Tags: blogging, blogs, community, magazines, Marketing, PR, Public Relations, Social Media, Twitter, Web 2.0, Wired, WIRED magainze
I have been trying to figure out why WIRED’s cover story on Julia Allison incensed me so much.
You won’t find me bashing Paris Hilton or her ilk on this blog. As someone who barely watches TV, her brand of reality-show insta-celebs barely register on my consciousness. However, I do dwell in the PR world, the internet world, the social media world…and when you screw around in that world, I consider you fair game.
I don’t normally do hit pieces. I am usually positive about how marketing/PR/advertising can make the world a better place (no small task, believe me). But the Julia Allison story deserves some response on this blog because it illustrates:
1. How not to do PR
2. How not to use web 2.0 social media tools
3. How not to run a magazine
Here’s a quick recap of the article: WIRED portrays the piece as a “how-to,” giving advice on the art of online self-promotion. It details how a woman in her mid-20s weaseled into the digital pages of Gawker, Valleywag, and (now) WIRED.
On the splash page before the article, WIRED writes, “She can’t act. She can’t sing. She’s not rich…[S]he’s an internet celebrity.” In case you missed the underlying message, it’s that WIRED just gave a cover story to someone devoid of talent. Here is why Julia Allison is a terrible example of self-promotion, a warning of the missteps of public relations, and why WIRED ought to be ashamed.
Tags: blogging, Business, Marketing, Online marketing, Social Media, Web 2.0
Social media like Facebook, Flickr, and Delicious has been around for a couple of years now and companies are starting to dip a tentative toe into the water. While such courage should be applauded, serious missteps have occurred that embarrass the offending company.
And it is not the courageous steps that have been embarrassing, but the sheer level of assholery with which companies have partaken their social media experiments. Because social media is all about sharing, collaboration, and communication, it is little surprise that folks expressed outrage at the heavy-handed or downright immoral dealings of the companies outlined below.
In this post, I will list five of the deadly sins as outlined by Joseph Jaffe’s speech at the ANA’s Integrated Media Conference and then offer two additional sins of my own.
From Joseph Jaffe:
- Faking (Sprint): The phone company released ads in which the CEO offered an email address, giving the opportunity for communication. Instead, a corporate shill auto-responder emails back.
- Manipulating (Sony): The maker of the PSP created a fake blog and attempted to manipulate the conversation. They ended up garnering a deserved “golden poop” award.
- Controlling (T-Mobile): The phone company sent cease and desist letters to a popular blog for using a color they claim to have trademarked. The blogosphere revolted and T-mobile missed a chance to meaningfully engage with its customers.
- Dominating (Target): A blogger was ignored by the retail giant because they felt she didn’t have the clout of traditional media outlets. After the blogger gained more and more attention, Target claimed that their continued silence was based on a lack of adequate staff.
- Avoiding (Starbucks): The coffee giant already felt a squeeze from its consumer base, but avoided a fan’s desire to visit every store was passed on. The only response to the fan was one of suspicion.
In these cases, the sin is not that the company was just stupid (though there’s no shortage of that). The sin is that they failed to engage at a pivotal moment with an active community that supported them with their checkbooks. They refused to join the conversation and felt the ramifications.
Here are my two nominations to round out the deadly sins of social media:
Tags: Business, Facebook, Generation Y, Groundswell, Marketing, millennials, Net gens, Online marketing, ROI, Social Media, Tweens, Web 2.0
Generation Y – roughly those aged 13-29 – are among the strongest consumers and influencers. And while social media like Facebook, delicious, and Flickr have garnered media attention, many businesses are still wary of dipping a toe in the social media water.
I argue that we can gauge return on investment (or influence) for Gen Y by looking at their buying power and online behavior and therefore that it is imperative that (most) businesses participate in social media. Plus, I will give you the research to back up these assertions so you can prove it to your boss.
Growing up in pre-internet Ohio, I spent a good chunk of my allowance and lawn-mowing money on comic books at the local pharmacy. If they were sold out of my usual books, I was SOL until the following month. Scarcity of goods required that I go where they were (and quickly!) or I would miss out.
Now, post-internet, these stories sound quaint. Given a bank account, any kid can get any comic book from anywhere in the world. So what does this have to do with social media and Generation Y?: proximity to resources.
Today, consumers expect businesses to come to them. Long gone are the lazy summer bike rides to the pharmacy – today, young people expect to be able to spend their money just about anywhere. And where are they? Online, in general, and on social media, specifically.
Maybe this shift isn’t a surprise to you, but let me prove it with research (easily printable for timid bosses or humbugs).
Tags: blogging, blogs, Email, pitching, PR, Public Relations
There’s been a lot of hubbub around pitching to bloggers. The Chris Andersons and Gina Trapanis of the world don’t want to be solicited to by PR companies. They have some good points – including explicit warnings not to email them – and I don’t fault them for their actions.
However, PR does serve a valuable purpose in business and it’s certainly not going to disappear in the new media landscape. In this post, I will describe essential elements of a stellar PR pitch to a blogger.
The Right Pitch
- Short: The total email was 130 words long. Already, this sends the message that she respects my time.
- Introduction: In one sentence, she explains who she is, who the client is, and why she’s writing to me.
- Description: Again in one sentence, she sums up the product with a minimum of the adjectives that decrease believability (“best,” “great,” “unique,” etc).
- Seduction: I would have made the mistake of describing at least one feature or benefit. Instead, Christina piques my interest just enough and then leaves me two links from which to garner the specs. I had clicked these links before I even finished reading the email.
Tags: blogging, Business, Communication, company, content, corporate, how-to, HowTo, Marketing, Online marketing, Social Media, tutorial, UGC, user generated content, Web 2.0, Web2.0, White paper, white papers, writing
You’ve heard all the hype about Web 2.0, but what does it all mean? How will it affect your business?
How do you communicate with potential readers and customers in this new era?
My free white paper, Writing Content in a Web 2.0 World, answers these questions and:
- What exactly is Web 2.0?
- How should your writing style change?
- How has online interaction changed and what will this mean for the future of business?
- What is the secret new currency in this market?
Download the white paper here: Writing Content in a Web 2.0 World
(The white paper is in PDF format. Download the latest version from Adobe here.)
And of course, please join the conversation! Leave comments here with your thoughts and suggestions for this or future white papers.
I considered requiring you to subscribe to my enewsletter to download the white paper. After all, if you were interested in this subject, it’s a sure bet you will be interested in my other content.
However, I’ve decided that this requirement does not fit well with my overall strategy or the community environment found in a Web 2.0 world.
Tags: Facebook, Forrester, Marketing, MySpace, Online marketing, Research, ROI, Social Media, social technographics, Usability, Web 2.0
Last week, a lot of you read my guest post about the ROI (return on investment) of social media. There is no doubt that social media is changing the ways people interact online and hence, the way companies communicate with their customers.
The thing that is still missing is quantifiable data about these interactions. We’re in a theory stage – we know what’s right because we have experienced it – but we are still waiting for proof in numbers. Forrester Research made a giant step in the right direction when they introduced social technographics.
Social technographics is an analysis of consumers’ approach to social media – not just which ones they use, but understanding how they use the medium in their daily life. You can download the full report on Forrester Research’s website (there is a fee) or read the book on the same topic published April 21, 2008: Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. (There is also a ton of free goodies at the Groundswell blog.)
I sat in on a webinar last week where Charlene and Josh expounded on their work. Josh summed up the goal of this work: “Think about what you want to accomplish, not the technology.” There is so much fascination about what technology can do that marketers often forget the question is what technology can do for you. The webinar came back again and again with the message to use this data to inform a strategy for your clients. (You can find the resulting Q&A published post-webinar here.)
How’s It Work?
Charlene and Josh categorize web users into six sections based on the level of their activity, from Creators to Inactives. I have not seen a clear but simple ranking system like this before and I certainly hope it is accepted as an industry standard. The real value, however, comes from their detailed analysis of each category’s activity.
Tags: Advertising, Anheuser-Busch, Bud, Bud Light, Budweiser, Communication, Doritos, Facebook, integration, Marketing, MySpace, Online marketing, Search, SEM, SEO, SoBe Lifewater, Social Media, UGC, user generated content, Web 2.0, web integration
Hey, remember the Super Bowl and all those cool ads? Yeah, me neither.
I could have bookmarked the URLs of company’s whose ads I enjoyed or told my friends about cool microsites I experienced, but I didn’t because the web was largely forgotten in this year’s ads. URLs were printed small and almost always at the end of the ad, there was only one example of user generated content, few (if any) microsites to continue the experience after the game, and generally poor use of search. What a waste of $2.7M.
Michael Estrin of iMedia Connection has a good wrap-up and several interviews of note. The question he pursues: where was the web? From Estrin’s article: “It was like we went backwards this year,” says Sean Cheyney, VP of marketing and business development at AccuQuote. “It’s like we’re moving back into silos. I was surprised that companies didn’t do more integration. The web was an afterthought for most of the ads.”
Beyond the 30-second Spot
AOL’s Annual Super Bowl Sunday Ad Poll ranked the Bud Light Dalmation-Clydesdale-Rocky ad was America’s favorite, yet it did not even have the requisite web address at the end. Here are a few quick ideas of ways you could have capitalized on this success (call me for more – my freelance rates are very reasonable):
- Contest to name the Dalmatian and Clydesdale
- Start a rivalry between Bud and Bud Light (represented by the dog and horse) similar to the Bud Bowls of the 90s
- MySpace page wraps in spots (Dalmatian) and tough-guy horse stuff (Clydesdale)
- Facebook app that allows you to send a Bud Light to a friend
- Advertising tie-in with the new Rambo movie (I imagine there’s audience cross-over with Rocky)
- Jab back at the new Miller Lite spot featuring…Dalmatians and Clydesdales
- Create a site where you integrate this ad with other Bud Light Super Bowl ads (have the dog breathing fire, the horse flying, etc)
Budweiser, what do you pay these marketing guys? Hire me or any 15 year old and you’ll get more web marketing bang-for-your-buck.
Failure to Launch
Any marketer worth their snuff – nay, conscious in the last year or two – knows that search is an integral part of any campaign. So, why this MediaWeek report:
“70 percent of Super Bowl advertisers bought some paid search ads on either Google, Yahoo, MSN – up close to 20 percent versus last year. But just 6 percent of advertisers used their 30-second spots to direct viewers to the Web, and the vast majority (93 percent) failed to buy search ads for alternative terms that were related to their ads, such as their spokesperson’s names, slogans or taglines.”
MediaWeek is reporting on a Reprise Media scorecard that goes into more detail. I find it amazing that roughly 93 percent (of the 70 percent who bought ads) failed to think of these ads from the user’s perspective. Your uncle Jimmy had knocked back a six-pack and was in the grip of a food coma when he saw Naomi Campbell dancing with a bunch of lizards. When he stumbles to the computer, he is not going to search for SoBe Lifewater. He’s going to search for “hot model and dancing lizards.” Little surprise that SoBe also ranked as a “fumble” on Reprise Media’s scorecard.
I Get By With a Little Help From My…Oh, Forget It
Only Doritos had the cojones to use user generated content. Despite it being ranked near the bottom, I thought the ad was okay. Doritos had a nice intro to the commercial, but I would have loved to see it end with the singer crunching into a Dorito. Cheesy, perhaps, but so is the product. My message to Frito-Lay/PepsiCo (who own Doritos): Don’t be rash in firing your advertising company. It is better to work with someone willing to take the big risks and use the medium that appeals to your audience. These are the folks with the potential to blow people out of the water.
Also, not a single advertiser drove viewers to their MySpace or Facebook page – there was zero social networking involved. Believe me, this isn’t because people aren’t using Facebook anymore.
Fox did drive people to www.myspace.com/superbowlads though, which is a nice way of increasing the ads value with a measurable online component. Of course, for $2.7M, I’d be wanting a little something extra too.
No one is complaining about a game of two huge franchises in the largest media markets where one of the teams has the chance to have a perfect season (and finally shut up the ’72 Dolphins). But if you’re an advertiser and next year pits the Titans versus the Buccaneers (no offense guys, but come on), you might want to start thinking about your other options. Joe over at Junta42 has some great ideas for how to spend all that cash.
Tags: Advertising, Amazon, Barnes & Noble's, browser, browsers, choice, Converse, Cookies, customization, Facebook, Friendster, internet, Marketing, MySpace, Nike, Online marketing, online retail, online shopping, personalization, Powell's, Sean John, SecondLife, Simple, targeting, TheKnot, Usability, Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, World of Warcraft
If Web 1.0 – typified by online newspapers and emails – was about one to many content production, and if Web 2.0 – typified by WordPress and twitter – is about connecting people through a many to one publishing model, then what comes next? I used to think it would be something of a network or matrix – many talking to many. But don’t we already have that? What’s really missing? Instead of thinking macro, we need to be thinking micro. Here are some thoughts on the personalized internet browser.
If we already have everything we need in terms of connections to other people, then the next logical iteration of online behavior is to make our communication and shopping more personal. What if there was an internet browser that knew who I was?
Let’s take online shopping: I imagine we could have a browser that automatically loaded my preferences, including clothing sizes, preferred brands, etc. And I’m talking across the internet – not just on a particular site. If I look for jeans, this browser would load size 34×32. It would place Izod in front of Sean John. Blue and black shirts would be listed before green. If I got a hankering for rugby shirts all of a sudden, it would respond in kind.
This system would be as much or more based on exclusion as it would about inclusion. I can assure you that I will never ever ever buy anything from Nike, but I do like Converse and Simple. This is an an important distinction if you want me to buy something from your store. (More about the importance of exclusion in Rob Walker’s article in Fast Company this month.)
Instead of cookies used between my computer and Amazon, and my computer and Barnes & Noble’s, and my computer and Best Buy, they would all be integrated across the board. This browser would recognize items rather than stores. For instance, if I am shopping for a book, I wouldn’t need to go to Amazon, B&N, and Powell’s individually. I could search for the book and get a list of prices from each online vendor. Likewise, book recommendations would not be based on a particular site, but rather the internet at large.
Here are a few other problems that would be solved by the type of browser I am describing:
- Why can’t I move my half.com wish list to Amazon or another retailer, and then why can’t I morph that into a wedding registry on TheKnot?
- Why do I have to log in to MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster separately to see if I have messages or to see what my friends are doing?
- Why can’t I crop and size a photo and use it to create a SecondLife avatar which would then be used as a basis for a World of Warcraft character?
These are not difficult steps to take, relatively. We already have the information and we are quickly becoming adept at manipulating it. Now we just need to make it dynamic and customizable which is far less difficult. Sure, someone will need to develop a smart cookies and a nice interface and a business model (uber-targeted ads, perhaps?), but it is certainly within reach.
To sum up, the standards then for the personalized internet would be as follows:
- Customized (and customizable) based on the person
- Based on inclusion and exclusion of items
- Online shopping based on item rather than store
- More power to the user, less to a particular vendor
- Bring together all the information from various sites into one dashboard
What do you think? Is this all crazy talk? How far away is all of this? Who will be the first to seize onto it (Apple, Google, a dark horse)? It will almost certainly be internet-based rather than software, so that already puts companies like Microsoft at a bit of a disadvantage. But it is anyone’s game. I want my personalized internet!
Tags: Decision making, Marketing, Online marketing, return on investment, ROI, Social Media, UGC, user generated content, Web 2.0
We recently had one of the worst weeks ever. It included (but certainly wasn’t limited to) taking the car in to replace an insanely expensive hose, losing our heat during a Chicago winter, getting sideswiped by a Chicago trolley right after leaving the dealership, and the subsequent arguing with and lying from the trolley driver to the cop about how she was not involved. Needless to say, there were not a lot of bright spots in the week.
But when the dealership tried to squeeze another $470 from us for a CV boot, I did a little research. Yelp.com and a few other sites extolled the virtue of the mechanic right down the street. He did the job in a couple of hours for $188. Amazing.
What does this all have to do with online marketing? Well, I was not surprised when I read this study from comScore. Not only are 1 in 4 internet users consulting reviews before purchasing offline, but they are willing to pay more if the service is ranked as excellent. It seem that after the year of exuberance that was all about Facebook and twitter, business is finally getting around to answering the question of how social media effects ROI.
If you have been questioning this yourself, you are not alone. I have seen at least 5 webinars in the past week and a half on this question alone: How do we determine our ROI on social media? And there are two distinct undercurrents in this discussion: 1) a low-lying anxiety on the part of marketers regarding keeping up with current trends and 2) trouble convincing an old-school CEO or other higher-up that this is of value to the company. I am a victim of the former and may blog about it in the future, but relief for the latter is beginning to emerge.
Among the best of the webinars and white papers discussing social media ROI are those from TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony. Anyone who is trying to convince their fellow employees about the value of social media must read their white paper, Making the Case for a Social Media Strategy. (Just so you know, I’m not connected to the company at all – I just really do like their work.)
They begin by going through an evolution of digital communications and present research on what people are doing online. They then explain how social media is a blurring of communication and content (the two activities people do the most online) and give salient examples of how struggling industries (especially newspapers) are embracing social media and seeing profits skyrocket. Among the quantifiable ROIs:
- direct conversion of buzz into sales
- market feedback/testing
And each of those quantifiable ROIs has at least one example from a major, dynamic company. Consider these:
- Crowdsourcing: “Intuit created a community with discussion boards on their site so customers can help each other with questions…According to Business Week, this community now has over 100,000 members discussing topics across 50 subject areas.” CEO Steve Bennett’s 2005 annual report letter to shareholders stated, “positive word of mouth creates a durable advantage for Intuit that translates into sustained revenue and profit growth.”
- Recommendations: “Analysis of [Petco’s] web traffic revealed that users that [sic] sort the list of products by customer ratings spend 41% more than users who search with other methods like popularity or price… Emails that feature customer review content receive 50% higher clickthrough rates.”
Helpfully, there are also cases where social media hurt companies, but a fair review notes that it was not the tool that caused the problem, but the poor PR skills of the company. Many are not adept at responding quickly, especially to a crisis situation. These examples serve as a good warning to be prepared for what you are about to take on.
In the end, social media is just a tool. But this study and others can give you the quick-and-dirty version (with stats) to help convince your more traditional bosses. It’s a scary new world but at least we’re all in it together.
Tags: Advertising, Communication, communications, CoolHunting, Email, emails, eNewsletter, eNewsletters, Marketing, Moosejaw, Online marketing
I’d like to start a semi-regular series, “eNewsletter Winners and Losers.” Email is the original Web 1.0 killer app having been around almost a decade (that’s from the advent of HTML emails, not just plain text). Some companies really focus on communicating to their consumers. Yet other people and companies still make horrendous mistakes when it comes to communicating online. And like I tend to say, online marketing is easy – especially considering how badly some folks screw it up.
The first winner: Moosejaw
Moosejaw sells camping gear and clothes. I loathe camping, so why do I subscribe? Let me count the ways:
- Consistency – I can count on the email arriving every single day. That implies some damn good efficiency.
- Personality – The author “Trapper” has a distinct voice and allows us into his world.
- Simplicity – Total time reading takes out of my day: less than a minute.
- Humor – Have you read many eNewsletters that have made you laugh out loud? Really? Name one.
- Reason to return – One trivia question each day with the answer given the following day. Nerd heroin.
- Branding – eNewsletters flow right into the website.
- Smart design – Header image is narrow enough where you can still see text above the fold with your images turned off. Short, simple, to the point.
- Inclusion – Recipients feel like they’re on the inside track of the company through special offers, sales, advanced notice, etc.
- Knows their audience – Hot guys and girls show off their goods and they have MySpace and Facebook sites.
I’m hesitant to give any advice since Moosejaw sets a gold standard of sorts. The hard-line marketer in me wants them to discuss their products more (hell, you don’t need to be a marketer to come up with that). But, then I wonder if that would mess up their vibe. They also lack a cohesive story, though that’s not always a requirement (and Trapper’s day-to-day trials with “the Girl” may fill this need). Also, their eNewsletter sign up is as good as invisible in the upper-right of their homepage. But seriously, sign up.
The first loser: CoolHunting
Wow, where to begin? Actually, it’s not that difficult since there isn’t a lot in here. I know the picture to the side is small, but you’ll get the gist. At first, I thought CoolHunting was some sort of shopping site, but I can’t figure out why products are listed – they’re neither ground-breaking nor on sale (though that may say more about how I shop online). But there’s also a bunch of other crap on there as well. I can’t figure out the pattern of why they post what they do.
Update: After grabbing my magnifying glass and scrolling to the bottom of the page, I was able to find an “About Us” link. They only feature “stuff they like” (hey, that’s their prerogative) and feature products at the intersection of art, design, culture and technology. Wow. Well, let’s talk a little about your design and technology.
- In their November 4 eNewsletter, I counted 26 links along the left-hand side. No explanation is given as to what these things actually are, neither in the name of the link or otherwise. They’re sorted by day which I don’t care about in the least (I’m shopping – what do I care about the day you put it on your site?).
- You may be looking at the screenshot I posted to the right and thinking “why is there all that white space on the right side of the image?” You’d be smart to ask. If images are disabled, a full two-thirds of their eNewsletter is blank. Specializing in design and technology, eh?
- There are three links across the top: Contact Us, Unsubscribe, and Advertisement – Click here! The contact bit is good, but do you really want to advertise the unsubscribe bit at the very top-center? Why use up your prime real estate for rejection? And “Advertisement – Click here!” is priceless. Your marketers should know that putting “click here” anywhere in an email is an invitation to be listed as spam. Maybe your alt-tag should be something like the advertiser’s name so, you know, I kinda feel like checking it out. Just a thought.
I’m trying to imagine the meeting at CoolHunting where they discussed what their priorities were for the eNewsletter. Or maybe they just threw the task to the intern because who really cares about emails? I can’t even fathom the reasons behind the decisions they made, much less the lack of actual testing. I hate to be 100% negative, so I will say that their website is nice-looking, at least. Pretty slick, offers video, and engages visitors with “reader finds.”
Round-up: Moosejaw knocks it out of the park. I’m not saying I’m the best in the biz, but I can write a mean eNewsletter. But I read Moosejaw in awe. CoolHunting, on the other hand, isn’t using the basic best practices or testing from the looks of it. What a wasted opportunity.
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