Blogger Outreach

finding value in your shiny objects

Social Beyond Singular Campaigns

Social currency for a brand can grow in two ways: slow and steady or slingshot

The slow and steady growth is more likely sustainable, but as most campaign metrics (and marketing metrics) utilize a traditional purchase funnel, slow and steady efforts often fail to hit key "awareness" benchmarks.

Slingshot tactics are far more gimmick-heavy and generally reach scale quickly, but they generally go dark a couple of weeks later.  These are campaigns in every sense of the word.  Give out a few free Macbook Pros on Twitter and watch your follower counts soar.  Give away seven free iPhones and watch your brand become a trending topic.  Create that incredibly creative Facebook application or visualization of the conversation, and hold up your scaled short-term engagement as your success.

But is Slingshot-value real social value?  It this where most brand will play in the space?

Probably.  As dirty as it sounds, Slingshot Marketing is going to be much of what we see in social over the coming few months.  The strategic vision, budgets and dedication to doing social right just aren't yet there.  Yet.  But with the inclusion of some basic marketing know-how, your slingshot shiny objects can be of value.

Here are a few basic principles:

  • Build ongoing social support into all activation budgets.  If you can't perform customer support triage, it will be very difficult to inspire a new consumer perspective towards the brand.  This doesn't need to be expensive, but it does require some training and strategic setup. 
  • Build for an ups and downs, not starts and stops.  Your brand doesn't need to be inspiring new conversation everyday, but it does need to be present, real, relevant and responsive to the conversation 365 days a year.
  • Slingshot Marketing/shiny objects should speak to your core brand value.  Don't give away an iPhone when you are selling a low-tech pair of socks.  Connect your shiny objects to the brand value prop.  Make your promotions speak to your messaging.
  • Invest in personalities and relationships.  Always have a twitter account available for following, and a brand page on Facebook where people who engage with the application can gather for current engagements and future activation.
  • Level set with key stakeholders that this is a shiny object, not a full social strategy. 
  • Setup your measurement, learning process and KPIs in advance. 
  • Listen to the conversation.  You just may find a few advocates and opportunities.
  • Setup a follow up lessons-learned session before you start.
  • Always bring ideas for a more strategic plan as a next step.  Neither you, nor your clients will find continued success in gimmicks in place of real marketing.

the difficult art of cold pitching - Chris Abraham's pitch to the AdAge Power 150

Cold call Call it ePR, blogger outreach/relationship management, networking, social media activation or social marketing...  at it's heart, this is the practice of speaking with the community;  enlisting bloggers and the community at large, to speak about your efforts and on behalf of your brand.

  • If you have a relationship with a blogger, you can leverage this relationship to drive your brand/client.
  • If you do not yet have a relationship, you have to start building one. 
  • If you need something done today, and don't have a relationship, you need to resort to the daunting cold pitch: pitching your product or service without any prior interaction.

Chris Abraham, a noted blogger and popular twitterer, recently sent out a private email message to many of the bloggers on the Ad Age Power 150 list, asking them to register their contact information. 

His note was personal, personable and extremely well written.  It felt like he was really speaking to me.  No, he didn't mention any of my previous posts.  And yes, there is a strong likelihood that this letter was a form letter.  Nevertheless, this letter feels somewhat warm, an incredible accomplishment for a cold pitch.

The Pitch
Hi there Jon

I wanted to reach out to you since you're a current fellow member of the AdAge Power 150 with Future Visions. Please excuse the form email but there are over 780 current Power 150 members. I am popping you this note for two reasons: first, I would like your help to do something with this list; second, I just want to update you as to what I am up to.

To create this list, I collected the OPML file free off of the Power 150 page on Adage and expanded it into a list with names and emails. I would love to share the list with you so please pop me an email if you would like a copy. I was hoping we might figure out a way to keep in better touch as a group of marketing, PR, and advertising bloggers. Please shoot me any ideas you have. I was thinking we could create a community group to share news, ideas, and opportunities to work together. On that note, I am the president and COO of Abraham Harrison LLC, a firm specializing in social media PR, blogger outreach, online engagement, and online reputation management. I would love to schedule a call so that we can explore possibilities to collaborate.

On a personal note, I have started blogging for AdAge and have had so much fun with that that I am looking to find as many opportunities to blog as I can. Please let me know if you know of anything or if you would like me to guest blog. Also, if you're in the DC area I would love to get together. To be honest, I would love to meet you the next time I am in your neck of the woods.

Thanks so much and I appreciate your time and attention.  I wish you a very fine 2009 with much luck and success.


<note: Lots of contact information was provided, but I have deleted it out of concern for Chris' privacy>
So what do we think?  Is this a cold pitch done right? 

Note: After reading this letter, I'm still unsure of what will be done with my contact information.  Is this being gathered as a closed list/community for AdAge?  Is this a contact list for his firm?  Will my contact information be shared with anyone outside of this community?

newsweek declares twitter dumbest innovation...

 OK, so first off, I'll admit it. I read Time and Newsweek.  There are times when I find their articles intriguing, educational or provocative.

But this week, Newsweek was off the mark in a really grand way.

In their recent "The New Global Elite" issue (dated January 5th) they ran an article comparing Ink Versus Influence.  What struck me the hardest was their Twitter Versus Newspapers comparison.  To quote -

The dumbest innovation of the century? Memo to tweeters: we don't care what you think.

Yes, print is troubled and some urban dailys are doomed.  Still, on a screen or on dead trees, nothing shapes the conversation like facts.

Twitter_user_growth_q4-2008_hubspotFirstly, I searched, this article isn't even on the web.  Irony...

Secondly, I can't help but wonder what this factoid is hoping to convey? 

(a) That twitter is overhyped by people and/or bloggers? 
(b) That twitter is misunderstood? 
(c) That the mainstream news is overhyping or over-covering this growing platform?

A quick search of reveals no less than 52 results, 45 of them in the past year alone.  So I guess they were at least partially responsible for throwing Ink at this "dumb innovation".

Furthermore, their second is assertion is that Newspapers contain... facts, while Twitter contains... something else. 

Are newspapers factual? Non-partisan? Fair and balanced? 

During the recent Intifada, the NY Times ran a picture my neighbor from Long Island, a kid I went to school with, on their front cover, reporting that he was an Arab teen fleeing the Israeli Police who had beaten him bloody.  In reality, he was a Jewish American student studying abroad who was beaten beyond recognition by an Arab mob in the days before Yom Kippur.

Sure, newspapers are held to a higher standard than rumor-rich social media.  But twitter is not a fad anymore than speaking with one another.  Twitter may or may not be the next big thing (though the numbers do look promising).  But it is a rich platform, and one I wouldn't be as quick to dismiss.

So is Twitter an irrelevant, over-hyped fad?  Not today it isn't.  I'm content with the fact that millions of people are talking.  CNN and Fox News a regularly reporting on Twitter buzz and rumors (as is Newsweek).  Brands are turning profits, direct ROI, via Twitter.  I have met hundreds of interesting people on Twitter, and continue to do so on a regular basis.   I have been recruited through twitter, I have recruited others via Twitter, I communicate with friends, family, clients, partners, vendors and startups on Twitter.  This isn't to say that Twitter is an evergreen platform.  But I wouldn't label them the dumbest innovation of the century.

So Newsweek, even if you believe Twitter is over-hyped, why would you turn your back on an open marketing channel, on millions of conversationalists?  What do they stand to gain?

- - - - - -
disclaimer: I'm generaly a fan of Newsweek and will continue to read this publication. I agree that Twitter is overhyped and misunderstood, I'm just not ready to write it off.  And anyone who is, is clearly missing the core values of information flow in the digital dynamic.  Let's hope this was the lone view of one contributor and not representative of a broader company perspective.  On that note, the views represented in this post are solely my own and not of my employer or their parent company.

bloggers and IZEA - the long term relationship?

Kmart sears izea So IZEA is hot.  And Kmart and Sears are reaping the benefits of being early movers.

Ted Murphy and IZEA look like visionaries.  And to be frank, Ted deserves it.  He's successfully marketed what was, at first, a controversial product, winning not only big name clients, but inviting serious thought leaders to the table.

And while some will plead the purist (that social media does not invite sponsored endorsements), I personally believe that the social elite will ultimately maintain their right to advocate products or services they choose to endorse.  And one way or the other, the world will go on.

For more on this debate, check out Allen Stern's fantastic wrap-up of the controversy, Jeremiah Owyang's expert analysis and linkity love of perspectives.

However, what is the true value of IZEA to a brand, to a blogger?

  • To Brands: IZEA generates interactions/engagements. IZEA generates word of mouth/buzz.  IZEA is making people rethink brands, increasing consideration.
  • To Bloggers: IZEA is giving bloggers the gift of giving, sponsoring contests, driving traffic and increasing engagement.

What is IZEA not doing?

  • Building an ongoing constituency of brand advocates.
  • Building a set of relationships between brands and bloggers that can be accessed moving forward.
  • Generating long term social equity.

IZEA is a currently great solution for short term marketing.  They will drive successful social promotional engagement with your brand. And this is a great offering.  But it is up to you as a marketer to make it work for you in the long term, to translate these short interactions into meaningful stories, to turn impressions into lifelong relationships.

However, one can't help but wonder, what's next?  Consider:

  • Promotions have a limited lifespan: At a certain point, the market will tire of giveaway promotions and engagement will wane.  This will require increasingly creatively compelling contests that are far more costly to ideate, generate and execute.
  • Twitter is already over-saturated with noise, RTs add to the noise: While bloggers will most likely limit the frequency of their engagements in the interest of maintaining their on-topic engagement (ex - subscriber numbers), the twitter community will quickly grow tired of the RT (retweet) contest entrance method, as this quickly generates interruptive noise.  
Sure, the first 10 times I saw this contest on twitter I was intrigued.  But by the 20th time I had clicked through and learned about it, entered the contest and satisfied my curiosity.  By the 80th tweet this grew annoying.  While this is not a flaw in IZEA's model, I wouldn't be surprised if Twitterers who frequently RTed as a means of contest entry lost a few followers. 

There has to be a happy medium, and I'm sure Ted has a few more tricks up his sleeve.

Key Takeaway

If you're looking for a quick social win, IZEA looks to be heading in the right direction.  If you're looking for an ongoing, strategic relationship-oriented community or extra-community (external) of advocates, I would consider IZEA as a staging ground for something bigger, something greater.  The sky is the limit.  But it's up to YOU as a marketer to make it happen.

So Who is On Board?

On that note, kudos to Joe Jaffe, Jim Kurkal, Steve Spalding, Tamar Weinberg, Aaron Brazell, Liz Strauss, Chris Heuer, and IZEA's own Ted Murphy for making each of their posts, charities and packages stand out.  This was anything but your average blog ad.

photo adapted from original: credit here

asking for IT vs. earning IT

  • Asking for it Is it ok for a blogger to ask for votes in a contest?
  • Is it ok for a company to ask/suggest that their employees embed a video, share a clip/widget/app, or digg a piece of "viral" content?
    • Must the employee disclose that they were prompted to share?  Must their friends or family do so?  How do you disclose a digg?  A tweet?
  • Is it ok for an ePR/Social Media "Guru" to use his or her network to promote their clients?
    • It is ok for clients to ask for/expect this?
  • Is it ok for a company to "follow" many people on Twitter without joining the conversation?
  • Is it ok for a Social Media Advocate to "become" your "friend" if they don't really care about friendship?
  • Is it ok to ask someone to recommend you on LinkedIn based on your blogging alone - without any insight into your productivity?

There is something fundamentally different between asking for it, and earning it.
    If you can't earn it on your own, when is it ok to ask? 
        How should one go about asking for it? 

photo credit here
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EA : when getting it wrong = getting it right

Image representing Electronic Arts as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Anyone who has ever played a video game is familiar with the art of the glitch. It's as much a part of the gaming culture as mustachioed plumbers with an intense hatred of turtles.

Gamers practically expect to occasionally walk through walls, see through corners of buildings or walk on air.  These glitches aren't created on purpose, but with all the depth in today's games, it's understandable when something occasionally slip through the cracks.

Such was the case in Electronic Arts' Tiger Woods game.  A "glitch" known as "The Jesus Shot" was "discovered", allowing players to walk on water.  In a game that prided itself on realism, this glitch seemed both entertaining and a bit out of place.  A "fan" posted a video to this effect on You Tube, generating quite a bit of buzz.

So what does EA do about this buzz?  They used the buzz momentum for some great free publicity, creating the spot below (video below/after the jump).  Well Done.

Here's to hoping that this was an honest play, and not a seeded campaign.  For more conversation on the EA Jesus Shot campaign, check out the discussions linked here.  Really check them out.  I would estimate that nearly all the buzz was positive (with the only concern being the corporate usage of a religious icon in marketing).  Well Done!

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transparency > authenticity > sincerity

  • Transparency is a state of honest communications.
  • Authenticity is a state of presenting.
  • Sincerity is a state of being.

Transparency Not long ago the market began to buzz about the need for transparency in corporate culture as they communicate in social channels.

This soon translated in brand authenticity, further evolving the humanity of corporate culture and the resultant media.

So what's next?

If we think about human relationships, the truest form of communications is that of sincerity.

Which begs the question: Can a brand be sincere?  What does a sincere brand look like?  What are the components that define brand sincerity?  Are there many/any sincere brands out there in the market?

How would you gauge your brand's presence in social media? 

Where do you believe the social media early adopters like Dell, Comcast, Zappos, SouthWest, GM, Delta, Home Depot, Graco, Jet Blue Verizon and AT&T are best categorized?  Are they transparent?  Are they authentic?  Are they sincere?  Are they human?  Or am I totally off?

Thanks to Paull Young for helping to cull this list.

Photo credit here

Disclosure: some of the brands listed in this post are clients.  The views expressed in this post are personal and do not reflect those of my employer or it's parent company.

Comcast's Carpe Diem Moment

Comcast Corporation

Image via Wikipedia

Comcast had some service issues.  They did the right thing.  They reached out.  The became responsible digital social citizens. 

They are resolving issues. 

Sure, they may be more that they could be doing, there is always room for growth and optimization.

But perhaps the most notable component of this effort (of late) is the amazing New York Times writeup on the Comcast Cares initiative.  This mainstream recognition of Comcast efforts has driven massive spikes in buzz across the interwebs.  Comcast is on fire.

But what are they doing with this spike in conversation?  How are they fueling and enabling brand advocacy?

Ian Schafer suggests, "I would find more 'Franks', and let each of their subscribers know that it's an option."  Great idea.  But I think the immediate opportunity here transcends customer service.

Consider the conversation captured (on Twitter) below:

Comcast Cares Conversations
Comcast looks to be missing out on a tremendous social PR opportunity.

It's one thing to build a social customer service capability. It's another to internalize digital social media across an organization. 

Comcast Cares is a great program.  Here's to hoping that Comcast integrates this dynamic across the rest of their organization.