Using the Most and Least Social Networking Utilities as Possible

29 10 2008

Today Josh Whitford takes over my blog with a guest post.  Josh is an Internet Marketeer who focuses on current Marketing Ideas and Unconventional Marketing Techniques.

How is it possible to use “the most and least” social networking communities at the same time?

Management, that’s how.

I subscribe to dozens and dozens of different social networking communities, including hundreds of social

Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and JESS3

Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and JESS3

bookmarking sites. The only way this is possible is through management and automation tools such as Ping.fm. Ping allows you to simultaneously update your Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Delicious, Plurk, Flickr and WordPress accounts all at once. I even have Ping.fm set up through my Gtalk Google’s Chat program so all I have to do is send an IM to Ping.fm and everything gets updated.

Tools like Ping.fm allow you to maintain a broader presence online without sacrificing the amount of time needed to achieve the same manually. The only down side to Ping.fm is not being able to see any replies people have posted. This problem can be circumvented by subscribing to all your social networking sites via your RSS reader (if you don’t have an rss reader get one right now, they’re free). So, if you do get a comment or reply back from a post you did on your Twitter, you can see that and reply again.

The automation will save you so much time by not having to log in and out of all your various sites to update your status. This allows you to meet other where they are at no matter what network they user or favor. If you can maintain and meet people where they are at they will be more likely to follow you and pay attention to what you have to say.

Another invaluable tool to use to increase your presence online is a WordPress blog and a few optimized plugins. The first plugin is the All In One SEO. This plugin is a quick and easy to use plugin that lets you optimize every post you do in seconds. The next plugin that is a must is Auto Social Poster.

Auto Social Poster allows you to automatically post your current blog post to hundreds of social bookmarking sites if you so choose. Most people will use just a few of the more popular sites like Delicious and Backflip, but you do have the option to add as many as you would like.

The plugin also allows you to randomly select X number of sites to submit to along with randomly selected keywords. This helps you avoid being banned by any bookmarking sites for over use while ensuring adequate exposure to as many sources as possible.

These tools are just a few of the hundreds out there to help automate your presence online. Time is the most valuable thing you have and the less time you have to spend logging in and out of sites, copying and pasting, waiting for slow load times and so on will allow you to become more productive online.

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An Interview with an Internet Strategy Expert on PR

28 10 2008

Today I had the opportunity to interview co-founder and CMO of Newsforce, Dana Todd.  Dana is also the Chairman of SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, which is the largest independent trade organization serving the search marketing industry.  Dana earned her stripes in the internet marketing industry running a boutique interactive agency called SiteLab, which is known for its search marketing expertise and creative web development capabilities.  She has since turned her sights now to the general communications industry, which includes PR, to evangelize the incredible possibilities of the internet in communication strategy.  Dana says that she is going to “shake things up around here and evangelize some sexy new ideas and tactics for the fairly rigid world of corporate communications and public relations.”

Newsforce currently offers two services to their customers. Can you please briefly describe each of these services?

Newsforce has two main product lines right now. Most people know us for our SEO tool, but we’re totally excited about something we’ve just launched. Our new product is our “big story” that will ultimately change the way companies manage their online communications. It’s called the Newsforce Network, and it’s an always-on communication platform to give companies and agencies total control over their stories, their placement and their engagement strategy.

Newsforce is the first company to build a network to put ultimate power in the hands of communicators. We can take any kind of fresh, interesting content – whether it’s a press release, a mat release, a blog entry or a feature article – and place it directly onto prominent positions in premium news. We buy only the best positions on the page, typically a large ad unit above the fold on an article or a section index (we’ve even run on the home page of Newsweek!), and we replace the usual banners with much-more-interesting featured news slugs from our customers. When a reader clicks a Newsforce headline, they go to a beautiful and clean landing page that has multimedia and social media built in. We measure the engagement rates and actions on the article, and feed the data back to our customers so they can tweak their story to appeal more broadly to the viewing public. It’s evergreen, so it’s a living document companies can control as their story evolves.

We sell this service similar to how advertising is sold, on cost-per-thousand impressions (which translates to “views by actual people”. We throw in the social media news release template for free, and as a value-add you won’t lose its derivative SEO properties because we’ll keep hosting it even after we stop featuring it in our headline unit. We’re sort of mashing up PR, advertising, social media and SEO into one streamlined channel.

For people who are struggling with the SEO part of their PR strategy, we also sell an inexpensive tool for SEO, starting at just $20 per use. Our automatic press release optimization suite is an online service made just for PR people, to help them focus more on their writing skills than their technical skills. We have a version of it integrated into Business Wire’s EON offering, plus we sell it on our site http://www.newsforce.com.

How is the Premium News Network different than distribution channels such as PRWeb, PRLeap, and other similar sites?

We’re digital-only, for one thing. They’re paid inclusion, we’re paid placement – verified and guaranteed positions, turn coverage on and off at will. I think of standard wire and feed services as being parallel to how people use SEO in the marketing side of the world: it’s a great thing to do for casting a broad net and hoping your story is interesting enough for a quality pickup or a high-volume return. It’s low cost, typically, and it is great for “organic” distribution. What’s been missing, though, is a serious level of control for communicators in either the online or the offline space. In the online space, we finally have some options we never had before.

In the print and broadcast world, the journalists are the gatekeepers to the limited real estate they have – measured in pages or minutes. In the online space the engagement is 24/7, and the real estate is based on traffic of people, not time of day or numbers of pages. It’s unlimited and unending. So why are we still designing our communication strategies in “episodic” mode, moving from campaign to campaign or release to release? There is a steady stream of news readers hitting news channels online or on their phones, over 600 million page views worldwide every day! And it’s just getting bigger! In 5 years, most people in the developed world will access their news either on a computer or a handheld device. And just as the dayparts shifted for other types of media, it’s shifting for PR people too.

We think what we’re doing is evolutionary, but some people have called us revolutionary. I’ll take either compliment.

Where do you see the future of internet press releases heading?

If we have our way, it’s going to be less about “press releases” and more about “story telling” and ongoing optimization of your stories for maximum reader interest and support of your corporate goals over the long haul. I’d like to see a return to the value of a professional communication team as keepers of the corporate stories, using their creative powers in new channels to influence the public directly, in addition to continuing with evolving media relations.

Maybe that’s too radical (or just too much work)? If you’re still uncomfortable with the idea of being an always-on writer/story teller, you can still think on a release by release basis, but you’re going to probably want to write three different versions: one for journalists, one for the mass public, and one for search engines. Oh yeah, and a mobile version too! So that should keep PR people employed for a very long time, because someone’s got to figure out how to best use these different channels to meet communication goals.

I am a reformed journalist-turned-marketer. Why did I change? Because I feel that ultimately the greatest opportunity to change people’s opinions, one person at a time, is through a multi-channel communication strategy. The power to create *action* is actually closer to the realm of marketing and PR than in traditional journalism, in many cases. While I loved writing news and working as a journalist, I truly found my calling when I wrote my first “advertorial” and realized how powerful a biased voice can be. That sounds like heresy, doesn’t it? And yet, if you think about it – as humans, we assume a certain amount of bias in any media we consume. Humans pride ourselves on being our own “filters” and making our own decisions, and we consume all types of information in context, whether it was produced by a journalist or an ad agency, in order to inform our decisions. So the biggest winners in communications are often the ones who are willing to take the most risk in terms of disclosure (transparency in your motivation) and creativity.

Do you think that all companies should be using internet press releases? Why or why not?

I guess it depends on the goals of your campaign, and what is an appropriate mix of channels to help you accomplish them. Bottom line: I think that all companies should tell great stories on the internet. If it happens to take the form of a news release, then yes, of course. People do actually read press releases – we have piles of cool research showing that they read press releases just like regular editorial news. But I think that if you’re writing a press release for internet distribution you should strongly consider the omigod-this-is-so-boring potential of corporate messaging to a broad reading public. If you wouldn’t click it yourself, then you should probably give the story angle a little more thought. The potential of the internet is that it gets you directly to the public. That’s both a good and a scary thing. Since we can now track reader engagement (or lack thereof) in real time, I predict it will ultimately teach us all to be better communicators.

What is your best recommendation for companies who want to start using internet press releases but not sure where to start?

We actually have a pretty great set of articles on the Newsforce site written by one of our founders, Greg Jarboe.  Greg didn’t invent the internet like Al Gore did, but he is often credited for “inventing” the advanced search optimization strategies for press releases and popularizing the tactics among internet marketing types. If you want to get some broad exposure to search marketing, the SEMPO Learning Center has piles of research, articles, glossaries and free webinars.

I always encourage people to keep a “keyword calendar” to go along with their editorial calendars for the year. If it’s part of your core strategy to have frequent pops in news search engines (so that you’re showing up in the fresh news results regularly), you will want to map a baseline of core keywords to target on a regular basis, plus a seasonal and/or opportunity set of keywords that you target based on the editorial “seasons” of your industry. Think of them as mini-topics to cover.

I guess with that in mind, one of the best skills a PR person can develop first is the art of keyword research. Internet outreach is just like any other communication strategy: it’s listening and responding. That is, “listening” to the keyword demand data and your social media buzz metrics, and then responding to threats and opportunities with various communication channels. The fact that we can literally see the words that people are using to describe all sorts of things, and the frequency and popularity of the terminology, is such a gift of insight. I’m honestly surprised that most PR people aren’t as freakishly obsessed with the information as search marketers are – maybe it’s because they haven’t learned to have fun with it yet. It’s very eye-opening!

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Solutions Stars Video Conference Brings the Conference Directly to You

27 10 2008

On October 29th from 1p EST to approximately 3:30p EST, you will have the opportunity to watch 32 leading business, marketing, and social media experts.  The best part is you don’t have to travel anywhere and it’s free!

Network Solutions is hosting the Solutions Stars Video Conference to explain to small business and entrepreneurs how the Internet can benefit their businesses.  This conference will focus on nine content areas:

  • Building Web Presence
  • The Social Opportunity
  • Start with Listening
  • Strategy Drives Outreach
  • You Need Social Networks
  • To Blog or Not to Blog
  • Visibility Through Search
  • Rising Above the Noise
  • Time Demands

While the fact that there is a free conference which you can watch from the comfort of your office chair or couch is cool enough, take a look at a short list of some of the presenters:

If you don’t know who any of these guys are then spend some time going through each of the above links.  Every single person on the list of 32 is someone who you should be familiar with!

What makes this so interesting for me is that the format reminds me of the Pixelated Conference Series that I participated in at the beginning of the month, thanks to Chris Brogan, Mitch Joel and Bryan Eisenberg.  I will definitely be tuning in on Wednesday, will you?  If not then you’ll be missing out a great opportunity to learn a lot about business, marketing and social media in just a couple of hours.  Did I forget to mention that it’s FREE?!?!

To attend all you have to do is return to the Solutions Stars Video Conference site at 1p EST on Wednesday.

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Did You Know Britney Spears is on Twitter?

22 10 2008

Over the past couple days there has been some chatter in the social media space about Britney Spears joining Twitter (@therealbritney) as part of her new website which just launched.  Well, Britney didn’t just join Twitter but also has accounts on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.  However, I am more impressed with her and her team’s decision to venture onto Twitter.  Why? Because for the past few years every new artist has a MySpace page.  Unfortunately, it is usually just a PR machine for the artist though there are some artists that actually write their own content, respond to fans, post videos, etc.  We have also seen an influx of musicians sign up for YouTube accounts and start video blogging.  An example of an artist who has embraced video would definitely be Diddy who has approximately 280 videos posted on YouTube.

Ok, back to my thoughts on Brtiney being on Twitter.  The first handful of tweets appeared to be yet another example of a celebrity’s team who sets up an account on a social media site only to use it to post updates about CD launches, appearances, etc.  This led to Gary Vaynerchuk posting his thoughts about it:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

But, then, in my opinion, something interesting and unexpected happened: Britney’s social media director, Lauren Kozag, responded in the comments.  Lauren responded by thanking Gary for his advice and letting everyone know that she was showing the video to the rest of Britney’s team.  Lauren also mentioned that they are actively discussing how transparent Britney should be.  I was extremely impressed to see this because, like many others, I was skeptical at how “real” this would all be.

By Lauren responding she showed that her and the rest of Brtiney’s team are monitoring online discussions about Britney and are willing to reach out and respond.  This could be great for Britney’s brand as well as being among the first few celebrities to join sites like Twitter and actively use them to interact and not just push out information.  I hope this continues not only with Britney and her team but also encourages other celebrities to get actively involved because they already have the fan bases to drive more people onto sites like Twitter thus taking it more mainstream.  I’d be interested to know how many new people are discovering Twitter for the first time solely because they saw the logo on Britney’s website.

Now I want to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below.  Do you think it’s good that celebrities like Britney Spears actively use social media sites such as Twitter?  What advice would you have for them or their teams if they were to read this?

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Content is Nothing if it’s Not Authoritative: Creating an Effective Content Strategy

20 10 2008

Here is a guest post by Kari Rippetoe who blogs over at The Caffeinated Blog

Ok, I’m a fan of Dancing With The Stars (we all have out guilty pleasures, right?). So, the other day I was watching retired NFL player Warren Sapp dance the samba, which basically consisted of him standing around shaking his big, defensive tackle hips while his professional ballroom partner Kym Johnson danced around him. Because of this, the consensus among the judges was that their dance “lacked content”.

So, what does this have to do with your business website or blog? Well, think of it this way: is your content standing in the middle of the dance floor, not really doing anything, or is it dazzling the audience with all the right moves and making you and your business look professional – like you’re an expert?

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “content is king”; but your web content is nothing if it’s not authoritative. I’ve seen more websites and blogs than I care to admit that just slap up any old content without regard to what will actually interest their audience. This sort of rubbish falls into one or more of the following categories:

  • Horribly written articles and blog posts rendered completely useless and nonsensical by keyword stuffing.
  • Regurgitations of press releases and news articles without reaction from the blogger or relation back to the reader.
  • Sales pages disguised as articles designed to push readers towards a conversion rather than pull them in with valuable, relevant content.

If your content falls into any of these categories, than I hope you can take something away from this post – because you’ll do wonders for your brand, online reputation, marketing and communication efforts, and business in general by forming and implementing a strategy around engaging, authoritative content.

Now, I’m not here to tell you that this sort of content strategy will be easy. It will take some hard work and dedication on your part, because it’s certainly not a “set it and forget it” option. You will, however, reap the rewards once you start offering your buyers content that targets them and their needs with consistently valuable information.

So, how do you form an effective content strategy? Here are some points to think about:

  • Determine your goals. Why do you want to add content to your site, and what would you want that content to do for your business? Would you use blog posts or articles to talk about your products or services and increase press coverage? Give your take on industry-related news or relate it back to your readers? Offer advice for relevant problems your readers commonly face? This will give you a better idea of what kind of content will be written, as well as how the content can eventually be promoted.
  • Scope out the competition. What are your competitors doing? Do they have blogs, a resources section with articles, or maybe videos and podcasts? Take the time to read/watch/listen to their content in order to determine if a) there’s a possible gap you can fill, and b) if you can implement similar ideas for your business.
  • Research your target audience. In order for your content to be of value, you need to create it around topics that interest your target audience. Check out forums related to your niche to find out about relevant issues they may have, as you could develop content that addresses those issues. You can also gather some excellent (and free) research from social bookmarking sites to find out the kind of content your audience likes (check out my post on how to use social media for market research).
  • Recruit content creators. Who knows more about your business, industry, or niche than you? You’re an excellent candidate for creating content – but you don’t have to be the only one. Your research should uncover some topics for which some pretty valuable content can be developed, so now you can recruit others to contribute. These can include:
    • Employees at your company with knowledge in niche areas of your business
    • Friends or outside colleagues who know the industry and can offer a unique, expert take
    • Industry experts who would be willing to contribute in exchange for a little good PR and/or a backlink
    • Freelance writers who have knowledge of your industry and can provide regular, authoritative content based on your needs
  • Decide how often to update content. This is up to you and completely based on the needs of your business; however, it’s recommended that you update your content at least 2-3 times a week to keep it fresh and your readers coming back for more.
  • Decide how your content will be promoted. Content does have to be promoted, whether it’s to your existing customer base or to prospective customers. There are so many ways to promote your content, it would take up a whole new post; but a few to consider are email, social bookmarking and networking sites (look for ones related to your audience or niche market), and blog directories.
  • Keep the conversation going. Customer engagement doesn’t end after the content is posted – that’s where it starts. They’ll comment on it, ask questions, and try to start a conversation with you. Why? Because they perceive you as an expert, and they want to know that there is a person behind the company logo. It’s up to you to respond in a timely manner and keep them engaged. Part of your strategy should definitely address who will be your community manager or chief conversation officer, responding to comments and questions from your audience and engaging readers on external sites where your content is being promoted.

No longer is content just words on a page – it has to inform, interest, and engage. By creating a strong content strategy based on your goals and centered on the needs of your audience, you’ll achieve sustainable results that will reap rewards for your business for a long time to come. More than that – your customers will be dazzled by your moves!

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Photo by: pshutterbug

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New to Social Media? Read this first!

17 10 2008

Today I had the opportunity to speak with Jason Falls.  Besides blogging over at the popular SocialMediaExplorer.com, Jason is Director of Social Media at Doe-Anderson, an in-demand national speaker on social media and public relations, and founder of Social Media Club Louisville.  With the extensive resume out of the way, Jason describes himself as being tall, dark and handsome, of course 🙂 .  Actually, he describes himself as a writer, thinker and web tinkerer, sports nut, dad, husband and swell guy to hang out and drink a beer or cocktail with. And not necessarily in that order.

What does a typical day look like for you with your commitments as Director of Social Media for a large agency, active blogger, involvement on social networks, etc?

The typical day is normally a handful of meetings, as much client work (strategic planning, writing and some execution via blog posts, community administration, etc.) as possible and the occasional new business pitch lunch or planning with every other available minute cleaning out the inbox, sharing good content with my friends online and keeping an eye on other top blogs in the industry. Honestly, I don’t have enough hours in the day to do all I need to do so the client work comes first and everything else falls in line in some priority. Almost all of it is so much fun I almost feel guilty getting paid to do it.

One of the biggest issues I hear in regards to social media is the time commitment to manage and be an active member on all of these networks.  What are some of your suggestions and how do you manage this time commitment?

The first thing I would do is determine which ones you get the most value from and which ones you can give the most value to and focus on those. Sure, I have profiles on 20 or more social networks, but I really only use two everyday – Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn is a third that is almost required because the mainstream folks (potential clients) are most comfortable there since it’s a professional/resume-driven site. But I don’t get inherent value other than friendship connections out of MySpace, so I don’t spend much time there.

The second thing I would recommend is finding utilities that make it easier. For instance, sharing content and bookmarking are important facets of what social media folks do. Mahalo allows you to bookmark and submit material to their community-driven search engine, but also has a utility that allows you to share the same content on StumbleUpon, Twitter, Delicious, Facebook and other social networks all with the single submission. So, I bookmark one article in three or four places, providing value to those networks as well. I don’t browse to or through StumbleUpon everyday, but I still share great content there, so my StumbleUpon influence is still actively being maintained.

Finally, you have to embrace and master RSS. I subscribe to content from over 200 websites but can browse most of that content, deeply reading what looks interesting, skimming some and just headline browsing the rest, in about 30 minutes each day. I don’t miss much and when I see something interesting, I take the time to share it, comment on it, bookmark it or all of the above. RSS changes the way you consume content online and makes your time commitment to do so much more manageable.

What do you see for the future of social media?

Social media is not some purple elephant that will revolutionize the world. It’s one channel in an assortment of communications options. It will get past the shiny new object stage in the next couple of years and become another spoke on the communications wheel, along with PR, CRM, advertising, packaging, direct mail and so on. I’m a believer that it most closely aligns with public relations as a discipline, so I’m hopeful PR professionals will get better (and fast) at understanding and owning at least the responsibility of managing social media within the organizational structure. Social media is something that, if done right, isn’t silo-ed into one department, but PR is the most suitable to take the lead on it. It’s not a fad, but it’s not the second coming, either. It’ll settle into a nice place in the marketing and communications world if it hasn’t already.

What is the biggest mistake that businesses make when getting into social media?

Not coming to bat with a strategic position. Like web development, most people say, “I want one. Let’s build it.” I heard a great analogy to illustrate this problem from Ron Baumgarner at Bitwise Solutions. He said, “If your architect showed up on you property with a backhoe, would you be nervous?” Social media isn’t wall paper or a coat of paint. You have to think it through just like you would an advertising campaign or a direct mail piece.

Who is the audience? Why are you communicating with them? What do you want them to do as a result? How are you going to use the communication to build a relationship with them? What value can you provide? These are the questions that need to be answered before you even start. Put the backhoe away and draw up some plans for the structure, get all your permits lined out, make sure the property can withstand the size and scope of the building then hire the right people to do each of the tasks that come together to make the structure whole. And don’t forget that once it’s built, it needs to be cleaned, maintained, repaired and occasionally remodeled to ensure the residents stay happy.

What advice do you give to someone who is new to the social media world?

Know that if you can’t or don’t provide value to the communities and networks you are apart of, even if that value is just your opinion, you won’t be successful. You have to give to get in social media. Those that give meaningfully earn respect, then over time trust. Having trust breeds influence and gets you where you are a respected member of the community. And all that is true for brands as well as individuals.

Doe-Anderson is a brand-building agency, which closely resembles an advertising agency. They have an approach to building brands using brand enthusiasm as a platform to ignite passion points in people enabling them to spread the good word about the brand and build a community around it. Doe’s Maker’s Mark Ambassadors program is often called the “Gold Standard” word of mouth marketing program.

Social Media Explorer is Jason’s personal blog that he uses as an educational, informational and thought leadership tool to offer up reviews, insights and opinions about social media, public relations, marketing and other forms of communications.

Jason loves meeting new people so find him over on Twitter if you’re not already following him.





A Break for Poverty on Blog Action Day

15 10 2008

Today, for a brief minute, I’m going to shift my focus away from the ususal social media, internet marketing and internet PR-type posts you’re used to reading here.  I want to help show how strong and powerful the blogging community can be when they unite around an important social cause such as poverty.  For those that don’t know, today is the annual Blog Action Day.  This year the focus is on poverty.

It is estimated that over three billion people live on less than $2.50 per day and over 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 per day.  We tend to take such stats for granted because they aren’t real to us and we, hopefully, will never experience anything as tragic as that.  Knowing that I was going to be writing this post later in the day got me thinking about what I’ve had yesterday just for breakfast and lunch.  First, I got a package of Pop-Tarts and a bottle of Diet Coke from vending machines at the office at a total cost of $2.50 [yes, I know…not very healthy :)].  For lunch I then got a Subway grinder at about $4.25.  Just between breakfast and lunch I spent $6.75 which is equivalent to 2.5 days of pay for those three billion people! Furthermore, my costs aren’t even including the money I spent on driving my truck to and from Subway to get that grinder!  Lastly, this isn’t including any other costs from the day.

One of the issues I think that topics such as poverty are faced with is that the problem is so large that people don’t know how to start trying to fix the issue.  One easy way to start is to just get out there and do it!  Did you know that for as little as $20 you can donate a flock of chicks to a needy family or village?  So, just by donating the cost of going to one movie with a friend, you can starting helping a family or village who desperately needs it.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you choose to donate or how much money you contribute, but just realize that it doesn’t take a lot to really help someone out who is in a lot worse shape than you and me.  Be a part of Blog Action Day today and make a small donation to help end world poverty!

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