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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5 Reasons To Buy David Meerman Scott's World Wide Rave (And 2 Reasons Not To)

wwr

I'm trying a new format for my book reviews. Instead of a measured, logical summary and analysis, I'm just going to cut straight to the meat of it - here's why I think you should buy this book (or why you might want to skip it).

I recently finished David Meerman Scott's new book, World Wide Rave. I am a big fan of Scott's work - he's an innovator who has the guts to practice what he preaches. (He quit a high-paying job to write books like these, for instance.) You can check out his website at WebInkNow.com or check his Twitter stream at @dmscott.

So here are 5 reasons why I think you should buy his book (and 2 reasons why you might not want to).

[Sidenote: I read this thanks to Amazon's Kindle for iPhone WhisperSync. Hence, page numbers are between 1-2928. Sorry. You can use my citations to give a rough idea of where to find particular sections though.]

Get It

1. He hits on ideas central to social media marketing (and marketing in the future)

Scott emphasizes again and again that we need to think in terms of what we're giving to the community, not in old media terminology. He most succinctly put it as such:

"You've got to think in terms of spreading ideas, not generating leads. A World Wide Rave gets the word out to thousands or even millions of potential customers. But only if you make your content easy to find and consume" (pg. 959).

Tenets like this seem really easy, but they are still a major sticking point for marketers in firm companies. Scott makes it simple to focus on what really matters in a web 2.0 world.

2. He translates theory into language your boss can understand.

Or rather, he confronts your boss' out-moded ideas of how we gauge marketing success. His discussions about the old rules of measurement - tracking "leads" and "press clips," especially - reveal exactly why these markers don't make sense in social media marketing (pg. 1080).

And Scott speaks frankly. ROI obsession is causing your marketing to get boring. Like, soul-crushingly, lawyer-infused, uber-numbingly boooooring. And then he tells you why (pg. 1117 onward). (Try highlighting these sections before gifting this book to your boss or corporate overseer.)

3. Even n00bs can get it.

Scott speaks to the 90% who are still figuring out their online marketing, much less social media marketing strategy. That can be a tad frustrating for the other 10% of us, but hey, if we're meant to be advocates, we need to get off the high horse.

It's good that Scott covers the basics. No matter how new you are to social media marketing, I'm confident you will not get lost in this book. Heck, he even takes a moment to define social media - something that often gets skipped in even the more basic books (pg. 1261, the "Let's Be Honest" section).

4. He makes the case for true content marketing

Content marketing, as I understand it, just means that you garner trust due to the content you put out. It's not direct marketing; you generally build up trust until someone thinks of you when they have a need in your specialty.

Content marketing has its advocates, notably Joe Pulizzi from Junta42 and (to a slightly lesser degree) Rick Liebling from eyecube. But it's pretty rare for a marketer to call this out in such detail. He says:

"A good journalist [someone you could hire for your content marketing] can create interesting stories about how an organization solves customer problems and can then deliver those stories in a variety of ways...Consumers will love it. How refreshing to read, listen to, and watch these products of journalistic expertise instead of the usual come-ons that typical corporations produce [read: marketing schlock]" (pg 2258).

5. He's fun to read and that's rare

Have you ever taken a business book on your summer vacation? Here's how it normally goes: You have the best of intentions, so you drag this tome out to the beach with you. Before you know it, you've dozed off before finishing the preface and your snooze in the sand results in a bright red burn and your vacation is ruined.

That's how it usually works for me, at least.

I'm not saying it's a laugh riot, but this book is engaging. It moves. It has a sense of purpose. It's got a lot of examples interspersed with the philosophy. And that's miles better than most of the other books out there. And I've got the burns to prove it.

Skip It

Nothing is perfect in this world, so here are 2 valid reasons for skipping this book.

1. Lack of evidence

I don't expect every marketing book to be chock full of research, graphs, and charts like Groundswell was (despite how much I love that book!). But, a little supporting evidence wouldn't hurt, ya know?

And it's not like Scott doesn't provide a lot of citations - he does. But I feel like his most salient points are where he drops the ball in this regard.

Take for instance his argument about social media restrictions for employees. He builds up a case where those who have restricted open access for their employees in the past have been haunted by this decision. He provides a reasonable hypothesis of trends relating to computers, then the internet, culminating in social media. He provides all of the theoretical proof you could want.

But his thesis falls short without real-world evidence. Has Microsoft or Starbucks done this? What were the specific ramifications for Business X when they restricted employee access? Which companies have avoided this fate? I admit I was left wanting in just a few instances like these in the book.

2. Same 'ol, same 'ol

I was disappointed at a few parts in the book when examples were trotted out that I'd heard about months (nay, years) ago. It seemed tired. It seemed like something I'd read before. Seriously, I've heard that MailerMailer story 500 hundred times before.

But! (And this is a significant "but.") The reason I'm sick of examples like MailerMailer is because I'm such a fan of Scott's work. So really, this is hardly his fault. He's trying to reach a new audience with this book and it's likely they've never heard most/all of these stories before.

It's only because I have read all of his white papers and many of his blog posts that things like "Where the hell is Matt?" seem trite. If you haven't, then it's new to you.

Final Verdict

This time, I leave the final verdict in your hands. In other reviews, I have ended the post with a pithy thought and recommendation. But that kind of post is boring, to be honest.

This time, I'd like to hear from you. Would you buy David's book from this post? Or, if you have read it, what did you think? Would you recommend it to others? (Better yet, if you read his blog and white papers but haven't bought the book - will you?)

I enjoyed the book and believe I'm a better marketer for reading it. Plus, because Scott practices what he preaches, he gave away the book during the first five days of publication and I essentially read it for free (Thanks, David!). So, while I have no real obligation, if it made me a better marketer, as a gentlemen I damn well better talk about it, right?

So, what do you think? Would you read World Wide Rave? Or did you read it? What did you think?

P.S.: If you enjoyed this review, you might also like my recent review of Paul Gillin’s Secrets of Social Media Marketing; Goldstein, Martin, and Cialdini's Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive; and my list of the top 5 gift books for marketers.

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Small Business Owners: Your Customer Service IS Your Marketing!

yakov

Remember Yakov Smirnoff?

He was big in the '80s and used to tell jokes like this:

In America, you can always find a party. In Russia, The Party can always find you!

See the switch-eroo there? Clever, right?

I was thinking about that after I read the Network Solutions report I referenced in my last post about whether social media marketing was viable for small businesses. My riff off Smirnoff went something like this:

Before the internet, marketing hid poor customer service. In a web 2.0 world, customer service IS your marketing!

Not quite as catchy as ol' Yakov, but still possessing that kernel of truth, don't you think?

Where Are We And How Did We Get Here?

The Network Solutions data (PDF) showed that small business owners were largely successful with customer service, but that overall marketing and innovation was ranked the second lowest of six success attributes.

So, in my last post, I took the four lowest qualities in the marketing and innovation category (from Network Solutions data) and compared that with a large study of what social media marketing does well (Michael Stelzner data).

This comparison proved that social media marketing just might help your small business. (If you're shaking your head and muttering "No Duh" as you read this, hang with me.)

So What's The Next Step?

Logic then dictates that we examine just how social media marketing could help your small business.

If you've read Now, Discover Your Strengths you know that your best option is not to obsess about improving in areas you have little skill. Instead, you want to leverage what you're good at. And remember what Network Solutions' data said small business owners succeed in?: Customer Service.

What the hell do customer service and marketing have in common? These days, almost everything.

Here's the secret: Your customer service IS your marketing. If you take nothing else from this post, remember that!

Let me show you. I'll take those four worst attributes of small businesses' marketing and innovation and create scenarios where your customer service becomes your marketing.

A Closer Look

Problem: Finding efficient ways to advertise and promote your business.

Solution: Remember how Craigslist basically crushed the classified ad business? Likewise, don't think of advertising as a huge line item in your budget. Let your good work be your advertisement.

Ask your best customers to put in a good word for you on Yelp.com or Angie's List. Better yet, offer a small discount on a customer's bill - no strings attached - and just mention that you're listed on those sites. Some may not post about their experience, but evidence in Yes! says that a lot of them will. (It's a good book, by the way - read my review here.)

"Approaching the potentially cooperative relationship in this way [unconditional and no-strings-attached] should not only increase the likelihood that you'll secure their cooperation in the first place, but also ensure that the cooperation you do receive is build on a solid foundation of trust and mutual appreciation, rather than on a much weaker incentive system" (page 59).

Problem: Converting marketing leads into buyers.

Solution: Ug, "leads." Could there be a more self-serving term? They aren't individuals or customers or even users, but leads?

What if you could make them come to you? What if you spent less time cold-calling "leads" and more time being the go-to expert?

Become a resource on Twitter or answer questions on LinkedIn. Join an industry group on your favorite site or get active in a forum discussion.

Here's the thing: rather than trying to convince people to hire you, instead convince them about how good you really are. Isn't that the point? You didn't start your small business to become a salesperson (well, most of you). But if you become a resource for a community, you will be the first person community members call when they need help.

Problem: Positioning your organization as having the same capabilities as big organizations in your industry.

Solution: Again, maybe I'm missing something. Why are you trying to make your small business seem big? Why not focus on the benefits of a small business?

Have you been watching The Office in recent weeks? The main character left his corporate behemoth and started the eponymous Michael Scott Paper Company.

He didn't try to convince people he could do everything Dunder Mifflin did. Instead, he focused on what his small team could do: provide real value, excellent customer service, and those 5am paper deliveries in the Korean church bus.

What's the equivalent for your business? Be agile, hungry...and successful.

Problem: Identifying new prospective customers.

Solution: In a sense, you could use elements of the other three problems to attract more customers. You can also create a destination for prospective customers who would be interested in your product.

For instance, let's say you're an expert on high-end coffee beans. Start a blog and go relentlessly after keywords like Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain. Write posts about the product and show your expertise (just don't be a jerk about it). Prospective customers will search for those keywords and find your amazing posts - Bingo!

Readers who comment on these posts should be of special interest. Sure, they're even more likely to be prospective customers, but they could also be brand evangelists or someone who could teach you a vital aspect of the business.

Convinced yet?

Just yesterday, The Chicago Tribune published a story about small businesses who found success with social media marketing. Here's what Andy Sernovitz, chief executive of GasPedal, a Chicago consulting firm specializing in word-of-mouth marketing and social media, had to say on the subject:

"Because of the viral nature of social media, companies that take the time to communicate are likely to see their goodwill spread. One simple technique for building relationships involves responding to positive mentions by saying 'thank you' and following up on negative mentions with an apology and a solution to the problem, Sernovitz said."

Excellent customer service - even if the product is momentarily sub-par - creates goodwill, positive conversation, and might even improve your business.

Are you more convinced about my Yakov Smirnoff riff now?

Before the internet, marketing hid poor customer service. In a web 2.0 world, customer service IS your marketing!

What a country world!

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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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B2B Marketing Consulting 2.0

outsourcing-b2b-marketing-ebook-hero-309

This is a guest post from Rebekah Donaldson, President of Business Communications Group LLC and author of a B2B communications blog called Red On Marketing:

In early February, Cris Rominger and I published a free B2B marketing e-book called The New Rules of Outsourcing B2B Marketing: What Marketing Directors need in a B2B marketing consultant today.

The e-book is aimed at helping Marketing Directors see the standard to which they should hold us. We discuss the traits a B2B marketer needs; how to cut ROI guesswork; why B2B marketing differs from B2C… and more.

There is a forum for discussing the e-book’s ideas, and I hope you’ll weigh in.

Keyword research 2.0, too?

I’ve been thinking since the e-book came out about visibility into b2b buyers’ search behavior. I have an idea, and it’s sketched out below. What do you think -- any input?

  • To attract and engaging B2B buyers, we need to know their search behavior. Where are they searching, and with what words and phrases, for example?
  • Keyword research 1.0 shows us what B2B buyers search for in the major engines. It does not, as far as I know, show us what they type into search boxes on Twitter, LinkedIn, Technorati, Digg, ITtoolbox, or the like.
  • Business use of social media is exploding.
  • Keyword research 2.0 must account for searches within social media platforms.

It seems that, as social media grows, so grows our our blind spot.

Admittedly the volumes are nothing like searches in Google. But, depending on the particular B2B buyers, we have a big or tiny blind spot.

What I know

Note that I’m not thinking here about how social media participation influences one’s SEM results – something that folks like Oneupweb have covered.

Also, I'm not thinking about tracking mentions of one’s brand across oodles of platforms and contexts. That’s about finding instances of words and media, not patterns in search behavior.

What I don’t know

I’m thinking, specifically, about how I’d answer a client who asks:

"In Twitter, how many searches were there for ‘internet marketing’ vs ‘website marketing’ since 2007?"

"In LinkedIn, are more visitors searching for 'marketing services' or 'marketing consultants'?"

LinkedIn clearly has such stats. They have rolled out context-relevant advertising. They might help advertisers incorporate popular search terms into their ad copy, too.

But for an internet marketing consultant, those stats aren’t accessible. Are they?

What do you know?

I can think of at least two objections to my line of thinking:

  1. Keyword research 2.0 is already happening; xyz does it.
  2. Keyword research 1.0 is plenty; it’s not important to know what’s searched within social media platforms.

We’re hoping to hear feedback. Please weigh in!

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My thanks to Red for this guest post! I encourage you to check out the ebook and then respond here or on their forum.

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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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Super Bowl 2009 Ads - Social Media Engagement In The Second Half

tigers-win

As you've probably read, I am reporting on social media engagement during Super Bowl 43. Here are the results from the first half. Let's get right into the second half here:

  • Coke (Avatars): No engagement
  • Bridgestone (Jump around): URL (Bridgestone.com) - very small font
  • Denny's (Serious Breakfast): No engagement
  • Monster.com (Moose head): URL (Monster.com)
  • Budweiser (Jake): No engagement
  • Race To Witch Mountain (Movie trailer): URL (Disney.com/WitchMountain)
  • Transformers 2 (Movie trailer): URL
  • Careerbuilder (Hate your job): URL (Careerbuilder.com)
  • Coke (Nature): No engagement
  • Kellogg's (Frosted Flakes): URL, vote where they donate money at FrostedFlakes.com
  • NFL (Usama): URL, NFL.com/SuperAd
  • Heineken (This is a sword): No engagement

Fourth quarter:

So what do you think? Will customers continue to interact with these brands after the big game? Was $3M per commercial worth it?

My Take

I'm shocked at the percentage of advertisers who shelled out $3M for a 30-second spot, but didn't even list a URL. Advertisers paid that much to get into America's living rooms, but did not take the opportunity to enter it again.

Despite my high hopes, this year's Super Bowl was not the stellar social media outing it could have been. Out of the 54 commercials shown during the actual game (kick-off to end of game), 17 had no online engagement at all - not even a URL. Almost one-third - 31.48% - planned for no interaction with their customers after the game.

Rick Liebling at eyecube has a great idea about other ways to spend that money. I think brands would be better off if their marketing departments cared more about creating brand advocates like Rick mentions, rather than a quick one-off during the big game.

I'd love to hear what you think. Which advertisers do you think used their 30 seconds to create a conversation with their customers? Whose conversation will continue in the coming weeks and months?

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Super Bowl 2009 Ads - Social Media Engagement In The First Half

family-watching-television

$3M for a 30-second ad?

Sure it's crazy, but unlike in years past, advertisers have the opportunity to make that $3M work for them long after Super Bowl memories have faded.

First, there's the initial press. TNS Media reports that Super Bowl advertising has huge holding power. Data shows that people do wait to see the commercials all the way through the game. Then for a few days after, you get tons of online conversation swirling around your brand. (TNS was also able to rank the total media coverage last year - it will be interesting to see if these 10 brands lead the pack in terms of social media integration this year.)

But, for all its holding power, the Super Bowl is over within a few hours. How do advertisers get their money's worth? How do consumers create dialogue with select brands?

Getting The Most For $3M

Of course, the real way to really get the most for that $3M is to engage your customer. I mentioned previously some of the ways to engage your audience online and I've been tracking these attributes during the game. Here is what I have been watching for:

  • Pre-game engagement: Could customers submit their own ads in hopes of having it shown? Was there any aspect of user-generated content (UGC)? Did the brand allow customers to vote on which ad was shown?
  • During-game engagement: Was a URL displayed during the ad to drive traffic and attention to the brand? Where there opportunities for real-time interaction? Were customers encouraged to vote or otherwise voice their opinion?
  • Post-game engagement: Were there opportunities to engage the audience after the game? Could customers join a social network? Could they sign up for a newsletter featuring advance product information?

The Run-Down

Here's my list for the first half of Super Bowl 2009:

Second Quarter:

  • Land of The Lost (Movie Trailer): URL (LandOfTheLost.net)
  • Doritos (Power of crunch): UGC (Crash the Super Bowl)
  • GoDaddy (Danica): URL, commercial continued online (GoDaddy.com)
  • Pepsi Max ("I'm good"): URL (RefreshEverything.com)
  • Pedigree (Get a dog): No engagement
  • Budweiser (Horse brings branch): No engagement
  • Budweiser (Horse love) - 60 secs.: No engagement
  • Star Trek (Movie trailer): URL (StarTrekMovie.com)
  • Gatorade (Mission G): URL (MissionG.com)
  • Cars.com (Confidence): No engagement in commercial, but ad protagonist does have Facebook page
  • Hyundai Genesis (Yelling):
  • eTrade (Babies): URL (eTrade.com)
  • [Good call-out to NBC.com and Hulu]
  • Pixar (Up): URL, Verbal ask to go to Disney.com
  • Bud Light (Chalkoard): No engagement
  • H&R Block (Death): URL (HRBlock.com)
  • Teleflora (Talking flowers): URL (Teleflora.com)
  • Cheetos (Pigeons): URL with prominent written call-out (Cheetos.com)
  • Monsters Vs. Aliens (Movie trailer): URL (MonstersVsAliens.com)
  • Sobe (3-D dancing lizards): No URL, but bought Google ads against Monster vs. Aliens and sending traffic to branded Sobe YouTube channel (hat-tip @Scorecard)

Did I miss anything? Feel free to leave comments below if I left anything out or misreported on an ad. If you'd like to follow along in real time, you can find me at @MarketerBlog. I will post the second half's analysis directly after the game.

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(Image courtesy of ralphbijker via Flickr)

A Look Back At 2008

looking-back

On this last day of 2008, I am caught between the natural pause to look back and my unbridled excitement about the future.

But first, I want to thank you. The readers of this blog are among the most engaged, caring, and smart as any I've found in the blogosphere. Thus far, you've left over 552 messages and you are likely among the almost 300 subscribers. You constantly challenge me to be at the top of my game, providing me with new insights and perspective.

The thing I am most thankful for in 2008 is you, the readers.

But I hope I've given something back as well. I have tried to respond to your questions and write posts you could really use in your own marketing efforts. And in that vein, I'd like to point out a few of OnlineMarketerBlog's 2008 posts you may have missed, or that you might want to peruse again.

As we end 2008 and look forward to a new year, I hope you will join me here as we move marketing forward, together. Enjoy!

Marketing and Copywriting Inspiration From Strange Places

All About E-Books

How-To

Posts That Still Make Me Giggle

The 3 Most Read Posts of 2008:

(Image courtesy of Jordan_K via Flickr)

Why I'm Qwitting You On Twitter

This is a Dear John letter to my Tweople.

Listen, it's been great hanging out these past few months. Twitter feels like it's hitting the mainstream and things are really heating up. And that's the problem.

When I first started using the service, it was like I was listening in to the superstars of marketing, writing, and social media. I'd been reading their blogs for year, but now I was offered a glimpse into their real lives (OMG, Guy Kawasaki likes spam musibi!).

And this Twitter thing had a positive business application as well. By watching the superstars, I was able to stay current with up-to-the-minute news. I read the articles they recommended, decreasing the time I spent searching for good content and increasing the time I spent reading it. I was even able to engage them myself and network a little.

The most important aspect of all was that I could follow discussions occurring between them. If Brian from Copyblogger and Liz Strauss get into an argument, I want to know about it! These conversations taught me to be a better marketer, expanded my thinking, and consoled me that the best minds were wrestling with the very same issues I was.

When Things Went Wrong

This break-up: it's not me, it's you. It's the fact that you're too good for me.

As I found more and more smart marketers to follow, I expanded my customized news feed and my learning capability. Don't get me wrong, I was very selective. But I wanted too much.

Everything that made Twitter useful to me was being overshadowed in the torrent of content, ideas, and conversation. I was following people who were too good, too interesting, too smart - and it was just too much.

Roundtablers, Cacophonists, Spammers, and Me

I've noticed four (very) general variations when it comes to a particular person's follower/following volume and ratio.

Roundtablers are content with following a handful of people and usually have only a handful follow them back. Maybe they prefer the intimacy of these small conversations.

Other folks are very popular and want to reciprocate. The result is a large numbers of followers and followees (think @JasonCalacanis). It's a cacophony of voices.

Sometimes the ratio is uneven. If you follow 5,000 people and only 10 have deemed you worthy of a follow back, you look like a spammer. Either that or you got excited after just joining Twitter and went on a rampage.

And then there are people like Ike Pigott, Greg Verdino, and me who have lots of followers, but are following (relatively) very few.

You Guys Really Think You're All That?

We follow a few people and lots of people follow us. What gives?

We're content producers. We're not in it because we care about the number of followers we have or amassing a cult behind us. (I am referring to most people with similar Twitter ratios; not speaking for Ike or Greg, of course.)

We write. We produce content that interests us. Thankfully, it interests other people too and that's great. We still read a lot, but there is limited time in the day. We might be open to starting a relationship or engage in discussion, but we're selective.

A recent HP Labs research paper about Twitter (hat tip to Jeremiah Owyang) claims that "the number of people a user actually communicates with ['friends'] eventually stops increasing while the number of followees can continue to grow indefinitely." In other words, you wouldn't gain my attention if I reciprocated to everyone who followed me. In fact, it's likely I would interact less. "[U]sers with many actual friends tend to post more updates than users with few actual friends."

By keeping my interactions meaningful, I can create more friendships and that will probably result in more tweets for the community at large. Which means I can provide more relevant content for you (which is the goal for me anyway).

I know there are technologies that can help me sort and organize tweets, but I've still only got one pair of eyeballs. I'm not interested in Tweetdeck or anything like that - maybe I'm stuck in my ways. But I do know you deserve someone who can give you the attention you deserve. And it ain't me, babe.

And that's why, in order to stay sane, I've gotta qwit you.

(Image courtesy of misteraitch via Flickr)

Romancing The Blogger By Mo'Luv

Late last week, I was lucky enough to meet Maurice Lovinski, better known online as Mo'Luv. He is an eminent blogger and author of the critically acclaimed "Hard Drive to Sex Drive: The Guide to Blogging for Business or Boinking." I know many of my readers are fans of his.

I asked him to write the following guest post about blogger relations. Many journalists, public relations experts, and businesspeople are still confused about how best to engage bloggers. I hope you find Mo'Luv's post helpful in your own blogger relations.

Romancing The Blogger, With Mo'Luv

Baby.

Let's role-play for a minute. In this sexy scenario, I'll be a big-time author and blogger. Don't worry, this persona is not a stretch for me. And you can be a journalist or PR lady who wants to get my attention. After all, you know what I can do for you, right? I've got that audience you're hungry for.

You wouldn't just pounce on me at the bar, would you? Of course not. You would suppress your animal urges and go more subtle-like. I'm going to walk you through the ways you can seduce this blogger.

First, mix yourself a tall G&T. You ready? Good, I'll begin.

Start Off Slow

While we may seem super-human, a blogger is just like anyone else. You've got to show a little interest.

Start off on Twitter. Look me up, see what makes me tick. Start following me, and if I say something that turns your crank, go ahead and put up a re-tweet. That's when you take what I said, give me a little credit, and send it out to all your followers.

A re-tweet is like a love flare, honey. I'll be sure to see it in the cool night air.

Move On To The Blog

Now we're ready to get into it. Subscribe to my blog and post a comment or two. It shows me that you care, sweetie.

Posting a comment on a blogger's website is the equivalent of buying me a drink at the bar. I'll casually look your way and if I like what I see, that opens the door for more profitable...interactions. You dig?

But be cool, baby. I don't want to hear the same song-and-dance that you'd tell all the other bloggers. Make your comment personal, relevant, and add a little something to the conversation. If you're going to whisper in my ear, make it good.

I don't want to sound callous, but it's all about me right now.

Open It Up

I've seen you, maybe thanked you for the re-tweet, probably looked at your website (lookin' fine, by the way). Now let's have some fun.

If you want more out of me, think about it from my perspective. I'm no shill, after all.

If you do research, send me an early copy of a report. If you're designing a website for a client, ask my advice. If you're an author, offer me an advance review copy.

This is how we start to slow dance, see?

The Pay-off (Or Is It?)

At this point, the ball is in my court. And prepare for honesty, babe - I won't string you along. If your product stinks, I'll give it to you straight.

But if your product is A-OK, maybe I'll blog about it. Maybe I'll send info to my blogger friends (Momma taught you to share, right?). Maybe I'll shout from the rooftops, "DAMN, you've got to check this stuff out!"

I don't make promises because I've broken too many hearts in the past. But I will play fair, darling.

I'm A Man With A Slow Hand

You see, I believe in these muses called The Pointer Sisters. They said it best:

I want a man with a slow hand I want a lover with an easy touch I want somebody who will spend some time Not come and go in a heated rush

That's me, baby, I swear. Go slow with me and I'll return the favor.

So many lovely journalists, so many well-meaning PR ladies have jumped all over me. I honestly don't know if it's the blogger phenomenon, my own pheromones, or just the Old-Spice kicking in. But believe me, it's not cool.

I'm not asking for the world, sweetheart! All I ask - as a blogger and as a man - is that you treat me with a little respect. Don't use me for my blog. I know my audience is one of the smartest and hippest group of cool cats in the world - you don't have to tell me this.

Maybe I'm crazy for asking for a little individual courtesy, I don't know. All I know is that if you want some attention from Mo'Luv, take my advice.

Until next time, honey. XO.

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(Image courtesy of skizoologic via Flickr)

Inspiration courtesy of Smoove B.

Book Review: Secrets Of Social Media Marketing by Paul Gillin

I read a lot for this blog and I try to pass along the books that I especially recommend. Some are simply must-reads if you're on the cutting edge of marketing and social media.

But it's rare that I quote a book more than a handful of times. If you read about a particular book on this blog more than a couple times, it means that it's a true resource for me - something I go back to again and again for guidance and ideas.

Sometimes these books are heavy on research and statistics (like Groundswell). Sometimes they provide a philosophical direction that keeps me on the correct path (like Join the Conversation).

It is rare, however, that a book is so chock-full of information that I know it will be a resource before I've even completed it. I'm only half-way through Paul Gillin's Secrets of Social Media Marketing and I already know you must buy it.

90% And 10%

Gillin begins the book by introducing the intended audience:

"This book isn't intended for the 10 percent of marketers who are on the leading edge of this phenomenon. It's for the 90 percent who are still trying to figure out how to start."

Since I consider this blog aimed at that audience as well, I commend Gillin's efforts. However, I also respectfully disagree. As a member of that 10 percent, I know that it's useful to other 10 percenters, not just the 90 percent trying to figure it out.

For instance, his outline of search engine capabilities was largely new to me (page 44) and I haven't heard of many of the examples he mentions, including the Twitter Baja 1000-Jim Beam promotion (page 116). Even the most prominent blogger, marketers, and social media enthusiasts will gain something by reading this book.

That said, it's also great for the 90 percent who are trying to figure it all out. They will benefit from other's successes and missteps. Gillin does a great job of walking the reader through a social media marketing campaign from idea to strategy to execution to measurement.

Examples And Research

In my opinion, the two most useful aspects of this book are the examples and the research. Gillin isn't simply spouting off his theories - he is backing them up with real-world intelligence.

Like Made To Stick, this book supports it's premises and ideas with concrete examples and research. The section on CEO blogs featured several business leaders with positives and negatives about their experience. Likewise, his section on customer conversations was supported by influential authors and the facts and figures that inspire trust in his work.

The Gist

I highly recommend that you buy Secrets of Social Media Marketing. (It ships on November 1, but you can pre-order it on Amazon with that link at a third off the cover price.) I think it is a great resource for marketers, small business owners, or anyone who touches social media - and that's most of us.

Regular readers know I will rip into a book I think stinks. But I've been really impressed with Gillin's work and this book, in particular. Please let me know what you think in the comments section below.

P.S.: Gillin did something smart by creating a website well before the book is released: http://SSMMbook.com/. Check it out if you want to know more about his work, read other reviews, and get all of the footnotes in one convenient place.

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The End Of Email - Celebrating The Imminent Death

Courtesy of flippabotamatic via Flickr Email is dying, mark my words. It will soon go the way of Morse code, the ham radio, and hand-written letters.

Whisper it to yourself: "No. More. Email." It's scary, but freeing at the same time. It sounds like heresy, doesn't it?

So how can email be dying? Emarketer reports that almost a quarter of Americans check their email upon waking in the morning and more than a third check email throughout the day. But there is evidence that email will soon be a thing of the past.

Here are the reasons why you and your customers have numbered days with the ol' email address.

  • They aren't getting your email - Email recipients simply aren't receiving your message. Jupiter Research (now with Forrester) reports that 17% of the U.S. population changes email addresses every six months. You cannot maintain or build a relationship that way. This churn is steadily (and increasingly) chipping away at your list.
  • They don't care about your email - Email's value is decreasing. Open rates have declined for the last three years and 60% of subscribers don't interact with your email messages at all. (The joint M+R/NTEN study examined non-profits - I think it's safe to say that the results for businesses would be even more dismal.)
  • They opt for Facebook over email - I have seen personally and professionally a move toward communication via social network rather than email address. By self-selecting a social group, the individual avoids spam. Quantcast reports a decline in Hotmail traffic corresponding to an increase in Facebook traffic (Yahoo and Google results inconclusive). (Seb Chan has some good ideas about why this is.)
  • They might like microblogging more than social networks - As astute marketer Rich Brooks says, "While there will always be the telephone and email for us 'old folks,' a lot of important conversations will be going on exclusively in the social media arena." Even though email takes less than a minute, the ambient awareness offered by microblogging platforms like Twitter and Plurk allows for a lifestream rather than direct contact or lengthy carbon copy lists.
  • They switched from an address to a URL - You just aren't a good marketer if you haven't read Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. If you have, you know that one out of six of your customers is a "creator" - someone who regularly blogs, uploads video, or keeps a website (pg. 43 and 131). With their online home changing from inbox to blog/avatar/podcast, your customers are more find-able than ever before. The dominance of search accentuates the importance of a home base website.

Your customers don't get your email and, when they do, they likely don't care enough to open it. They prefer their regular hangouts like Facebook and Twitter over a boring email address. And finally, who needs an email address when they have a Google-indexed, searchable contact page on their website?

Do you notice how all of these are similar? What is shared by all the nails in email's coffin?

Customer Empowerment

The theme that connects all of these trends is that the customer is more in charge. Hence, you cannot be shocked then at the increasing prevalence of these developments.

Marketers are no longer interrupting customers' lives with sales pitches. Instead, they (or the good ones, at least) are concerned with providing value so that the customer will want to visit their site. The push economy has replaced the pull economy.

Are you seeing similar development in your business or personal life? Is it possible we could abandon email? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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IDEA 2008 - Why I Am Going And Why You Should Consider It

Courtesy of Activeside via Flickr Because of a post about engagement design that I wrote in late August, I was awarded with a free ticket to this year's IDEA 2008 conference.

First, I'd like to thank Melissa and all the good folks at IDEA for the award and the chance to participate. I am terribly excited.

Second, I wanted to explain why I'm going and suggest that you consider it as well. As some of you may know, my career was primed with years of studying literary theory, then I spent almost six years in politics. My path to online marketing was not so direct, to say the least. While persuasive writing was always a part of that, I had to learn more than I ever would have expected.

I taught myself bits of HTML so I wouldn't have to wait for the I.T. guy to fix my problems. I kept up with tech news because that was sudden the means of communication. I veered into unexpected territory to stay ahead of the curve. Likewise, I predict the next important things we need to learn as marketers and online folks in general will be covered at IDEA 2008.

Grandmas On Amazon

A few years ago, the online experience was radically different. Read some books published in the mid-1990s and you'll see what I mean. It was a major project just to get a website up and running, never mind e-commerce and regular communication with your customers. Dynamic content was still a dream.

So we spent most of your time educating. But now, due to that education, extensive broadband access, lowering of prices across the board, and a general acclimation to the web, we have moved well beyond those early days. I'm willing to bet that your mother or grandmother could (or does) use Amazon.com. That is no small feat.

Changing Times

In the web 1.0 era, websites lived in the I.T. department. Now, they're housed in marketing. Before we were educating the customer; now, the customer is telling us exactly how he wants to interact with our brands online (and we've finally got the metrics to prove it).

Which brings me back to IDEA 2008. The design, usability, and information architecture topics covered at this conference will the next big things we need to learn.

While I haven't taken an art class since college, I recognize that I need to sharpen my eye for design. While I think I know a good amount about user experience, I need metrics and tests to back up my assertions these days.

Just as I taught myself HTML and learned the business of web 2.0 from the ground up, so too will I need to be fluent in engagement design and good information architecture. And likely, so will you.

The Goal

Of course, the goal if all this is now firmly centered on the customer, where it ought to have been in the first place. All of this is to ensure that they find what they're looking for and get it without any trouble. In other words, marketers better learn to provide value and a good experience, rather than interrupting it with their sales pitch.

I'm excited to go to the conference; the program looks spectacular. After going to an IA conference hosted by Adaptive Path, I am looking forward to hearing from their Co-Founder Jesse James Garrett. Also of particular note is local web 2.0 celeb David Armano from Critical Mass. While I'm sure all of the speakers will be brilliant, I am especially looking forward to hearing from these guys.

If you're already going, I encourage you to join the LinkedIn IDEA 2008 group and then look for me at the conference. (I'll be the only guy there named "DJ" guaranteed.)

And if you can't be there, try to follow along. The conference has a Twitter account and you can follow me at @MarketerBlog. I will do my best to provide live tweets about the conference.

I hope to see you there!

(Sidenote: Besides my free ticket, I get no compensation from the IDEA folks. I'm no shill; I really do believe all of this.)

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Social Media Best Practice: Be Vigilant

Courtesy of David Dasinger via Flickr Mitch Joel of Twist Image and the Six Pixels of Separation blog/podcast recent threw out an interesting challenge: Name your social media marketing best practice for businesses.

Personally, I don't intend to slice hairs about the phrase "best practices." If you're reading this blog, you probably have a good idea of when things go well in social media and when they don't (or at least you're interested to learn). Let's take our best practices from the times when things go well.

My best practice is Be Vigilant.

Vigilant is defined as "keenly watchful" and "ever awake and alert," but I would argue there is also an element of stalwartness, a sustained resolution to continue onward. In involves keeping an eye on the horizon, but not forgetting to measure each step. To me, it's very British. Perhaps you envision another version of vigilance.

But how can someone stay vigilant when it comes to something social? It doesn't seem to fit.

I contend that there are two ways to stay vigilant when it comes to social media: either it comes to you naturally or it requires great discipline.

You probably know into which category you fall. But let's go through some of the qualities of these two paths and some possible barriers to success that you may encounter.

Social By Nature

Mitch mentions in SPOS #119 that social media is something he likes to do and is probably why he's one of the most prolific social media marketing voices out there. Mitch says:

"This whole chaos thing [of his office move] leads me to the fact that I don't consider podcasting and I don't consider blogging work. It's really my moment to sort of actually relax and take it easy and do something creative, so I enjoy it thoroughly."

Similarly, social media may feel like an understanding of something you have always known - that you quite naturally share information about your life or work.

The struggle I see the most among natural born social media types is one of focus. Business requires focusing on why you are using social media, not just on how cool it is.

Communicating is great, but those who come by it naturally need to remain vigilant about their social media strategy. How does Twitter help my business? Do I really need a MySpace page these days? Is Digg my prime audience?

Being vigilant for you guys means constantly aligning the fun communication tools with your business objectives. Constantly reassess whether social media is helping your business. Consult your website metrics to ensure that it's pulling in the traffic you want. If it's not, social media might not be worth your time.

Those of you who flock to social media because it's "who you are," pat yourselves on the back. Congratulation, you have the far easier task of simply exploiting for business that which comes naturally. Discipline is much tougher.

Social By Practice

Maybe you don't wake up thinking about your next blog post. Maybe you don't feel the need to stay in touch with everyone you meet. Maybe you've always been quieter, more reserved than others around you.

For these marketers, I would first urge you to question why it is you're compelled to enter the social media space in the first place. Sure, social media has been the buzzword in marketing circles for awhile, but that does not require that you jump into the pool. If you sense you're doing it because everyone else is, stop.

However, if your business requires it, there are ways to enter the social media fray, even if you aren't naturally inclined. Try these steps to stay vigilant in social media:

  • Make it easy: Install the del.icio.us and Stumbleupon toolbars to your Firefox browser. This makes it a one-step process to collect and share interesting websites.
  • Put it in one place: Create an account at Netvibes and create widgets there for all of your social media tools. Keep track of (multiple) Twitter, Digg, and FriendFeed accounts (and many others) - all on one easily-customizable page.
  • Create goals (within reason): It's tempting in a post about vigilance to suggest making goals for yourself - X number of tweets per day, for instance. But what if you're too busy? Or it's a slow news day? Get in the practice of sharing only when you have something of value.
  • However, value comes in many forms: Something mundane in your life might be terribly interesting to someone else. Notice all of the news that comes across your desk, share some of it, and then figure out what your audience responded to and what they ignored. Continue to refine your offerings, giving your followers information they value.

The Gist

Social media are just tools. Whether you cleave naturally to them or not is an important question. But remaining vigilant - to stay focused or to stay engaged - is a challenge for anyone in this particular marketing space.

Did I forget anything? How do you stay vigilant? Please feel free to share suggestions and comments below. I can't wait to hear how you remain vigilant with social media.

If you are a blogger, consider writing a post about your social media marketing best practice. Get the details over at Mitch's blog.

In the spirit of sharing, I'm going to tag WMBN founder and admirably prolific eyecube author Rick Liebling, smart and creative web strategist Josh Klein, brilliant marketer and all-around truly nice human being CK, and the impressively tenacious Harry Hoover. They are all people I respect and admire, and I'd love to hear their thoughts on this subject.

Let me know how you remain vigilant with social media!

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Is Social Media Passing Your Business By?

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr Social media - everything from Facebook to Digg to Twitter to Flickr - has been quickly snagging the attention of small business owners and employees of big companies across the world. The business applications for these tools are being explored and many are finding success.

But is this all hype? Are businesses really adopting these tools and, if so, why do they succeed (or fail)?

In this post, I will give you proof that the use of social media in business is expanding rapidly, illustrate what social media offers your customers, and give you some questions so you can determine whether it's the right strategy for your company.

Social Media: What's The Big Deal?

Some businesspeople scoff that social media is a passing fad. Thanks to a recent study from The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, we have proof that it's not. Social media is becoming more familiar - and more applicable to business - to a much wider audience. From the social media in the Inc. 500 study:

"Just over one quarter of the Inc. 500 reported social media was very important to their business/marketing strategy in 2007. That number has increased to 44% just one year later."

So why the sudden and dramatic increase? I contend that businesses figured out where their customers were congregating online and are learning a new way to communicate with current and potential customers.

Go Where Your Fans Are

In David Meerman Scott's e-book, The New Rules of Viral Marketing, he tells a story about a business finding its customers online and communicating directly with them (which also turns out to be cheaper and more efficient).

Cindy Gordan, VP of New Media and Marketing Partnerships with Universal Orlando, was tasked with promoting a new Harry Potter theme park. She told only seven people, but those seven people reached 350 million potential customers through social media.

What I find interesting is Gordan's insistence that she was compelled to use the social media channels and websites where those Harry Potter fans gathered and shared news.

"'If we hadn't gone to the fans first, there could have been a backlash,' Gordan says. She imagined the disappointment dedicated Harry Potter fans might feel if they learned about Universal Orlando's plans in, say, The New York Times rather than an insider fan site."

Customers expect you to meet them where they are. In overwhelming and still increasing numbers, they are online and frequently reading blogs, checking in with friends on MySpace or Facebook, and sharing what they find online with their friends.

Sure, customers are online, but must businesses join them?

Talking The Talk

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I'm a big believer that businesses must communicate more personally with their customers (note that communication is a two-way street). They don't want you interrupting them with marketese, but they are willing to have a chat if your product is good and you are polite.

A recent AdWeek article details this shift in conversation and explains who in business can bring about this change.

"Once thought of as an interesting new media channel, social media is increasingly seen as a catalyst for changing how companies operate. It points to a new corporate structure that favors open over closed, dialogue over monologue, and decentralized power over command and control."

Some people think this new way of doing things is bogus. But as General Eric Shinseki said, "If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less."

The AdWeek story gives examples of businesses getting wise to the change though, including Ford, Pepsi, and Intel. The article seems to advocate, as Joseph Jaffe and I have in the past, the idea of a Chief Conversation Officer. It may seem "out there" now, but don't say I didn't warn you.

On The Other Hand...

I am a true believer in social media for business, but take a long look at your business before jumping in headlong. Focus on strategy rather than cool technology. Consider whether you have the infrastructure to support a social media campaign. Re-read posts on this blog for help with this.

Like Seth Godin says, if your business is selling meatballs, don't slop ice cream on top. In other words, not all businesses need a social media campaign. Don't expect to see ball bearing manufacturers on Twitter - their customers aren't there and it doesn't fit their business model or strategy.

It's true that not every company needs to have a Facebook group or share photos over Flickr. But every business needs to be listening. 99% of businesses' customers are online and many of them are talking about your product. You need to be attuned to what they are saying. Not only can it stave off crises, but researching your audience can only improve your actual product.

Your customers are talking about you. Don't let the benefits of social media pass you by.

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PR Fail: 11 Ways AMC Could Have Avoided The Mad Men Twitter Flap

Image stolen and probably fodder for future lawsuit By this time, you've probably heard about the AMC-Mad Men-Twitter flap. If not, check out Jennifer Jones' SpeakMediaBlog for an explanation and update.

Basically, someone started tweeting as Don Draper, the protagonist of Mad Men - a popular show on AMC. He'd say smarmy things and recommend Scotch in the afternoons (ok, the mornings too). Then we noticed Peggy. Then Joan, Pete, and the rest of the gang. They would disperse bits of wisdom mixed with comments riffing from the show.

And for just a second, you felt like you were part of the show. It was a step toward a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU) - a concept coined by WMBN founder Rick Liebling from eyecube.

The only trouble was that the corporate overlords at AMC did what corporate overlords always do: over-react and send in the lawyers. The profiles were pulled and the Sterling Cooper Twitter branch offices went dark.

Or Did It?

Within 36 hours, AMC was dancing the mea culpa at beat the band. Accounts were reinstated and things seemed back to normal. The only thing the exercise in stupidity garnered was a load of bad press. The reaction from the blogosphere was loud and angry - but most often, not helpful.

However, here at OnlineMarketerBlog, we believe in positivity. So, to help AMC and the future AMCs (don't laugh - it could be you next time, buddy), I offer 11 ways they could have avoid the bad press, instilled brand loyalty, and maybe even picked up new viewers in the process. Here is what AMC could have done rather than dispatch the lawyers.

  1. Pay the kid. Seriously. He's already doing your job because he loves it. What better person to have on the payroll?
  2. Register similar names and do it yourself. If he's using @Don_Draper, register @DonDraper (oops, too late again!). If you think you can do it better, the do so.
  3. Hook him up with product placement deals. Have Don hock Scotch and have Joan push push-up bras. Then give him a substantial cut. Everybody's happy.
  4. Secure the SterlingCooper URL before you piss him off. The guy was using SterlingCooperAdvertising.com (which re-directs to AMC's site) before all this started, so he's either smart or sending you traffic. If it's the former and he registered the URL, pay him for it before the shouting starts.
  5. Start up tangential Twitter accounts to serve as a social connector. I'd be sure to follow @SterlingCooperBreakRoom just to see what happened.
  6. Use him to foreshadow. Send this guy early information about the next episode so he can build anticipation among your most fervent fans.
  7. Spruce up his Twitter pages. Send him quality designed images so your product looks as good as possible, even if someone outside the company is doing it.
  8. Test out new characters online. Flesh out the voice of potential characters (and build a following) before introducing them on the show.
  9. Send him shwag to give away. Build his cache and your own by delivering Mad Men martini shakers and Mad Men high-gloss shoe polish. Fans would go rabid.
  10. Set up a job board for advertising/PR/marketing folks. Collect ad money and job advertiser fees to keep the site afloat, then use it to cultivate new advertisers for the television show from companies soliciting for jobs.
  11. Hold contests. For instance, hold a "best line from a character" Twitter contest and then feature the winning statement on a future episode. Tons of people send in free content, you get a lot of good will, and you encourage viewers to take on your character's personas. This equals a brand engagement super-win.

There you have it - 11 ways AMC could have avoided all the unpleasantness and bad press, and given fans something to enrich their experience rather than subtract from it. But, you know what, I'd like to pass along a bonus idea for bone-headed companies: Try talking to the person first.

It turns out the guy behind all the of the profiles and tweets would have been happy to turn over the keys and go on his merry way. I know actually picking up the phone and calling is just a crazy idea to many in business-land, but believe me, you can avoid a lot of hassle that way. Oh, and I don't mean a lawyer calling - I mean a real person.

Don't Laugh Yet

Sure, AMC has egg on their face this week, but that will pass. I don't really mean to be so hard on them - I love the show and have no reason to think they will make the same mistake again (otherwise, I wouldn't be giving real suggestions).

However, remember that any company is susceptible to tone-deaf-ness when they don't pay attention (or at least have a new media consultant, cough, cough). Your company could be next. What are you doing to avoid AMC's fate? Are you listening to your customers and congregating where they are? If not, you likely deserve to get blindsided.

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Journalism At The Crossroads - To Evolve Or Not

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr Journalism is at a crossroads, with two distinct groups voicing their opinions.

On one side, many journalists don't buy the trend toward social media and have their heads firmly entrenched in the sand. They believe in their readership's loyalty and claim that social media is a passing fad.

One the other side, other journalists have fully embraced the social media tools at their disposal and go so far as to trumpet the death of journalism. They expect newspapers to close up shop; the death knell of print news is a symphony of tweets.

Aren't the two views mutually exclusive? Which one is correct?

Personally, I believe they are both wrong. Some newspapers will outlast social media and some have already been taken down by it. The basic truth is that some people love getting their news from social media like Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed, while others will never replace their tangible newspaper-with-coffee routine.

This post will explain, however, that newspapers and journalists who use social media - in effect integrate these two seemingly opposing ideas - will likely be the long-term winners. There is no doubt that the old ways are changing. Journalists who refuse to accept that should begin cleaning up their resumes.

But major news networks need not shutter the windows quite yet. Embracing this change could be the key to stopping the newspaper industry's slow (and recently not so slow) slide into irrelevance.

An Industry In Turmoil

You don't have to look far for evidence that the newspaper industry is in trouble, and this has been a trend for several years. The New York Times reported that 2006 saw one of the steepest declines in the newspaper industry ever. In 2007, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported a continued 3% decline across the board. This pattern involves not only newspaper sales, but the related topics of ad sales and job cuts.

So where have all the readers gone? You guess it - the internet. The NYT title says it all: "More Readers Trading Newspapers For Web Sites." Or how about "Newspaper Circulation In Steep Slide Across Nation." Get the picture?

A (Social) World Of Solutions

So, in these tough times, what if there was a way for newspapers to:

  • Create a sense of loyalty to a particular magazine
  • Develop brand advocates (word of mouth ambassadors)
  • Provide more relevant news
  • Link into a network of concerned citizens
  • Increase pageviews and (connected to increased traffic) increase revenue

A recent article by Todd Andrlik about The Chicago Tribune's recent forays into the social media space illustrates a newspaper who has done just that. Here's a quick run-down of the results of their efforts:

  • Traffic: Social media efforts are responsible for an 8% increase in pageviews.
  • Market research: "'Essentially, social media gives us a year-round, real-time focus group to monitor conversations and keep us in tune with what consumers are thinking,' said Bill Adee, associate managing editor for innovation and head of the Tribune's social media task force."
  • More relevant content: The Tribune created a special section on the website about Chicago's O'Hare airport directly based on the conversation they heard on Twitter.
  • A network of citizen journalists: The newspaper recently broke a story about a bomb scare at the Daley Building after being tipped off my concerned followers on Twitter.
  • Positive local and national PR: Serving as a example (and occasionally picking up the tab at tweet-ups) has the tangential benefit of blog posts just like this one and hundreds more online.

Flash In The Pan Or Gem Of A Strategy?

Maybe the successful efforts are a momentary success. After all, despite the success found through social media, I'm sure things are still tight over at The Tribune.

And yet, more and more smart people are figuring out that social media enhances the journalistic work they do. For instance, marketer and author Peter Shankman's "Help A Reporter Out" connects journalists with possible sources. Formerly journalists had to pay for such a service, but Shankman does it all for free. He gets notoriety out of the deal and a little advertising, but the more than 20,000 subscribers seem to think it's worthwhile.

Likewise, MyCreativeTeam introduced a wiki list of journalists who use Twitter to connect PR people with journalists and media outlets. The list has grown exponentially since it first began and you can read more about it here.

One can only assume that the hundreds or thousands of journalists using these services are getting something out of them. Staying connected, developing sources, staying in touch with your community readership, providing more value - don't these sound like smart business goals for newspapers and the journalists who run them?

Final Assessment

Frankly, I don't think newspaper will go away entirely. It's difficult to imagine a Norman Rockwell-esque scene in which Father Dearest whips out his blackberry to connect to the Twitter stream rather than reading his paper by the fire.

However, the journalists and newspapers who deny the use of social media - for themselves or their audience - might as well have targets painted on their backs. Your days are numbered.

But, if you take the route of The Chicago Tribune, Shankman's HARO, and MyCreativeTeam's journalist Twitter wiki, you may reap rewards you never expected. Experiment, have fun, but also measure the results again your business goals and reassess accordingly. Journalists should not - heck, cannot - avoid social media. But if they get wise to the tool, it may become one of their greatest assets.

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What Is Twitter? A Beginners Guide

Courtesy of aaardvaark via Flickr You may have heard of Twitter and be a little confused. Early adopters have been playing around with it for a couple of years, but Twitter finally seems to be making it into the mainstream.

This is a brief users guide for those curious about how it works, wondering about its value, and wanting to get the most from the experience.

What Is Twitter?

Twitter is commonly referred to as "micro-blogging." While this is an accurate description, I've found that it confuses some people (non-bloggers especially).

Imagine it is a post-it note. You don't have a lot of space (140 characters) so brevity is required. When you jot something down on your post-it note, it gets stuck to your refrigerator door, much like you might do at home. However, in this scenario, anyone can see the notes posted on your frig. And you can see anyone else's.

How Does It Work?

Like most web 2.0 applications, the best advice is to just try it out. (You can't do it wrong and you won't break it - just give it a whirl.)

You sign up with a name of your choice. After that, find people you know or are interested in following. Twitter can pull from your email contacts to see if your friends and family already have Twitter accounts.

Twitter accounts are identified with an "at" symbol in front. So when discussing your Twitter account, you would say @YourName. Events use a hash mark. For instance, you can search for all Olympic tweets using #080808.

You can view anyone's notes (or "tweets") and anyone can sign up to view yours. Don't worry - you will get an email letting you know every time someone follows you.

And of course, all of this is free.

Avoid These Common Pitfalls

  • No blatant marketing!: Some marketers will try to market their product over Twitter. Let me save you some time: It doesn't work. If all of your tweets are about your wonderful, fantabulous product which I can BUY NOW, I will know you're full of it. People aren't stupid.
  • Needy: At the risk of offending folks, avoid looking needy. If you follow 1,000+ people and only 2 follow you, I'm going to wonder why.
  • Friends before tweets: Play around with Twitter before you go introducing yourself. Sure, follow people you know at first, but focus on actually tweeting. Get a couple dozen tweets up before you attempt to make friends you don't actually know in real life. It gives them a sense of who you are and what you're interested in.

What Are The Positives?

  • It's fun - you instantly have access to very interesting people
  • It's a good PR tool (after you build a community)
  • It's an ultra-specific source of news

What Are The Negatives?

  • It's extremely addictive
  • Sometimes it can verge on minutiae
  • Frequent downtime

Separation Of Church And State

If you get really into Twitter, you may want to opt for multiple accounts. There's no restriction on this - you just need separate email addresses to link to them. This is common for small business owners who want a distinct account for their business as well as their personal accounts.

For instance, my personal tweets are at @DJFrancis but all marketing/advertising/communications tweets can be found at my blogs account, @MarketerBlog. Feel free to follow whichever account best applies to you. (If you are reading this blog, I imagine the latter.)

I find this an easy separation to make and better for my readers. I recommend only setting up multiple accounts once you are comfortable with Twitter. Also, you may want to consider Netvibes or a similar solution to managing your discrete accounts.

Was This Helpful?

Please feel free to comment below if I missed anything. I hope you found this helpful.

If you try Twitter and like it, here are some other suggestions for those in the marketing and social media world: @chrisbrogan, @copyblogger, @jowyang, @jaffejuice, @mitchjoel, @shannonpaul, @jasonfalls, @drewmclellan, @MyCreativeTeam, and @armano.

For more basic information, check out these articles from Newsweek, PC World, and Fortune magazine.

Please consider subscribing to this blog if you want to know more about marketing in a web 2.0 world (free, natch). I offer both email and RSS options. Also, if you like learning about social media, tune in tomorrow when I tackle StumbleUpon and a few of the other social voting/news sites with a special emphasis on marketing and business.

And please feel free to make one of your first tweets a link to this article, but only if you found it useful. Thanks!

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Sometimes Breasts Aren't Enough, Julia Allison

Courtesy of jbhill via Flickr I have been trying to figure out why WIRED's cover story on Julia Allison incensed me so much.

You won't find me bashing Paris Hilton or her ilk on this blog. As someone who barely watches TV, her brand of reality-show insta-celebs barely register on my consciousness. However, I do dwell in the PR world, the internet world, the social media world...and when you screw around in that world, I consider you fair game.

I don't normally do hit pieces. I am usually positive about how marketing/PR/advertising can make the world a better place (no small task, believe me). But the Julia Allison story deserves some response on this blog because it illustrates:

1. How not to do PR

2. How not to use web 2.0 social media tools

3. How not to run a magazine

Here's a quick recap of the article: WIRED portrays the piece as a "how-to," giving advice on the art of online self-promotion. It details how a woman in her mid-20s weaseled into the digital pages of Gawker, Valleywag, and (now) WIRED.

On the splash page before the article, WIRED writes, "She can't act. She can't sing. She's not rich...[S]he's an internet celebrity." In case you missed the underlying message, it's that WIRED just gave a cover story to someone devoid of talent. Here is why Julia Allison is a terrible example of self-promotion, a warning of the missteps of public relations, and why WIRED ought to be ashamed.

How NOT to do PR

There an old quote from PR that any news is good news. But this adage rings hollow in the web 2.0 world, where the relationships we create and the trust we build determines who we do business with.

Here's a tip, Ms. Allison: Page views are temporary. People may show up to see what you do next, but a long-term strategy this is not. You see, one of the words in "PR" is "relations."

Take this quote after Julia visited the west coast:

"'We are all in awe,' one blogger wrote, 'and quite honestly left scratching our heads over how someone, in such a short period of time, could make an incredibly controversial impact - with an entire community breathing a sigh of relief at her departure.'" (Emphasis mine.)

Does this sound like relationship building? Sure, it might get you a mention on a blog, but come on. You are making PR professionals look worse and that's tough to do.

There are no "relations" when it's all one-sided. And when I look at her sites and her persona, I can't hear anything over the shouting and it reeks of the self-obsession that turns off the vast majority of people.

And yet, WIRED claims that Julia's talent - using the term broadly - is self-promotion. Well, if that's her gift, all the shouting must be a great way to garner PR. However, via Shannon Paul's Very Official Blog:

"According to [AdWeek's] Brian [Morrissey], the best thing PR people can do is 'Recognize that media organizations are shrinking while PR is growing.' If you’re in PR and that estimate doesn’t strike fear in your heart, well, it should. What that means is that the old, impersonal methods of pitching won’t work anymore."

How does this relate to Julia? There are more people than ever in PR, promoting themselves or others, and the number of venues is decreasing. Julia's response is to shout louder. That will be one of her un-doings.

How NOT to use social media

WIRED claims that "Allison's trick is to think of herself as the subject of a magazine profile, with every blog post or Twitter update adding dimension to her as a character."

Anyone who has every used a blog or Twitter (or any other social media tool) knows that you will fail if you only discuss yourself. No one is endlessly interesting (especially Julia). Her shtick of constant self-promotion gets old really quick and this is the first rule of social media etiquette.

The way to succeed with social media is to give it all away. The people who succeed (I'm talking about people like Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel, Christopher Penn, and Jeremiah Owyang, to name just a few) are popular because they built a community on quality and promote their network.

Julia employs the folly usually reserved for business people decades her senior: using web 2.0 technology in a web 1.0 way. She might be blogging, but where's the conversation? You can't expect to succeed (especially in PR, if that is your chosen field) in this new era by only talking about yourself. Believe me, no one else wants to gaze at your navel.

How NOT to run a magazine

WIRED, we need to talk.

Listen, man, I get it; I'm down. I was a marketing manager for a magazine. I can rap all day with you about the need to sell these things.

But giving your cover story to this chick? Don't get me wrong, I understand the pressure to make newsstand sales. A cover featuring a pretty girl with her breasts hanging out does affect sales. But if your beat is tech, doing that makes it cheap and hurts your street cred.

Have you read the comments to the story? Your readers think this story is a load of stinking garbage. And again, I know August is the toughest month with everyone away on vacation, but come on. Anything else would have attracted more attention while you retained your self respect. (I mean, there was E3, The Dark Knight premiere, Comic-Con...pick your nerd-fest!)

The Gist

If you garner anything from the WIRED cover story or this blog post, it should be that Julia uses PR as a bludgeon, misuses social media tools completely, and, by associating with her, some of the stench wafted over onto WIRED.

Then again, maybe I'm just jealous. Unlike Julia, I'm not "internet famous" and probably won't become so. Instead of gossipy pre-teen fans, I only have a good job, years of experience, and, there was something else... Oh yeah, my dignity.

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