Friday, July 31, 2009

Digital housekeeping

I've made a few changes and have a few items I wanted to make sure everyone has seen. First, please check out my new site if you haven't already. That will be my 'business' site moving forward, and where I will house all the information about my consulting services. I will occasionally publish new posts there, about 2-4 a month. I've removed all of my information about my consulting from this site, so I'll occasionally remind everyone here what I offer. Sound good? You can check out my Social Media Consulting services here, and my Blog Consulting services here. Feel free to email me if you'd like to talk more about how we could work together.

On you can also get information on my Speaking and Training services. And speaking of speaking, I wanted to remind everyone that I will be presenting in Birmingham next month at Social South. Since we last talked here about Social South, they have added some big names to the speaking lineup, including two of my favorite people in the world, CK and Beth Harte! The early-bird rate of $149 for the 2-day event runs through Monday (Aug 3rd), so make sure you get in!

Also, a few weeks ago, I teamed up with Ann Handley to lead off the Inbound Marketing University with a session on How to Blog Effectively for Business. You can click here to watch the presentation, it's geared toward businesses that are wanting an overview of how a blog can help them!

I'm hoping to have a few other speaking announcements to make in the coming weeks.

And thanks to everyone for the kind words about my Social Media Mavens series. I've created a tab at the top of the blog for it, and you can catch up on all the entries so far in the series here. If you work for a corporation that's effectively using social media and would like to be interviewed for the Social Media Mavens series, please email me.

Finally, I'll be migrating The Viral Garden to Wordpress over the next few weeks, and when I do, the focus of this blog will be less about me, and more about you. I want to see this blog become closer to a community site, and this was a big reason why I wanted to launch, and move all the information about my consulting there, so the focus of The Viral Garden could change a bit. I've got some good ideas in mind (actually the Social Media Mavens series is one of those ideas), and I'll be implementing them after TVG moves to Wordpress. Hopefully, the move can be done without disrupting the blog, since The Viral Garden will be located at when the move is made. Right now that URL simply redirects here.

And BTW, thanks for reading, and have a great weekend ;)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Social Media Mavens - An Interview with Kodak's Tom Hoehn

Welcome to the third interview in the Social Media Mavens series, where I talk to some of the top minds in corporate social media, and learn how their companies are crafting their social media efforts. Today's installment features a recent chat I had with Kodak's Director of Interactive Marketing and Convergence Media, Tom Hoehn. Tom has also been a driving force behind Kodak's social media efforts, which includes the stellar A Thousand Words, which is one of the best corporate blogs out there.

And as an added bonus, Tom has agreed to give us an exclusive look at the social media participation strategy he co-created for Kodak with Chief Blogger Jenny Cisney, which they call 'Ripcurl'. You can see visuals for how this works below, very cool and thanks to Tom for giving us the scoop!

MC - First, talk about what Kodak's social media strategy is, and what tools the company is currently using?

TH - We love what social media is doing for our business. From the consumer side our products are all about enabling people’s self expression, telling the stories of their lives. Social media is about enabling that as well - seems like a perfect fit to me. On the commercial side it is about making connections to get people answers to questions they may have about our products and services.

We have embraced social media for some time now. Our blog launched in September of 2006 and our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube presences followed in early 2008. People sometimes think we have a large team working on these things but I want to dispel that illusion in the hopes that it will encourage others to embrace the medium and try it out. The barrier to entry is low enough that trying things is easy.

Relative to tools, we use a blog service (Awareness) and have recently added a couple of new tools. Radian6 is currently being configured to help us more effectively identify and participate in conversations. I would like to think that we have graduated to that level after using a number of free tools like; Google Alerts, TweetDeck, Technorati, etc. Those provided us with a great foundation and a realization of the opportunity at hand. We are adding a photo project community that will expand our existing, and very popular, tips & Project Center on with user generated content.

We are working against a plan that I authored with our Chief Blogger and Social Media Manager, Jenny Cisney (@KodakCB) called the Kodak Convergence Media Ripcurl. Essentially, it defines our path to participation. It would be silly for us to use phrases like “control the conversation” or “harness the discussions.” We look at it as using the energy of social media to help our business while adding value to the conversations happening 24/7/Worldwide about our products, brand, photography, motion pictures, vlogging, and so forth.

Here is a visual describing the Ripcurl. You will note the words, Twitter, blog, Facebook, YouTube, etc. do not appear anywhere on this graphic. It isn’t about the tools it is about connecting with our customers. This helps people within Kodak understand the opportunity at hand without getting caught up in jargon.

(Click Image to see it full-size)

Our proactive (speaking) activities are influenced and informed by our reactive (listening) efforts. When we do it right we will see a variety of results. When we get it wrong, well, we try again and keep moving forward. If we fail, we want to fail faster, makes sense? It helps to have a company culture that is accepting of this approach. We get this encouragement from the highest levels of the company.

This second visual shows more of our tactical activities. It isn’t about a linear engagement and we made the graphic represent that sentiment.

(Click Image to see it full-size)

Content creation, distribution, engagement and measures all come into play. Use the energy to propel your business! If you do this incorrectly, the crowd, your customers, will let you know immediately.

MC - One of the things I absolutely love about Kodak's A Thousand Words blog is that the blog really isn't about Kodak products, it's about photography, and I think this makes the content incredibly valuable to readers. Did Kodak position the content this way on purpose, or did the direction of the content change over time?

TH - From the outset we were intellectually honestly with ourselves and asked; “Does the world really need another blog?” We felt we had something unique to bring to the party. Everyone knows the Kodak brand but not the amazing people that work behind it. The blog gave us a venue to showcase Kodak people. Also, as we transform to a digital company many were not aware of our digital cred. It was time to share some of those facts directly. For example, did you know Kodak invented the digital camera in 1976? We still hold the original patents. We have hundreds of interesting facts like this that were not seeing the light of day via traditional media.

Our posts are most often about the end benefit and not as much on the speeds and feeds. That was also a conscious decision. The importance of photography, pictures really, in people’s lives is the important thing. Here is a link to some top posts from last year that might help Viral Garden readers get a sense of what they will find on our blog.

MC - I've often referred to Kodak's A Thousand Words blog as one of the better examples of a company blog. But I'm sure that comes as a result of a lot of hard work. Give us an idea of how much time your bloggers devote to their daily blogging efforts, and what their schedule looks like.

TH - Why, thank you Mack! From the beginning we knew a few things. For a blog to be successful we had to be:

  • Transparent – It is not marketing-shill speak. It is from real Kodak people, no ghost writing or agency support happens in this vicinity.
  • Publish frequently – we have not missed publishing on a business day since September 6, 2006. This is a fact of which we are very proud. If you go to a blog and the author hasn’t updated it in weeks it sends this message; “They don’t care about their blog why should I?”
  • Share the love. We have a stable of regular contributors and many one-time contributors. We welcome all submissions form Kodak employees. This, quite coincidentally, makes the burden of publishing more distributed.
  • Be interesting. Hard to do consistently but we try.

That being said, we announced a Chief Blogger in April of 2007, Jenny Cisney. (who was just named as one of AdAge’s 2009 Women to Watch – you go Jenny!). We were able to prove the value such that we dedicated fulltime position. We are following this up by creating a Chief Listener position that will use our Radian6 tool. I don’t know of another company that has done this yet. Pretty cool, huh?

MC - How does Kodak measure and evaluate how effective its blogging efforts are? What metrics do you track and where do you place return on your efforts?

TH - We look at a number of things:

  • Reverb – That comment we noticed multiplied by the number of followers, fans, friends, BFFs, etc. the person making it has.
  • We are after hearts and minds instead of eyeballs. We feel we have a good story to tell on many levels and it seems to be resonating with people.
  • We of course look at table stakes measures like page views, refers, search ranking, etc. If you don’t do those things by now your head is probably swimming from all of the other information I have shared ;-)
  • ROI is the holy grail we are all chasing but we like to think that return on ignoring (thanks @DavidAlston) is even worse.

We use other measures but I think you get the idea.

MC - What's the 'one thing' that social media has taught you that's affected Kodak's business as a whole?

TH - I find it quite funny that I am having some of the exact same conversations about social media that I had about the Internet in 1996. Replace the word “web” with “social media” and try it yourself. This could be a fun party game! ;-)

  • I don’t have the time to do that stuff! Those people must have no lives!
  • Yeah, but how can help my business?
  • It’s great for kids but I don’t see a fit for and businesses

Today the web is like oxygen and one wouldn’t consider doing business without it.
So, the “one thing” you ask? Social media is already affecting our customers. Over 70 million photos are taken each day (!) with Kodak digital cameras and films. Many of these are used to communicate, share, strengthen relationships, and more. It is our duty to be where our customers are and provide the products to help them. If we don’t, there a bunch of people waiting in line to woo them away. Not on our watch!

Thanks for wanting to know more about Kodak Mack, keep up the good work! If your readers want to see our social media presence they can find it at:

If you liked my answers to Mack’s grilling please honor me with a Twitter follow @tomhoehn

Thanks Tom! Great insights into what Kodak is doing with social media, and loved the exclusive look at Ripcurl and how it guides your participation with social media interactions. Definitely follow Tom and Jenny on Twitter, and make SURE you subscribe to A Thousand Words! Also, you can follow Kodak's CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett at @jeffreyhayzlett.

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!

Monday, July 27, 2009

#Blogchat 7-26 Recap; How to Use Your Blog to Generate Sales and Leads With @AmyAfrica

Last night Amy Africa joined #blogchat to help us understand how we can generate more sales and leads from our business blogs. I wanted Amy to sit in on a blogchat because she's SERIOUSLY helped me with my efforts to generate leads and business from my consulting site,, and I knew she would really help #blogchat participants. Quite frankly, so many of us in the social media space SUCK at self-promotion and 'asking for the order'. So I knew this was an area where Amy could help so many of us.

And when the smoke cleared, last night's #blogchat had amassed a staggering 1,300+ tweets in a little over 2 hours. For reference, the most active #blogchat we had before last night got 820 tweets. Here is a direct link to the #blogchat transcript and make SURE you save this.

Here are 10 key takeaways for me from last night's #blogchat:

1 - Ask for the order. This is second-nature to most people outside the 'social media fishbowl', but many of us that are active in this space have a tough time asking for the order. I've learned from experience that the more you promote yourself, the better you get at it. So get started!

2 - Figure out what action you want visitors to take. Do you want them to email you? Place an order? I think a BIG problem many of us have with our blogs is we focus on getting more interaction, but we do a poor job of leveraging those interactions toward the action we want our visitors to take.

3- Sites/blogs have 4 'quads' and your 'call-to-action' needs to be in at least 3 of those quads, all four is better.

4 - Put your 'call to action' in different forms because different users respond in different ways. For example, if the action you want your visitors to take is to give you their email address so you can contact them, you need to ask for their email in different ways. Such as via leaving a comment, signing up for a free email newsletter, completing a poll/survey. And these different forms also need to be in different quads, as mentioned in #3.

5 - Use visuals centered around your 'call to action'. Want visitors to sign up for your free newsletter? Then add a nice visual to the signup (Check out how Amy does this on her site, check the right sidebar). We think visually, and pretty pictures matter.

6 - Visitors to your blog/site look to the left for help, the right when they want to leave. Consider this when you organize your site, give them a reason to stay and putting 'click here NOW' or such on the right. Also, 'Click here NOW' is far more effective than 'Click here'. And the righthand column is a great place to put your Twitter feed.

7 - If you want visitors to spend more time on your site, improve your site's navigation.

8 - Every blog should have a CLEAR way for visitors to email you. If the only option is a form you will lose 1/4th of the responses.

9 - When you want visitors to take an action on your blog, use Buttons, not links.

10 - The average visitors makes all their decisions on your blog based on the FIRST screen they see. Consider this when you decide what action you want them to take, and place your calls to action accordingly.

And trust me, that's only a fraction of the smartitude covered last night. Make SURE you get the transcript from last night's #blogchat, follow Amy on Twitter, and subscribe to her QLOG.

What was YOUR key takeaway from last night's #blogchat?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Companies, don't fall for social media's 'fear factor'

In the last 2-3 months I have enjoyed a big spike in the number of companies reaching out to me about my helping them with social media. The majority of these companies tell me the same thing; 'we don't know what we need to be doing with social media, but we know we need to be doing something'.

As the conversation goes on and I ask questions like 'well how do you know you need to be using social media?', or 'do you know if your customers are using social media?', I can sense the fear. The fear that tells them that they have to do something.

And honestly, can you blame them? Even show is suddenly talking about how to contact the hosts on Twitter, or read their blog. It's easy for a company to feel like they've missed the boat.

But 'doing something' isn't the proper response. If these tools are important enough for your company to be using, it's also important enough for you to make sure that you get it right.

So if your company is concerned that you need to do something with social media, pause, take a deep breath, then ask these questions:

1 - Why do you want to use social media? Is it because you've identified an unmet business need that social media helps correct, or because you feel like you HAVE to 'do something'?

2 - Do your customers use social media? If not, that's often a big hint that maybe you shouldn't be either.

3 - Do you have time to devote to social media? Not just today, but from now on? And how many people can work on social media? The amount of time you can devote to social media also influences which tool(s) you should be using.

But the main point is, don't let fear be what prompts you to jump into the social media waters. Even if Oprah and Ashton are on Twitter, that doesn't mean you have to be. Just because Facebook is adding 500K members a day, doesn't mean you have to be one of them.

And if you aren't sure if you need to be using social media or not, feel free to email me and we'll see if we can figure it out together. Deal?

Pic via Flickr user Doug88888

Monday, July 20, 2009

#blogchat 7-19 recap, how non-profits use social media with @wharman

Last night was another amazing #blogchat as The Red Cross' Wendy Harman joined us to talk about how non-profits can utilize social media! First, if you want to get a transcript of the #blogchat, go here - and specify the date as from 7-19 to 7-19 to just get the tweets from #blogchat. It looks like that particular site only archives the tweets for a week, so make sure you get your transcript now! I created a folder on my desktop for #blogchats and save the pages as an html file, that seems to work well. Also, make sure you follow Wendy on Twitter, and also check out The Red Cross' blog, where she writes.

Here are some of the key takeaways for me:

PeaceMakerOrg: @wharman What do you think are keys for small NP w/o significant awareness when implementing SM? #blogchat

wharman: @peacemakerorg i think the key is to listen and learn - find your niche. Look for people who care about issues you care about #blogchat

Shanan_S: @wharman What was the greatest hurdle for you/ your org when you started using SM? #blogchat

wharman: @shannon_s biggest hurdle was and is fear of losing perceived control - it's a culture shift in doing business so takes a while. #blogchat

wharman: 2nd biggest hurdle is not giving in to the tendency to make your presence all about marketing instead of offering mission online. #blogchat

Shanan_S: @wharman So did you focus more on educating people about the benefits of SM or dispelling fears? First steps? #blogchat

wharman: @Shanan_S First step was showing them the existing conversation, which both educates about benefits and dispels fears at same time #blogchat

sarahmarchetti: @Shanan_S 1 of the things that @wharman did several years ago to prove value was use daily monitoring to show higher ups the convo #blogchat

PeaceMakerOrg: @wharman Are you finding any resistance among older audience that may not understand SM? How to avoid alienating them? #blogchat

wharman: @peacemakerorg it's a supplement/complement to other activities - haven't stopped other stuff so if ur not here won't bother you #blogchat

foxwebco: @wharman What scares non profits the most about using twitter & Social Media? I know of 1 with a protected account...#blogchat

wharman: @foxwebco loss of control scares nonprofits most (and everyone). I think also the fear that there's no ROI #blogchat

MackCollier: @wharman #blogchat Wendy what are some of the things TRC looks for from SM to know its working? How do you judge effectiveness?

wharman: @MackCollier our goal is to help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies using socmed tools, so look for ... #blogchat

wharman: @MackCollier anecdotes, engagement, some more traditional number crunching (like evaluating FB insights) #blogchat

Shanan_S: VIDEO: Use Twitter to let family know you're ok in disaster: #blogchat

websuasion_ryan: @wharman what are your strategies for finding & building your sm communities? Particularly given your message. #blogchat

wharman: @websuasion_ryan I'm lucky in that we were mentioned hundreds of times a day without having to work at it, but... #blogchat

wharman: You can use keywords to find people who care about issues you care about. Offer value, talk to them, and you'll build community. #blogchat

MackCollier: @wharman Can you link to the SM handbook you created for TRC? #blogchat

wharman: @MackCollier yes! Here's the social media handbook draft for our chapters #blogchat

kanter: @wharman what has been ur greatest challenge/success with handbook? our chapters #blogchat

wharman: @kanter greatest success? it's pretty field-generated. They helped write it, they asked for it, so it reflects their needs #blogchat

wharman: @kanter greatest challenge? Getting small outlier groups to hop on board. #blogchat

sarahmarchetti: @wharman once NP have basics covered-listening/participating, what are some more advanced ways to use SM? fundraising? campaigns? #blogchat

wharman: @sarahmarchetti I'm not personally huge on fundraising outright - I think an np shouldempower supporters to fundraise for it #blogchat

wharman: @sarahmarchetti as an np we should concentrate on executing our mission. If offering unique value, others will support. #blogchat

kdpaine: @wharman #blogchat give me enough data + I bet I could show "mission accomplished" fewer lives/homes/property lost :)

kdpaine: @wharman isn't the role of comms to fulfill mission, $$ raised is development, no? #blogchat

wharman: Yes! RT @kdpaine isn't the role of comms to fulfill mission, $$ raised is development, no? #blogchat

sarahmarchetti: @kdpaine slightly diff perspective since I was Development Comm, but I think that the whole org is responsible for FR in some way #blogchat

kdpaine: @sarahmarchetti #blogchat II agree, but most non-profits have pretty firm silos keeping the two apart.

kanter: @kdpaine yes, those silos create lots of problems esp w/ nonprofit sm strategy implementation #blogchat takes leadership 2 change

ADDcrafter: @wharman - maybe not at national BOD, but chapter boards should be raising $$ imho. #blogchat

wharman: @ADDcrafter we'd want the board to be raising money but we try to use our official socmed channels to provide mission related... #blogchat

wharman: content and to invite people in rather than yapping at em and asking for $$. Offering value keeps people around more than begging #blogchat

wharman: show them impact and why you should be supported by doing your mission. #blogchat

websuasion_ryan: @wharman regarding that value, what % of resources to you apply to content dev vs direct engagement? #blogchat

wharman: @websuasion_ryan I spend concentrated couple of hours in morning in engagement, bit of afternoon in content dev. and rest of day #blogchat

wharman: monitoring and jumping in where I can (and the rest in meetings!) #blogchat

That's some of the highlights I saw from the first 45 mins, and #blogchat went strong for 2+ hours last night, so please make sure you check out everything here.

BTW thanks to Beth Kanter and Betsy Stone for their great recaps of last night's #blogchat! If you do a recap post, please leave a comment to this post so I can add a link to yours as well! BTW if you want to follow #blogchat, it's every Sunday night at 8pm CST on Twitter!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blog like it's Sunday afternoon

I'm writing this post from outside. Actually I'm making notes for this post on a legal pad outside. If you've ever lived in or visited the South in the summer, you know how brutal the weather can be. Normally, the temperature for mid-July is around 95-100 for north Alabama, with very high humidity. Think of walking through a sauna, and that gives you a good idea of how miserable it can be.

But today and for the past few days, the weather has been absolutely gawgeous. Today it is about 75 degrees, sunny with almost no humidity. So I'm taking advantage of the weather even if it's just to write a blog post. And I got to thinking about how I've always enjoyed Sunday afternoons. They've always seemed peaceful and relaxing, a chance to catch my breath before the week starts.

And I think there's a lesson to be learned here for many bloggers. Too often, our blogs can be too 'professional' and focused more on the information than the people we want to be connecting with. Without becoming too 'zen', I think we can do a few simple things to make our blogs more welcoming and relaxing for our readers:

1 - Add pictures, pictures everywhere. We are visual creatures, and despite what Amy thinks, I do get this ;) And not just pictures for your posts, but pictures of YOU. We are visual creatures, but we can also more easily trust people if we can see what they look like. Add pictures of yourself, your writers, and even your customers if you can! Smiling, happy faces are much easier to connect with and trust than no pics and posts written by 'Admin' ;)

2 - Don't be afraid to show some personality. Got a favorite hobby that you occasionally want to work into your posts? Why not? Pulling back the curtain a little bit and showing us what your interests are is a great way to make yourself more interesting to your readers. And it gives more people an opening to interact with you. I even do this on Twitter, even though I normally talk about social media there, I will occasionally talk about my favorite music, or movies, or other off-the-wall topics. What I've noticed is that I always get replies from people I never talk social media with. By picking a new topic, I am giving these people a way to connect with me where maybe they didn't have a chance to before! You can do the same thing on your blog.

3 - Promote someone else's posts! Most of us read other blogs and sites, why not save your favorite articles and repost them once a week on the blog? Sure, it doesn't do anything to directly promote your business, but you're still creating value for your readers, and they'll appreciate that. And it also increases the likelihood that the blogs/sites you link to will start reading your blog, and link back to it! Which means more incoming links for you!

These are just some quick thoughts I had on how you can make your blog more inviting for your readers, please add your own tips in the comments.

BTW the above pic from crowt59 probably has nothing to do with relaxing Sundays (or blogging like one), but it was too cool not to use!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Social Media Mavens - An Interview with PepsiCo's Bonin Bough

Welcome to the second interview in the Social Media Mavens series, where I talk to some of the top minds in corporate social media, and learn how their companies are crafting their social media efforts. Today's edition features a recent chat I had with PepsiCo's Director of Global Social Media, Bonin Bough. The interview focuses on Tropicana's involvement with BlogHer in launching an online community site for women, The Juice. Read on to learn how this partnership came to be, why Tropicana went with a community site to reach their target audience, and how the company judges the effectiveness of this initiative:

MC - Walk me through the thinking that went into Tropicana wanting to sponsor an online community, and an online community on the BlogHer site? What advantages do you see to this approach versus spending the same amount of time and money on traditional marketing? What are the challenges?

BB - The Juice was launched in coordination with Trop50, Tropicana’s new orange juice beverage with 50% less calories and sugar. Because it is a unique product, we wanted to go out with it in a unique way – by starting an online community. Trop50 is all about getting "more of what you want and less of what you don't" - and we understood that this mentality really jived with women's day to day lives. Social networking and community message boards are a huge part of women’s online lives today. The Juice evolves the tradition of women gathering around the kitchen table to share stories and tips – and creates what we like to refer to as a “digital kitchen table” for ongoing conversation.

BlogHer was a natural choice for us because their audience maps so well to the market for Trop50 and Tropicana. It’s important to look at the breadth and reach that BlogHer has – almost reaching half of the women that are going online to experience the blogosphere read something from a BlogHer blog. However, I’d point out that sponsorship is a dated word. The last thing we’re doing is a sponsorship! What we’re doing is more of partnership – we collaborate closely with them on episode topics, scripts, and guests so what you see is a reflection of both Trop50 and BlogHer.

Overall I think we need to stop focusing on the “either/or” approach to traditional versus online social media marketing. At Tropicana and PepsiCo we have an integrated marketing mix strategy. The Juice is a specific tactic that brings a different and deeper level of engagement and provides a platform for an open conversation, so we can actually engage directly with our consumers. We are moving from impressions to connections, and campaigns to conversations. With The Juice it’s about enabling a conversation that’s important to our audience – helping them get more of what they want and less of what they don’t on a variety of topics they choose to discuss. And, this isn’t just about the BlogHer community – it’s about using that as a springboard to reach into Facebook, Twitter, iVillage, other BlogHer blogs, non-BlogHer blogs, and more.

MC - A lot of my readers are at a place where they 'get' social media, but are trying to get the 'buy-in' at their company from people that don't. Did you have to 'sell' the idea of sponsoring The Juice community internally, and if so, what were some of the objections you heard, and how did you move past them?

BB - I understand a lot of people are in that position – the first thing I’d say is PepsiCo is in a great position because senior management across the organization believes in social and digital as a game changer. They have driven us to be as innovative with our marketing as we are with our products - Trop50 which is an innovation in product and an innovation in the way we market.

Having said that, of course we needed to sell the idea of The Juice internally and one of the biggest questions we received was about understanding “reach” in the social media space. We believe there is an arc to the way messages should be delivered these days. The message starts when we engage our advocates (versus influencers) and begin a conversation – it expands when we carry that conversation elsewhere. Reach is gained over time through syndication, traditional message, integrating into paid, and other 360 efforts. The Juice is a marathon not a sprint. Overall – it starts with making sure you can articulate the value of a tactic, and not let it viewed in a narrow way.

MC - How do you judge the ultimate success of The Juice as a marketing initiative for Tropicana? Or are you even approaching it as being a marketing effort? What will need to happen from this partnership for PepsiCo to look at launching similar efforts in the future for its other brands?

BB - All our efforts in the social media space are totally focused on ROI, and demonstrating the value of engaging with consumers on social media platforms. Measuring a program against key metrics and relationships is really important as we scale up our social media work across brands. For Trop50 specifically we are working with Ogilvy and their Conversation Impact model which tracks key metrics that ladder up to Reach, Preference and Action. So yes, very focused on measurement - and to be honest that is a huge part of what will help sell communities across to other brands. We'll look to share this out as a case study across PepsiCo. This type of engagement won't be right for every brand, but we share best practices so other brands can help evaluate if a community model might work for them.

Again, the big thing is that we can’t get stuck on older metrics. It’s an emerging world, and we need to adapt to that.

Thanks again to Bonin for answering my questions and giving us some insight into how The Juice came to be. You can follow Bonin on Twitter by clicking 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!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing & Social Media Blogs - Week 142

Here's the standings for Week 142:

1 - Duct Tape Marketing - 132,000 (No Change)(LW - 1)
2 - Church of the Customer - 121,000 (No Change)(LW - 2)
3 - CopyBlogger - 67,265 (+8,526)(LW - 3)
4 - Web Strategy by Jeremiah - 37,257 (+13,817)(LW - 4)
5 - Chris Brogan - 26,427 (+3,306)(LW - 5)
6 - Logic + Emotion - 18,335 (+4,439)(LW - 6)
7 - Search Engine Guide - 14,160 (+568)(LW - 7)
8 - Daily Fix - 11,499(+1,617)(LW - 8)
9 - Influential Marketing - 10,323 (+853)(LW - 9)
10 - Social Media Explorer - 7,833 (+3,187)(LW - 13)
11 - Conversation Agent - 7,589 (+2,491)(LW - 11)
12 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 7,312 (+317)(LW - 10)
13 - Techipedia - 6,125 (+3,013)(LW - 19)
14 - Being Peter Kim - 5,979 (+1,882)(LW - 15)
15 - The Viral Garden - 5,567 (+1,310)(LW - 14)
16 - Debbie Weil's Blog - 4,756 (+912)(LW - 17)
17 - Jaffe Juice - 4,662 (-54)(LW - 12)
18 - Converstations - 4,565 (+892)(LW - 18)
19 - What's Next - 4,387 (+291)(LW - 16)
20 - Greg Verdino's Marketing Blog - 3,791 (+1,524)(LW - 23)
21 - Brand and Market - 3,429 (+500)(LW - 20)
22 - Techno Marketer - 3,415 (+1,083)(LW - 22)
23 - Emergence Marketing - 3,135 (+928)(LW - 24)
24 - The Social Media Marketing Blog - 3,115 (+338)(LW - 21)
25 - The Social Customer Manifesto - 2,083 (+160)(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. This is the first Top 25 since Feedburner started incorporating FriendFeed subscribers into their sub #s. So if you saw a sudden spike in your numbers a few weeks ago, this might be why. Personally I think it makes FB's #s more inaccurate since it replicates some subscribers (and some FF members arent subscribing to you for your blog posts), but anyway. Many blogs saw big moves, with the flashiest being a huge jump by Jeremiah to distance himself from Chris Brogan's blog. Conversation Agent, Social Media Explorer, Techipedia and several others saw big gains as well.

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, July 13, 2009

My Social South session is set!

And the winnah is...What Rockstars Can Teach You About Kicking Ass With Social Media!

Yeah! Thanks to everyone that voted, as there was strong response for 3 of the 5 topics I selected, which is good. And actually, many of the points I would have raised in the 'How Social Media Can Transform Your Marketing and Your Business' session (which finished 2nd in voting), will also be covered in the Rockstar session.

So what WILL be covered?

  • How rockstars build community and embrace their fans, and how you can apply these same techniques to your social media and community-building efforts
  • How rockstars go beyond simply 'losing' control of their branding/content and actively seek out ways to transfer ownership to their fans
  • Why rockstars don't have 'customers', they have fans. Hint: They are fans themselves.

Of course this session will be heavy on case studies as always, and plenty of 'lessons learned', with examples of companies that are utilizing social media as a way to connect with their customers and even reach them as fans.

And if you haven't yet registered for Social South, you're in luck as the cost is a low $149 as the 'early bird' rate is in effect for the next couple of weeks! That's for a TWO day event and is an insanely low price, and you can see that some of the top social media minds in the South will be there. Hope to see you there, and BTW if you have any examples of rockstars that are successfully reaching their fans via smart marketing, or better via smart SOCIAL MEDIA marketing, add a comment here and I'll see if I can get your example added to my session!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Companies, ignore social media early-adopters

Recently, Steve Rubel decided that blogging was dying, and that he was moving away from it. Whether you agree or disagree with Steve (and honestly I disagree with him often, especially on this issue), the fact remains that he's a very influential voice in the social media space. Companies read what he and other social media early adopters write, and they take it to heart.

But on the backdrop to the latest resurrection of the 'blogging is dead' meme, there's this; Google just announced that they will be jumping into the operating system business, launching an OS for computers based on their Chrome browser.

And how did Google alert the world to what Andy Sernovitz calls the biggest tech news of the year? Via a blog post.

Why did Google go with a supposedly 'dying' medium to make argubly their biggest announcement of the year?

Because what's 'dying' to the bleeding edge isn't what's 'dying' to companies. Oh and BTW, some people on the bleeding edge like to say things like 'blogs are dying' cause they know that everyone will link to them when they do. Shocking, but yeah, it sometimes happens.

But the bottom line is this; early adopters most likely use social media in a completely different way that your company, or your customers will. So if you are looking at how the 'influential' people in this space use social media as a potential blueprint for your own efforts, you are missing the boat. Look at how your CUSTOMERS use social media. They are the ones you need to be focusing on. It's great that GaryVee spends 18 hours a day on social media sites. He does this because that's how HE stays in contact with HIS customers. But if you do the same thing, and your customers are NOT on those same social media sites, how many hours a day are you wasting?

Whenever I talk to companies about their using social media, they always ask 'well how much time do YOU spend with social media each day?' And I have to point out that that's like asking me how much time I spend with my business each day. I am an outlier, my usage is NOT the norm, and it's not what you should be trying to emulate.

Companies, take your social media cues from your customers, not your favorite blogger/Twitterer.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Find your dancers, and give them the stage

Thanks to Matt for linking to this video from the 2009 Sasquatch Music Festival, which I am about the last person on the interwebs to see, I think.

Thoughts I had as I watched this video and how it could apply to your community-building efforts:

1 - The guy dancing by himself would have danced all day by himself, if he had to. He was just having fun, and probably enjoyed the idea that everyone was staring at him.

2 - The SECOND guy is what starts the movement toward everyone dancing. Without the first guy standing up and dancing by himself, the second guy probably never moves.

3 - When the third guy joins in, suddenly everyone else realizes that everything has changed. A minute ago, it was 'who is that idiot dancing by himself?' Now that the third person has joined in, suddenly everyone is wanting to join in. Either because they want to be a part of this group that's being created before their eyes, or because they realize that if they DON'T join in, they are going to become 'that idiot that's sitting down by himself while everyone else dances'.

4 - Reality changed in a matter of seconds. It went from being 'cool' to sit down and enjoy the show, to being 'cool' to stand up and dance with strangers.

5 - Passion is infectious.

So what does this mean for your community-building efforts?

1 - Give the stage to that first guy. It could be the guy that wants to dance by himself, or it could be the guy that wants to spend 4 hours a night answering questions on your forum and solving customer issues. But make sure that first guy has room to dance, because that's what he wants to do.

2 - Once the first person is taking the action you want, as quickly as possible, find a way to encourage the second and third guy/gal to join in. This is key as it gets everyone else's attention, and it makes it much easier for everyone else to feel comfortable participating.

3 - Let your members/users/readers understand that they are creating a shared experience. Notice this video went from 3 guys dancing to 100 in a matter of seconds. Everyone knew that something special was happening, and that they had a chance to be a part of it. That they had a chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves. That's very rare and powerfully enticing to people. So you want to make it as easy as possible for the people sitting down to want to get up and start contributing to your community, to start dancing.

BTW one last thought; by the end of the video was the 'event' still the concert itself for the audience, or how they were dancing together?

What did you see when you watched this?

PS: Verdino has already tried to hijack the comments with shameless self-promotion, so I figured I'd make it easier for everyone to see his kick-ass post on this same video.

PPS: And literally while I was editing the post to include a link to Verdino's post, Spike leaves a comment with a link to HIS post on the video. Anyone else? ;)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Which social media conferences should you attend?

Stuart DMed me wanting to know which social media conferences I recommended he should attend. Since I get asked this on a fairly regular basis, I thought it would be a good idea to write up my thoughts, since we are about to hit the 'busy' season for conferences in a few weeks. And BTW, these points are relevant for conference organizers, as well.

First, consider the sessions, and what you want from them. Are you wanting Social Media/Blogging 101, or have you gotten started and you're looking for more advanced tactics? Make sure the structure of the event is consistent with what you need. And when the sessions end, will the speaker be leaving you with a plan of action and an explanation of the next steps you should be taking? They should be, otherwise you can just read their blog posts.

Second, consider how much networking time is available. THIS is where the great conferences excel. Let's be honest, for most major conferences, you can eventually find at least audio (and sometimes video) for the top sessions, online. So why should you pay $1,000 for a ticket to an event when the sessions will be archived for free a few weeks later? Because paying that $1,000.00 gives you access to the speakers and the attendees. It's one thing to hear Chris Brogan's session on launching a social media strategy, but quite another to get 15 mins of his time in the hallway where he tells YOU how YOUR business should launch a social media strategy. At the last event I spoke at, Amy Africa spent over TWO hours helping me with my site. That alone made the trip to Boston more than worth my time. The sessions are great, but the connections you make in the hallways are what makes the event worth your time.

Third, know why you are attending the event. Is it for business, or pleasure? South By Southwest is a wonderful event, but it's not for everyone. If you want to attend to reconnect with friends in the social media space and meet some of your favorite bloggers/Twitterers, then SXSW is where you want to be. But if you are attending SXSW looking for excellent sessions and business opportunities, your money might be better spent elsewhere.

The bottom line is that both the attendees and the conference organizers need to understand that in most cases, the attendee is going to have to convince their boss to fork over their attendance fee and all the associated travel. So this means the attendee needs to have a plan in place for how that expense will be justified, and the conference organizer needs to help the attendees make their case to their boss.

Pic of SXSW panel via Flickr user Jeremiah

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Social Media Mavens - An Interview with Graco's Lindsay Lebresco

Originally, I had planned on relaunching The Viral Garden today, but the migration to Wordpress/Thesis has been slowed a bit by my consulting work. There's several changes I will be making when the relaunch does happen, and I'm going to go ahead today and give you a sneak peek at one of the biggest changes you'll be seeing.

Starting today, and every two weeks hereafter, I'll be sharing an interview I've done with some of the top social media minds in the corporate world. These are people that have executed and overseen successful blogging, community-building, and social networking efforts. I want this series to be a resource for YOU, as you'll be learning from some of the top companies in the world on how to create, launch, and maintain successful social media efforts.

And I could think of no better company and person to launch this series than Graco's Social Media Manager, Lindsay Lebresco. Besides being a good friend, Lindsay is one of the top social media managers on the planet, and she and her team have created one of the most successful corporate blogs anywhere, Graco's Heart to Heart Blog. Lindsay was kind enough to answer some questions for me, and walk us through how Graco crafted their blogging strategy, how they measure their efforts, and how they craft their blog content (Graco absolutely nails 'the bigger idea' behind their blog).

MC - So many companies/organizations decide one day to start blogging, and just launch a blog and learn as they go. Is this what Graco did?

LL - Definitely not. It actually took us nearly 9 months (we tend to work in trimesters over here) to really get started in the space. We did a lot of listening to understand what kind of conversations our consumers (expectant parents and parents of young children) were having in the social web. We then matched up what we heard with our company’s goals and brand’s vision and thus our social media strategy, lead by our “corporate” blog, was born. Of course the blog is only one of the social platforms we’re engaging our consumers with but it was definitely started with the most insight and has the strongest strategy behind it. I think there’s certainly room for experimentation in social media and there’s something to be said for brands willing to take a risk to get a reward, but in my opinion, and I think most social media strategists and practitioners would agree, corporate blogging is not the place for dabbling or experimentation.

MC - So basically, Graco listened to its customers and crafted its blog content based on what you thought they would find valuable, and you and your team made sure that Graco's social media goals aligned with your company's larger business goals?

LL - That’s really it! You make it sound so easy there Mack - that actually took quite a lot of planning & time but it was the absolute right foundation to get us started. I’m so glad we took our time and got totally aligned before we jumped in- it’s proven to be at the heart of our success.

MC - As you know, I am a huge fan of what Graco has done with its blogging strategy, and as Graco's Social Media Manager, you've been a big part of that. What's your daily routine as it pertains to Graco's blog?

LL - And wouldn’t it be lovely if after 18 months I had a routine! Since the blog is published 5 days a week, it can be a challenge to create and gather content from all the folks in the organization that are a part of the blog. As you know, we have a multiple-contributor blog platform where we’ve tried to establish different voices that we feel best represent who we are as a company- which is basically a collection of passionate, talented and caring individuals who, a lot of them, are parents themselves. I work with these people to create quality content that we hopes connects with our readers and helps underscore the fact that the people behind the products at Graco are on the same journey our consumers are on or are headed on. So in that regard, I manage a team of contributors.

I also work with product teams who want to talk about new products, I work with HR who likes to showcase a little of the spirit behind Graco by posting company happenings, I work with our channel marketing teams to support our retail partners and programs, and I also personally create content that people tell me they want to hear about.

From a time breakout standpoint, I could spend an hour or more every day pulling together content, editing it, optimizing it and getting it in a format to publish- that usually happens around 5:30 in the afternoon when I realize I’ve forgotten to do it and have just promised my husband that I will be home on time for dinner.

MC - One of the areas that companies struggle with before, and even after launching a blog, is how to measure its effectiveness. What does Graco look at to decide how effective its blogging strategy is?

LL - We use a variety of methods, some of them fairly standard (how many comments, how many links, how many visitors, how many clicked through to, etc) and we also look at the engagement of our readers. Are readers coming back over time?, how often are they commenting?, is the relationship with our blog readers extending to other SM platforms of ours?, etc) SEO is certainly another measure we look at.

For instance, one of the blog posts that continually performs well in search engines and delivers a large amount of keyword traffic is a blog post written by Kim Lefko who is our Global Vice President of Brand Marketing. Her post is entitled “Top 10 Ways to announce your pregnancy” which she wrote when she was expecting her 2nd child. If an expectant mom is looking for creative ways to tell her friends and family she is pregnant, usually right around the start of her 2nd trimester, and she comes to the Graco blog by way of search, what a perfect time (when FTEs start registering for baby gear) and personal introduction we’re able to make with that consumer.

MC - Finally, what's next for Lindsay?

LL - Now this is the million dollar question! As many of our regular readers and online friends know, Graco Children's Products is relocating its headquarters to Atlanta, GA next month to be with our other sister companies and part of our corporation Newell Rubbermaid. Unfortunately I am not making the move because my roots and family are here in southeastern PA. After nearly 7 years of working at Graco, a company and brand that I passionately believe in, it was a very difficult decision to make (especially since my husband is a stay-at-home dad!). I’m exploring several avenues but my desire is to stay here in Pennsylvania practicing social media. So if your readers know of anything…

Thank you, Lindsay! And let me say that if your company is looking for someone to head up your social media efforts (especially if you are located in the Philadelphia area), then you would be damn hard-pressed to find someone more suitable to this role than Lindsay. Seriously, the results literally speak for themselves, here's some of the stunning success Graco has had in social media. In 2007 before the company launched its blog, 68% of online mentions were positive. In 2008, that number was up to 83%, and the company found that almost ALL of the additional online mentions after the company launched its blog, were positive. That's a testament to the success of Graco's blogging strategy, and please email Lindsay if you think you have an opportunity for her!

BTW you can (and should!) follow Lindsay on Twitter by clicking 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!