Thursday, December 17, 2009

Google and Facebook reach deal to include content into live search

Similar to the Twitter deal I blogged about on Tuesday, Google has reached a deal with Facebook to include some content created by its members into search results, effectively creating 'live' search. It appears that content will only be added that relates to 'hot topics' (again, similar to the Twitter deal), but that could easily change over time.

Now on the surface, this seems like a very big plus for businesses, especially ones that have a limited social media effort, or any that are only on Facebook. If the deal eventually branches out to incorporate ALL content created by Facebook members, then the SEO ramifications alone are huge.

But I think it's wise to consider one very big issue: You will be letting Facebook have control over your content. You already do, but as more money becomes involved, there could be more changes to how that content can be changed or controlled.

For example, a few weeks ago I was working with a client to do a promotion via the company's Facebook fan page. Right as we were in the final planning stages, Facebook changes their rules on promotion and giveaways, and instantly our idea had to be nixed. What about Rupert Murdoch's public spat with Google and his desire to pull all MySpace content from Google's search engine? What if your only social media presence and your network as a business was completely on MySpace, then that happened?

So this move has some very big potential advantages for companies that are active on Facebook, but I think the potential downsides must also be considered. I also think this solidifies that for the average business, the hub of their social media efforts should be on a platform where they have control of the content, such as a blog.

What do you think? Are the risks worth the reward for companies with this new deal?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Google - Twitter strike live search deal; what it means for your company

If you do a Google search for Tiger Woods (as I did in the image above), you'll notice something has changed. At the top you have a news story, then a few results from the web, and under that is a frame with constantly updating new stories about Tiger, including tweets from Twitter.

Yes, Twitter. Live Search is now here, as Twitter and Google recently struck a deal to have tweets about popular topics included into Google's search results. Google struck a similar deal with Facebook as well, and I'll cover that in another post.

If you are a company, you have to understand the ramifications of this. Potentially, YOUR tweets as well as the tweets from Twitter users ABOUT your company, could be integrated into Google search results. As with most areas of social media, this can either be a great thing for your company, or a nightmare.

Consider this; Let's say your company suddenly has a major product recall. Speculation in mainstream media is running wild that this could just be the tip of the iceberg, and that other more popular product lines could be affected as well.

When people run to Google to do searches to see what is happening, tweets from Twitter will very likely be served up highly in the results. This is where your company can either benefit, or be in big trouble.

If your company has been proactive and is engaging with Twitter's users about this issue, then not only will your responses show up in search results, but so will the responses of Twitter's users, that have likely been influenced by your responses.

On the flip side, if people are discussing this on Twitter and your company has no presence there, there's likely to be wild rumors and speculation thrown about, and if your company isn't there to address these rumors, they will only get worse.

So what can you do about this?

1 - Start monitoring Twitter immediately. Go to Twitter Search and do a search for your company. Here's a link to a search I did for 'Heinz'. Notice up in the top right there is an RSS icon and it says Feed for this query. Click there, and you can subscribe to these results in your favorite feed reader.

2 - If you haven't already, reserve your company's name on Twitter. If the exact combination that you want isn't available, pick a name that's to your liking, and edit your profile to explain who you are, what you do, and include a link back to your website or blog (if you have one).

Now in all honesty, as the deal currently stands, this likely won't affect most companies. For example, I did a search for Jones Soda, and no tweets were served up in the search results. So if you are a small business or even a mid-sized company, this likely won't change much if anything for you. But if any news-worthy event happens that attracts MSM attention, it could very easily have tweets inserted into search results.

So it might be best to remember that Noah built the Ark before the rain started.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What 'The U' can teach you about building communities

I'm a sucker for documentaries that show the 'rise and fall' of military empires, businesses and the like. I love seeing the plan that made these giants possible, then what changed that led to the inevitable decline.

So when I saw that ESPN was going to have a special titled 'The U' on how Miami Hurricanes football became a juggernaut in the 1980s, I had to watch. Now let me have a disclaimer here; the Canes in the 80s were brash, cocky, arrogant, and much of what their players did was a complete embarrassment to college football, in my opinion. I wasn't interested in the special from that angle, I wanted to see what happened to take a football program from all but being closed in the late 70s, to being the dominant program in the country just a few years later.

To give this story a baseline and some perspective, in the late 70s, support for Miami's football program was so low that the school ran promotions with local Burger Kings to give away a free football ticket if you bought a Whopper! The school was about ready to drop the football program when it hired Howard Schnellenberger in 1979. Schnellenberger had tutored under two of the greatest football coaches of all-time, Bear Bryant at Alabama and Don Shula at the Miami Dolphins.

When Schnellenberger arrived in Miami, he immediately started putting his fingerprints over the entire program. His first goal was to 'win back' the city of Miami. Racial and economic tensions had divided the city in the early 80s, and left the entire area looking for an identify to unify it.

And Schnellenberger saw that potential identity as being the Miami Hurricanes football team. He purposely focused almost all of his recruiting efforts on getting football players from inner-city Miami, and the surrounding areas. He did that because as he explained, he wanted to recruit kids from South Florida that wanted to play in front of their friends and family, so they would be in the stands cheering on these players.

Schnellenberger's staff called South Florida 'The State of Miami', and told his staff to saturate that area of the state with their recruiting efforts. What happened was that kids from Miami started committing to play football at Miami, and then started calling their friends at other local schools and told them to come to Miami as well.

And the Miami community noticed that Schnellenberger was going into rough, inner city areas of Miami, and recruiting kids that other schools wouldn't touch. That began to resonate with the Miami community, and they began to respect Schnellenberger and in the process, the community began to adopt the Miami team as their own. Because it was.

"By the mid 80s, the Hurricanes were Miami's team" - Billy Corben, Director of The U

In 1983, the Miami Hurricanes won the school's first football National Championship. And the key was, that title was won with LOCAL players. An area that had been engulfed in strife and division, now had a reason to come together, and Schnellenberger instilled a sense of pride, of local pride, in the Miami program.

What does all of this have to do with your company's efforts to build an on or offline community? The lesson learned here is to give the people you are trying to reach, a sense of ownership in something larger than themselves. Schnellenberger did NOT recruit the best players in the country, he recruited the best players in Miami, specifically because he wanted LOCAL players. He wanted the mamas and daddies of these players to be in the stands cheering their sons on. He wanted the Miami community to identify with this team.

And they did. Remember that lesson when you are trying to create your community-building efforts.

Pic via ESPN

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

More comments doesn't always equal more conversation

How many times have you heard that when it comes to social media, that 'it's all about the conversation?' We all have, and 'the conversation' is terribly important.

But I think the misconception many of us have is that all you need to have a conversation, is comments. Check out this post by Olivier. Notice it has 266 comments (currently). But look closer and you'll see that almost all of those comments are coming from one side of the issue.

That's not a conversation, that's a buncha comments. And I think this is a problem that many bloggers have, in that we don't always effectively manage comments so that people that come down on both sides of the issue feel like they can be heard.

I'm not picking on Olivier here, notice this post I wrote last week on Mashable. Almost all of the commenters agreed with me, but Mike offered a differing viewpoint that I really didn't touch on. That was my fault, and I should have done a better job of addressing what Mike said. Doing so might have opened up the comments to more viewpoints.

So if you're a blogger that's wanting to get conversations started on your blog, remember that you need more than just comments. You need interaction, if all you have are a buncha 'Amen!' comments, well that might make YOU feel good, but it's not the best way to get a conversation started.

And if you do get a differing viewpoint (or someone that flatly says you are full of it), EMBRACE that, because they are giving an opening to anyone that has another viewpoint to chime in. More viewpoints means a better chance of turning a few comments into a vibrant conversation that we can ALL learn from.

That's how your blog gets traction and respect. Not by having comments, but by having conversations.

Pic via Flickr user db*photography

Thursday, December 03, 2009

When it comes to online content, more niche usually trumps more masses

I've been paying closer attention to Mashable lately. If you aren't familiar with the site, it prides itself on covering all aspects of social media, and even has the tagline "The Social Media Guide". The site has been growing like a weed for months, and every new post gets hundreds of RTs on Twitter.

But what's caught my attention recently is the content of the posts. As the site continues to grow, it seems to be moving away from just covering social media, to more broader 'news' stories.

For example, here are some of the titles of posts that have appeared on the site just in the last week:

Tiger Woods Injured in Car Accident
This is Why You're Fat: Thanksgiving Meals Average 2,200 Calories Per Serving
Black Friday Deals Online: 5 of the Best Tech Bargains
Want to Buy a Dual-Screen Laptop? Now You Can
Blackberry Deals and More: Carriers Celebrate Black Friday
Black Friday: Best Buy's Deals Include $200 HP Laptop

There are many other posts where the social media connection is a bit hard to see, to put it kindly. Now I understand why Mashable is writing and posting about Tiger Woods and Black Friday Deals; because it will get the site a flood of traffic.

But in the process, Mashable is losing its focus as being 'The Social Media Guide'. And it's an easy mistake for content creators to make. Hell the first time I had one of my posts picked up by TechMeme and saw a sudden crush of traffic, I was tempted to change my writing to get listed there again.

I think this is an important lesson for all of us to keep in mind; to not get intoxicated by the rush of tweets and traffic that might come from writing a post that's not the focus of your blog/site. Sure, it's great when the traffic starts shooting up, but if you aren't staying with the content that GOT you to where you are now, then you're leaving the door cracked open for the competition. In fact now would be a great time for a competitor to launch a site that's super-focused on social media, that can crank out several posts a day. If the posts are high-quality, and if Mashable keep veering away from covering just social media stories, then the opportunity would be there for the new site to establish itself as the 'new' Guide to Social Media, and occupy the area that Mashable is moving away from.

We have a sayin' down South that you 'Dance with the one that brung ya'. This applies to your online content as well, don't lose focus of what got your blog/site its readership in the first place. And don't confuse traffic with readership. The former is often fleeting, while the latter are the people that stick around.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Three ways a company blog can LOWER costs for your business

Let's be clear; most businesses want its blog to generate sales for the company. Either directly or indirectly. But some of the biggest benefits that can be achieved via a blog is to use it as a tool to reduce the cost of running your business. Here are three ways this can be done:

1 - Your blog as a customer service/support tool. Think about how much time and money and energy is spent on handling customer service issues. With a blog, you can handle most of these issues, giving customers the ability to find the answers for themselves, saving them time and energy as well. A win-win for everyone, as this always improves the customer's impression of your company, and makes them feel cool as well since they could solve the problem themselves! In the book Groundswell, the authors calculated this benefit alone as being worth $69K a year to a large blogging corporation.

2 - Organic SEO benefits. Everyone knows that blogging has big SEO advantages. But the organic SEO benefits from your company blog could be enough that you could scale back on the money you're paying that SEO firm, or even stop outsourcing your SEO efforts! That means you can take that portion of your marketing budget and move it to other areas!

3 - Free market research! One of the first things you'll hear about social media is that 'it's all about the conversation!!!' Ok I agree, there's so much more to it than that, and it's often hard to directly monetize 'the conversation'. But here's one area where customer feedback can pay off on your blog, and that's in the form of free research! Think about it, if you have a vibrant and active readership on your blog, then you can use your customers to get insights into new products you are developing, existing or possible marketing campaigns, or really anything! Click here for an example of this in action with the recent social media survey I conducted on

So keep these ways in mind when you are considering launching a company blog, or are trying to sell your boss on doing so. Don't just consider the potential revenue generated, but also the potential to lower the costs of running your business!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Use December's blogging lull to your advantage

If you've been blogging for more than a year, you know that we are heading into the 'dead' season for blogging. As we get into next month, everyone's attention moves to other, frankly more important areas, and blog readership across the board goes downhill from around mid-December till the New Year. Traffic will come to a crawl and for this blog, Christmas Day and New Year's Day are probably the two lowest days of the year for traffic.

So since most people will be taking a bit of a vacation from blog reading, it might be tempting for you as a blogger to take a mini-Holiday as well. But I think that would be a mistake, and that you should use this time wisely to improve your blogging efforts. Here's five ways to make the most of December's blogging lull:

1 - Re-evaluate everything. Go back and look at what your blogging results have been for 2009. How did traffic do? Subscribers? Comments? And how did these metrics tie back to your blogging goals? Put your blogging strategy for 2009 on trial, and then tweak it for 2010. Set goals for your blog. But make sure that those goals tie back into your larger focus for your blog.

2 - Ramp up content. David Armano advises doing this, using the Holiday vacation to push out as much if not more content than usual, with the thinking being that since many other bloggers are slacking off, your content can more easily be seen. We are going to keep looking for content to share with our networks, and if you keep creating great content while everyone else slacks off, guess whose posts will be shared with my network? Use December to increase your blogging visibility.

3 - Use December to get a blogging jumpstart on 2010. Hey we all want to spend time with friends and family during the Holidays. Work in all forms seems to take a backseat, and that's a good thing in many cases. But if nothing else, use that last week of December to get your content in order to hit the ground running in January. Most people won't begin to get back into reading blogs regularly until Jan. 4th (a Monday), and this is when many bloggers will begin to get back to writing. Use December to have at least one week's worth of posts already written for January, so that way first thing on Monday the 4th, you've already got fresh content waiting on readers, while many other bloggers are thinking about getting back to writing.

4 - Experiment. Every year I spend the final week of the year spending time with social sites/tools that I've been meaning to try out, but just haven't had the chance. I started doing this 2 years ago when I decided to see if I could finally figure out what the hell was the big deal with this Twitter site that everyone was buzzing about. December is a great time to examine different tools and see if they work for you to complement your blogging efforts.

5 - Become a commenting superhero. Remember, traffic is going to come to a crawl on many blogs. Virtual tumbleweeds will be bouncing into the blogger's legs and they will probably just resign themselves to the fact that it will simply be a few weeks before the traffic comes back. So just as you can use this lull to ramp up your content and get noticed, do the same thing with comments. If many people aren't commenting, this is your chance to get noticed. And not just with other readers, but by the bloggers themselves.

So there's some ideas for being proactive in December, and taking advantage of the blogging lull. And by the way, I'll be utilizing all of these steps, what about you?

Pic via Flickr user Katmere

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Social media tool roundup!

I wanted to share with you a few tools I've come across in the past few weeks that might help you out as well. Over at I recently did a review of Monitter. Monitter is great for local/retail businesses because it lets you do location-based searches on Twitter! Instead of just monitoring Twitter for relevant terms, think of adding the additional layer of only finding people that are tweeting about those terms, but in a specific zip code! Great way to identify potential customers for a small, local business!

Another tool that looks interesting is a blog platform created by Compendium Blogware, that Stephan Spencer did a nice write up on. It seems that this platform would work great for a large company, possibly one with franchise locations across the country, by pulling posts from multiple locations and resorting them under a common theme. For example, if Tom blogs at his McDonalds' location in St. Louis about a particular product on the menu, McDonalds could also automatically put his post onto a blog that would collect all the posts from all the franchisees about that particular product. This is also a great way to bring together information from many blogs and collect it in one place that can easily be accessed. Thanks to Amy for sharing this post with me.

Finally, if you are an avid Twitter user, and constantly sharing links, you may want to give URL-shortening service a spin. will automatically shorten links for you, but it also tracks how many clicks those links are getting. It will also show you total clicks from YOUR link, versus total clicks from everyone that's shared that link. functionality is built into Tweetdeck, and can be used as your shortener of choice. I'm sure Seesmic offers it as well.

BTW on an unrelated note, on Monday I launched a new survey on social media! This survey is designed to give us a better view of what tools companies are using, what their social media budgets are, what concerns they have about social media, and other areas. If you can help me my filling out the survey (it only takes 2 mins, REALLY!), I'll give you a copy of a PDF I created just for respondents, a paper entitled A Blueprint for Handling Negative Comments. This paper walks you through some examples of negative comments you might encounter both on and OFF your blog, and how to respond appropriately. You'll be given the link to download the paper after you complete the survey. As a bonus, everyone that completes the survey will have first look at the key findings, and I'll probably email everyone about this early next week (the survey closes at midnight this coming Sunday).

If you can, please help me out by completing the 10-question multiple-choice question survey here. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Twitter traffic flattening, but surging

For the second straight month, Twitter's traffic has declined, according to Compete. The micro-blogging site had just over 23 million visitors in October after peaking at 23.5 million monthly visitors in August. Now to be fair, Twitter's traffic has only been down fractionally since August, falling only 2.11% since September. But it does indicate that the site meteoric traffic rise is finally leveling off. Twitter's traffic is still up a staggering 577% for the year.

Facebook continued to chug right along, growing its traffic by 3.5% in October and posting just under 129 million visitors for the month. Ning gained 10% for the month, growing to 6.8 million monthly visitors. But URL-shortening site was the big winner in October, up 19%, with 7.6 million visitors.'s rise is no doubt tied in great part to popularity among Twitter users.

Other notable social media sites and their traffic for October:

YouTube - 84.6 million, up 0.72%
MySpace - 49.9 million, down 0.65%
Flickr - 28 million, down 1.43%
LinkedIn - 15.5 million, up 3.29%
Tagged - 3.5 million, down 3.74%
Feedburner - 3 million, down 2.66% - 1.5 million, up 4.38%
SlideShare - 1.4 million, up 9.13%
Friendfeed - 698,519, down 6.57%

Is your blog losing its identity?

"Individuality is fine, as long as we all do it together." - Major Frank Burns, M*A*S*H

In Google Reader, I get new posts and articles from over 100 blogs and sites every day. I get dozens of shared items well. For the past few months I've noticed that the majority of the posts fall into two categories:

1 - They are 'Guide/How-to/Steps-to' posts. Here's the formula: The (Celebrity/Fictional character) Guide to Better/More Effective (blogging/tweeting/etc). Or "X Steps to Better (social media term)".

2 - Echo posts. It seems like every couple of weeks, a blogger (usually a popular one) will hit on a particular topic, then for the next couple of weeks, several other bloggers will post on the same topic, usually referencing the first blogger's post.

Now I don't mean to knock 'How-To' posts or anyone that wants to chime in on the topic of the moment. I've written both types of posts many times before and will continue to do so in the future.

But it seems like over time, our blog posts have become less about our individual opinions and feelings, and more about following the herd. Or the formula. Or echoing whoever the 'influential' bloggers are deemed to be.

Which is really sad. When I started reading marketing and social media blogs, back in 2005, everyone had their own ideas and opinions. And some of them were goofy as hell (especially looking back now), but you know what? Every blog was different. Every blog had its own unique voice and tone.

And those blogs, with all those unique and sometimes goofy as hell ideas and opinions, helped incubate many of the top themes and movements that define the social media space today.

I look around the blogosphere today, and although I see plenty of smart people, I don't see as many truly smart and groundbreaking ideas as I once did. Maybe we've all become a bit too worried on following a 'formula' to get more visitors, or more retweets, or whatever. Instead of just trying to come up with original ideas.

Instead of just starting with 'Here's what I think...'

Pic via Flickr user Shandchem

Saturday, November 07, 2009

#blogchat update and how you can be involved!

As many of you know, for several months now we've been meeting on Twitter every Sunday nite at 8pm CT for #blogchat. This is where we discuss various topics concerning blogs and sometimes other forms of social media.

The chat has become very popular (thanks to you!), and that's gotten me to thinking about how that popularity can relate to this post on how we need to find ways to focus on new voices.

You see, one of the things that's been sorely missing from #blogchat is someone that can do a recap of each week's chat. I simply don't have the time, and it's really tough for any one person to commit to doing it every week, as something always comes up for all of us.

So David Spinks had a great idea. What he suggested was that we let someone each week volunteer to do the recap for that week's #blogchat. David has volunteered to do the recap for tomorrow nite's #blogchat and it will be posted on Scribnia's blog. The idea here is that each week, someone else can do the #blogchat recap on their blog, and I'll promote their blog on Twitter ahead of time, so the blogger will be doing all of us #blogchattters a service by doing the recap, and the recap should help drive traffic to their blog and give them a bit of exposure.

Sounds like a win-win for everyone, right? As I said, David will be doing tomorrow nite's recap, and since it is his idea, he'll also be doing the recap in about a month. But at the end of tomorrow nite's #blogchat, I'll take volunteers for the next week's #blogchat.

As for this week's topic, when I was at the Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, I attended Beth Harte's session on online communities. Beth asked the attendees how many of them had a community site, and without thinking, I put my hand up. Then I lowered it when I sheepishly realized that I had a blog, not a community site.

But I got to thinking about that, and maybe it's best that we DO think of our blogs as a community site, especially if we want to increase interaction and comments.

What are your thoughts? No them for tomorrow nite's #blogchat ;)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Stop asking the wrong blogging questions

Whether you are a new or seasoned blogger, many of you likely have many of the same questions:

"How do I get more readers?"

"How do I get more comments on my posts?"

"What about blog subscribers? How do I get more of them?"

"How can I use Twitter to drive more traffic back to my blog? Or Facebook, or Friendfeed?"

Notice that all of these questions are focused on YOU, the blogger. How YOU can get something.

What if you instead asked this question: "What superpower will I give my readers?"

I'm totally channeling Kathy Sierra here, but think of your blog as a telephone booth, and your reader is Clark Kent. Clark Kent goes into the telephone booth, but he leaves as Superman.

When your reader comes into your telephone booth/blog, what superpower will they have when they leave? What will a reader gain from having visited your blog?

When you shift your focus from what's best for you (the blogger), to what's best for your readers, then your blogging efforts will start to take off. Here's some reader-centric questions to ask yourself:
  • What are you going to make your readers better at?
  • What information are you going to share with them?
  • Who are you going to connect them to?
  • What are you going to make your readers think about?
  • What value are you going to create for them?
Oh and BTW, there are BIG direct benefits to you (the blogger) when you create reader-centric content. Look at this post that Amy wrote giving Lois advice on how to improve her blog. Now look at the (currently) 30+ comments. The value of Amy's post has been increased dramatically by the dozens of comments that her readers have left. Also, notice that the most frequent commenter to that post, is Amy. She's sending the message to her readers that she appreciates their attention and comments, and she's encouraging more of them by responding so often.

So instead of asking "How do I make my blog better?", ask "How do I make my blog better for my readers?"

And the ironic thing is, if you ask the second question, you'll actually get the answer to the first.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Social media needs fewer rockstars, and more rockstar ideas

Last week at the Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer, I was struck at how many amazingly deep and brilliant conversations I had with so many people. Well this is to be expected, you might say, when you spend a few days in the company of such social media smarties as Ann Handley, Beth Harte, David Armano, Jay Baer and Amber Naslund.

But here's the thing; most of those great conversations didn't happen with these people. In fact, they were with people that most of you probably haven't heard of. Heck I hadn't heard of many of them till I was introduced to them at the event.

And that's been gnawing at me for days. To be fair, this isn't unique to the Mixer, I noticed the same thing a couple of months ago at Social South, meeting and talking with people that have a 'low profile' in the social media space, yet being blown away by how smart they were. I kept asking myself 'why have I not heard of this person before now?'

I think/fear that the answer lies in how we determine the value of ideas in the social media space. I'm afraid that too many people are determining who is 'influential' based on how many followers/friends/readers they have. Which is a contributing factor, to be sure, but it's not the end-all-be-all for defining and recognizing people that put forth thoughtful ideas.

And what's worse, I think too many people are thinking if THEY don't have X number of readers/followers/friends, then they don't have the 'right' to share their ideas. That their ideas aren't worth sharing. I think when we call Chris Brogan a 'rockstar', I think some people will look at his 30K blog readers and 100K Twitter followers and think that means they must NOT be a rockstar, since they only have 500 readers and 200 Twitter followers.

If so, that's damn tragic. I've always said that the greatest thing about social media is that it gives everyone a voice. And I've always thought we do ourselves a disservice if we don't have the chance to hear as many voices as possible. This was a big reason why I started The Z-List three years ago, to help give deserving bloggers more exposure.

So how do we change this and bring more voices into the mix? I have some ideas, but definitely want to hear yours as well:

1 - Spend less time identifying the 'rockstars' and more time focusing on the great ideas. I am as guilty of this as anyone. I want to make sure that everyone knows how smart my friends are, but by labeling them 'rockstars', we are unintentionally ranking people. If David is a rockstar with 20K followers and 15K blog readers, the unintentional message may be that your ideas are less valuable if you only have a fraction of his followers/readers.

2 - Stop focusing on numbers to determine influence. I get why this happens. It's quick and easy, it's score-keeping. You can quickly compare your number of readers or followers or comments to someone else. But it isn't always (ever?) accurate. Is it an absolute that if I have more Twitter followers than you do that I am more influential there than you are? Or if you have more than I do, that you are more influential than I am? Of course not.

3 - Listen closely to new ideas from new voices, and magnify both when you hear them. So many of us complain about the 'fishbowl' mentality in the social media space. A great way to counter that is to bring new voices with fresh takes into this space. Introduce your network to someone they might not have heard of previously. Yes we all know who the 'rockstars' in this space are, so show us who's next.

The bottom line is that this space won't grow and reach its full potential unless we can continue to have fresh voices with fresh ideas being brought into the fold. If you want to be viewed as a 'rockstar' in this space, then IMO you have the responsibility to promote others more than yourself. You have the responsibility to see that the great ideas, no matter who has them, are brought to the top. And please, let your ideas stand on their own merits, don't think that they are less valuable than someone that has more friends or followers than you do. You've earned the right to be heard just as much as the rest of us have.

I say it's time we all got to work, what say you?

UPDATE: I've created a 'What's Next In Social Media' list on Twitter, a group of people that are really smart, that you might not be following yet. You can find it here -

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer: Recap

It's officially 'The Morning After' the latest Marketing Profs conference, the Digital Marketing Mixer. People are always asking me 'What are the best social media conferences to attend?' and the Marketing Profs' events are always at the top of my list.

I think if there was a general theme at this year's event for me, it was 'How do we integrate social media into what we are already doing?' And this is a progression from where we were last year, which was still 'What the hell is Twitter/Facebook, anyway?' The problem I see (and this is in general, definitely not just at this event) is that too many companies are focusing on social media tactics (How do I get started on Twitter? How do I create a kickass Facebook fan page?), as opposed to having a solid social media strategy in place. The strategy HAS to come first. You have to FIRST decide what your strategy is for using social media and what you are trying to accomplish, and THEN you can think about which tactics (blog, Twitter, Facebook) will work for your company.

As for the sessions, Day Two was probably better for me than Day One, simply because I got to sit in on more of them. Beth Harte had one of the best quotes of the day when she said 'I've been active in Social Media for 5 years, first as a human, now as a marketer.' I love that! A key takeaway from Beth's Building Online Communities session was (I think by Rachel Happe), that you should closely monitor the content being created by your online community to better determine relevant search keywords, as well as product ideas.

Next was Dr BJ Fogg's keynote on why Facebook and Twitter are winning, and it was amazing. His premise is that Facebook is winning because it has put Hot Triggers in the path of the user. He called a Hot Trigger an action a user can take right now, as opposed to a Cold Trigger, which is basically a call to action that the user can't perform right now. It would be like a billboard asking you to check out the Wall Street Journal (Cold Trigger), versus walking past a newstand where the owner hands you a copy and asks you to check it out (Hot Trigger).

He talked about how it's become a ritual to check Facebook and Twitter. If you're active on those sites, you check them constantly. And he added that the platforms of tomorrow will be based on the behavior that's become ritualized. He also added that anything big, started small, in other words, with fewer features, then drawing on community feedback, additional features and functionality is added and incorporated. But if you start out big, you'll probably have a bunch of features that really don't service the community you want to attract.

Finally, Marketing Profs closed with a session that recapped the key takeaways from the event, giving attendees 30 or so 'key points' to remember and take home with them. THIS right here is why Marketing Profs rocks, because they listen to their attendees. At the B2B forum in June, I was talking with Ann Handley and one other attendee and the attendee mentioned that it would be great if there was some way that Marketing Profs could bring together the 'best tips' from everyone that was taking notes, and share them so everyone had access to them. And what does Marketing Profs do at the Mixer? They named four people 'Mixologists' who went to sessions in each of the four tracks and took copious notes and monitored Twitter for relevant points being raised by attendees. Then at the end of the event, the Mixologists share their notes and points with everyone so that's the last thing they get before going home. Classic example of listening to your customers and implementing changes based on their feedback.

Here's a few of them (I won't share them all, hey that's why need to attend the next MP event!) concerning social media:

1 - Allow your employees to use social media, but govern their usage and give them clear guidelines

2 - Also when crafting those guidelines, have your legal department consult with other companies that have launched successful social media efforts

3 - Don't blog about your products, blog about how your products fit into your customer's lives (IE, 'The Bigger Idea', guess who's session this idea came from ;))

4 - You have to have a plan for social media. Use Twitter because it FITS into your plan, not because it's the 'hot new thing'

5 - Engage in online communities as a person first, as a marketer second

All-in-all, a very beneficial event for me, as I knew it would be. I left with my mind energized, and I've already got a list of things to improve upon, and yes, blog about! And it was SO amazing to meet so many people that are smarter than I am, that's the real value of these events, being able to connect with these special people. I can share with you all the insights, tips and tricks I learned, but the real value comes from the connections you make. So I hope to see you at the next Marketing Profs event, I know I'll be there!

Pic via Flickr user Marketing Profs Live

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer : Day One

My brain is full of social media and marketing goodness from the Marketing Profs Digital Mixer, but I wanted to give you my takeaways and thoughts from Day One.

The day for me started with the Blog Hot Seat Lab, and in talking with the attendees, I think blogging companies should keep these points in mind:

1 - Assume every visitor to your blog arrived there by accident, has never heard of your blog, and has no idea what it's there for. The point is, you need to organize your blog so within 3-4 seconds, any visitor can see who you are, what you do, and why the blog is there. Make this info very easy to find.

2 - Think about how your blog is organized and how your content is positioned, and how this ties into what action you want your readers to take while they are on your blog. And that action should tie back into your blog's larger business goals.

3 - If you want your readers to interact on your blog, make sure the tone of your posts is conversational, not dry.

The first session I attended was the Twitter Success Stories session moderated by Paul Chaney, and it included case studies from Whole Foods, Dominoes, Razorfish and the CME Group. Some of the key takeaways:

"Automation is a relationship killer." - Marla Erwin, Whole Foods

Razorfish encourages ALL of their employees to tweet, and instead of worrying about what they might tweet, VP of Marketing David Deal explained that Razorfish considers '"what can we learn from what our employees are tweeting?"

"Be a part of the conversation, or start one." - Ramon De Leon, Operating Partner, Dominoes Pizza.

Also loved Ramon's story of how he's been using social media for over a decade, and using AOL IM to connect with customers.

The main feedback I've heard from attendees so far today is that there has been a wealth of case studies, which were very well received. I missed two of the most popular sessions, Amber Naslund's Social Media ROI session, and Mari Smith's session on Facebook for Business. I'll have to do better tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Social media is worth making time for

This is my current view as I sit in the airport waiting for my flight to Chicago for the Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer. The past couple of months have been a very busy time for me professionally, and work with clients has taken up a lot of my time. Which is a great 'problem' to have, and I am grateful for it. But I've often caught myself putting my writing here and at my business site on hold, to spend more time helping my clients get their social media efforts off the ground.

And I realized that I was doing exactly what I've told clients and others that they cannot do. I was putting the blog on the backburner. One of my favorite sayings is that 'your blog does not have an expiration date'. And it's true, once your company starts blogging, you have to assume that you're in it from now on.

That means you have to make an effort to stay in touch with your customers and readers via your blog. Maybe it means you have to send a quick mobile post on your phone in the taxi on the way back to your apartment. Maybe it means you have to write a post while you're at the gate waiting for your flight.

But the point is, it's worth the time and effort it takes to connect with people. Especially your customers. If you promise to never forget that, I'll promise to remember it as well.

BTW I've been thinking about how I will handle blogging while I am in Chicago for the Mixer. Normally what I do when I attend conferences is I don't blog while I am there, then give you my thoughts via a 'recap' post when I get back. But I decided that for the Mixer, I will share my thoughts with you at the end of each day, instead of having no new posts up till next week. Besides, I did a recap post for last year's Mixer, and I am sure this year's will be just as great.

So my plan is to attend as many sessions as possible, take copious notes, and share my takeaways with you each day. Sound good? Hope to see some of you in person at the Mixer!

Monday, October 19, 2009

If you want to be a vlogger, pay close attention to this video

Whether you are an individual that wants to start vlogging, or you're a company that's wondering about using video to help connect with your customers, watch this video. What Chris has done is use video to not only give you a personal glimpse into his life, but to back up everything he's saying. He's talking about putting in long hours, getting up early and hustling. And notice there's no one else up, he's the only person you see in the video.

This wouldn't have been half as effective if he had written just a post, or only recorded this as a podcast/audio file. But as a video, it works perfectly. Chris uses video to build on and enhance the idea he's trying to communicate.

If you're wanting to use video either personally or with your business, watch this video closely.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Three quick and simple ways to make your blog posts prettier

One of the 'basic' rules of blogging is that you need lots and lots of pictures in your posts. Ideally, every post should have a picture. But it's not always easy to find visuals to add to your posts. This morning I was giving a client some ideas for finding visuals for your posts, and thought I'd share these ideas with you. Here's three sources of visuals for your posts:

1 - Flickr photos that are licensed as free to use with attribution. These are photos that the Flickr user has said you can use on your blog IF you give them attribution for the pic. I always link back to their Flickr account and to the CC license, as I did at the end of this post, for the above sunset image. And it's just a good idea to 'thank' the person that let you use their photo. But this is an AMAZING source of stunning visuals. If you can't find a gorgeous picture for your post via this search, you probably aren't looking hard enough.

2 - This site also has amazing photos and visuals, but they are for sale. Still, a great site to find visuals for your posts, and I often buy images there to use in my presentations.

3 - Embedding videos in blog posts. Ok what if you've racked your brain and simply can't find the 'right' image for your post. What about adding a video? Many (but not all) of the videos on sharing sites such as YouTube allow you to embed them in blog posts. And an informative or funny (like the Darth Vader 'Thriller' video below) video is often much more effective than a visual.

So that's three quick tips on how you can make your blog posts prettier. I know you guys must have some ideas of your own, so how are you adding more visual 'pop' to your posts?

Pic of sunset via Flickr user kcdsTM

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My 'first date' with Google Wave

I've finally had a chance to spend a couple of hours with Google Wave, and I wanted to give you my VERY early impressions. I'll say up front that it's completely possible that I'll change my opinion dramatically yay or nay on Wave from what I state here, but still wanted to let you know what I think early on. I've noticed with most social media sites/tools that I tend to change how I use them over time.

As for Google Wave, my initial impression is that it's a souped up IM service. And for me as an individual, I don't see a ton of 'wow' factor happening here, since I don't often have a need to connect with small groups of people and collaborate on ideas, which is where I think Wave has some value.

But I can see how Wave could benefit a company, especially a virtual company (Ann and the gang at Marketing Profs, I'm looking at you), in giving them the ability to collaborate on ideas in one space.

The main backbone of Google Wave is the ability to create messages, which Google calls Waves. It seems as if Google is trying to position Waves as being Email 2.0, but it really looks to me like IM 2.0.

I can create a Wave that's 5 paragraphs, and send it to Beth. Beth can then go in and break up the Wave and reply to each paragraph. I can then reply to each point Beth made.

Now let's say at this point we decide that we want to bring Amy and Jason into our Wave and get their ideas on what we've been talking about. First, they are going to see a Wave that's probably confusing as hell, because it will be my original 5-paragraph Wave, which was then broken into 5 parts (where Beth replied to each paragraph), and then I replied to each of Beth's replies. So it looks like a complete cluster to anyone that joins the Wave at this point.

But Google Wave would give Amy and Jason the ability to 'replay' the wave and see how it was created. They could first see the 5-paragraph wave I wrote, then see Beth break it down into replies for each paragraph, them my replies to her replies. So it's less confusing.

One thing I wish Wave supported (and maybe it does and I haven't been able to find it yet) was the ability to pull items from other social sites. For example, let's say in tomorrow's feed from Google Reader, I find a blog post that's critical of my company. If I could move that post from Reader to Wave, I could then share it with my co-workers (let's say 5 of them are also on Wave), and then we could collaborate via Wave on how to handle this critical blog post. The same thing could be done with a tweet from Twitter or a comment on a Facebook Fan Page. Again, maybe it's possible to do that now, or will be soon.

Anyway, that's my VERY early impressions of Wave. Now it should be mentioned that few of my contacts are on Wave right now. In a month if most of my contacts from Twitter have moved to Wave, the service could be much more valuable to me. But I can already see the potential value for companies as an internal collaboration tool.

If you've been using Wave, what are your thoughts? What potential can you see for the tool? Do you see it having more value for individuals, or businesses?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Five Ways to Avoid Writing Lazy Blog Posts

This one tweet from @wilsonellis during Sun nite's #blogchat sparked a lot of discussion, and a bit of debate on its merits. (BTW here's the transcript to #blogchat)

Her point was that every post you write should ask for the reader to take SOME action. Now I think some people didn't like the term 'Call to Action', so I asked if maybe 'Call to INTERaction' would be more appropriate. But the thought is, you want to create content that sparks the reader to want to take SOME action. Otherwise, they will just come, read your post, and leave. And probably start reading other blogs that are interesting enough to spark them to take some additional action.

So drawing inspiration from Debra, here are some Calls to Action (or Calls to INTERaction) that you can add to each and every post.

1 - Ask for comments. If you want an interactive blog, the four most important words you can learn are 'What do you think?' And this ties into the most valuable lesson you can learn; your readers, as a group, are ALWAYS smarter than you are. So the more input you can get from them, the smarter you will be AND the more interesting your posts will be.

2 - Ask for emails. Believe it or not, some people prefer to talk just to you, and via email. Give them this option. And maybe you prefer this as well.

3 - Ask for subscriptions. Chris Brogan does this well, check out this post. Hey we are all in a hurry, and sometimes it helps to make it painfully easy for someone to subscribe. What better way to remind a reader to subscribe, than writing a post reminding them to do so? Oh and notice that at the end of Chris' post that he asks his readers what they want to see more of in the future. Perfect!

4- Ask for newsletter signups. If you offer a newsletter, ask readers to signup for it, and explain why they should read your newsletter in addition to reading your blog.

5- Ask for the order. Now stop wringing your hands! Yes you can ask people to buy your stuff on your blog! No one is going to throw you into Social Media Jail so calm down! I think the key is the CONTEXT in which you ask for the order. If you end every post with 'Hey! Hire me!', it can get a bit irritating. But if I write a post on '10 Steps to Launching the Perfect Business Blog', and at the end of the post remind my readers that I provide these same services for clients, and tell them how to get in touch with me, then I've asked for the order in a CONTEXT that makes sense. But if I wrote a post on how I use TweetDeck, then at the end pitched my ability to launch a Facebook Fan Page for your company, it looks out of place.

Now to be clear, you shouldn't attempt to do each of these in every post, but the idea is to start thinking about giving your readers a sense of direction. Give them a reason to interact with you, it could be to write a comment, send you an email, or buy your product. But if you're writing a blog that your readers don't care to get involved with, then they won't be your readers for very long.

What do your favorite blogs do to keep you engaged?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Let's go to Chicago for the Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Mixer!

In a couple of weeks I'll be headed to the Windy City for the first time to attend Marketing Profs' Digital Marketing Mixer! I'll be speaking there, joining some of the top minds in the social media space, including; Jay Baer, Becky Carroll, Paul Chaney, Leigh Duncan-Hurst, Li Evans, Ann Handley, Rachel Happe, Beth Harte, Amber Naslund, Andy Sernovitz, Mari Smith, and many more. And if you register by clicking on the pic to the right (Disc - It's an affiliate link), you'll get a $200 discount!

On the first day, I will be conducting the Blogging Hot Seat Lab, covering the blogs of three attendees. The format will be very similar to what I do here with the Company Blog Checkup series. If you'd like to have your blog submitted for the Hot Seat Lab and you WILL BE ATTENDING THE MIXER, then email Marketing Profs and let them know you are interested or leave a comment here or email me. But make sure you hurry as there are only 2 slots left at most.

That's it! I am constantly being asked what are the 'must attend' social media events, and I always put the Marketing Profs' conferences at the top of the list. They demand that their speakers providing teachable sessions, make themselves accessible to the attendees, and that they send you home with 'homework'. You can get home and immediately begin putting into action what you've learned at their events.

Will I see you there? If you live in Chicago there should also be some tweetups associated with the event, so come on out if you can!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Social Media Mavens - An Interview with Patagonia's Kasey Kersnowski

If you're reading this post, then you probably know that I'm a big fan of Patagonia's The Cleanest Line, and often use it as an example of a great company blog in my social media posts and presentations. So when Kasey Kersnowski, and The Cleanest Line's managing editor emailed me to thank me for covering his blog, I had to ask him for an interview (BTW notice Kasey was smart enough to be monitoring for brand mentions, and reached out to me because I was blogging about his company). Kasey graciously accepted, and here he gives us a 'behind the scenes' look at what goes into crafting one of the best company blogs on the internet.

MC - As you know, I'm a big fan of Patagonia's blog The Cleanest Line, and how you position the blog as being focused more on customer-centric themes such as environmental activism and the outdoors. Why did Patagonia take this approach?

KK - Our founder, Yvon Chouinard, laid the foundation that made the choice an easy one for us. We have a heritage of story telling in our catalogs that goes all the way back to the first Chouinard Equipment catalog in 1972, before the company was called Patagonia. To this day we still devote a significant number of pages in our catalogs to environmental essays and sport-themed field reports -- pure editorial content. We know from years of printing these types of stories in our catalogs that they resonate well with our customers.

The Cleanest Line gives us a place to tell the stories we don't have room for in our catalogs. By telling stories we inspire one another to experience new things and new places, or take action on behalf of worthwhile causes. Part of Patagonia's mission statement says "use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis." The nature of social media makes it a great way to fulfill that part of our mission.

MC - Does Patagonia actively monitor what customers are saying online about the brand and your blog?

KK - We're very interested in what people are saying about us. We monitor on a daily basis. It's free feedback that helps us improve all aspects of the company. The key is properly interpreting what is being said, both positive and negative, and recognizing what feedback is appropriate to act on. Every company will have to make those decisions on their own.

MC - What impact has social media had for Patagonia as a business? Are you able to apply any lessons learned from The Cleanest Line into other areas of the business as a whole?

KK - It's helped us get to know our customers better and empowered them to play a bigger part in Patagonia's success. One example: We now give our customers the opportunity to review products on They tell us what we're doing well and what needs improving. That's always existed to a degree – customer letters and phone calls have been around for a long time – but the fact that the comments are now public has given our customers a more potent voice.

The Cleanest Line also helps us embrace a more transparent business model. The feedback we received when we launched the Footprint Chronicles was filled with negative comments toward China and the fact that we manufacture some of our garments there. Instead of hiding that fact or blowing those people off, we engaged them on our blog. By hosting the conversation in our house, so to speak, we were able to respond to questions more quickly and clarify our reasons for doing what we do.

The result of that interaction was an important shift in policy. Previously, our catalogs and Web site only listed whether a product was "Made in USA" or "Imported." We now tell our customers the specific country where each of our products is made. If a customer doesn't want to support a product that's made in a particular country, they now have the information to make a precise, informed decision.

MC - Finally, everyone is talking ROI and measuring the success of social media efforts. For The Cleanest Line, how does Patagonia track the 'value' that's being created by the blog? For example, if you write a blog post today, what will need to happen for you to determine that it was a successful blog post?

KK - We track basic statistics like page views, comments, clickthroughs, fans and followers. We certainly want to know if our efforts are relevant and attractive to people. But it's very hard to directly attribute a growth or decline in sales to social media efforts. Our metric is simple: Are we having a good conversation with our readers? Is it inspiring? Are both parties benefiting from the interaction? Through conversation you build a relationship, and the bottom-line of any worthwhile relationship isn’t dollars, but trust. If we can establish trust through our social media outlets, then all our efforts have been worthwhile.

Great insights from Kasey, and I love how Patagonia is using its main website, as well as The Cleanest Line as a place to collect feedback from customers, then implement changes based on their feedback, then notify them of those changes! Perfect example of how you use social media to give your customers a greater sense of ownership in your brand! Make sure you read The Cleanest Line and follow Patagonia on Twitter.

If your company would like to be considered for a future interview in the Social Media Mavens series, please email me. Look for the next interview in this series in two weeks!

Monday, September 28, 2009

If you create online content, Google's SideWiki just changed your world

Seth Godin has ruffled feathers for years in the blogosphere by not allowing comments on his blog. He's stated flatly that he appreciates your feedback, but if you want to leave comments, you're going to have to do it somewhere else, besides on his blog. In fact in 2006 he flatly stated that "So, bloggers who like comments, blog on. Commenters, feel free. But not here. Sorry."

But that was back in 2006.

Last week, Google launched a browser add-on (For only IE and FireFox, no Chrome, yet) called SideWiki. What SideWiki allows you to do is comment on any webpage, and read comments that other people have written. If you want to comment on the content provided, you can do so. If you want to reference a point made and provide more information, you can do that. The screenshot above is a bit hard to see, but it's Seth's Brands in Public post from last week that caused quite a stir. Seth still doesn't allow comments directly on his blog, but notice that if you use SideWiki, you can read comments that others have left on this post.

If you create online content, your world just changed.

With SideWiki, you now have the ability to review any product, right there on the company's website. And you can read what others have said. But you also have the ability to respond to other commenters, and engage them, as Jeremiah did here.

This is just another example of how empowered consumers have become, and how their ability to express themselves online can no longer be ignored. As with other social tools, this will be a potential problem for companies that ignore it, and a potential advantage for companies that embrace it.

What do you think about SideWiki? Is it a great thing, or is it wrong for bloggers such as Seth to have control taken away from them with something like SideWiki? And remember, just as customers would now have the ability to leave comments on a company's website, couldn't competitors do the same thing? Should they be able to?

A lot to consider and digest, but either way, I would advise taking a look at SideWiki and becoming familiar with what it does, cause it might just be the future.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seth attempts to monetize social media, much teeth-gnashing ensues

Two or three years ago I likely would have been very upset about this.

The gist of it is that Seth has created a Squidoo (Remember them?) lense for a few hundred brands, that aggregates social content about them. Such as blog posts, Twitter replies, even news articles from Google.

And if you pay Seth $400 a month, he'll let you have control over the 'development' of that page, meaning you can put your own content on the wider left column. The right column will still aggregate blog comments, Twitter replies, posts and news stories.

The people that are upset about this, and there are a lot of them, seem to have two main issues:

1 - That Seth is charging for this.

2 - That these pages will probably rank well in search results, and some see that as if Seth is 'blackmailing' companies into having 'control' over the lenses.

First, let me state that Seth is doing this because there is a demand for pulling together content for big brands so they can monitor it. There really is no shortage of companies that understand so little about social media that when they see a negative comment about their company, their first respond is 'how do we get this taken down?' Seth's idea caters to those companies.

Second, while there is a need for this service, companies can do SO much better. That seems to be a complaint of many people, that Seth shouldn't be charging $400 for such a crappy offering. Folks, $400 a month is nothing to these brands, and compared to what they are doing now to monitor brand mentions (probably nothing), it's money well spent.

I do have a bit of a bone to pick with the way Seth attempts to explain the value of the lenses, asking: "There are already monitoring tools online (like Radian6) that allow big brands to watch from behind the scenes. That's great, but what are you doing in front of your audience? Is there a low-cost, easy way to let one of your non-technical marketing people lead and engage with people who are already in the conversation?"

There's no shortage of free tools that will quickly and easily give you access to the same information that Seth will collect for you. And despite Seth's implications to the contrary, you don't need a 'page' to respond to these mentions, you can respond AT THE SOURCE. Why would you want Seth to pull my negative post about your company to HIS site and then you pay him $400 a month for the right to respond to me THERE? How is that helpful since I will never see that?

But come HERE and reply to me for FREE, and that's impressive. That likely changes my tone, and reflects well on you in the process. And it doesn't cost you a dime, other than the time it takes to respond.

Again, Seth is doing this because there's a demand for this type of service. So to that end, I have zero problem with him charging for this service that DOES have value to companies. Granted, this is the 'fast food' version of social media engagement, but for companies that are doing nothing, it's at least a tiny step in the right direction.

My advice to companies would be to invest the money in doing this right. Have a consultant or agency set up a monitoring system internally for you, then have them instruct you on how to respond to customer content appropriately. That way you'll have access to the same customer-created content, and then can respond to it AT THE SOURCE. That's what increases brand awareness, and improves brand perception.

And yes, I offer this service to clients. Please email me if you're interested in a price quote. Be forewarned, the cost is more than $400 a month, but then again so is the value you'll receive from learning how to address and deal with customer issues and complaints via social media channels.

What do you think? Is Seth out of line here, or are people simply upset because someone is trying to monetize 'free' social media?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Which comes first; the social media strategy, or the social media tactics?

This is a no-brainer, right? Because we all know you create the strategy first, then find the tactics that help you best execute that strategy. Right?


So many companies are jumping on Twitter and Facebook (for example) because they are the 'hot' sites of the moment, and/or because they think they need to be there. They use these sites for a couple of weeks, then realize they have absolutely no idea what's going on. That's when I get the 'we started using Twitter/Facebook but really have no idea what we are supposed to be doing with it' email.

I get that email because the business started using Twitter and Facebook without first having a social media strategy in place. They assumed they had to be on these sites, and once they were there, had to scramble to figure out how being there was going to help their business.

Get the strategy in place first, then decide on the tactics that help you execute that strategy.

Don't focus on social media tools, focus on the reasons why you are wanting to use social media. What are you wanting to accomplish? Some examples:

1 - Grow awareness of a particular product or service, or your entire company.

2 - Establish your expertise within your industry.

3 - Provide greater customer service.

4 - Share and communicate information more quickly with customers, especially during a crisis situation.

Once you know what your strategy is, then you can talk tactics. Because each tool works in a slightly different way, and as such, makes it more or less likely to work for your particular strategy. If you want to connect with your customers quickly, as in a crisis situation, or to provide customer service, a tool that facilitates more real-time communication, like Twitter, would probably work well. If you want to establish your expertise within your industry, maybe a blog would be your best bet.

But before you jump in and start using a particular tool, you have to make sure that it fits your strategy, and that it fits your existing human, skill, and time resources. I understand that many companies now feel the need to 'do something', but you still need to have a plan. And if you aren't sure how your company should craft your social media strategy, please email me and I'll be happy to help you!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Social Media Mavens - An Interview with Citi's Terry O'Neil

One of the elements of social media that's been really exciting to watch is how large corporations are experimenting with these tools and sites as a way to better connect with and understand their customers. Earlier this year, Citi launched a new credit card program, Citi Forward, that features a strong social media presence. I wanted to talk to Terry O'Neil, Citi Card's Executive Vice President, about how the company is using social media in this campaign, and what their concerns about the space are.

Disclaimer - TMG Brand Communications is the agency of record for Citi Cards, and I worked with them (TMG) on the Citi Forward launch.

MC - Social media plays a big role in the marketing of Citi's Citi Forward Card. Was it a conscious choice to use social media, or did it just make sense to integrate social tools based on the market you are trying to reach?

TO - For Citi Forward, Citi is utilizing social media not only because it’s a great way to reach the target market – consumers looking either to build or maintain healthy credit – but also because it provides us with the opportunity to engage more deeply with our customers and consumers. This dialogue began when we were developing Citi Forward. Citi Forward is the direct result of working with both our existing and prospective customers to better understand their needs and wants relative to a credit card. To further this direct dialogue, we focused our marketing strategy almost entirely on the Internet and social media. And we also entered into a partnership with MySpace to build on those relationships we’re seeking with our cardmembers. Today, they can join the conversation at, on Twitter at @Citi_forward and

MC - What has Citi learned from using social media to connect with Citi Forward's customers that Citi can carry forward when you use social media in the future?

TO - With this particular campaign we’re reaching consumers almost exclusively via the web and leveraging the power of social media to more deeply engage with our audience. While doing so, we’ve found that our partnership with MySpace and our presence on Twitter has presented us with a terrific opportunity to build upon our brand platform while establishing a two way dialog with our customers. Through social media, we are able to hear consumer’s views on finances and credit cards first hand and translate that valuable feedback into customer driven programs like Citi Forward.

We’re very pleased with the response to Citi Forward so far and the level of engagement we’re seeing from consumers. Over 3,700 socially responsible acts have been completed by MySpace Users through Citi Forward’s 12 Resolutions Program. @Citi_Forward has a growing base of followers on Twitter and has served as an important bridge between consumers and customer service. Citi Forward has quickly responded to cardmember inquiries, with one customer tweeting: “@Citi_Forward rocks!!! Thanks a lot for the efficient service.” Such response has resulted in naming Citi Forward a Top Bank to Follow on Twitter and highlighting @Citi_Forward as a Tweeter Every Credit Card Hound Should Follow.

Our social media efforts have provided us with an efficient marketing platform and an incredibly effective feedback tool. Looking toward the future, we’ll continue to seek ways to engage more deeply with customers and consumers.

MC - What are some of the real concerns that large corporations have about using social media? What are some of the issues that are relevant to your business environment that we might be missing when we ask why more companies aren't using social media?

TO - Social media requires a long-term approach and cohesive strategy. It’s about establishing and encouraging conversations with customers in order to strengthen and improve products and services. In doing so, companies need to embrace unfiltered dialog from customers, recognize they’re not going to be able to control the conversations and use this real time feedback to improve the overall customer experience.

Thanks again to Terry for letting us learn more about how Citi is using social media, especially with the Citi Forward card. You can follow @Citi_Forward on Twitter here. And if your company would like to be considered for a future interview in the Social Media Mavens series, please email me. Look for the next interview in this series in two weeks!

Pic of Chris Penn and Terry taken at the webcast for the launch of the Citi Forward card in NYC, and via Christopher S. Penn

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Is speaking freely via social media REALLY a good idea for companies?

On Sunday night as #blogchat was about to start, I was asking everyone what they wanted to talk about. Chris Heuer threw out that he wished we'd discuss why conservatives are 'fear and hate mongers' and that he thinks they will tear the country apart.

My kneejerk reaction to this was 'Ok Chris is sounding like a loon', but it turns out he was upset partly due to tweets like this that were aimed at his family.

But if I hadn't seen that tweet, I would have to go with my 'Chris is sounding like a loon' conclusion. And this goes back to a fundamental truth of social media; there are THREE sides to every conversation. There's your side, my side, and then the side of everyone else that forms their opinions based on what THEY saw.

And this is why I think companies need to be VERY careful about letting their employees get on social media sites and engage in hot-button issues such as politics, religion, etc. It is SO easy for people to get into arguments about these topics, because everyone has so much passion for their beliefs invested. And it is SO easy for someone to take a tweet out of context, as I almost did with Chris. On top of that, many people might want to stop doing business with a company if they discover that their employees hold a political or religious stance that they are strongly opposed to. Might not be fair, but it's reality.

What do you think? Should companies strictly forbid any non-business talk from their employees on social sites? Then again, isn't one of the great benefits of companies using social media is that it allows them to 'be more human', and doesn't that mean openly sharing opinions?

I can see both sides of this, but lean toward having greater limitations for employees on discussions involving certain topics such as politics and religion. What say you?

UPDATE: I like Tom Jones' (Tom do you have a site/blog I can add a link to here?) take on this in the comments:

"There is no way companies should try and limit what there employees are posting to only company related topics. This practice would be certain Doom to any company that attempted to impose it. However, it is not unreasonable to ask an employee that when they are representing the company they stay away from certain topics like religion and politics. This is not the same as limiting all speech but it does set guidelines when functioning as a representative of the company."

Friday, September 04, 2009

Subscription drive!

Hey guys, I wanted to make sure everyone knows how to keep up with me on this and the other social sites I am active on.

You can subscribe to The Viral Garden via RSS here, or by email by adding your email address to the form on the right sidebar.

Also, I wanted to make sure everyone knows about my business site that I launched a few months ago, This site is aimed more at giving you information about my speaking/training and social media and marketing consulting services. The content there is aimed at companies that are new to social media, and are either thinking about using social media, or have just started. So it's more 'Blogging and Social Media 101', whereas the content here is a bit more advanced.

So if you're interested, please subscribe to by clicking here. BTW, if you would like to get more information about my social media consulting services, please email me. Most of my clients are small to mid-sized businesses, and B2C companies. Blogging/social media strategies as well as customer-evangelist programs are my specialties.

Now, if you'd like to follow me on other social sites, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Delicious, SlideShare and Friendfeed.

Thanks guys, and make sure to have a great weekend!