Wham, bam, "thank you" spam

iStock_000002155325XSmall.jpgOnline etiquette is a fine line. Etiquette in social media is an even finer line still. I've noticed a particularly annoying trend emerge over the past couple of months and I wanted to bring it up to get it out there and get your take on it. It's thank you spam.

I am seeing thank you spam more and more as people connect with me in social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Here's how it plays out on Twitter.


  1. A person follows you on the service and that sends you an email
  2. You click on the email and go to their Twitter profile page
  3. After vetting the person to your satisfaction you follow them back
  4. Shortly thereafter you receive a direct message from that person with a greeting and link to their site
  5. This direct message lands in your email and SMS (depending on how you set it up)
  6. You are summarily annoyed

The reason it is annoying is that I am not asking for the pushy marketing message. I checked their profile, clicked through to their link and followed them. I don't mind people sending direct messages saying hello (though a short reply would suffice and not hit me visa SMS or email), I think it's quite nice. However, the push to a link turns it from a conversation to a sales pitch. This same type of pitch happens to me on Facebook and LinkedIn too. Those people are quickly blocked and/or decoupled.

I try to interact with people online as I would with you in person. The real life example of this type of introduction is when you go to an event, meet someone and they are immediately telling you all about themselves (usually while looking around for the next victim), not listening to a word you are saying.

Just so you can see what I am talking about, take a look at the following direct messages that I've received over the last month+. The images and names have been obscured to protect the individuals. (They know who they are.) Keep in mind, this is the very first contact that I am having with these people on Twitter.

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What are your thoughts on this? Am I off base? What are your Twitter/social media etiquette tips?

UPDATE: Loic Lemeur is also seeing this trend.


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Reader poll results; what has your attention?

Many of you who read this blog through the feed don't come back to the site on a regular basis to check out new features in the sidebar. One of the features that I am really coming to like is the T//M Reader Poll. I am going to update the question once every two weeks and then report the findings in a post like this one.

The last question that I asked was "What service has your attention in the next six months?". I thought the results were pretty interesting. Twitter had a commanding 76% of the vote showing that the hype is still there and people are watching it very closely. Google Open Social was a distant second at 14%. BrightKite and FriendFeed brought up the rear with 7 and 3% respectively.

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Since this is on your mind, I'll keep Twitter front and center for you and keep you posted on new tools and applications that relate to it. The newest poll question is related to the Fleishman-Hillard Digital Influence Index study that I posted about yesterday.

Take a second and weigh in when you have a chance. I'd love to hear what you think.


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Goal setting for a successful new year

iStock_000004934443XSmall.jpgJust a quick note to all of you, my friends, to have a very happy, successful and healthy new year. 2007 was a very rewarding year for me (started the blog and met lots of interesting people). 2008 has some pretty big changes in store for me, but I'll tell you more about that next week. Trust me, it's all good!

Now, every year I sit down in this last week and set goals for the next year. This process takes a mental and emotional investment to make sure the goals are reachable and that I'll be able to successfully achieve them. A couple of days ago, I found a great post by Keith Ferrazzi, author of the outstanding book "Never Eat Alone". Keith's company has put together a simple little Facebook application to help you make and set goals.

The part of the post that I like the most is his mention of the S.M.A.R.T. method of goal planning. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Using this method for your goal setting, either for your personal goals or goals for your professional life or even your digital marketing efforts, is extraordinarily helpful.

I mentioned Keith's Facebook app (called Goal Post) and I think it's a good example of how to create an tool that users get value from and use the power of the community. If you add the app to your profile it allows you to go in, create goals, set time deadlines and then (this where the community comes into play) you set your accountability buddies. These are friends of yours who you tell your goals and they help to hold you accountable. I think it's quite brilliant and extremely valuable.

Another great post I came across the other day was Chris Brogan's "Hitting your target for 2008". He suggests a couple great books and some even better advice. Chris recommends setting 3-5 targets and are attainable. Make these targets into simple maps and post them where you can see them.

I hope those two items give you some great thought starters for your goal setting in 2008. I hope you make it your best year yet.


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What I'm really thankful for, is you!

On this US holiday of Thanksgiving, it gives me a chance to reflect on the past year and count my blessings. I have a fantastic, beautiful wife, two hilarious dogs, a great family and marvelous friends.

On top of that, though, I have you guys. My readers. Without you there is no reason to blog. You give me fabulous insights, cheer me on and call me out. I look forward to waking up every morning and creating content so I can get your thoughts.

So, no matter where you are in the world, I send you my thanks! You guys really make it all worth while.

Here is a quick video (featuring the dogs):


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The blogger, journalist divide

This post is a little off-topic for Techno//Marketer, but I think it's an important issue to address concerning social media and it happened in my hometown. (This post is not, and will never be, political in nature.) The local newspaper here in Cleveland, The Plain Dealer, took a fairly progressive step and created an area of their site dedicated to political debate and hired four bloggers to create the content. Two covered things from a liberal perspective and two from a conservative under the banner "Wide Open".

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As of November 2, 2007 the project has been cancelled in the midst of quite a bit of controversy. Here is how things played out. These four bloggers were hired by the paper to present their opinions as bloggers. One of the bloggers openly attacked a politician's policies and stated that he had contributed to the campaign of that politician's opponent. The politician who was attacked complained to a Plain Dealer reporter who relayed his concerns to the PD's editor. The editor asked the blogger to refrain from covering that candidate and when the blogger refused, he was fired. Subsequently, one other blogger quit the project in protest which led to its suspension.

According to the blogger who was let go, he (and the others) were hired as just that. Bloggers. Not reporters. The bloggers were being paid, which is where I think this gets a little gray and his contribution to the opponent's campaign just adds to the fire.

So let me turn this to you, my readers and get your input on the crossroads of blogging and journalism. Here are some important questions to ponder:


  • Can a newspaper include blogger content and have editorial separation?
  • Are bloggers and journalists separate anymore?
  • If they are, are they bound by the same code of ethics?
  • Does paying the bloggers create the conflict of interest?
  • Do you think the Plain Dealer would have pulled an editorial piece under pressure from a politician?
  • Can traditional newspapers survive against pressure from citizen journalism?
  • What if no money had changed hands and the bloggers just contributed? Does that change things?

Let me hear what you think! Can we all just get along?


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The Radiohead experiment; a fan's view

Picture 16.pngI am sure that if you read this blog, or other blogs with a similar focus, you've doubtlessly heard about British band Radiohead's new, open pricing experiment. If you have not, here is the overview. There is no price for their new album "In Rainbows". You as a user choose the price that you are willing to pay for the album and there are no limits. If you want it for free, it's yours. If you want to pay $100, they'll take your money.

While this has been covered by every newspaper and blogger from here to Timbiktu, I want to add a slightly different take on things. I want to tell you about my viewpoint as a FAN. I love Radiohead. I've seen them in concert 5+ times (they don't tour a lot) and I own every album they have produced. When this situation came up, I immediately thought about my valuation of their album using past experience and emotional connection to the band.

Radiohead_wallpaper.jpgSo what am I going to pay? $25 (USD). That's more than I've ever payed for a single release album. Why am I paying so much? Here is my thinking. The band has provided me countless hours of enjoyment over the years, set memories to music and given it their all from the CD to the stage. I also know that in the past when I purchase one of their albums, the band gets completely hosed. I remember reading at one point that only about $.50 from each album sale goes to the band members, so this is a chance to make sure they get what they deserve.

I think there are a number of loyal fans that will pay top dollar for this release, but I know there are many who will pay less or take the album for free. (Not sure how it will pan out financially for the band or how they'll be tracked on the charts.) Free isn't necessarily bad though. I guarantee the next time they come to town a lot more people will know who they are and will attend the show, because they'll have their music on their iPod.

Radiohead is a fairly broad-reaching band, but they're not in the mainstream like a U2 or Dave Matthews Band. That would be the ultimate social experiment...can this open pricing model work on a mass, global scale?

This could signal a fundamental shift in the music industry where the content will be the giveaway/promotion as bands make their money touring? What's more profitable, making $.50 a copy or introducing millions of people to your brand?

[UPDATE:] Check out Mack's post with some results and more thinking on this topic.


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Gartner's grasp of the obvious is uncanny

iStock_000003091203XSmall.jpgI saw this post come across on Mashable's Twitter feed titled "Gartner Report Warns Against Brands in Second Life". It got my attention because of the danger posed to the big B-word. Brand. Like I did, you may look at the title and think to yourself "Wow, if Gartner says it, I better just stay away". Here is a link to the Gartner release.

Here is the real point of the story. If you are a company (any company) and you open SL to your internal network, or if you transfer sensitive data in SL, you are at risk. Pretty brilliant eh? (This is the case with any web-based/enabled application by the way.) Good IT people can work around these challenges and protect you from nefarious, evil doers.

As the anti-SL hype builds, please take my advice from my post on this last week. If your audience is using virtual worlds, you should consider it. We're very early in the life cycle of virtual worlds and it's ONE platform, not THE platform. Keep an open mind, start small and build as demand increases. Plus you can call me and I'll personally walk you through getting up and running.

P.S.: Here are some other headlines that Gartner could pick from to equally scare marketers into buying reports, send checks payable to me if you will:


  • Gartner report warns brands against hiring apathetic people
  • Gartner report warns brands against giving employees access to any of your data
  • Gartner report warns brands against blogging
  • Gartner report warns brands against websites with feedback forms
  • Gartner report warns brands against paying too much for data that you could have found yourself someplace else like say Google (I kid...or do I?)

Any touch point with a customer can have an impact on branding. SL is no different.


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Social media is a marathon

My wife is going to run the Chicago marathon in early October. Before she started training, however, I had not really thought about what is involved in getting ready to run 26.2 miles. The race is about three months away and she's already running 12 miles one day a week. As with most things in my life, I thought about this in terms of marketing and technology. More specifically, I thought about how social media is like a marathon.

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A big problem that a lot of companies face is thinking social media is a sprint. Sprinters concetrate on pure muscle strength sacraficing endurance, where marathoners have to build strength with a balance or endurance as well as mental toughness. Here are some parallels that I see in how marketers are approaching social media.

Sprinters:
Social media sprinters may take on too much from the outset. Social media takes time and energy and pace is a key. You've all seen it, a company launches a blog to much hoopla and posts are steady through weeks 1 and 2. Week 3 sees a slight drop off on content followed by similar decreases in subsequent weeks until the blog is on life support.

This is a waste of the company's time as well as the readers. Long-term sustainability is crucial. Some social media sprinters don't have the mental toughness. Creating content and interacting with customers and visitors is tedious and time consuming. Sprinters don't see through those challenges to the end vision nor do sprinters fully understand the space. Most likely they are just looking for a little press and in the end everyone loses.

Marathoning:
Marathoning is all about steady build-up towards the end goal. In the case of social media the end goal is adding value to the community. If press is your main goal, this may not be for you. Social media takes dedication, passion and the ability to place the community above self. So how do you start? You need a training plan of course. Here is a sample training plan to get in the game:


Think, plan and dream. Set big goals. Picture what you want to see in one and two years.

Start slow and build over time. Use the space to listen to other social media experts. Leave comments, send emails, make phone calls. Soak up everything you can. Make notes of what you like and don't like.

After listening for a while, you should get the nerve up to jump in. One good way to test the waters is to take a test drive. A few services offer 30 day trials (Typepad) or are completely free (Blogger). The only expense will be your time (and a lot of it, don't kid yourself). Kick the tires. Post every day for two weeks and see how it feels. Keep the posts private for now, but invite some trusted friends to read what you have going and give you feedback.

If after two weeks you are comfortable, let the public have access to the blog. Start pinging services like Technorati to let them know you are there and to get into search results. Reach out to other bloggers by commenting on their sites. Keep those trusted friends engaged, they know you and can tell you if you stray off course. Keep in touch with other bloggers and invite them to read what you've written if it applies to them and ask for feedback. Use services like del.icio.us, flickr, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. to get your content out there and engage in other networks.

The most important part of the process is to have patience. It can be frustrating to create content that nobody is reading, but keep on it. Reach to create better content. Tap other resources to engage their networks. As in marathon training, you have to keep the end goal in mind. It's easy to quit, but trust me you will miss out on the best experience of your marketing life.

If you stick with it the possibilities are endless. You'll meet new friends, become a better marketer, become a better writer and be able to take advantage of new technology to reach more customers and grow your business.

Social media is challenging. It's time consuming, but in the end rewarding. Stick to your plan and keep creating content. Never before has the phrase "if you build it they will come" been more apropos if you put in a little effort. If you do, you can harness this space to grow personally and professionally.


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Blast from the past

iStock_000002785827XSmall.jpgPatrick Schaber at The Lonely Marketer and Matt McGee over at Small Business SEM have started a nice little meme where bloggers go back into the archives and pull out a couple of posts that recent readers may have missed. Thank you for looping me in Patrick.

Here are a couple of my posts that I quite liked from a few months ago. Let's see what you think:

Along Patrick's line I will also use this post to tip a couple of blogs. Here are a
few that I've subscribed to and read each and every day:

  • Mark Goren's Transmission Marketing: Mark and I met in NYC a while back and I read his blog religiously. A super smart and very well written blog.
  • Anna Farmery's The Engaging Brand: Anna is a super connector, and instantly warm. Check out her podcasts or her writing and you'll see what I mean.
  • Iain Tait's CrackUnit: Iain exudes creativity and passion, plus he works at one of my favorite shops Poke London
  • Ryan Karpeles' Living Lightbulbs: Ryan's fresh on the scene, but wise beyond his years
  • Helen Keegan's Musings of a Mobile Marketer: Helen is super smart and on the leading edge

I hope you enjoy the posts and new blogs. I'd encourage each of those bloggers to pull up some of their favorite content from the past for the education of recent subscribers and to share their most recent favorite blogs.

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Hey bloggers, wanna get social?

BS08.pngIn the past I've had the great fortune to personally meet the people behind some really great blogs. That experience is among the most powerful I've had in my time blogging here at Techno//Marketer.

This power of personal connection led CK and Drew McLellan to have an idea. What if there was an event for bloggers centered around being social? Not around keynotes and breakout sessions. They came up with the core ideas for Blogger Social '08. The idea of this weekend gathering is to get marketing bloggers together in one place at one time and let them get to know one another.

Per CK:


The thinking is to descend upon a designated city with a weekend full of events where the only thing on the agenda is that there really isn't an agenda--just a series of events designed around getting to know one another. Better still, there would be plenty of free time in-between the handful of (amazing!) events for everyone to make time to meet with the people they want face-to-face and one-on-one time with.

And that's when Drew said, "Well, when do we do it?" This is what I love about Drew, he goes right into action-point mode. Ah, a man after my own action points. So the idea behind 'Blogger Social' was born.

What we're brainstorming is 3 main events over a weekend: think a casual party on Friday night (from 7p - 1a), a big BBQ or ride on a boat around the city on Saturday afternoon (from 12p - 3p) and an absolutely fantastic GALA (!) event on Saturday evening that goes from dusk well into dawn.

So bring jeans, shorts and a cute little black number (and females should also bring a cute little black number ;-). But please leave your computer at home (or in your hotel room). Because this weekend...for one especially social weekend...we don't type, we talk. More important, we laugh. A lot.

If you are interested in this event, please take five minutes to head over to a survey and share your opinion (thanks to Cam for setting this up).

This is a fantastic way to get to know people on a personal level. Bonds are formed very quickly I assure you plus bloggers are cool. What more do you need? Feel free to copy this logo (Luc from MindBlog did a great job on it) and promote it yourself. Let's get social!

Mark Goren will be there. So will CK, Drew and Cam. Will you?



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Where do you go to learn?

apple with bite taken.gifA while back, CK tipped me off to a new blogger coming on the scene. Since then, Ryan Karpeles has impressed me with his thinking and the insights coming from somebody right out of school.

In my comment on CK's post I said "This is the new classroom", a statement I completely agree with. Ryan has expanded on that with his post today. He takes his top bloggers (aka teachers) and shares what he has learned from each, check it out. Nice work Ryan.

For me, blogging has been better than any formal education and more immersive than any job could possibly be. It has introduced me to some of the warmest, most honest and damn brilliant people I have ever met.

This is the classroom, but unlike most formal education, the teachers all talk to each other and adapt lesson plans to be more dynamic and timely. Students and teachers work closely and students can easily move into teaching as long as they have something to say and a desire to say it.

School's in session.


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The importance of getting people to the finish line

There they goMy wife ran the Cleveland half marathon yesterday and so, being a supporting husband, I drove her down and hung out waiting for the finish. I had a couple of hours to kill so I walked around downtown shooting some images. I caught the runners at the one mile mark seen here and I got to cheer on some friends and some interesting characters including running nuns, a guy in a full business suit and a hippie on roller blades being pulled wildly by two huskies.

Once I stopped laughing and everyone passed by I headed down into the Warehouse District and then into the Flats. As I was standing there shooting with my eye to the camera I heard what sounded like a LARGE group of people running up to me. I turned and there were 30 runners with 10K badges asking me "Where are we? Where is the race?". I was shocked that this many people got sidetracked from the course and I quickly sent them back up the hill toward the finish line. It turned out they were amongst the strongest runners on the pack.

I don't know if you've ever run a race like this, but the last thing you want to have to do is think about where you are going on top of running flat out. People are supposed to be directing you with cones, signs, police officers and race vehicles. The runners should just need to run. That's it. It turned out that the lead vehicle was sent the wrong way along with several hundred 10K runners who ran up to 2.7 extra miles while lost. (The local paper picked it up here.)

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It made me think about the user experience on web sites (I do that a lot you know). When a visitor comes to your site, do they intuitively know where to go? Do they know what to do? Or, will they get so off course that they just give up?

People shouldn't have to work to get to where you need them to be online. If your goal is a purchase it should be easy to browse, add things to a cart and check out. If your goal is an RSS subscription, it should be prominent on the site and use best practices. If people have to put in too much extra effort to give you what you want, they'll quit and probably not return.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I need people to do?
  • Can somebody, with no prior knowledge of the site, do that easily?
  • How do you make sure people stay on the course?
  • If they get off-course how do you bring them back?
  • How do you make sure people return the next time they need the same thing?

Do you think about this on your site? If so, how do you do this? If you don't you should take a hard look and think about making some alterations.


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Web2.0 for marketers: beyond the hype

two.jpgJust wanted to give you a heads up that I am going to be running a special series called "Web2.0 for marketers: beyond the hype" all next week. I am bombarded with questions every day about what Web2.0 is. I also hear it mis-used WAY too often to describe some very interesting things.

This series will be 100% geared towards you marketers. No techno-babble, no smoke and mirrors. Just the facts and how it is and will impact you and your clients. Here is the content schedule I am going to follow:

  • Monday: History briefly and what Web2.0 is NOT
  • Tuesday: This isn't your grandfather's business model
  • Wednesday: Who let the tech out? (Please sing to the tune of "Who let the dogs out". Thank you.)
  • Thursday: It's the community stupid (whether you like it or not)
  • Friday: What this really means for you and your clients

Now, here is your chance to get involved. Is there anything you want me to address specifically? Any nagging questions that you or a client has had in the back of your mind? Let me know in the comments or you can email me directly. I'm going to have some fun with this, after all it's an amazing time in marketing.

Shift your thinking into overdrive and meet me back here on Monday to dive in and come ready to learn and participate.


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Newspapers trying to stay relevant, leverage social content

newspapers.jpgThere is a great discussion going on over at David Reich's blog about the sustainability of newspapers. The point was made that the current give-it-away model newspapers are taking is flawed and spelling certain doom. Head over there for David's piece and the reactions.

One of the major issues newspapers are facing is how to stay relevant and add value to their reader's lives. I read something this evening that sparked my interest and gave me a glimmer of hope. I read this article in the New York Times about BostonNow. The daily, free paper is starting to use content generated by bloggers in the print edition. So, in line with stories by columnists are the opinions of bloggers.

This is a fantastic way to engage the broader community. Tightening the circle of content producers and getting bloggers to engage their audiences is a nice way to grow readership. Bloggers are usually specialized and would fit into a newspaper's traditional setup. Also mentioned in the article is the need to define standards and regulations on what is acceptable as well as setting a clear reward system. Most bloggers will take the credit and resulting increase in traffic, others are looking for monetary rewards. There are lots of challenges, but this is a step in the right direction.

In the end, the medium is irrelevant. The web is growing very fast. More and more people get their information online, but traditional print pubs will stick around as long as readers do. The way to keep readers around is to add value, stay relevant and keep innovating. Using blog content in print is one way to do that. Online and offline can coexist together and smart publishers will expand their models (subscription and advertising) to stay relevant and even thrive.

LINK: Check out Bob Glaza's post "Newspapersaurous

UPDATE: Click over to Editor and Publisher to read Craig Newmark's (founder of Craigslist.com) stance on why newspapers are "screwed".


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What's in a name? Your chance to rename blogging

primitive.jpgWhen the term "blog" was coined in 1999 (weblog was coined before that in 1997) it was done by geeks. Really geeky geeks. Please let it be said here and now that I have nothing against geeks, in fact I am a geek myself. Contrary to most geeks, however, I have harnessed my geekiness for the greater good of marketers everywhere.

Most days, I think about the term blog and despise it. I loathe it. When I tell people that I blog and they look at me like a confused dog (head wobbling from side-to-side) I want to scream. I then have to explain that I author a website that I post advice and opinion to daily. Ding! The light bulb goes off and they get it. The moment of hesitation when explaining blogging to companies, marketers, friends, etc. gets a little tiring.

I often wonder if a marketer had been there at the start what the conversation would have been like. I wonder...

(insert dream sequence fade here)

Scene -- Two geeks sit in a dark room illuminated by monitors and flashing LEDs. The first geek turns to the other and says:

    Geek 1: Dude. I'm logging the web, I'm weblogging. This is a weblog.

    Geek 2: Dude, that rocks. Let's make it an acronym like WL.

    Geek 1: Nah, that's too short for an acroynm. Let's just call it a blog.

    Geek 2: Dude, that's totally awesome. Pass the Mountain Dew.

    Marketer: Um, guys, you can't call it a blog. That doesn't make sense to anybody but yourselves.

    Geek 1: Yes it does dude. We're logging the web.

    Marketer: I know, but you're redefining how people publish information.

    Geek 2: No, we're using complex coding techniques to write scalable architectures on which other coders can share stuff.

    Marketer: True...but lots of people will be using this to publish information. Everybody from school teachers to Saville Row tailors to corporate CEOs.

    Geek 1: Really? Dude, we just want to code man. Leave us alone and turn the damn lights off.

    Marketer: It's a website, you're publishing to it and sharing with others. Let's call it _____________.

What would you have said had you been in the room? Do you share my opinion that the name does more harm than good outside of the blogosphere? Is it so ingrained now that there is no turning back? Let me know by leaving your suggestion in the comments.



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Interaction rates in rich media

Bloggers Take ManhattanA while back on my trip to NYC I met Mark Goren (this photo is of CK and Mark at that event). We hit it off and have a lot in common with where we are in life and our interests in marketing. I was honored when he asked me to do a guest post on his blog in part of his Question A Day series.

Without further ado, please head over to Mark's blog and check out my take on the answer to the question "What does interaction rate tell me about the impact of my rich media campaign?". Enjoy!


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The challenges of cultivating a community

Much has been said lately about the Digg.com community censorship and subsequent reversal of their approach. (Paul has a nice take here.) Here is a quick overview to save you time. Digg received a cease and desist letter to remove diggs with a code that can allow people to decode DVDs. Digg removed those posts. Digg banned Diggers. Diggers revolted. Bad press insued. Digg reversed their opinion and will not censor posts. Unknown legal ramifications will surely follow. Have they dugg their own grave? We'll see.

Digg should have known better and really needed to have a plan for a case like this. But, in their defense, this is still the wild west of social media and communities are still making mistakes and creating new rules. The idea of the online community is not new. The social web just connects previously disjointed entities to allow multiple forms of connection within a group of users. So how do you cultivate a community while keeping it in check? I've dealt with quite a few over the years for clients ranging from professional sports teams to consumer packages goods each with rabid followings. Here is my green thumb guide for planting the seed and watching it grow.

Picture 3.pngR-E-S-P-E-C-T. This is the most critical aspect of dealing with any community. People are choosing to spend time on your site and with your brand. Be a gracious host. Offer to help people, welcome new posters. This applies to social networking sites, message boards, blogs, wikis, etc. If you respect them, they'll respect you.

Picture 3.pngSet expectations and boundaries. Another crucial, often overlooked step. Simply state what you will not accept. Foul language, slander, etc. Be specific and enforce your decisions. This is not an excuse to pull off posts or comments that come against you or your products. Be honest with yourself, you'll hear bad things and good things. Engage with both and help people see that you care. (If you don't care, simply stop reading this right now and put up some brochure-ware.)

Picture 3.pngMake decisions public and invite response. If you have a change to policy or you're creating new policy, post it for the group to review and respond to. Don't simply flip a switch overnight. Get your user's buy-in on this and you'll see your sheriffs emerge.

Picture 3.pngFind your deputy sheriffs. In every community I've ever seen there is a small group of people who like to enforce the rules. They tattle on people that break them, monitor new posts and will be very vocal in telling you when somebody is out of line. These are the people that a) you can empower to officially monitor the community to save you time and money and b) they are, more often than not, evangelists. They're super engaged in what is happening and are extremely influential among other users in an authoritarian manner.

Picture 3.pngEnable the 1%. As Ben and Jackie have so eloquently discussed on their blog, about 1% of your community is creating the majority of the content. These people may have some overlap with the sheriffs, but you'll see some new faces in this 1%. They're uploading photos and video, posting comments and adding to the message boards. These are also very influential people, but not in the authoritarian way that sheriffs are, these people are leaders and the go-to people for other users. Evangelists can inhabit this position.

Picture 3.pngEngage with the community. This is the most important way to cultivate a great community. Engage with them. Respond to comments. Respond to the good and the bad. Welcome new users and encourage them to contribute more often. Respect them first and foremost. The best communities I've seen have very active owners. The worst have disconnected, disinterested owners who swoop in to flame users.

These are just a few of the ways to cultivate a great community. In today's socially networked world, people have a lot of options. If you don't provide a supportive, nurturing community chances are one of the users will. Worse than that is when a group gets so disenfranchised with you and your brand that they start a community of haters. Start early and engage often. It's never too late to reclaim a community with these steps.

What other ways have you seen? How have people engaged with you and made you feel welcome to join in?


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Getting to know your customer's passion

What are your customers passionate about? I don't mean what they need or even what they want. I mean the thing that makes them have a spring in their step. The thing that they crave that gets the blood flowing.

It could be jaw dropping design, brilliant transparent technology, or mind-blowing performance. Some companies are better at knowing the answer to this questions than others. Some of those companies that do know the answer still have a hard time delivering on the promise of passion. I ran into a perfect example of this yesterday when I took my car in for service.

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First, let me say that I love to drive. I look forward to every trip to and from work when I get to pilot my car. I watch Formula1, NASCAR and Indy car on TV. I have contemplated buying driving shoes (although I have not yet done so). It makes sense that I bought an Ultimate Driving Machine. The car delivers on its promise. Great speed, fantastic handling and completely reliable. On top of that, the service team at my dealer is top notch. I actually look forward to taking my car in. They've treated me with respect, answered all of my questions and, more than anything, really taken the time to get to know me.

My issue wasn't with the service techs. It was the woman running the loaner car program. I had to have new tires put on and regular maintenance done so they needed the car all day. As a benefit, they provide loaners for people to use so they don't miss work and can get around. This is a great service point for any car dealer. So I get there, pull in to the garage and the guys are fantastic, they have a smile on their faces and remember my name. Par for the course (they have set the bar high).

I look over the paperwork and sign on the line. Then they take me to the front counter and the lady that hands out the loaner cars. This is where the experience that I am used to ends. As I stand there, I hear the guy in front of me asking if he can have a specific model car to check out for his wife. I know they have it available for loan because they're all stacked up out front. What does she say? "They're all the same sir. Each one is a great car." Wha? Did She...? This is where my passion radar picked up. Those cars most certainly are all great. That's not he point. A loaned car is like an extended test drive priming users for the newest model and engine class. A fantastic, underused sales tool. On top of that, cars are extremely personal and you, hopefully, connect with one even for a day. The guy just hung his head and was escorted to his car.

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So I step up to the counter. I chat with her for a minute about the weather and then I ask "Do you have the 335 (the model) in black?" (I know they have two of them in my view and I love black cars). I can picture myself riding in it and having that influence me to trade up when it comes time to turn mine in.

Guess how she responds? "They're all the same sir." Hell no they're not the same lady! I tried to reason with her, "Well, my lease is coming due and I'd really like to drive the car I am looking at" (never-mind that it's a larger financial commitment). She says, "Sorry, they're all the same, here is yours now." So I turn and look. What do I see? I see, not only the lower powered engine (which I already have), but it's the UGLIEST car color I have EVER seen. They call it "barrique red" and it's the most horrid, grandma-esque color I've come across (no offense if you have this color, like I said cars are very personal). My blood is boiling now. My passion is working in reverse. Not only am I angry, but I don't even want to drive it. I want to get to my meeting, get home and get my car back ASAP. And that's what I did.

It seems that locating the passion of their customer would be easy and they could easily exceed people's expectations. You have a bank of cars to loan. Get people's buy-in. Let people pick, let them connect with the car, up-sell them to the newer, more powerful model while providing great service. Turn this into a sales experience and not just a loaner.

How does this manifest itself in your business? Don't think you have to be a performance car to connect your customer's passion. Do you offer world-class design? I've had similar passionate feelings when I see a fantastic photograph or a perfectly on-target web site design. Do you offer remarkable customer service? Do you anticipate your customer's needs? Do you go above and beyond?

Ideally you can connect your passion as a company/blogger/artist with your customer's passion. That's where the magic happens.

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People are passionate about wildly diverse elements of life. You'll find as many lava lamp aficionados as you will Lamborghini purists. What examples do you have of someone connecting with your passion? How about someone who didn't recognize your passion?

Lewis Green has a nice post on his blog today about his upcoming book. His post focuses on customer service and how customer service and the sales team is the front line to your customer's brand experience. Head over there and expand the conversation.


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I Joost don't get it

confuseddog.jpgI've been writing this post in my head for some time now and it's high time I post it. There is a lot of hype around the new video service Joost. The problem is, after using it pretty extensively, I don't get the hype. I can't stomach the kool aid. The product has a contemporary, web2ish look about it, it has some good content in the channels, but some things aren't sitting right with me. Let me explain.

First and foremost, can anybody tell me why the service is delivered through a standalone application. This drives me insane. The technology driving the web has evolved enough that making people download another application to watch the content seems absurd. The chances of me installing the application are pretty good, but like many, many other apps I will soon forget about it. My web browser is becoming my hub for content. If you're not delivering through the browser you're losing me as a customer. Lots of companies are delivering through the brower. YouTube or course, Jalipo and blip just to name a couple, but Joost lacks the social networking options those sites have.

Second, the content is good, but I can get most of it on time-shifted TV through Tivo or through other video sharing sites or by going direct to the provider. Joost is signing deals with those content providers, but I think they're trying to position themselves as the cable company when they're really just a MTV. They're aggregating other produced content, but unlike MTV they're not adding new value. The content providers see Joost as another distribution point in their digital strategy, but it's not the only player. Where is the user generated content? Users are creating high quality content that, for the moment, seems to be locked out of Joost's model.

Third, the quality of the video in Joost is not that great. It's certainly not TV quality and is right on par with YouTube (see my first question). They're alleging themselves the new TV for the web. Why are they recreating the TV? This is the Internet. The TV model has issues. Issues which could be solved with some new thinking. This is just a re-package of what we've seen to date. Yes it looks shiny, but like many things web2.0 looks can be deceiving. My big question is how will I get Joost to the TV when I want it?

Finally, Joost is relying on a passé advertising models which users may be less inclined to accept. Paul McEnany and I seem to have BSP on this one. Technology allows for innovation. Innovation in content and delivery. It allows ad networks to get creative and add real value to their clients. So what is Joost doing? They're pre-rolling 15 and 30 second spots in front of video clips. Didn't they get the memo about the death of the 30 second spot?

We're still early in Joost's history and there is certainly room to improve. Room I hope they take advantage of before somebody else knocks them out. Don't take my word for it though, see for yourself. I still have four tokens that will go to the first four people to email me. What are your thoughts? Anybody have another opinion?

[Update: All of the tokens are gone. People are definitely interested. I'll be anxious to see their take.]


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Buzz Friday (week of April 27)

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Here is a look at what is happening across a couple of sites I keep an eye on. Let me know if there is anything you would like me to add on.

 

 

Items I think are interesting:

Top Five Technorati Blogs


  1. Engadget
  2. Boing Boing
  3. Gizmodo
  4. Techcrunch
  5. The Huffington Post

View Top 100

Top 10 Technorati Searches


  1. myspace
  2. youtube
  3. american idol
  4. marilee jones
  5. google
  6. paris hilton
  7. joost
  8. second life
  9. bebo
  10. galilea montijo

Top Five Web2.0 Movers of the Week (using Alexa data)


  1. StumbleUpon
  2. Vimeo
  3. Newsvine
  4. Zaadz
  5. Feedster

More

Top Five Web2.0 Sites (using Alexa data)


  1. YouTube
  2. MySpace
  3. Orkut
  4. Wikipedia
  5. hi5

More

Top Five Marketing Blogs from Viral Garden


  1. Seth's Blog
  2. Creating Passionate Users
  3. Duct Tape Marketing
  4. Gaping Void
  5. Marketing Shift

View the top 25

Top 5 "Viral" Videos This Week


  1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Trailer
  2. The Simpsons Marge on Google
  3. Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran
  4. Nora the piano playing cat
  5. Gol de Messi al Getafe

More


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To blog or not to blog, that is their question

noturn_250wide.jpgI spoke at the Canton Ad Club today and met a lot of great people. My presentation (which I am going to post tomorrow when I am back at the office) was on the use of customer generated content and social media as a marketing tool.

Although I extoll the virtues and value (personal and professional) of blogging, I clearly state that it's not for everybody or every company. It's time consuming and once you start, there is no U turn. A great question came up about when companies should not create a blog. Here is what I always tell people:

  • Don't blog if you don't have anything to say.
  • Don't blog if you have something to say, but no desire to share it.
  • Don't blog if you don't want to listen to your customers.
  • Don't blog if you can't take criticism.
  • Don't blog if making money from blogging is your primary goal.
  • Don't blog if you don't want to create and join conversations.

Are there any other reasons you can think of for a company to steer clear of blogging?

On the flip side, successful bloggers have some common traits that any company can strive to emulate in order to create and foster a successful blog:

  • Post regularly, don't stop posting. Make a commitment and stick to it. There is no turning back.
  • Foster comments and participation and respond to each person on an individual basis.
  • Write in an honest voice. This goes a long way to people trusting you.
  • It doesn't matter you industry as long as you have something to say and a desire to educate readers.

What other common traits do you think successful bloggers have?

If you want some examples of people who do an amazing job look no further. Check out CK, Paul McEnany, David Armano, Thomas Mahon, Robert Scoble, Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Hugh MacLeod, George Nemeth, Thomas Hawk and Valeria Maltoni. You'll not only be smarter for reading those blogs, but you'll get insight into what successful bloggers do to create community.



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The geography of ideas

geography.jpgWhat makes one city more successful over another when it comes to technology? When you think of innovation, where do you think? Mountain View/Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York, Boston? All the usual suspects. Those cities have lowered hurdles for established businesses and startups when it comes to recruiting talent, offering raw technology and money.

The tenets behind Web 2.0 are enabling a shift in this long held view. While the money and the raw technology are still centralized, something far more important is breaking free. Ideas. The open nature of the user generated content movement is based on open technology architectures. That means that, while the heavy engineering is still done in the traditional tech centers, many more people are able to capitalize in order to ideate and innovate. Information that was previously held tightly in Silicon Valley is not relayed in real time to the rest of the world through sites like TechMeme or TechCrunch. There is almost no geographic advantage as far as information goes any more.

Just tonight I attended an panel event here in Cleveland centered around emerging technologies. I talked to a lot of people at some really great companies who are doing some progressive and interesting things. More companies everywhere are able to get in on technology early and create solutions for their clients. This is happening in Cleveland for sure. Smart people are getting together and sharing great ideas and it's happening elsewhere too. Blogging tools are letting new voices be heard and the ideas are leading the way. Take Des Moines, Iowa for example. Up until a year or so ago you wouldn't have necessarily thought it to be a hotbed for great marketing thinking, but Mike and Drew have changed that.

Are you noticing this in your area? Have you see a city/region capitalize on this to make steps toward recruiting new talent to the area in a real, successful way? Do people in your area even know what's going on right next door? Let me know.

Viva ideas!


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