25 Content Strategy Blog Posts I'd Like To Read

You read Content Strategy for the Web or maybe just some blog posts on the subject. Maybe you attended the Web Content conference last week or just think content strategy could be for you. No matter your expertise, there's no mistaking: we need more intelligence devoted to content strategy. Here are 25 ideas for content strategy blog posts you should think about writing. How about tackling one this week?

If you do, feel free to link back to this post so your readers can get inspired too. In that respect, props to Chris Brogan and his post, 50 Blog Posts Marketers Could Write for their Companies, for inspiring this post.

Which post are you going to write?

For the content strategy newbie:

  • How did you first hear about content strategy? What piqued your interest that first time?
  • What are the top 3 benefits of a content strategy program, in your opinion. Or what 3 ways will it change the way you work day to day?
  • How are you educating yourself about content strategy? What blogs or books are you using?
  • How does your previous (or current) job prepare you for future content strategy work?
  • Some say that content strategy practitioners are to copywriting as information architects are to design. Have you found this to be the case in your position?
  • How do you explain content strategy to your closest co-workers? What metaphor aptly describes content strategy in your office?
  • From where do you draw your daily inspiration? This could be a person, place, experience, book, or feeling.
  • What do you most enjoy about content strategy? What makes you the happiest in your job?

For the content strategy journeyman:

  • What has been your most successful content strategy effort? What one thing helped it work?
  • How do you explain what you do to your grandparents?
  • What personality traits have you found serve you well? Which ones trip you up?
  • What's the biggest hole in your industry that content strategy can help fill? How is your industry in particular reacting to content strategy?
  • In the latest action movie you've seen, which character would have been most like a content strategist? Why? Is the content strategist the hero?
  • Having had some experience in the practice, what are you most looking forward to in the next year in content strategy? Where are the biggest opportunities?
  • How have you gotten involved in the content strategy community? Have you joined a Google group? Your local CS meet-up?
  • What's been the biggest internal dispute you've had this year regarding content strategy? How about with your client?

For expert content strategists:

  • What are you doing to promote content strategy in your organization? How are you a content strategy ambassador?
  • How has your agency or business implemented content strategy in the last year? What was the impetus?
  • How did your college degree prepare you for your content strategy job, especially since it's highly likely you did not major in content strategy? What path would you recommend to future strategists?
  • What are some new opportunities you see in the field this year? What stands out to make an impact in the next quarter?
  • Failure can often provide priceless insight. What have you learned from recent failures?
  • What's the first thing you do in the morning to prepare for your work each day? How does it help your content strategy work?
  • What processes have you set up in your agency or business to improve your content strategy? What's been your biggest hold-up?
  • How have you customized your offerings to match your client's needs? Did it make the end strategy result better or worse?
  • What leadership are you showing outside of your own organization? How are you expanding your influence for the betterment of content strategy?

Which topic will you take on? Please leave a comment on this post if you answer these, so the rest of the community can read your answer.

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Was Gone But Back Again

You might have noticed I've been absent from the blog for a little while. That's true, but I'm here today to tell you I'm back.

Why did I take a break? There were several reasons.

  1. Blog burnout: It's a very real thing. I've been writing OMB for over two years. And non-bloggers would find it surprising how taxing it is to come up with topics and get writing time every single week. I just needed a mental break.
  2. Day job priorities: I have been doing some pretty awesome stuff for Critical Mass that I hope one day to share here. These tasks required more mental bandwidth and something had to give. But I've gotten over a hump and expect to turn more attention back to the blog.
  3. Law school is a bitch: Not for me, for BG. With her in law school, I was not only in charge of the dogs and trash, but laundry, shopping, sweeping, cleaning...and that's cool. I'm happy to support her work. But her schedule has leveled a bit to where things are more balanced now - allowing me more time to write.
  4. I was a bitch: To paraphrase Dean Wormer: annoyed, angry, and pissed off is no way to go through life. I found myself with no patience for other marketing bloggers and quick to snap at anyone. I didn't want that to come out in my writing and I didn't want that unhealthiness in my life. (I'm calmer now...not sure why.)
  5. On the internet, no one can hear you blog: Let's face it: one guy not blogging isn't front-page news. Most of my traffic is from search engines and I don't have a cult following (I don't lose sleep about this, trust me). Anyway, I figured if I needed a break, few tears would be shed.

This is all to say...I'm back!

What's this mean for you? Well, I hope you'll subscribe to the blog. Don't forget to also subscribe to the podcast in iTunes (search for OnlineMarketerBlog) or click the button at the top of the center column.

(And if you need more reading material than I can provide, check out books I recommend.)

I will be back with more blog posts, including some cool book reviews and maybe a couple of video podcasts. I hope you'll stick around.

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My Post On the3six5

Yesterday was my day for the3six5 project, which means my entry is featured there today. Check it out at:

http://the3six5.posterous.com/january-24-2010-dj-francis

Here's a small snippet...

Today, I did the nerdiest thing I've ever done. I competed in a board game tournament.

Most people who know me would be shocked. They just don't see that side of me. Most of them see me as a businessman. Some of them see me as a brother or son. A special lady sees me as a husband. But a board game competitor? It is not a side I show to many folks.

We all have these secrets, don't we? You can never really know your fellow person. It's like we see each other through a dim and dirty mirror; passing each other like shadows on the wall in Plato's cave.

For the full entry, go to the3six5 project. Feel free to leave a comment or RT if you like it!

Also, you will notice that the3six5 project is run through Posterous. Subscribe to my Posterous feed (under "Get Updates in right-hand column) to find new, innovative articles and get a slightly different take on marketing.

Mitch Joel's Six Pixels Of Separation: The First Post-Web 2.0 Marketing Book And Why You Should Buy It

MitchJoel

I attest that Mitch Joel's new book, Six Pixels of Separation, is the first (and best) post-web 2.0 marketing book.

Strong statement? Damn right.

Here's why I believe it and why you can't miss his book.

In A Nutshell...

For my money, Joel's is the first new media marketing book that assumes knowledge of the basic moving parts and launches right into how to use them for business. This book really is about how to market in a new age.

Most web 2.0 marketing books explain the basics (what is a blog/delicious/Twitter, etc), give examples (i.e. Zappos, ComcastCares, Amazon, etc.), and suggest you connect the theory and those examples in your own business.

And that's OK. There is plenty of room for books like that. (I recommend Scott Fox's e-Riches 2.0 or Chris Brogan and Julien Smith's Trust Agents).

These books help a lot of people and that's great. But there hasn't been a serious web 2.0 marketing book that went far beyond it.

Until now.

Why Is This Book So Great?

So why should you spend your hard-earned money on this book? Here are a few reasons.

First, Joel gives you the tough medicine you need to hear. It's not always easy or expected, but you're in the advanced class now, buddy.

I love the against-the-grain statements you get with Joel that throw the new conventional wisdom on its head. Gems include:

  • "The general drum-beating is that the consumer is in control, not the company. But it's not true." (page 94)
  • "The assumption here is that whatever it takes to get your message through all of the clutter is fine, as long as you disclose and are transparent about your intent. But that simply is not the case." (page 172)
  • "Until now, you may be thinking that everything we've talked about is about getting you and your business online. It's not. Getting online is easy." (page 187)
  • "[B]eing wrong suddenly becomes a powerful entrepreneurial force." (page 209)
  • "Let people steal your ideas." (page 213)

If those quotes don't pique your interest, you can stop reading now. Close this window and come back when I've got something better for you.

But I think it's more likely that thinking like this is interesting to most of you. It's not the normal stuff about community and the blogosphere and kumbaya crap. It's tough minded and it's about your business.

Another thing that is great about Six Pixels of Separation is that it lives up to the values espoused within it. Trust is a seminal aspect of web 2.0 and the future of business. But trust is rarely spoken about overtly (see pages 34, 123, and 125 for explicit mentions of trust).

Trust is less a topic point or chapter subject, but rather more of a moral to the story. And the book itself builds trust by building a case, point by point.

The Trouble With Link Bait

Is this a perfect book? Of course not.

I was particularly confused by his section on link bait (page 170-2). It was confusing and clunky. The section lacked a clear definition and I couldn't even tell exactly what he thought about link bait, much less his definition of it.

Having been on the receiving end of this topic before, I expected a refinement that was missing here.

But honestly, missteps like this are small potatoes in a book that is otherwise fantastic.

One Final Note As A Writer

I read a lot of marketing books. No really, like A LOT. (This is a small sample from just the last couple years.)

And no matter how good the author, new releases always contain at least a few typos. It's to be expected.

But this book has none! ZERO. This might not be a big deal to you, but to the writers out there, you know how cool that is.

The Final Word

If you know the basics, but want to be challenged, I wholeheartedly recommend Six Pixels of Separation. If not, this isn't the book for you.

If you agree or disagree, I'd love to hear your comments below.

P.S.: This book is available for the Kindle as well and you'll save a couple bucks. (Plus, Kindles are only $299. Just sayin'...)

P.P.S.: If you enjoyed this review, you might also like my recent reviews of other marketing books.

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Career Lessons From A Blind Dog

Bump

On Saturday night, BG found a blind, mostly deaf dog in the middle of a street in our neighborhood. If you know us, it shouldn't surprise you that we scooped up the pup immediately.

We nicknamed the dog "Bump" - the sound her head made against the walls as she walked around - and started calling the local no-kill animal shelters. On Sunday, I drove her to the emergency vet to scan for a microchip...to no avail.

We couldn't take her in and we were pessimistic about finding anyone who would want an old, blind, deaf dog (even one as cute as Bump).

BG and I spent a lot of time online. We emailed our friends, searched out new shelters, posted on Craigslist, and scoured the forums for any mention of a lost dog.

Try Angie's List Today!

We'd just about given up hope when I noticed a paper sign taped to a lamp pole featuring a photo of Bump. By that evening, we had reunited her with her rightful owners.

Is There A Moral To The Story? Maybe.

All of the work we did to find Bump's parents online was useless. It took a simple piece of paper on a neighborhood pole to finally make the connection.

You could draw several morals from the story, but I choose this one: The internet can't solve everything.

I spend all day online, doing some pretty exciting stuff. Besides family and friends, online is where I exist for most of you. But sometimes I (read: you) need to get off the computer and live IRL.

What You Can Learn From Bump

I'm normally all business on the blog, but - and I'm blaming all of this on Bump, by the way - I'll succumb to a little sap today.

I hope you take this holiday weekend to unplug. Take a walk. Hug your kids. Go on a picnic.

Most importantly, let the people you love know it.

The internet can't solve all your problems. But family and a cold beer on Labor Day just might. I hope you take time to enjoy it.

P.S. All of the no-kill shelters we contacted accept donations of money and time. They'd love to hear from you:

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5 Under-The-Radar Marketing Bloggers You Should Read

Smiling

It's useful to follow the big dogs of marketing - the Brogans, the Jaffes, the Godins. But there are a lot of young bloggers with some great ideas about marketing in a web 2.0 world.

These marketers might not be well known (yet) but they will be soon. I wanted to share some of the very best of these under-the-radar marketing bloggers.

  • David Mullen - David's blog is called Communications Catalyst and he tweets at @dmullen. David provides consistent insights with just enough personality to make you feel like you know him.
  • Ryan Stephens - I was first introduced to Ryan with his excellent Six Principles of Influence to Increase Your Sales. With over 6K Twitter followers, Ryan is trusted by many to provide the goods.
  • Try Angie's List Today!

  • Lauren Fernandez - Lauren is the type of blogger you feel guilty for not linking too more. Her blogging is prolific, to say the least (but always true quality), and her tweets show her personality's sparkle. You can really tell the difference of someone fully immersed in PR 2.0 as a natural.
  • Len Kendall - Len and I used to be co-workers (hell, I knew him before I even got the job) and I've always been impressed with his insights. He's a day-in, day-out kind of guy, always bringing the goods on ConstructiveGrumpiness and on Twitter.
  • Jacqueline Wechsler - The author of two blogs - Jax Rant and the new UXThink - this Aussie definitely deserves more attention. (Her tweets are great too.)

I hope you take the opportunity to check out these young marketing bloggers. They have some great ideas and I predict that they will be leaders in the years to come.

Who do you think deserves more attention? Please leave a comment and a link to your favorite under-the-radar marketing blogger. The community (and me in particular!) are always looking for more smart people to read.

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Measuring Social Media ROI - It's Not A Web 2.0 Myth

Yardsticks

Not long ago, I declared that I'm f*cking sick of the "ROI of social media" debate. The post got some attention, including a follow-up on ReadWriteWeb.

Good. It's a conversation that needs to happen.

But in past posts, I neglected two topics:

  1. A history of media metrics, thereby illuminating how much has changed and how important this is
  2. The role of agencies as guides through a web 2.0 world

Today, I rectify that with a guest post on Critical Mass' Experience Matters blog entitled Why Your Social Media ROI Is Broken– And How To Fix It. (Disclosure: I am employed by Critical Mass.)

Who Should Read This And Why

If you work in or with an agency, I recommend this post. It describes an agency's changing responsibilities to their clients - how to help clients understand social media and find success with their web 2.0 ventures.

Most importantly, I hope it gives you courage to face this moving target. Here's a description of the changing marketing world from my guest post:

We are moving from a period of raw quantitative measurement (i.e. How many unique visitors did we have?) to a qualitative period (i.e. Did our social media engagement create more trust which in turn created more sales?). Trust, loyalty, and brand advocacy aren’t intangible anymore.

Is your agency at least aware of these changes? How have they advised you regarding social media metrics?

Trash Your Crappy Web Metrics And Grow A Pair

This is not the time for timid marketers. If you aren't ready to try new things and risk your neck everyday, please allow the rest of us to move past you.

Let me put it to you straight: web analysis allows you to determine the real ROI which, in turn, allows you to see what tactics are working and which aren't.

Not the tactics that your boss likes or that tested well in focus groups - the tactics that really work.

Personally, I recommend facing these new challenges head on. It's tough, but how else will you know if you are really reaching your goals?

What About You?

I would love to hear from you on this topic. Do you measure your social media outreach? If not, what is holding you back? If you do measure social media, what are the elements that you measure? Are these personalized to your goals?

In short, how's it going out there?

Please check out Why Your Social Media ROI Is Broken– And How To Fix It and leave a comment there or here (comment section below). I look forward to hearing from you.

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Why I Do Not Post Every Day

Stop-Relax

A lot of popular bloggers put up new blog posts everyday. But you might have noticed that I don't - 1-3 times per week, usually. But I haven't explained why I've adopted that frequency.

If you are a blogger (or think you might be in the future), I hope this gives you plenty to think about regarding your own blogging frequency.

Why don't you post every day?

Well, there are a few reasons. Here are the most important:

  • Don't have anything to say: It seems elementary, but for many would-be bloggers, it's not. There is enough cacophony in the blogosphere already. I refuse to add to it if I have nothing useful to say. (Subscribers to this blog know this - they are only notified when I post; never when I don't.)
  • It's already been said: There are a lot of smart bloggers out there. I'm not going to repeat or piggy-back on someone else's good idea. But if you're interested in the good stuff I'm reading, follow me on Twitter. I always tweet about smart articles (feel free to DM me yours, if you think it's really great).
  • Different priorities: Like many bloggers, I juggle a blog with my day job and family responsibilities. Sometimes, I need to devote my blogging time to the day job (even the 5-7am shift). Other times, I feel it is more important to spend time with BG and the dogs.
  • Traveling: Unlike some of the more hard-core bloggers, I usually take travel time as a chance to relax and don't post while I'm gone. For instance, I'm writing this post at the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Mexico. Our honeymoon is going great, but I thought this would be an appropriate topic with which to break from my norm of abstaining from blogging while away. (That's how much I value you readers...plus BG is taking a nap, so no interference with family time.)

What about you? Have you felt the pressure to post every day? How has that effected your writing? Or, have you changed your blogging frequency for any particular reason?

I'd love to hear from you, even while I'm away. And be sure to take some time off yourself during this summer season. Please look forward to a more regular posting schedule starting next week.

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Tips On Getting A Marketing Job During The Recession

job1

Changing jobs is never easy, and the recession multiplies the difficulty. But there are ways to improve your chances of finding a better position. I know - it's worked for me.

My story is featured on today's MarketingProf's MP Daily Fix: How I Got the Job: Optimizing Opportunities in a Stale Economy.

In that post, I explain:

  • How to become a Google detective
  • Why personal contact can make all the difference
  • How to strategically align your efforts
  • Why "networking" should be omitted from your vocabulary forever

I hope this helps you in your job search. Enjoy!

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How To Integrate A Wordpress Blog With Hostpapa Hosting

When I was setting up the independent hosting for this blog, there was no tutorial to walk me through the process. I was using one of the most popular blogging platforms and a growing hosting provider - but I couldn't get a decent - specific - tutorial. This is understandable. Neither company benefits by learning how the other works. The blogger is largely in charge of figuring it out themselves.

And I think that's OK.

But, I'd like to fill in that gap. I want this post to guide you from your unhosted Wordpress blog to a blog hosted by Hostpapa. That will allow you to run ads, make money, and take your online adventure to another level.

If this post helps you, consider using my affiliate links, like this one for Hostpapa or buy marketing books on Amazon or research from MarketingSherpa.

I'm not a tech guy (that will become obvious shortly) and I might slip a little. But stick with me, and hopefully this can help you.

Let's Get Started

First, let's get the philosophy straight.

Wordpress is the platform where you write your blog posts. That won't change. The only thing that will change is the way it gets to your readers.

Hostpapa (or any hosting vendor) is like the transmission vehicle for those posts. If Wordpress is the car, then Hostpapa is the road.

Philosophy In Action

Now let's see how this works.

The first thing you need to do is transfer what you already have in Wordpress and move it over to Hostpapa.

Go into Wordpress, and go to Tools > Export.

picture-1

This is going to take all of your past posts, all of the tags and categories, and most of the formatting stuff - everything that makes your blog your blog - and extracts it into a folder on your desktop.

picture-2

We're almost ready to throw all of that information into Hostpapa. But first we need to create our database (don't worry, this should be easy).

Go ahead and log on to your Hostpapa cPanel account. cPanel is the mechanism through which you interact with the backend hosting system. It's the dashboard that allows you to not learn a bunch of coding nonsense.

When you open up cPanel, there is a confusing array of icons. Forget about almost all of them. All you need to worry about right now is the MySQL database and the file manager.

Sidenote: Database

Before we get into the thick of things, we need to set up a database in Hostpapa's cPanel. Click on MySQL and you will see a bunch of stuff about databases.

Create a database - it doesn't matter what you name it, just save the name. Then create a user - again, it doesn't matter what you name it, just keep track of everything. Then, (toward the bottom of the page), link the database with the user. Don't complicate this - it should be very simple.

Back To The Main Process

OK, you've got a database and you also have a folder of your Wordpress stuff.

Now, let's send that Wordpress stuff to Hostpapa. After all, we're trying to get Wordpress to work with Hostpapa - sending them your historical information is the first step.

Sign into Hostpapa's cPanel and go to the file manager. (A small window will pop up after you click on the file manager. Don't worry about it - the default is usually what you want - the global or public section.)

Now, click upload and find that Wordpress stuff you exported earlier. Once it's uploaded, you will see something similar to the bottom of the image below.

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See the "wordpress.2009-02-23.xml" file at the bottom there? That was my Wordpress stuff. And now yours will be in the file manager too.

Downloading Wordpress

Now I'm going to tell you to download Wordpress, but don't get confused. What you just uploaded was your personal Wordpress stuff. But now you need to download the actual Wordpress program to run it on.

Before we send all of that personal/historical stuff over to Hostpapa, we need to give it a place to go. Letters go in envelopes, swords go in sheaths, and your Wordpress export file will need to get its Wordpress suit on before things will work.

Go to Wordpress.org (note the ".org" - not ".com") and download the Wordpress program. Right now, there's an orange button in the top right corner that reads "Download." Do it!

picture-4

See the Wordpress folder in the image above? Notice how it's different from the one with your personal Wordpress history?

Your historical Wordpress stuff was an XML file. That just means it was a bunch of code containing data. Now, we've got the Wordpress program folder. You will notice there's a lot of stuff in it. Don't worry about all of that - it's not really important. All you need to worry about is the file entitled "wp-config-sample.php."

This is where things start getting interesting, so pay attention.

Open the wp-config-sample.php file. This has a lot of general information on it, but you need to personalize it. You need to add in personal information about your website so that Hostpapa can can match this Wordpress data with what you told it in the cPanel.

picture-5

Your wp-config-sample.php document will look a lot like the one above. Don't get intimidated - there are only a couple changes you need to make.

Remember that database you created in cPanel? Like in the image above, find the place in the wp-config-sample.php document where it discusses MySQL settings. See it?

Now, simply swap in your information. For instance, in the section that discusses the database name, change this:

define('DB_NAME', 'putyourdbnamehere');

to this:

define('DB_NAME', 'WhateverYouNamedYourDatabaseInCpanel');

See the italicized part? Just copy and paste your database name there, leaving in tact the quotation marks surrounding it. Then do the same thing for the database user name and password. (Don't worry about listing your password - no one else will see this besides you.)

Leave localhost as it is - no change necessary. Finally, the last thing you need to do is put in authentication unique keys. You can find it just below where you entered in that database information.

There will be a URL in parenthesis here (likely beginning with "https://api.wordpress.org/...). Copy and paste this address into a web browser and it will return a bunch of gobbely-gook. Swap this out for what came in the wp-config-sample.php. (It's OK if it doesn't make sense - it's not supposed to.)

Last thing: remember to save the file, but name it wp-config.php. Erase "-sample" from the name. Why? Because it's not a sample - this is filled with your unique information that Hostpapa can understand.

Final Steps

If you've made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back. What you've accomplished isn't easy!

You saved and closed the newly renamed wp-config.php file in the Wordpress program folder. Now, you are ready to upload the whole thing into Hostpapa.

In cPanel, go to the file manager again. (You were here before, when you uploaded that historical Wordpress stuff.) Click "upload" and select that Wordpress program file. In my example, it was called "wordpress-2.7.1.zip.

picture-6

Since it's zipped up, you need to extract the information. Click "extract" at the top and select the Wordpress program folder. (If you are asked where to place it, always select the public HTML area.)

Once you see it on the left in your public HTML area, you can minimize Hostpapa for the moment. Now open up wordpress.org again.

Here's what just happened: You took all of the things that make Wordpress and uploaded it onto the Hostpapa servers. Remember how you changed that database information? That's what tells Hostpapa exactly who you are and where to keep all your stuff. As far as Hostpapa is concerned, you are good to go. But first, you've got to point Wordpress in the right direction. Wordpress still thinks you are playing around on their servers. You need to tell them you've switched.

In Wordpress, find where your domain management area is. (I can't recall - I think Tools or Settings.) Click on Manage My Domains and you will be asked to log onto Automattic.

(Automattic is somehow related to Wordpress. Don't worry - you're not leaving for long.)

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You will see something like the image above. Now you need to find the email Hostpapa sent you when you paid for your hosting.

In this long email, you will find information about their Domain Name Server or DNS. Don't worry about what this means. Just know that this is the new home for your blog.

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In Automattic, find the place where your blog lives right now. As you would expect, it will be on the Wordpress servers. It will probably look like this:

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You need to request that Wordpress transfer your hosting to Hostpapa. Find out how to request a transfer (it should be pretty easy). Fill in your information and click "Retrieve Transfer Request."

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Please note that it may take 24-48 hours for Google and the rest of the web to find you at your new location. Don't panic - as long as you did everything explained here, you should be fine.

Did this help? Did I forget anything in this process? Please leave your comments below, or you could subscribe or share on the social media sites below.

7 Ways Authors Can Avoid Being Scammed By Online Book Promotion

book-signing

Online marketing can be very useful, but when does it become a time suck? Are there industries where online marketing is more likely to fail? Or are any potential failures just the result of bungled efforts?

I recently read this article about an author's problems marketing her novel online: One Author Speaks Out About The Bad Side Of Online Promotions. It was interesting to read a post that contained both missed opportunities on the part of the author as well as justified limitations to her online marketing efforts.

The author in the blog post felt as though she had largely wasted her hours of online promotion for a recently published book. I would like to offer the following advice both as a humble rebuttal as well as in hopes of helping other authors think about their online promotions.

Lessons To Be Learned

There are a lot of lessons illustrated in the author's blog post. Here are a few that jumped out at me, along with corresponding quotes from her interview:

"I blogged, guest blogged, blogged at Amazon, podcasted, was interviewed by books bloggers and book review websites, joined Facebook, and Twittered. I also joined several networking sites and writers organizations associated with my genre."

Lesson #1: Don't spread yourself too thin. I'd recommend only participating in the number of social networks where you can provide value. It sounds like the author was spreading herself across the entire internet, rather than focusing on a targeted community and fulfilling a need they had.

"I concentrated all of this effort in the month my book released and the two immediately following."

Lesson #2: Don't wait until the book is out to build community. This is possibly the biggest mistake for any author. Waiting until your book is published before starting your online community building is like waiting to buy flood insurance until after the waters recede - you should have thought of it before the big event. Work in advance to build an audience so you can all start promoting the book once it hits shelves.

"For three months, all the time I normally spent online and more was focused on Internet promotion: 3 to 8 hours a day...This interview, for example, took me 9 hours to write."

Lesson #3: Need to manage expectations and time. Authors should plan to spend a good deal of time with promotion, depending on their motivation, size of potential audience, and other factors. (Good) online promotion takes a real investment of time. That said, 9 hours on a 6 page interview seems way too long to me. If that's a regular occurrence, you should consider honing your verbal skills and complete other interviews orally.

"...I was able to track the outcomes of individual interviews. The results were shocking. After an interview posted on a website claiming thousands of unique visitors per day, exactly one person followed the link to my website."

Lesson #4: Clarify your goals. Earlier, the author stated that the goal of her online promotion was to increase name and book title recognition. If so, then don't judge your success on CTR or web traffic. Determine what you want, figure out success metrics (ask "How do I envision success"), and then execute.

"I know some will say I'm missing the point; that the objective of all this activity is to build the author's long-term [i]nternet presence and establish a brand. But to a newly published author, 'online promotion' is synonymous with 'sales.' It has to be."

Lesson #5: Community leads to sales, not necessarily vice versa. If you only go online for the sale, you will fail; if you go online to provide value/access, you will make the sale. Consider David Meerman Scott - he is active in the community and gives most of his content away for free. Crazy? Nope. He knows that he attracts fans through the free content and he makes his money selling books to this targeted, pre-engaged audience and by speaking to them at conferences. A short-sighted attitude toward sales will kill you online.

"Once content is posted, it doesn't go anywhere. It just sits for awhile, then disappears. By contrast, articles and blog posts made at the major online magazines and newspapers show up at dozens of other websites within minutes."

Lesson #6: All traffic is not the same. Besides showing a somewhat alarming naivety regarding search, this quote implies that all online traffic has roughly the same worth. For most authors, a targeted focus on niche audiences is far more likely to yield interest, buzz, and sales.

"[N]o one even knows if Twittering and social network sites sell books."

Lesson #7: Social networking sites don't sell books. You sell books. Read that sentence again and really take it in. It might be the most important thing you find in this post.

With that in mind, consider that Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff compares the traditional sales function to "energizing" in their fantastic book, Groundswell. Instead of hard-line sales tactics, social networking "[m]akes it possible for your enthusiastic customers to help sell each other" (page 69).

Or, if you're still pessimistic about the power of your online connections, consider this excellent article by David Alston called "Social Media ROI - What's the 'Return on Ignoring'?" Alston makes the convincing, even simplistic, case that doing nothing will result in...nothing.

"But what does "return on investment" really stand for in a business? Roughly translated, it means the value we expect to get out of all the effort we put into something. It's the definition of the output (return) from an input (investment).

But here's the trick: ignoring the input, or doing nothing in social media, will surely guarantee no return at all."

The Right Attitude

I don't want it to sound as though the author was clueless; that's certainly not the case. Throughout the blog post, I marked sections where I thought her concept of social networking and online marketing were correct.

For instance, as an unschooled professional, she taught herself a lot about the importance of search. Despite one or two missteps, she does present search accurately and astutely as a marketing tool. In fact, she may not give herself enough credit for the results she had (which were fairly fantastic).

Readers could also tell that the author had a long history of being online, even if she wasn't marketing herself this whole time. Familiarity with the online channel greatly decreases the learning curve for online marketing.

And finally, she seems to have a good understanding (more than me, certainly) of the relationship between author and publicist regarding online promotion. If she's to be believe - and I have no reason not to - the book publishing promotion world still seems centered on in-store and other offline promotions. On the flip side, she also understands that relying on a publicist for online connections would be a mistake.

Worth A Read

In general, I enjoyed this post because it gave me a lot to think about and showed insight into a field I know less about, though am interested in.

The point of this post is to help other authors avoid the pitfalls she went through. Was this helpful? Or did I skip over an essential lesson? Please leave your comments and suggestions for other authors below.

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Humbugs And Hammers And Twitters - Oh My!

hammer

I would like to tell you a story about a craft fair and I hope it will teach you something about Twitter and other new media. Do you think I can do it? Let's see.

OK, imagine you're at a craft fair. Make it something out in the woods where everything smells like pine and cider. You are walking along, looking at the different crafts laid upon rows and rows of tables by the sellers.

All of a sudden, you find yourself at one craftman's table at the end of a row. He looks dour...no, make that downright angry. His brows are knotted up and his lips are pursed. He looks like he's about to burst. And, perhaps against your better judgement, you ask him what's bothering him.

And does he ever let loose! It turns out this craftman has been a carpenter for decades - he calls himself an expert at least. And his problem is with the hammer. Not one in particular - all hammers. Every single one. He thinks they're stupid. He thinks they are useless. This carpenter has got no problem with screwdrivers and wrenches and levels. But hammers - he can't stand 'em.

The Twitter Connection

That's how I feel when I read posts like 6 Thoughts About Twitter by The Ad Contrarian (who also goes by Bob). Like I'm reading a post by an angry carpenter who hates hammers.

I'm not saying that guys like Bob are totally incorrect. I'll be the first to agree that some of the things Biz and others have said about Twitter are kinda...out there.

But I'm still at that craft show thinking, "So, who cares?" I mean, you can yell and scream all you want about how a hardback book is the best thing to pound nails into walls. You can really believe that and I won't begrudge you. (Heck, I'll even watch you bang a Shakespeare tome against the wall without saying a word.) But me, I'm still going to use a hammer.

No More Metaphors

Maybe I'm still relying on metaphor. My point is this: tools are secondary and it doesn't make a lot of sense arguing against (or even for) any particular one.

You can pound nails into your wall with a hammer or with a hardback book, but if the wall is flimsy, the whole thing is going to collapse.

In the same sense, you can tweet about your brand, but if your brand or product sucks, Twitter ain't gonna save it.

Twitter is a tool. I like it. I've seen a lot of people do a lot of good with it (and a few people embarrass themselves with it too). But it's  just a tool. If your message is off-target or you don't excite your audience or your product explodes into flames (and it's not insta-logs), then Twitter is beside the point.

Not A Tool, But A Business

Maybe you can glimpse the value of a tool like Twitter, like this New York Magazine writer did, but are more interested in it as a business. OK, fair enough - this is a different conversation.

He saw the value, being in the Twitter offices when US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson river a few weeks ago. He also touched upon the successful venture capitalists who have invested money in Twitter, despite the lack of a public business model. So in a sense, he does mention the product and the business in the story. But really, who cares about that, right?

Instead, the author focuses on the really important stuff. You know, like the fact they stock the office with organic cereal and have a vintage Atari console and a television tuned to the fireplace channel and have meetings about "open-source mumbo jumbo" (actual quote).

Does that tell us about Twitter or its business? Not really. But it does tell us that the author likes to sound like a condescending douchebag.

Two Wrongs Don't Make It Right

So what's the connection? In both instances, there was a bunch of negative ink thrown at a new media tool; at the equivalent of a hammer. A HAMMER!

Both articles denigrated a new tool without offering real reasons nor a better alternative. The authors take potshots at the people who use the new tool, but don't take much time actually, um, using it themselves. Plus, going beyond Twitter as a tool, the New York Mag article was supposed to be about the business, but instead it was a hodge-podge of vapid commentary, atmospheric details, and anxiety of the new.

Think about the hammer metaphor again: imagine articles that insult the instrument itself, the people who use it, and the people who made it - without focusing on how people use the hammer in the first place.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on these guys? Or do I go too easy on them? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

(Oh, and how did I hear about these two articles in the first place? Twitter, natch.)

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The OnlineMarketerBlog Audience Speaks

familyfeud

A few weeks ago, I asked the readership of this blog to give me their opinions and ideas in the first OnlineMarketerBlog survey. Thankfully, 51 of you took a moment to fill it out.

If you have a similar blog, or if you'd like to know more about the audience of this one, I am summarizing the survey below. I hope you find it useful.

1) What kind of articles interest you the most?

picture-1

64% of you enjoy instructional articles the most, followed by 30% interested in news and informational posts.

2) What general topics interest you most - social media, marketing, or copywriting?

Respondents could pick more than one answer for this question and many did. 38 enjoyed marketing and 35 enjoyed social media posts. Copywriting had a modest but still substantial 17 supporters.

3) What content changes would you like to see on this blog?

picture-2More posts about marketing and social media led the pack with 24 and 23 votes, respectively. I thought it was interesting that the next two highest vote getters were request to include more up and coming bloggers in my posts, but also more rebuttals to A-list bloggers. As a medium sized blog, perhaps that is one place for me to make a niche - a blog where emerging bloggers are noticed and their collective ideas used to speak to the biggest bloggers?

4) What is going well with the blog and where do I need to improve?

I was prepared for some harsh criticism, but it was refreshing that respondents were honest while still offering constructive criticism. Among the ideas of what's going right:

  • "I liked your coverage of the super bowl"
  • "Provides unique insights and is ahead of the curve"
  • "it's quick, informative and frequent"

And a few comments about improvements I need to make:

  • "there are a few 'me too' posts that don't add to the category of content"
  • "Design of the page"
  • "The blog usually doesn't offer anticipation. In other words, it usually focuses on changing the "now" instead of predicting the future."

In all, it sounded like readers generally enjoyed my posts and that I shouldn't worry that I only post once or twice per week. However, the design of the blog needs work and I should work on more original, forward-looking content. Fair enough!

5) How much do you agree that the ads on the blog are too intrusive?

picture-3Honestly, I expected nearly everyone to say the ads were too intrusive. Instead, almost no one minded the ads. However, instead of being too intrusive, the ads were mostly ignored. Hmm, how to fight banner blindness without splashing advertising on everything...subject for a future post.

6) Have you ever purchased anything from the ads on the blog?

80% said no, but 1 had already bought something and the rest said they might in the future. The MarketingSherpa ads have a tiny audience, but a great commission; almost the opposite for books from Amazon. But any purchases help, that's for sure.

7) There weren't any suggestions for other ads I should feature here, so I'll skip this question...

8 ) Which of these blogs do you read at least once per month?

picture-4If I had to guess the order in which I link to these authors, it would probably go Joseph Jaffe, Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, Brian at Copyblogger, and Rick at eyecube. As you can see in the above graphic, however, my personal linking had little to do with my reader's habits.

I supposed everyone really does read Seth Godin. I think Seth is good. He's solid. In a sense, that's what I'm going for. But on a "wow your socks off" scale, I'm surprised he's so high.

It's no surprise that Brogan is so high, but I am surprised that Copyblogger is, considering the tepid reaction to copywriting throughout the rest of the survey. And very few readers of Armano and Joel - that was surprising to me.

9) How often do you visit the blog?

Thankfully, most respondents visit either when they're prompted to (meaning subscribe) or about once per week (which fits my posting schedule nicely). 45% visit when they receive RSS or email notification that I have posted and 25% about once per week. Almost 20% said they visited once a month and an eager 7.5% said they visit once per day (doubtful, but appreciated).

10) There wasn't a significant response to my question regarding blog mentors, so I'm tossing that idea. (Everyone who answered was a mentee anyway, which is telling.)

Thanks To All

I sincerely appreciate the time it took for respondents to answer these question. Thanks so much! I will use this survey to provide you with more targeted content - more of what you're looking for, more often. I hope that's alright and I hope you join us back here soon. Thanks!

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How To Use A Blog Hiatus Effectively

cold-blue-bean

I have been taking a short break from my regular blogging schedule, but I've been very busy all the same. I wanted to share what I've been working on with you.

This is how I've used my short blog hiatus effectively:

  • Healthy body, healthy mind: First, I resumed my gym workout schedule. I stopped staying up for Colbert and ate better before bed. I even read my first fiction book since I started the blog. This helped me refresh my focus and renew my body so that I was primed for future tasks.
  • Get organized: My desk was strewn with papers and I trashed most of them. I removed virtual clutter as well, erasing all new Twitter followers notifications. I stopped anything that was close to overflowing and I erased anything that had already overflowed. That done, I wrote out two lists: Goals for my blog and a to-do list. Of course, these work in tandem. The goals page is an on-going list of high-level hopes for the blog and rough strategies for reaching them. The to-do list is a much more immediate list of tactics I can accomplish quickly.
  • Preparation is half the battle: During my blog hiatus I created two new Google documents: one to log new blog post ideas and another to record a blog reading list. The new ideas doc serves as my virtual notepad - I can save any ideas there for later when I have more time to write. The reading list represents a fundamental change in my reading habits. I intend to focus on marketing/business/social media bloggers who have roughly my audience and posting frequency. Keeping up with the Brogans and Godins of the world is simply too time-consuming and my odds of actually interacting with them or creating a dialogue is slim to nil.
  • Cleaner layout: As you may know, I use the center column of the blog for ads and the right column for connection opportunities (mostly other ways to find me online). I cleaned out the ad column, eliminating two large Google ad spaces. They earned only pennies, added confusion to the page, and were the least relevant ads. Now, I only feature MarketingSherpa reports (of which I'm a fan) and my personal Amazon book recommendations. In addition, I simplified the right-hand column, prioritizing the more important interactions (subscriptions, Twitter) and de-emphasizing the less important ones (Facebook, Odiogo).
  • Saving e-books: I also opened up a Slideshare account. This saves all of my e-books in one place - convenient for both this blog's readers and me.
  • Getting to know you: Arguably the most important task I've completed thus far is releasing the first OnlineMarketerBlog survey. I will be sharing the results with you hopefully later this week. I say this has been the most important because 1) this blog wouldn't be anything without its readers and 2) getting your input has been invaluable. Thanks to everyone who completed this survey! (There's still time to complete it - jump straight to the survey by clicking here. But take it by Wednesday if you want your answers to be included in the blog post announcing the results.)

I intend for these changes to make this blog more helpful to you. But is there anything I've missed? What other things would you recommend bloggers do during periodic breaks?

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High Hopes For Advertising And Social Media In Super Bowl 2009

high-hopes

Last year, I declared that the Super Bowl ads fumbled, but I think this year will be different.

Big name advertisers are getting the message that their audiences like social media interaction. Brian Solis announced that Anheuser-Busch developed AB-Extras, an entire site built to allow customers to "get up close and personal with the people (and Clydesdales) that make up its highly anticipated Budweiser and Bud Light commercials."

Sure, it's self-serving and lacks commenting functionality. It lacks in true dialogue, but the site is great for a behind-the-scenes look. It is certainly a step in the right direction.

Looking beyond advertisers, the NFL, Fox Sports, and the Super Bowl itself are getting in on the social media game. All of the ads are again featured on MySpace, but the page is designed much better than last year. Plus they added some great interaction opportunities.

The all-out winner for the pre-game blitz, however, goes to the NFL. They offer live video and instant analysis, but you would expect that. But they win big with their other offerings, including a replay re-cutter (where you can create your own highlight reel and rank other viewer's videos), voting on Bruce Springsteen's playlist, and they kill it on Twitter - lots of personality and incredible insights. Where else could you hear that Snoop Dogg and Kevin from The Office visited the NFL HQ?

Watching For Ads That Engage

Now, it's really up to the advertisers. Forrester Research declared that social media became mainstream in 2008. Does that mean this year's Super Bowl ads will be more engaging, with plenty of opportunities for dialogues with brands?

That's what I'm going to be watching for during this year's Super Bowl. Check back on this blog during and after the game for a summary of engagement, defined by instances of:

  • Pre-game engagement: User-generated content, selection of particular ad
  • During-game engagement: Live voting, website URL
  • Post-game engagement: Social media opportunities, broader engagement

I will post after each half of the game, listing engagement grades for each brand's ad. Or you can follow me on Twitter at @MarketerBlog for up to the minute analysis.

Feel free to leave comments below about your favorite Super Bowl ads from the past. What got you to engage the brand or have a unique experience? Which ads went beyond just making you laugh, but rather made you feel connected to a product? I look forward to hearing your responses.

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Please Take The OnlineMarketerBlog Survey

question-mark

As I mentioned before, I am taking a short writing hiatus to perform a blog review. So far, it's going pretty well.

However, this blog wouldn't be anything without you (seriously). That's why I would like to know a little more about you - your reading habits, the type of content you want to see here, that sort of thing.

Please take this quick online survey: http://bit.ly/OMB

The survey should take less than 5 minutes (it's only 10 questions) and it really means a lot to me. The goal is, after all, to provide you with the content and blog experience that you want.

Thank you! I sincerely appreciate it.

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Free Marketing E-books During A Short Break

smiling-at-work

After a year and a half of OnlineMarketerBlog, it is time for me to take a short hiatus to focus on my own blog goals and strategies.

As bloggers know and other readers can guess, blog content creation takes much longer than many people think. But I need to take a step back if I want to continue producing quality work that benefits you.

You will see the frequency of posts slow for a short time. I'm not giving up blogging (not by a long shot) - just know that I am working on a plan to provide you with even better, more focused posts aligned with your needs and my goals.

Coming Down The Pike

First, please watch for the posts I do put up in the coming days or weeks. The focus will be likely be different, but don't let that diminish their importance. Please watch for a survey post next week. It would mean a lot to me if you could devote 5 minutes of your time to tell me how I can provide a better experience.

I also intend to release an e-book about marketing during the recession. I think you will find it useful, so keep an eye out for that.

In The Meantime

Though I won't be posting as regularly for a little while, there has been a bonanza of great white papers, reports, and e-books recently. Here are some that I have enjoyed. I hope you do too. (And they're all free.)

  • TNS Global's Digital World, Digital Life (PDF) - This report offers a broad look at social media usage around the world. So much of what I read is focused on America that this fresh take was an eye-opener. If you are involved in any multi-national company, especially if you need social media marketing insights about Asian or Europe, you should read this report.
  • Duct Tape Marketing's Let's Talk: Social Media for Small Business - John provides a great primer if you are new to social media, especially from a small business perspective. But even if you've been in the space for awhile, or are outside the small business world, you can still benefit from this short account of all the basics. (I'm immersed in social media all day, every day and I still got a lot out of this e-book.)
  • David Meerman Scott's Lose Control of Your Marketing - If you haven't read anything by David, stop right now and download this e-book. (I also highly recommend The New Rules of Viral Marketing.) In this latest e-book, he gives fresh insight into one of the most hotly debated subject in social media: ROI. I guarantee that by the time you are done reading, this e-book will be marked with notes and dog-eared - my copy sure is.
  • David Armano's The Collective Is The Focus Group - 2 Davids, 2 great e-books about social media ROI. I recommend reading Scott's and Armano's back-to-back. They are complimentary and will help you think wholistically about your social media strategy. Armano's "Return On Insight" argument is persuasive and he's got the best visuals in the business. Read it today.
  • Chris Penn's The Twitter Power Guide - A lot of people have written decent Twitter introductions (hell, I did it myself). This isn't an introduction - this is the 400-level, real-deal Twitter e-book. If you have been using Twitter for a while and don't need the usual introduction, you must read Chris' e-book. He includes genius-level strategy and instructions for the serious user.
  • MarketingSherpa's 2009 Email Marketing Benchmark Guide excerpt (PDF) - If you've never had the pleasure of reading a MarketingSherpa report, now is the perfect time to start. I was a fan for years before I became an affiliate and honestly think their email benchmark guides are the best in the business. This excerpt is a free sample of some of their findings including multiple graphs and a heatmap. The full reports are expensive, but if you impliment their recommendations, it's totally worth it. (Here's the link for the full report, if you are interested.)

I hope you enjoy these e-books while I am re-focusing. Please do come back for next week's survey and my e-book about marketing during a recession shortly after that. (Subscribing is a good way to never miss a post.)

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The New Secrets Of Blogging - Pragmatic Or Cynical?

blogging

I read a lot about how to create a successful blog, but I need to tell you - things have changed and we need to clear up some fallacies.

Normally, I am a social media cheerleader and tomorrow, I will continue to do so. However, it ain't 2004. The secrets to a successful blog are very different now. Same pond, but a lot more water and a hell of a lot more fish.

So here are some ways I believe blogging has changed, especially in the year and a half I've been active in the space. How do you think the blogosphere has changed? Are my points below pragmatic or the ravings of a cynic.

Here are new guidelines for a successful blog these days:

  • Abandon "good" for "controversial": A lot of people write very good, very intriguing blog posts. And every day, most of these are ignored, relegated to the bottom of a search engine, and forgotten. Sure, "good" and "controversial" aren't mutually exclusive, but it's tough to be both. And out of the two, at least controversial posts get read. Don't just spend your time thinking about what to say; consider also how to say it. Once you have some subscriber eyeballs, you can afford to write brilliant think pieces, but until then, go for something that grabs attention. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, it is better to be talked about than not talked about.
  • Forget commenting: The conventional wisdom used to go like this - leave worthwhile comments on the blogs of A-listers and eventually they will notice and link to you (hell, I wrote a post to this effect one year ago). This simply isn't the case anymore. With the proliferation of people interacting on blogs, A-listers can now get over 100 comments per post - what's their motivation for noticing you in the crowd? (The exception to this rule being Chris Brogan, but that guy is like Superman.) From my experience, change the ratio to devoting a lot of time to writing and reading, and spend very little time commenting on only deserving blog posts. Personally, of the testimonials from A-listers you can find in the right-hand column of my blog, none of those came because of comments I left. They were all pretty damn random.
  • Don't blog, period: Blogging used to be the shiny, new object, but it's not 2004 anymore. Blogging, especially if it is for a business, may well be a waste of your time. There are a lot of considerations to consider before starting a blog (here are 21 to start with), but the most common mistake is not considering this: does your product suck? If so, reinvest that blogging money back into your product. Think about what Josh Bernoff, co-author of Groundswell (one of my favorite books of 2008 - you do own it, right?), said on the Mediablather podcast with Paul Gillin and David Strom:

"I think there's a novelty factor in some of these new technologies and there are a lot of people saying blogging is dead - no blogging is not dead - the level of consumer interest in it continues to rise. But, as far as corporations go, the idea of a company doing a blog has become pretty ordinary at this point. So unless your blog is really interesting, it has some twist to it...you're only going to be effective with it if it actually accomplishes a corporate goal."

What do you think? Am I a cynic or just a pragmatist?

These points do make some assumptions about blogging, of course. It assumes that success equals traffic, that all traffic is the same, and the goal is higher volume. This may or may not be true in your case.

But I think it does accurately reflect the blogosphere as it is today. I will go back to promoting social media for business tomorrow, but for today, I needed to vent about the changes I see in reactions to my own blog and on blogs that I read.

What do you think: pragmatic or cynical?

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What A Handful Of Pepper Has To Do With Your Social Media Strategy

ground-pepper

Let me tell you a story about what a handful of pepper has to do with your social media strategy:

BG has two nieces who I absolutely adore, aged 2 years and 8 months. I know everyone says this, but my future nieces are really just about the smartest and most cherubic children I've ever seen.

BG and I were over for dinner last week and BG's sister was preparing the meal. The 2-year old (TYO) was standing on a chair helping her Mommy in the kitchen. This is when things got interesting.

BG and I look over and TYO was standing on the chair agog but motionless. Is she choking? Is anything wrong? "TYO, what's wrong?"

It turns out that TYO had seen the ground pepper contain on the counter and gotten a particular thought in her head. I imagine it went something like, "Things I put in my mouth around BG and Mommy and Uncle DJ are usually tasty - how bad could a big handful of this black, flakey stuff be?"  So she palmed a large handful of ground pepper and sent it down the hatch!

What Does This Have To Do With My Social Media Strategy?

It's early 2009 and many of you are planning your social media strategy for the year. Maybe you've planned out a blog or started a Twitter account. You have subscriptions to Chris Brogan and Joseph Jaffe, and you think everything is gonna go great.

It occurred to me last week that you are, in a way, similar to TYP contemplating her clenched fist. You are about to embark on a new and exciting journey, venture into unknown territory. What's in your hand? Is it ground pepper or M&Ms?

Personally, I hope to grit your teeth and swallow whatever it is wholeheartedly. I've said it before: Social media is not for cowards. I hope you go for the gusto with your social media strategy.

But Wait, It Was Freakin' Pepper!

Sure, for TYO, it was a handful of pepper, but that's not important. Maybe you'll get M&Ms, who knows? But you're looking down at your closed fist of social media and thinking, "This is going down my gullet right now."

Hey, you know what? You might fail. Like, really fail. Like, face-plant at the skatepark, fail. Like suck down ground pepper like hot coals, holy hell, I cannot believe that just happened, I think I'm gonna die, damn that hurts pain.

And you won't be alone. A lot of people will fail at social media this year. Honestly, that's not terribly important.

What is important is that you learn from it. In fact, I think you'll learn more if it turns out to be pepper in your hand.

I've said before that failure is not fatal and it's true. If you would have looked into the eyes of TYO the moment after it happened, you'd know that more important lessons were being learned - lessons about avoiding future missteps, about learning from mistakes, about what it means to not only learn from a bad experience but to change your behavior in a positive way because of it.

Like Nike Says...

With this new year still fresh, I hope you're contemplating bold moves. And while I hope you succeed, I hope that you learn from any failure you may experience. The weak will give up. They will swallow the pepper and run the other direction. My hope for your 2009 social media plan is that, if you should find yourself chewing back a mouthful of blisteringly hot pepper, that you take it and learn from the experience.

Anyone can experience pain, but if you want to succeed, you will learn from it. Maybe your pepper is a scathing article. Maybe it's a demoralized boss. Maybe it'll be your own stupid actions (I've been there, believe me).

Take it from TYO: everyone takes down their share of ground pepper. It's what you do with it that's important. I hope you turn your pepper into M&Ms. I know it's possible - I see it everyday.

Epilogue:

After TYO swallowed the pepper, an emergency glass of water and many kisses were deployed. I'm thankful to say no one was harmed in the incident and I think everyone learned something from the experience. That said, it was a pleasure to see TYO indulge her curiousity. I wonder what a handful of ground pepper would taste like to me...

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A New Business Model For A New Era

businessmen

I think Mitch Joel is one of the brightest minds in social media. But today, I've gotta take issue.

Mitch recently responded to a new Pew Research Center poll showing that television has been overtaken by the internet as a primary news source. I highly encourage you to read Mitch's thoughts here: Breaking News On The Internet. His concern is that new media (blogs, Twitter, etc.) has overtaken traditional media too quickly for a replacement advertising model to be accepted. After all, who is going to pay for all of the content online?

Now, I almost always think Mitch is right on target. But his recent post harbors some assumptions that I've been hearing more and more often from a lot of sources, but which I think are detrimental to social media marketing in its current incarnation.

In other words, it's not just Mitch - we all need to be careful about how we consider social media and how it relates to a business model.

Here are 4 assumptions I hear in the marketing community that need a good debunking:

  1. Traditional media and new media are selling the same thing: It's simply not true, so let's not talk about the two systems as though they were. TV and radio were made to sell ads; the internet is advice and expertise. Rick at eyecube said it well: "Television isn’t a medium for telling stories and disseminating information, it’s a medium for selling ads. As such, the goal is not to produce quality programming, the goal is to produce programming that will attract the most eyeballs." He goes on to make salient points about the quality that results as such, but my point is to take caution when comparing apples to oranges.
  2. The old business models were correct: Sure, advertising worked, but that didn't mean it was good. As long as a terrible product brought eyeballs or cash with them, do you really think the fat cats cared? In the old business model, marketers were shills. But now, good products tend to succeed and bad products tend to fail (and at a faster rate too). The old model sold people Ford Pintos. Now, we recommend Amazon.com to our friends. Who would want to return to the old model?
  3. Advertising is the only business model: The most surprising aspect of Mitch's post is that advertising is the only business model mentioned. There's no talk of a donation model (open source software), a merchandise model (Toothpaste For Dinner), a gimmick model (woot.com), a subscription model (The Bitterest Pill podcast), a community outreach model (Lululemon), a recommendation model (Zappos), or any other type of business model. None of these companies engages in advertising on a large scale (if at all), yet they are all very healthy businesses.
  4. The lack of a business model is a bad thing: Why? Unlike TV and radio, the content is already great. Mitch kind of admits this in both the Pew post and one from a few days earlier, named Bad TV, respectively:

    “Any idea how long it took channels like newspapers, radio and television to optimize their product to make it so appealing to advertisers? Most advertising professionals would argue that all of these channels are still working at it.”

    "[T]here is so much good content on the Internet that it is overwhelming. Where both [a DVR and an online news reader] enable you to avoid a lot of the noise, the Internet just has way too much relevant and good content - no matter what your varying interests may be."

    In other words, the hard part has been done: good content is everywhere! That's great! People find new ways to make a buck everyday online, so don't worry about it - the hard part is creating good content and cultivating an interested community.

Mitch says the internet is growing too fast - for whom exactly? Obviously not the viewing public, especially the young, if you read the Pew survey results. Obviously not us social media early adopters. So who? The suits? The record labels and the movie studios? Everyone else who tries to make a buck off of the content producer? Hey, screw 'em.

Out Of Whose Wallet?

Despite the assumptions I drew from Mitch's post, his main point is this: Who is going to pay for all of the content we consume online?

It's a valid question. Of course, good content has a price tag. But I think we've gotten too used to advertising paying for everything and it's turned advertisers into editors. That mentality won't work in this new era.

And Mitch and others get this, I think. In a post on Christmas Day, he wrote about a potential journalistic endeavor: "Hustling for banner ads is not going to generate the revenue that you were hoping for, and by focusing on this - instead of the quality and relevance of the content - it is only going to cause you to be distracted."

So let's not get distracted because of the business model. Tell business owners and old-school marketers this for now: Provide content, then build trust, then rake in new business. It's uber-simplified, but that's how you provide content at a profit.

This Isn't Personal

I count 10 blog posts in the last year alone where I had nothing but glowing things to say about Mitch. He and other new media folks are providing a light in the darkness to millions.

My concern is only that we keep moving. Sure, let's talk about business models and figure out how we can all provide the most use for our clients and make an honest buck doing it. But let's do it in a spirit that fits the new era, one where we don't get tripped up comparing things to how they were in the past.

Why? Because we're in a freakin' awesome point in time! Social media marketing is creating more honesty, value, and conversation - and I suspect that both Mitch and I would agree that's a wonderful thing.

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