Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Has Twitter jumped the shark?

Twitter is slowing turning us all into broadcasters.

That seems to be the case among the people I am following. Even among my close contacts, I'm noticing that there are few actual conversations happening, it's mostly a stream of personal updates, with the occasional link thrown in.

To prove this, I decided to check the recent tweets from my contacts on Twitter. I am following over 15,000 people now, so Tweetdeck is a godsend, because it allows me to segment those followers into groups so I can be sure to keep up with people more easily.

One of the groups I have created is 'My 100', which are close friends and business contacts who I absolutely want to keep up with.

I decided to go to the tweets from My 100 and see how many tweets from this group would pass before I found a tweet where someone was leaving a reply to someone else. In other words, how many tweets would pass by before I found a tweet from a member of My 100 who was engaged in a conversation with someone else.

73 tweets passed before I found a person replying to someone else (God bless you, @ShannonPaul). SEVENTY THREE!!!! I figured the number would be a dozen, at most. Now granted, there were several RTs in that, but 72 tweets passed before I found one where someone was actually talking to someone else.

BTW just for the hell of it, I decided to conduct the same experiment on my All Friends column. There a mere 17 tweets went by before I found one left directly to another person.

It seems we are shifting from using Twitter as a conversational tool, to using it as a broadcasting tool. We are no longer talking WITH Twitter members, we are talking at them. I'm doing it as well, I checked my TweetStats, and now 72% of my tweets are replies to others. That's good, but at one point I was pushing 80%.

Are you guys seeing the same thing? Or am I just being bitchy because everyone isn't using Twitter the same way I am? Long-time readers of The Viral Garden will remember that in the Summer of 2008 I went on and on about how amazing Plurk was. A big reason why, was because of all the amazing conversations a small group of us had there.

I miss that. And I really haven't seen it on Twitter in several months.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

OptSum: Getting out of the Social Media Bubble

For the last three days I've been in Dallas attending and presenting at the Social Media Optimization Summit. The event was organized by Tami Siewruk and her team, and in many ways, I was an outsider. Which was a good thing.

The event was aimed primarily at the apartment industry and property managers. While Tami put together a very solid lineup of social media speakers, such as Jason Falls, Chris Penn, Geno Church, Charity Hisle, myself and others, many of us had little visibility in Tami's 'space'. This was great, because it meant that the audience, for the most part, had no pre-conceived notions about us, and our ideas and teachings had to stand on their own merits.

What I loved about the audience was that every thought we put forward was refocused through the lense of 'how does this work for my industry?' Normally when I speak at a marketing/social media event, the audience isn't this laser-focused on one particular sector or industry. But the people I met at #optsum were passionate about learning more about social media, and how it can work with and be incorporated into their current marketing efforts.

But I have to admit, as the event unfolded and I sat in on several workshops, I began to get a bit worried about my workshop. My Think Like a Rockstar workshop was focused on how rockstars create fans for their music, and how companies can replicate this via social media to create excitement for their own efforets. It was definitely the black sheep of the agenda, but somewhat to my surprise, there wasn't a chair left when the workshop started. I think that's because these people are passionate about their tenants and WANT to connect with them and were excited about the potential of using social media as a way to create and nurture relationships with their customers. It was very inspiring to see!

And speaking of inspiring, I loved how all the attendees were so passionate about Tami and her events. This is the first time when I have had attendees refer to a series of conferences as being 'life-changing events', but I heard that description more than once. Tami is planning on having a similar event (only bigger) back in Dallas in September, and if you are in the apartment industry (or even if you aren't), I highly recommend you attend!

BTW if you couldn't make it to Dallas, here's the slidedeck from my Think Like a Rockstar workshop:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

This is MY idea...

From 1966 to 1968, Adam West and Burt Ward played Batman and Robin in the very campy, and very popular series 'Batman' for ABC. The series portrayed Batman and Robin as being very cartoonish, and often as inept as the villains they were chasing. DC Comics took its lead from the success of the ABC series, and began publishing stories in its Batman comics that were similar in stance and tone to the very funny and satirical shows being shown in the Batman television series.

About a year or so after the Batman series ended, a writer named Denny O'Neil and an artist named Neal Adams began collaborating on new Batman comics. At this point the Batman comics were still taking their lead from the campiness of the Batman series, and the writers and artists that worked on Batman comics were encouraged to do so as well. O'Neil and Adams not only didn't agree with this stance, they thought it was ridiculous. They wanted to see Batman return to his roots as a brooding force that fought evil from the darkness and shadows, not a campy superhero that fought in tights.

So bit by bit, Adams and O'Neil began to make subtle changes to way Batman was written and drawn. If a script called for Batman to appear in broad daylight, Adams would change it to a night scene. They made Batman more menacing to criminals, more violent, but at the same time, he became more cerebral, going from being bumbling in the TV series, to 'the world's greatest detective'.

Slowly, O'Neil and Adams took the idea of what and who the Batman was, and made it their own. Most fans consider the O'Neil and Adams work on Batman in the early 70s to be one of the greatest collaborations in comics history. In fact, much of the present image you see of Batman, in movies such as The Dark Knight, is heavily influenced by the work of Adams and O'Neil, four decades ago.

So what does this have to do with social media?

One of the complaints you hear often in this space is that there are no new ideas. We are all simply rehashing the same ideas over and over. We've become an echo chamber.

To a large degree, that's correct. But instead of simply looking for new ideas, sometimes it's just as effective to take an old idea, and make it your own.

Twitter launched in the summer of 2006, and from Day One, users of the site were suggesting to their friends who they should be following. We all did this, but Micah Baldwin was the first to take this idea and make it his own, with the creation of #followfriday early last year.

How often do you see someone promoting a post or work they have done in a blog comment? Many people do this, and many more people probably would LIKE to do this, but don't want to seem too self-promotional. Becky McCray created the Brag Basket on her blog, and solved this problem. She took an existing idea, and made it her own.

For as long as there have been blogs, there have been bloggers wanting other bloggers to link to them. We all want more links, and we all want to be found by more readers. This is why I started The Z-List in late 2006. The idea was simple, you highlight any blogs that you think others should be reading, and link to them. I took an existing idea (linking to other blogs, asking for blog links), and made it my own.

The point is, instead of chasing 'new ideas', how can you take an existing idea, or an existing activity, and add more value? How can you take that idea, and make it your own? Sometimes improving the wheel makes more sense than trying to re-invent it.

Pic via Cover Browser

Monday, March 15, 2010

Heading to SXSW-Music? Want to get in on a social media scavenger hunt?

Typically I don't blog about work I'm doing with clients, but if you'll be in Austin later this week for SXSW-Music, I wanted to give you the heads up on pretty cool a project I'm working on.

One of my current clients is Rock Saga, a 5-day alternative rock festival that will be taking place in Jamaica over Memorial Day Weekend (May 27th-31st). The festival itself will be extremely cool, the heart of which is a 2-day Battle of the Bands concert, but there's also a Miss Rock Saga Competition, and more parties on the beach than you can shake a stick at. The Battle of the Bands will be composed of 24 bands selected by the fans at the website, and all together $30,000 in prize money will be awarded. And of course, it's in Jamaica in May, so that alone is reason enough to get excited!

So we wanted to make sure we were in Austin during SXSW-Music to help get the word out about the festival. And the thought was that while we are there, that we should give away some tickets. But instead of just handing out tickets, we decided to make it fun for everyone, and try doing a scavenger hunt!

What we'll be doing is this: On the 17th, 18th and 20th, we'll have a team in and around the Austin Convention Center where the majority of SXSW-Music will be taking place. This team will have several pairs of tickets with them, 2-day weekend passes to the Battle of the Bands that would normally sell for $199. If you want to win a pair of these tickets, you'll have to find them. It could be that one of the team members will have them, or they could be hidden somewhere in the conference center. We'll tell you which, and will post hints to where you can find the tickets (or the person that has the tickets) on Rock Saga's Twitter page, and on their Facebook Fan Page. So if you want to play along, make sure you follow Rock Saga on Twitter and Facebook!

This is a bit of an experiment, so we'll see how it goes. The festival itself will be a blast, so in keeping with that spirit we wanted to have some fun with promoting it during SXSW, and thought it would be cool to let you guys get in on it as well! We'll be building off this in the coming weeks and will be using social media in other ways to promote Rock Saga.

If you'd like to learn more about Rock Saga, check out the site, and if you would like to join us as a sponsor, there's still some room left, just email me and I can put you in touch with the people that can help you out. And if you're a band that would like to join the Rock Saga lineup, go to the site and submit your band, then have your friends vote you up, you could get added to the festival!

Oh and if you think the scavenger hunt idea is cool and want to tell your friends on Twitter, I'd appreciate that as well ;)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Are you ignoring one of the most important rules of blogging?

The most agonizing and frustrating blog post I ever wrote, was my first one.

It took me FOUR days to write that post. Actually it only took about an hour to write, but it took me four days to have the courage to hit 'Publish Post'.

And it wasn't because I was insecure about the post itself, it was because according to what I had read on other blogs, it was a 'bad' post. In preparing for the start of my blog-writing, I read a LOT of blogs in an effort to discover the 'tips' for writing a great blog. And one of the 'rules' for blogging I read over and over again was 'Make sure the post is only a couple of paragraphs long, otherwise it will be too long and readers will lose interest.'

My post was at least two pages long. So I stared intently at the screen trying to figure out a way to shorten the post to 2 paragraphs, and still tell the story I wanted to tell. After 4 days I realized that it couldn't be done, and hit 'Publish Post'.

Just like that, my blogging 'career' began by breaking the blogging rules. And I have to admit, it felt damn good!

I've been thinking about this recently because I'm really struggling to find 'new' blogs that get and maintain my interest. And I wonder if part of the reason why is because so many new bloggers are following the 'rules' of blogging. In 2005 and 2006, we didn't have Copy Blogger and ProBlogger to tell us the what the 'best' way to blog was. We all had to make our own rules, to a great extent.

But now, there's a zillion blogs giving you 'Ten Steps to Creating the Perfect Blog". Hell I've written those posts myself. And on the one hand these do definitely improve your blogging, but at the same time if everyone is following the same format, then it becomes MUCH harder for a blog to stand out.

Another example of purposely not following the blogging rules was the Z-List. This was the thing that first got me on a lot of people's radars. The premise was absurd to some; Take a list of blogs you think are under-appreciated, then invite everyone else to add their own favorite blogs and share the list. With one BIG caveat; You can't add your OWN blog to the list. Even though my blog wasn't on the original Z-List, I ended up gaining a few hundred links from the Z-list, and a few other blogs got several hundred.

So while you are following the 'rules' for better blogging, don't forget that you can always make and ADD your own rules. That might be the most important blogging rule of all.

Pic via Flickr user atibens

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Senior marketing execs see their companies moving to social media in 2010

MENG has just released the results of its third annual Marketing Trends study (which you can view here), and the results showed that senior-level marketers and execs are getting very serious about social media.

First, some background on MENG and the respondents to this study. All MENG members must have attained a level of VP or higher prior to joining, and must have a salary of at least $160K. So these findings are coming from people that are in a position to shape the marketing initiatives in their companies.

BTW complete disclosure, I was recently selected to MENG's Social Media Council of Advisors, along with friends and smarties Drew McClellan, Beth Harte, Amber Naslund, Paul Dunay and Joe Pulizzi.

Now, for the key social media findings, which come from roughly 1,800 MENG members.

  • Over 70% of respondents said their company is planning NEW social media initiatives in 2010
  • 43% of respondents said their company had a Facebook presence, 43% said their company had a LinkedIn presence, and 34% said their company was on Twitter. 28% of respondents said their company had a blog, and this was noted as being significantly higher than last year's findings.
  • As for which social sites MENG members are using themselves, LinkedIn was the big winner here, with 92% of respondents saying they use LI, Facebook was second with 56%.
  • Companies are more likely to maintain a blog than individual executives, and executives are less likely to have a personal blog UNLESS they are at a smaller company (less than 2,000 employees).
  • As for implementing new social media initiatives in 2010, most execs surveyed will do so internally (71%). 28% said they would rely on interactive agencies, 25% on social media consultants, 20% on PR agencies, and 16% on ad agencies.
  • As far as creating social media strategies, both large companies (46%) and small companies (41%) will be going with social media consultants as their top choice if they outsource. Next will be interactive, PR and Ad agencies.
  • Larger companies that outsource social media initiatives will turn to Interactive agencies (33%), Ad agencies (31%), PR agencies (26%) and Social Media Consultants (24%)
  • What criteria do companies have to who they outsource their social media initiatives to? The top 4 answers were Examples of Previous Work (94%), Recommendations (91%), Quality of Response to RFP (82%), and Cost (80%). Interestingly, the 11th most popular determinant was Social Media Certification (32%) and 12th was Number of Twitter Followers (21%).
I think this study also shows that marketers are becoming a bit tired of the buzz around social media. Mark left a comment in the previous post about how we 'pundits' told companies that they had to start using social media. He's right, and they did, and now they realize they aren't sure how to evaluate their efforts. So I think that's where a lot of the frustration is coming from, but as they become more adept at social media and how the tools function, that frustration should decrease.

If you want to see the results (PowerPoint) for yourself, you can view them here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Small businesses flocking to social media, but still like to self-promote

According to a new University of Maryland study (via eMarketer), social media adoption among small businesses has doubled, and these companies are satisfied with their results. Here's a graph from eMarketer showing the primary way in which these businesses are using social media:

What struck me about this was notice that the most popular ways for using social media all involve self-promotion. Posting status updates, blogging and tweeting about expertise. But notice what the LAST tactic listed is:

"Use Twitter as a customer service channel."

In many ways this suggests that these businesses are still very new to social media. Because when adopting social media use for the first time, most companies will use it as a marketing tool in the way that they are most familiar with. That means they use social media to broadcast and self-promote.

And notice that when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of its social media usage, 73% of respondents placed "Identify and attract new customers" as the top priority. But only 61% said their efforts met their expectations. This suggests to me that the expectations these companies have for their social media usage is being stifled by HOW they are using the tools. They want engagement, but aren't doing a good job of BEING engaging, it seems.

But my guess/hope is that as companies become more familiar with social media tools and their capabilities, that we'll see 'Posting status updates' moving further down that list, and see actual customer engagement becoming a priority for social media usage. THAT is where the true potential of social media for businesses lies.

Monday, March 01, 2010

I'm heading to Dallas, want to come?

Lately I've been so busy that I've had to become a lot pickier about the events I speak at. But there's one coming up in Dallas later this month that was too good for me to pass up. On March the 23rd and 24th I'll be in Dallas at the Social Media Optimization Summit.

I'll be speaking on Wednesday the 24th, and my 2-hour workshop will be entitled "Think Like a Rockstar; How to Build Fans and Community Around Your Social Media Efforts". Here's the official workshop description:

"It wasn’t supposed to be like this. You launched a new blog or maybe you created a Facebook Fan Page, thinking that you’d tap into these amazing social media tools as a way to connect with your customers and create raving fans and passionate evangelists for your business. Now it’s 4 months later and you have 12 fans on your Facebook page, and virtual tumbleweeds taunt you as your blog struggles to reach 10 visitors a day.

What happened?

Many companies find themselves in this exact situation, and this workshop will show you how to think like a rockstar. Rockstars don’t have customers, they have fans. And this doesn’t happen by accident, rockstars have a very special connection with their customers that makes them become raving fans for them and their products. Some companies are finding that they can use social media in many of these same ways to build vibrant online communities that are passionate about them.

In the “Think Like a Rockstar; How to Build Fans and Community Around Your Social Media Efforts” workshop, you will learn:

· The four key things that Rockstars do to create fans for their work and how you can do the same with your social media efforts
· The keys to building a vibrant community around your social media efforts
· The importance of ‘fishing where the fish are’ when you’re trying to build awareness
· How to create content that taps into the ‘Bigger Idea’ that’s more relevant and exciting to your customers

Pretty cool, eh? And the event itself has some of the biggest names in social media and online marketing, guys like John Jantsch, Jason Falls, Geno Church, Eric Brown, Erica Campbell, Jay Ehret, and many more!

As for the price, it's currently $429, BUT if you use code MC when you register, you can save $125 off that price! Not bad, huh? If you'll be attending, please let me know so we can meet up!