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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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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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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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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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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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)

Top 5 Gift Books For Online Marketers

As you plan for Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holidays this season, you might have a marketer, writer, or advertising person on your list. If so, this is the post for you.

I've written before about the need for marketing folks to always be studying, constantly learning their craft. Here are the top five books that marketers on your list will need to succeed in 2009.

Top 5 Gift Books For Marketers

1. Groundswell: Winning in a World of Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff - This is my pick for best marketing book of 2008. Li and Bernoff explain social media marketing with more analysis, data, and charts than any other book on this list. Every page is filled with nuggets of wisdom, but be warned: this is not a book for the uninitiated. Readers should have a basic understanding of marketing and online behavior to get the most out of this book.

Who should receive this book?: Hard-core marketers, social media junkies, small businesspeople who already "get" blogging and Twitter.

2. Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath - You may have read the Heath brother's monthly article in Fast Company magazine. Like their articles, this book is always thought provoking, drawing from research that crosses the boundary of marketing into psychology and sociology. There is a science to persuasion and a commonality in successful marketing campaigns. This book does a great job of explaining why and how you can replicate that success.

Who should receive this book?: Young creatives at a marketing or advertising firm, psychologists turned businesspeople, marketers who want to understand how to "go viral."

3. Join The Conversation: How to Engage Marketing-Weary Consumers with the Power of Community, Dialogue, and Partnership by Joseph Jaffe - Jaffe is one of the leading thinkers and proponents of new marketing. As a thought leader, it's no surprise that his book is chock full of insight. This book is intended not just to teach marketers the particular skills they need to thrive in this new environment, but also to change their very way of thinking. It's not quite as radical as that sounds - it is always pragmatic - but it is certainly convincing that the ways of marketing have indeed changed forever.

Who should receive this book?: College students considering a career in marketing, retired marketers looking for new thoughts and ideas, businesspeople in other departments who are curious about the changes they may see in their own marketing department in the future.

4. Secrets of Social Media Marketing: How to Use Online Conversations and Customer Communities to Turbo-Charge Your Business by Paul Gillin - Gillin says that the book is intended for the 90% of marketers who are not yet comfortable with social media marketing tools. As a member of the 10% who are, I would disagree. I got a lot out of this book. It's full of examples and great tips, but most importantly provides a complete overview of the social media world. My personal copy is marked up and dog-eared - a sure sign of a useful book.

Who should receive this book? Old-school marketers pessimistic about this "Web 2.0 stuff," work-from-home Moms building a new business, the I.T. guy you fight with whenever you want to include more functionality on your website.

5. Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy - Do you notice how much shorter this title is compared to the others? The book reads the very same way. Ogilvy, likely a master of the art before you were born, says what needs saying and nothing more. Though the book was published in 1983, the universal truths provided in the book stand the test of time. It pays to know where your industry came from, in order to really move it forward.

Who should receive this book? Idealistic young advertising staff, copywriters of any age, the agency tough-guy who needs to hear advice from the original Ad Man.

Only For The Hard-Core

It's a little tough to imagine, but if the marketing person on your list is the hardest of hard-core, they may like a MarketingSherpa report under the tree. They're a little pricey, but the amount of money saved by taking their advice makes it worth it.

I recommend either the 2009 Email Marketing Benchmark Guide or the 2009 Search Marketing Benchmark Guide (on sale). Not for amateurs!

My Hope

My sincere hope is that you have friends and family to share the holidays with. And if you're able to afford gifts this season, I hope you consider the ones I mentioned above. They've truly helped me this year and I hope they do the same for the marketer on your list.

If this post was helpful, stumbles and re-tweets are like holiday gifts for me!

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(Note: I am an affiliate with Amazon and MarketingSherpa, but I've read every page of the five books I listed and think they are absolutely worth purchasing. My commission is like, 3 cents anyway.)

(Image courtesy of Randy Son Of Robert via Flickr)

Marketing During A Recession: Social Media Tipping Point?

Marketing during a recession is a multifaceted topic and that's why this week has been devoted to subjects like how recessions are opportunities to gain market share, the illusion of stability in marketing, the role of risk and of failure.

I would like to end this week-long series by asking whether the recession can tip social media marketing into the mainstream. Could we see a widespread embrace of blogs, Twitter, and other forms of social media? Answer: probably, but not positively.

Embracing New Media Out Of Desperation?

Budgets are drying up, but the online channel is cheaper and easier to measure than traditional PR and print advertising. Television and the automotive industry - not usually bastions of innovation - are two examples of industries putting a bigger percentage of their marketing budget into digital (despite the ever-shrinking total budget).

As Lisa Hoffmann says, necessity is the mother of bravery. She claims that "[t]ight budgets will prod [small businesspeople] to do what all the preaching and prodding won't."

Likewise, Julie Power states that "recession could transform Twitter from an influential fringe network to a mainstream marketing movement."

I think they're right - that the recession will cause business to look toward new media, that it could transform it into the marketing mainstream. That's why I predict 2009 as a year of false starts and quickly abandoned Twitter accounts.

Winner And Losers

Don't get me wrong - winners will emerge and knock our socks off with their social media campaigns. Heck, not even just "campaigns." They will understand social media in such a way that they'll forget a short-term campaign and just add social media directly into their corporate DNA.

But of course, others won't. And that's fine. I'm reminded of a quote from Bruce Barton, former Chairman of BBDO: "In good times, people want to advertise; in bad times, they have to." It's a prescient warning to go against human nature. You are not safer in the foxhole. Hunkering down will leave you with nothing when you emerge.

There are plenty of smart people claiming that marketers will stick with the tried and true methods in 2009 and they have valid points. Companies will still sink millions of dollars into Super Bowl ads and maybe that works for them.

But the ones who include new approaches, who take the advice of people like Lisa and Julie, who experiment and figure out now exactly how their audience wants to interact - those will be the winners after 2009.

Social media is the wild west and there is the opportunity to eat up some real market share. Remember, it was the early adopters who made most of the money in the Gold Rush of 1849.

Ending The Series

I hope you enjoyed this series about marketing during the recession. If so, I urge you to subscribe and send along these posts to your friends or co-workers.

And please leave comments or suggestions below. Did I get it terribly wrong this week? Feel free to share your thoughts with the community. And thanks so much for reading.

P.S.: Lisa and Julie are great folks to follow on Twitter, by the way.

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5 New Social Media Jobs You Will Fill In The Next 5 Years

Social media has already changed business profoundly. If yours hasn't, you are already behind the curve. If you have customers, their expectations regarding how they interact with businesses has likely already shifted dramatically.

So how will you deal with these changes in your business? They will surely impact marketing and legal, perhaps even I.T. But what else is on the horizon?

This is my list of five employees you might hire in the next five years (and whose positions didn't exist five years ago). Part of this equation depends on how big you are and how ingrained social media becomes in your business. Another aspect is your company's size - smaller companies may likely combine aspects of these jobs.

That said, it's likely that someone will need to fill the following positions in some way. How are you preparing?

  1. International Community Compliance Chief: Facebook and MySpace may be dominant in the U.S., but how much attention are you paying to social networks in other countries? Do you have a presence on Korea's Cyworld, Orkut (huge in Brazil), Mixi in Japan, Bebo in the UK, or Grono in Poland? Someone in your company needs to claim the company name on all of these sites, oversee even moderate design, set up unique referral links, and ensure that all of these efforts match your company's over-arching strategy. (Thanks to Paul Gillin's Secrets of Social Media Marketing for these examples, roughly on pages 101-106.)
  2. Community Manager: People are talking about your brand. If they do it within the auspices of the company, in a sanctioned forum, message board, or internal blog, you will need a community manager. This employee needs to both ensure (through personal interaction) that the community is a valuable assets without spammers or flamers (definition #1) and they need to set up the internal documentation with which you regulate employee interaction. These people are the face of your brand to the outside world and the customer ambassador to internal staff.
  3. Online Reputation Manager: While the community manager has a public presence and is sanctioned to act, an online reputation manager is wider-reaching in their scope, but largely hidden from public view. This is the person you turn to when you need to know which online influencers are talking about your brand. They need to have a comprehensive view of your competitors' online reputation. They need to identify openings in the market or current customers' requests. The online reputation manager is the spy agency (within reason) for your company.
  4. Blogger Outreach Manager/Blog Cultivation Expert: A lot has been said about the right way to approach bloggers and the wrong way to approach bloggers. Do you have an expert on your staff who already has relationships with bloggers in your industry? Everyone needs good PR or the occasional digg/stumble/sphinn/[insert goofy web 2.0 term of the day]. "[Bloggers] are a potentially significant new constituency for public relations efforts, and they are the engine that drives successful viral marketing promotions" (Paul Gillin's Secrets of Social Media Marketing, again.) Let the blogger outreach manager cultivate like-minded souls online and advise you to the up-and-comers. Allow this individual to build relationships with them now before you need their help.
  5. Chief Conversation Officer: This is the big kahuna of social media leadership in your company. The Chief Conversation Officer is an amalgamation of many of the roles described above. However, the CCO reports directly to the top and it is a soup-to-nuts position: they are responsible for finding the online conversation, documenting it, sharing it, analyzing it, and ultimately joining in on the conversation (in a non-creepy, non-"marketese" kind of way). Here are more details about the Chief Conversation Officer position.

How are you preparing for the influx of social media into your business? Are you cultivating leaders within your organization to help? Please share your ideas and suggestions in the comments section below.

(Image courtesy of preciouskhyatt via Flickr)

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My Q&A With Paul Richlovsky Of Fathom SEO

I recently spoke with a good college friend who now works at Fathom SEO, out of Cleveland, Ohio. We discussed objections to participating in social media, the perils of cutting online marketing budgets, ways to gauge website health beyond rankings, and the state of the SEM industry.

You can read the full interview on Fathom's blog. I encourage you to check it out and leave comments, especially if you have stories that illustrate or refute any of my points.

For instance, I have recently been giving a lot of thought to the effects of the economic downturn on marketing budgets and allocation of funds. Tangentially, I've also been considering the role of risk in our profession. This question is one example where those two topics came together:

Give me the best reasons why companies that need to trim advertising budgets in these tough economic times should not cut their Internet marketing funds.

The best reason not to cut your internet marketing funds is because it has been repeatedly proven that the companies who cut marketing during recessions lose market share to companies who don’t.

This is from a recent MediaPost article that puts it pretty succinctly:

“It's well-documented how companies leverage downturns in the economy to effectively market themselves. In the 1970s, marketers like Revlon and Philip Morris increased their advertising to gain market share. Today, companies like Procter & Gamble, General Motors, Verizon, News Corp and PepsiCo all increased their first-quarter ad spending.

The typical response to cut back on ad spending when the economy slows down is understandable. However, advertisers with strong brands, stable monetary resources and compelling value propositions can take share from their weaker competitors by effectively targeting their advertising.”

That doesn’t mean you need a huge pile of cash, either. These days it’s cheaper than ever to retain or expand your marketing during tough times.

How much do you think Bill Marriott’s blog is doing to attract customers? How much do you think Frank at Comcast has insulated the company from (more) online disasters? We’re talking, what – minutes a day for Bill and one salary for Frank? And their worth to the company and brand is through the roof.

Creative companies will not need to risk their market share during this or any recession. They will need to be brave and creative, sure, but the online channel wasn’t meant for the timid anyway.

Go to Fathom's blog to read my full interview with Paul. And please let me know if this Q&A was helpful or not. Thanks for reading.

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7 Marketing Tips From Comic Book Superheroes

Superheroes reflect what is best about us.

Sometimes that comes across in the youthful exuberance of Spider-Man. Sometimes it is the way Batman quells his taste for vengeance by stopping the very criminals who would create more orphans like him. Sometimes it's just trying to make our parents proud by doing good like the big, blue boy-scout, Superman.

Smart marketers take advice and motivation from a wide variety of sources. It pays to be open in your thinking; in this rapidly changing world 2.0 landscape, inspiration often comes from unexpected quarters.

In that spirit, here are 7 marketing tips given to us by comic book superheroes and their own personal mottoes:

  • Hulk: "Hulk Smash!": The green giant frequently yells "Hulk smash" before doing, well, you can probably guess. And in these two words, he expressed both the utter focus marketers must bring to their work, as well as a willingness to completely let loose. Marketing is not a career for the timid; it is a career for smashers.
  • Daredevil: "The man without fear": In uncertain economic times, the marketing budget is often the first to get cut. CMOs and others (rightly) fear for their jobs. However, as Bryan Eisenberg write on ClickZ, you can bolster your position and have less to fear if you tie your efforts directly to dollars coming in the door. Fear is a paralyzing specter in marketing, a career inherently bound to risk. But you do not have to fall prey to it.
  • Green Lantern: "In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight! Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power – Green Lantern’s light!": Per Wikipedia's definition, a Green Lantern's ring is "sustained purely by the ring wearer's strength of will. The greater the user's willpower, the more effective the ring. " In this time of great change, how often are you frustrated, anxious, or discouraged in your marketing efforts? Strength of will may be the only thing to carry you through to eventual success.
  • Iron Man: "The cool exec with the heart of steel": This motto, taken from the 1966/67 television series, relates to the duality of marketing: creative but business, calm but frantic, Tony Stark and Iron Man. And even as Stark battled his alcoholism, we cool execs must also keep tabs on our personal health. I'm reminded of a quote from David Ogilvy: "It is reliably reported that seven out of every hundred executives in American business are alcoholics, and it is reasonable to assume that the proportion in your agency is at least as high...Your alcoholics may include some of your brightest stars." In this high pressure business, with all its duality, be sure to keep both sides healthy.
  • Superman: "For truth, justice, and the American way!": I'm less interested in Superman's nationalistic identities, as I am in truth and justice. Much like the man himself, Superman's motto seems a little hokey these days. But marketing is at an interesting cross-roads. Marketers were previously despised for interrupting and figuratively shouting at consumers. But now we have the opportunity to add to their lives, to be invited in to the buying process, to stop problems before they escalate, and to tell the truth quickly and honestly.
  • The Watchmen: "Who watches the Watchmen?": This ominous motto is peppered throughout Alan Moore's award-winning tome, usually scrawled or spray-painted on gritty walls. To me, it speaks to the importance of oversight. As marketers we must foster each effort, but also measure the results in order to prove our worth and remain on the most effective path.
  • Spider-Man: "With great power comes great responsibility": You knew Spidey would round out this list, right? These days, everyone has power. Marketing agencies are becoming flatter and publishing is practically free (you're reading a blog, after all). Anyone, in theory, can become a thought-leader and bring about change. So how are you going to change the marketing world? Will you help usher in the new era I discussed in the Superman section? I'm reminded of a quote from Seth Godin (hence the illustration at the top of this post) as featured on Marketing Over Coffee:

"Marketers do things to people all of the time, especially the spammers who call you at home during dinner. They're doing something to you. And they think they deserve it, that they're entitled. 'Well, you're not on the Do No Call list.' No, but it's wrong. They do it to us because that's the way it's always been done, because it's their job. But what leaders do, what people with tribes do, is that they do it for us." (1 hour, 16 minutes in)

How are you using this new era to become a superhero? Or, who do you see as the modern marketing superheroes?

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(All superheros mentioned in this post are property of Marvel Comics and DC Comics. I hope they understand that this post is based on adoration and do not sue me.)

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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Inspiration courtesy of Smoove B.

The Best Way To Kill Your Email List In 2009

Tough economic times increase the pressure on marketers to hit their goals for open rate, click throughs, conversions, and new email subscriber acquisition. Some marketers believe renting email lists is a way to reach these goals.

MarketingSherpa reports in their new 2009 Email Marketing Benchmark Guide that 29% of B2B marketers plan to increase spending on third-party list rentals (compared to 23% planning cuts). In this free excerpt of the report, their experts weigh in on this development:

"Pressure to meet numbers has always been a problem for email. It forces marketers to send too many emails to too many list members - the 'batch and blast' mentality that has eroded the trust of consumers and business[people] over the last 10 years...and that's not necessarily good for the long-term health of the medium."

(If you are interested in this report, you can get more information at the end of this post.*)

And yet, later in the excerpt, they report that 66% of consumers would be much more or somewhat more likely to subscribe to an email list if the company guaranteed not to share their information with other companies.

So, in this next year, we can expect to see businesses engage in an activity that decreases customer trust and engagement with that very business. A lot of marketers could kill their email list in 2009.

List Rental's Influence On Relevance

Let me be clear: companies who use rented lists are inherently and unquestionably going to deliver content that is less relevant than what the subscriber signed up for. Period.

Lowered relevance equals lowered trust. The customer will trust both companies less - after all, one sold her information and the other delivered spam. Unless she agreed to receive third-party emails (and a default checked box does not mean agreement), she will likely unsubscribe and refrain from doing business with either company.

Lack of relevance is one of most complained about email marketing practices. From a recent eMarketer article: "'There is a substantial gap between what marketers believe is relevant to the consumer, and what the consumers rate as valuable,' said Lori Connolly, director of research at Merkle."

List rental is the toxic waste of online customer relations. It poisons everything it touches.

Marketing In A Recession

A recent Merkle study, as reported in that same eMarketer article, said that about one-third of respondents said "they had stopped doing business with at least one company as a result of poor email marketing practices." That's almost the same percentage of B2B marketers who expect to increase their spam through list rental in 2009.

List rentals equal decreased relevance. Decreased relevance equals decreased trust. Decreased trust during an economic slowdown equals a serious threat to your business.

Loren McDonald from MediaPost's Email Insider explains:

"Consumers with a growing concern about the future of the economy and their own pocketbooks with increasingly choose to do business with companies they trust and may be less likely to risk their personal data and inbox space on unknown entities or those for whom trust is questionable."

You can't afford to kill your email list during this economic downturn. But building your own list, building trust, and staying relevant can avert this disaster.

What do you think? Am I totally off-base? Or do you have a list rental horror story to share? Feel free to use the comments section below.

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(*The Email Benchmark Guides are one of my favorite resources. It's a little pricey, but if you put the knowledge therein to use, you will likely save much more in the long run. Here's a link if you want to purchase the new version: MarketingSherpa's 2009 Email Marketing Benchmark Guide.

Yes, I'm an affiliate, but I was singing their praises long before I signed up and I wouldn't be an affiliate if I didn't believe in their work. Plus, as an affiliate, I can occasionally get you discounts on their reports - yet another reason to subscribe.)

The Rare But Vicious Attacks Of The Online Customer (And What To Do About It)

I thought I had a marketing death-match for you. I had it all plotted out: Mitch Joel versus Hobson & Holtz. Battle of the marketing giants!

But, like so much that starts out grandiose in the mind, the premise quickly whimpered and died. Here's what happened...

Mitch Joel of Twist Image recently wrote about the small number of customers who complain online - 7%, in fact. He cited a Harris Interactive poll which also was in line with an earlier Bazaarvoice study. Most customers just don't seem to complain online. When they do comment on service, most times it is an incredibly positive reaction.

I howled after I read this because Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz of the For Immediate Release podcast had recently detailed the crippling damages that occurred within minutes of a well-deserved Twitter rant against uHaul (tune in around minute 14).

I had them now! Which was it: Do customers complain online or don't they? What's the effect? I thought I had my two spiders in a glass jar and was preparing to shake the bottle for my own amusement.

Reality Sets In

However, after another (more) careful reading, I realized that they were likely more in agreement than disagreement, though they do bring different aspects to the table.

Mitch is correct not many people complain via online social networks. Though the ones that do are quite damaging because the legacy of that complaint theoretically lasts forever.

But Neville and Shel are also correct in that squeaky wheels can be...pretty damn squeaky. Their examples of David Alston's tweet about uHaul was spot on - this one guy (and the many, many subsequent tweets from other outraged uHaul customers) likely costs them thousands of dollars in a matter of minutes.

Online Complainers

So how can online complaints effect your business? Here are some key ideas to keep in mind when forming an online complaints strategy (you do have one of those, right?):

  • More damaging: Due to the medium, online complaints can be more damaging to your business. They last forever and influence potential customers much more than other complaints.
  • The all-important search engine: One of Mitch's commenters discussed a company who had to change their name due to the volume of bad press Google searches returned. Remember that Google ranks blogs right up there with "legitimate" press (tongue firmly in cheek).
  • Gift to your competitors: David Alston's uHaul story actually had a happy ending. For him and Penske, that is. Make sure you monitor your competitors and take advantage of any situations where they ignore or mistreat a customer.
  • Combat SM complaints with SM: By having a social media outlet, you can address problems quicker and avoid hugely damaging posts. Learn from Delta Skelter and avoid these fiascoes in advance. 1) Create a social media outpost - be it a website, blog, whatever. This is your main hub where customers go to ask questions. 2) Monitor social networks for comments. This could include a daily Technorati blog search, setting up Google alerts (for you and your competitors), Twitter searches, and staying alert on Yelp.com. (The jewelery store where I bought my fiance's engagement ring recently emailed to thank me and give me money off my next purchase - through Yelp. That is smart business.)

The Secret To Not Getting Complaints In The First Place

It's not rocket science. Deliver a good product in a timely manner and you'll succeed, right? Well, sorta.

We know that online customers don't complain as much (online) as you would suspect. But when they do complain, it is loud, long, and strong. Isn't there a way to mitigate these complaints in the first place?

I'm a big fan of Seth Godin's "Think Small" idea. If you think small and are connected to the people at the heart of your business (that the customer, not a HIPPO), then you can be too small to fail.

Angry customers who are leaving don't get heard... that news is heard by the poor shlub reading a script at the call center. 90% of the angry customer mail that people forward to me (I have enough for a lifetime, thanks) is angry because the (former) customer is tired of being ignored.

And if you think you don't have the resources to do this, let me assure you - you can't afford not to pay attention to what your customers are saying. (Heck, in the most dire straits, pay your teenager to alert you to negative comments. Not to respond - just to alert you.)

Sorry, No Battle Royale

I may not have been able to hold the Joel vs. Hobson & Holtz battle of the marketing giants, but I hope this post was still helpful to you. One good way to stay up to date on marketing information is to read the best material. I highly recommend all of the marketers I mentioned in this post.

What do you think? Am I full of it, or have you used these tactics successfully in your own business? Share your comments and suggestions with the community.

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(Image courtesy of BarneyF via Flickr)