January 28, 2013
Several years ago, via Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, I discovered the meaning of social media, including blogging. Be helpful. Not be flashy, noisy, tenacious or controversial - to be successful in social-for-business, you must help people enough to earn their attention (and maybe loyalty).
While that sounds easy enough, it's pretty easy to just talk about how you can help your readers via your product or service. This is the brochure approach to social that's offputing. You are really selling, not helping. You need to earn the right to occassionally be a little self-promotional.
Here's how to be helpful with your business content: Think like a trade association magazine editor. They don't just blow their horn, touting various assocation benefits or programs. They draw up an editorial calendar that considers their member's whole set of problems and then writes content to thoughtfully address them. Great example: MPI's One Plus magazine, the trade for meeting professionals.
During my recent speaking tour for Chase (How To Win Business Using Social Media), the owner of a CFO Technology Consulting company asked me how he could create a blog worth reading, and content worth retweating. My suggestion, based on the above, was to meet with his team and maybe a few customers to whiteboard a four point content strategy that solves CFO's problems, even the ones he doesn't address with this service.
I asked him, "What problems does a CFO have in her day to day job?" Of course, his first nomination was "Technology". Kind of reminds me of the Maslow observation: If you are good with a hammer, everything's a nail. I pushed him for something else they struggle with.
"The regulatory environment is a moving target, so that's definitely a problem area for a CFO," he added. I asked him if there were any experts he could interview, articles he could recommend or alerts he could set up. You could hear his wheel's turning.
"Two more problems, dude," I continued. He stammered a little, then finally said, "Politics at work. They are often in turf battles either because they said no to a request or cut budget." Turf battles, getting along and corporate tactics. That's a great category, I thought.
Finally, he suggested, "meeting other CFO's and sharing direct notes." Although many join LinkedIn, not all due to their high profile, and the regulatory issues about disclosure, etc. At this point, he had four things he could write about or provide solutions for. If he blogs on 1 or 2 times a week, this four pronged approach will supply him with ample content to grow his following and extend his reach.
I told thim that when you solve their total problems, even the ones you don't sell against, you produce surprise and delight, which positions you as a trusted partner, ready to add value. When it's time to announce a new product, you'll find them more than ready to give it a try. If you are really helpful in your content, like Triumverate Environmental is, just putting your phone number in your blog navigation will do all the selling you need.
Read Trimverate case study in this free ebook by Hubspot.
For more of Brogan and Smith's logic, read their book, Trust Agents.Tweet
November 28, 2012
I've always loved Steven Colbert's concept of Truthiness. Believing in something "because it feels right" to believe in it. It's neatly installed into the gut of your sales target, making it easy to win your point. Seen a lot of it lately from politics to business. Doesn't always mean it's right and when it's wrong, it leads to big mistakes.
For the blogging world, this no lose sales-job takes on another form: Linkiness. Sometime a few years ago, bloggers realized they could "prove" any of their assertions with a neato hyperlink to another blog post, a study and report, etc. It caught on, and these days, you'll see dozens of hyperlinks in an average post, all signifying, "I'm not making this stuff up, it's true and I have corroboration!" The blue links are all over it like a case of info-measles.
Here's the problem: Readers aren't getting the message, due to all the distracting Squirrel!Links they can't help but click on. Some spawn pop up windows or tabs and others take you to a different site. You get lost in the rabbit hole of links and never quite finish the original blog post in the first place. You even forget which blog or blogger got you started on this fantastic voyage.
Often, what you link to is merely someone else's assertion, supported by their Linkiness, which presents more distractions and wastes more time. Linkiness is keeping mindless web surfing alive. But here's the problem: As a blogger, no one is understanding or finishing your work. In many cases, your posts require a real investment of time, leading the subscriber to 'put off' reading it until later.
That's why I think Seth Godin's blog is so successful. He makes links count, and usually focuses on the narrative, not the documentation of his premise. That's why reading books leads to deeper understanding of a topic and a more immersive reading experience. You are curled up with a single author's voice, learning and exploring with him.
This is why I'm not going to be too Linky in the future, instead, I'll have reference URLs at the end of the post if I think they're required to have context or read more. Same goes for eBooks I write or advise on: Don't link because you can, save it for the footnotes, so the super-sleuths can dig in for details later. The result, I'm hoping, is a more effective approach to short article writing...AKA, blogging.Tweet
October 03, 2012
As of today, I'm back to blogging as the epicentre of my social media plan.
For the last few months, my Facebook Page has been my go to for posting updates related to my business, writings and my outreach. Why not? It was easier than a blog post, and once you figured out what Edgerank likes (hint, visually based content), you could garner significant reach.
I started to buy FB's "Promoted Posts" when one of my missives was working. And by working, I mean that it had a 10% viral co-efficient or better. By that, I mean that if the organic traffic was 500, then the viral traffic was 50 or better. When I paid to promote it, say for $10 or $20 dollars, the post would catch on fire. That proved that you only promote content that works, which is a win/win for me and my followers.
It was a bonanza for marketers that understood how to create content that works. I set aside a reasonable budget, a few hundred dollars a month, and was satisfied with the service.
But all of that changed when FB got greedy, and expanded Promoted Posts' range from $30 to $300. With that little change, EdgeRank's goal (promote quality in your feed) was shoved aside for gold-old-fashioned campaign delivery requirements. If I plunk down $300, I get over 80,000 reach with little little old 5000 base.
Starting last week, I noticed something: Unless I promote a post, my traffic is down significantly. I can post the same quality of content, getting the same initial reactions from my following, and the post still decays quickly...unless I triple or quadruple my spend on promoted posts. Because I didn't spend more, even though I maintained the same editorial calendar, my traffic dipped a whopping 75%. (According to this WSJ Online post, I'm not alone in this finding.)
Here's my theory, and likely I'm not alone in this. Remember when United and Continental merged? If you had status on either airline, you stopped getting upgrades as often. Why? Because there were too many Elites in the system, crowding the scarce upgrade slots. This is what happened at FB. Deep pocketed or spend thrift Page owners were buying traffic-to-the-moon and FB's EdgeRank gave way to what I now call Paid-Rank. To fill all the Promoted Post offers, FB now distributes content regardless of whether it had Weight, Affinity, etc. (the quality algorithm they built to deliver users quality content in their Top Feed).
What does this all mean? For users, expect more commercial noise in your stream, less quality and visual content - and an increasingly irrelevent platform to discover your world. Unless you want to think of FB as a digital zine of sorts.
For Page owners, it's a subtle reminder that you should NEVER build your business on a free platform. (I talked about this last year in this post.) Sure, FB might be a good referral source of traffic for your blog, but don't let it be your online HQ. If you put a hard ROI against Promoted Posts, you'll be very disappointed with their value because there's very little way to measure what you get for your money. Google's Ad Words, on the other hand, demonstrates value via it's pay per click model. If you fall for the 'you got mega-reach for $300' argument, remember, that's not an advertising impression, it is a post impression which is much weaker in it's call to action, creative and execution.
Typepad (my blog provider) cannot and will not choke off my traffic unless I pay them more. I pay a monthly service fee to ensure that. So expect to see me blogging more and provisioning my FB Pages to drive traffic to it.
It's natural that FB, desperate to prove itself to Wall Street, would resort to tactics that undermine the user experience for the share price. Apparently, Yelp has been doing this too. When I worked at Yahoo, I saw this phenomenon back in 2001 with pop-unders, front page takeovers and suspicious user targeting programs. What's dissapointing in FB's case is that they should have known better, or at least learned from Yahoo's decline that in the end ... you need to create marketing solutions that are user focused.
(Note: This blog post refutes my claim of reduced traffic, but frankly, the data isn't fresh enough. Check back on his analysis in a month, and I suspect I'll be vindicated. This Indie-Wire post from Monday supports my POV.)Tweet
August 08, 2012
I have this conversation weekly with very smart people, who are still stumped by the social media phenom in our culture. They feel a strong sense of urgency if they aren't fishing in the social stream, but at the same time, it feels like a fad to them. They can offer up #fail stories right and left, and sometimes, they even talk about a failed experiment they've tried on Twitter or with Yelp.
When I hear it, it's like Deja Vu...all over again.
When I joined the interactive industry in 1997, the web was just going mainstream due to email, Netscape and search. Businesses were immediately under pressure to show up with websites, and ultimately, e-Commerce capabilities. That was before cloud, mind you. Tough stuff. They thought web was a shiny object, not a business objective. And my, they were wrong.
When the penny dropped, and a company got it (like Victoria's Secret), it was always the result of a paradigm shift on their part. They realized that the web phenom was just an extension of the Producer/Consumer economy that's existed since the Yellow Pages, trolley car ads and direct mail. It's a way to broadcast, incentivize and capture value. The web is small now, and harder to monetize. No mystery, just a challenge to be on the bleeding edge without draining your budgets.
For modern day doubters and haters, the same solution is prescribed. Re-think social, casting off your negative connotations. It's not just goofing around on the user's part. It's not just playing around when a company is real-time on Twitter or posts compelling content on their FB page. It's not social, like playing golf or going to lunch.
In fact, forget the phrase social-networking altogether. That's a marketing term used by early social media platforms to sex-it-up for the end user. It evoked party lines, chat rooms...except highly filtered. But that word, social, is befuddling to many CEOs I've counseled over the last few years.
What's really going on here is a shift in the model of commerce. Instead of Producer/Consumer, where the industrial revolution met the birth of advertising, think User/Solution. In this new realm, we are all users, empowered by transperancy and publishing tools. We swim to platforms or providers that solve our problem, and there's social proof to gain our trust.
It's a user's world. Forget them, or their desire to have a positive experience, and your business will die. No ads will overcome the rath of the disspointed user. For the last decade, innovators have improved the user's publishing tools to give them a voice, a connection with their timeline and a far greater pallate of content experiences than Producers gave them in the past.
In his book, Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirkey predicts that there will come a tipping point when the users have equal or better publishing tools than the publishers/producers...and when it happens, the business landscape changes dramatically. Here's a canary: A Harvard research paper suggested that a single one star review on Yelp, shared, can reduce your revenue by 5-9%. Try to get that back with a full page ad or a radio blitz!
The Social Realm (FB, Twitter, FourSqaure, LI, etc.) is by and for the users. Period. They can kick out, bury or flame any unwelcome voice. The users only like to talk to people. They expect marketing to fit Sergio Zyman's classic definition, "to add value when the product is purchased, consumed or owned." In other words, businesses must earn their way back into their target's mindspace -- one good update or post at a time.
The nice thing about the User/Solution economy is that transperancy works both ways. Not do the users know a lot about your business, they are sharing their thoughts publicly about your market and adjacent issues. Zuckerberg's rule suggests they are doubling the amount of information they share with you every year. And if you listen closely, the biggest focus group in the history of man is out there ... waiting for you to package all their insights and build the perfect mousetrap.
To get in this new game, it's not really as hard as it looks. In the Producer/Consumer economy, you succeeded because you had Creativity, Measurement Skills and Guts. In the User/Solution economy, businesses will win via Listening Skills, Communication Skills and Time Management. It's not about the platform or the current hot social trend, it's about those three fundamental skills.
The way I usually finish my conversations with my biz-mates that are still on the fence is to prescribe step one: Go Yelp yourself. Search fun in your town on Twitter. Dig around for dirt on your competitor at Jobvite. Once they get embroiled in the chatter, they never look back. They have a new way of seeing the world. And I'll bet on their success using new media over the coming years.
August 01, 2012
The blogosphere (no link provided) focuses on NBC's greed (saving the good stuff until Prime Time) and coverage's irrelevance since Yahoo or CNN is happy to tell us what happened in advance. The drum beat, this time around, is as "don't watch that crap" as ever. For once, we are upset about commercials? (soccer).
But in my case, I humbly disagree with the pundits and the traffic seekers. They are just bitching. The reality for me is that the coverage is inspiring, well packaged and served to me at the most convenient time (night) - just like since I was a little kid. Eat dinner together, watch the competition, end the night on the medal stand. Get up the next day and try to be a champion too.
Part of our ethos, as an entrepreneurial nation, is to strive for excellence and make all the sacrafices necessary. That's the running story line this Olympics. If you pay attention to it, nothing but good things can happen in your life, regardless of how ordinary you think it is.
I find the Olympic prime-time programming superior to the blah sitcoms and sketchy reality shows that are available. Compared to news or political coverage, NBC's coverage is an oasis in hell. The story lines are inspiring: Parents supporting their kids, who are grateful to them for it. Teens, tested, and then achieving life long dreams. A surging sense of national pride, watching our athletes give all and overcome intense pressure.
All positive stuff, really. Sure, there are a few sideshows about arrogance or lack of commitment, but they pale when compared to the positive emotion driving moments displayed to us in HD. Who really cares if they are real time? When I was a kid, they had Olympics across the world, and all the media cooperated. You really didn't know who would win. The new media players aren't willing to play ball, so armed with "spoiler alert" disclaimers, they attempt to reduce our tele-experience into a headline.
I recommend families gather together over the next few days and feed their mind positive stuff. If nothing else, take a break from the hate machines online, on the box and on the tube. Spend some time with winners. With all the negative news swirling around us, we need to Feed Our Mind Good Stuff.
May 23, 2012
I assume that most of you who read my blog or subscribe to my newsletter are those who have something to say or sell, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. We’re all trying to be seen or heard and that’s increasingly complicated in a noisy world.
Wouldn’t you agree?
The problem is that to be successful in the market today, you must possess two strategic assets: a compelling product and a meaningful platform.
Platform is key.
Most of us know it and it’s why we spend time networking, developing social media, writing emails and blogs, speaking, trying to connect with potential customers, etc.
But here’s the issue, simply being on Facebook or Twitter, simply writing a book or newsletter, simply opening the doors of your business… doesn’t matter (unless others know about you and follow).
That’s why I am excited about a new book from my good friend Michael Hyatt, one of the top bloggers in the world and Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers. It’s called Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. It’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the waters so that you can do what works in order to be seen and heard.
Special: To celebrate the launch of the book this week, Michael is giving away $375.98 worth of free Platform bonus content for those who purchase the book between May 21 and May 25. Complete details are available at http://michaelhyatt.com/platform
As I was chatting with Mike he mentioned something that really stood out to me about building a platform. He said…
“Accept Personal Responsibility - If you’re thinking of hiring a babysitter for your platform, think again. It is critical that you be 100% committed and the driving force behind its creation and growth. Think about it. Does anyone know your mission, product or service better than you do? Is anyone more passionate about it than you are? Does anyone have as much skin in the game as you do? Expertise, passion, and, frankly, the fate of your career will drive you to create something greater than anything a hired-out marketing team could imagine.”
Basically he’s saying don’t phone it in and try to pass it off to someone else. If you want to be heard, you have to speak up and be the driver.
In my years of being an author and speaker I have found that to be very true. Yes, you need to hire a great team and utilize great resources but don’t expect someone else to do all of the work that you too must be active in doing.
If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.
I have two three copies of the book to give away - all you have to do is hit the retweet button and make a comment to this post.
November 09, 2011
But that picture is worth a thousand posts. Instead, I direct you to an analysis of the Dutch Tulip Bubble and Crash. Full a longer read, download Dutch Tulip Mania: The Social Politics Of A Financial Bubble. After you read it, ask yourself, should Facebook really be 50% of all the time we spend on the Internet? In light of all the other things we could be doing to research, fund raise, advocate, communicate....? Should Groupon really be worth over ten billion dollars in light of what happened to Blockbuster, Etoys.com and Enron? Is Zynga really going to scale or will we grow tired (exhausted) of social gaming?
I'm not advocated quitting Facebook or Tweeting. But I am suggesting you put the following throttle on your zeal for the unfiltered: If social media went away tomorrow, will your ability to help others decline? That's the acid test for what you should invest your time in when it comes to social media.
Unless you haven't reconnected with old friends, high school mates and other such Classmates.com-ish type hookups. If that's the case, you have a few hours of productive work ahead of you. And if you check your status/profile every ten minutes to see if someone responded to your last post, I'm aiming this missive squarely at you. PS: If you bought secondary market shares of Facebook, I've got some land I'd like to sell you. #JustSayin
September 02, 2011
Ask yourself: Do you give good Return On Attention?
Today I'm scrambling around, doing multiple jobs and integrating my new docking station solution for my MacBook Air. I suddenly realized, "OMG, I haven't blogged for a few days and the week's over!" As I've mentioned on a prior post, I have a blog, but I'm not a blogger.
My blog, as well as my Facebook and Twitter accounts, are good marketing vehicles for my books, speaking and general business development. They are also platforms for me to share my thoughts with others and hopefully add value to their life.
But what are the rules of blogging or updating, really? Daily, bi-weekly, weekly, whenever? The short answer: Doesn't matter if you give great Return On Attention. If you just 'wham out' a post to make a make-believe self-deadline, you'll chase away your readers/followers quickly than going radio silence for a week or two.
Back in 2006, Tim Ferriss called me to pick my brain about book marketing (offline). He was with Crown, as was I at the time - so we were networked for a brain-share session. I told him everything I knew about in-store and offline promotion of books. Towards the end of the call, I offered him some blog advice: You should post more.
His blog, covering lifestyle design, only had occassional postings, maybe six a month tops. Sure, they were highly linked to and commented on, but in my rookie view of things - it just wasn't steady enough. His silence on the other end of the phone spoke volumes. He knew better.
Later, he's been quoted as saying that he blogs when he 'has something really good' and the expected quality of his posts is what maintains his following and a healthy demand for his updates whenever they may be.
This is the best strategy for all of us. Sure, Seth Godin and Chris Brogan give us great daily stuff. They are bloggers, and can produce five or more great (short) reads a week with the occassional Opus-Post thought piece. But not all of us can, or should even try to, sustain their super-human level of intellectual productivity.
So, next time you think you need to whip something up to meet your imaginary deadline. Use the time to catch up on reading instead. Next week, you might come up with something GREAT to post.
July 25, 2011
When people ask me, "what do you do?" I usually reply: Give advice.
Does that mean I'm a consultant, speaker, author or blogger? Fundamentally, I would say that I'm an idea author that does a great deal of research. Even though I've been writing this blog for almost five years, giving a piece of advice every post, I would NOT describe myself as a blogger. That's why I post about two times or so a week, and never on a schedule per se. It's not my job.
Blogs are just a tool for me to share, promote and develop ideas for my customers. That's why I blog when I can, and not on a rigourous schedule that impedes my ability to do my work. What makes a person a blogger, then? GaryV is a blogger because his wine blog is the engine of his business growth (directly for Wine Library and indirectly as a driver of his profile - which fuels his 'social media expertise' and street cred.) Seth Godin is a blogger, because his postings create a profile that sells his books and enables him to drive The Domino Project via his audience. Chris Brogan is a blogger because his blog drives his Human Works business as well as the sale of his books. PereZ Hilton directly makes money on his blog via ads and paid-links. Take the blogs away and all four of them will see a noticeable drop in their earning power.
For many of my friends, such as Marcus Buckingham or Mark Sanborn, blogging is just a way of promoting or sharing. Like me. Sure, I've picked up a speaking gig or two via someone reading a blog post, but it's not how I make my money.
Blogs then, should be included along with Facebooking, Tweeting, Newsletter writing and other online promotional tools - and not an albatross that hangs over our head every working day (have you blogged yet???). For bloggers, daily publication makes sense. For myself, and maybe for you, it's a matter of your schedule. Let this liberate you immediately, along with my pronouncement that you must OWN your social media tools and not let them falsely own you.
In a previous post (You Don't Need A Social Media Strategy) I argue that we must have a central business or brand strategy and leverage all social tools (including blogging) to work within that framework. Tech is the tail, not the dog. For most of you, your blog is a tool, not the tool kit. If you put too much time into it, and not enough into your core - you'll shrink your business as each new publishing innovation demands your adoption.
Ten years ago, before there were blogs, we wrote newsletters to promote, share and build out business. But for most, it wasn't our engine of economic value. Ten years from now, who knows what publishing tech will offer us the same opportunity or requirement.
October 13, 2010
Face it; your emails are part of a snow storm blowing into someone's Crack berry or smart phone. Instead of carefully reading through the items in your inbox, your recipients scroll them like spinning a roulette wheel. I see it every day on the road.
They open a few, answer even less, and your carefully written action-required email is ignored.
If you want to jump out of the e-noise and improve your readership with your email buddies, you need to hone your skills at writing good subject lines. Think about newspapers, their MVPs are the people that come up wit eye-grabbing headlines. We've been trained our whole life to scan for must-reads. Same goes with emails or blog titles. Good headlines drive click through.
The basics are:
* Vague is bad
* Hey! is not a real subject line
* RE: RE: FW: FW: is not attractive and will not be read right away
When I know someone well, I will make a call to action in the subject line if my email is intended to get someone to do something. If I need to change a call, I put it in the subject line. If I need you to send me a file, I put it in the subject. You'd be amazed how your response rates jumps.
When I am in a less intimate business relationship, I work on a three to five word subject that zeros in on why I'm sending the email. If we are working on an event together I'll put "About the sales conference" in the subject.
When you reply, feel free to start a new subject (too often we just reply and the subject line stays the same, except now with a RE: before it.) Let the new subject line redefine where the email thread is going. This not only helps to focus the email exchange on a real outcome, it keeps the conversation going. This is especially true if many of your email buddies are usually mobile. They scroll through subjects and make their choices almost on impulse.
Now let's talk blog posts or FB Notes: Banal titles don't drive click thrus or retweeets. You need to grab them with either a provocative statement or a relevant promise (my approach, usually). If you improve your headlining to gather attention, you'll see your statistics jump like you did when you learned or outsourced search engine optimization. Don't be lazy here, you've done a great deal of work on that great post you want everyone to read.
To sharpen your headline skills, visit Daily Beast or Huffington Post and study the relationship between clever headlines and retweets or comments. Do the same over at Yahoo sports. Don't bother with visually driven sites like TMZ as the gossip is the draw.
This is one of the ideas I teach over at my Email Training Website. Email is the vast majority of your knowledge output, so consider yourself a publisher that need to focus as much on form as content.