October 31, 2009 Leave a comment
From the home office, waiting for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch…
Bonus just for this week…
#11: Small change to my Twitter bio…I’m now VP of Product at Spigit. Carry on…
Observations on technology and business from someone who should know better
From the home office, waiting for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch…
Bonus just for this week…
#11: Small change to my Twitter bio…I’m now VP of Product at Spigit. Carry on…
From the home office in Cairo, Egypt…
#1: Could Google Wave be the holy grail for internal integration of enterprise apps, with two-way real-time updating?
Here’s a quick post about a service we use at Spigit, and that I’ve been digging a lot: LeadLander. LeadLander tracks hits to your website. And I love the data.
I’m not exactly a website SEO expert…OK, I’m not one at all. I see some pretty nice stats for this WordPress.com blog. That’s about the extent of my awareness.
So seeing what data is available is a revelation to me. And as I journey further into my marketing role, I’m coming to appreciate these stats tremendously.
Here’s what LeadLander gives you:
It’s that first item up there, the name of the company where the traffic came from, that is most addicting. You can see which companies are interested in what you offer, and how they found out about you.
As I said, I’m relatively new to this website analytics world. But LeadLander has proven to be highly valuable to us in terms of B2B marketing. For a discussion about LeadLander, and other providers, check out this LinkedIn thread.
It is a mystery to me why some companies (often the ones who find themselves eventually dying away) will react to a downturn by cutting marketing expenses. Cutting expenses is a super smart thing to do, but you should NOT cut back on your marketing.
David Risley, The Single Biggest Mistake in an Economic Downturn Is…
In the world of business sales, you cannot predict which prospects will become sales. But, you know that you need touchpoints with companies. Which prospects will turn into customers? Hard to predict that.
One reaction to the reduced sales that accompany a recession is to cut back on marketing. Unfortunately, that’s just doubling down on your problems. There are fewer bona fide prospects out there during a recession as companies cut back. Which increases the value of each remaining prospect.
Thus, if you reduce the span/frequency of your marketing efforts, you’re going to miss some of the remaining prospects in the market. If you reduce the number of prospects with whom you engage, you can predict the effect on your sales.
That being said, there are wonderful opportunities to do more with less in terms of marketing, thanks to the rise of social media. Jeremiah Owyang and Chris Brogan can tell you more about how to do that.
See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Do+Not+Kill+Off+Marketing+During+a+Recession%22&who=everyone
In some ways, I’m the worst guy to be in charge of emailing a newsletter out on behalf of my company Connectbeam. I’m very dismissive of spam email. I hang up on telemarketers without guilt, after quickly saying “put me on your do not call list”. I ignore newspaper and website ads, I don’t watch commercials.
I like my little cloistered world…
But newsletters are back in vogue it seems. Longtime blogger Jason Calacanis famously dropped his blog for an email newsletter. Chris Brogan maintains a newsletter. I subscribe to a newsletter provided by analyst relations firm SageCircle.
Clearly there continues to be life in newsletters despite the advent of RSS. I guess I should rephrase that. The dominant form of online information distribution is email, with a RSS still a small part of the pie. And email does have some advantages – people spend more time there in a business setting. It also has an outreach aspect that bugs the hell out of A-List bloggers, but can be less intrusive for everyday people.
As a young company looking to expand its brand and message, Connectbeam needs to consider the newsletter a part of its overall engagement strategy.
So I recognize the importance of it, even as I’m probably the last person who would read anything like this. Which, in a way, made me well-suited for tackling this.
The email went out to 253 people – we didn’t spam some purchased list of thousands of names. The subject line was: “Social Software During a Recession – Connectbeam Nov 2008″. I wanted the email to be topical, not some spam about a product release.
Here’s the email (also available online):
My overall objective is to make the email useful, and to build Connectbeam’s presence out in the market. If I’m successful in the former, I believe I’ll be successful in the latter. A third objective is to advertise upcoming webinars as well. That’s going to be an ongoing battle, as I’ll describe below.
There are four sections highlighted in the email graphic. Here’s what I was doing with each of those.
1. Opening Message
The first challenge is getting people to open the email. Once you’re through that hurdle, next you’ve probably got 5 seconds to catch their attention. My guess is that people will do a quick scan of the different sections, then read the opening sentence at the top of the newsletter.
In writing the opening message, I essentially wrote a mini-blog post. Readers of this blog know I’m a big fan of linking to others’ work, and this was no exception. I linked to a nice post by Jevon MacDonald on the FAST Forward blog. Then I added my two cents. Right off the bat, I wanted to give the reader something useful. A couple people clicked on the link to Jevon’s post.
Something else that seemed important – putting my name on the email. I’ve been immersed in social media enough to know that a soul-less corporate entity as the sender immediately loses some of the engagement. It comes across as a pure marketing exercise. So I wanted my name on there.
The other thing about putting your name on it? It raise your own expectations for the utility of the email. After all, people are going to associate its quality with you.
2. Three Things We’re Reading
There are three objectives with this section:
Based on the click stats, this seems to been a successful part. That first link for the MIT study of a company’s implicit social network (I blogged about it here) has been clicked 18 times. Clearly people were digging that one. The IBM tagging savings story was clicked 7 times, which was not too bad either.
My intention with this section is to design something that will be useful to recipients. Even if you currently have no interest in Connectbeam, you’ll find enough value in these links to continue receiving the email. That’s why I’m particularly attuned to the unsubscribe stats. Having only two people unsubscribe so far is a good start from my perspective.
There are no silver bullets with this newsletter program. It’s not like I expect people to sign contracts after reading the email. I’m looking at the newsletter as a long term brand-building exercise, and as a basis for increased engagement over time. But the only way that works is if they agree to continue receiving it.
3. Upcoming Webinar
Alas, this part of the email has not gotten a lot of love so far. I understand. Webinars are a time commitment. People have to make their choices.
Enterprise vendor webinars are a tough sell. I’m starting to appreciate the finer points of webinars. When I was at BEA, I led a webinar for social search inside the enterprise, talking about general issues and the Pathways application. We had 80 attendees, including many from the Fortune 500 set. It established a baseline for me on these things. But the driver of that level of attention? BEA was a significant presence in the market. Many, many companies had BEA portal software, and were curious about the new social computing applications available for that.
Connectbeam isn’t BEA. We don’t have nearly the presence. So a webinar by our company doesn’t yet have the fertile ground that a BEA did.
One trick I’ve seen companies employ (which we even did at BEA), is to partner with a well-known analyst or consulting firm, or with a big-name vendor. SocialText has done these with Forrester. NewsGator has worked with Microsoft. There’s an upcoming $100 webinar (yes, attendees pay $100!) by market research firm Radicati with Atlassian, SocialText and Telligent.
This webinar partnering idea is one I’m going to look into more.
4. News and Events
In this section, I describe the recent 3.1 release of Connectbeam’s application. This is an area where I can give an update on what is happening with Connectbeam. It’s the closest thing we have to an annoying email PR blast about what we’re doing.
But integrated into a useful email with other parts, I think it works. This section will rise on the email when I don’t have any upcoming webinars to tout.
You now know my approach and objectives with this email program. I’m the guy who doesn’t like these things, put into a position of sending them out. And Connectbeam isn’t a major name like Google or Oracle, so there isn’t a ready-to-read audience out there. This stuff takes some hustle and experimentation.
If you have any thoughts on what you see, or what’s worked well for you, I’d love to hear it.
I read an amusing and insightful post by B.L. Ochman, 10 Reasons Your Company Shouldn’t Blog. Several reasons don’t argue against blogging (e.g. “A blog is not a quick fix”), but a few are worth considering. Here are a couple that I liked:
1. The blogs most companies want to create are guaranteed to join the 900,999 out of every million blogs with no readers. Why? They’re boring.
2. A blog has to have a personal voice. If you sound like a corporate drone, nobody will read your blog.
In a similar vein, Wall Street Journal blogger Ben Worthen reported on a study by Forrester Research. Forrester reviewed 90 B2B blogs, and came away decidedly unimpressed: most corporate blogs are “dull, drab, and don’t stimulate discussion.”
I’ve just started to blog for my company Connectbeam. I’ve got a couple posts under my belt, and I’m curious as to what other companies are doing. I decided to take a look at 10 companies’ blogs. I looked at 10 posts each for the 10 companies, and scored each post on 10 content attributes. This “10 cubed” analysis is presented below.
Links to the ten companies’ blogs: Adaptive Path, Amazon Web Services, Boeing, Emerson Process, LinkedIn, Marriott, Pitney Bowes, Petro-Canada, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks. Hat tip to SocialText for maintaining a list of corporate blogs.
The table is sorted by the number of instances for the different types of content. And the content types? Made ‘em up myself. They are the kinds of things I’m thinking about with regard to Connectbeam’s blog.
Explain Company’s Actions. The idea here is that the blog enables more freedom to give details behind the things a company does. I imagine for public companies, there are limits on how open they can be. But certainly there is opportunity for more than the canned quotes we often see in press releases.
Petro-Canada is currently very big in this category. I don’t know the company, but from reading its blog, it appears they’re having trouble getting gas to western Canada stations. One of their refineries is down. So they’re using their blog to keep people updated on progress.
This is a good use of a company blog.
Warmed Over Press Releases. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? And it can be if that’s all a blog is. But there is a role for the press release type of information on blogs. After all, a press release tells a company’s latest activity, which fits a blog’s purpose. Another aspect is that a lot of blog entries are essentially mini-press releases. They have the quality and informational value of press release, but for a minor event that wouldn’t normally warrant a full press release.
Amazon Web Services leads this category. But that makes a lot of sense to me. AWS is hot. They’re getting traction in the cloud computing arena. Right now, they probably are best served dishing out updates to current and prospective customers. They are in a good position to lead industry thinking around cloud computing.
Company Events. Companies are having, and participating in, events all the time. They are good opportunities for blog write-ups, usually because of interesting things learned when people come together. Events may also relate to things outside the companies control, but which affect them nonetheless.
Wax philosophical. This is one of my favorites. Companies are deep into the machinations of an industry, and of their markets. They see a lot, and are working hard to understand customers’ pain points and the future of their industries. This gives them both information and motivation to put forth interesting thinking. Admittedly, the thinking will slant toward what benefits the company. But I like different points of view.
Starbucks does this a bit on its blog. One entry discusses efforts in Costa Rica to establish sustainable coffee farming. Adaptive Path is really good about this. This post describes the merits of simple presentation styles using hand-drawn graphics. Reminds me of Common Craft.
Link to another blog. Linking to another blog establishes a company blog as being part of a great conversation. It says that the company is following activity in its industry, and finds value in things outside what its own employees do. It also gives a sense for the areas that a company is looking at.
Adaptive Path does this a lot. Their blog includes a lot of linking to other blogs, which makes their posts an interesting place to find more information. LinkedIn also links to other blogs, generally those that include something related to LinkedIn.
Discuss industry issues. As participants in their industries, companies can illuminate issues that affect them. Customers and suppliers will have an interest in these type of blog posts, because they want to know what’s affecting the market. Companies can also apply some influence on industry standards, legislation and developments through their words and analysis.
Emerson Process covers issues that affect its industry. In The Value of Inherent Safety?, there’s a discussion about the need to incorporate incident avoidance into the financial analysis of projects. Seems like a smart idea.
Link to another company. Linking to another company is a Profile In Courage. OK, that’s overstating it, but linking to another company is probably a little worrisome. Will I lose my reader when they click a link? Am I confusing a reader by mentioning a different company? I like when companies do this, because it’s an acknowledgment that there are other entities in the universe.
LinkedIn does this fairly often. For them, the links are to companies that have had some success on the professional networking site. Adaptive Path links to fellow panelists from a conference it attended.
Unrelated to core operations. This is a funny content category. Blog posts about things that don’t relate to company operations or industry issues. I guess it’s a way to attract readers who usually don’t read the company’s blog.
The Pitney Bowes blog is an example of this. Or perhaps it’s better to describe it as Pitney Bowes CEO Mike Critelli’s blog. He doesn’t really cover his company. Rather, he takes aim at wasteful spending and regulaiton by the government.
Describe product use cases. Blogs are great homes for product use cases. There really isn’t a place for these in a press release. You can put some on the company website. But blogs are conversational and open to all types of content. And use cases help customers see the possibilities for a product.
LinkedIn goes after this type of content hard. Their posts name names, tell how the social networking site was used and quantify the outcomes. They’re well-done.
Silliness. A bit of irreverence can lighten a company blog. Put some fun in reading it.
Southwest Airlines’ blog incorporates plenty of good wholesome silliness and fun. Not surprising, considering the company’s personality. I like this one about this summer’s earworm, Kid Rock’s All Summer Long song.
Special bonus points to the Emerson Process blog for including a link in one its posts to a FriendFeed discussion.
What conclusions to draw from the above table?
One last thought…
Implicit in the “boring” analysis of blogs is the idea that the poor companies are suffering anemic page views. Of course, high page views are something everyone would love. Google’s blog is daily reading for a lot of people.
But many companies will get value from blogging to a smaller audience. I think this is particularly true for companies in the B2B space. It’s the old quality vs. quantity situation. Earning the attention of key people in your markets justifies the time investment in blogging.
If you want an easy way to stay on top of Enterprise 2.0, I invite you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. The room takes feeds for Enterprise 2.0-related items on Twitter, Del.icio.us and SlideShare. To see this room, click here: http://friendfeed.com/rooms/enterprise-2-0
Interacting with bloggers called vital for business
Brice Wallace, Deseret News, June 7, 2008
Toluu released several new features on Wednesday. The features are cool, and are covered in another post on this blog. Which leads to the point of this post…
Caleb Elston did a masterful job of getting coverage for his fledging company Toluu. By himself, with no PR firm. How?
Caleb is a participant in social media. He’s established relationships and credibility with bloggers, and with others on FriendFeed and Twitter.
In a recent post, I asked Will Brands Figure Out FriendFeed? The idea is that rather than rely only on standard press releases and marketing campaigns, companies should look at engaging customers out in various social media, with a focus on FriendFeed. Establishing these deeper relationships pays dividends:
Caleb has all of these advantages through his efforts in social media. How involved is he? On FriendFeed, he subscribes to 278 people, has 248 Comments and 244 Likes. On Twitter, he’s following 479 people and has 734 updates. In other words, he’s involved. Which is actually pretty amazing considering he has a day job on top of building out Toluu.
Yesterday, his involvement paid dividends. He reached out to bloggers the day before to let them know of an upcoming release for Toluu, and asked us if we wanted to cover it. Well, since I know him already, saying ‘yes’ was easy. He got eight different bloggers to write about the new release:
The combined Technorati Authority of those eight blogs is 872, which is like getting a top 5,000 blog to write about you. Many of the bloggers are active on FriendFeed, which combined with their existing subscribers, meant that a lot of people saw the news about the new features.
Caleb describes the payoff:
All I can say is wow. Yesterday was an amazing day for Toluu, you helped us shatter every metric we track. We had a record number of pageviews, visitors, signups, new feeds, connections made, invites requested, and time spent on the site. All I can say is thank you.
Admittedly, as a small start-up with limited resources, this is all he could really do. He can’t crank up the PR, marketing and advertising machine.
But that doesn’t devalue the accomplishment. Caleb managed to get people interested in his company thanks to his active involvement in social media.
Big companies…are you listening?
See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Smart+Social+Media+Marketing%3A+Caleb+Elston+and+Toluu%22&public=1
No one wants a relationship with their mustard.
NeoAtOgilvy COO Greg Smith, via Kara Swisher at Boomtown
Two posts caught my attention. Kara Swisher has a nice post titled Social Ads Not Cutting the Mustard? In the post, she breaks down the issues that brands have in being part of the social media world. And Jeremiah Owyang hypothesizes about How Brands Will Use FriendFeed.
The two pieces do a good job of highlighting the challenge of social media for companies. Social media is authentic, it emerges from everyday people, it’s governed by its own community rules, it’s random and it’s an ongoing conversation. How do profit-oriented companies requiring measurable results and consistent formats deal with this?
The general thrust of companies’ social media efforts is to create enthusiasts who will turn around and do viral marketing on behalf of the company. Word of mouth (WOM) marketing. It is a big deal, and it would be wrong to suggest it doesn’t exist. It’s quite powerful when it happens.
But a problem with most WOM marketing is that it’s too dependent on big hits that catch the imagination of people. The fantastic YouTube video. The funny widget for Facebook and MySpace. The imaginative web page.
Those types of mega-hits are incredibly important, and are a requirement for every marketer’s toolkit. The problem is when a company’s social media strategy only relies on the big hits.
Jeremiah talks about how companies should engage users on FriendFeed:
The one caveat is that brands will need to be part of the discussion that happens among these social tools, as what’s really important is the people that are talking, debating, and discussing what your company is announcing. For those that get it wrong, no one will subscribe, no one will talk about it, no one will ‘like’ it and spread it to their network. So be active in the comments, conversations, and an open manner.
He lays out a good philosophy that companies should follow. Don’t simply rely on the big hits. Get out there and engage people. Become part of the community.
I’m wondering what exactly does a company’s participation on FriendFeed look like? Jeremiah points to Ford Motors as a company with one version of social media press releases. So how would Ford use FriendFeed?
Create a Ford Motors room: Every company should have a destinaiton on FriendFeed. As an individual, my presence on FriendFeed is defined by subscribing – both by me and to me. A company should have a more permanent home than just being in a list of subscribers.
Find your initial audience: The everyone search is a good start. Start with people who are talking about your company, good or bad. Search on ‘mustang‘. Search on ‘F150‘. Search on ‘Ford Verve‘. Subscribe to these people.
Like and Comment: If Ford comes across someone’s interesting content, throw a Like their way. Jump in with some comments. Here are a couple examples.
First, there’s this Tweet:
Going to test drive F150 tonight. We must be crazy. Prius won’t pull horse trailer though.
Great opportunity for Ford here. In this case, someone from Ford could add a comment like, “Yeah, we made the F150 pretty powerful for those big jobs. I can get you set up with a special visit at your local dealership if you want.”
I’d also avoid laying the smack down on the Prius, tempting as it is for Ford. Criticism based purely on a profit motive is a fast way to undermine authenticity.
Next, here are some Flickr pictures of a ’67 Mustang:
Ford occupies a unique place in Americana, and this picture taps into that. Ford would definitely want to Like these Flckr photos. Add a comment too: “Those 67′s were classic cars. Takes you back to a different time, doesn’t it? We have several of them here in the Ford museum. One thing we’re realizing here is that people still love that style, and look for the new 2009 model to reflect a lot of what made that car great.”
See? Ford has engaged a person. The interaction caused the pictures to pop into others’ streams. And Ford got to plant a seed for what’s coming out later in the year.
Engage on topics that fall outside pure product: Establish a presence beyond just talking about specific products. It will help the company’s social media ‘cred’, and make it more interesting for people to follow. The downside? Your critics will find you, and you can get stuck in a nasty throwdown. So choose your topics carefully. Rising gas prices are a recurring topic on FriendFeed and other social media. A lot of people would want to know what Ford is doing in terms of gas-powered fuel efficiency, as well as in gas alternatives, such a hybrids.
This is a chance for Ford to blow it, or to shine.
Here’s what blowing it looks like: “We continue to believe that California’s efforts to enact higher gas mileage requirements are wrong.” Say that, and you’re just itching for a fight. People will no longer focus on Ford the car company. They’ll focus on Ford the antagonist.
Here’s what shining on FriendFeed looks like. “We see the market segmented into those for whom gas mileage is important, and those for whom capacity and power are important. And our view is that the fuel efficiency segment is growing fast, and we are responding to that.”
Stick with it: This type on engagement is a long term play, with benefits that will be realized over years rather than a quarter. There will be direct benefits as consumers learn more about companies. And companies will get a lot of publicity for their efforts until it becomes mainstream and everyone is doing it.
I’m no brand expert, but these are my thoughts on how companies could use FriendFeed, and other social media as well. Done right, this type of marketing could emerge as an important part of companies’ engagement with the market.
What do you think?
See this item on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22will+brands+figure+out+friendfeed%22&public=1