-->

How Sharing Pays Dividends

March 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Newsletter

The Sharing Dividend

Bruce SchneierIf you’re looking for an expert on computer security, it’s almost impossible not to find Bruce Schneier. The BT chief security technology officer and author of several books on privacy and security uses his blog, Schneier on Security, to provide a constant stream of insights on topics ranging from viruses to the papal selection process.

As a result, Schneier is in the top Google results for all kinds of search queries around security keywords, and this translates into a bounty of press coverage, speaking engagements and high-profile career opportunities.

Schneier’s secret isn’t that he’s an exceptionally gifted writer. It’s that he has a compulsion to share his thoughts. By taking a little extra time to commit them to his blog, he exposes his wisdom to a wide audience.

Anyone can do this today. It’s surprising more companies don’t.

Read more at BtoB magazine.

Creating Long-form Content for the Distracted Audience

If you still view view research reports, white papers and customer case studies as a “Big Bang” proposition, then you’re missing the boat. Maximizing audience size and impact is increasingly a matter of summarizing, teasing and packaging in other formats. We need to rethink the way we create longform content and package it as a series of short-form updates.

Tweet research findings as you go along. Capture highlights and blog entries. Summarize case studies in podcast interviews. Create top 10 lists and factoids to post on Twitter. And be ready to promote your finished report through multiple channels upon publication.

The benefits: increased awareness before the content is released and longer shelf life as you promote conversations about it.

Read more at BtoB magazine.

Search Essentials – What You MUST Know

Visibility in search engines is critical to nearly every business these days, but the basic mechanics of search are still in mystery to many people. Success begins with good keyword selection and continues with optimal page construction, good descriptions and continuous campaigns to generate inbound links. Providing high quality content is critical to search engine success, and recent revisions to Google’s search engine algorithm reinforces that point.

I recently posted a 38-slide presentation covering the essentials of search. It includes detailed notes that served as a script for an accompanying webcast recording on the subject. Feel free to download the presentation and share it with colleagues who still don’t get why a keyword strategy is so essential to growing your business.

Tip of the Week – Spundge

Occasionally a tool comes along that is so drop-dead useful that it causes you to change the way you work. For me, that tool is Spundge, a content curation console that makes it easy to grab articles and assemble them into a single stream that can be embedded on any website that accepts scripting. It’s like Storify, but more flexible.

Spundge is like a super RSS feed with bookmarking built in. It comes out-of-the-box with more than 45,000 embedded feeds from major news and technology sites, along with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks. You can add your own feeds and apply whatever filters you like. The engine learns from your choices and consistently delivers you more relevant content.

You can create embeds that display content from your Spundge notebooks in any website that accepts scripting. For a modest fee of US$9 per month, you can generate blog posts from that content using a WYSIWYG editor. But you don’t need the paid account to get a lot of value out of this great new service. I recommend you give it a try.

Read more on my Newspaper Death Watch blog.

Just for Fun: Scale of the Universe

Scale of the UniverseIf you’re feeling insignificant today you might want to skip this one, but bear with me for the surprise at the end.

The universe is a mighty big place, and I’ve never seen anything that quite dramatizes that fact like this Flash movie, The Scale of the Universe.

Scroll left to begin your journey at the smallest known particle of Quantum Foam (.0000000001 yoctometers or 10-35  meter. Keep scrolling to the right as you pass neutrinos, quarks, uranium nuclei and other little tiny things.

As you keep scrolling, the scale gets larger: chromosomes, aunts, human beings, Redwood trees, the Hoover dam, California, Ganymede, Alpha Centauri B and so on. At the extreme right is the estimated size of the universe at 1027 meters.

It’s a mesmerizing display with beautiful graphics and even a soundtrack. If it came from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory, you wouldn’t be at all surprised. But this remarkable animation is the work of two junior high school kids: Carey and Michael Huang.

Carey was the principal architect and Michael put it online. Carey didn’t even do it for extra credit; it was just a fun way to express some relationships he learned about in seventh grade. Here’s the story on ABC News.

MIT might want to get to these kids with the scholarship offer early.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Tips Issue: How to Make the Most of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

February 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Newsletter

10 Tips for Building a Quality Twitter Following

I’ve been using Twitter for five years, and I recently topped 10,000 followers. Lots of folks have more followers than I do, but the quality of my following is what’s important to me. Most of my followers are people who share my interests in the Internet, media, and digital marketing. They’re responsive, supportive, and helpful, and we have a great time together.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few basic tactics for building a quality following. Perhaps you’ll find them useful. Note that these tactics apply to using Twitter for business. If you want to build a cult of personality or just run up your numbers, there are better ways to do it.

1. Stay focused. I’ve posted an average of just four tweets per day for the last five years, which is far fewer than the output of many other Twitter users. That’s because I limit most of my tweets to the professional topics that interest me or that others may find useful. I share little information about my personal life. People don’t care what I had for dinner, but if the restaurant is a place I’d recommend to others, I’ll frame a comment in that context. When people see my name in their tweet stream, I want them to know they’re likely to find something there that interests them.

2. Share your handle everywhere. Of course, your Twitter handle should be in your e-mail signature line. But consider the other ways people might find you. I include my Twitter name (@pgillin) in my letterhead, as well as on every slide in my presentations. Don’t forget to post your presentations to [4]SlideShare, where your PowerPoints can get many more views than they ever do in front of an audience. Add your Twitter handle to your LinkedIn profile, and if you’re ever featured as a speaker, make sure the promotion page features your Twitter name, as well.

Read eight more tips on The CMO Site

Five LinkedIn Gems for Marketers

Most people think of LinkedIn as a great resource to find jobs and consulting work, but it’s also a treasure trove of competitive intelligence and prospecting opportunities.

LinkedIn has become the major force in social networking for business-to-business professionals. Its core strength is the information the service collects about its 140 million members and the many ways it creatively combines those data points to make it easy to find the people and information you want.

Here are five little-known LinkedIn gems.

1. Company profiles: If you don’t have a company profile on LinkedIn, you should. Late last year the service made it possible for members to follow companies just as they follow people. That means your status updates appear in their activity streams along with news about their friends. Want to know who’s following your company? You can find that out, too.

You should also consider taking advantage of the “products and services” tab in company profiles. You can set up dedicated sub-pages for each of your product lines and ask people to post recommendations. One thing marketers will love: People can only post recommendations, not criticisms. It’s like a love nest for your customers.

2. Insightful statistics: LinkedIn mines its member database to create statistics about the companies they work for. This can be useful in prospecting, recruitment, and competitive intelligence.

Click the “Check out insightful statistics about…” link in the right sidebar of any company profile. Inside you’ll find information about job function composition, company growth as reflected by total LinkedIn memberships, and how frequently people are changing titles. These can indicate if a company is having a turnover problem or whether growth is slowing. LinkedIn also gives you a list of employees who have recently taken new jobs or left the company. This can alert you to sales opportunities or management gaps. Recruiters will like the “Most recommended at…” feature, which lists employees who have the largest number of peer recommendations.

Read about the other three gems on The CMO Site

Five Facebook Tips for Small & Midsize Businesses

Most small businesses are terrible at marketing in general and online marketing in particular. That’s understandable: The founders are usually more passionate about what they do than about promoting themselves.

But with Facebook becoming the place you just have to be for businesses of all sizes, a little marketing know-how comes in handy. I recently spoke to Mark Schmulen, general manager of social media at the small-business-focused e-mail service provider Constant Contact about how to go beyond the Facebook wall and make the social network a practical and measurable small business marketing platform.

“When we look at what platforms our small business customers are using for social media marketing, 94% of them are on Facebook,” Schmulen said. However, “Most small businesses are doing Facebook without knowing why they’re doing it.”

That’s the herd mentality at work. While it’s pretty easy to create a Facebook page, the task of convincing visitors to create persistent relationships through the “Like” button and to engage in conversation requires different skills. Forrester Research has estimated fewer than 15% of people who click a Like button ever visit the page again. Getting that repeat traffic is the special sauce of Facebook success.

Here are five tips that Schmulen recommends:

Tip #1: Know your goals. Sounds simple but it ain’t necessarily so. Depending on the business, goals might range from generating orders to attracting subscribers to building thought leadership. Whatever your goal, you need an offer to match.

Fancy Fortune Cookies on FacebookArchway Cookies and Fortune Cookies are both focused on trials, the first through coupons and the second via a contest. Vindale Research isn’t in the food business, though; it wants to recruit people who are interested in getting paid to take surveys.

Each company matches its offer to its goal, whether it’s a free trial, information or downloadable assets like ringtones. Offers should always include a clear call to action, and you can use rotating FBML (Facebook Markup Language) pages to test different offers. If you lead with your wall, you’re missing an opportunity.

 

Tip #2: Make your offer shareable. There’s a Facebook phenomenon called the “power of 130.” The average Facebook member has 130 friends and the fastest way to spread a message is through social sharing. Facebook automatically offers members the opportunity to share a Like, but the real creativity comes when you can convince people to share some kind of unique content or offer you provide.

For example, Intrepid Travel invites visitors to play a trivia game and share results with friends. Players can also sign up to visit the exotic places highlighted in the game. Each answer to the quiz is shareable, as is the final score.

Intrepid Travel on Facebook

1. Know your goals. Sounds simple but it ain’t necessarily so. Depending on the business, goals might range from generating orders to attracting subscribers to building thought leadership. Whatever your goal, you need an offer to match.

Archway Cookies and Fortune Cookies are both focused on trials, the first through coupons and the second via a contest. Vindale Research isn’t in the food business, though; it wants to recruit people who are interested in getting paid to take surveys.

Each company matches its offer to its goal, whether it’s a free trial, information or downloadable assets like ringtones. Offers should always include a clear call to action, and you can use rotating FBML (Facebook Markup Language) pages to test different offers. If you lead with your wall, you’re missing an opportunity.

2. Make your offer shareable. There’s a Facebook phenomenon called the “power of 130.” The average Facebook member has 130 friends and the fastest way to spread a message is through social sharing. Facebook automatically offers members the opportunity to share a Like, but the real creativity comes when you can convince people to share some kind of unique content or offer you provide.

For example, Intrepid Travel (right) invites visitors to play a trivia game and share results with friends. Players can also sign up to visit the exotic places highlighted in the game. Each answer to the quiz is shareable, as is the final score.

Read more and comment on my blog

Starting a New Book. Want to Help?

If you follow social media closely, you’ve no doubt heard about the latest crisis to strike McDonald’s. The fast food giant initiated a Twitter campaign to elicit stories about people’s fond memories of  big Macs and Happy Meals. However, the campaign quickly spun out of control as critics took the opportunity to mock or condemn the company about a host of perceived wrongs.

Such attacks are becoming increasingly common these days as businesses invite direct feedback from customers on their Facebook pages and in the Twittersphere. I find this trend fascinating, so I’m partnering with Greg Gianforte, founder of RightNow Technologies, on a new book under the working title of “Attack of the Customers.” You can read a description and outline here.

This book will ultimately be about how to build a company culture that resists attacks, but I’m also looking for experts and stories of organizations that have withstood social media crises and learned from them. If you have advice or experiences that you’re willing to share, please let me know so we can arrange an interview. Your story can be anonymous if you wish and you’ll have a chance to review anything we write for accuracy and balance. Drop me a line if you’re willing to help.

Just for Fun: Stupidest.com

Kathryn and Ross Petras have made a career out of stupidity, or at least showing off the stupid things other people do. With books like The 776 Stupidest Things Ever Said  and Unusually Stupid Americans: A Compendium of All-American Stupidity, the brother and sister team have spent years collecting quotes, headlines, signs, news stories and just about everything else imaginable that showcases people being dumb. Naturally they’ve got a website.

Stupidest.com features several hundred recent additions to their collection, including “The Top 10 Stupidest Sounding Scientific Research Papers,” “The Stupidest Example of Luxury Brand Loyalty” and  “The Stupidest Quite Unnecessary Product Disclaimer” (below). What did we do in the days before camera phones?

Stupid Ikea Hot Dog Poster

 

Direct Marketing Doesn’t Have to Suck

October 6, 2011 by  
Filed under B2B, Newsletter

Direct Marketing Doesn’t Have to Suck

In the weeks leading up to the Direct Marketing Association annual conference in Boston this week, exhibitors were out strutting their best stuff. Last week I got two letters in the mail that appeared to be personally addressed to me in a feminine hand (right). Both turned out to be promotions for companies exhibiting at the conference. One employs people to hand-address envelopes so that they appear to come from a friend. The other has an automated signature device that does much same thing.

I opened both envelopes without realizing what was inside and had to chuckle at how I was taken in. They fooled me good. And then I thought about what that says about the state of direct marketing today. Have we sunk so low that we need to trick people into reading our messages? Is it any surprise that forecasters expect direct-mail marketing to decline nearly 40% over the next two years?

Direct mailing envelope

Dump the Junk

Like many people, I’m less interested in reading mass marketing material today than I’ve ever been. There’s far too much good stuff out there. More than 90% of the material that enters my mailbox goes straight to the recycling bin. I unsubscribe from any e-mails that don’t offer clear value to me. Unsolicited e-mail simply gets blocked. Fooling me doesn’t make me a prospect; it makes me mad.

There are some marketing messages, though, that are so valuable to me that I actually look forward to their arrival. Here are a few that I welcome into my inbox:

Read more and comment on my blog

The Myth of Customer Loyalty

The two newest poster children in crisis management provide powerful examples of how today’s brutal business climate punishes companies that take their customers for granted, and how fleeting customer loyalty can be.
Netflix stock has recently sunk below $115, down more than 60 percent from its all-time high reached just two months ago. That was when the company announced it was splitting its DVD-by-mail service off from its streaming video delivery and increasing prices by as much as 60 percent without delivering any immediate improvement in service. In effect, Netflix asked its customers to subsidize its R&D. The move came as competitor RedBox, with nearly 28,000 kiosks nationwide, was presenting serious pressure from below.

Customers are deserting in droves. Research by Magid Advisors found that 30 percent of Netflix’s 25 million customers are at high risk to desert the company. This is about seven times as many as Netflix estimated it would lose back in August. CEO Reed Hastings’s halfhearted apology has only fanned the flames more. Instead of backtracking on the price increases, he simply restated the reasons for imposing them in the first place and sort of apologized for lousy communication.

Read more and comment on The CMO Site

Five Ways B2B Marketers Can Get the Most from Facebook

A lot of B2B marketers have chosen not to get on board the Facebook train for fear that Facebook’s freewheeling culture clashes with their serious business. They prefer LinkedIn, a professional network that’s all about getting business done. There’s a lot of gold to mine on Facebook, however, if you know your objectives and how the community works. After all, 750 million people can’t be all wrong.

Facebook has about as much in common with LinkedIn as a Hawaiian shirt does with a three-piece suit. Your Facebook presence needs to be fun, conversational and provocative. LinkedIn is nine-to-five and Facebook is after-hours. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find buyers and get serious business done.

Everyone knows that Facebook is a good way to reach young people, but did you know that the largest percentage of Facebook users are those in the age 45 – 54 category? Facebook’s audience also skews much more heavily toward women: 62% vs. 45% for LinkedIn. Bottom line: The audience you reach on Facebook isn’t the same as the one you find on LinkedIn.

Facebook success demands knowing a few of the ins and outs of the platform in the community. Here are five tips.

Read more and comment on the PointClear blog

Big Ideas Don’t Have ROI

American Express’ OPEN Forum for small-business owners routinely attracts more than 1 million unique visitors a month. The network has 200 featured contributors, mobile apps and a new social media tracking and management service for members. All for free.

At Dell Computer, 3,000 people have been certified to use social media on behalf of the company. Dell has hired professional trainers; published a four-color, how-to manual; and flown speakers in from around the country to share their wisdom.

Cisco Systems has recently taken advantage of massive layoffs of journalists to hire former BusinessWeek and Wall Street Journal writers to tackle weighty topics, such as the future of the Internet and the impact of social media on education, in a revamped newsroom called The Network. A similar initiative at Intel Corp., called the Free Press, reads like a technology trade magazine. Content like that doesn’t come cheap.

All these programs have one thing in common: There’s no clear return on investment (ROI).

Read more at BtoB magazine online

Tip of the Week: ReadItLater

Read it Later list

How many times have you seen an article online that you wanted to read but didn’t have the time? You can bookmark it, but that requires an Internet connection, and you don’t want to clutter up your bookmarks with pages that you only plan to visit once. Also, if you’re like me, you get a lot of reading done on planes, and bookmarks do you no good when you’re offline. Downloading and saving pages is a chore.

Enter ReadItLater. This handy utility runs on just about every browser and mobile platform out there and enables you to save, organize and synchronize the pages you bookmark for reading on any device. The synchronization is particularly cool for travelers who want to read while disconnected. The browser edition is free. A “pro” addition for mobile devices costs a modest $2.99.

Just for Fun: Songfacts

Songfacts Logo

A friend told me about this site, and I’ll never forgive him for it.

  • Did you know that John Lennon’s “I Am the Walrus” was really a collection of nonsense lyrics intended to confuse people who tried to analyze Beatles songs?
  • Or that Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was originally titled “In the Garden Of Eden,” but someone, possibly while drunk, changed the name on a demo copy and a record company executive decided he liked the new name better?
  • Or that the FBI tried to track down The Kingsmen and Richard Berry, the author of “Louie Louie” over popular rumors that the song’s lyrics were obscene?

All of this trivia, and much more about thousands and thousands of songs, is available at Songfacts.com. Started in 1997 as a database of song information for a few disc jockeys in Hartford, CT, the site has grown to massive size thanks to contributions from the community. The curators don’t say how many songs are in the database, but I quick-counted more than 1,200 songs just beginning with the letter C.

Songfacts is a crowdsourced model. Anyone can contribute, but only information that the administrators believe to be valid makes the official Songfacts section. Anyone is free to weigh in with comments. Careful about visiting this site at work. You’ll want to stay for hours.

The Trouble With Klout

September 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Newsletter

Estimating influence is a delicate balance of art and science. People are drawn to quantitative methods because scores are easy to understand. The downside of reducing influence to a number, though, is oversimplification.

Lately, I’ve been looking at Klout, the popular new tool that bills itself as “The Standard” for influence measurement. The more I look at it, the less I like it. Klout’s weaknesses have not stopped it from amassing an impressive list of more than 3,000 business customers and from being incorporated into popular applications like HootSuite as a standard metric. It is “the emerging standard” for measuring influence online, said Klout Marketing Manager Megan Berry in a podcast interview with Eric Schwartzman last month. I just hope those clients aren’t taking this metric too seriously.

Beyond Followers

Klout attempts to determine influence metrics by looking at a person’s online activities and the actions of others that result from them. The thinking is that influence isn’t a matter of how much you say as much as the impact your words have on others.

Many people have a Klout index and don’t know it. The service crawls Twitter and ranks members automatically. If you want to grow your score, you can log in to the site and give it a bunch of information about your online activities. I spent 15 minutes on Klout registering my social networks and grew my score 10 points on the spot. This is a major flaw in Klout, but more on that later.

Klout uses a proprietary algorithm to estimate influence based upon comments, retweets, @replies and mentions, among other things. The company isn’t very transparent about how it calculates the score, and with good reason. The algorithm is a competitive asset and disclosure would inevitably invite people to manipulate the system.

The downside of opacity is confusion. By revealing so little about how its ratings are calculated, Klout essentially asks customers to put their faith in the service to do the right thing. This is dangerous, given Klout’s flaws. Nevertheless, the score is a public record that anyone can see, and its influence is growing to the point that Klout scores are now reportedly showing up on resumes.

The Shirky Effect

The problem is that some of the ratings are nonsense. For example, my Klout score (66) is modestly higher than Clay Shirky‘s (60) and significantly higher than Marc Andreessen‘s (42). This is ludicrous. Shirky is the author of two influential books about online sociology and has been a thought leader on the Internet since the mid-90s. Andreessen invented the browser, cofounded Netscape and is one of the fathers of the modern Internet. Both are sought-after speakers and the subject of extensive Wikipedia articles. Yet Klout says I have more influence.

The problem is that neither of these brilliant innovators plays by Klout’s rules. They aren’t active on Twitter and they don’t have Klout accounts. The fact that a single post on Shirky’s blog can draw more than 1,200 comments or that Andreessen’s occasional writings appear in The Wall Street Journal is of no consequence. Klout doesn’t monitor either of those outlets.

Klout’s bigger flaw is that its scoring system is tied to membership. The more you tell Klout about you, the higher your score is likely to be. This linkage fundamentally undermines the quality of the service. In effect, Klout pays you to endorse its service by rewarding you with a higher rank. If Google did that, Congress would be holding hearings.

A Million and One Improvements

Eric Schwartzman on KloutKlout admits that its methodology isn’t perfect. In the interview with Schwartzman, who is the co-author of my B2B social media marketing book, Megan Berry said the company has “a million and one” improvements it wants to make. Schwartzman pressed Berry hard on shortcomings in the Klout methodology, and her responses were a weak defense. In essence, Klout treats every social network the same and all interactions equally, she said. A retweet, which is a one-button operation, is just as good as a thoughtful commentary on a blog. Except that Klout doesn’t currently monitor blogs, other than those on Google’s Blogger service. That must be one of the million-and-one improvements in the pipeline.

Megan Berry on KloutA comparison of Berry’s and Schartzman’s Klout profiles showcases the service’s flaws. Berry’s Klout score as of this writing is 70, while Schwartzman’s is 60. Berry does have a couple of thousand more Twitter followers than Schwartzman, but she said Klout ignores follower metrics as meaningless. Berry is very active online, but not nearly as active as Schwartzman. Her blog has been updated eight times this year while Schwartzman has posted 36 episodes of his popular On the Record…Online podcast and more than 30 entries on hisSpinfluencer blog. Berry contributes occasionally to Huffington Post and Mashable, but Schwartzman is also active outside his own channels, contributing to Social Media Today and For Immediate Release. Schwartzman has 44 recommendations on LinkedIn, while Berry has three.

As far as I can tell, there are two principal reasons why Berry outscores Schwartzman on Klout. One is that she knows the system. She has at least a vestigial account on every social network that Klout cares about, whereas Schwartzman limits his activities to fewer outlets. Berry also tweets regularly on behalf of her employer, giving her Twitter account a Klout halo effect that attracts retweets and @replies.

My intention isn’t to pick on Megan Berry. She’s obviously a bright young woman who’s very savvy about social media. However, there’s nothing I can find that qualifies her as significantly more influential than the veteran Schwartzman, not to mention Marc Andreessen.

In her interview with Schwartzman, Berry described Klout as “[Google] PageRank for people.” In my opinion, it’s got a long way to go. Klout has some utility as a way to compare the online presence of active social media users, but measuring influence is much more complicated than counting retweets and Foursquare tips. Klout is betting that it can use its metrics to entice (coerce?) people to join its social network, which it can then monetize through advertising. The link between membership and Klout score is a disturbing weakness. Proceed with caution.

Comment on my blog

My New Social and Search Seminar is October 11

"Search & Social Double Whammy seminarIf you’re in the New England area, or passing through on October 11, come to my new all-day immersion seminar: “Search & Social Double Whammy.” I partnered with the search optimization experts at McDougall Interactive Marketing to deliver a full-day program that teaches you how to integrate SEO, social media, public relations and your technological back-end. The topics we’ll cover include:

  • Internet Marketing Strategy
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Social Media Strategy for Facebook & Twitter
  • Calculating Social Media ROI
  • Live Site Reviews (submit your site for inclusion)
  • 12 Amazing Tools for Search & Social

The full-day seminar happens on October 11, 2011 from 8am to 5pm at the Woburn Courtyard by Marriott in Woburn, MA. The early-bird price of $199 is available through this Friday. After that, it goes to $299.

Learn more and register

Tip of the Week: LinkedIn Today

One of the great appeals of social networks is that they deliver news curated by your friends, colleagues and people with whom you share common interests. This information is likely to be more interesting to you than news items selected by a third party you don’t know.

There are a lot of services that organize the links your friends provide into a form that looks like a conventional newspaper (Paper.li is a particularly popular one), but I haven’t found any that measure up to LinkedIn’s new Today.

Today combines activity by your LinkedIn contacts on both LinkedIn and Twitter to choose the stories that your friends are talking about and present them in a constantly updated custom news page. These topics are more likely to be professionally relevant to you, since your LinkedIn connections are usually business contacts. Headlines are organized by the topic areas you choose and you can have a daily e-mail summary sent to your inbox.

Check Out LinkedIn Today

Just for Fun: Overheard in New York

Overheard in New YorkHow often have you passed someone on the street and caught a snippet of conversation out of context that was so funny or bizarre that you wanted to share it with someone else? There’s no better place for this experience than New York City and not surprisingly, there is a website devoted to capturing these stray asides that make eavesdropping such a fun sport.

Tall female law school know-it-all: “You’ll do fine on his exam as long as you memorize the notes he gives in class –I mean, like, word for word– and then just reverberate it all!”

Overheard in New York has actually been around since 2003, but I only just discovered it recently. Anyone can contribute, so quality varies widely. Many quotes are also profane or risqué, so be forewarned. It’s worth scanning, though, for gems like this:

Subway sandwich maker: “What size? 6″ or foot-long?”
Older suit: “How big is 6″, lemme see?”
Subway sandwich makerdeadpan: “It’s 6 inches long, sir.” (holds up bread)

The Other Social Network

March 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Newsletter

Have you checked out LinkedIn lately? If you thought the world’s largest professional network was little more than a place to post your resume, you owe yourself another visit. LinkedIn is set to eclipse the 100 million member mark sometime this sprinLinkedIn Logog, and it is quickly becoming the social network of choice for B2B professionals.

LinkedIn gets none of the buzz of Facebook, and no one’s going to make a movie about it. Its format is austere, it has few third-party applications and it doesn’t support chat, photo libraries or videos. What it does have is lots of members who talk about serious professional issues, and some of its groups are becoming massive in scale. For business pros in industries like communications, manufacturing, retailing, financial services and even construction, LinkedIn groups are becoming vertical social networks in their own right.

This is the ideal B2B environment. There’s very little waste because members are there to seek professional opportunities, ask and answer questions and network with their peers. Spamming isn’t a problem, particularly in the moderated groups, and there’s none of the frat boy histrionics that you find on Facebook. It’s not surprising that in research conducted by B2B magazine last spring, marketers picked LinkedIn as their social network of choice by a substantial margin over Facebook.

LinkedIn has evolved far beyond its roots as a professional networking service. It hosts active groups for finance managers, telecom professionals, people in the construction industry, real estate pros, HR managers, pharmaceutical workers and film professionals. And those are just the ones with more than 40,000 members. If you’re in the hospitality industry, there are nearly 1,000 members in The Hospitality Forum. A group for medical doctors has more than 2,600 members. Stephanie Sammons posted some great tips on Social Media Examiner early this year about how to make the most of LinkedIn groups.

And those groups are busy. Someone asked the Sales Best Practices group a couple of months ago “What is YOUR Best Sales Advice — 20 words or less.” It has 532 responses. A recent discussion in the Cloud Computing, VMware, Virtualization and Enterprise 2.0 Group about whether IT organizations will start discarding their assets has more than 460 responses. Some LinkedIn members answer 300 or more questions every week.

It’s not about the numbers, though. In fact, many LinkedIn groups are kept intentionally small by administrators who want to maintain member quality. Just try to get into CIO Forum. Unless you’re an IT manager, you probably can’t. Facebook is about mass, but LinkedIn is about focus, which is one reason it rocks for B2B.

Here are a six ways B2B marketers can leverage LinkedIn for prospecting and promotion:

Ask and Answer. Many of the questions posed within groups and in LinkedIn’s busy Answers section concern requests for expertise. You can subscribe to questions in your domain using an RSS reader, which ensures that you will never miss one that matters to you. If the technical gurus in your organization are intimidated by the prospect of blogging, urge them instead to answer five questions per week. As they grow their profile in the community, people will start seeking them out for business. That’s the reason Vico Software expects its sales reps to become active in construction-related groups in each of their territories. The company expects their reps will have a better chance of getting a lead on new construction opportunities there than by waiting for RFPs to come in.

Choose Open Groups. LinkedIn recently gave group owners the option of making their content public so that all activity from that point on would be visible to search engines. This is a good way to make your groups more visible. Also, if you plan to post regularly to groups in your field or industry, consider choosing open groups so that you get the additional Google love.

Promote in Groups. Cross-post new entries from the company blog or new presentations on SlideShare to appropriate groups of which you’re a member. Summarize your content and ask a question. Use a unique URL so you can track activity. You’ll often be surprised at the volume of response.

Use Company Profiles for Prospecting. LinkedIn has a unique approach to company profiles. They’re organized by the people who work there. Salespeople who are having trouble finding the right contacts in an organization can use these profiles as a virtual back door. LinkedIn shows you who works at the company and whether you have direct or indirect ways of contacting them. You might be able to do the same thing on Facebook, but it’s a lot more difficult.

Find People. One of LinkedIn’s great strengths is the choices it gives you for selecting members. You can filter by title, geography, group membership, company size and even years of experience. Some members reveal remarkably detailed public profiles of themselves. You can use this information to prepare for a meeting, find skills or identify prospects within a region. When I need to recruit speakers for a panel in Atlanta, for example, the first place I go is my LinkedIn contact list because I can so quickly identify prospects in the area.

Use LinkedIn Signal. One of LinkedIn’s little-known gems is Signal, a real-time search engine that’s listed as “Updates” on the search menu. Use it to monitor what people are saying about any topic. You can also filter by connection, date, company and industry. A search for “Chicago Marketing Jobs” returns 20 opportunities posted in the last 72 hours. You can also get updates on people and groups that interest you.

LinkedIn has recently revealed some visually cool and potentially very useful stuff coming out of its labs. Swarm (below) is a different take on tag clouds that builds on recent company and title searches, jobs posted, blog entries and shared articles. InMaps lets you visualize your connection network. It’s still early-stage but shows promise.

What’s your favorite LinkedIn feature? Do you have a success story to share? Post it here.
"Swarm" is LinkedIn's version of a tag cloud

Recent Scribblings and Podcasts

  • Michelle Davidson and I had a great talk about B2B social media marketing for her Rain Today podcast. I made the case why marketers need to think like publishers and produce high-quality editorial content in order to be noticed.
  • Eric Schwartzman and I continued on that theme in our most recent B2B social media podcast. The catalyst for the discussion is a new report that says content marketing is growing in importance, but that marketers are still struggling with creative issues.
  • I got involved in a spirited little debate on The CMO Site over the value of Twitter for B2B marketing. I listed a bunch of statistics and case studies that I believe make a pretty compelling case for an ROI on tweets. Not everyone agreed with me.
  • I continue to work through a backlog of questions from the recent webinar that Eric and I did with Marketo. My answers cover topics like the appropriate use of personal versus corporate Twitter accounts, how to generate traffic to your blog and the value of e-mail marketing campaigns in the age of social media (still very important). The first set of answers is here and the latest batch is here. You can also listen to the original webinar here. Marketo called it “one of our most successful webinars to date.”
  • Who says engineers don’t know how to have fun? The folks at electronics distributor Element14 certainly don’t. They’ve got a new series of videos that focus on engineers’ passion for tinkering, and it’s inspired more than 1 million views in the last six months.

Tip of the Week: Delicious Linkrolls

You might look at a page like this one or this one and think, “Wow, that must have been a lot of work!” But as my wife says, “Really not so much.” The hundreds of articles and links on those pages are actually generated automatically by the social bookmarking site Delicious using a feature called “linkrolls.”

Linkrolls are collections of bookmarks that publish automatically to any compatible website using a small piece of Javascript code. Once you set up the code, everything you bookmark to the Delicious site with the designated tag will automatically appear on any page containing the code. You can publish headlines and full descriptions and publish them either alphabetically or in reverse chronological order.

Linkrolls have been around for a long time, but I’m surprised how few people have heard of them. They’re a great way to keep a running list of webpages that are important to you and to easily share them with others on your own site. Now that Yahoo has declared its intention to sell or shut down Delicious, some people are saying that the age of bookmarks is over, but I still find them enormously useful in keeping track of important information, as well as publishing it on occasion.

Just for Fun: Instructables.com

Want to know how to make a Yoda cake like the one below? Or how to iron seven shirts in 15 minutes? Or perhaps how to embed a bluetooth headset in a glove so you can literally talk to your hand? Then pay a visit to Instructables.com, where people have shared thousands of step-by-step instructions on how to build more offbeat, bizarre and occasionally even useful projects than you ever imagined.

Instructables.com started as a project at the MIT Media Lab, where researchers used it to share their projects and help others. It’s since evolved into a massive crowd-sourced venture for tinkerers. Some of the instructions are of questionable value (how build snowshoes from a computer case?), but a lot of them are downright useful (how to bake a perfect pecan pie). Use it to satisfy your inner tinkerer.
=

LinkedIn Treasures

May 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Newsletter, Uncategorized

Ask a room full of college students and a room full of business professionals “Who belongs to LinkedIn?” and the results will be almost a mirror opposite of each other. Facebook is the social network for after-hours fun. In contrast, LinkedIn is for business professionals. It’s a buttoned-down, no-nonsense business destination with a two-color, text-heavy design that almost screams “Boring!”

LinkedIn is anything but boring, however. Its value as a way to establish and further business relationships is unparalleled, thanks to the unique services it offers. If you signed up long ago and forgot about it, I recommend you take another look. linkedin-logo

Like any social network, LinkedIn has personal profiles, groups, and the concept of “friends,” which it calls “connections.” Its most distinctive feature is based on these connections: a six-degrees-of-separation structure that enables members to connect to people they don’t necessarily know through intermediaries within their trusted circle. It’s the online equivalent of arranging an introduction.

Personally, I don’t find this feature all that useful, but connections are the core of other LinkedIn features that I do like. One is Answers, a section where members can post their questions about nearly anything to a select group of connections or to the entire membership. Answers is a great way to get questions resolved quickly, but it’s also a means to expose your skills. Believe it or not, some people answer more than 200 questions a week on LinkedIn. One reason for their generosity: the site enables members to rate the quality of responses and showcases the most prolific contributors in a Hall of Fame section (the all-time leader has answered an incredible 14,000 questions).

Company Research

LinkedIn is also unparalleled in its database of company information, but it takes a bottoms-up approach, focusing not on corporate leadership but rather on individual employees. If you need to find a specific person within a company or just check out a potential partner or employer, you can go in through the back door by consulting current employees. LinkedIn will tell you if you have a direct or second-degree connection to the people you seek.

Job listings go beyond the standard titles and descriptions to provide contact information for people within the companies that advertise opportunities. If a job interests you, you can click through to find out who you know at the company and then contact that person for insight or a referral. LinkedIn also excels at search engine performance. Its public profiles do so well on Google that they frequently outrank personal websites in search results. I don’t know the secret, but I suspect that the site’s system of internal links is partially responsible. This alone is enough reason to set up your personal profile.

Given all this career-boosting utility, it’s not surprising that traffic to LinkedIn reportedly doubled in the weeks following the stock market meltdown. Members can brush up their personal profiles by swapping recommendations with others, updating their qualifications and showcasing their expertise through integrated applications. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn keeps a tight rein on the applications it chooses to support, limiting the current selection to just 10 business-focused services.

While LinkedIn doesn’t have nearly the membership numbers of Facebook, its business focus is an advantage. The CEO was recently quoted saying that the demographics of LinkedIn members are better than those of Wall Street Journal subscribers. In troubled times, that’s a very good place to be.


World Without Media

While in San Francisco last week, I delivered a presentation to the New Comm Forum with a title that was meant to be provocative: “World Without Media: What Will Fill the Void?” The premise was that the existing media world is collapsing with stunning speed and the new media organizations have yet to develop to provide the kind of trusted advice that we have come to expect from these institutions. We are in for some scary times while we sort it all out, although I believe we will be better off in the long run. Please view and/or download the presentation on SlideShare.


Tip of the Week – Compress PowerPoint Files

Do your PowerPoint presentations swell to gargantuan proportions? It’s not unusual for image-laden slide decks to reach 15 MB or more, which makes them unwieldy to send. Some e-mail servers won’t even accept files that large. The culprit is usually images. Large photo files can total several megabytes in size, and cropping and resizing them doesn’t change that. There is a handy feature in PowerPoint, however, that cuts out unused real estate and compresses images into the size needed to display them on the screen. Simply right click on any photo in the slide deck, choose Format Picture… then the Picture tab and then click the Compress… button. Choose All pictures in document, select Web/Screen resolution and check the boxes to compress the pictures and delete cropped areas. I tried this on one large PowerPoint file and reduced the size from 13MB to 5MB. Your mileage will vary, but your presentation will always be more compact for it.


Just for Fun – World’s Scariest Bridges

bridgeIf the photo at right scares the bejeezus out of you – as it does me – then you probably don’t want to spend much time looking at this gallery of the most dangerous rope bridges in the world. “You can find a wide variety of these bridges in countries like India, Malaysia, Philippines, New Zealand, Pakistan, Nepal, as well as in the interiors of some other countries,” says the site, in a description that serves as a warning against traveling in those countries. It’s hard to believe that anyone would set foot on some of these contraptions, which appear to come right out of an Indiana Jones movie. Then again, maybe staying in the same place is worse.