool Twitter is when you are planning on attending conferences, before, during, and AFTER the show!

Speaking of conferences, the podcast for The Future of Corporate Blogging panel that I moderated at SXSW this year, is up. This is worth a listen and includes Dell's Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca, LinkedIn's Community Evangelist Mario Sundar, and My PR Pro's Kami Huyse. Absolutely fascinating discussion about where corporate blogging is now, and where it and social media in general are heading for corporations.

Finally, Liz Strauss has been kind enough to interview me on her blog this week. Here is part 1, and here's part 2. We are talking about how businesses can get started using blogging and social media!

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 114

Here's the standings for Week 114:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,117 (-67)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 6,235 (-52)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 2,049 (+73)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,437 (-29)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,294 (+6)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 932 (-16)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 864 (+18)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 739 (-10)(LW - 8)
9 - Brand Autopsy - 700 (-9)(LW - 9)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
11 - Six Pixels of Separation - 641 (+13)(LW - 11)
12 - Conversation Agent - 627 (+4)(LW - 12)
13 - Techipedia - 609 (LW - UR)
14 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 592 (-9)(LW - 13)
15 - Jaffe Juice - 583 (-12)(LW - 14)
16 - What's Next - 460 (-12)(LW - 15)
17 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 444 (+14)(LW - 18)
18 - Diva Marketing - 440 (-6)(LW - 16)
19 - The Viral Garden - 439 (+3)(LW - 17)
20 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 428 (+6)(LW - 19)
21 - Converstations - 409 (-1)(LW - 20)
22 - Every Dot Connects - 403 (+25)(LW - 24)
23 - Social Media Explorer - 400 (+14)(LW - 22)
24 - Techno Marketer - 394 (+4)(LW - 21)
25 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 389 (+5)(LW - 23)

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.

Chris Brogan becomes the third member of the '2,000 link club', as he notched another strong week, gaining 73 links. As a whole, the Top 25 was fairly flat this week, with 12 blogs up, 11 down. Interestingly, 7 of the last 9 blogs on the list were up. Both Influential Marketing and Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! have been quietly adding links almost every week. Damn! is now making a run at the Top 15, and IM is firmly entrenched in the Top 10.

Tamar Weinberg's Techipedia is the week's lone new entry, debuting strong at #13. Next update is next Wednesday.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Case Study: Dooce's Nintendo Wii giveaway

Recently, Nintendo reached out to Heather Armstrong (Dooce) to involve her and her blog in a promotion for the Nintendo Wii, and the Wii Fit. Nintendo first threw a Wii Fit party at Armstrong's house for her and 10 friends. Then, the game-maker gave Armstrong 5 sets of Wiis along with 5 copies of Wii Fit, which Armstrong then gave away to 5 of her readers.

Additionally, Armstrong blogged about her involvement with Nintendo, and stressed that she wasn't being paid by the company to promote the Wii or Wii Fit. She explained on her blog:
I get approached to do things like this all the time, but this is the first time I've done a give away because this is a product I use, something in my house, something I'd love to share with you. Nintendo is not paying me to do this, and just to clear up some confusion, I would never accept money to post about anything here. That's not how this website works. Everything you see in my style section is something I have bought with my own money or is a gift sent to me from one of my readers, a gift I would have gone out and bought had I known about it beforehand, something that fits right in with my aesthetic. I work very hard to make sure that you can trust that what I say here is in no way influenced by advertisers or corporations who are trying to reach a bunch of eyeballs. Your eyeballs deserve as much.

Armstrong added that she would select the 5 winners at random from people that commented on this post. As you can see, she received a staggering 42,232 comments for that post. Now according to this site, every Wii set costs Nintendo $160.00. That means those five Wiis that Nintendo gave away, cost the company roughly $800.00. Add in 5 Wii Fits (which retail for around $80), and the likely cost to Nintendo for this promotion (5 Wiis plus 5 Wii Fits), is approximately $1,000.00.

Now, given the same site's data, that means that Nintendo makes $90.00 per Wii system it sells. At that rate, Nintendo would have to sell only 11 Wiis from this promotion, to break even.

For reference, that's 0.025% of the comments. So if 11 out of the 42,232 comments resulted in sales, Nintendo broke even.

If just 1% of the 42,232 comments translated into sales, then the ROI for this promotion is 3,700%.

I'd say the promotion will likely be a huge success for Nintendo. Do you agree or disagree?

Bonus: I also posted about this today at Daily Fix.

UPDATE: Darren makes an interesting point in the comments, that these calculations don't include Nintendo's manpower/travel/etc costs. He's correct, but the problem is that those costs aren't known. The cost of the machines are 'known'. Even if we assume that the manpower costs for Nintendo to be several thousand, I would still think this promotion paid for itself many times over. Hopefully Nintendo will later publish more exact figures.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Corporate blogging's mixed bag

One of the great things about the book Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, is the many case studies and stats it includes on how companies have successfully added social media to their business efforts (Disclaimer: Charlene and Josh sent me an advance copy of the book, which I highly recommend). A great example of this is that the book includes a complete cost/benefit breakdown for a large executive blog, based on estimates from the cost/benefits that GM's Fastlane blog saw in Year One.

Li and Bernoff claim that a large company blog would have expenses of $283,000 in Year One, with benefits of $393,000, for a total 'profit' of $110,000. The cost section assumes $35,000 in first-time costs for planning and training. The main benefit of the blog is assumed to be PR value, which the authors place a $240,000 value on. This assumes that a large corporate blog, if well-written and executed, should show a benefit of around $145,000 a year to the corporation, after Year One.

But, this information flies in the face of recent findings by Forrester, which discovered that corporate blogging growth fell off a cliff in 2007, after surging in 2006.
"The gap between blog hype and reality widened in 2007," said Laura Ramos, Forrester analyst and chief author of the report. "After counting 36 companies that started promoting corporate blogs on their Web sites in 2006, the number of B2B firms starting up blogs dropped sharply to 19 in 2007."

Disconnect, anyone? Do these findings mean that corporate blogging has simply been overhyped as a business growth tool? The report also offers an explanation:
B2B marketers should embrace strategies prominently used by mainstream bloggers to attract readers, build conversations, and engage community members in sharing their experiences with their online peers, the report's author advises.

Exactly. The problem with many company blogs, is that they aren't positioned properly. Instead of attempting to create an environment where readers are given valuable content and interaction is encouraged, many companies are attempting to use their blogs as an extension of their weekly circulars. The report added that 56% of the blogs reviewed simply 'regurgitate' company news and executive views. Another telling stat was that 74% of the blogs studied receive few or no comments or trackbacks.

Again, it's not broadcast media, it's social media. The findings from the Forrester study simply confirm what we have all seen; most companies aren't willing to use blogs as we do, and for the same reasons. They attempt to approach blogging as a one-way communication channel, which is what they are most comfortable with. The results, i.e. disappointing returns, are completely predictable.

The real question is, will these companies now regroup and re-assess their blogging efforts, or dump them? This report doesn't invalidate corporate blogging, but rather corporations that attempt to use a blog as a promotional channel, instead of a communication channel.

Bonus: Lois adds her thoughts on what the findings really mean.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

If your blog's ranking is falling, is that really your fault, or Technorati's?

I've heard from some bloggers lately both privately and publically that they have noticed their blog's ranking falling recently. The Viral Garden is no exception, as I believe TRati at one time tracked over 800 links for this blog.

But if you think about it, how we share links to blogs has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. In 2006, when I published the first Top 25 list, the main way that you shared a blog link with others, was via a blog post, or on your blogroll. Technorati counted these links and ranked blogs based on the number of links it counted for each blog from posts and blogrolls.

But recently, especially in the last year or so, how we share links to blogs and blog posts has changed dramatically. Instead of doing it from our blog, now we link to posts on Twitter. Or Plurk, or we share it on Friendfeed, or via our Shared Items on Google Reader. I would regularly leave 'Viral Community News' posts with links to interesting blogs and blog posts I had found. But I stopped doing that because it's so much easier to share links on other sites. And more of them.

However, as our methods of sharing links have changed, Technorati hasn't adapted. TRati still tracks the number of links your blog gets via blog posts and blogrolls, but it doesn't track links your blog gets via Twitter, or Plurk, or Friendfeed, or Google Reader's Shared Items.

Which means that as a whole, TRati should be tracking fewer links across the board for all blogs. And the past Top 25s bear this theory out. 18 of the current 25 blogs in this week's Top 25, were also in the year's first Top 25. Of those 18 blogs, 14 have lost links since Jan, 3 have gained, and one is unchanged.

The problem is, many bloggers see their rankings and 'authority' falling, according to Technorati, and think their blog isn't as popular as it once was. It could simply be a sign that people are sharing your content on sites that Technorati isn't tracking.

If Technorati is serious about re-dedicating itself to focusing on bloggers, it can start by accurately tracking how and WHERE we are sharing content.

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 113

Here's the standings for Week 113:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,184 (-39)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 6,287 (+17)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 1,976 (+41)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,466 (-5)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,288 (No Change)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 948 (+2)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 846 (+12)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 749 (-12)(LW - 8)
9 - Brand Autopsy - 709 (-8)(LW - 9)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
11 - Six Pixels of Separation - 628 (+9)(LW - 12)
12 - Conversation Agent - 623 (-2)(LW - 11)
13 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 601 (-4)(LW - 13)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 595 (-8)(LW - 14)
15 - What's Next - 472 (-3)(LW - 15)
16 - Diva Marketing - 446 (+7)(LW - 16)
17 - The Viral Garden - 436 (-2)(LW - 17)
18 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 430 (+15)(LW - 20)
19 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 422 (-5)(LW - 18)
20 - Converstations - 410 (+8)(LW - 21)
21 - Techno Marketer - 390 (+5)(LW - 23)
22 - Social Media Explorer - 386 (-3)(LW - 22)
23 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 384 (+8)(LW - 25)
24 - Every Dot Connects - 378 (No Change)(LW - 24)
25 - CK's Blog - 354 (-74)(LW - 19)

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.

Pretty flat week for the Top 25, with 10 blogs up, 12 down. Chris Brogan's blog, along with Influential Marketing and Damn! I Wish..., all had big weeks.

In an interesting twist, the folks at AideRSS have tried to measure the level of 'engagement' for the Top 25 Marketing & Social Media blogs. I asked Melanie Baker, AideRSS's community manager for a breakdown of what they look at. Melanie explained that they look at '5 Cs'; Creating, Critiquing, Chatting, Collecting and Clicking. She added that with creating, they believe if a blog post inspires someone to create their own content (such as another blog post), that that represents the highest level of engagement. Comments would fall under the 'critiquing' section and continue down to clicking, which doesn't require much interaction or engagement. You can see the results here.

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

Next update is next Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Plurk users more engaged than Twitter users?

Darren over at ProBlogger has an interesting statistical recap of his first month on Plurk. In particular, he's broken down how much traffic that both Twitter and Plurk have sent his blog over the last month.

He found that Twitter sent his blog 4,896 visitors, while Plurk sent 1,466. Of course, Darren has over 5X the number of followers on Twitter as he does on Plurk.

While my readership numbers are obviously much lower than ProBlogger's, I've also noticed that Plurk seems to be holding its own in the referrals dept:

And it should be noted that, like Darren, I also have about 5X the number of followers on Twitter. At this rate, Plurk will likely send more traffic to my blog in July, than Twitter does.

I blogged about this recently on SEG, but this is why you have to keep a constant eye on your blog's traffic. This also tells me where I should be spending my time. I now pretty much use Twitter to share links, and that's it. Due to constant downtime from the site, trying to interact with other users is an exercise in futility. Case in point; this morning I shared a few links there, then started typing out a question to ask my followers. As I was typing out the question, 'Limit exceeded' flashed up on Twhirl.

So now I will likely shift even more time to Plurk. I'll start sharing links on Plurk and see if it's something my followers enjoy. But I have to be smart about how I allocate my online time, and I need to go where I can get the most interaction with others. Right now, that's Plurk over Twitter.

You can follow me on Plurk here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Companies need to tread lightly when entering online communities

The results from the latest poll about which social site/tool is best for conversations, are in and here they are:

Plurk - 47.2%
Blog - 30.6%
Twitter - 16.7%
Friendfeed - 5.6%

So Plurk is the big winner, which really isn't a surprise given that I am such a Plurk evangelist, and that many of my Plurk friends likely voted (thanks guys!).

But I saw an interesting example yesterday of how companies need to know the unwritten 'rules' of interacting with people via these sites/tools. On Plurk, some users have started adding special emoticons to their plurks from outside sites. Yesterday, someone added one to a plurk, but instead of displaying the plurk, it displayed the website's URL (if you moused over the URL, you could see that the emoticon's name was listed). It appeared that the person that tried to add the emoticon messed up and left the site's URL instead.

And the people in the plurk immediately got upset, and felt they were being 'spammed'. In just a couple of mins, the tone of the plurk turned from casual and fun, to anger at the person that the other plurkers felt was 'spamming' them.

Which is an important lesson for companies to understand when they begin participating in online communities. If these communities even THINK you are trying to advertise your business, they can get VERY cranky VERY quickly. The best way to promote your business, is to participate in the space as the community does. Give these people time to trust you. Show them that you can provide value, and they'll begin to open up to you, and will want to learn more about your company. I've already blogged about how Tim Jackson is doing a wonderful job of this on Plurk to ultimately promote his employer, Masi.

Another consideration is to understand that many communities (all?) self-police themselves and create their own rules. Some communities openly encourage newbies to ask questions and participate. Some communities will delete any question that's ever been answered before, and scold you for asking a question that's already been covered in the site's 50-page FAQ.

Social sites such as Plurk and Twitter seem to be much more open to helping new users get up to speed, quickly. But you shouldn't promote your business until you have first demonstrated to others that you are there to create value. When others start asking for more information about what your company is and does, then you can tell them. But don't push that information on them until they are ready. Kathy Sierra has some great posts on how to create online communities, and their 'rules of the road'.

But as with anything else, when you enter into an online community/space, always have the answer to this question at the front of your mind: "What value can I bring by being here?"

UPDATE: Beth has a great post on how ideas take on a life of their own and are built upon by online communities. Another important point for companies to consider.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

OMG! I'm adding followers faster on FF than I did on Twitter! Amazing!

I find it fascinating how many people are excited about how quickly they are adding followers on other sites like Friendfeed. Loic, Arrington, and Scoble are all excited about how quickly they are adding up followers on Friendfeed. The thinking seems to be that since users that have a large number of Twitter followers are adding Friendfeed followers much faster than they did on Twitter, that it validates the theory that Friendfeed is growing incredibly fast.


Doesn't it make far more sense to assume that most/all of the people following you on Friendfeed, probably came from your pool of Twitter followers? Granted, that's not an absolute, but I don't think it's a stretch to assume that if someone wants to follow you on Twitter, that they might also want to follow you on Friendfeed, or Plurk, or any other social site, yes?

For example, I now have about 350 people following me on Plurk after a month. It probably took me 8 months to get that many followers on Twitter. Is this a sign that Plurk is growing much faster than Twitter did, or simply a sign that part of my Twitter network is shifting over to Plurk? I now have about 200 Friendfeed followers, after being there a couple of months. Does that mean that Plurk is growing twice as fast as Friendfeed?

When I start seeing people claiming more Friendfeed or Plurk followers than they have Twitter followers, then I'll be impressed. Till then, I think this is more about shifting networks, instead of incredible growth by Friendfeed.

BTW love this quote from TechCrunch about Friendfeed: "Like many others, I’m also noticing that the discussions occurring on Friendfeed are more more interesting (and longer) than the equivalent conversations at Twitter. It’s often 2-to-1 on the number of comments. Which means that those Friendfeed users are far more engaged than those on Twitter."

When FF convos are getting 400+ replies in an hour, like they do on Plurk, then I'll be impressed. Now THAT is user engagement.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 112

Here's the standings for Week 112:

1 - Seth's Blog - 9,223 (+40)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 6,270 (+20)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 1,935 (+35)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,471 (+34)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,288 (-14)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 946 (-1)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 834 (+9)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 761 (-8)(LW - 8)
9 - Brand Autopsy - 717 (+5)(LW - 9)
10 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 10)
11 - Conversation Agent - 625 (-2)(LW - 11)
12 - Six Pixels of Separation - 619 (+10)(LW - 12)
13 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 605 (+1)(LW - 13)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 603 (+1)(LW - 14)
15 - What's Next - 475 (-7)(LW - 15)
16 - Diva Marketing - 439 (-13)(LW - 16)
17 - The Viral Garden - 438 (+9)(LW - 17)
18 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 427 (+6)(LW - 19)
19 - CK's Blog - 418 (No Change)(LW - 18)
20 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 415 (+13)(LW - 21)
21 - Converstations - 402 (-15)(LW - 20)
22 - Social Media Explorer - 389 (+6)(LW - 23)
23 - Techno Marketer - 385 (+5)(LW - 24)
24 - Every Dot Connects - 378 (-7)(LW - 22)
25 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 376 (+8)(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.

Another strong week for the Top 25, with 15 blogs up, only 8 down. The Top 17 stood pat, but there was some shuffling in the #18-25 spots.

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

Next update is next Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Swatted by Sergeant Swat!

A month ago, I blogged about the quirky and hilarious marketing for the 92 cent flyswatter, the Sergeant Swat. In the comments section, many of you shared some great ideas for how Willert could leverage social media in the marketing of the Sergeant Swat, and I said I was going to email the company about these ideas.

I went to Willert's website, hoping to find an email address for a brand or marketing manager, but the best I could do was a generic 'info' email contact. I emailed and explained who I was and that I had just blogged about Sergeant Swat, and included a link to the post. I added that I had some ideas for how the company could use social media to improve their marketing efforts, and asked the appropriate brand or marketing manager to please contact me as I'd be happy to help.

I didn't receive a reply, and soon forgot about the email, and the post. Then a couple of weeks ago, the good folks at Marketing Profs were kind enough to feature the post in their Get to the Point! email newsletter that they send out. I asked Ann Handley, and she said the newsletter has around 80,000 subscribers. And still, no contact from anyone at Willert.

Let's do some quick math; my blog has a total readership of about 3,000 a day. Add in 80,000 subscribers from MP's newsletter and we hit 83,000. The post and newsletter were also both bounced around Twitter and when the smoke clears, it's not unreasonable to say that one blog post could have resulted in 100,000 people being exposed to Sergeant Swat, and its parent company, Willert.

And yet, no answer from Willert.

Now at this point, it's easy to beat up this small company and say they had a ton of free publicity dropped in their laps, and that they are totally blowing it. But are they? Should they response to my email? I have my own idea, but what do you think? Do you think that Willert even realizes that any of this has occurred? Given that my post and then MP's newsletter MUST have resulted in a spike in website traffic, I would have to assume that they could tell that something had happened.

So did Willert blow it, or not? How would you have handled this if you were a brand manager for Willert?

UPDATE: More reactions to this post and companies responding to bloggers here on Plurk.