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Blogging Blunders, Part 1

August 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Newsletter

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.

Failed house designI’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 already 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 newsletters 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 among 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 issue, we’ll look at links, multimedia and other frequently overlooked features. (Thanks to Fail Blog for the photo.)

Your Name in Lights (Or At Least in E-mail)

BtoB magazine has a new weekly newsletter called Inside Technology Marketing, and this is your chance to be featured there. Editor Ellis Booker is always looking for examples of successful marketing programs by technology companies. I’m always looking for good case studies to write about. So if you’re a marketer for a technology company and if you have a recent campaign that you’re especially proud of, drop me a line and let’s get your story in a forthcoming issue. Just send me your contact information and a one-paragraph summary.

Tip of the Week: Yebol Humanizes Search

There’s a new entry in the search engine race that I think is worth more than just a casual look. It’s called Yebol, and it claims to combine human intelligence with algorithmic processing. According to the 10-minute video introduction on the site’s home page (note: that’s way too long, guys), Yebol’s algorithms are imbued with knowledge sources such an encyclopedias, medical journals, popular magazines and other records of human knowledge. These are combined with algorithms to deliver results that recognize the type of information you’re looking for. The founder is a computer scientist with Yahoo credentials.

For example, the search results for the 60s rock group the Monkees features a list of Monkees songs, members of the group, lyrics, Twitter messages, news headlines and links to other social networks where Monkees information can be found. Regardless of whether its search engine is better, Yebol’s results display is the best I’ve seen.

Just for Fun: Free Entertainment

This recession of ours has lost its novelty. Yes, we’re all eating out
less and shopping at discount stores, but we all still want to have fun
and enjoy the summer without shelling out hefty entrance fees. Luckily,
we’ve found some options to enjoy your Saturday afternoon (or Tuesday
evening or whatever free time you can wiggle out of your schedule),
which range from “take a hike!” to “plant an herb in a waterspout.”
There are even some rainy-day and geekyish fun options.

RSS Matters To You: Here’s Why

April 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Newsletter

Mention RSS to non-techies and their eyes assume a faraway look that tells you that you’re better off changing the subject. Really Simple Syndication is seen by most people as being anything but simple. Their early experience with the little orange buttons that grace most websites has been that clicking on them resulted in a screen full of cryptic text that prompted them to quickly close the browser window and take a deep breath.

RSS is widely misunderstood. People think that its main use is by the small number of techies who have the time and expertise to consolidate all their information in feed readers. But the main audience for RSS is machines, which are increasingly incorporating RSS feeds into the information streams that power websites.

Cheeseheads

Let’s look at a silly example: Here’s a page about cheese on the popular website Alltop.com. Alltop is a huge engine of information about nearly any topic you can imagine, yet it produces no original content. All of its information consists of headlines provided as RSS feeds from the websites it indexes. Mouse over any of those headlines and you get an expanded description that tells you whether the information is of interest.

Now head on over to BlogHer, the popular site for women bloggers. Nearly everything at the top of this page comes via RSS feeds. BlogHer automatically collects the latest posts from members of its network and streams the headlines to its home page.

It’s the same at Engadget, which is one of the top 10 blogs on the Internet. Nearly the entire right side of this page is given over to content delivered in the form of RSS feeds.

So you can see that the audience for RSS feeds isn’t individuals, it’s websites. They can potentially magnify your content to reach thousands of other people. It gives you the potential to reach much larger audiences than you could with just your own small online outpost.

Personal Use

RSS also has personal productivity benefits. If you look at my own home page on the right side under the “Speaking” banner, you’ll see a list of upcoming events at which I am presenting. I don’t post this content myself; its origins are this collection of Delicious bookmarks. By inserting a small snippet of code on my home page, I can have items that I bookmark distributed automatically. To add an item, I simply bookmark it, modify the description and give it the appropriate tag. All of the websites that I own are updated instantaneously.

You can even use RSS to feed your own information needs. Look at this page of Twitter search results for the query “global warming.” Note the orange button in the upper right corner. Click it, copy the URL in the address bar and plug it into any RSS widget to display the Twitter search results on a website. Every time you refresh the page, the latest search results are added to the mix.

Nearly anything you read or publish on the Internet these days can be formatted as an RSS feed. Once it’s in that form, it can be syndicated anywhere else. That’s the real power of RSS. It gives you the means to flexibly reuse and syndicate content to reach a much wider audience with very little effort.


Developing Your Personal Brand

A new book by a veteran journalist demonstrates how much individuals can do to elevate their personal brand these days for very little money. Fans, Friends And Followers by Scott Kirsner is packed with useful information about how to create a following online and possibly quit your day job. Kirsner, who writes extensively about film for a variety of publications as well as his own CinemaTech blog, did his homework, conducting dozens of conversations with successful artists who have created enthusiastic followings and featuring their words in a section of first-person narrative interviews that make up the majority of the book. He distills their experiences into 35 pages of advice about how to maximize your search visibility, use low-cost promotional channels and distribute products cheaply. Read my review and order the book on Amazon.


Tip of the Week: Search All

When you want to run a quick search, you can usually rely on Google, Yahoo or Microsoft Live Search to satisfy your needs in seconds. But sometimes you need a search engine that can give you a more holistic view. My favorite new discovery in the category of so-called metasearch engines is Addict-o-matic, a service that aggregates search results from all the major engines as well as Twitter, YouTube, Digg, Flickr, Delicious, Wikio and other social media sites. If that isn’t enough, you can expand the results to include up to 25 destinations. Find out what people are really saying about you.


Just for Fun

Maybe it’s because all of us have been misjudged at some point in our lives, maybe it’s just because this video is a good reminder of the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but Susan Boyle is definitely hitting a positive nerve with the YouTube crowd. Check out the video that’s taken the world by storm this past week.

In Defense of Blogging

April 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Newsletter

I 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 the podium.

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. If you want to learn more, my Social Media Crash Course goes into detail on the many nuances of blogging. Now it can also be delivered remotely as an interactive screen-sharing session. Contact me for more information.


Tip of the Week: Free Software

A few years ago I stumbled across a website called “46 Best-Ever Freeware Utilities.” It contained a fantastic list of software covering many of a PC user’s basic needs ranging from tune-up utilities to security packages, office programs, multimedia and more. The site was the work of a man who called himself Gizmo Richards. In the years since, that fledgling site has turned into a truly impressive storehouse of links to free software of all kinds. Richards believes that 95% of the software most people need is available free if they know where to look. He and a small team of volunteers comb the Web searching for gems like out-of-date programs that have been placed in the public domain or promoted for a limited time but never taken down.

If you want to learn more about Richards, a 62-year-old Australian former IT manager, check out my interview with him.


Just for Fun

Penguin army Is that a penguin on the telly? Well, a few penguins, actually, but click the image to see the truly awesome spectacle of what happens when penguins congregate. This is one of the photos on Incredimazing, a website devoted to collecting bizarre images submitted by people like you and me. If you want to scramble your brain, check out the M.C. Escher car.

FAQ on Social Media – Part 1

December 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Featured, Newsletter

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: What is the best way to find blogs that are applicable to your business?

A: I have half-day seminars that address this question, but I’ll try to be succinct! First of all, remember that a blog is simply a way to display information. There is no industry standard definition of a blog, so the only way to identify one is by looking at it. Even the search engines that specialize in blog search don’t always get it right.

That said, you should start with search. The blog search tools I use are Google Blog Search, Technorati, IceRocket, Bloglines and Blogpulse. There are others, but I’m less familiar with them. Tip: Use advanced search; it will save you time and better refine your results.

When you find bloggers who look important to you, look in their blogrolls, which are lists of other bloggers that they pay attention to. Blogrolls can usually be found on the home page. This can save you a lot of time because the bloggers have already done the searching for you.

I also recommend searching social bookmarking sites like Delicious and Reddit. People share and comment upon favorite bookmarked pages there. Very often you’ll find sites on social bookmarking services that don’t show up prominently in search engines.

Q: Can you review the different social media for different communication goals?

A: Chapter 2 of my latest book, Secrets of Social Media Marketing, goes into quite a bit of detail about this, but here’s a synopsis:

Blogs: Easy, fast and flexible. Think of them as a podium. You’re the speaker and you can say your peace and invite commentary. Blogs are good for telling a story, but not very good for interaction or conversation.

Podcasts: These are basically audio blogs. They’re very good for communicating a message but have almost zero interactivity. Podcasts are very popular with busy executives who like the efficiency of being able to learn when they can’t read. They’re basically a one-way medium, however.

Video podcasts: Good for telling a story visually, but people tire of them quickly if the content isn’t compelling. Video podcasts are excellent vehicles for humor or offbeat content. They have almost no interactivity. Think of them as TV commercials that viewers can easily share with each other.

Social networks: These are great places to listen to ongoing conversations and to gain insight on customers and markets. You can also use them to pose general questions about you market. Don’t be too specific, though; social networks are public forums. Popular topics can yield insight into new product possibilities.

Private Communities (for example, Communispace and Passenger): These are next-generation focus groups. Usually run by firms that specialize in community management, the members are hand-selected, carefully nurtured and often bound by confidentiality agreements. Private communities are a great way to get advice from a lot of perspectives in a hurry. The downside: high cost

Microblogs (for example, Twitter and a host of others): Very fast, targeted and responsive, they’re a great way to ask questions and get quick answers or to promote a timely idea or service. Interactivity is excellent, but content is limited to short messages and it’s difficult to integrate multimedia.

Virtual worlds (for example, Second Life and others): These venues may be good for real-time events, but the software is still too clunky for most people to use. Virtual worlds fare best with techie audiences. They’re unique in that you can observe group dynamics, such as facial expressions and body language. They’re also good for events with a strong visual component.

Q: We run a lodging resort and saw negative comments someone had posted about their experience here on their blog. How do you turn a negative blogger into a positive blogger?

A: The tactics that work in the physical world also work online: invite feedback, listen, confirm what you heard and offer some kind of relief or explanation. In 80% to 90% of these situations, the naysayers can be neutralized or even turned into advocates with these tactics. Since bloggers can’t see their audience, they tend to write in strong terms, sort of like shouting into the wilderness. Once you personalize the interaction, they usually back down. Start by commenting on the blog and also by sending a private e-mail. It may even be worth picking up the phone. The more you humanize the interaction, the quicker you’ll bring them around.

A Top Blogger Speaks

October 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Newsletter

John Frost owns and edits blogs on the Internet. While he’s an unabashed Disney enthusiast, his blog is a straight account of both the good and bad news related to the company he covers. The Disney Blog attracts about 100,000 monthly visitors, but it is not formally recognized as a media outlet by The Walt Disney Co.

I asked him a few questions about his blog and he generously provided these detailed answers.

Q: What value do you provide that mainstream media doesn’t?

Frost: I’m a subject matter expert, the voice of a peer, a shepherd to the community and, to some degree, an advocate.

Q: How is your content shaped by contributions from your readership?

F: Mainly through comments and emails. I get leads from readers and they let me know when I’ve stepped over the line.

Q: How do you believe interactions between customers and businesses are changing as a result of Web 2.0?

F: It flips the funnel. It changes the art of marketing to the art of listening and contributing. For Disney, however, they’re still just getting used to providing better tools for guests to make decisions.

Q: How do you avoid inaccuracies and provide balance in your coverage? What are your practices for correcting mistakes?

F: Use reliable sources, always attribute, provide links to background as needed. Minor mistakes might just disappear; factual mistakes, when caught by readers, are acknowledged with an update to the post and quick notice that a change was made. Major mea culpas usually involve a new post that links to the old.

Q: What could the companies you cover do to make better use of customer feedback?

F: First, show us they’re listening. Have an online community manager and/or liaison who reaches out before feedback is even needed. Then, when feedback is received, you have the trust of the community to respond honestly, even if it’s only “I can’t answer right now, but we will find the answer and get back to you.” Then follow up.

I’m particularly impressed with companies that go out and search for feedback loops and attempt to deal with problems even before the consumer knows there is a problem. RSS feeds on various engines are a great help with this. If someone posts a complaint about all the weekday fireworks shows being canceled, be ready with an answer of alternate experiences for that evening.

Q: What frustrates you most about dealing with these corporations?

F: Faceless voicemail loops, help centers located overseas staffed with people who have no expert knowledge of the subject matter — the usual stuff.

In my case, each division has its own rules and contacts for material that my audience is interested in. Some still won’t deal with blogs, some are beginning to reach out. But our primary audiences are — and I use this term endearingly — the super geeks. They have different needs than the average consumer. PR may only release one photo and no concept art, no details on the background story or interviews with the creator. Mass media gets all that at the press junkets, but I’m not invited, nor can I afford to attend events like that. Why would I want to repost the press release that they can get anywhere?

Q: What could these companies do to put you out of business?

F: Hire me. They can’t put the fans out of business. There will always be a niche market for fan groups online and off. What they can do is feed our need to be brand defenders, not just brand critics.

Q: Blogging is a hard way to make a living. What motivates you to keep going?

F: I wish I was making a living at this. It pays the bills and helps with the costs involved in being a Disney fan. What keeps me going is the same thing that got me started: my passion for the subject matter.

What You Probably Don’t Know About Links

October 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Newsletter

I got a press release today from a PR pro whose client has an interesting story to tell. The company makes a security product that combines cellular and global positioning technologies to alert people when valuable items have moved beyond a specified location. This particular pitch told about a customer who had recovered an expensive motorcycle just 20 minutes after it was stolen, thanks to the clever technology.

I have several blogs, including one that deals with location-awareness, and I thought this would be a nice item to mention. I searched for the headline on Google, but came up empty. So I contacted the PR person directly. He responded that the press release actually wasn’t posted online anywhere. “It’s a media alert that I distribute to generate press,” he said. “I was definitely not trying to get blog coverage.”

There are a few questionable assumptions in that statement, including the fact that 95 of the top 100 newspapers in America now have blogs. For the purposes of this newsletter, though, I want to address the importance of having a Web copy of anything you send out for media consumption.

The reason I searched for an online version of the press release was because Web publishing differs from print publishing in some fundamental ways. Look at prolific bloggers and you’ll see that their entries are full of hyperlinks. This practice may look strange to someone who doesn’t write principally for online consumption. Is the blogger being lazy by linking to source material instead of summarizing it?

Actually, quite the opposite is true. The comment-and-link approach leverages the strength of online media to minimize wasted time for the reader while making the blogger more productive.

To understand this phenomenon, look at the way we used to publish. In the print world, journalists typically have to excerpt or summarize any material they reference because they have no choice. The only way to convey information is to include it in the story. This makes articles longer and creates more work for the reporter, who has to guess what source information is relevant. It also means that good information is more likely to be left on the cutting room floor.

Online, the dynamic is very different. By linking to source material, the writer minimizes the amount of background information that has to be summarized. If the reader wants that information, he or she can click through to the source document. There’s less time spent creating extraneous content and less time spent reading it.

This tactic is a core reason why some bloggers appear to be so prolific. Instead of wasting time reinventing the wheel, they can focus on the most relevant information. You need to understand this practice if you want to play fully in the online publishing world.

I maintain four personal blogs — paulgillin.com, geocachesecrets.com, mediablather.com and newspaperdeathwatch.com — and manage to post to all of them frequently. I use comment-and-link combined with some clever online tools to keep the content up-to-date. For example, if I see something interesting online, I can easily bookmark it, type a brief summary or comment and save everything online. My bookmark service knows to gather up these entries every day and post them to my blog automatically (here’s an example of the result). My time expenditure is minimal and I focus only on the material that I think is most important. For audio or video content, there’s practically no other way to do this.

Marketers who want to incorporate online journalists into their communication plans need to understand this tactic and build it into their strategy. Link-and-comment isn’t a copout or a shortcut. It’s a tactic for minimizing waste. By posting every press release online, you not only make it easier for bloggers to reference the information, but you also make sure it’s you who tells the story and not some third party. Why would you have it any other way?

As for the press release I received earlier today, that company is out of luck. Had the press release been available online, I would have linked to it and recommended it to my readers. But reprint the whole thing? That’s just too much trouble.

A Fast and Flexible Approach to Developing Content

October 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Newsletter

One of my clients has been experimenting with an innovative and efficient approach to content development and I want you to know about it.

The company is in a highly specialized and big-ticket b-to-b industry. Its executives are very busy and very well paid. The VP of marketing wanted to develop some thought leadership white papers, but the prospect of pinning down these executives for hours to develop the content wasn’t practical. Instead, the marketing departing is using podcasts to construct white papers from the ground up

Here’s how it works: We schedule a 30- to 45- minute phone call with these busy executives to capture background information and hot topics in their areas of expertise. I then create a list of questions that are intended to draw out the executives’ thinking (journalists are pretty good at this!).

We record an interview of approximately 30 minutes’ duration. An edited version is posted as a podcast on the company’s website, but the marketing group also has the full interview transcribed via a low-cost outside service. Marketing cleans up and reorganizes the transcript and posts the document as a position paper.

Over a series of interviews, an executive’s observations and experiences can be rolled up in interesting ways. Multiple interviews with one executive can yield an in-depth white paper. Or point interviews with several executives can be combined into a corporate backgrounder. Customers and prospects can also subscribe to the podcast series. For the small transcription fee (services can be had for as little as a dollar a minute) and some inexpensive editing, the VP has a series of byline articles from the most visible people in his company.

Rethinking Research
I’ve recommended this approach to more and more clients lately. New online tools enable us to rethink our approach to assembling complex documents. It used to be the process demanded hours or days of research. Now we can take notes in real-time and assemble them later.

Blogs are ideally structured as collections of thoughts, observations and insights expressed in short bursts. It’s fast and easy to capture these brainstorms online. Got an idea? Twitter it for prosperity. When you go back and look at information assembled in this way, you often see relationships that weren’t obvious at the time. Between search, tags and bookmarks, it’s possible to assemble these building blocks in different ways.

Some thought leaders take this to the limit. Marketing guru Seth Godin, for example, is known for writing entire books based on collections of interesting blog posts. The blog is his notepad for ideas that can be combined into coherent themes.

In some (though certainly not all) cases, this is a more efficient way to research a topic than spending hours mining the Web or library stacks. For my client, it’s also a way to repurpose content across multiple media. Maybe it will work for you. What do you think? Twitter me @paulgillin.

Social Media Tools Don’t Matter

October 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Newsletter

Here’s a question I hear from marketers all the time: “We want to launch a corporate blog, but we don’t know how to go about it. Where should we start?”

My answer is that you should start a couple of steps back from where you are. Social media tools – whether they’re blogs, online communities, instructional videos or something else – don’t solve anything unless they address a specific business need. Don’t use social media for its own sake. Use it to accomplish an objective.

Unfortunately, the temptation is difficult to resist. Lots of businesses are experimenting with social media tools these days. It’s natural to think that they know something the rest of us don’t, but the reality is that most people are still kicking tires right now. There are some very successful companies like Apple Computer that are doing nothing with social media because they don’t have to. If the tools aren’t right for your culture or your business, don’t use them.

Whatever you do, don’t start the decision process with technology. The choice of a social media tool is no more relevant to the success of a campaign than is the choice of paint to the structural integrity of a house. Many tools are flexible enough to be used for multiple purposes and some strategic goals require you to leverage many tools in concert.

Stop and consider the problem or opportunity you’re trying to address. Here are a few possible business objectives, with the best tool options listed in parentheses.

  • Build customer community (blog, video, social network, private community, virtual world)
  • Counter negative publicity (blog, podcast, video, customer reviews)
  • Crisis management (blog, video, social network, virtual world)
  • Customer conversation (blog, social network, private community, virtual world)
  • Generate website traffic (blog, video, customer reviews)

Many more examples will be explored in my forthcoming book, Secrets of Social Media Marketing. It will be available this fall and you can pre-order it on Amazon right now. I also recommend reading Groundswell, the new book by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research. It has some excellent advice on how to take a disciplined approach to social media selection.

Note that blogs appear next to every bullet point listed above. That doesn’t mean blogs are a panacea. They are the easiest form of social media to implement, but far greater leverage may derive from more complex tools like customer communities. You should choose media based upon your budget, staff resources and commitment. It’s often best to start small and grow your social media footprint as you become more fluent with the tools. Blogs are a good starting point, but you may need stronger medicine after a while.

Keep in mind the importance of balancing between ease of use, simplicity of deployment and functionality. Many social media tools can be used for multiple purposes. You may be better off starting with a tool that you understand well rather than deploying a somewhat richer solution that carries a steep learning curve.

If you keep the tools secondary and work outward from the business goal, you’re far more likely to reap the rewards of your efforts.