Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You will fail at social media

I did something that made me a bit comfortable this morning. I spent about an hour or so going through the archives of this blog. I read some (many) of the posts from 2006 and early 2007, and I cringed. They were terrible. I was in complete 'this is about me' mode.

But I noticed that toward the end of 2007, the tone of the posts began to change. There were more 'here is what I have learned' and 'what do you think?' posts. When I started blogging, this was a place for me to share my voice. I blogged about what was interesting to me.

Yet as time went by, I found my blogging voice. I connected with my readers, and wanted to change how I created and presented content here. I stopped focusing on 'let me share what's important to me', and started trying to create valuable content for my readers.

But the now wouldn't have come without that first year or so. It took time for me to connect with my readers, and realize what type of content they want to read. And I am still learning and tinkering with the content and experience that I co-create with each of you. Every day I try to improve.

The point is, you will have that same period of 'failure' that I did with your social media efforts. Embrace that as your growing pains that will allow you to improve the way that you use these tools. I recently saw a TED talk from Sir Ken Robinson on children and creativity, and I've embedded it below. He made a wonderful point that children don't fear being wrong. They will 'make a go of it' even if they aren't sure what the 'right way' is. But he suggested that as we grow older, that we become fearful of being wrong, and I think he's mostly right.

When you start blogging, or you start using Twitter, you will 'fail'. You will make mistakes, and these mistakes will be incredible LEARNING experiences for you that will help you move forward.

Embrace your failures with social media. They are the key to your future successes.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Time is running out to register for the Marketing Profs B2B Forum!

Next month I'll be back on the road, conducting special one-on-one blogging sessions at the Marketing Profs B2B Forum in Boston. We first did this at the Digital Marketing Mixer that Marketing Profs had in Scottsdale last October, and they were very popular, so I'm happy that Marketing Profs has asked me to do them again next month.

Since this is Marketing Profs event, the program is top-notch, with speakers from top companies such as IBM, Cisco and Forrester, along with top stars in the social media space, such as Valeria Maltoni, Greg Verdino, Beth Harte, Ann Handley, Peter Kim, KD Paine, Chris Penn and Jay Baer.

And for those of you that still need to register, you can get a special $200 discount off registration by clicking the picture above (Disclosure - That's an affiliate link). Marketing Profs' conferences are very well-run and always receive rave reviews from attendees. I'm hoping you'll get to attend, and if you want to reserve a session so I can discuss your company's current or potential blogging strategy, please do that when you sign-in at the event.

Finally, I apologize to everyone for the lack of posts in the last week or so. I've been very busy with client work and a couple of projects that I'm very excited about, and will hopefully be able to update everyone next week on what I've been doing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 141

Here's the standings for Week 141:

1 - Duct Tape Marketing - 132,000 (+1,000)(LW - 1)
2 - Church of the Customer - 121,000 (+1,000)(LW - 2)
3 - CopyBlogger - 58,739 (+2,551)(LW - 3)
4 - Web Strategy by Jeremiah - 23,440 (+2,264)(LW - 5)
5 - Chris Brogan - 23,121 (+715)(LW - 4)
6 - Logic + Emotion - 13,896 (+487)(LW - 6)
7 - Search Engine Guide - 13,592 (+679)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 9,882(+424)(LW - 8)
9 - Influential Marketing - 9,470 (+610)(LW - 9)
10 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 6,995 (-238)(LW - 10)
11 - Conversation Agent - 5,098 (+316)(LW - 11)
12 - Jaffe Juice - 4,716 (-53)(LW - 12)
13 - Social Media Explorer - 4,646 (+400)(LW - 14)
14 - The Viral Garden - 4,257 (+183)(LW - 13)
15 - Being Peter Kim - 4,097 (+156)(LW - 16)
16 - What's Next - 4,096 (+89)(LW - 15)
17 - Debbie Weil's Blog - 3,844 (+126)(LW - 17)
18 - Converstations - 3,673 (+207)(LW - 18)
19 - Techipedia - 3,112 (+35)(LW - 19)
20 - Brand and Market - 2,929 (+283)(LW - 20)
21 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 2,777 (+104)(LW - 21)
22 - Techno Marketer - 2,332 (+62)(LW - 22)
23 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 2,267 (+36)(LW - 23)
24 - Emergence Marketing - 2,207 (+17)(LW - 24)
25 - The Social Customer Manifesto - 1,913 (+40)(LW - 25)

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.

Welcome to this month's edition of the Top 25 Marketing and Social Media blogs. One advantage of doing the list once a month is that we can more easily spot trends. Such as, 23 of the 25 blogs gained subscribers in the last month. This is a good sign that blog readership, at least among the more 'popular' marketing and social media blogs, continues to expand.

As far as moves, Jeremiah leapfrogged back in front of Chris Brogan to reclaim the #4 spot, and I thought that SEG had a big month. Past the Top 10, Conversation Agent and Social Media Explorer continued their hot streaks.

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.

Monday, May 11, 2009

How to write great blog comments

One of the best ways to grow your blog, is to leave it. What I mean by this is leaving comments on other blogs is a great way to create value for others, and ultimately grow awareness for your own blogging efforts.

But not all blog comments are created equal, and here's some of the tips I've learned over the years for writing great blog comments:

1 - Add something to the conversation. Often I will read a post and think 'wow, great post!' But go past that, highlight issues that the blogger addressed, and add your own take. You don't have to agree completely, and you don't have to stick with their point. If one example they mentioned reminds you of another instance from your own experiences, mention that. But try to avoid simply repeating what others have said. And this is easier to do when you...

2 - Comment early. Sure it's nice to let a few people comment first, so then you can build off what they say, as well as the blogger's post. But what if you wait too long and everyone has addressed the points you wanted to raise? And for well-trafficked blogs like Chris Brogan's or Liz Strauss', each post can get dozens of comments, and not everyone will read down if your comment is #37 of 54.

3 - Don't over-promote yourself. @garyvee says that the only link you are ever allowed to share in a comment is the link you get in your name that's hyperlinked back to your blog/site. I tend to agree with this stance, because the fastest way to honk off a blogger, is to leave a comment on their blog, that's really just a commercial for you. You've seen them, the comments that say 'This is a great post, thanks for sharing', then proceed to add 5 lines of bio/site links. Don't be 'that guy', remember that you aren't leaving the comment to promote yourself, you are trying to create value for the blog by adding to the conversation. If you've done your job, you'll get promotion as an indirect result of your efforts.

4 - You can disagree, without being disagreeable. I might be a bit different from some in how I approach disagreements in the comments section, but I love it when readers disagree with my posts, and challenge my points. The biggest reason why, is because when you bring in alternative points, that extends the conversation and gives more people a chance to jump and leave their point of view.

However, always remember that it's ok to 'attack' the ideas, but not the people presenting the ideas. Challenging stances and ideas are fine, but personal attacks add nothing to the conversation, and make you look like a jackass. Not what you want. Feel free to disagree, but don't be disagreeable.

5 - Ask questions. What if you find a post and agree with the post, and everything the commenters have said. Now what? Why not ask a question or bring up a point that no one has raised yet? One thing that often happens, especially on blogs where the writer is very popular, is that the readers may all agree with the writer. Why not offer a contrarian view and bring up the other side of the issue? Again, this helps extend the conversation, and you might find that others will then chime in saying that they agree with your point of view.

6 - Know why you are commenting. Are you leaving a comment to draw attention to yourself, or to add to the conversation? As with most everything else in social media, blog comments work best as a way to INdirectly promote yourself. Write a comment that others find value in, and that encourages others to check out your blog, follow you on Twitter, etc. Write a comment that was clearly intended to promote your blog, and you will likely gain nothing, and hurt your reputation.

These are some tips I have learned from my own experience in writing blog comments. What did I miss that works for you?

Pic via Flickr user Bohman

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Case Study: Citi uses Social Media to promote Citi-Forward Webcast

I’m often asked about how I work and what type of projects I like to be involved in. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a campaign with TMG Brand Communications, and it’s a great example of how a thoughtful social media strategy can get executed well. Tami McCarthy got in touch with me about one of the social media projects she was working on, in this case for Citi. She told me that the plan was to kick off the campaign with a pre-launch webcast for media-only (which she invited me to), and that once the program officially launched a week later, other key components of the communications plan were a Twitter page, YouTube Channel and marketing program with MySpace. It was exciting to see that Tami and her team were creating a comprehensive social media strategy for Citi Forward, and I was happy to be involved. I was also pleased that her team had actually done some research and had picked specific social media sites/tools that they thought would help Citi best communicate with their target audience, instead of just 'doing everything' as many companies will do when they launch a social media strategy.

Tami and I discussed who would be ideal participants in the webcast, and I’d like to share the background on how this unfolded, particularly the use of Twitter, as I think it could help many of you with similar efforts. I think the strategy to first target “influential” people to be involved in the webcast, as well as those that were targeted to help promote it on Twitter is a good case study worth mentioning.

The webcast was going to be a way to educate the 'media' and viewers about the structure of a new credit card program that Citi was about to launch, the Citi Forward program. The program itself has some pretty unique features (such as lowering APR for consecutive on-time payments), so Citi wanted to give everyone a way to learn more about the program, prior to its launch, which would come the week after the webcast.

The webcast would include Terry O'Neil, the Executive V.P of Citi Cards, a moderator, and 3-4 panelists. The structure of the program is such that it is geared to appeal to young adults, ranging from Gen Yers and college students to those with young families, so it was important to include panelists that were familiar with these audiences, as well as people that understood the value of sound financial planning, which is a core focus of the Citi Forward program. The webcast wasn't going to simply be a commercial for the program. Sure, Citi wanted to explain the structure of the Citi Forward card, but they also wanted to create educational value for the webcase audience, by having them submit financial planning questions to Terry and the panelists.

I've blogged about this before, but I think many companies target the wrong 'influencers'. Traffic and subscribers are great, but you need to be very mindful of reaching out to people that are actively engaged with their readers, and those that seem to have developed an affinity with the people that read their blogs and followed them on Twitter. In short, for the Citi Forward webcast, Tami wasn’t looking necessarily for the 'biggest' or those with the highest number of subscribers to their blog, but for the people that were the most connected to and respected by others. That denotes true 'influence' to me.

The chosen Citi Forward webcast moderator was Chris Penn. Chris was absolutely perfect for this role, as he works for the Student Loan Network, and co-produces the Financial Aid Podcast. In addition, he's one of the most influential people in the social media space, and co-founder of Podcamp. Another consideration for choosing Chris was that since he's constantly speaking/being interviewed, that he would be completely comfortable handling a live webcast, and he was.

The panelists (who would be joining the webcast via conference call), were myself, Ramit Sethi, The Silicon Valley Blogger, and Rebecca Thorman. Each of other three panelists are well-respected in social media circles, have vibrant and active blogs, and are well versed in the financial wants and needs of Gen Yers and even early thirtysomethings. This group is in touch with the exact group that Citi wanted to connect with for their Citi Forward program.

Tami and her team at TMG also had a steady stream of dialogue with financial bloggers to alert them about the webcast, but a small group of people on Twitter were also targeted to help get the word out about the webcast.

One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is in making bad pitches. Often times, the first time I hear from someone that pitches me, is when they pitch me. That almost ensures that I won't promote whatever it is you're pitching.

For my part, I only contacted seven people on Twitter to ask if they would help me promote Citi's webcast. These were all people that I consider to be close friends, and it should also be noted that I almost never ask people to RT something for me on Twitter. I emailed each person a PERSONAL email sent ONLY to them. Sending a form letter is another fast way to kill your pitch.

Of the seven people I contacted, 5 agreed to help me promote the webcast on Twitter. My friend Lisa even RTed the link to the webcast three times, and both she and Shannon asked her followers to please RT it! So five out of seven people agreed to promote the webcast on Twitter for me (and one of the people that didn't later told me that they were flying when I emailed, and they didn't see the request until hours later). That's a 70% or so response rate, which is probably a tad higher than most agencies get for their pitch requests. But again, this worked because I had developed relationships with the people I reached out to, and I rarely ask for help like this. In fact everyone that helped me even answered my email and told me they were happy to help. And it should be pointed out that these five people had between 4,000-15,000 followers each at the time of the webcast. So they are connected to and respected by a lot of people.

The morning of the webcast, I also live-tweeted the lead-up to the event, and we encouraged people to send questions for the panelists via Citi_Forward's Twitter account. I gotta admit that it was pretty cool hearing Chris read a question to Terry about program that had come from Twitter.

So once all this is boiled down, what were the results? The end result is that the webcast exceeded its goal for media registrants by 100%. If you want, you can still view the webcast here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

What if everyone you know was on Twitter?

Think about that for a moment. What if you had a way to quickly and easily contact EVERYONE you know, in a centralized location. And it doesn't have to be Twitter, the point is, we could be heading toward a near future where we can get near instant access to most people.

How would that change your life? I've been thinking a lot about this recently, especially when I consider that in many ways, my community is on Twitter. Many people could say the same thing, or maybe theirs is on Friendfeed, or Facebook, or another site.

But what if everyone in our towns were using social media? Right now, my Twitter community is spread out over the country, even the world. Yet I'm thinking if 'everyone' was on the same social site that I was, that my community would migrate toward being more localized. That it would be easier to have tweetups locally, and make more local connections.

And as I'm thinking about this, I'm thinking of the implications for businesses, especially small businesses who thrive on local customers. Right now they might look at social media and really not be excited about the potential, because their customers ARE local. But as we move forward, and as more people start using social media, it could be a great way for most small businesses to reach local customers. People like Jason Falls and Shannon Paul are already talking about how the definition of social media could and perhaps should be broadened to include communication tools like the telephone. Think about how the world change when most everyone was given telephone access in their homes.

How would it change again if most everyone could use social media to connect with each other? That day may never come, but I think we will be closer to that point as we move forward.

Anyway these were some thoughts I had swirling around in my head that were really more than 140 characters. I'd really like to get your thoughts. What would the world look like if the majority of people were actively using social media, and could easily connect with each other? Or is that a future we even want to see? What do you think?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Selling Social Media to 'The Man'; #blogchat recap

Last night was another great #blogchat conversation, this week we discussed how you can convince your boss/company to start using social media. So many of you had great suggestions that I wanted to capture them here and share your ideas:

1 -Mattceni: buy-in comes from confidence. you need to build confidence. small wins is how we did it

2 - _djh: For us it was small steps also. Printed quartery newsletter -> on-line newsletter -> blog -> other SM

3 - tamera: do your research. provide alignment with basic business needs and prove how the value can be extended into social channels.

4 - thebrandbuilder: 1. Show them that SM can have measurable impact on the organization's success. Demonstrate that there is real ROI.

5 - thebrandbuilder: 2. Help them understand specifically what the risks associated with SM are, and address them.

6 - DavidSpinks: First figure out what the company's goals are, then show how social media can help them reach those goals...

7 - deirdrereid: It doesn't hurt to show what yr competition is doing and what you may lose by now participating. Risk of Ignoring

8 - Tojosan: getting your boss involved in social media? #blogchat -> I'd say give him a crash course, inside the walls, perhaps Yammer?

9 - MackCollier: I agree I think the easiest way to get your company blogging/using social media is list poss objections & counter

10 - matthewray: Education on how to social media tools and who can use them; need to know good and bad case studies

11 - stevecunningham: How about this: find somebody they admire/respect who is also using it for their company. Get them to talk.

12 - jonnew: Also it is important to give them examples of other similar companies and the success those companies are having.

13 - justincresswell: many think it is play time, time waster, don't see the ROI since they're seeing it with old eyes. they need allegories.

14 - TamarahLand: identify the company's target audience and show them how that audience uses social media to find and buy products/services

15 - andrewmueller: Expain that you will use SM show your customers that you care, and give examples of how you would do so

16 - Teeg: What do they want? Show how sm can help meet their wants whether it's getting the word out to group or communicating one on one.

17 - mattceni: one way to show value of sm is bring up Twitter Search (summize) and just let them see the tweets about your brand. eye opening.

18 - amymengel: It's easier to convince a co. to jump in with SM if its customers are using it; if they're not, it's a much harder sell

19 - katebuckjr: RT @thebrandbuilder Understanding the client's immediate needs is crucial. You don't want to "sell" SM. You want to integrate it.

20 - glecharles: Social media emphasizes tools over results; establish a clear goal, then show how tools can help achieve it. No magic bullets.

I'll stop there, since there were literally over 800 tweets during last night's #blogchat. Another great conversation, and if your company has successfully integrated social media into your communication efforts, how did you get your boss to commit? For those of you that have run into resistance, what objections to social media are your bosses offering?

And remember, #blogchat is every Sunday at 8pm CST on Twitter, anyone and everyone is welcome!