Thursday, April 30, 2009

Five reasons why your company blog sucks

You've been blogging for your company for a while now, but the effort is going nowhere. You have little traffic, and other than the time you replied to your own post, you've never gotten a single comment. You feel betrayed for buying into all the hype about blogging and social media and are convinced that it's all a buncha overblown crap.

Of course there's another option, that you simply have a crappy blog. Here's five signs that your company blog sucks:

1 - You use your blog as a billboard. Billboards are pretty and everyone loves Times Square. Your blog isn't in Times Square, so don't treat it as an 'in your face' promotional tool. Don't use your blog as a tool to promote yourself, use it as a tool to create value for your readers. Tap into the 'bigger idea' behind why your customers buy your products and want to interact with your company. Patagonia does a good job of this by having The Cleanest Line focus on environmental issues and activism, instead of their products.

And the payoff? If you position your blog properly as a tool to create value for your readers, then they will promote your blog to others. So your blog ultimately DOES become a promotional tool for your company, but not if you attempt to promote it directly. Go the indirect route.

2 - Your don't answer or encourage comments. Who needs comments when you have the right keywords targeted in your posts, right? Groan. The great thing about a blog is that it gives companies the ability to get feedback from their customers. Why wouldn't you do everything possible to encourage and promote this feedback from your customers? This is a great way to get insights into what your customers want from you and your products/services.

Encouraging and acting on comments from your blog's readers is also a great way to positively promote yourself among bloggers. This helps raise positive awareness of your blogging efforts, and that ultimately reflects well on your company. If you are having trouble deciding how your company should handle comments, the Air Force has created a wonderful flowchart that simplifies this process.

3 - You rarely have new posts up. What's your posting pattern? If it's 'whenever I get a chance', then you're in trouble. You have to 'train' your readers to let them know when you will have new content up on your blog. Write a set number of posts each week, and publish them on the same days. If you can only do 2 posts a week, try to run them on the same days, such as Tuesday and Thursday. That way, your readers will know that they should check your blog a couple of times a week to see your new posts. And yes, if someone subscribes to your blog this isn't an issue, but you can't assume that they will.

Get your posting on a pattern, and stick with it. If you can only post once a month, then make it the same day every month(and please try to post more than once a month).

4 - Your blog has little or no pictures, and is visually boring. We are visual creatures. We want to see bright and pretty pictures. And, believe it or not, we want to see what the people writing your blog look like. Trust me here, if we can see your picture, that makes it easier for your readers to connect with you, and ultimately trust you.

Look at HomeGoods' OpenHouse blog. Pictures everywhere. Of the bloggers, from customers, of the company's products. Visually, this is a gorgeous blog.

5 - Your blog creates little to no value for your readers. This usually ties back into point #1. Most blogs spend too much time promoting themselves, and not enough time creating valuable and relevant content for their readers. Always look at your blog and ask the question 'why would anyone give a damn about reading this?' If you can't immediately answer that question, then you have problems. Kodak doesn't blog about their cameras, they blog about helping you become a better photographer. Graco doesn't blog about their products for parents, they blog about parenthood. Think about the type of content people would want from your blog, think about what the 'bigger idea' is behind your products and services.

So there's some suggestions for making your company blog less sucky. If you want to see how the very best blogging companies are doing it, check out my list of the Top 10 Company Blogs.

Pic via Flickr user mynameispaul

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What are your three biggest Twitter moments?

I love speaking/teaching about social media at events where the attendees are relatively new to this space. And that's because they have 'fresh eyes' and a fresh perspective on these tools and always ask the most amazing questions. Yesterday at Social Media Club Birmingham's workshop, Daniel Rehner asked me 'What are the three biggest things you've seen on Twitter?'. I had to think about it for a minute, but here's the three biggest 'Twitter moments' I gave him:

1 - Twitter users reporting live during the Mumbai terrorist attacks last November. Twitter members that lived in Mumbai were able to give the world unfiltered and uncensored accounts of what was happening, as it happened. I remember @conniereece was helping put everyone in contact with Twitter users that were local to the attack sites, and I believe she shared that someone had created a way to show only tweets from Twitter members that lived within a 5-mile radius of the attacks.

2 - Twitter scoops mainstream media on San Francisco earthquake. Another case where Twitter broke a live news event first. Last month, a relatively mild 4.3 earthquake struck San Francisco, and almost instantly, Twitter users were tweeting it. And then it became a sort of game to track the time of the first tweet about the earthquake, and then see how long it would take a mainstream news source to report it. I think it took about 10 mins, which isn't bad at all.

3 - David Armano raising $16,000 to help Daniela. This was a classic example of the potential of social media to mobilize many people to help the few. David reached out to his network on Twitter to help them raise some much needed funds to help Daniela and her family, who were living with David's family at the time. The goal was to raise $5,000 in a month, and I believe almost $17,000 was donated by 545 people in a little over 24 hours (David if you read this and that's wrong, please correct me).

Those were the three I thought of when Daniel asked me, but what are the three biggest Twitter moments for you?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Social Media Club Birmingham Workshop recap

For the first time on Monday, I got to speak/teach about social media in my home state. I was invited to join Ike Pigott, Scott Schablow and Chris Heuer in conducting a special one-day social media workshop for the Birmingham chapter of the Social Media Club. Social Media Club is conducting special one-day workshops across the country for many of their chapters, and on Monday it was Birmingham's turn.

The workshop itself focused on a morning session that covered the basics of social media, building community with social media, an introduction to social media marketing, and finally metrics and measuring the ROI of social media. In the afternoon portion, attendees were asked to examine their business, it's core focus, and its strategy. Then we worked to help attendees understand how social media could fit into the larger business strategy, instead of being a siloed effort.

The day-long workshop closed with a brief presentation by Ike on selling social media to your boss. Ike's deck was based off the classic video game Pac-Man, and was honestly about the best social media presentation I've ever seen. If Ike puts the deck up somewhere, I'll add a link here.

One thing I love about social media conferences/events/workshop is seeing where attendees are on the social media learning curve. As time goes by, people are only getting smarter and asking more intelligent questions. Last year it was 'What is Facebook?', this year it was 'I want to create a way to connect with my customers via social media, for my business would a blog or Facebook page work best?' As knowledge has grown, the questions are moving from a basic overview of what the tools are, to discussing which tools would work better as part of a larger strategy. And as I told many attendees yesterday, I love interacting with people that are new to this space, and hearing what they are learning as they dip their toes in the social media waters. I also learn as much if not more from attendees, than they do from me. Fresh eyes mean a fresh perspective and take on this entire space.

Thanks again to Chris, Ike and Scott for having me. It was great to meet everyone, including several people that I have known on Twitter for a while, including David Griner, Andre Natta, and Jessica Murray. And for those of you that couldn't make the event, here's my deck from my morning presentation on increasing engagement and building community via social media:

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's time for companies to get serious about blogging

Last year around this time, eMarketer forecasted the growth of blog creation and blog readership over the next five years. They found that by 2012, 67% of the U.S. internet population would be reading blogs on a monthly basis, and 16% of the U.S. internet population will be blogging (updating their blog at least once every 3 months).

This year, they have updated their forecast for blog readership and blog creation. Now, eMarketer sees blog readership (on a monthly basis) hitting 58% of the U.S. internet population by 2013. As for blog creation, the site is now much more bullish, seeing 17% of the U.S. internet population blogging by 2013 on a MONTHLY basis (last year's forecast was based on blogs being updated once every 3 months).

What this means for your company (especially if you do business in the United States) is that increasingly, your customers are going to be getting their information from blogs, and they will be blogging themselves. I've never subscribed to the 'every business must be blogging' mentality, but if your company does business online, then you can no longer ignore blogs. Every business, especially any business that gets a significant portion of its sales from online, needs to be investigating if they should launch a blogging strategy.

Here's a quick plan of action for getting started:

1 - Start monitoring what bloggers are saying. You should know what bloggers are saying about your company, any of your executives that are in contact with the press, your competitors, and your industry. Even if you don't launch a blog, you can still respond to what bloggers are saying. That alone can be a powerful tool to build valuable relationships with bloggers, as I've blogged about before.

2 - Decide if you have the resources to commit to blogging. How many people can write for your blog, and how much time can they commit? You are in good shape if you have 3-4 people that are excited about the idea of blogging, and can commit to writing 1-2 posts each, per week (because that means you can probably count on 3-4 posts a month from each of them). You are in big trouble if only one person can commit to your blogging effort, and they feel confident that they can get 'a couple' of posts up a month.

3 - Work with other areas of your company to make sure your blogging strategy meshes with your company's larger communication strategy. A blog isn't a standalone effort, and it's not a campaign. It's something that your business must commit to for the long-term, and your goals and the focus of your blog needs to be in line with your existing marketing and communication strategies.

4 - Develop a comment/community policy. Will comments be moderated? If so, who approves them? Who replies to comments? Which comments will be allowed, which ones could be deleted? How much time will be spent interacting with readers on THEIR blogs and on other social sites? The Air Force has a wonderful flowchart for dealing with comments.

5 - Determine the focus of your blog. Are you wanting to use the blog as a tool to build awareness for your company? Do you want to use the blog as a customer service tool? Or as a place where your customers and evangelists can connect and bond?
6 - Create customer-centric content. Do NOT view your blog as a self-promotional channel. Blogging works best as a way to indirectly promote your company. Look at what Graco does with their blog, they focus not on their products, but on parenthood. That makes the content MUCH more relevant to their target audience, and makes it easier for their customers to bond with and trust them. And if you're interested, here's some of the impressive results Graco has seen from their blogging efforts.

7 - Be patient. Good blogs aren't created overnight, they require a consistent and dedicated commitment for months if not years. Don't expect immediate results, view your blog as a tool to better connect with your customers and build better relationships with them. If done correctly, this will eventually lead to growth for your business, but it will take time. Think marathon, not sprinting.

And finally, a word about consulting and outsourcing the creation and execution of your blogging strategy. Many companies, at least at launch, may not have the resources to create and execute a blogging strategy by themselves. If you decide to work with an agency or consultant to craft and implement your blogging strategy, please insist that you are provided with training. There's so much debate over who the real social media 'experts' are, and how to identify credible social media firms/consultants. One way to identify qualified agencies/consultants is if they offer training on the tools that you want to use. The good ones will, because they want to see your company succeed. If they won't offer you blog training, it's either because they can't, or because they don't want to, because they think if they get you up to speed on blogging, then you won't need them anymore. So no training = big red flag. Insist that the agency/consultant you contact offer you training, and if they won't, keep looking.

And to be clear, yes I offer blog consulting services to clients, and yes I insist on them letting me provide training so they can become self-sufficient at using the tools that I'll be implementing for them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to avoid getting burned by negative comments

One of the biggest fears that blogging companies have is critical comments on blogs. The idea of seeing a 'you suck!' conmment on a blog is enough to make most company bloggers break out in a cold sweat. But negative and critical comments from blog readers can actually benefit a company IF that company acts smartly, and has a plan in place for addressing them. Here's a plan of action:

1 - Reply quickly. Often, someone will leave a critical comment as soon as a post is published, and other commenters will 'pile on'. If the company doesn't respond to the points being raised, commenters will often continue to voice their displeasure. But if a company representative can quickly address the issues being raised by the blogger and/or commenters, the tone and structure of the feedback can change dramatically. Sure, there might still be some readers that lash out at the company, but at least now, by replying to the post, the company has gone from reacting to an existing conversation ABOUT them, to PARTICIPATING in that connversation. When their role is changed from passive to active, the conversation changes completely.

2 - Be respectful. Understand this; Every online conversation has three sides. Your side, my side, and everyone else's. If you are interacting with a critical commenter, everyone else is going to watch how BOTH of you handle yourselves. If you are respectful of the other person's point of view, and make an honest attempt to address and response to the issues they raise, that will make a POSITIVE impression on others. But if you lash back and start attacking the commenter, that's going to leave a very NEGATIVE impression on others, and it will probably encourage others to 'pile on' and start lashing back at you, and your company.

It could be that the commenter said something completely untrue, and acted like a complete ass. That does NOT give you the right to respond in kind. We will judge you on YOUR actions, not on what the commenter said and whether or not you were 'justified' in calling him a jerk cause he first said your company sucked.

3 - Be thankful. Let's say a major blog has published a post criticizing your latest campaign. What this blogger has just done is given you an open invitation to address her readers. Now you have a legitimate reason to respond to her post, and address her points. Be THANKFUL that you have an opportunity to talk to her readers. And when they respond with their opinions, be THANKFUL that they care enough to do so.

4 - Invite further feedback. Don't just reply once and leave. Invite readers to leave you additional comments. Offer to answer their questions, and offer to give the blogger that writes about your company more information about what you are trying to accomplish. Be accessible. This shows the readers that you VALUE their opinions, and have nothing to hide. That makes it easier for them to trust you, and instills confidence in your company, as a result.

The bottom line is don't see a critical comment as something to fear, or worry about. View it as an opportunity, a chance to connect with new people and make a positive impression on them, on behalf of your company.

BONUS: Here's how one business followed this plan to convert negative comments into a positive experience.

Pic via Flickr user cat segovia

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Nick Saban can teach you about embracing your evangelists

When the University of Alabama hired Nick Saban to be its head football coach in January of 2007, everyone knew Bama was getting a great coach and recruiter. But as it turns out, Saban is a pretty savvy marketer as well.

When Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, he immediately began preaching that everyone had to work together to build a successful football program. And that 'everyone' included Alabama's rabid fanbase. Saban quickly spelled out to Alabama's fans that they could support the football program by attending the spring A-Day game that annually caps spring football practice. Fans answered Saban's call, and 92,000 fans showed up to watch a spring football practice in April of 2007. That stunning turnout got the nation's attention, and played a role in Alabama landing a top recruiting class in 2008. The next year, Alabama welcomed over 70,000 fans to A-Day, and this year the number was up to 84,000. This year's event was also broadcast live by ESPN.

Last week I wrote about some of the ways that a company can build community, and one of those ways was by reaching out to, and embracing your evangelists. If you think about it, this is exactly what Nick Saban has done at Alabama. Previous coaches hadn't really reached out to the fans, but Saban has made a point to spell out to the fans what their 'role' is in Bama's success. In the weeks leading up to this year's A-Day game, Saban was spelling out how important it was to have a big turnout:
"I think from an image standpoint," Saban said, "and the fact that this year's game's on ESPN, it would have a tremendous national exposure image-building probability for all of us if we had a great showing at the spring game again.

Saban also understands the importance of the A-Day as a recruiting tool for the football program, and the school. Essentially, Alabama got a 2-hour commercial on ESPN when they broadcast the A-Day game. And Saban also understands that the turnout was a result of him empowering Alabama fans and spelling out to them what their 'role' was, and how they could help Alabama succeed. Instead of treating fans as people that passively support their program, Saban empowered Alabama fans by giving them a 'job', and telling them what role that job played in the overall success of the program.

Which is what every company and organization should be doing. Evangelists are people that WANT to see you succeed and WANT to take an active role in helping make that happen. You should be finding your evangelists, embracing them, and empowering them to help you succeed. It doesn't matter if you work for a Fortune 500 company, a mom and pop grocery store, or a university. Everyone has fans, and you should be giving yours something to cheer about.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How Oprah and Ashton have forever changed Twitter

Clay Shirky got it right, here comes everybody.

Celebrities and mainstream media have been gradually becoming more aware of Twitter over the last few months. But that awareness just got launched into the stratosphere (statusphere?) last week when Oprah joined Twitter. Oprah had Ashton Kutcher on her show last Friday to discuss his 'race' to be the first to 1 million followers with CNN. It seems Oprah joined Twitter last Thursday, and already has close to 400K followers.

Those of us that have been active on Twitter knew it was only a matter of time before 'everyone else' found out our favorite lil social tool. But now that celebrities have found Twitter, what will change?

First, Twitter is already feeling the 'Oprah affect'. I saw that Pistachio tweeted last night that almost 2 million people had signed up for Twitter since Oprah's show last Friday. I believe it, as the service was having constant problems yesterday.

Second, expect to see Twitter featured more prominently at social media conferences, and see celebrities being offered more speaking invitations. Beth Harte has a great debate at her blog over what role celebrities such as Oprah play in social media, so I'm not going to rehash it here. Bottom line is that celebrities bring more attention to whatever they touch, and Twitter will be no exception.

Third, celebrities will use Twitter as a broadcast tool. And to be fair, many of their fans won't have a problem with this at all. It's silly to expect Oprah to be able to effectively 'connect' with 400K people. Right now, she's using Twitter to give 'behind the scenes' updates on her show, and to many of her fans, that will be gold. I find it interesting as well.

But the problem is, I think this will stunt the effective use of social media by companies. Because what's going to happen (and is already happening), is that how these celebrities use Twitter is going to get a LOT of mainstream media attention. And companies are going to see how they have hundreds of thousands of followers, and only follow 5 people. Companies will see how celebrities are using Twitter as a broadcast tool, and that will influence how they do as well. And besides, most companies are more comfortable pushing messages out, rather than communicating anyway. This will be a way to 'validate' a method of 'communicating' that's more comfortable to them to begin with.

Fourth, some early Twitter adopters will move elsewhere. I think Jeremiah is partly right here. But for me, I won't stop using Twitter simply because celebs have found the tool. Still, that does mean that we'll be looking for better and more efficient ways to filter information, and stay in touch with close contacts. I think this does open the door for competitors in the microblogging space, especially new ones. For a while last summer, it seemed like a new 'Twitter killer' was popping up every week or so, but there's been little movement for months. That could soon change if the crush of new users continues to make Twitter more unstable.

BTW I snapped the above picture of the Ashton Kutcher Twitter billboard the other day as I was driving down the highway. I posted it to Twitpic with the caption 'The shark has officially been jumped'. What do you think? How will celebrities joining Twitter change it, and will it be for the good, or bad?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Better post titles work, and here's the proof

Yesterday was the best traffic day ever for this blog. And it wasn't even close.

Prior to yesterday, the highest traffic this blog had ever received in one day was 1,508 visitors. On Thursday, the blog welcomed 3,821 visitors. The reason why is because yesterday's post Six reasons why no one likes you online turned out to be wildly popular. To everyone that read the post, thank you.

But here's a bit of what went on 'behind the scenes' in crafting that post, and hopefully you can learn from what I did.

As I have been blogging about for years here, I suck when it comes to writing post titles. As I was writing my Six reasons... post late Wednesday, I lamented on Twitter that I was having trouble coming up with a solid title for the post. I knew that I wanted to write a post based loosely on the points I had raised in my Building Online Community session at OMBC last week. I didn't want to cover the reasons HOW to build online community as I did in the session, but instead cover some reasons why many companies see their community-building efforts fail.

So my first draft title for the post was the incredibly lame 'Building Community Online'. And I knew that title sucked, but wasn't sure how to improve it. I started talking to Tim Jackson about this on Twitter, and decided that I needed to read Copyblogger to get some ideas on improving the post's title.

After reading Brian's section on writing Magnetic Headlines, I changed the title from the blah 'Building Community Online', to the more interesting 'Six reasons why no one likes you online'. Now I don't think the post title alone was the reason for the traffic spike, I think the post itself was pretty good. But many people would have never read the post, if they hadn't been intrigued by the improved post title. I think now that Twitter is where so many people are finding interesting sites/blogs to read, that a compelling post title becomes even more important.

And to that point, the Six reasons... post has been retweeted 231 times as of writing this post.

So thanks to Brian for saving my post title. If you want to improve your writing, reading Copyblogger is a great way to do so!

UPDATE: Some people are asking how I knew how many RTs the post had. BackType has added in the ability to track this (as well as comments to the post and on other social sites) by clicking here. Just pop in the post's URL. Really great feature they have added!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Six reasons why no one likes you online

Why is it that so many companies are still struggling to create vibrant online communities? For every Threadless or Ideastorm, there are literally thousands of failed attempts at community-creation. What are so many companies missing?

Last week at Online Media Bootcamp I led a session on building online communities. While I'm not going to share the same steps I talked about in my presentation, I will share six reasons why most companies (and individuals) have problems creating an online community.

1 - You think monetization first - This is the quickest way to doom your community-building efforts (and really the fastest way to screw up any social media initiative). Communities do not form around the idea of being monetized. Want to make money off your community? Fine, but you can't monetize something that doesn't exist. And the community won't come together until you have created something of value for them.

2 - Value creation? What's that? - Stop right now and ask yourself this question; 'What value am I creating for the people I am trying to attract?' If you can't answer this question immediately, then you might not be trying to reach Houston, but you definitely do have a problem. Successful community-building efforts start by creating value for the people you are trying to reach.

3 - You are waiting for the community to come to you - One of the biggest myths about online community building is 'if you build it, they will come' (which is the first cousin of 'content is king'). That's not to say that you can't create valuable content and sit back and watch as a community forms around your efforts. But the best approach is to create something of value AND communicate that value to others by LEAVING your community. Assume that no one is going to come to you, and go find the people you are trying to attract.

4 - You don't give your members the ability or incentive to promote you to others - As your community begins to gain traction, do you have built-in mechanisms for the existing membership to communicate its value to others?

5 - You don't appreciate the people that are trying to help you - As your community begins to form, you'll find that some members will take the lead in trying to grow your community, and help it succeed. These are your evangelists, and you MUST appreciate these special people. Empower them to promote your community to others. Showcase their contributions. And above all else, say THANK YOU.

6 - You don't give a damn about the people you are trying to reach - Confession time. Out of all the people that I met last year that I had known online, I was most touched when I met Alaina Sheer. We were following each other on Twitter, but had barely tweeted. But when I spoke at SBMU last September, Alaina made a point to come up and introduce herself and tell me that she loved my blog and learned so much from reading it. That meant the WORLD to me! Not because it was good for my ego, but because I was so happy that I had created something that Alaina had found value in. I am honestly so grateful and thankful that each of you read this blog, and feel so privileged that you do. The last few weeks when I've been posting less due to traveling, I kept telling people I met that 'I feel so bad because I haven't posted in a few days'. Because I felt like I was letting you guys down by not having new posts up.

To me, this is the key to successful online communities. You honestly have to give a damned about the people that are in your community. You really do have to CARE about the people that you want to reach. If you don't, and instead view your potential community as a group of people to monetize, then your efforts are doomed from the start.

So before you start your online community-building effort, think about where you are, and where you want to be. Is the goal to make money, or is the goal to create a group of happy people like Anna, Heather, Ryan, CB and Drew are in the above pic?

Hint: Give people a reason to come together as an excited and passionate community, and the monetization issue will take care of itself.

PS: Thanks to Diane for giving me some much-needed proofreading help with this post ;)

Pic via Flickr user Shashi

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Secrets of the top Marketing and Social Media blogs

I often have people ask me what it takes to have a 'top' blog. Instead of just rattling off my opinions, I decided to scan the Top 25 Marketing and Social Media blogs, and see if there were any common characteristics among them. Here's what I found that these blogs are doing to be so successful:

1 - They publish new posts often - Fourteen of the Top 25 blogs have published 5 or more posts so far this month. And seven of the Top 10 have published 9 or more. Finally, every blog that has published at least 10 posts so far this month, is ranked in the Top 11. New content drives traffic.

2 - Every blog/blogger listed in the Top 25 is on Twitter - Every blog has at least a link to their Twitter account, on their blog. Several have widgets on their blog that stream their Twitter updates straight to their blog. To me, this is a big sign of how important Twitter has become, but also that these bloggers understand the importance of connecting with their readers OFF their blog.

3 - Most bloggers provide multiple social sites where you can connect with them - Besides Twitter, most members of the Top 25 have several other social sites where you can find them, Tamar has about 30 or more social sites listed that she's a member of.

4 - They create original content - Yes I know that most of the ideas, especially in the 'socialsphere' have been beaten to death. But the top marketing and social media bloggers find ways to keep their content fresh, by reviewing sites/products/campaigns, creating ebooks, and doing interviews.

5 - They make it easy for you to subscribe to their content, and share it - Most of the top social media and marketing bloggers give you plenty of options for subscribing to their content, and many are now adding in sharing elements that let you share their content on other social sites, such as on Twitter. This again ties into the idea of staying connected to their readers, and not being isolated on their blog.

6 - Longevity wins - Most blogs in the Top 25 are a few years old, and a few have been around for over 5 years. All have been up for at least a year. Blogging is a long-term commitment, and those that have met that commitment are reaping the rewards.

So that's some tips I picked up from the Top 25 blogs on how you can create a robust blog for yourself. What are some tips that I missed?

Pic via Flickr user ePI.longo

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 140

Here's the standings for Week 140:

1 - Duct Tape Marketing - 131,000 (-1,000)(LW - 1)
2 - Church of the Customer - 120,000 (No Change)(LW - 2)
3 - CopyBlogger - 56,188 (+2,789)(LW - 3)
4 - Chris Brogan - 22,406 (+2,162)(LW - 5)
5 - Web Strategy by Jeremiah - 21,176 (+643)(LW - 4)
6 - Logic + Emotion - 13,409 (+777)(LW - 7)
7 - Search Engine Guide - 12,913 (-113)(LW - 6)
8 - Daily Fix - 9,458(+640)(LW - 8)
9 - Influential Marketing - 8,810 (+1)(LW - 9)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 7,233 (+3,295)(LW - 13)
11 - Conversation Agent - 4,774 (+360)(LW - 12)
12 - Jaffe Juice - 4,769 (-47)(LW - 11)
13 - Social Media Explorer - 4,246 (+504)(LW - 16)
14 - The Viral Garden - 4,074 (+154)(LW - 14)
15 - What's Next - 4,007 (+182)(LW - 15)
16 - Being Peter Kim - 3,946 (+541)(LW - 19)
17 - Debbie Weil's Blog - 3,718 (+102)(LW - 18)
18 - Converstations - 3,466 (-154)(LW - 17)
19 - Techipedia - 3,077 (+177)(LW - 21)
20 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 2,673 (-683)(LW - 20)
21 - Brand and Market - 2,646 (+380)(LW - 22)
22 - Techno Marketer - 2,270 (+208)(LW - 25)
23 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 2,231 (+126)(LW - 24)
24 - Emergence Marketing - 2,190 (+81)(LW - 23)
25 - The Social Customer Manifesto - 1,873 (LW - UR)

The Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs are ranked by the number of subscribers, according to FeedBurner. The number you see after the blog name is how many subscribers accessed the blog's feed, according to FeedBurner. FeedBurner (and I had to look it up to make sure) tracks the number of times your blog's feed is accessed, and matches it against the IP address of the computer making the request, to approximate the number of subscribers that access your feed, and report this as the number used in the Top 25. After that number is a positive or negative number, and this represents how many readers 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.

As you've probably noticed, the Top 25 hasn't been updated in a few weeks. I think for the time being, I am going to switch from a weekly update, to just updating the Top 25 once a month. So since it's been a few weeks since I updated the list, there's plenty of moves. Chris Brogan finally caught and moved ahead of Jeremiah Owyang to take over the #4 spot. Logic+Emotion, Drew's Marketing Minute, Conversation Agent and Social Media Explorer all added big moves.

Remember if you want to have your blog be considered for inclusion in the Top 25, make sure you add the Feedburner feed count chicklet to your blog. And if you redesign your blog, make sure to keep the FB chicklet on there, or I can't track you for the Top 25.

Next update is next month.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Social Media ain't about one-night stands, it's about relationships

I feel like I can officially state that I've been had.

About 5 weeks ago, Skittles made the 'bold' move of turning it's website over to social media. It turned the website into a landing page for its content on other social sites, and for the content that people are creating about the brand on Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, etc. The move was blasted by many, and I said that maybe we should hold off on the criticism, and give Skittles the benefit of the doubt and wait and see if this move was the first step in a larger strategy.

Five weeks later, we are still waiting to see 'what comes next'. My guess is that if we haven't seen it by now, that nothing comes next.

A few months ago, I was selected as one of the 'Pepsi 25', meaning I was apparently one of the first 25 people on the planet to see Pepsi's new branding (problem is, I'm a Dr Pepper lover). Aside from the fact that I'm not that fond of Pepsi, I haven't seen anything that's really built off of the buzz generated from this move. As with Skittles, Pepsi doesn't seem to have created an effective plan for capitalizing on the buzz generated by the initial splash.

And this seems to be the big problem. Too many companies are approaching social media as a tool to generate buzz, instead of as a way to connect with their customers. Want to use Twitter as a way to generate buzz for your product launch? Fine. Now what's your plan for leveraging that buzz and using Twitter as a channel to connect with your customers that are now paying attention to you?

Here's a clue; Know the only thing that customers HATE more than companies that ignore them? Companies that walk away when the customers are finally paying attention to them.

Don't be that company. Social media isn't about campaigns, it's about movements. The smart companies get this AND get the importance of using these tools in the same way that the people they are trying to reach AND for the same reasons.

Pic via Flickr user brucebeh

UPDATE: Love this comment from Nicole - "I can't help but look at both of these cases and see a common thread. Pepsi and Skittles both seem to view the tools as the key ingredient - when in reality they are just that, the tools. This is why I think may companies miss the mark when it comes to implementing social media because they focus too heavily on the tools as opposed to the communication and potential relationships that are enabled by them."

Nother UPDATE: Looks like the 'Anonymous' comment left in defense of Skittles, was from someone at The comment was left at 11:56 am, which seems to coincide with this visitor from -

Come on. Why not just identify who you are and make your point?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ford launches the Fiesta Movement, but is it really just a campaign?

Remember a year or two ago when Ford came out with the 'Bold Moves' tagline? Remember how they were widely mocked for not really making any bold moves? It's ironic because the struggling carmaker has finally come up with an initiative that matches its now retired tagline.

For the next 6 months, 100 hand-picked 20-30 year olds across the United States will be driving a new Ford Fiesta for free. The move is designed to build awareness for the re-launched Fiesta, which will debut in U.S. early next year. The 100 winners were picked based on certain factors, especially their level of activity on social sites and with social media. In fact, I first found out about this idea because of reading Ms Single Mama's tweets about being selected to receive one of the vehicles. The group's proficiency in creating social content is no doubt a big reason for their selection.

Ford's Scott Monty goes into more detail about the strategy for picking the 100 winners here:

"We not only used characteristics of online social vibrancy to select our agents, but we also looked at geographical dispersion. If you go to, you can browse through the agents based on their proximity to you.

In addition, we’ll be taking 40 Fiestas around the country between now and the end of the year, hitting 100 cities and attempting to get 100,000 people in the vehicle for test drives/rides. Not to mention that the agents will be taking their vehicles out in public locations and sharing the experience offline."

Now for the big question; Will this work?

One thing that seems certain is that the Fiesta Movement will raise awareness of the Fiesta in advance of its U.S. debut next year. And given that the 100 'agents' selected are apparently all active in social media, that should create a good deal of buzz online for the Fiesta. At least at first.

But can that buzz be built as the 6-month campaign unfolds, and leveraged into something larger and as a more meaningful way for Ford to connect with their potential (and later current) customers? So many 'social media campaigns' are designed to build awareness and excitement, but never follow through on the increased interest that's generated. Does Ford have a plan in place to capitalize on the awareness that it hopes to create for the 2010 Fiesta over the next few months?

That remains to be seen, and could ultimately decide the end effectiveness of this initiative.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for the great comments. Also, Ford's Scott Monty also goes into greater detail into this campaign and what went into the strategy behind it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

OMBC recap; Good sessions, good people and good food!

I was lucky enough to spend a few days last week in Philadelphia, visiting the city for the first time. Primarily, I was there to lead a session on online community building for Beth Harte and Li Evans' Online Media Bootcamp. Shashi has a quick recap post on my session.

This was the first OMBC, and I have to say for a first-time event, it was very well-run. Everything moved very smoothly, and there weren't any technical issues (Read - Wifi was solid and there were plenty of power outlets!). Instead of having a break between each session, there was one in the morning and one in the evening, and I think this was perfect for a smaller event.

The sessions covered the range of online marketing. Li covered Social Media Fundamentals, Shashi told you how to Sell Social Media to Your Boss, Valeria covered Corporate Blogging, Beth educated attendees on PR 2.0, and I closed with my session on Building Community Online. And the day closed for attendees with homework, they had to apply what they had learned to (in 30 mins) create a company AND an online marketing plan for that company. Then they had to present their plan via Powerpoint to the speakers, who voted on each. The winning group took home Barnes and Noble giftcards, and a pair of marketing/social media books were given away after each session. I think the attendees really got a lot out of the event, in fact many seemed to be pleasantly surprised with what they took home.

And then there's the food. Anyone that's been with me at an event knows I am probably the pickiest eater alive. But The Park Ridge hotel and conference center went all out. They had a great breakfast and lunch set up for us, and had the BEST snack food of any event I've ever been to. Chocolate fondue, need I say more? And the hotel itself was great. The staff was courteous and went out of their way to be helpful. Beth and Li made the perfect choice in hosting OMBC there.

Overall, I think this was a wonderful event in a wonderful location. It seems the attendees agreed, as initial feedback seems to be very positive. Beth and Li are considering having a second OMBC in the fall, and you should definitely try to make it if they do!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Your social site is only as good as the people using it

Longtime readers of The Viral Garden will recall that last Summer, I was hot n heavy into blogging about Plurk. How I loved the site, the community that had embraced its quirky features, and yes, the game-changing threaded conversations.

But the other day I visited Plurk for the first time in literally months. And quite honestly, I doubt I will be back anytime soon. The site didn't look that much different, and offered all the functionality I and many others enjoyed when we first discovered the site last June.

So what changed?

The people changed. What made Plurk so enjoyable for me last Summer was that it was not only offering a lot of functionality that Twitter didn't, but more importantly, most of my network was there. Most of the people that I wanted to stay in constant contact with, came to try out Plurk last Summer when Twitter was having its all-too-frequent outages. But as Twitter gradually got their issues sorted out last year, my network began to migrate back to Twitter, and away from Plurk. At some point late last year, I had to make the tough choice to all but abandon Plurk, because by then almost all of my close contacts were back on Twitter.

There's an important lesson here for social sites such as Plurk and Twitter: You don't need to just get my attention, you need my network as well. You need to not only give me a reason to try out and use your site/tool, you then need to make it as easy as possible for me to encourage my network to come join me. Because at the end of the day, you can have all the cool features and shiny functionality you want, but if my network isn't using your site, why should I?