Thursday, August 28, 2008

Company Blog Checkup: Rupp Arena

I have to say up front that I am not a fan of company blogs with the type of layout that Rupp Arena's blog has, which I think of as a 'blogsite'. I get that Rupp Arena wants to position its blog as having the look and feel of an 'entertainment website', because many of the events it will promote are concerts and sporting/entertainment events. But I just think there's too much happening for any one particular area to get the focus it deserves. With a company blog, the focus has to be on the content, and that's pretty tough to do with a blog format such as this one. Rupp Arena appears to be using a WordPress 3-column theme(AmberCadabra says its the Revolution theme), with each column (including the column where posts appear), being the same width.

Which means that the content is pretty cramped. To make matters worse, the posts are truncated. Each post seems to have a roughly 4 inch by 4 inch block on the screen, and about 66% of that real-estate is dominated by a picture. But here's the interesting part; when you click on a post to read it, you are switched to a 2-column layout, with the post being given about 66% of the space. This looks MUCH better than the blog's 'frontpage' layout.

The content appears to be a stream of 'announcements' about the upcoming events. Again, it looks like Rupp Arena wanted a blog that has the look and feel of an entertainment website. And websites are usually focused on announcements, not interactions, which are what a good blog focuses on. I think there is a great chance for the blog to significantly improve its content by focusing less on announcements, and more on the fans that attend, and giving them a 'behind the scenes' look at these events. That's interesting, broadcasting an events calendar is not.

Given the positioning of the content, it should come as no surprise that most of the posts don't receive comments. This is why content is so vitally important for a company blog, because if the content isn't effective, the rest of the blog is in trouble. Compelling content sparks conversation, and content that doesn't resonate with blog readers, won't receive comments. And without comments, the blog's writers don't have an opportunity to respond and help create a conversation in the comments.

Now let's move to posting schedule. On the front page of the blog, there's four posts, all with the same format of about a 4 inch by 4 inch block, with most of that dominated by a 3 inch by 4 inch pic. But if you click on the Archives section, you see that several other 'posts' show up, all including very large pictures. My guess is that these posts aren't showing up on the front page because their pictures are too large? Not sure, but if you'll notice, according to the Archives, this post was left on Aug 19th, but as the screenshot above (taken on the same day) shows, it's not on the frontpage. So I'm assuming that 2 or so new posts show up on the blog's frontpage per week. Decent, not great, but decent.

Finally, let's move to the sidebars. With this blog, you basically have three columns of the same width, with the posts appearing in the left column, other information in the two columns on the right. The blog does a good job of promoting upcoming events for the arena, and gives you several ways to receive updates. But there's no blogroll, and no sign of information about who the writers are. If you click on a post, it gives you a link for the author, but clicking on that only gives you a list of their posts. As with the rest of the blog, the focus here is on promotion.

The botton line is that the Rupp Arena blog comes off as a broadcast tool, instead of being an attempt by the arena to get more interaction with its readers and customers. My guess is the readers can easily see the disconnect, and aren't responding to the content, as a result.

And now let's break down the scoring for the blog:

Content: 16 (Out of a possible 35) - Right idea, horrible positioning. The blog is right to focus on the events/performers that will be appearing at the arena, but it's totally self-promotional. The content needs to be repositioned so the fans/attendees play a MUCH greater role. Cramped area for content and truncated posts only make matters worse.

Comments: 5 (Out of a possible 35) - Lack of solid content apparently isn't giving the readers much of a reason to comment.

Posting Schedule: 9 (Out of a possible 15) - Decent but not great.

Sidebars: 5 (Out of a possible 15) - No blogroll, no writer pics/bios, no kidding. All self-promotional.

Total Score: 35 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from Rupp Arena wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me. If your a 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, August 27, 2008

Conferences, conferences everywhere!

My conference attendance has been pretty non-existent since last Spring, but that's about to change dramatically. I've been invited to speak at several wonderful events in the coming months, and here's a quick rundown of where I will be:

September 22nd and 23rd, Columbus, Ohio - Small Business Marketing Unleashed

I attended the inaugural SBMU this year in April, and as you can tell from this post, I had an absolute blast. As did the attendees, who gushed so much about the experience that Jennifer and Robert decided to add this second SBMU. The original plan was that the first SBMU would do well enough to warrant having another one next April in Houston. Instead, the overwhelmingly positive reaction from attendees prompted them to add this second conf set for next month. And the speaker lineup is once again stellar, adding my dear friend CK to an already top-notch speaker lineup from the Spring SBMU. We'll show you all you need to know about blogging, social media, viral marketing, SEO, SEM, and so much more.

And the best part of all is, there's a special early-bird rate on pricing. Till this Friday, you can attend SBMU for only $750. After Friday, the rate goes up to $975. If you are a small business, this may be the best $750 you will ever spend. Seriously guys, you will have an absolute blast, we will see to it. You'll learn how to succeed in every area of social media and online marketing, and you'll have a blast doing it. If you are considering going, I really hope you do, because if you don't attend, I *know* you are going to regret not going once you begin to see the feedback from the people that did. And if you are planning on attending, please leave a comment so we can connect before the event!

October 22nd and 23rd, Scottsdale, Arizona, Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer

Wow. My friend Ann Handley has seriously outdone herself in putting together the speaking lineup for this event. See if you've heard of any of these people: Rohit Bhargava, Chris Brogan, Becky Carroll, CC Chapman, KD Paine, Frank Eliason (Comcastcares on Twitter), Scott Monty, Connie Reece. Yeah. And that's just the social media track, there's also search and email marketing tracks as well. Oh and you might have heard of the keynotes as well, Gary Vee and Arianna Huffington.

On the second day, I'll be conducting a special lab on successful blogging. I'll look at three company blogs submitted by attendees, and we'll discuss what they are doing right, and what they are doing wrong, in a format similar to what I do here with the Company Blog Checkup series. If you plan on attending the Digital Marketing Mixer and want your company blog to be considered for review during my session, please email Marketing Profs.

November 7th, Kennewick, WA, Learn About Web Conference

This is a great conference aimed at getting small businesses up to speed on social media and online marketing. It will feature a great lineup of speakers, including Jennifer Laycock, Stoney deGeyter, Debra Mastaler, Matt McGee, myself, and several others. I'll be presenting on Blogging for Business, and the event is being put on by Craig Sutton and the fine people at BrightWeb Marketing, who I met at the first SBMU last Spring. Here's where you can find more information on the event, and register!

In addition, I am hoping I'll be able to attend the upcoming SWOMFest that the ever-amazing Ben and Jackie are holding in Austin, Texas at the end of October. And look at the attendee list! Good grief that's a prime speaking list for most conferences! I'm hoping I can get this worked into my schedule in the next couple of weeks as it looks like a can't-miss event!

And speaking of Jackie, please if you haven't already, vote for our suggested panel for next year's SXSW, Co-Created Marketing: Embracing Your Customer Evangelists Online. Voting ends this Friday, and the panel will consist of Jackie Huba, LinkedIn's Community Evangelist Mario Sundar, and Ogilvy PR's Virginia Miracle, with myself moderating.

And while you are on the site, here's some other great SXSW panel/session ideas:

Your Brand is Not My Friend (Alan Wolk, CK, Cam Beck, Brian Morrissey)
Micro Interactions - David Armano
Sports 2.0: Engaging the Long-Tail Fanbase - Pat Coyle
Twitter for Marketers: Is it Still Social Media? - Ricardo Guerrero
Posse Blogging: Never Blog Alone - Becky Carroll
Curiosity Marketing: Using Secrets to Create Engagement - Rohit Bhargava
Measure This! Practical Ways to Quantify Social Media Results - Kami Huyse

And remember, voting on the SXSW panels ends on Friday night, so please vote for the above panels if you can! Also, if you need a speaker for your social media/marketing conference, or want more information on my social media training services, click here.

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 119

Here's the standings for Week 119:

1 - Seth's Blog - 8,344 (-136)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 5,206 (-357)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 2,646 (+226)(LW - 3)
4 - Logic + Emotion - 1,160 (-9)(LW - 5)
5 - Search Engine Guide - 1,085 (-103)(LW - 4)
6 - Influential Marketing - 830 (+12)(LW - 7)
7 - Duct Tape Marketing - 811 (-25)(LW - 6)
8 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 8)
9 - Six Pixels of Separation - 630 (+4)(LW - 9)
10 - Daily Fix - 591 (-27)(LW - 10)
11 - Brand Autopsy - 589 (+1)(LW - 11)
12 - Conversation Agent - 546 (-2)(LW - 12)
13 - Techipedia - 495 (-24)(LW - 13)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 473 (-13)(LW - 14)
15 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 461 (-5)(LW - 15)
16 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 435 (-9)(LW - 16)
17 - Diva Marketing - 417 (-2)(LW - 17)
18 - Social Media Explorer - 415 (+7)(LW - 18)
19 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 388 (-11)(LW - 19)
19 - Converstations - 388 (+2)(LW - 20)
21 - Every Dot Connects - 367 (-13)(LW - 21)
22 - Techno Marketer - 366 (+1)(LW - 23)
23 - What's Next - 361 (-3)(LW - 24)
24 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 354 (-13)(LW - 22)
25 - The Viral Garden - 353 (+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.

Eight blogs were up this week, with sixteen down. Which is actually a 'good' week for the Top 25, given recent performance. I started to make this move last week, but as of next week, the Top 25 will begin using Feedburner subscriber counts as its metric of choice. I believe 17 of the current Top 25 blogs have their subscriber numbers clearly posted on their blog. If your blog is one of the eight that doesn't, all you need to do is add the Feedburner subscriber chicklet to your blog to be considered.

The main reason for wanting to move away from using Technorati to rank the blogs is that increasingly, linking behavior is moving away from blogs, and onto other social sites such as Twitter and Plurk. But unfortunately, Technorati doesn't include these links, and only counts links from one blog to another. Which means the link count for each blog is becoming increasingly inaccurate. Hopefully, moving to Feedburner's subscriber counts will give us a more accurate snapshot of the top marketing and social media blogs.

Otherwise, there are new blogs this week, and the next update is next Wednesday.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Companies: Put social media in the hands of your connectors

As most of you know, I am a big fan of how MasiGuy is using social media to connect with customers and broaden the awareness of the brand he manages. Over time, I pretty much painted a picture from reading Tim's blog and thoughts on other social sites that:

  • Masi had very little marketing budget
  • Masi had increasing sales
  • Tim had a very small staff
This, added with the community Tim seemed to build on any social site where he was active, suggested that he was doing a fabulous job of leveraging social media to help build awareness for the Masi brand. But then I saw this quote from Tim during an interview with MediaHunter:

"So really, I’m the only full time Masi employee."

Timeout. So ONE guy is doing all this?!? That's it, I had to learn more. I called up Tim last week and he was nice enough to spend about an hour with me. Here's what I learned:

  • Tim took over as Brand Manager for Masi in 2004
  • In 2005, Tim read an article about how blogging was going to impact business, and possibly even the biking industry. He went home that night and launched his MasiGuy blog.
  • By 2006, Masi's sales had doubled from the time he took over as Brand Manager, and his blog's readership was at around 200-300 people a day
  • From 2006-to now, sales have almost doubled again, and the daily readership for Tim's blog has grown to 500-1,100 a day.
  • Tim estimates that about 75% of his marketing time is spent with social media, and sees that load increasing moving forward. He still sees traditional marketing as being very important, and sees print advertising going up as well.
I don't think it's too hard to connect the dots between Tim's blog growing, and Masi's sales growing. But does that mean that social media is the silver bullet?

I don't think so. I think the key takeaway here is that social media can HUGELY impact your business IF it's put in the hands of your employees that love connecting with people. Social media allows Tim to more effectively do what he was already doing. Tim was already connecting with suppliers and dealers and retailers and customers in-person and at trade shows/industry events. Blogging and social media simply gave him another way to do this, and reach many more people at the same time. I've said this time and time again, but if you launch a social media strategy, it has to work with your EXISTING business strategy. Social media does that for Tim, which is a big reason why it's working so well for him.

Companies, find your employees that are already passionate about connecting with and helping your customers, and empower them to use social media to do so. It works, just ask Tim.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Company Blog Checkup: Graco

Graco is a company that makes a wide variety of products for infants and toddlers, and late last year, they launched a company blog. Let's see what it looks like.

First, the blog has a very nice About section right at the top. This helps explain the purpose of the blog to readers, as well as gives them a roadmap of what they can expect from the blog. This is always a nice touch.

As always with a company blog's content, there's two ways you can go. You can focus on the company and its products/services, or you can focus on broader content that's relevant to the customers. Graco does this by focusing its blog's content on parenthood. Nice touch because it's a very 'hands-off' way to promote Graco's products and how they relate to parents taking care of their infants and toddlers. Perfect example is this post where one of the bloggers relates her decision-process when deciding to send her child to daycare, a scenario that no doubt many of the blog's readers can relate to. The post really doesn't directly promote Graco or its products, but what is DOES do is help the readers more easily connect with the blogger, because they can sympathize with their situation. Remember, don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate.

The content for Graco's blog is solid, so let's take a gander at the comments. In many cases, the activity in the comments section of a company blog is greatly dependent on how the blog positions its content. The content leads to the comments, and in this case, we see that most posts on the Graco blog have comments. And in most cases, the Graco bloggers are doing a fine job of responding. This is another important area to remember; readers that comment WANT you to reply. They want to know that someone is going to pay attention to their feedback, and add their own. The Graco bloggers do a nice job of commenting and referring to the reader's by name. Very nice.

Now let's move to the posting schedule. The blog seems to follow a strict schedule of one post a day, every weekday. Love it. Honestly, a post a day during the week is really all you need from a company blog. Sure, there might be breaking news or such that warrants multiple posts in one day, but if a company blog has 5 new posts a week, one each weekday, that's all you can ask for.

Finally, let's tackle the sidebars. As anyone that has read this series knows, I am huge on a company blog having pics of its writers on the blog, and at least a link to their bios. Graco has this information, but it's buried on their About page. There you see links to a bio and pic for each blogger. Good stuff, but it's put in a place where it's difficult to find. The pics of the bloggers need to be on the sidebar, and have it set up so there's a link to their bio, when you click on their name. That's a very simple fix to make, and given how well the bloggers interact with readers in the comments section, the readers will appreciate 'seeing' who they are connecting with.

Besides the About section, the header also contains detailed information on the blog's comment policy, and a walkthrough for how readers can subscribe to the blog. Great stuff. Moving down, we see the greatest hits such as archives and categories. But there's also a very nice blogroll of NON-Graco blogs. And in reading some of the comments, I noticed that some of the commenters have their blogs on the Graco blogroll. Absolutely perfect. If your company is blogging and you aren't sure what blogs to add to your blogroll, start with the blogs that your readers and commenters write. This seems to be exactly what Graco has done.

Overall, the Graco Blog is a very solid effort, with no serious weaknesses.

And now let's break down the scoring for the blog:

Content: 31 (Out of a possible 35) - Content is focused on parenting, which is the perfect positioning for this blog. Love the Weds posts about customers/employees.

Comments: 28 (Out of a possible 35) - Most posts have comments, and the writers do a good job of replying to comments that readers leave.

Posting Schedule: 14 (Out of a possible 15) - Very nice. Almost a perfect schedule of one new post, every weekday.

Sidebars: 10 (Out of a possible 15) - Still need the writers' pics/bios on the front page of the blog.

Total Score: 83 (Out of a possible 100)

An excellent score that makes the Graco Blog the #5 blog among the Top 10 highest scoring blogs ever reviewed in the Company Blog Checkup series! Congrats!

If anyone from Graco wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me. If your a 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.

Monday, August 18, 2008

If your company really doesn't 'get' why social media is all the rage... this video of Michael Wesch's speech at the library of congress entitled An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube. The video focuses on YouTube and its community of users, but many of the dynamics at work there can be applied to every area of social media and content.

As you watch this video, ask yourself these questions:

1 - Why are the ideas in these videos spreading? Do ideas have more credibility to the YouTube community if they think they are coming from 'real' people?

2 - Why do so many people create videos and address them to 'YouTubers'? (Note: I often do the same thing, leaving a message on Plurk as 'Hello Plurkistan!' or 'Hello fellow Plurkers!', and I often tweet 'Hello Twitter!').

3 - Why would someone want to create and share this content? What are they seeking?

4 - Why are so many videos created in response to someone else's video?

If you are a company that wants to better understand social media and why people use these tools, consider these questions as you watch this video. Also consider if the ultimate success of your social media initiatives hinges more on your ability to make these people better understand you, or if it's more important for YOU to better understand how and why these people are using these tools?

Hat tips to Paul, Sean and Gavin.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

'Help Send Mack to Austin for SXSW!' (2009 Edition)

One of the highlights of my year was being able to moderate The Future of Corporate Blogging panel at SXSW. Mario Sundar, who was one of the panelists, asked me if I wanted to moderate a panel for him at next year's SXSW. Of course I said yes, and after some brainstorming, we decided on the panel concept.

The panel is titled 'Co-Created Marketing: Embracing Your Customer Evangelists Online'. This panel will focus on who customer evangelists are, why companies should want to embrace and empower them, and HOW they can do this via online tools such as social media. I really think this is an area of marketing that offers huge potential for companies if they can get past their 'OMG! We can't share control of our marketing with our customers!!!' fears. It's happening anyway, and the SMART companies are the ones that are identifying their most passionate customers, and empowering them to promote them.

Ok now we had a kickass topic to discuss, and had one great panelist set as Mario being LinkedIn's first-ever Community Evangelist put him in the perfect place to speak about how companies can better find and embrace their evangelists.

But we needed two more panelists. We started making a list of the people that we wanted on this panel, and two names were our clear favorites. And thankfully, they BOTH have agreed to join us! And they are......

Jackie Huba: The person that literally co-wrote the book on customer evangelism, along with partner Ben McConnell. Jackie also blogs at one of the most popular marketing/business blogs on the planet, The Church of the Customer. The label 'expert' probably gets used too much in this space, but Jackie is a true customer evangelism expert.

Virginia Miracle: Virginia is the current SVP of Digital Strategy at Ogilvy PR’s 360° Digital Influence group. Before that, she shepherded the award-winning Fiskateers crafting ambassador movement, while she was with Brains on Fire. Earlier this week I scored The Fiskateers blog as the highest one I've graded so far in the Company Blog Checkup Series, and the movement is one of the best examples you'll find of a company finding and embracing its customer evangelists.

Mario Sundar, Virginia Miracle, and Jackie Huba. Yeah, now you see why being asked to moderate a panel with these people has me I'm feeling like a kid on Christmas morning! But unfortunately, we still need to get the panel picked. Which is where you can help make that happen. For the next two weeks (ending on Aug 29th), you can vote for this panel at this link. Also, if you can leave a comment on the site, we would GREATLY appreciate that, as SXSW goes by voting and interest in the comments section to help them decide which panel ideas are resonating with potential attendees. Thanks so much!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 118

Here's the standings for Week 118:

1 - Seth's Blog - 8,480 (-180)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 5,563 (-237)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 2,420 (+124)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,188 (-136)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,169 (-71)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 836 (-59)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 818 (-7)(LW - 7)
8 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 9)
9 - Six Pixels of Separation - 626 (-17)(LW - 10)
10 - Daily Fix - 618 (-34)(LW - 8)
11 - Brand Autopsy - 588 (-24)(LW - 11)
12 - Conversation Agent - 548 (-3)(LW - 12)
13 - Techipedia - 519 (-27)(LW - 13)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 486 (-44)(LW - 14)
15 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 466 (-63)(LW - 15)
16 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 444 (-5)(LW - 16)
17 - Diva Marketing - 419 (-11)(LW - 17)
18 - Social Media Explorer - 408 (-4)(LW - 19)
19 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 399 (-7)(LW - 20)
20 - Converstations - 386 (-16)(LW - 22)
21 - Every Dot Connects - 380 (-25)(LW - 21)
22 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 367 (-5)(LW - 24)
23 - Techno Marketer - 365 (-15)(LW - 23)
24 - What's Next - 364 (-31)(LW - 18)
25 - The Viral Garden - 345 (-11)(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.

Only one blog, Chris Brogan's gained links this week. The other 24 either lost links, or stood pat. At this point it's either stick with Technorati, which seems to be missing any links to a blog that come from any non-blog, or go with number of Feedburner subscribers. I think feed readers is probably a more accurate metric to measure the 'popularity' of a blog than links. But the problem is that still only 16 of the current Top 25 have their Feedburner numbers published on their blog. If I decide to make the switch, I'll email the bloggers that don't have the chicklet to give them time to add it if they still want to be considered for the Top 25.

Otherwise, there are new blogs this week, and the next update is next Wednesday.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Introducing: The Company Blog Checkup Top 10!

Last summer, I decided to launch the Company Blog Checkup series. Originally, I looked at each blog's content, how they encouraged and replied to reader comments, and how frequently the blog published new posts. I would later start examining the blog's sidebar elements as well.

But what I noticed that there really wasn't a way to see which blog was 'grading' better or worse than the others. So in May of this year, I decided to add a scoring system that judges each blog on four criteria:

1 - Content, what the bloggers write about (35 points)
2 - Comments, how many comments the blog receives, and how the bloggers reply to comments from readers (35 points)
3 - Posting schedule, how often and regularly new posts appear on the blog (15 points)
4 - Sidebars, the information contained on the sidebars (15 points)

The scores for each area are then added to total a possible 100 points. Now if I had been thinking, I would have added the scoring system from the start. As it stood, I didn't score any of the blogs that I reviewed from May 2007 to May of this year. Which made me wonder, would Dell's blog grade higher than Patagonia's? Or was Daily Thoughts the best blog I had reviewed so far? I really didn't know.

So today I went back and scored all the blogs that have been reviewed so far in the Company Blog Series (two blogs have been deleted since I reviewed them). Doing so, we can now rank the blogs based on their overall scores, as well as the top blogs for content, comments, posting schedule, and sidebars.

So here they are, the Top 10 Company Blogs! After the Top 10 blogs based on overall scores, I have ranked the Top 5 blogs based on Content, Comments, Posting Schedule, and Sidebars. Each list will be updated as future blogs are reviewed that have higher overall or category scores.

Top 10 Company Blogs Overall(Possible 100 points)

1 - Fiskars' The Fiskateers Blog(Review) - 89
2 - HomeGoods' Openhouse Blog(Review) - 88
3 - Turkey Hill's Ice Cream Journal Blog(Review) - 87
3 - Innocent Drinks' Daily Thoughts Blog(Review) - 87
5 - Graco Blog (Review) - 83
6 - Southwest Airlines' Nuts About Southwest Blog(Review) - 81
7 - Dell's Direct2Dell(Review) Blog - 79
8 - Stacks and Stacks' Clutter Control Freak Blog(Review) - 77
8 - Coca Cola's Conversations Blog(Review) - 77
10 - Patagonia's The Cleanest Line Blog(Review) - 76
10 - Mahindra Tractors' Life of a Farm Blog(Review) - 76

Top 5 Company Blogs based on Content(Possible 35 points)

1 - Innocent Drinks' Daily Thoughts Blog(Review) - 35
2 - Newcastle Square Realty Blog(Review) - 34
3 - Patagonia's The Cleanest Line Blog(Review) - 33
3 - Coca Cola's Conversations Blog(Review) - 33
3 - Fandango's Freshly Popped, The Movie Blog(Review) - 33

Top 5 Company Blogs based on Comments(Possible 35 points)

1 - Mahindra Tractors' Life of a Farm Blog(Review) - 34
2 - HomeGoods' OpenHouse Blog(Review) - 32
2 - Fiskars' The Fiskateers Blog(Review) - 32
4 - Turkey Hill's The Ice Cream Journal Blog(Review) - 30
5 - Innocent Drinks' Daily Thoughts Blog(Review) - 29

Top 5 Company Blogs based on Posting Schedule(Possible 15 points)

1 - Fiskar's The Fiskateers Blog(Review) - 15
1 - Southwest Airlines' Nuts about Southwest Blog(Review) - 15
1 - Chronicle Books Blog (Review) - 15
4 - Kodak's A Thousand Words Blog(Review) - 14
4 - Dell's Direct2Dell Blog(Review) - 14
4 - Innocent Drinks' Daily Thoughts Blog(Review) - 14
4 - Graco Blog(Review) - 14

Top 5 Company Blogs based on Sidebars(Possible 15 points)

1 - HomeGoods' Openhouse Blog(Review) - 15
2 - Turkey Hill's Ice Cream Journal Blog(Review) - 13
2 - The Corner Violin Shop's Blog(Review) - 13
2 - Wal-Mart's Checkout Blog(Review) - 13
5 - Stacks and Stacks' Clutter Control Freak Blog(Review) - 12

Congrats to Fiskar's The Fiskateers Blog for getting the highest overall score, and congrats to Innocent Drinks' Daily Thoughts Blog for being ranked in the Top 5 in three of the four categories, and tied for #3 overall. These rankings will be updated as I grade future company blogs. For a list and scores of all the blogs I have profiled so far in the Company Blog Checkup series, click here. If you would like to have a custom Company Blog Checkup created for your blog, you can get more information on the services I provide here.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Company Blog Checkup: Coca-Cola

I have to say up front that I am a fan of the idea behind Coca-Cola's Conversations blog. What Coke has done is set up a blog for Phil Mooney, who describes himself as "the historian/archivist for The Coca-Cola Company for the last 30 years. " This is a great idea, because there is a very strong market and fanbase for Coca-Cola memorabilia, and collectibles. So it would seem that Phil would be one of the true experts on the history of the Coke brand, and that giving him his own blog to reach Coke collectors and historical enthusiasts would be a great move. Let's see if it is.

The content portion of a business blog usually makes or breaks its effectiveness. Phil covers how Coke's advertising has changed throughout the years (love this post that details the company's promotional efforts for the 1964 Olympics.). Besides how Coke's promotional efforts have changed, Phil also spends a great deal of time looking at popular Coke collectibles, and even gives some advice on assessing the value of said collectibles(another favorite post, a Fanta milkshake recipe published in the 80s). This exactly the type of content that a Coke collector would want to see. I do have a couple of small suggestions; I think Phil should add an occasional post on how to care for and preserve collectibles, and maybe invite readers to send pictures of their own collections of Coke memorabilia. This would be a great way to engage and excite readers. But these are minor quibbles, as on the whole, the blog does an excellent job of producing the type of content that will resonate with its audience.

Now let's move to the comments section. A byproduct of producing superior blog content, is frequently more comments being left by readers, and that appears to be the case here. Most posts have comments, and on average, a post left to the blog gets around 3 comments. Which is a decent amount. And Phil also does a pretty good job of replying to comments, especially from collectors asking questions about items they have, or want.

Next up is the posting frequency for the blog, and the hits just keep on coming. Coca-Cola Conversations is averaging just slightly higher than a post every other day, or 3-4 posts a week. This is sweet spot, and right in the 3-5 new posts a week range that you want to see from a superior business blog. And it's more impressive considering that Phil is the only author of the blog. But since Phil is obviously passionate about the history of this iconic brand, he is likely going to enjoy writing about the brand's history. This is also a great example of why companies should try to put their blog in the hands of the people that are the most passionate about the topics they will be writing about.

Finally, let's close with the sidebars. I think this is probably the 'weak' spot of the blog, but I just love how the first thing we see at the top of the blog is a picture of Phil, and his bio. Perfect! One very noticeable exclusion from the blog is that it doesn't have a blogroll. I am sure there must be plenty of sites and blogs devoted to Coke's history and collectibles, so why not add these to the sidebar? Think of this list as a resource for your readers, sites they can check out to get more information about their a hobby that they are passionate about.

There is a nice 'House Rules' section that clearly outlines that comments are moderated, and what is expected of comments before they are published. I like this approach because it removes all doubt, and it can help with future headaches, especially on a business blog that might not be as familiar with interacting with blog readers to begin with.

Overall, Coca-Cola Conversations is the best business blog that I've reviewed in quite a while. And it also shows that a company can be creative in how they blog. Many other large corporations, such as Nike and McDonalds, have a community of collectors that are passionate about the history of these companies and the products and collectibles that have been produced by and about their brands throughout the years. So other companies have the same opportunity to do what Coca-Cola has here, allowing Phil to blog about his passion, and at the same time reach out to and engage Coke collectors.

And now let's break down the scoring for the blog:

Content: 33 (Out of a possible 35) - Extremely solid. A few minor tweaks and finding ways to let readers spotlight their collections, would make the content all but perfect.

Comments: 23 (Out of a possible 35) - Phil does a great job of creating content that resonates with readers, and a decent job of replying to comments. I do think he could be a bit more active in replying, but he still does better than most company bloggers in replying to comments.

Posting Schedule: 13 (Out of a possible 15) - If you average better than a post every other day, you've done your job when it comes to number of posts for a company blog. I do see a few 3-4 day gaps in between posts, but if those were closed, the blog would have likely gotten a perfect score in this category.

Sidebars: 8 (Out of a possible 15) - Love the pic and bio at the top of the blog, but it really needs a blogroll.

Total Score: 77 (Out of a possible 100)

And with that, congrats go out to Coca-Cola Conversations for achieving the highest score for a blog since I added the scoring system back in May. Well done, Phil!

If Phil or anyone else from Coca-Cola wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me. If your a 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, August 06, 2008

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 117

Here's the standings for Week 117:

1 - Seth's Blog - 8,660 (-178)(LW - 1)
2 - CopyBlogger - 5,800 (-136)(LW - 2)
3 - Chris Brogan - 2,296 (+78)(LW - 3)
4 - Search Engine Guide - 1,324 (-63)(LW - 4)
5 - Logic + Emotion - 1,240 (No Change)(LW - 5)
6 - Duct Tape Marketing - 895 (-39)(LW - 6)
7 - Influential Marketing - 825 (+2)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 652 (-31)(LW - 8)
9 - Church of the Customer - 661 (No Change)(LW - 9)
10 - Six Pixels of Separation - 643 (-8)(LW - 10)
11 - Brand Autopsy - 612 (-18)(LW - 11)
12 - Conversation Agent - 551 (-10)(LW - 13)
13 - Techipedia - 546 (-37)(LW - 12)
14 - Jaffe Juice - 530 (-20)(LW - 14)
15 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 529 (-17)(LW - 15)
16 - Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! - 449 (-1)(LW - 17)
17 - Diva Marketing - 430 (-11)(LW - 18)
18 - What's Next - 395 (-66)(LW - 16)
19 - Social Media Explorer - 412 (+2)(LW - 20)
20 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 406 (+2)(LW - 23)
21 - Every Dot Connects - 405 (-6)(LW - 19)
22 - Converstations - 402 (-3)(LW - 22)
23 - Techno Marketer - 380 (No Change)(LW - 24)
24 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 372 (-4)(LW - 25)
25 - The Viral Garden - 356 (-51)(LW - 21)

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 blogosphere-implosion happened this week, according to Technorati, with another 18 blogs losing links, and only 4 gaining. I've started paying more attention to my links and how this blog gets its traffic over the last couple of weeks, because I'm honestly wondering if all these blogs are losing links because TRati is borked, or because TRati only counts links from other blogs in its 'authority' for each blog (which is also borked).

What I've noticed is that Twitter and Plurk are the top referring sources for traffic to my blog, after only Google (search queries) and direct traffic. And much of that traffic is coming from links that myself or someone else has shared that pointed back to my blog. But unfortunately, Technorati doesn't count any of those links.

Also, my blog's traffic and feed readers are currently at an all-time high. And as you can see, my blogs links, according to Technorati, are dropping like a rock. I've also started paying more attention to the blogs that have subscriber counts listed, and I'm noticing that most of them seem to be seeing their counts rising, while their link counts, according to Technorati, are falling. BTW, 16 of the Top 25 blogs now have Feedburner subscriber counts listed on their blogs.

So what do you think? Do you think Technorati is accurately counting the number of links your blog has? I'm finding it harder and harder to justify keeping it as the measurement source for the Top 25. It was a bit iffy to begin with that it was only measuring one metric (blog links), but now that so many links are being shared on social sites, and not blogs, it makes it even more unreliable, I fear.

And if I switched the Top 25 to using Feedburner subscriber numbers as its metric of choice, do you think that would improve the Top 25 as a resource? The only problem would be that bloggers would need to add the Feedburner subscriber count chicklet to their blog if they wanted to be considered for the Top 25. But that's a relatively simple change to make. Would especially like to hear what readers that don't have blogs listed in the Top 25 think about possibly switching to Feedburner subscriber counts.

Otherwise, there are new blogs this week, and the next update is next Wednesday.

Next update is next Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Ten quick tips for growing your blog's subscribers and comments

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the poll question "If a company or small business is blogging, what's the most important metric they should measure?" And according to you guys, Subscribers (36.2%) and comments (32.8%) were easily the two most important. Thanks to everyone that voted!

So since subscribers and comments seem to be the most important metrics to measure for bloggers, I'd like to share some ways that I have increased my blog's subscribers and the number of comments I get per post. Your mileage may vary, but hopefully many of you can benefit from at least some of these tips:


  • Set up a Feedburner account. This should be one of the very first things you do when you set-up your blog.
  • Once you do, burn a feed for your blog, and then set up your account so all your different feed versions will redirect to your Feedburner feed. This is important because it then gives you a much better idea of how many subscribers you have, and how they are accessing your feed. Feedburner's blog explains how to make the switch(for Blogger blogs). I saw my number of reported feed readers double overnight by doing this.
  • Once you've started a FB account and have redirected your feeds to the FB version, start paying attention to how your feed readers are accessing your feed. Pick the most popular feed readers, and add subscriber buttons for them on your blog. At first I only had a subscriber button for Bloglines on my blog. Then FB started tracking Google Reader, and I discovered it was the most popular way that subscribers use to access my blog's feed, so I added a button for it. Then I discovered that Netvibes and Newsgator were growing as well, and added buttons for them.
  • Make your subscriber buttons easy to find on your blog. Last year I moved my buttons up to the top of the my blog and immediately noticed a jump in my subscriber numbers.
  • Give your readers the ability to subscribe to your blog's posts via email. Feedburner can set this up for you as well. Always give your readers as many choices as possible for how they can receive your content.


  • Ask for reader feedback. One thing I figured out VERY early on in my blogging journey is that my readers are, as a group, always smarter than I am. Since I always learn from you guys, I want your feedback.
  • Take a definite stance. This is actually something I need to work on. But when you take a definite stance on an issue, it makes it easier for those that agree with you to chime in, and it makes it easier for those that disagree, to express why they do. And when you have contrasting opinions, that usually leads to a more robust conversation.
  • Put a 'window' on your comments, in your blog post. Let's say that I write a post and it gets a couple of comments. Then Gavin leaves an incredible comment that sparks the exchange to take off and grow into a conversation. Why not go back and edit your post and add Gavin's comment at the end of your post? And add a link to Gavin's blog when you do. This is a great way to show your other readers Gavin's comment, and it will likely prompt them to check out the comments section to see what the smart kids are saying!
  • Leave comments on and link to other blogs. I've said it a million times, but the best way to grow your blog, is to leave it. Make a point to comment on the blogs of your readers that comment on your blog, or at least link to their blog posts. This is why I love Twitter, cause it's a great way for me to quickly and easily share links with my followers, and I try to share links from bloggers that comment on my blog, first.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for feedback from your social networks. This comes with a big caveat that you have to be careful about how often you do this, and you need to also link to other blogger's posts. If the only time I see you is twice a week on Twitter asking me to please come leave a comment on your new blog posts, I probably won't do it. But if I see you everyday on Twitter chatting and linking to other blog posts, THEN when you ask me to please read your new post, I probably will.

What did I miss? How are you growing your blog's subscribers and comments?

UPDATE: Gavin adds in the comments - "Finally got around to adding the specific reader buttons to my blog. Wouldn't you know it, a 10% increase in subscribers overnight."

Monday, August 04, 2008

Is Social Media overrated?

If the last week has taught me anything, it's that while social media has plenty of evangelists (hi!), there's also no shortage of people that think these tools are completely overrated and over-hyped. Naturally, we evangelists would beg to differ.

But the problem is, even those of us that use these tools are often hard-pressed to find good examples of companies that are really using social media effectively to reach their customers. I've blogged before about how I am 'tired' of talking about Dell's wonderful work in this space. Simply because I want to see other Fortune 500 companies follow Dell's lead and get active with social media as a way to reach their customers.

So to those that subscribe to the 'social media is just a fad/overrated/overhyped' idea, the fact that companies are struggling to show solid bottom-line results from their social media efforts is music to their ears. To the naysayers, this tells them that there's no 'real' benefits to be found. Which is why these tools are 'overrated' and 'overhyped' and that we blogging/social media evangelists need to 'calm down' and 'get over ourselves'.

But if Company A launches a social media strategy that does nothing to grow their business, does this mean that social media doesn't work, or that this company's social media strategy didn't work?

It's an important question to ask. Is it that social media doesn't have the potential to improve business that we evangelists think, or is it that many businesses aren't sure how to tap into that potential?

And it seems that more and more companies are betting that the potential is there. Dell's efforts speak for themselves, Lionel recently announced that the company was opening up many social sites such as Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, etc, to all its employees. Ford recently hired Scott Monty to be the company's first Director of Social Media, and he'll head up a 5-person team for the automaker. Disney is hiring a Social Media Manager. Pepsico was recently advertising an opening for a Director of Social Media.

So if Social Media is overrated and overhyped, as some claim, why are all these big companies putting money into this space? On the flipside, if social media IS working for companies, why can't they more effectively show the bottom-line results?

I think an important reason why is because social media, when utilized effectively, makes a company's existing business processes more effective. Much has been made of Dell's turnaround over the last couple of years. But even Dell's biggest social media advocates, such as Richard Binhammer, are the first to admit that while they 'think' that social media is helping their company grow, they don't really have hard numbers to point to that prove this. Is it coincidence that LinkedIn's surge in traffic seemed to coincide with the company hiring popular blogger Mario Sundar as its Community Evangelist, launching a company blog and adding more social elements to its interface? Maybe. Masi has enjoyed impressive sales growth in the past few years, despite a relatively modest advertising and marketing budget. But they do have a brand manager named Tim Jackson that's incredibly active in social media. Like Richard, Tim would likely say that he thinks that social media is greatly contributing to his company's growth, but he can't directly quantify the bottom-line impact.

But in each case, social media DID help these companies perform their existing business functions more effectively. Social media has helped Dell better communicate with its customers, and this improved communicate no doubt greatly contributed to the percentage of negative blog posts the company tracked falling from 49% to around 20% currently. LinkedIn launching a company blog helped the site better connect with its users and better educate them on how to use the site as a networking and connection tool. By connecting with current and potential customers via his blog and other social sites, Tim Jackson has greatly helped raise the online awareness for Masi.

Is it that social media's potential for businesses is overrated, or is it that many companies aren't realizing the potential that social media holds for growing their business? What do you think?