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Demise of tr.im makes me realize I’d pay for bit.ly

URL shortening service tr.im announced that they will discontinue the service. Apparently, they couldn’t find a good way to make money with it:

We simply cannot find a way to justify continuing to work on it, or pay its network costs, which are not inconsequential. tr.im pushes (as I write this) a lot of redirects and URL creations per day, and this required significant development investment and server expansion to accommodate.

Seeing the various Techmeme stories about tr.im, I tweeted this:

Cannot take seriously the advice to stop using URL shorteners after tr.im’s demise. Alternative – use full URLs – is unworkable.

In a twitter conversation with Doug Cornelius, what became apparent to me was not that we should stop using URL shorteners. Rather, we need a service we can rely on. The market will converge on a single majority provider, either tinyurl or bit.ly.

As a user of bit.ly, this dawned on me: I would pay to use the service. Well, the value-added part: analytics. Here’s how I could see it working:

  1. Free: anyone can shorten any URL anytime and use it
  2. Pay: access to clicks and analytics for the shortened URL

Not everyone needs the analytics, so for them, the service is free. For me personally and professionally, it is important to understand the analytics. I would pay for those. Say $1 or $2 per month? bit.ly’s click counts were pretty lousy there for a while, but have improved dramatically the past few weeks.

If that revenue model takes hold, bit.ly gets cash to support its basic service. And it apparently has designs on larger types of data mining ahead.

Sign me up.

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 052209

From the home office in Cleveland, Ohio…

#1: One thing I like in what FriendFeed is doing…they’re thinking in terms of business use cases. See Tudor’s comments: http://bit.ly/BEXQd

#2: FriendFeed provides better tweet search than does Twitter, notes @louisgray http://bit.ly/WFyYA

#3: Reading: Nine worst social media fails of 2009… thus far by @mediaphyter http://bit.ly/vvKS0 Two girls, one sandwich? Really?

#4: Bit.ly’s lead developer @nathanfolkman provides insight as to why bit.ly’s click counts can be significantly overstated: http://bit.ly/IgImp

#5: WSJ – Look at This Article. It’s One of Our Most Popular http://bit.ly/Era5b Problem w/ simple popularity – may not mean merit or relevance.

#6: Post on the Front End of Innovation blog: General Mills 5-Step Innovation Program http://bit.ly/ghqhr #feiboston

#7: Post on the Front End of Innovation blog: Great Companies Enable Constant Choices – Jim Collins http://bit.ly/RFWWM #feiboston

#8: This is hilarious – Tweeting Too Hard: A site for shaming the twitteringly self-important http://bit.ly/PCzTD

#9: Anyone remember the 70s song, Escape (The Pina Colada Song)? Happened in real life to one married couple: http://bit.ly/171wjg

#10: Took my 5 y.o. son to a pet store today, where he saw his first chameleon live. Damn thing zapped a cricket w/ its tongue. My boy loved it.

Something Is Very Wrong with Bit.ly’s Click Counts

I love the URL shortening service bit.ly, as I’ve written before. It’s a tremendous service, provide wonderful analytics along with the basic URL shortening feature. The service recently moved to make click counts much more visible, which is really helpful to see at a glance what got the interest of people you shared the link with. Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan has a nice write-up about it.

But something isn’t right with the counts I’m seeing from bit.ly. That, or something is seriously wrong with WordPress.com’s traffic stats.

Here’s what I mean. On May 19th, I tweeted this:

Tweet about newsletter

The first bit.ly URL is to Dennis Howlett’s blog post. The second bit.ly URL links to my post Newsletters Are Still Viable? How I Approached My First Newsletter Email. This post was from last November.

Fast forward. Bit.ly dutifully tracked the clicks on my shortened URL. Total count? 125 in the past week:

Bit.ly click count - Newsletter Post

Hey…that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Plenty of clicks to the ol’ blog.

But then check out the number of views WordPress.com recorded for this same blog post the past week:

WordPress.com view count - Newsletter Post

Say what?!!! Bit.ly is telling me the post got 125 hits. WordPress.com is saying it got 11 hits. Let’s do the math:

125
- 11
114

How can the numbers be so far apart?  I mean, that’s not a rounding error. That’s a canyon of difference.  Is bit.ly borked? Is WordPress off? This isn’t the first time I’ve seen these kinds of differences.

If you’ve got any hypotheses or have seen this yourself, I’d love to hear about it. Particularly if you’ve seen the same thing for a different blog platform, like Blogger or Typepad.

Update: There’s a discussion of possible causes on FriendFeed.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Power Twitter Gets More Powerful with Latest Release

fred-wilson-power-twitter

A few days back, I noticed something in Fred Wilson’s tweets. He was using some sort of app called Power Twitter. Now Fred is the highly visible Union Square Ventures VC behind Twitter. When he uses an application to engage with Twitter, I’m curious why. So I checked it out.

Power Twitter is a Firefox add-on built by Narendra Rocherolle. Power Twitter, as its name implies, supercharges the web -based interface of Twitter for Firefox browser users. The added features are those that a lot of Twitter users want. As John Tropea tweeted:

@bhc3 twitter should have this inhouse, just like what happened with replies, and what also should happen with hashtags

Power Twitter got good coverage on TechCrunch in January of this year. On February 26, a slew of new features were released. These new features have made Power Twitter even better, and perhaps give a glimpse of what Twitter could do in the future.

Packed with Valuable Features

Here’s a screen shot of the Twitter page with Power Twitter installed:

power-twitter-home-page

Let’s talk about the numbered features.

#1 – Post Photo: Have a picture you want to tweet out? Use the handy Post Photo link. When you click it, you’ll be presented with a familiar dialogue box asking you to upload a picture. Once you select your picture, it is automatically posted to TwitPic. Your TwitPic picture will have its own URL, which is automatically pasted into the “What are you doing?” box. Then you type out whatever you want to accompany the picture. This is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#2 – Shorten Link: Sharing links is a prevalent activity on Twitter. According to Ginx, 20% of tweets are sharing links. With the Shorten Link feature, you paste a long URL into an input box, and Power Twitter automatically shortens it using bit.ly (see previous bit.ly coverage here). You then type whatever message you want. One downside is that it doesn’t associate the bit.ly URL to your bit.ly account. But for most people, that’s not an issue. This is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#3 – Retweet: The retweet is emerging as the new thing to do on Twitter. As Robert Scoble wrote in a comment in a FriendFeed discussion: “I judge myself off of how many times I get retweeted. That demonstrates readership, credibility, engagement, interest, etc.” Power Twitter now makes it easier to retweet those tweets you like. Every entry has a little “RT” to the side. When you click the “RT”, the entire tweet is copied to your “What are you doing?” box, along with “RT @[person]“. Very easy. This is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#4 – Expand Shortened URLS: One problem with the shortened URLs is that you don’t know where they go before clicking them. Power Twitter automatically expands the shortened URLs so you see the full URL. This is something that was implemented on FriendFeed a while back, and it’s great for fully extra secure before clicking those links.

#5 – Search and Saved Searches: Search is another aspect of Twitter that is emerging as hugely important. Twitter bought the third party search service Summize to provide search to its members. However, they have maintained search as a separate URL from the Twitter home page, although they are testing the addition of search to the homepage currently. With Power Twitter, you don’t have to wait. Search is embedded right on your home page. When you run a search, Power Twitter runs it against the Twitter search engine and presents the results right on your homepage.

Power Twitter also links # hashtags to a Twitter search. When you see a hashtag, click on it. Power Twitter returns a set of results including the hashtag. Power Twitter retains a list of your previous searches if you want to run them again. The saved search history is new with the Feb. 26 release.

#6 – @Mentions: Twitter added the @replies tab a while back, which shows those tweets that begin with your Twitter handle (e.g. @bhc3 lorem ipsum…). Power Twitter also includes @mentions, where your handle is included elsewhere inside the tweet (e.g. RT @bhc3 lorem ipsum…). A quick way to see if someone retweeted you or otherwise mentioned you in a tweet.

#7 – Facebook: You can view the status updates of your friends on Facebook, right from the Twitter page. I assume this leverages the new Facebook status updates API. For me, this is a hugely valuable addition. I don’t log in to Facebook too often, meaning I don’t see the updates of my connections there. Now, I regularly check the Facebook tab in Twitter to see what my friends are up to. Really, really helpful.

In-Line Media

This isn’t new, but merits mention. Power Twitter displays the media associated to links to several different services including:

  • TwitPic
  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • Google Maps
  • Song.ly
  • Others

The song.ly links include a simple player to hear the song that was tweeted. Very nice. Here’s an example of what a TwitPic looks like as it hits your Twitter stream:

power-twitter-twitpic-inline

That tweet only had a link to a TwitPic URL. But Power Twitter found the TwitPic URL, and pulled the actual picture into the tweet.

Some people may not like the inclusion of media in their Twitter stream, preferring text only. If that’s the case, Power Twitter lets you turn off the inclusion of rich media in tweets.

But one thing that occurred to me is that this resembles somewhat the experience you have with FriendFeed, which does a great job with including media inline on its pages.

Quick View of People’s Last 5 Tweets

Power Twitter also lets you see the last five tweets of people. When you move your cursor over someone’s picture, a hover box appears. The hover box shows the last 5 tweets of that person. Here’s what it looks like (I added the red dotted line to highlight):

power-twitter-last-5-tweets

A very nice way to get a quick look at what someone is up to.

Continual Innovation

Power Twitter isn’t done innovating either. One of the items listed with the latest release is:

added foundations for new upcoming features

Looking forward to new features in the future. If you want to get more from Twitter, I recommend installing Power Twitter.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=%22Power+Twitter+Gets+More+Powerful+with+Latest+Release%22

One Thing Social Software Needs: The Guaranteed Delivery Button

At the start of January, Jennfier Leggio and I launched the 2009 Email Brevity Challenge. The goal is to reduce the length of emails, with an eye toward migrating a lot of what’s in them elsewhere.

Well, January is over. Time to see how I did:

email-stats-jan-09

As you can see, I’ve got some work to do. First, my average email weighs in at 164 characters. 164 characters…hmm, doesn’t sound so bad but it’s pretty far beyond 140 characters.

Even worse, 41% of my emails are beyond the bar set for the email brevity challenge. One positive? Check out that median length – my heart is in the right place in terms of brevity.

But I can do better.

Looking at my emails, I see an obvious candidate for cutback. Seven of those 140+  character emails are essentially links with commentary of snippets.

Say what? You work for a social bookmarking company man! And you’re emailing links?!!

Well, yes. But I also bookmark them. Let me explain. I bookmark plenty of links for my own purposes. And true to social bookmarking’s purpose, other people can find them as well, which is better for discussions around the information.

Some of these bookmarks are more than useful information I want for recall later or for others to find in their research. Some are relevant to things that we’re working on right now. They provide context to product, development and marketing efforts.

Those bookmarks need to have higher visibility than typical links do.  And a problem with only bookmarking a link is that many people won’t see it who should.

That’s what email provides: guaranteed delivery. Everyone is using the app, and everyone checks their email. So I know the link + commentary will be seen. What social software needs is an equivalent mechanism.

Social Software Options for Guaranteed Delivery

In fact, many apps do have such guaranteed delivery mechanisms. For instance, you can think of the @reply on Twitter as a form of that. Although even then, it requires someone checking that tab. So TweetReplies will actually email you when someone uses your @name in a tweet.

As I wrote before, email’s evolving role in social media will be more notification, less personal communication. Email is still a centralized place for all manner of notifications and it has that lovely guaranteed delivery aspect.

So what are alternatives for emails inside companies?

Inside my company, I actually have three alternatives to emailing the links with lots of commentary”

Connectbeam: As I mentioned, a simple bookmark has no guarantee of visibility. But the app does include email (and RSS) notifications of new content. You can subscribe to emails of individuals’ and Groups’ activity in real-time, or get a daily digest of those options plus keyword-based notifications. So what I can do is set up a Group, call it “Email Worthy”. I then have all my colleagues subscribe to real-time notifications of activity in that Group. Voila! I add a note to my bookmark, save it to the Group and I know everyone will get it.

Confluence: Another option is to create a wiki page for these entries. I can put longer form commentary in the pages, include a link and tag them. Since Connectbeam automatically sucks Confluence wiki pages into its database, these individual wiki pages would be as good as a bookmark. I could then email a link to the wiki page (using a bit.ly URL), going Twitter style with a brief intro.

Yammer: Yammer now has Groups. Which is something people have been wanting with Twitter. You can publish a message in Yammer (a “yamm”?) to just a particular Group. Yammer has nicely added an email notification feature for Groups. So similar to what I described above for Connectbeam, we can create a Group on Yammer called “Email Worthy”. Everyone can join the Group and elect to recieve email notifications when new yamms come through.  I can post the link + commentary, and be assured of guaranteed delivery.

One problem with using Yammer this way is that information put there is separate from the wiki entries and bookmarks we have. So people would have to check two places for information. As I wrote over on the Connectbeam blog, that creates a de facto silo.

It’s February, A New Month

I’m going to experiment a bit with this. Of course, I need to get my colleagues to subscribe to email notifications for Connectbeam. But I’ll just tell them, “do that or I’ll email ya!” And I’ll try the Confluence wiki approach as well.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=One+Thing+Social+Software+Needs+The+Guaranteed+Delivery+Button

How to Integrate Social Media into Product Marketing

Recently, I’ve had former colleagues from a couple of my old employers ask me about social media. Specifically, how to get started in it from a professional perspective. They’re aware that social media can be powerful, but it can be daunting to figure out an entrance point and what you’re supposed to do with it.

Now I’m no Chris Brogan, but I do have hands-on experience. Specifically, I’ve been doing product marketing for a while now, with both Connectbeam and BEA Systems.  BEA Systems was great for traditional product marketing work. Connectbeam is great for social media-oriented product marketing work. I’ve learned some things that work for me.

In that spirit, I’m going to share them here. Here’s a summary of what follows:

  1. What is product marketing? messaging, customers, market trends, market visibility
  2. Leverage the work you’re already doing
  3. The 9 social media tools I’m using
  4. Twitter – narrate your work
  5. Blog – part product, part big ideas
  6. FriendFeed – tracking the flow
  7. SlideShare, Scribd – the post-webinar bang-for-your-buck
  8. YouTube, Google Video – incremental exposure
  9. Wrapping up – feel free to contact me

OK, let’s get to it.

What Exactly Is Product Marketing?

In the graphic below, I’ve put together a rough (and incomplete) map of the different functions one finds inside companies:

map-of-company-functions

I look at product marketing as having four primary goals:

  1. Positioning and messaging of the company’s products
  2. Steady voice and knowledgeable source for customer inquiries
  3. Staying on top of evolving requirements and ideas in the market
  4. Establishing the company in the market, with coverage among sources of information used by customers

I want to distinguish product marketing from other functions. Every function can use social media for its benefit, but the use cases vary. For instance, I’d expect engineering to use social media to tap peers who can help with coding or architecture questions.

But let’s be clear what product marketing is supposed to do. It is an outward-facing function, with a number of responsibilities:

  • Articulate the value of the company’s products
  • Create messaging around the products, via website content, data sheets, white papers, presentations, etc.
  • Develop the business case for products
  • Put on webinars
  • Give customer presentations and demos
  • Do market and competitive analysis

The tools of the trade include: data sheets, white papers, newsletters, PowerPoint presentations, Camtasia demos, WebEx/GoToMeeting, trade show booths.

So how does social media play in all this?

Leverage the Work You’re Already Doing

The nice thing about traditional product marketing work is that a lot of it complements social media nicely:

product-mktg-source-for-social-media

The first bit of advice I want to impart is that if you treat social media like a foreign language, it will be. If you’re wondering where to start, look no further than the thinking and content you already do as a part of your job. That’s plenty good for starting.

There are three activities that the product marketer will engage in:

  1. Monitor: who is saying what of interest
  2. Engage: interact with customers, analysts, consultants, competitors
  3. Broadcast: create content, tweet original thoughts, post to SlideShare, etc.

In the sections that follow, you’ll see all three activities described.

Social Media: What I’m Doing

The tools: Here are the social media tools I use for product marketing:

Changes in latitude, changes in attitude: Attitude is the most important consideration. If you look at the various social media as a pain-in-the-ass part of your job, you’re likely not going to get much from it. It will be too much of a chore for you.

To excel at product marketing, you’ve got to be good at research and building persuasive arguments, along with a personality that engages customers well. It’s really not that hard to extend those traits into social media. And once you read a bit more below, I think you’ll see the value of engaging in social media.

Be a mensch: Do not spend your time running down competitors. It makes you look petty, and you’ll find yourself in entanglements with them which make no one look good. Focus on what your company is about.

Not tonight honey, I have a headache: I’m an ‘I’ introvert on the Myers Briggs test. Which means I tend to reflect on things. There are times I just don’t feel like twittering. And that’s OK. Because there are times I’m fired up. I will rattle off a series of tweets and dive into deeper conversations. Strike while the iron is hot.

Twitter

Twitter is the microblogging platform, and is my most valuable information source for tracking what’s happening in my industry. It’s really quite a simple platform, but it has a tremendously flexible set of use cases.

The basics: Here a few basics about the service:

  • 140 characters – learn the power of distinct thoughts in a limited space
  • Follow – you see the tweets of whomever you follow, and anyone following you might see your tweets
  • @Replies – the @Replies tab serves as an inbox of public tweets meant for your attention. Start a tweet with @[username] and it will end up in that inbox
  • RT – stands for retweet. When someone tweets something you like and you want your own followers to see it, you type ‘RT’ , then paste the tweet (with the @[username] included) and hit update.
  • DM – Direct Messages are essentially emails, limited to 140 characters. People use them all the time for private conversations.

Fill out your bio: Make sure you do the following with your Twitter account: use your real name, put your location, have a website of some type (your personal blog, company blog, company website), tell who your company is and what you do there, and upload a picture. This seems like basic advice, but if you don’t, a lot of people won’t follow you back. Which makes your product marketing job that much harder.

Also, before you start following people, get 3-4 tweets on your account so you don’t look like a spam bot.

Subscribe: You need to find others to follow on Twitter,  otherwise it’s a lonely place. But who? Here a three tips to get started:

  • Find prominent bloggers in your space, find their twitter account, and follow them
  • Look at who the prominent bloggers are following, and follow the same people
  • Run a search on twitter for industry jargon, see if those people are interested in your sector. Click here to go to twitter search.

A lot of those you follow will follow you back. This is how you start growing your own base of followers.

Narrate your work: Great, so you’re set up. Now what to tweet? Lunch menu? Here’s one idea. Narrate your work. Technology legend Dave Winer wrote this idea, and I like it. Tweet what it is you’re doing. But, let’s examine this a bit more.

Do not tweet, “Opening up Microsoft Word” or “Heading into a meeting”. Yes, that’s your work, but it’s nothing anyone cares about. Rather, you might be reading a good article about something relevant to your industry. You like it? Tweet it! A simple tweet like this is great:

Reading: [article name] [shortened URL] [optional - a bit of personal color]

Because of the 140 character limit, typical article URLs are too lengthy for a tweet. Use a URL shortener, like bit.ly. And if you have a pithy thought on the article, tack it on at the end of the tweet.

@reply to people: When someone you’re following tweets something of interest to you, engage them. Ask follow-up questions, agree with them, challenge them. This is the type of thing that puts you “on the map” in Twitter. Done well, you will gain new followers by doing this. Just avoid being a troll. When people @reply to you, make sure you give them the courtesy of a reply back.

Broadcast: Once you’ve established credibility and a set of followers on Twitter, don’t be afraid to broadcast updates. These may be product releases, blog posts, new white papers, conferences you’ll be attending, etc. All that is fine. Unless that’s all you’re tweeting. Then it’s not fine.

And don’t be bashful tweeting successes.

Be an information hub: One observation about @reply tweets. They are the conversational currency of Twitter. Personally, I want to make sure maybe 60% of my tweets are conversational. But I don’t want them too high. As a product marketer, you’ve got a message to impart. Nothing wrong with creating tweets that others like. What are some non-@reply tweets? Retweets, passing along links to interesting information, personal observations as you do your work, or personal life things (such as funny things about your kids).

People will be attracted to twitters who pass along valuable info.

Blog

Check any job description for product marketing, and you’ll see that good writing is a requirement. We do this for data sheets and white papers. And these papers we write are for public consumption. Of course, they do tend to have a fairly structured approach.

Which is what’s nice about blogging. You’re still writing. But the format restrictions of “official” documents are loosened. Language is less formal, you can inject personality and include pictures, videos, polls etc.

What to write: On the Spigit blog, I like to mix it up. I will cover product releases. But I won’t just re-state the data sheets or press releases. I write more of the background, the “why” for a product release or feature.

I cover larger  issues  as well. This is particularly important for smaller companies. When you’re smaller, you don’t get automatic attention the way Google, Microsoft or Oracle do. That means just writing about your product will result in people not reading your blog posts.

But what do smaller companies have? A different way of looking at the market, and the advantage of generally being more leading edge. For instance, this Spigit blog post, Eight Principles of Enterprise Innovation Management, clearly describes what the burgeoning field covers.

Bloggers love links: When you write these company blog posts, link to other bloggers. For your readers, it’s a great way to show how your thinking ties into issues others are grappling with. For yourself, it’s a good way to memorialize a post you liked. And in case you didn’t know, bloggers love links.

When you link to another blogger, they get a notification of that link. In terms of attention, this is even better than an email. It means you took the time to read their post, and built on it. See who the industry thought leaders are, subscribe to and read their blogs via Google Reader and incorporate their analysis, opinion and observations in your blog posts.

Foreshadow things that are coming up: You know your product roadmap: the features and timing. Prior to those releases, get some posts out that lay down the rationale for the releases. Not in some ham-handed fashion, but as a thoughtful look at the problems or opportunities there are. Pull in research, include excerpts from articles and other bloggers. You then have a good basis for announcing the new features.

Practice makes perfect: Don’t wait until you’ve got a sense of what the perfect blogging style is. Just get in there and do it. You’ll learn over time what subjects resonate, and how to craft an argument that gets attention.

Engage those who comment: People will leave comments on your blog. Make sure you take the time to respond to them. That’s a good way to ensure they come back, and you’ll learn something from the exchange. It also leaves a trail of commentary for others to read.

Blogs are a source of high quality traffic: The Spigit blog is a source of traffic to the Spigit website. Not the biggest, but a meaningful source. Visitors from the blog spend more time, view more pages and have a lower bounce rate than many traffic referral sources. And visitors from other blogs exhibit the same tendencies.

Make sure your company blog is indexed: The search engines can deliver great traffic. Make sure your blog is part of their search index database. For instance, here’s the Google page to submit your blog URL: http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl

FriendFeed

FriendFeed is a lifestream aggregation service, which lets track all manner of information about other people from 59 different services. There is a good social aspect to FriendFeed, although the company is still pretty early in its lifecycle. So it’s likely that people in your industry aren’t yet active there.

But beside the social aspects, FriendFeed also has incredibly powerful information management tools. And it’s these tools that are valuable to the product marketer. I’m going to cover them below, but a more detailed description is available on this blog post.

Subscribe to people: Just like on Twitter, you can subscribe to people on FriendFeed, if they have an account there. When you do that, you’ll see there tweets, plus other useful information like Del.icio.us bookmarks, new blog posts, Google Reader shares, etc. You get a fuller picture of what is happening with those in your industry.

Subscribe to imaginary friends: Some people don’t have an account on FriendFeed, but they are active on some other site, like Twitter. But you can still stalk follow them on FriendFeed. You’re doing this not to interact with on FriendFeed, since they don’t have an account there. But I use FriendFeed as a master aggregator of people’s activity streams.

Track keywords in a Group: FriendFeed lets you create Group. Groups are containers into which you can pipe content from elsewhere. Use a Group to track keywords that relate to your industry.

For example, I’ve created the Innovation Management Group.  Into that Group, I’m piping tweets with keywords I want to track, and SlideShare presentations and Del.icio.us bookmarks with tags I want to track. One centralized place to stay on top of what’s happening in my industry.

Put it all together into a List: FriendFeed has a feature called Lists. You can categorize the people you follow into different Lists. Then you can focus specifically on the activity streams of those people. I’m currently tracking the activity streams of 61 people associated with the Enterprise 2.0 industry. You can also add your keyword notification Room to your List. So you’ll see who’s talking about your industry beyond just those people you follow. As I wrote before, Follow Everything by a Select Few, Select Content by Everyone.

Track it in real-time: Once you have your industry List set up, FriendFeed provides a nice option. You can follow the activity streams in real-time as they hit the FriendFeed database. I find this to be important for two reasons. First, there are time people you know are tweeting something you care about. There’s an opportunity to do one of those @reply engagements. You don’t want to wait until the end of the day to see that, because the moment is lost. The second reason is that stuff collects, and if you wait until the end of the day you’re less likely to catch things of interest.

As I wrote in another post, it’s really not that distracting to track activity streams this way. An alternative people use for real-time flow and user groups is Tweetdeck. It’s only for Twitter, but many swear by it.

Connecting the dots: Once you’re set-up with with your List + keyword tracking Room + real-time, something amazing happens. You will start to understand what people are buzzing about more. You’ll see recurring themes. You learn who people in your industry are paying attention to. You see the relationships that exist among industry folks, via the @reply conversations. You’ll know which conferences and trade shows are most talked about.

SlideShare, Scribd

SlideShare and Scribd are the two leading social document sharing sites. Social document sharing? Huh? What you do is upload a document to these sites, and others who are doing research can find and read them. Document types include:

  • PowerPoints
  • Word Documents
  • PDFs
  • Spreadsheets

These are great places to share the content you’re creating. Let me give you an example of how this worked for me.

In November 2008, I put on a webinar titled How to Double the Value of Your Social Software. Afterwards, I put the presentation on SlideShare. In the two months since it’s been there, the following has happened:

A more recent presentation for a Spigit webinar, Tapping Communities to Accelerate Corporate Innovation, has been viewed 1,508 times.

I recently added the social software presentation to Scribd, and it now has 586 views and two Likes.

I assure you, the after-webinar action is much greater than that which occurred with the webinar itself. The effect of all this is to get your company’s point of view into the market. You are a contributor to the industry dialogue, and your company is very relevant in the thinking about the industry’s future. As I said, this is particularly important for smaller companies, who cannot rely on a huge market presence to ensure getting people’s attention. But even the big companies benefit from this.

This  is product marketing, social media style.

Considerations for SlideShare, Scribd: As you can see, the webinar presentation can actually multiply in value when it’s on these social document sharing sites. I know Guy Kawasaki has the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. Consider that a philosophy, not a rule. What I take from his blog post is the advice not clutter up your slides with too much.

When people are viewing your PowerPoint, they will not have the advantage of your voiceover. You can’t provide a spare slide with just a picture and hope everyone gets what you’re saying. In the webinar, you’ll have a nice narration for the slide. In SlideShare and Scribd, each slide has to stand on its own. Here are my tips:

  • Minimize the times custom animation is a requirement to talk about the slide. Because customer animation doesn’t work on these sites.
  • Pictures and graphics – these break the monotony of endless bullets and text
  • Each slide should have two messages: (1) the point/data of the slide; (2) a way to provide your commentary to that point/data
  • Assuming multiple sections, recap the slides of each section – make sure the point is made

And don’t forget to tag, tag, tag your presentations. Don’t be chary with the tags. People will use them to find your documents. Of course, make sure your tags actually reflect the material in the presentation.

As you go into a webinar, think about your presentation being consumed by an audience many times bigger than the number of attendees to the webinar.

YouTube, Google Video

Videos are a popular way for people to view content. A part of your product marketing job may include producing canned demos of the product. These can be on your company website. And they can go on YouTube as well.

I’ve uploaded three demos for Connectbeam to YouTube. In total, they’ve gotten 380 views. Not quite the same as the SlideShare or blog posts. But it’s nice incremental exposure for something you’re creating anyway.

There are countless stories of videos going viral, and it’s a holy grail for marketers. But I don’t spend a lot of time on that. If you happen to have a particular strength in entertaining videos, by all means take advantage of it.

One limitation for YouTube is that videos’ running time can be no longer than 10:59. For basic product demos, this should be more than enough time. But for webinars, which can run an hour, YouTube doesn’t work.

Google Video supports much longer videos. It’s where I uploaded the recorded webinar from November.  It’s not nearly as social as YouTube, but it does come up in Google search results.

Unfortunately, Google is going to stop accepting new uploads to Google Video in a few months.

However, assuming you do get a video to Google Video or you upload shorter media to YouTube, you can embed these videos in a blog post and give them color commentary to spur viewing.

Use high quality resolution when embedding YouTube videos: The normal resolution of a YouTube video is rough. This may be something that happens when you convert a Camtasia video to a YouTube-acceptable format. But you should know about this, because it hurts the viewing quality of the video. Those web screenshots can be hard to read.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this. When you embed a YouTube video on a web page or blog post, you can alter the embed code to force the video to view in high resolution. The hack described in this blog post works. It will ensure that the video’s fidelity is much higher, making it a more enjoyable viewing experience.

Wrapping Up

A site that I think could be more valuable to engage in is LinkedIn. There are groups and questions that people pose. I haven’t been very active there, but it’s worth a look. Depending on your industry, Facebook may also have value.

I hope this post has been helpful. I seriously could triple the size of this post, but it’s long enough. If you want to talk more about this, feel free to reach out to me on email: (hutch <dot> carpenter at gmail <dot> com) or on the phone 415-377-3610.

Finally, here are a couple relevant posts as follow-up:

I encourage you to get out there and start experimenting. It’s the best way to learn.

Bit.ly Gets Better with New Data…Are You Using It Yet?

Lately, I’ve been using bit.ly for shortening the URLs I tweet, on the advice of Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb. I started using it instead of is.gd, which had been my previous favorite.

Why? Because bit.ly offers an array of useful data. Who knew that a simple URL shortener could open up so much interesting data?  I can’t believe people still use tinyurl and other services that “only” shorten URLs. The tracking of metadata around a posted URL – for free – makes bit.ly really powerful.

Here’s what bit.ly was offering before the latest data features…

  • Last 15 URLs: Bit.ly knows your last 15 shortened URLs, courtesy of a cookie.
  • Post to Twitter: Post shortened URLs from bit.ly to your Twitter account
  • Archived web page: Yup, see that page anytime because there’s a cached version of it, even if the source link changes or disappears.
  • Traffic sources: See how much click action that bit.ly URL got once you put it out there. And from what apps.
  • Conversations: Tracks which users on Twitter and FriendFeed put the URL out there. This is really cool, as you can see others who liked the same thing you did.
  • Browser bookmarklet: Easy way to create a shortened URL, stay on the page you’re reading.
  • Semantic metadata: According to Marshall’s July post, bit.ly was going to add semantic analysis via Reuter’s OpenCalais API. Looks like it’s there. Cool to see per link, probably more interesting with a critical mass of URLs.

On October 30, bit.ly announced several nice additions to their service.

  • Full referring domains: Not just the top-level domain.
  • Graph of click activity by time: The dates and times that a URL got clicked.
  • Clicks by Country: The countries of people who click on your URL. This is really fascinating.

Seriously, if you’re not using bit.ly, why not?

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Bit.ly+Gets+Better+with+New+Data%E2%80%A6Are+You+Using+It+Yet%3F%22&who=everyone

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