Over the course of a couple days, my Klout score went from 65 to 67 because my mother died. Not because I had some sort of amazing Klout-gaming strategy but because I have been honestly and openly sharing my grief at the sudden loss of my mother on Google+, Twitter, but mostly on Facebook. And the reason why my Klout spiked is because so many of my 47,000 followers on Twitter and my 4,800 friends on Facebook came to my emotional aid at my time of need.
After I wrote The Powerful SEO Benefits of Blogger PR Outreach, I looked around Google a little bit under the keywords “blogger outreach” and on the first page I discovered my new friend and partner, Stephen Davies of 3W PR and blogger for PRBlogger, and look what I found: corroboration! According to Stephen, “In fact, the SEO benefits could out-perform all of the other benefits of blogger outreach,” which we at Abraham Harrison, LLC, are discovering more and more every day! Check out The SEO benefits of blogger outreach. (Via PRBlogger & Chris Abraham)
Blogger relations, or blogger outreach as I like to call it, is a relatively new concept in the PR and marketing arena. Prior to blogs and other forms of social media, people working in our industry have never had such direct access to influential people from all walks of life. The advent of these new platforms has also enabled us to tap into real insights, views and opinions on various products, brands and issues which in-turn have allowed us to have open and transparent *relations* with the *public* (public relations, get it?).
As proved by Edelman, Forrester and Nielsen, the opinion of the every-day person is increasingly becoming a more trustworthy source of information. The public is more ‘media savvy’ than ever before meaning marketing messages no longer have the same effect as they once did. If they ever did. Is it any wonder that PR people, marketers and the respective companies they represent are increasingly seeing the value in blogger outreach?
Using myself as guinea pig and my involvement in the O2 blogger outreach campaign. The company working on the initiative, VCCP, probably looked at this blog and classified it with having a niche audience. With around 1500 RSS subscribers I can safely assume that I don’t hold great powers of influence. Not to say this blog doesn’t hold *some* level of influence; it does. To what extent, though, I really don’t know, but I’m sure the guys working at VCCP have their own reasons for including me in the outreach.
So let’s assume that after I wrote both posts on the O2 Xda Orbit 2 I ‘influenced’ some of this blog’s readers. By “readers” I mean people who are subscribed to the RSS feed or email alerts and are updated as and when I publish new blog posts. How I actually influenced them is another matter. Did they rush out and buy the phone as soon as they read my review? Maybe not. Did I at least increase awareness of the phone to some of the readers? I presume so. Either way, some level of influencing was in play.
Job done? Maybe not.
What’s struck me the last week or so is the amount of traffic I’ve received by people looking for information on the Xda Orbit 2. Quite a lot in comparison for this itty-bitty blog. So-much-so that since I wrote the two posts about the phone on the 20th and 27th February they’ve proved to be the top two most popular blog posts from those dates to present time. Take a look:
Note: The Homepage and About page have higher traffic but these are static pages and not blog entries.
Again, if you look at the top ten keywords used to get to this blog since I wrote the two posts you’ll see that four out of the ten are related to the Xda including the most popular two keywords:
This, to me, is pretty impressive and it puts blogger outreach in a whole new different light. In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious that SEO plays a part in all of this but maybe I was too caught up in the ‘direct approach’ and ‘two-way conversation’ ways of thinking that I didn’t give it any thought.
In fact, the SEO benefits could out-perform all of the other benefits of bloggeroutreach. Two reasons:
Relevance – You can see by the keyword data that people who landed on either post through a search engine were actually looking for information on the Xda. The people who subscribe to my feed weren’t necessarily – I published it and they may have read it. No guarantee there, though.
Volume – If the search engine traffic to each post continues which, chances are, it will then those two posts will have received a lot more attention from Google and the like than they did through an RSS feed.
These two reasons make the point that SEO should not just be considered when initiating of blogger outreach campaign but should be high on the agenda. The measurement and evaluation process of the campaign should include any traffic and SEO data that are available to gather. They could be the most valuable results you’ve achieved!
The underlying objective of a blogger outreach campaign is, of course, to generate positive and authentic opinions on your product or brand. But if what you are promoting is a lousy, useless or even mediocre product, however, then the next title of a blog post could be “The SEO nightmare of blogger outreach.”
It’s all about the quality of the content or product you’re promoting at the end of the day.
Before you jump into the world of online community, blogging and social media whole hog, please feel free to benefit from my experience in the space. If you read throught the following 21 short articles — and also explore my additional Insights and Ideas — and you’ll avoid many of the misconceptions and pitfalls surrounding new media, social media, and online community engagement (Via Chris Abraham):
- An Online Outreach and Online Engagement HOWTO
- Always Bring Something to the Party
- Blog Community Outreach
- Blog Messaging and Counter-Messaging
- Brand Ambassadorship Requires Authenticity
- Corporate Blogging and the Corporate Blog
- Domain Name Registration Strategy
- Don’t Be Seduced by the Lure of Astroturfing
- Markets are Conversation
- People are Already Talking About You
- Ping Servers and Pinging
- Publicity and Corporate Blogs
- Reciprocal Linking
- Social Bookmarking Strategy
- Talk Like the Locals
- The Blogroll
- The Internet is Vastly Hugely Mind-Boggingly Big
- When in Rome Do As the Romans Do
- Gift and Asset Distribution
- Influence the Influencers
- Influencer Identification
A couple of years ago I was talking to a friend of mine. She’s the head of a decent sized ad/PR agency here in the DC area. She had someone that had been doing SEO work for her for just a short period move away. It was more project work and he’d no longer be avialble. Now no one else at the agency knew SEO or even SEM.
That’s typical of this area. So I mentioned to her that she had a great opportunity to hire someone to provide the service as it is becoming increasingly important in the marketing world. Her agency would stand out.
She responded by saying that she should look to “hire someone young and train them”. Problem is, no one at the agency was knowledgeable enough to teach anyone anything on SEO. It was hire someone young (read cheap) and have them wing it.
Unfortunately, that’s been the attitude of many ad agencies when it’s come to anything related to online marketing. They don’t seek out to learn best practices first. They don’t play a role in any social media. They don’t got to the same conferences. They don’t think they need to. Because they often don’t respect it.
That’s why a lot of ad agencies will build websites full of flash. It looks great but it takes too long to download and search engines can’t find them. Big mistakes but it’s done all the time. It’s part of their portfolio and the client seems pleased, so they consider themselves experts.
That’s why a lot of marketing agencies shove marketing messages down peoples’ throats on social networks. It doesn’t work that well, but the client is on this site and that site and those sites are currently hot.
That’s why a lot of PR firms use less than transparent methods (like flogs) to push forward brands.
With social media, it’s my guess that it will only get worse. A lot of those same ad agencies and PR firms that are currently resisting social media will be finally adopting it in two or three years. Sure, some will still resist and many that go that route will disappear. But those that do take on social media will do so in typical fashion.
Between now and then, they won’t really have attempted to learn much about social media. Sure, they’ll have an agency blog that they’ll post something on every 11 days. Key people may have a Facebook account. But they won’t know the intricacies of the industry because they’ve never paid attention.
So they won’t care about concepts like authenticity and transparency. They’ve never “done” those two things and they won’t understand why they should start now. It will be inconvenient. Just like the 15 out of 16 that Forrester studied are finding out.
But they’ll want to jump in the game. To say they “get it”. So what will they do? They’ll hire someone young (read cheap) and “train” them.
The people they hire may be right out of school. It’s their first job. They’ll be doing what the ego-driven boss says. This new young employee may be pumped that they’ve got this cool new job at the agency downtown. They may not be up to par on the standards that we’ve talked about for years. Or if they are, they may be so desensitized to ethical breaches that they won’t care.
They’ll go along to get along. After all, MOST PEOPLE DO.
I’m saying this because I think that social media is a couple years away from really taking off. Right now it’s big, but it’s not huge. Marketing communications is changing, but often social media types don’t have a set seat at the table. But those PR firms and ad agencies do. And they’ll have the client’s ear just as the client wants to jump into social media.
So this means these marketing communications companies – which should still outnumber social media agencies by far – that are entering the social media space, will be hiring people without extensive backgounds in this field. These new hirees will be carrying out projects designed by their superiors who’ve got the results-driven “shove it down their throats” mentality. It may not seem right, but today we’ve got different level of honesty. Cutting corners is no big deal. Everyone does it. Why challenge the boss?
So incompetently run campaigns will be more common. They’ll be more cleverly hatched than the ones of today. But they’ll still be done poorly. Many won’t get caught. Some will, sullying the industry. Sort of like the way spammers have hurt email. Clients may not know the difference between actual expertise and fluff because they hadn’t been paying attention to online trends. So they’ll go with their current agencies.
This could be commonplace. It could almost become the norm. It could be the way things are done.
I’m just thinking that the standards and guidelines that we talk about today aren’t going to be respected by many practitioners of tomorrow…because they’re too inconvenient to follow.
For some time now, those in social media have talked of authenticity. We’ve talked of transparency. We’ve said that organizations must engage their stakeholders and listen. They can’t just send out forced marketing messages. If they do, it will fail. They can’t be unauthentic or they’ll lose valuable trust.
We’ll say all of this in online discussions. On blog posts. In online magazines. In podcasts. On Twitter. At conferences. At TweetUps. Podcamps. Everywhere.
And you know what? I completely agree.
But we may be in the minority and it may be – at this point – impossible to do much about it.
The advertising study was conducted by Forrester. They found that 15 of 16 social media networking marketing efforts didn’t make the grade. The primary reason? Most of the efforts involved very little listening and instead involved shoving marketing messages down peoples’ throats.
The ad agencies and their client companies aren’t listening to us. The bastards. They ignore what we say. Could it be that most of them don’t read our blogs? Our online magazines? They don’t listen to our podcasts? Follow us on Twitter? Go to our conferences? Attend our TweetUps or Podcamps?
But what they do have is the attention of our potential clients. So the agencies pitch that they know social media, they get clients, and then they run lousy campaigns. And they get paid to do this. Often big bucks.
But the point to remember is that they don’t give a hoot what we say.
The other study was done by Millward Brown for Manning Selvage & Lee and PRWeek and pointed out that about 1 out of 5 top marketers admit to having bought advertising in publications in return for favorable coverage.
Then is showed that 10% of senior marketers have developed implicit agreements with editors or reporters to get favorable coverage.
And finally, 8% have admitted to having their company give a gift to an editor or a producer to get a favorable story placed in a publication or program.
Those are bribes. Considered to be highly unethical by pretty much any governing body that touches the issue. PRSA, news associations, publishing associations. But it’s done. Why? It gets results. And results matter. Results get the bills paid.
Now, I’m sure most of you would agree that most ad agencies, large and small and most PR firms, large and small, don’t “get” social media. Hence the 15 out of 16 poor showing. These companies resist the new methods. They may say on their websites that they know what they’re doing, but it’s a bit of a fraud.
I look here in the DC area and we’ve got two events coming up that point to this problem.
One is the week long celebration of DC Adweek. A little more than half of the speakers work for publications. Three from the National Geographic. They’ve got Chris Matthews and David Gregory of NBC speaking. Steve Forbes. People from Business Week and the New Yorker. We’ve got sales reps from MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn to talk about social media.
I’ll rant about this on another post, but the point is where are the strategists?? They aren’t to be found here. Why? That’s because the organizers don’t really get it. They’re missing out on the best minds here in the DC area. The key companies too.
The other event is InterAct 2008. Top thinkers and doers in the digital arena. And it has, among their speakers, the DC people who are kicking ass when it comes to digital marketing. The type of people the local ad club overlooks.
But this is typical. And it’s happening all over the place. Those ad agencies and PR firms that don’t get it often are the lead agencies when it comes to business relationships that do incompetent work (as we see in the Forrester study) or have dubious practices (as we see with the Millward Brown study). Most clients are new to social media or haven’t taken a deep look at it quite yet. And quite, often the first one’s they’ll turn to are their traditional ad agencies or PR firms.
Yet these firms, the ones that many digital strategist have little interaction with, will never admit that they don’t “get” social media. They’ll forge ahead and position themselves as “experts”.
So, I’ll explain what I see the upcoming problem in How Social Media Will Get Screwed, Part Three.
Yesterday I hopped over to Chris Kieff’s blog, 1 Good Reason, and came upon an excellent post that sparked a discussion both online and off. I ended up talking to Chris and five others about what likely is to be a major problem in the upcoming years regarding online marketing and PR, especially through the social media lens. The five were Jen Zingsheim, Bryan Person, Dave Evans, Jake McKee, and Mark Davidson.
I’ll start by saying that I think often that those of use who practice social media are, if not naive, very idealistic in our thinking on the principles we espouse. And I’d say that a confluence of emerging trends, mindsets, events, and business practices could come back and knock a lot of us on our asses.
What caught my attention from Chris’ blog was his interaction with a young woman who had been hired as a blogger by a clothing company:
Yesterday at Social Media Camp NYC hosted by Mashable, and Yoono, there was a very lively discussion started by a young woman who presented herself as a “Persona Blogger.” She was joined in this discussion by a company (who I have decided to not name, yet) who is employing her to blog for them.
She discussed how she assumes the persona of several people; 52 year old woman, 25 year old man, 20-ish woman, and then blogs, twitters, and creates pages on social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and others as these people. She spoke about how this is a 24/7 job that requires her to maintain this work constantly to keep up the facade.
I’ll not mince words, this is simply lying, and as I’ve stated in this blog before, lying is a terrible way to build a relationship.
The audience at SM Camp NYC seemed to divide somewhat along generational lines, with some of the younger people taking the side that it’s understood that people can’t be trusted on the internet. Their arguments followed the logic that everyone on the internet makes things up. They’ve grown up understanding there are different levels of honesty.
I chose to highlight that last sentence because it’s very problematic. It’s both true and bullshit. Honesty, by definition would seem to be an absolute. But people, out of convenience have altered it to fit their needs and circumstances. We all do it. I’ve done it. We rationalize. We justify. That’s life. We’re human. But there’s consequences.
What stuck me is Chris’ point on the outlook of the attendees regarding the concept of the “persona blogger”. It “seemed to divide somewhat along generational lines” My concern here is more through the aspect of looking through the eyes of practitioners as opposed to potential audience members.
How Did This Come About?
Consider the following:
1) We’ve had a President of the United States, someone who often sits atop the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” surveys, who by his very position is a role model for our nation’s youth, recklessly having an extramarital affair with a woman young enough to be his daughter. He then lies to cover it up and attempts to position the woman as delusional and, if not a stalker, somewhat obsessed. Oops, a blue dress appears with a certain stain on it, and, well, it turns out he did
not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. We’re then told that this really doesn’t matter, it’s only an affair, and of course he lied under oath, but so what?
Say what you want about it, but I’ll say it tarnished the Office of the Presidency and it demeaned the institution of marriage. Meaning, it lowered the standards of what we expect out of our leaders and it created different levels of honesty.
2) So let’s fast forward a couple of years. Wall Street. Greed is Good. Irrational exuberance. Brokerage houses telling their brokers to push certain stocks. Outright lies. A couple of companies went under, a couple of people went to jail, but more importantly thousands lost their life savings because a few who were already rich got even more greedy.
In a lot of cases, the amounts measured up to a couple of days profits. Those brokerage houses still exist, still treat themselves as noble entities, still are looked upon by the business media as having thought leaders.
From this, we subtly learn not to trust institutions…but often those same institutions are the only ones out there.
3) If you’re Catholic, like me, you soon found out that the very people who represent God before your very eyes are not only failing to protect the most innocent, they are covering up the grievous sins of their subordinates. On a national scale. For some (no, not me) it was as much as part of the Church as a sacrament. Nothing is sacred.
4) Speaking of presidents, we’re now at war in Iraq because
they have weapons of mass destruction they likely have ties to al Queda to spread democracy in the Middle East. We’ll be greeted as liberators and then we’ll be out of there in a few months, where we can say “Mission Accomplished”. The war will pay for itself with Iraqi oil money.
don’t need more troops. We don’t torture. We’re in the last throes of the insurgency.
What we’ve seen with all of this – and it’s coming out in memoirs of administration aides – is that there was a huge propaganda campaign coming out of said administration, pushing falsehoods on practically everything. Dissent within the administration was squelched and that attitude seemed to spread around the country. Ask the Dixie Chicks. The media often went along for reasons only they know.
In my conversation with Jake McKee, he pointed out how many of today’s young people don’t question authority. They may not follow it blindly, they may just accept that they are going to be lied to.
So it’s been reinforced that it’s OK to fudge the truth and dissent is often bad.
5) Like sports? Like steroids? This generations’ greatest hitter and greatest pitcher are heavily believed to have been juiced up. As were Olympic hopefuls, past Gold medal winners, and Tour de France winners. Toss in souped up cars in NASCAR and Formula 1 and you’ve got cheaters everywhere. Whatever it takes to win. The end justifies the means. If he’s on our team, that’s cool, as long as he produces. People may fall from grace, but that’s after winning millions of dollars.
What we learn here is that it’s not how you play the game, it’s whether you win
I’m not writing all this to shove down your throats moral standards or to condemn society or to shame us as role models for our nation’s youth or to point out how young people are going to be less ethical than we are.
I’m writing this instead to shove down your throats that, at the very least, we’re likely going to have to deal with some serious issues in the near future. Those same standards fo authenticity and transparency may not be worth snot. I’ll further explain in How Social Media Will Get Screwed, Part Two.
I don’t know if that title will get me anywhere…but I was trying to be a bit funny.
I was actually really stoked the other day when I discovered that my Flickr Pro account now includes the ability to upload 90 second videos. It was so well timed for me. I had been looking for a way to share very short videos (typically 30 to 60 seconds) of my little daughter with my family and friends spread around the world.
Techcrunch liked it too. Watch the little “Shel Israel Puppet” it is pretty strange.
The first order of business for me was that I could control access to the videos. I didn’t wanna just put up videos of my daughter and let just anyone view them. So, I needed something that gave me control. I thought about Youtube – they do give you the ability to keep your video private. I also checked out a few other options. Continue reading
Pete Blackshaw wrote a pretty good article called The Official 2008 Web 2.0 Buzzword Forecast — I like it because I love it when the industry catches up me me (what, me modest?). Well, this is a great new buzzword that Pete defined: Shamsparency:
‘“Shamsparency”: Don’t get busted buying shills or engaging in unsavory activity. Just don’t do it, or the forces of shamsparency will catch up with you. It happens all the time, and firms in the CGM monitoring space (like my own) make it easier to uncover the imposters. My recommendation: avoid this term at all costs, and write the WOMMA ethics code on the whiteboard 30 times.’ The Official 2008 Web 2.0 Buzzword Forecast By Pete Blackshaw
I wrote something similar in Don’t Be Seduced by the Lure of Astroturfing:
Whenever you engage the Internet on behalf if a company or organization, you are acting as a brand ambassador. If someone is curious as to who you are and why you’re so passionate about an event, product, or service, the understanding is that they will pretty easily be able to find out that you’re a marketing professional.
For some, that is enough. Legally-speaking, it is enough. In terms of building a long-term relationship with your current, future, or present customers, hiding your identity as a professional marketer in the folds of your online profile may be considered deceitful.
You may be attracted to covert online marketing: special ops, black ops, spycraft – “fifth column marketing,” if you will. Don’t be.
The blowback that can result from using a false name, a false email (a Yahoo, Google, or Hotmail address created for the campaign and the false name), and a false bio, isn’t worth it.
There is a term for shooting for the short term by being opaque in your intent, no matter how effective it may be: astroturfing, which “describes formal public relations campaigns which seek to create the impression of being a spontaneous, grassroots behavior.”
Accusations of astroturfing can compromise the integrity of the organization you are representing, and further put your ability to communicate future messages in danger.
Over the short term, pretending to be just another denizen of an online community or a blog works if you can pull it off. It isn’t tough to sneak in and talk, talk, talk.
Even though your reputation online is more defined by your contributions to the conversations rather than who you are, the culture of the Internet doesn’t suffer being fooled, duped, or suckered.
If you are ever found out, you are screwed.