Blogging Blunders, Part 1

First in a three-part series on better blogging.

Your last entry is dated April 17. Most of your entries are press releases. Your headlines are dull as dirt. Your articles are devoid of links. And you wonder why no one comes to your blog.

Fail Blog photo (

Fail Blog photo (

I’ve done many content audits of clients’ blogs over the last two years and found the same shortcomings cropping up again and again. Most businesses don’t use blogs to their full potential. Often, they treat them as just another channel to distribute information they’re distributing by other means. It’s not surprising nobody comes.

A successful business blog uses the unique characteristics of the medium and engages in a discussion, not a speech. Pay attention to details and give it some time. Over the next couple of entries I’ll look at the most common failings of business blogs and how to avoid them.

Let’s start with three big mistakes:

Handing it off to PR — When businesses start a blog, they often designate the corporate communications/PR department to maintain it. This almost never works. Communications professionals are skilled at delivering messages, not promoting conversations. When presented with another channel, they tend to use it to push out a message. In the worst cases, these messages are nothing more than press releases. Lacking interactivity and insight, they fail to generate any reaction. Worse, they make the company look clueless about the medium.

Communication professionals should be actively involved in a company blog, but mostly on an advisory basis. Contributors should be the experts within the company. They are most likely to be the ones who will have meaningful dialogue with the audience. The communications people should focus on big picture issues like voice, topic selection and quality of writing. They should also sweat details like copyediting. Like orchestra conductors, their role is to bring out the best from the individuals in the ensemble.

It’s All About Me — A publishing mentor once recommended that editors find a picture of someone to represent their target reader and paste it on the wall of their cubes. The purpose was to constantly remind them that they were working on behalf of somebody else, not themselves.

Blog contributors would do well to heed this advice. Too many blog entries are self-serving and egotistical. They talk about awards, sales wins and accomplishments as if somebody actually cares. In reality, few people do.

What attracts people to your blog is useful information. The key word is “useful.” You should constantly ask yourself what insights or valuable information your visitors will take away. Blogging is a “give to get” strategy. The more information you share, the more goodness will come back to you in the end. If you don’t believe that, don’t start blogging. If you’re just looking to push out a PR message, here’s a list of free PR services you can use.

A Look That’s Boooooooring! – Blogger, WordPress and TypePad all offer small selections of default templates for your blog. Ignore them. It’s difficult enough to distinguish yourself from the millions of sites that are already out there. Don’t make it worse by looking just like them.

All the major services support third-party templates. There are literally tens of thousands of free templates for WordPress alone. Pick one that’s distinctive. If you’re willing to spend a few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars, you can get one designed to your specifications. I strongly recommend a custom design if your blog is tied to a company website.

While you’re at it, get rid of the default wording and links that these services impose on your site. There’s nothing like scrolling down a blog page and finding links to the WordPress developers forum. This just indicates that the blogger isn’t paying attention to details, which doesn’t do wonders for your credibility.

These are just three of the most common mistakes business bloggers make. In the next entry, we’ll look at links, multimedia and other frequently overlooked features.

Why Websites Don’t Matter

By now, most companies have got a pretty good handle on what happens on their website.  At the very least, they use a tool like Google Analytics or the simple and easy StatCounter to track total visits, referring URLs, visitor paths and time-spent-on-site.  It’s intriguing and fun to see where people are coming from and what they’re doing.  It’s also increasingly irrelevant.

The website as we know it is becoming a relic of the first 15 years of the Internet.  Sure, websites will always be important, but the action that takes place around a company, brand or individual is moving into a complex web of stateless conversations.  Some of these take place on corporate websites, but many of them don’t.  Consider Facebook, whose 200 million members are the world’s largest ready-made audience.  Some brands have more active communities of customers on Facebook than they do on their own websites.  In fact, their own websites may not even enable community at all.  Perception of their brand is defined in a community that they host but can’t control.


Our personal activities now take place in many locations.  Look at Twitter, for example.  While there’s a Twitter website, conversations take place in the ether. People who use TweetDeck, Twhirl, TwInbox or one of the other dedicated Twitter clients may never visit the Twitter website. In fact, the Twitter feed may easily be displayed on any website you like.

Steve Rubel, a public relations social media visionary whom I profiled in New Influencers, recently announced that he’s abandoning his blog in favor of a lifestream. Steve is at the extreme edge of social media activity, so his experience isn’t typical, but I think his point bears considering.  He’s saying that the action now takes place in so many nooks and crannies of the Internet that a website is, at best, a place to pull them all together.  Our own activities are too expansive to be confined to one place.

This presents some immediate problems.  It seems that just as we’ve succeeded in getting a pretty good handle on what happens on our websites, the action has moved elsewhere.  In many cases, we have no insight into what’s happening there. Facebook, for example, offers only rudimentary reporting on activity within its profiles and forims. There is simply no way to determine how many people have seen a message on Twitter. Sites like Flickr, YouTube or SlideShare can tell you how many people have watched your presentation or video but not where they came from or how long they spent there. Our window on online activity around our brand is actually becoming more opaque with time.

Not Dead Yet

Does this mean websites are dead? No, but they are changing. The website’s role will increasingly be to present a persons or organization’s view of things in hopes of enticing conversations back to that controllable and measurable forum.  It will be the home base for everything we do online, kind of our own organizational lifestream. But marketers must face the new reality that online success has many faces, even if we can’t measure all of them very well.

This also means that businesses should take a new look at hosting their own communities.  Facebook is training wheels for the bigger goal of building branded communities that become the primary destination for customers and business partners.  If you can build and measure those, you can gain a lot more insight about what motivates customers.  If you can’t, well, try to send people back to your trusty old website for your point of view.

Recommended Reading, 7/8/09

Four useful tools for social networkers

David Strom reviews four online services that increase the productivity of active contributors to social media.

Beware Social Media Marketing Myths – BusinessWeek

CPA Gene Marks throws a big bucket of cold water or what he calls social media marketing myths.  Social media is neither free nor cheap, he says, and the customers you want to reach probably aren’t hanging out on k Faceboowaiting to hear from you.  If there is action in social network land, it’s probably in the boring advisory sites that help people to run their businesses better. I think he’s mostly right

Pepsi Sees a Chance to Fill Newspapers’ Void

The soft drink company actually paid to have bloggers “cover” a recent trade show and its online marketing programs increasingly look like publishing.  Perhaps Pepsi sees something that a lot of people haven’t yet: the rapid decline of big media is creating a trust gap into which commercial companies can step.  Sure its unconventional, but they give Pepsi credit for not just following the herd.

The One Word You Can’t Say: Campaign

Campaigns have distinct endpoints, while conversations may last for years.  That’s one reason conversational marketing is so difficult for many marketers to internalize.  An advertising campaign may run its course in 13 weeks, but a social media conversation is just getting rolling by then.  Marketers need to twist their thinking a little differently to accept this change in approach.

How to Get a Professional Corporate Blogging Job

Yehuda Berlinger is that rarest of corporate marketers: a professional business blogger.  In this extensive how-to article, he describes the unique characteristics of a business blogging job and offers some ideas on how to land such a position.  There still aren’t many job titles like that out there, but if you’re trying to get one, you could do worse than turn to this article for advice.

In Defense of Blogging

swiss_army_knifeI had to laugh last week when I heard the keynote speaker at a public relations conference refer to the conventional wisdom that blogs are “so yesterday.” Maybe it’s because I spend two to three hours daily tending to my own blogs and others, or maybe it’s just general frustration with trend-chasing, but blogs are more relevant today than they’ve ever been, and they’re growing more useful as options proliferate.

The blog is the Swiss army knife of social media. Simple to use and easy to update, it accommodates every type of media: words, images, video and sound. Blog entries can be of Twitter-like brevity or can go on for thousands of words. Content can be displayed in a wide variety of formats and designs. Visitors don’t have to register to read.

Blog content is automatically syndicated via RSS feeds, making it simple for the owner to republish information through other outlets. A blog can also act as a catch-basin for the owner’s other social media activities. All of a person’s tweets, Yelps, Flickr PhotoStreams and YouTube creations can be aggregated and displayed in one place.

Content can be automatically reformatted for display on devices ranging from text readers to mobile devices. A countless variety of useful widgets can be added to entertain and inform visitors. Web analytics can show detailed information about where visitors originated, what they read, how long they stayed and where they went next. Blogs can even incorporate order forms. Last but not least, blogs rock on search engine performance.

Not Perfect

It’s true that there are a few things blogs don’t do well. They’re not as quick and easy to update as Twitter or the Facebook status message. And they lack interactivity. While visitors can comment on individual entries, they can’t comment on the overall theme of the blog, and even threaded comment strings can be difficult to follow. There are also limits to what you can do with the simple reverse chronological format, although innovators like Brian Gardner are managing to make WordPress do things I never thought possible.

For businesses, blogs provide a critical element of control. They’re the social media equivalent of speaking to an audience. The author retains control over subject matter, tone and direction while offering interaction around subjects of his or her choosing. Businesses that shrink from the unpredictability of unmediated discussion can take comfort in the fact that blogs give them a healthy dose of control.

For business-to-business applications, blogs are the overwhelming tool of choice. That’s because b-to-b professionals often don’t have the time or patience to fill out profile forms, answer friend requests or join groups. Blogs are simply a fast and easy way to share information with very little overhead.

Blogs are the building block of nearly every form of social media. They are the tool you need to master in order to understand the rich nuances of other media that are available to you.

B-to-B Social Media in Action

From my weekly newsletter. To subscribe, just fill out the short form to the right.

Let’s look at three examples of companies that are using social media for business-to-business(b-to-b) applications. All us different tools and all are effective in different ways.

Wikibon is the kind of Web 2.0 project that could disrupt a big industry. It was started two years ago by David Vellante, a veteran IT analyst who used to run the largest division of International Data Corp. Wikibon challenges an IT research model that has traditionally had customers paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for access to elite analysts.  Traditional IT research is top-down.  Wikibon is bottoms-up.

Think of it as open source advice.  The more than 3,000 people who have joined Wikibon’s enterprise storage community share their expertise with each other and learn from a core group of about 40 independent consultants and experts who use the wiki to showcase their services. It’s a classic Web 2.0 give-to-get formula.  The experts share their knowledge in hopes of getting business from the corporate IT specialists who visit the site.  Before Wikibon, these experts had severely limited promotional channels. With Wikibon, they have an established community of prequalified business prospects.

Members have contributed 20,000 articles and edits to the archive, Vellante told me. What’s more, the time people spend browsing this rich information resource is “Facebook-like. We’re getting 20 to 30 page views per visitor.” Wikibon may not put Gartner out of business, but it is a challenging the assumption that good information has to be expensive and it’s giving some small b-to-b firms a way to reach an ideal prospect base.


If you’ve ever done business on eBay, you know that its peer rating system is one of its great innovations. RatePoint is one of an emerging class of companies that is bringing this concept to the open Web, and GoGreenSolar is using customer reviews to its advantage. If you are interested in Solar Energy, then I would recommend going to to see what they can do for you.

GoGreenSolar is a small Los Angeles-based firm that sells green energy products.  About 60% of its business is b-to-b. A few months ago, the company contracted with  RatePoint to install a customer ratings page on its website at a cost of $18/month. RatePoint acts as a kind of validation service, verifying that customer reviews haven’t been tampered with and providing a means to arbitrate disputes.  GoGreenSolar has about 20 reviews on this site, all but one of them five stars. The ratings pages quickly became one of the site’s most popular features, says founder Deep Patel. In an increasingly competitive industry where customer service is a differentiator, the ratings are helping GoGreenSolar stand out.

Patel says one of the hidden values of the ratings program is the opportunity for follow-up engagement with customers.  By encouraging buyers to post their comments, “We have an opportunity to have a dialog after the transaction. That’s a sales opportunity,” he says. “People who leave reviews often come back and buy more.”

Though GoGreenSolar hasn’t had many negative reviews to worry about, Patel even sees opportunity in the occasional dissatisfied customer.  The rating system is an opportunity to fix the problem and turn the customer into a source of repeat business, he said.

Emerson Process Management

You probably aren’t going to stop by the Emerson Process Experts blog for a casual read. Here’s a clip from a recent entry: “The valve supplier typically supplies the safety valve torque requirements and required leakage rates. The actuator supplier provides the torque-to-supply pressure tables. The good news for those of us a little rusty in our advanced math skills is that the equations are algebraic and the simplifying assumptions err to the side of conservative volume sizing..”

Did your eyes glaze over? This tech talks would baffle the typical visitor, but it’s music to the ears of the plant engineers and process control experts who regularly visit the blog  started three years ago by Jim Cahill (left), marketing communications manager for Emerson’s Process Systems and Solutions business. It’s one of my favorite examples of good b-to-b blogging.

Emerson Process Experts is superbly focused; it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a technical resource to a small but very important audience.  Cahill is fluent in the language of the industry, but he’s also a good writer who organizes and expresses his thoughts clearly.

What’s the benefit to Emerson?  The company has become a trusted source of advice to customers and prospects. Its plentiful links to other sources of information ingratiates the company with publishers.  And 190 inbound links haven’t hurt its search performance:  Emerson is the number one commercial link on Google for the terms “process management” and “process control.”

New Conversation Monitoring Service is Free During Test Phase

If you’ve been itching to try out one of those conversation monitoring services – the ones that tap into millions of blogs and discussion groups and pick out mentions of your company – you now have a chance to try one for free. BuzzGain is an online service for identifying chatter on blogs, photo-sharing services, video services, Twitter and traditional media. It’s co-founded by Brian Solis, a PR guy who’s very savvy about new media. According to the pitch I received, this test isn’t open to the general public: “They’re launching BuzzGain in the true spirit of public beta…They want to listen to and learn…While it’s in Beta, it will be free for everyone.”

Recommended Reading, 1/28/09

Social Media Wins In Marketers’ ’09 Plans

A survey of 196 subscribers to a content marketing newsletter (all right, it’s clearly a biased sample) finds that social media and content marketing will be the big winners in the advertising recession this year. “More than half–56%–of marketing and publishing decision-makers plan to increase their content marketing spending next year.” Only 13% plan to decrease it.

The popular perception of Generation Y or “Millennials” is that they expect the world to beat a path to their door. Not true, says this piece in the Economist. Gen Y members actually have many of the same aspirations and motivations their parents did. The deteriorating economy is forcing them to work harder, but they’re up to the task. And they have multi-tasking and online skills that could benefit businesses in many ways.

If you follow the search world closely, you’ll probably know most of these tips, but there are some hidden gems in there, particularly about the importance of quality content and useful inbound links.

For a given set of pages, PageRank may fluctuate, and rankings do shift as the internet evolves. But in the end, what’s most important is consistently happy users: people who bookmark and share your site, who understand and respect your brand and who can confidently and seamlessly make that purchase.

From Ted Leonsis: Snagfilms is really scaling– we hit 20k affiliate sites that have snagged a virtual movie theatre widget and have reached 100 plus million uniques–since our launch in late July. Check it out and snag a widget today.

This is a great podcast. Paul Dunay speaks with Dan Schawbel the author of the Personal Branding blog as well as the forthcoming book Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success. He’s got lots of good advice for building your personal brand online, syndicating yourself and finding new channels to build awareness.

Paul Dunay’s list of C-level executives who use Twitter, including Richard Branson, George Colony, Tim O’Reilly and others. Still too many geeks and not enough mainstream brands here, but it’s coming along.

Todd Van Hoosear sums it up nicely. “Your job isn’t to get people to care about your product. Your job is to make it easy for a potential client to understand how your organization can help solve a problem.” Your Web presence shouldn’t be all about you; it should be all about your visitors.

Paul Dunay has links to some good reading on the question of whether brands should use Twitter, as well as a list of about 70 brands that do. Readers contribute several more.

The best free productivity and protection software for your PC

B-to-B Social Media: Yes, You Can!

From my weekly newsletter. To subscribe, just fill out the short form to the right.

I’m frequently asked if social media has value in a business-to-business context.  The answer is emphatically yes, although these applications rarely get the publicity of their flashier consumer counterparts.  Over the next couple of issues, I’ll look at where social media tools can deliver the most B@B value and how some companies are putting them to work right now.

The term “social media” is almost a misnomer in this context.  Businesspeople usually aren’t looking to socialize when making buying or career decisions (LinkedIn is a notable exception) but rather want actionable advice as quickly as possible.  That’s why the tools that work best are those that let people easily discover what they’re looking for and extract value quickly. Blogs, podcasts, video and discussion forums can all be effective.

In fact, some of the most ambitious corporate blogging campaigns have been primarily aimed at B2B. uses.  Microsoft and Sun, which between them have about 10,000 corporate bloggers, use this tool to reach developers, business customers and prospective employees.  The blogs are easily searchable and they allow readers to pose questions to the best sources of information.

Among other b-to-b companies that are using blogs effectively are Emerson Process Management, the New York Stock Exchange, Marriott, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Boeing and Accenture, to name just a few.  You won’t find a lot of playful repartee and trivia contests here.  These blogs are intended to communicate useful information and reinforce their authors and their companies as authorities in their fields.

Podcasts are one of the least appreciated tools for business-to-business communications.  EMarketer says regular podcast listeners are twice as likely to have advanced degrees and to earn over $100,000 annually as non-listeners.  Nearly every information technology company now regularly uses podcasts as educational tools. Their busy corporate customers appreciate the fact that podcasts let them consume information while driving, exercising or waiting for the train.  It’s a great way to use otherwise unproductive downtime.

Discussion forums are the oldest form of social media around.  They’re a great way to cut support costs by giving customers a way to solve their own problems.  The new breed of social networking tools has given new life to this meat-and-potatoes application.  Members can now link their activity to personal profiles and earn points for their contributions; the more questions they answer, the higher their status in the community.

In many cases, this status is enough reward in itself.  In their best-selling book Groundswell, Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li tell of one Dell customer who saved the company more than $1 million in support costs by answering customer questions. He received no compensation for his work. Some people on LinkedIn regularly answer more than 200 member questions a week.  For them, the reward is the status that they gain from showcasing their expertise.  This can lead to promotions and consulting contracts.

There are even b-to-b applications of some of the flashier new social media technologies.  Next week we’ll look at some of those.

Social Media FAQ Wrap-Up

I’ve recently been answering questions asked by attendees at my recent “10 Secrets of Social Media Marketing” seminars. Here’s the conclusion to the series. For free webcasts on this topic, check out the recent event sponsored by Listrak and another sponsored by Awareness just this week.

Q: What are the best ways to link social media marketing directly to increased sales? Our clients are looking for absolute metrics.

A: Make sure the links on any social media channels you use lead back to unique URLs. This can be done through a simple server redirect, which in techie terms is called a 301 redirect. The person who administers your website should know how to do this. Unique URLs enable you to track which links are referring visitors to a landing page or order form. It’s then a simple task to find which of those visits result in orders.

You should also keep a close eye on referring URLs and visitor paths. A referring URL is a Web page that sends a visitor to your site. Look for the domains give you a lot of traffic because you’ll want to cultivate the owners of those sites. Visitor paths show you the track a visitor takes on your site. This can yield insights about which pages do the best job of guiding a visitor to a desired page, such as an order form. You’ll want to focus your marketing efforts on sending more traffic to those pages.

Referring URLs and visitor paths are standard metrics provided by tools like Google Analytics.
Q: How do you deal with legal issues when blogging and still make sure that reading your blog do not take what you are saying as legal advice?

A: Disclaim like crazy. Each page of your site should include a disclaimer and it’s a good idea to also disclaim individual content items such as blog entries or videos. However, I don’t want to be seen as giving legal advice myself :-). In some regulated industries , even disclaimers may be insufficient. It’s a good idea to check with an intellectual property attorney to understand the issues specific to your business.

Q: When you’re ready to spin off new blogs from established ones, should the timeframe be shortened from the original schedule, or should you count on the same schedule/time requirements?

A: Effective campaigns should achieve enough traction within a year to enable the owner to consider spinning off targeted sites or communities. You should expect to develop traction much more quickly in spun-off properties because the audience is already familiar with your content and your value. Very often you will be dividing an audience into two parts, much as a cell divides, but the combined growth of those two parts should be greater than it would have been had you not divided them. In addition, some of your members or participants will continue to be active in both communities, providing an additional boost.

Q: Are there certain phrases or keywords that rise up on the blog list?
Keyword popularity is entirely dependent on the topic. I suggest your goal should not be to dominate the most popular keywords in your market but rather to own the keywords that customers use to find you.

Think outside the box. A bicycle shop’s best prospects may not be people looking for “bicycles” but rather people searching for “green transportation.” One free tool you can use to assess keyword popularity is Google AdWords Keyword Tool. A less useful, but still interesting tool is Google Trends. The Wordtracker Keyword Suggestion tool is another one to look at. It actually recommends keywords you should use.

FAQ the Third

I’ve recently conducted a couple of online seminars about social media topics. The Q&A sessions at these events are almost always too short to get to the issues that are on people’s minds. So over the next few issues of this newsletter, I’ll run down a few of the best questions I didn’t get to. For a good, free webcast on this topic, check out the recent event sponsored by Listrak.

To subscribe to my weekly newsletter, just fill out the short form to the right.

Q: How do you reach international audiences? Are the tools you showed just for US consumers?

A: The Internet doesn’t know geographic boundaries, so with few exceptions your message can reach across the globe. The one area that is geographically sensitive is social networks, which seem to gain more active followings in some countries than in others. Google’s Orkut, for example, has been a nonstarter in the U.S. but has a huge following in Brazil. Cyworld is popular in Korea, while Hi5 has a big Latin American membership. In Japan, Mixi is the largest social network. The Swedes love Lunarstorm, and the Poles take to Grono. I’m not sure why that’s the case, but if you’re trying to reach people on social networks, you need to go where they’re already congregating.

Q: Can you give some examples of return on investment?

A: That depends on how you define “return.”  Often, businesses look at return in terms of visits to a designated landing page, such as a download or order form.  In that case, look at referring URLs. You can also track actual orders back to the URLs or e-mail links that referred people to that page. That’s a relatively easy way to translate links into sales. Use unique URLs and/or tracking codes to document where your customers are coming from. This podcast interview with Avinash Kaushik on Paul Dunay’s Buzz Marketing for Technology podcast series has some sound advice.

In other cases, however, companies may look for an increase in favorable press coverage or blogger comments as an indicator of ROI. In that case, tracking an increase in press or blog citations compared to a base point can yield a pretty good idea of the effectiveness of a campaign. Note that these are not web analytics and that the collar value of these results can be difficult to quantify.

Q: What (if any) silver bullet can you use, to encourage your client to create a blog for their company, when they are deathly afraid of negative feedback?

A: A substantial body of evidence is emerging to support the effectiveness of social media marketing.  For example, here’s a list of links to archives of successful social media campaigns. A study of the Inc. 500 by the University of Massachusetts found that three quarters of the respondents now consider social media to be essential to their marketing efforts. Sites like eMarketer and Marketing Sherpa also have extensive case history and statistical evidence about the value of blogs and other tools. Recent McKinsey research reveals that companies that have bought into Web 2.0 marketing are planning to expand their commitment this year.

In my view, negative feedback is an overrated problem.  Every company has some unhappy customers, and most people understand that that’s part of the landscape.  In most cases, critics can be converted to satisfied customers or even fans with a little hand-holding and special attention.  There is overwhelming evidence that simply responding to disgruntled customers with a message that shows you’re listening can put to bed the vast majority of complaints.  If a company does have a customer satisfaction problem, however, it is wise to step lightly into new media.  Be prepared for negativity and be ready to respond to each and every comment.  You’ll quickly find that criticism will diminish as you demonstrate responsiveness.

Q: Does social media marketing apply more to medium and larger businesses than to small businesses?

A: In my experience, small businesses are more active, creative and effective at leveraging social media marketing than big companies.  There are many reasons for this, including the compelling cost advantages, the speed and responsiveness of small organizations, their willingness to engage directly with individual customers and the accessibility of senior managers.  The University of Massachusetts research I mentioned above found that small businesses are adopting these tools much faster than large ones.  In my own presentations and seminars, I consistently find that small companies are more enthusiastic and responsive to the potential of social media than the big guys.  In fact, large companies tend to excel at finding reasons to AVOID talking to their customers!

The Best of '08

From my weekly newsletter. To subscribe, just fill out the short form to the right.

At this time of year, many publishers and bloggers do one of two things: look ahead at the future or back at the year just ending. Since Joe Pulizzi, Fast Company and iMedia Connection did a great job at social media predictions, I thought I’d rummage through my digital archives and offer my completely unscientific list of what made this year special for me.

Best Social Media Tool – That’s easy. It’s Twitter, the super-simple, deceptively powerful micro-blogging service that has people sharing their lives in 140-character increments. If you still don’t get Twitter, I feel your pain, but anyone who wants to practice marketing in the new media world needs to get with the program. If you need help, I’ll get on the phone with your people and tell them why it’s so important.

Best Social Media Disaster Story — Johnson & Johnson’s well-intentioned Motrin video turned into a PR nightmare thanks to — you guessed it — Twitter. To its credit, J&J earnestly listened, but the marketers’ failure to anticipate negativity and their eagerness to respond too hastily made this a bigger problem than it had to be.

Best New FaceChris Brogan blew out of the pack to become one of the world’s top bloggers thanks to his prodigious output and shrewd self-promotion. He’ll soon hit 30,000 followers on Twitter and the 14,600 subscribers to his blog are a thing of wonder. I don’t know when the guy finds time to sleep. I’m fortunate to work with him on the New Marketing Summit conference and have a chance to learn from his success.

Best BookGroundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li broke new ground by attempting to apply research and metrics to social media marketing. The book also told some great stories. Conflict of interest prevents me from choosing my own Secrets of Social Media Marketing, but that shouldn’t stop you from buying it!

Best New Software Application — In the ranks of software that tries to bring order to the barely contained chaos that is Twitter, TweetDeck does the best job I’ve seen.

Best Fall to Earth – Forrester reported that corporate enthusiasm for blogging was beginning to wane. That’s not surprising; most big companies do a lousy job of it. Expect retooling and new growth in the new year.

Best Viral Marketing Success – Cindy Gordon told just seven people about Universal Orlando’s plans to launch a Harry Potter theme park. Word of mouth spread the story to 350 million others in a matter of a couple of days. David Meerman Scott has the story.

Best New Product – The Apple iPhone 3G became the first true mobile Internet device and sold 3 million units in its first month. Expect plenty of new competition in 2009, which is only going to be good for consumers.Nokia has yet to play its cards.

Best Podcast – In the archives of the MediaBlather program that I do with David Strom, there were too many good interviews to choose just one. Among my favorites of 2008 were Mommycast, Brains on Fire/Fiskars, IDG’s Pat McGovern, Eric Schwartzman, Shel Israel and Brian Halligan of HubSpot. I think the most interesting podcast I listened to all year was Schwartzman’s interview with search-engine optimization expert Russell Wright.

Most Useful Blog Entry – Interactive Insights Group created a superlist of organizations using social media. You can find practically any case study on the Web by starting there. We have yet to hear what Tamar Weinberg has up her sleeve, though! Her 2007 superlist was a thing of beauty.

Best Article on the Media – The International Herald Tribune’s “Web Ushers in Age of Ambient Intimacy” explained the visceral appeal of Twitter and Facebook with admirable clarity. Eric Alterman’s epic examination of the collapse of the newspaper industry in The New Yorker was magnificent in its detail and insight.

Best Just For Fun – The most popular item in my newsletter is the squib about some crazy new Web resource we’ve found. Here are two of my favorites of 2008:

People always celebrate success, but they don’t give enough credit to really creative failure. Thank goodness, then, for The Fail Blog, a photographic tribute to failures big and small. Don’t look at this site in the office. Your colleagues will wonder why you’re laughing so hard. And don’t, under any circumstances, view it while you’re drinking milk, if you know what I mean…

Buddy Greene is the Yo-Yo Ma of the harmonica, and in this amazing clip from a Carnegie Hall concert, he will change forever your impressions of the capability and range of this tiny instrument.