The Appeal of B2B Social Networks

B2B Social NetworksFollowing is an excerpt from Social Marketing to the Business Customer, which is due to be published in January, 2011 by John B. Wiley & Sons:

Online communities are a bit of a paradox. They are both the oldest form of social media and also the newest. Forums and discussion groups date back to the late 1960s and have been a staple of customer support operations at technology companies for 30 years. Internet newsgroups, CompuServe, The Well and other early communities had membership in the hundreds of thousands a decade before anyone had heard of a Web browser.

Those early online outposts looked little like the Facebooks and LinkedIns of today, though. The modern features that have made social networks the fastest-growing consumer phenomenon in history have created all kinds of new use scenarios, including some compelling B2B examples. Communities are the convention centers of social media. They are flexible gathering halls that can fill a wide variety of purposes ranging from product development to lead generation. The key is to get members to want to participate.

Friends and Fame

The great innovation in online communities came in 1998, when introduced the concept of personal profiles and friends. Those metaphors are now a staple of every social network and provide a powerful incentive for participation. Profiles are a member’s personal homepage. Everything the member contributes, from establishing contacts with others to joining groups to posting status updates, is captured in the profile. The more active the member is, the higher his visibility and the greater the value of the network to his personal success.

Friends are a virtual version of their real-world equivalent. When people create friend relationships, they exchange information that is not visible to others and they form persistent connections based upon trust. That’s actually how it works in real life, too. At their simplest level, friends connections are an efficient way to stay in touch. Members can always learn each other’s current address or job situation by searching within the network. In B2B communities, personal profiles are a way to register areas of expertise that others may find useful. Activity

is also a validation point. It’s one thing for someone to say he is an expert in direct marketing, but it’s more powerful when he can to prove it by solving the problems of other direct marketers. That proof is stored in the person’s profile.

Online friendships also translate fluidly into real-world connections. “Community isn’t just about discussing products but about getting to know each other and making friendships,” says Nicholas Tolstoshev, a Spiceworks community manager. Online friends in B2B communities frequently arrange meet ups at trade shows and events. Successful community managers we spoke to invariably augmented their online worlds with physical events to meet and thank their most active members.

Prior to the introduction of personal profiles, it was difficult for participants in online networks to build visibility. Recent experience has shown that visibility is the single most powerful driver of participation. Many communities use a recognition system that ties a member’s status to contributions. A few, like SAP, celebrate their most active members at physical events.

Spiceworks awards points to members who post well-regarded answers to other members’ questions. Valued members of the community are invited to participate in conference calls with Spiceworks developers. Their contributions are rewarded with low-cost swag like T-shirts but more importantly with inside information. Community managers also publish occasional interviews with featured members, highlighting their contributions and career accomplishments. “Online status drives a huge amount of activity without our sending money out the door,” says Tolstoshev., a social network for food service professionals, highlights new contributions by its members on its home page and invites others to congratulate them on their celebrity. TopCoder, a contract software developer that hosts programming competitions and licenses the best solutions to commercial customers, applies an elaborate algorithm to the code submitted by its members to compute the quality of their work. Leader boards are maintained for the major competitions and quality ratings are reflected back to individual profiles. Top coders win money and also visibility that leads to jobs and lucrative contracts.

The most prolific contributor to LinkedIn’s “Answers” forum is Dave Maskin, a New York-based event marketing specialist who has answered an incredible 25,000 questions. Maskin refers to himself as “Mr. Lead Generator,” indicating that the value he provides to the community is good for his business.

Twitter Metrics With an RSS Twist

I’ve recently been writing about tools that syndicate content from a single author to multiple destinations on the Web, making it possible for one person to spread a message far and wide with minimal effort. One of the new entrants in this market is, which is currently in a controlled beta.

On first look, I didn’t see much that was new about this tool, but I got a demonstration from founder Bill Flitter last week that showed some impressive utility. Flitter is the founder of Pheedo, a company that has a track record of success in the RSS advertising business. The service’s roots are in RSS feeds but it has plenty to offer the Twitter-only user as well.’s  most basic function is to distribute information to Twitter, Facebook and a number of other forthcoming services without user intervention. The default service grabs the contents of an RSS feed and syndicates it to other sources, which is pretty cool in itself. You don’t have to create a specific tweet;  does it for you.

The real power of the service, however, is on the back end. For each syndicated item, whether it be an article or a single tweet, you can see who retweeted the item, how many times it was distributed and how many clicks it received. There’s a metric called “direct reach” that measures the follower count of people who re-post an item. There’s also a calculated metric called “extended reach” that figures out how many people have tweeted your content using a URL shortening service other than  That’s pretty cool. In effect, can tracks citations of your content that don’t result from retweets. You may have no other way of knowing about this activity other than through by looking at server logs for referring URLs.

This is where the service’s Pheedo roots are evident. Most Twitter services track Twitter activity exclusively, but can grab content from a blog or website, syndicate it and track activity automatically without any user intervention. I’m going to add the RSS feeds of all my blogs to and seeing what insights I gain. Sign up for an invitation at give it a try.

Welcome to the Site-less Web

Posterous is a new service that radiates a person’s social media activity out to a network of community sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr and Delicious. Posterous is one of a host of new services that automate the once-tedious manual process of cross-posting information to multiple websites and social networks. Other pure-play entrants in this category include, and the WordPress plugin Supr, but the basic capability to cross-post information across multiple social media is rapidly becoming a part of nearly every Web application. Google Buzz, which was announced just this week, has some of the same functionality.

These are the first ripples in a wave of new technology that will make the Internet effectively site-less. By that I mean that the metaphor of the Web as we’ve known it for the last 15 years is breaking down. The Internet is increasingly not about sites but about content and people. As technology makes it possible for our online scribblings to appear wherever we may choose, the task of assessing influence will become considerably more complex.

The big change in the landscape is that information no longer needs to have a homepage in order to reach an audience. Facebook kicked off this trend when it created a service that was so popular that some brands found it was more desirable to use Facebook as a homepage than their branded websites. Honda is a notable example of this. The auto maker has started listing a Facebook fan page as the destination URL in its TV ads. The tactic is a bit of a gimmick, but it’s also indicative of a shift in marketer perceptions. As Coca-Cola’s Digital Communications Director Adam Brown told me recently, “Our philosophy is to fish where the fish are.”

Only it’s becoming more difficult to figure out where the fish are. As social networks integrate their content, the contributions of individuals will become detached from discrete websites. On Twitter, for example, conversations exist in a stateless form that finds a home on, TweetDeck, Seesmic, blog widgets or any other listening device that catches them. How do we assess influence in this environment?

In the early days of social media (and by that I mean 2006!), online influencers used their blogs as a home base and relied upon word-of-mouth, inbound links and search engines to deliver an audience. Today, the blog is almost irrelevant. With Posterous, a blog entry can be created as an e-mail message and posted automatically to a couple of dozen social outposts, formatted for the unique capabilities of each destination. Some of these services publish fan and follower counts but others don’t. Determining an influencer’s “share of market” is a matter of picking through search results and the metrics provided by various channels to measure a person’s total footprint.

In time, services will emerge that make sense of this chaos, but for now this is a classic case of technology outpacing people’s ability to understand it. For marketers, the key point is that the website as we have known it is diminishing in importance, influencers are magnifying their voices and the rules of engagement are being reset. The good news is that everyone can use these tools, so if you’re currently limiting your publishing activities to a blog or Twitter, consider expanding your scope. The bad news is that the influencer you thought you had identified and corralled is now blasting messages to a whole lot of different audiences. Only time will tell what the impact of that new reality will be.

Welcome to the Site-less Web

Love Your Subscribers

Ford Fiest MovementFord Motor Company is widely considered to be an outstanding practitioner of social media marketing. Under the leadership of Scott Monty (more than 36,000 followers on Twitter), the company has created such innovations as multimedia Ford Story website and consumer-generated Fiesta Movement (right).

So I was a little surprised recently when Scott Monty told me, “Most of the mainstream still relies on e-mail. Newsletters will be a big part of our strategy for 2010.”

Newsletters? E-mail? Isn’t that stuff so last millennium? In fact, e-mail continues to be the killer app of social media. E-marketer reported last month that “e-mail was the top channel for distributing content to friends, with 46.4% of all shares. About one-third of shares went to Facebook and less than 6% were tweeted.”

The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported last fall that more people use the Internet for e-mail than for any other activity, including search.

So allow me to sing the praises of e-mail as an engagement medium. Note I didn’t say “marketing medium.” Every marketer I’ve spoken to for the last two years has told me that e-mail blasts are delivering fewer and fewer quality results. E-mail newsletters, however, continue to be a core to their strategies. Here’s why.

Social media provides a great opportunity to create awareness among groups of people you don’t know, but they pale next to e-mail’s capacity to sustain relationships. My newsletter consumes about four hours of my time each week, which is not a small investment. However, it’s an invaluable way to sustain important relationships and a pretty steady source of new business. About 30% of my subscribers open each issue and I invariably get at least four or five direct responses as well as several comments to the blog. The newsletter also generates at least a couple of new business leads every month.

E-mail has one critical advantage over all social media: it’s permission-based. By subscribing to my newsletter, you give me permission to periodically intrude upon your inbox with a message that I hope is of interest to you. Your inbox is hallowed ground to me. While I don’t take unsubscribes personally, I do monitor them for evidence that my topics are going off-base. I respond to every reply I receive to a newsletter and I take those comments seriously. Anyone who takes the time to subscribe deserves my attention.

So let’s abstract this back to a business newsletter. I believe every company should have one. The subscription form on your site creates the opportunity to convert casual visits into conversations. It’s a chance to enhance visitors’ understanding of what you do, update them on new initiatives and demonstrate your value. A static website should catch attention; a newsletter should create a dialogue.

Think Different (As Apple Would Say)

You should think differently about newsletters than you do about other forms of communication. For one thing, you should make the message more personal. Your newsletter subscribers have a deeper interest in what you do than casual Web visitors. Give them your best stuff.

Subscribers should get value from a newsletter that they don’t get from a website or e-mail blast. That may be insight, an offer, an advance peek at something new or an invitation. If subscribers don’t get something special, why should they bother subscribing?

Newsletters are an excellent place to pull together your recent activities and show how your business is moving forward. Speak personally; this is a conversation, not an advertisement. Ask someone in your company to share a bit of expertise. Preview some new research before sharing it with the world. Give subscribers an exclusive discount. Share a behind-the-scenes look at a product or service that the rest of the world doesn’t get to see.

Always invite response. The “Reply” button is the fastest way to establish a dialogue. You might also give people the option to post their comments publicly on your blog or via Twitter hash tag.

When people respond, return the favor. I can’t emphasize this enough. Your newsletter is a way to convert an impression into a relationship. Why would you fumble away an opportunity for interaction? And when I say respond, I don’t mean with a boilerplate message. Better not to respond at all than to leave the task to a robot.

I subscribe to a lot of newsletters just to keep an eye on what others are doing. I’m often amazed at how little attention businesses pay to optimizing the potential of their newsletters. Airlines, for example, fill my inbox with discounts and package deals. I can’t remember the last time one of them invited my feedback or tried to help me be a better traveler. Perhaps that’s why I don’t subscribe to many airline newsletters anymore.

What ideas have worked for your newsletters? Let’s keep the dialogue going by sharing some successes in the comments area below.

Twitterville Explains It All

Shel Israel’s Twitterville is currently sitting at number 62,000 on Amazon, which is disappointing because a lot of people should be reading this book. I suspect that Twitterville’s performance has been impacted by the flood of how-to-tweet books that have hit the market this year, but this book isn’t microblogging for dummies. Rather, Twitterville is a celebration of a new platform that has unleashed the creative energies of a community in ways that few of us could have ever conceived.

Israel says he interviewed more than 100 people for this book and it shows. Its scope spans everything from politics to nonprofits to law enforcement to giant corporations. Each Twitter member finds value in different ways.

Israel was co-author of the groundbreaking 2006 book Naked Conversations, which was the first book to  dramatize the game-changing nature of social media. Twitterville is no less important in framing the context for a revolution. Israel starts with the story of James Buck, a freelance journalist who was arrested by Egyptian police in 2008 and whose plight (and subsequent release) was communicated around the world by a single tweet: “arrested.”

Buck’s case was emblematic of the multiplicative power of Twitter. He had only a few followers at the time of his arrest, but a sequence of re-tweeted messages by some prominent Twitter members quickly spread word to the State Department, which intervened within 24 hours.

This idea that an individual can attain great influence by virtue of telling a remarkable story is central to understanding the power of Twitter and of social media in general. It also dramatizes the triumph of the individual over the impersonal corporate entity. “An individual brand now impacts the corporate brand,” Israel writes. Twitter “is a community of millions of personal brands. They are shaping the present and future of individuals and the companies they represent.”

That doesn’t mean businesses can’t develop a brand on Twitter, and Israel provides many  examples of companies that have. His point, however, is that you can’t think of the Twittersphere in terms of mass. Brands are built in Twitter by imparting wisdom, helping others and contributing to the collective knowledge. Corporations that experience the most success are those that let their people come out from behind the brand wall and act human.

The value of contributing to the collective good permeates Twitterville. Israel calls this “lethal generosity.” It’s the idea that people who “are the most generous to their communities almost invariably acquire the greatest influence.” This concept is central to another recent book I recommend: Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. Coming at a time when the world is still reeling from a financial crisis precipitated by greed, it’s refreshing to see celebrations of  generosity. In one section on fundraising, Israel recounts several stories of charitable success that would have been unimaginable before a medium like Twitter existed.

Twitterville isn’t all celebration. In Chapter 15, Israel analyzes the seamy underworld of spammers, bots and phishermen and relates a couple of hair-raising stories of people whose reputations have been trashed by identity thieves. As Larry Ellison once said, “Every ecosystem has scavengers.” Twitter is no exception, and by acknowledging Twitter’s dark side, Israel makes the argument for the medium’s value all the more compelling.

The book provides useful advice on how to keep out of trouble as well as how to optimize the Twitter experience, but it  isn’t a book about how to amass 100,000 followers. It’s about how relationships work in a world constrained by limitations of space and time, yet liberated by the ingenuity and spirit of its citizens. If you still don’t “get” Twitter, then read Twitterville. You’ll quickly understand.

Message to Marketing Graduates

Photo by Shoshanah (click for Flickr page)

Photo by Shoshanah (click for Flickr page)

I spent 90 minutes speaking to Dr. Nora Barnes’ social media marketing class at the University of Massachusetts/Dartmouth this morning. I try to speak to college classes at least four or five times a year, in part to give back something to the next generation and in part to learn more about what’s on their minds.

I asked the students – all of them senior marketing majors – the same question I always ask college classes: How many of you subscribe to a daily newspaper? The response was pretty typical: three students out of a class of 34.

Here are some of the things I told them:

  • Much of what you’ve learned about marketing over the last four years will be irrelevant five years from now. The field is changing too quickly. You’ve been learning about how to tell a story and position a brand, but in the future your job will be much more about listening to customers and working collaboratively on brand definition.
  • You should discard much of what your teachers have been telling you about the media. Traditional media is collapsing and what emerges from the rubble will look very different than the institutions we now know.
  • The best skills you can bring into the marketing field today are resourcefulness and curiosity. You must be willing to reinvent your skills constantly because the playing field is in a constant state of turmoil. This is very exciting for you and it’s very scary for the people you will be working for. Be sympathetic, but don’t get stuck doing things the old way.
  • Traditional media was built upon a foundation of inefficiency. The clothing retailer who wanted to reach the .01% of the population who want to buy a wedding gown at any given time has had to pay for the 99.9% who don’t. That’s crazy, but it’s the only way we could get a message across in the past.
  • The worlds of media and marketing are undergoing enormous improvements in efficiency right now. Unfortunately, efficiency is usually painful because it destroys institutions that were built upon inefficiency – institutions like newspapers and magazines. In the end, we’ll be better off, but we’re still in the ugly destruction phase right now.
  • In the last decade, Americans have shift from browsing to searching for information. This has huge implications for the way decisions of all kinds will be made in the future. Search engine marketing and search engine optimization should be part of any core university marketing curriculum today.
  • The shriveling of traditional media creates new opportunities for organizations — and that includes businesses — to fill the trust gap that’s been left behind. Businesses can become media if they so choose. Most of them haven’t accommodated themselves to that fact.
  • Trust is complex in the new world because we are losing our traditional trusted brands. I trust Wikipedia to tell me the date the Yalta Treaty was signed, but not necessarily to interpret the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. Trust is also situational. We are learning to trust some sources for certain kinds of information but not for others. It will take time for us to sort this out.
  • Today, individuals can choose to be celebrities all by themselves. They need to have something interesting to say and the knowledge to use new channels to say it. This is very cool. We no longer have to depend on others to decide if we can be important or not
  • This is a great time to be a college student getting into marketing. The old guard is struggling to learn the new tools that this generation intuitively understands. Companies like Edelman are going so far as to create reverse mentoring programs in which younger employees train senior executives. This doesn’t mean you young people know it all. Be open-minded about learning from the experience of others and be generous about sharing what you know.
  • In the old days, the marketer’s job was to media-train a few key executives. In the future, the marketer’s job will be to media-train the entire company. This will be enormously empowering for marketers.
  • Marketing’s traditional role has been to talk. Its future role will be to listen. Branding and positioning will be defined as much by a company’s constituents as by its employees. If you choose simply to talk, people will choose simply not to hear you. Marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to increase their importance in the organization by becoming listeners.
  • Messages spread from the bottom up much faster than they spread from the top down. Cindy Gordon’s story at Universal Studios is just one example. She told seven people the news and within a couple of days, 250 million others knew.

And finally: By the time you graduate, have a LinkedIn profile. And for goodness sake, clean up your Facebook profile!

    Books Worth Reading: the Trust Equation

    The stack of unread books on the nightstand has been getting pretty tall lately, so I took advantage of some recent travel and vacation time to shorten it a bit. Over the next couple of days, I’ll post of reviews of some titles I recommend. Starting with…

    TrustAgentsTrust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust – Chris Brogan and Julien Smith don’t need my help to sell books; they’ve already made the New York Times bestseller list and their success is well deserved. The market has been flooded with social media books this year, but Trust Agents is different because it’s more about the social than the media.

    Oh, there are plenty of tech tips and tricks, which are organized conveniently into sidebars, bullet lists and “top 10” formats. What really makes this book work, though, is its unflagging devotion to a kind of social media Golden Rule: treat others the way you’d want them to treat you and the rewards will come back in time

    The authors make a persuasive case that the value one derives from social media comes from using the tools to build trust, and that means giving till it hurts. It’s about answering questions, making connections, giving advice and donating time without any clear expectation of reward. Believe us, the rewards will come, the authors say.

    You certainly can’t argue with their success. Brogan is an A-list blogger and Smith is a popular speaker and pioneer in online community development. If Trust Agents does nothing else, it provides a blueprint for achieving the kind of success the authors have demonstrated through the practice of listening actively, responding generously and constantly asking the audience for feedback. Take the tools out of the equation and the same tactics work offline. People who succeed are those who have the relationships and reputations to get things done for others.

    The greatest shortcoming of Trust Agents – if you can call it that– is the lack of hard ROI data. The authors don’t try to calculate the return on their own time investments, perhaps because neither has ever needed to. ROI, however, has been the bugaboo of this fledgling media and the greatest excuse for executives so far choosing to do nothing. If you want numbers, read Groundswell by Li and Bernoff or Measuring Public Relationships by Paine. Both do an excellent job of assigning numbers to actions.

    If you learn nothing more from this book than a few of the tricks to better leverage your own online presence, it’s well worth the price.

    Connectors_coverThe Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for LifeI sometimes share with audiences the story of Automatic Appliance, a local retailer and service company that has forever wrested my business from the big-box discount companies by tirelessly working to satisfy me at every opportunity. The last time I called seeking to fix a balky clothes dryer, the owner spent 15 minutes on the phone trying to help me resolve the problem myself instead of charging me $300 for a house visit. Such selfless generosity has won Automatic Appliance a customer for life.

    This anecdote would fit perfectly in The Connectors, a book that echoes, in many ways, the give-to-get spirit of Trust Agents. To be honest, I almost quit reading this book by marketing entrepreneur Maribeth Kuzmeski after 50 pages because it appeared to be just another in a long line of bafflingly successful books that tell how you can succeed by believing in yourself. But there’s more to The Connectors than pop-psych pabulum. I’m glad I stuck with it.

    The Connectors isn’t about connections as much as about going the extra mile to make yourself or your business exceptional. The connections the author refers to are those that create indelible impressions in the minds of those one seeks to influence. Over time, these become the basis for sustainable business relationships.

    Like Trust Agents, The Connectors skirts the ROI issue and chooses to build its case through anecdotes and inspirational stories. The book includes a number of useful and downloadable self-assessment worksheets. While some of its examples have been done to death (it’s time to retire Fedex’s Fred Smith legend, inspiring as it is), Kuzmeski’s many examples of success working with individual clients are compelling. Her counsel boils down to:

    • Build your social skills in a way that works for you;
    • Focus on what you do well and use your strengths to establish a unique niche for your enterprise;
    • Find small ways to delight customers; and
    • Doggedly pursue business opportunities with generosity and goodwill until the client turns your way.

    Like Trust Agents, The Connectors takes it on faith – and the author’s considerable success – that paying it forward pays back in the long run. The most compelling section for me focused on creating a personal impression with prospects that makes it impossible for them not to want to give you their business. This may involve considerable investment of time and energy, an issue the author doesn’t resolve completely, but you can’t argue with the results. In an age in which globalization makes long-term competitive advantage nearly impossible to achieve, trusted relationships may be all we have left.

    Ending the Hype: A Panel Discussion

    I was delighted to participate in a panel with  Jason FallsC.C. Chapman, Chris Brogan, Brian Solis and Mike Lewis at the Inbound Marketing Summit last week.  Here’s the full 37-minute panel. It got pretty heated at a couple of points. This group is passionate about discarding old assumptions.

    If the video below doesn’t play for you, click here to view it on the Visible Gains site.

    Blogging Blunders, Part 3

    Ghost ShipIn Blogging Blunders Part 1 and Blogging Blunders Part 2, we looked at problems like failure to interact or to publish distinctive content. Let’s wrap up with the most frequent and frustrating blogging problem that I encounter: Failure to persist.

    Perhaps I’m unusual, but the first thing I look for when visiting a blog is the date of the most recent entry. This tells me a lot. Knowing whether the essay I’m about to read is one week or three years old can make a huge difference in its relevance to me. But it also tells me a lot about whether the author is committed to the blog.

    Too many business blogs suffer from lack of attention. The same pattern appears again and again: There’s a burst of early activity followed by a gradual decline in the frequency of updates and eventual abandonment. But nothing ever dies on the Internet, so these blogs drift along like ghost ships. They’re monuments to good intentions gone awry.

    I don’t think many people start blogging with the intention of failing at it. Most are tripped up by one of four scenarios. See if you can avoid them.

    Nothing More to Say – This happens when the blogger chooses a topic that lacks staying power. The subject is hot for a while, but then public interest wanes or the news value recedes. Any blog about a newsy or trendy issue is at risk of this fate. To avoid it, choose big issues that have staying power. For example, instead of writing about Blu-ray, write about the bigger issue of next-generation video formats.

    Too Busy – So are we all, so think about that going in. It takes about an hour a week to contribute two brief new insights to a blog. You need to put some thought into developing and supporting a theme for a few hundreds words. If you don’t think you have that kind of time, don’t start. Twitter is an ideal alternative for people who are too busy to blog. The 140-character limit is actually a welcome restriction that forces them to keep their comments brief.

    Nobody Came – This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. New bloggers put all kinds of effort into their work for six months and find that traffic still numbers in the few dozens per day. There are several reasons for this. One is that the topic they choose is highly competitive and their approach undifferentiated. If that happens to you, then look at ways to approach your topic from a distinctive angle or with a unique voice. Another common problem is that bloggers fail to promote themselves. This can be addressed via some basic outbound e-mail and sharing tactics (contact me if you want ideas). A third is that they simply don’t give the project enough time. It’s rare for a blog to catch fire during its first six to nine months. You need to build visibility with people who have traffic to send your way. If you’re persistent, then you should see rewards by your first anniversary date. But don’t be disappointed if it takes that long. Word of mouth isn’t always fast.

    Turnover – This is a huge issue with business blogs. The internal sponsor leaves the company or gets reassigned and there’s no succession plan in place. This is why I encourage clients to view blogs as a business-wide initiative. Support has to come from the top and a backup plan must be in place to continue the conversation if the product champion leaves. A branded business blog is no place for cowboys. You need a team commitment to sustain the momentum.

    Those are my candidates for the most common factors that derail business blogs. What are yours? Post your comments here and let’s discuss.

    Two Web 1.0 Favorites Still Have Enduring Value

    tickertapeTo read all the hype about social media marketing, you might begin to think that traditional communications don’t matter anymore.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Social media is nothing more than a new way to reach customers and influencers, and it is very effective in the right circumstances.  However, human behavior has not been changed that much in the last five years, and we shouldn’t forget the value of two stalwarts: e-mail and the press release.

    Let’s start with the trusty press release.  In his book, The New Rules Of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott points out that Yahoo changed the rules of marketing more than a decade ago when it elected to define press releases as news. Google followed suit and the PR profession has never been the same since. Today, many company searches on Yahoo or Google News turn up Business Wire copy as the top result. Likewise, the raw news feeds syndicated on thousands of publishing platforms across the Internet make little or no distinction between the Associated Press and PR Newswire.

    That’s why press releases are still so relevant. Their newsy style, headlines, subheads and inverted-pyramid structure give them a distinctive format that satisfies certain kinds of information needs. These same factors also imbue them with outstanding search engine performance. Press releases are basically magnets for search engines because they have all the elements that those engines value most.

    Think of press releases as the archival record of events at your company.  Assign them a special place on your website where they form a timeline of your company’s history.  Keep them brief, stick to the facts and move the nuance and discussion to your social media outposts. Make the press release archive the place that visitors go for official information. For practical value, you still can’t beat this venerable tool.

    Permission to Contact

    Facebook may be the start page for the under-25 crowd, but for most of us the inbox will be our cyber on-ramp for a long time to come. Just take a look around at your next conference and note how many people are in Outlook or on a BlackBerry.

    emailE-mail is assuming a new role in this digitally diversified age: that of aggregator. Organizations are spreading their communications across so many social platforms that e-mail is finding new relevance as the one vehicle that ties everything together. It’s also the single most effective medium for communicating with your current customers.

    E-mail has one other huge advantage over most forms of social media: you know who the subscribers are. Members of an opt-in e-mail list give you permission to periodically grab their attention — even if it’s only in a subject line — and deliver a message.  No other form of electronic communication carries with it that element of trust.

    I encourage clients to embed e-mail subscription forms on every page of their website and take advantage of every opportunity to add subscribers to their e-mail list.  If you are managing the relationships well, this list should outperform all others.  Just don’t fumble the opportunity by subjecting recipients to sales pitches. Make it useful.

    A regular e-mail newsletter is a great place to assemble all of your communications from other channels.  Group and organize this information topically and add in some big-picture perspective on fragmented messages.  Link back to the source material using unique URLs that you can track in your analytics program.  Remember that e-mail is a great way to determine the interests of a set of engaged customers by identifying their click-through behavior.

    What do you think? Are new media channels changing the way you use press releases and e-mail marketing?