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Brandstorming is a team blog written by Jim and Franki Durbin. We like to think of it as our idea playground.
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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Making Metamucil Sexy

What do you do with a collection of legacy brands when you need to breathe new life into your company? P&G doesn't look far. The owner of such classic brands as Mr. Clean, Old Spice and Metamucil believes it is better to reposition those brands than to develop new ones. And while the Old Spice campaign seems ridiculously funny to those of us who smelled this drugstore brand on our uncles, making Metamucil a 'beauty' product seems even more farfetched.

Yes, P&G hopes to help you look better, from the inside out. Campaign analysts are having a field day with this one. From calling it a "gutsy ad" to making references to "gut feelings" I'd say P&G has an uphill battle in trying to make this 75 year old laxative brand appealing to 30-somethings. How do you appeal to the young and the fabulous without alienating your existing customers? In this age of looking good, you do it by selling the benefits of enhanced beauty.

Publicis, the agency charged with brand repositioning for metamucil, has crafted sophisticated ads and sexy TV spots with beautiful women putting on makeup or fixing their hair. There is no dull talk of regularity. It's all about looking great and feeling fabulous. The product is only seen in the reflection on the mirror, alongside messages such as "primp" and "beautify your inside." The product isn't sexy, but the campaign certainly is aimed at the body-conscious.

Adweek asks if the campaign isn't marching on dangerous territory:
"Consciously or not (and if not, this seems to be a case of Clueless 101), it directly feeds into the preoccupations of girls with eating disorders, whose arsenal of products to abuse already tends to include laxatives. It shows a skinny, attractive, young model (at most in her early 20s) with her head and shoulders on the ground and her body in an upside down, weirdly contorted position, all the better to focus on her super-flat stomach. "Drop-dead gorgeous guts" reads the headline. The copy begins, "Help your not-so-glam insides reach supermodel status" and ends with "Just add Metamucil to your already diva-conscious diet and your insides will be haute-haute-haute."
Yes, apparently even our insides now need to be deemed of "diva-worthy" status. In fact, the FAQs section of the product web site does, in fact, focus a bit too much on net carbs for my comfort. Trust me, if you can sell women the requirement benefit of additional beauty and sex appeal (inside and out, apparently), the young and the impressionable (or 30-something and curious) will be lined up to buy your product. Let's just hope Metamucil isn't going too far with the campaign.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Go Ahead: Stumble

I love technology. Even more, I love the clever people who figure out fun things we can do with existing technology. Take StumbleUpon. This is easily the most talked about of the recent downloads available. You download it, tell it what you'd like it to show you, and blammo! You're suddenly discovering the most interesting (to you) things on the internet today.

I've told SU that I'd like to see art, technology, design, architecture, geography, etc... Here's what it decided to humor me with today:
So if you're bored and have two minutes to spare. Start stumbling. It is a terrific way to expose yourself to new ideas, new tools and new information.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

London Calling!

At heart, I'm a rebel. If there's a sign on a street that says "no pedestrians" you can bet I'll start walking down it to see the great view I must be missing. (Just ask Jim.) It isn't that I don't like rules. I just refuse to follow silly guidelines set by "cautionists" who drive 35 in he 40 lane of life.

My father (a military officer) taught me to always question authority. He wanted me to think for myself. My mother had her own influence. She wanted to be sure I was able to take care of myself and avoided the pitfalls of being a 'damsel in distress' one day. I wonder if they knew they were creating a serial entrepreneur?

Because of these early influences, I've always had a passion for studying renegade leaders like Richard Branson. Branson understands that to succeed you must be willing to change. You must also be willing to fail and try something new. The collection of diverse Virgin companies is proof positive that diversification, perseverance and being a rule-breaker can bring about success in business.

With that, I've been studying Branson's crazy ways and having a blast researching how Virgin advertises its many services. Ads are ususally tongue-in-cheek, edgy and boundary pushing. Just like the company itself. Take this commercial for Virgin Atlantic for example:



Awkward? Yes. Memorable? Yes. Brand building. You betcha. It works because Virgin Atlantic wants you to know they are different from the competition. This isn't British Airways, folks. It's Richard's way of having fun with his company's advertising. And it works.

Stay tuned for more installments of Brand Building the Branson Way. And if anyone can put me in touch with Sir Richard himself, drop us a note. If anyone would have fun with business blogging it's Virgin.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Restaurants and Social Media and Chipotle

Jeremiah has a interesting piece on a piece of snark journalism from the San Francisco Gate, with a sharply titled piece on reviewing restaurants.

The piece is actually written somewhat favorably, but the title says it all.

Food bloggers dish up plates of spicy criticism
Formerly formal discipline of reviewing becomes a free-for-all for online amateurs
Now, I don't know if I'm an amateur, because if you check out my resume, I've been eating solid food since I was, oh, let's just say over thirty years, with over 15 years of me "eating out" at restaurants of all calibers, in North America and Europe. My "range" of experience, if you will, might be broader than some food critics, who would never go so far as to eat Fatburger, fish tacos, or say machaca from 4th and Evergreen. Much less chowing down at The HomeTown Buffet because that's where your grandfather wants to eat.

But I digress. I like the idea of restaurants turning to social media to gather real-time criticism and praise in their local community, and if you look to Seattle, you'll see that restaurants are active marketing online - seeing as much of their demographic is web-savvy.

Food critics have their place, but is there anyone among us (who is not trying to be pretentious) that wouldn't ask a friend what they thought of a restaurant before checking the local paper for a review? Online, that's what we are looking for - is someone who is the equivalent of a friend.

A well written review, whether negative or positive, is a great thing to have online. Someone frothing about service or food, or relentlessly upbeat, tends to get little to no respect, because what most readers look for is an authentic opinion from a real person. You know - just like us.

Speaking of opinions, this is as good of time as any to tell you something about the local Chipotle restaurant here in Chesterfield. It's bland. Can you believe that? Chipotle, which we've written about as starting my trend to super-hot sauce use, is bland, in Chesterfield, MO. The service is decidedly unfriendly - and we just can't get excited when we go - after all that build-up.

We still look for the restaurants everywhere else we go - we just ate at one in Chicago that was excellent, but I was very disappointed. Luckily, the Chesterfield Qdoba is excellent.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

PageRank Predictor and Google's Gone Wacky

Yes, yes, we know that to real Search Engine Experts, Google's PageRank doesn't mean all that much. But to us amateurs, and to a lot of companies purchasing links and bragging about their sites, PageRank is a convenient way of explaining the popularity of your site.

Personally, I use PageRank like some people use Alexa. If it goes up, you're doing something right. If it goes down, you need to make some changes. Most of the work we do is based on traffic, dedicated topics, ranking of posts in search engines (we use real content, which of course is the key). For Branding, PageRank is great. You know if you get to a PageRank4 of 5, then you're doing a great job, and can then focus your message more tightly to attract the right audience.

So one of the tools I use, in addition to CheckPageRank (.net and .com), is iwebtool's PageRankPredictor.

So that's my view on PageRank, but a word of caution. The game is not just PageRank. It's a tool, one of many for competent SEO's, and if you're just focused on gaining PR, then you're not getting the point. I don't try to get PR - I just do what I know how to do, and PR comes.

And lately, (the last 60 days or so), it may all be moot, as Google's algorithms have all gone wacky, returning different results on different days and on different computers. That's particularly tough when I send a search result to a client and they tell me they can't see their site.

Good for Google - as manipulating SEO is kinda anti- the point of search engines - but it does make it tough. It just goes to show you that you are better off focusing on building regular readers and better content, and looking at the SEO as gravy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How To Hire A Blogger

Blogspotting, A BusinessWeek blog, is asking the question of how (and whether) to hire a blogger. The author, Stephen Baker, is appearing on a panel today in Chicago, and put the question out there how his readers would hire bloggers.

There are a lot of interesting comments in the, uh, comments, several of which I disagree with, but instead of dwelling on those, let me tell you my criteria for hiring bloggers for clients.

1) Be A Blogger, Not A Writer.

Professional writers and freelance journalists are good at what they do. They have writing chops, research ability, and the background to spin prose that can be published in major media outlets. I don't hire them. They're too pricey, they rely on their backgrounds, and they often have problems understanding the nature of blogging versus writing. Blogging is a community activity. A good blogger spend just as much time reading other blogs, leaving comments, and e-mailing other people as they spend writing their own blogs. A blogger has to write well, but their social networking abilities are more important than whether or not they have a journalism degree.

2) Have Passion For What You Write

You can't fake blogging. Well, you can, but I don't want someone who is writing just to get paid. If you're writing for home improvement, find someone with carpentry skills. If you want a fashion blogger, find someone who has a real interest in it, one that will last longer than three months. Passion in blogging, like all passion in work, leads to success.

3) Keep Their Background In Mind.

The recent firing, forgiving, resigning of the John Edwards bloggers should be a lesson to would-be employers. What you wrote on the Internet, even on personal blogs, is going to be a factor for your new employee. If you write a light bondage blog in your spare time, don't make the mistake of thinking no one will find it when you go write for a conservative bank. Employees absolutely have to read past writings in depth, and make a decision on whether past mistakes create the wrong image for them today.

Many people will disagree with me, but clinging to issues of privacy or claiming that your personal writings don't affect your employment when you are a blogger simply don't hold water. When a company hires a blogger, they hire all of the success and baggage that person brings with them. They get all of the "reputation" the blogger built up, both good and bad, and it's not smart for us to pretend otherwise. So employer beware - do your homework, and make sure you're hiring someone you're comfortable that you won't be firing them a month later for things they wrote before they started working for you.

4) Don't Hire A Know-It-All. Hire A Learner.

Because I'm an expert in blogs, people are often amazed when I haven't heard of a website, or a new technology, or a wildly popular new site that revolutionizes an industry. The problem we always run into is there are more sites added daily then we could possibly learn about. People also surf in clusters, so it's entirely normal for someone to be an expert on one area of your industry, and be completely oblivious about other areas.

Rather than hiring someone who knows all the sites you do, or nods their head and says they know every site you mention, instead focus on hiring people who are quick learners, good researchers, and curious to the core. The goal is not to know everything, but to have a broad base of knowledge, a solid social network, and the ability to find out about a site quickly.

Finally, if you are hiring, make sure you have a clear sense of what you want a blog to do. If you have no purpose for your blog, other than having one, don't be surprised when you don't meet your goals.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rise of the Mommy Blogs

Welcome, Post-Dispatch Readers. Be sure to check out StlRecruiting.com, our local blog on staffing.

A new type of blogger is emerging in the minds and hearts of marketers everywhere. Her name, is the Mommy Blogger, and she represents some $1 trillion in household spending, a number that has Madison avenue and internet marketing firms salivating over the prospect of selling directly to her. There's just one, teeny, tiny, insignificant problem.

The mom bloggers aren't interested in serving as willing shills for products. Don't get me wrong - Mom Bloggers, like all bloggers (and all people), come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, as well having opinions on how best to, dare I say it, monetize their websites, from Adsense to Sponsorships to giveaways. But who exactly are these women - why are they writing, and what is needed to fully deliver on the promise of Mom Blog Marketing?

Conventions and portals and web design shops and marketing firms have all sprung up that promise to deliver the eyeballs of SAHM's, WAHM's, Christian Moms, Mom Webrings, Blog Chicks, Single Moms, and every other kind of (thankfully) self-labeled category. The promise is these shops "understand' the needs of mom bloggers, but I find that a bit hard to believe, because I've been researching this category for a couple of months, and have even made the plunge to momblogging myself (mom bloggers don't have to be female, or even moms, as long as they are talking about issues for mothers).

What I've found amongst the MB's is the same thing I've found in every other online grouping - that frequently misused term, community. Mom blogs form a community, each women being a node in a system, clustering around other moms, linking to the the most popular ones (and creating hubs), and injecting value into their websites, while extracting value for themselves.

Marketers who approach mom bloggers are faced with that most difficult of tasks - directly communicating to hundreds of individuals, all with their own point of view, their own thoughts on how to be approached, and their own strong feelings on whether companies should spend any time reading their daily thoughts to get information about the consumer view of the company products.

My views on this subject are pretty straight forward. Marketers have to be honest, they have to be helpful, and they have to actually be a part of the community. You can't understand Mom Bloggers unless you're one of them.

If you're new to the space, I suggest you begin at BlogHer. You can't go far without hearing about BlogHer, and they serve as a wonderful promoter of women's issues (and women bloggers in general). For those looking for parental advice - check out Parent Hacks, which does a great job stuffing the search engines with information that any parent should know. If you are a mom looking to share information with other women, or learn something in a safe community, then SheKnows is the place for you. If you want to know the hottest fashion trends, check out Mommies With Style. For personalities, consider Mamalogues, a St Louis based writer, mom and blogger. And of course, who could forget Club Mom, a great community that has all the tools you need to get started? You can even consider becoming a mommy blog yourself.

The best part, is this is just the tip of the iceberg. Technorati has over 7,000 bloggers self-tagged as mommy bloggers, and several directories give specific categories for moms.

So why do I write? Because, as I mentioned, I'm one of them. I'm now writing the Storkcalling blog, which is going to eventually move over to the Storkcalling.com domain when we build a new hybrid Typepad/Website designed by Franki. The goal is simple. Join the community. Blog on issues of interest to the community. And sometime soon, start writing about our own parenting questions, issues, and concerns.

The Storkcalling site itself is now a service for phone birth announcements. It's a division of Groupcast, a local telecommunications company that has been a client of Franki's in the past, and is now a client of Durbin Media Group. The Storkcalling service is for expectant mothers, and works to automate the phone tree that so many parents use after the birth of their child.

For $24.95, you can broadcast up to 50 phone calls to friends, family and supporters, letting them know the child is here, along with statistics and the time born. The service is a personalized message you create by calling into a Toll-Free number, and it works for anywhere in the United States or Canada. It's great for baby shower gifts, gifts from the office (if you're a boss and want to help out), and also is not a bad thing to buy for yourself, especially if you've been that dad in the parking lot trying to make calls out on a dead battery at 3 in the morning.

So world, here we come. I'm announcing our intentions because it's important to be honest and transparent, not just because it is the right thing, but because it's the only way to sell in the blogosphere. So come on over to Storkcalling.typepad.com if you want a great baby gift - and if you're just looking for information, well that's fine too. And if you're a mom blogger, say hello.

And if you're curious about Durbin Media group - check out the rest of the website.

-Jim

Friday, March 16, 2007

NetMapAnalytics Interview With John Galloway

I've been corresponding with an Australian data mining company called NetMapAnalytics, which built a fascinating software that tracks unusual linkages in large data sets.

They can sniff out fraud for insurance companies, find wasteful spending in phone and internet records, and even do competitive research in academic databases. It's very cool stuff. The CEO, John Galloway, has agreed to an interview, and his answers are below. If you are interested in this kind of thing, please contact me, as I'm looking for a large data set of records to test out the NetMap Analytics software on the blogosphere. (Make sure you read on to find out how they helped catch a serial killer with their software)

The Interview with John Galloway:

1) Can you give me a) NetMapAnalytics in 10 words or less, and b) a 30-second elevator pitch?

a) Identifies targeting opportunities not able to be found any other way, and in significant volumes of data.

b) [Our software] discovers patterns of interest in 'linked'/ 'social' data. Makes possible and simplifies the identification of 'natural' segments and sub-segments and channels of influence, and the key players/ opinion leaders. Makes this information available to enable more focused
marketing and advertising campaigns, e.g. special communications and offers.

2) How long have you been around? Where are you located? Since 1991. Sydney, Australia


3) Do you define yourself as a data mining company, or is there a better (or more market-friendly) term for what you do? Do you compete with companies that aggregate data, or are you in partnership with them?

We call what we do 'network data mining' (building and utilizing granular linkages inherent in much data) - quite different yet complementary to statistically based methods for uncovering value buried in data. We work with companies that aggregate data. They monitor and collect
data; we have the relevant analytics.

4) Can you give us an example or two or how your company has solved a problem for a client using the software (we can link to your site here with the examples)

a) Advertising/marketing case: Identified natural segments and sub-segments in the data (as distinct from pre-defined/ top-down segments) and identified who and what were the key channels of influence impacting the behavior of others. That is, targeting functions that led to improved ROI in campaign management.

b) Serial murder investigation: Identified natural segments of who or what was connected to whom in vast volumes of data (all 20 million people in Australia were suspects). Iteratively, and with further datasets, narrowed the field to 32 persons and that included the later convicted murderer.

Try here for other amazing stories of how NetMap finds patterns.

5) The explosion of information on the internet often leads to data overload. If we just track information on search terms, we get millions of results, much of it junk. How does NetMapAnalytics give companies useful information that can impact business decisions?

Cyber-communities and the rich environment of online interactivity inherently involves linked/social data, which is ideally suited to NetMap analysis. NetMap is all about "sense making" of volumes of such data. Unique and smart algorithms facilitate visualization and enable data reduction and the identification and definition of opportunities for targeting, i.e. who or what on which to focus. Providing this type of information and insights to customers is key functionality in NetMap.

Our business model is that of supplying data analytic services and technology products. Mainly this has been around very similar but quite different industry contexts to the 'social media' context of this interview. I would rather not disclose too much about those other contexts. However, the point is that we are strongly proven but in other areas - and those other areas should translate well, because at the end of the day we are dealing with data and the identification of useful and impactful targeting opportunities.

6) Are most of your clients in Australia and Asia, or do you work with North American and European clients?

Yes to both questions. Keen to broaden.

7) Do you see any growth trends for marketing and branding, or is data mining only useful for research and the media?

The changes coincident with web 2.0 and the evolution and dynamics of participative communities of common interest on the Internet, open up very significant new opportunities for online marketing and advertising, as well as for data analytics. I see these as fundamental shifts over a short slice of history.

8) What is the most exciting technology or trend that you see out there? Can you tell us something we can use at our next cocktail party to amuse and astound our friends?

Might not sound exciting but is to me: extracting entities and relationships between them linguistically from unstructured or 'free' text on the fly and, seamlessly, populating NetMap screens to quickly make sense of the textual data and identify otherwise buried and non-obvious patterns of interest.

For more information, check out the netmapanalytics site, and if you have access to large data sets of the blogosphere, please contact me at info@durbinmedia.com



Thursday, March 15, 2007

Every Journey Needs a Journal

The Journal has a terrific print campaign in progress. Using the full two-page spread in the center of various sections, they feature a successful person who has taken risks, sometimes failed and yes, finally succeeded. The Tiki Barber example to the left is part of the ongoing campaign.

The accompanying web site offers a rich, flash-driven interface that allows you to browse the 'journey' of nine (now successful) individuals. The point of the campaign is to illustrate visually and figuratively what the climb to success looks like. It is often littered with mistakes, but always fueled by a desire to grow and learn.

Adverblog seems to agree:
"They play with the concept "Life is a journey", picturing the life of nice celebrities, and at the end of the path they add the tagline "Every journey needs a Journal".

The site is simple and clean as you expect a WSJ campaign to be, but it's also very powerful and meaningful in presenting the concept. Photography, illustration and typefaces are perfectly combined to support the storytelling."
When other campaigns attempt to visually assault the viewer to get our attention, this one takes the 'less is more' approach. The concept is simple, clean and refreshing. It has that 'business plan written on a napkin' look to it, which I alwasy find inspiring. The goal may be to sell more subscriptions, but to those of us already reading the Journal, it reminds us to keep reaching, keep dreaming and never take 'no' for an answer. And who doesn't need a reminder like that once in a while?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Is There A Right Way To Bill?

One of the most important questions to ask yourself as a small business is determining how you plan to charge for your services. When you sell a product - that decision is simplified. You pick a base price for your product, and determine whether special conditions like volume discounts, sale prices, or coupon codes apply.

When your business is a service, you can usually get by with charging an hourly rate. Every hour that you work, you charge for, with some thought given to minimum rates, portions of an hour, or discounts for a guaranteed number of hours.

Seems simple, right? So what do you do when your work is primarily creative, and the final product is a mix of deliverables and consulting?

There are no perfect answers, but what Franki and I have focused on is project based work billed off proposals we submit to clients. Basically, we estimate the cost of a project, and charge that estimate based on a mix of pre-set fees and our estimated amount of time. For other small business owners, you can imagine how much time we eat when projects don't go exactly as planned.

The major concern is understanding the value of our time. Over the course of the last few years, we have come to understand the value of our time (as opposed to the value of the work we do). What this means is we tend to avoid small projects (one page sites, short consulting assignments) and work that we could do, but at a lesser rate. We seek to deliver the full value of our time, and that requires us to work on projects where that value is best realized by the client.

It's a good system, but where it breaks down is the add-ons and extra work we get from former clients. After a successful project, our clients want to work with us again. As a referral-based business, that is our lifeblood. We love projects that are already sold from our previous endeavors.

But how do we account for these smaller projects? On the one hand, they don't bear the cost of marketing/selling/prospecting, so they have a higher profit margin. At the same time, working as an outsourced marketing arm on a per task basis plays absolute havoc with our scheduling. How can we plan for large projects when we receive time-sensitive tasks from former clients? How can we turn down tasks from trusted clients, only to see that work go to competitors who may get the next large project?

It's that tension which is at the base of all small business decisions, but creative work in particular. Writing a copy piece, designing a logo, or creating a marketing strategy for a online/offline integrated campaign may not take much time to write, but the process of creating doesn't necessarily fit well into an hourly rate.

If I come up with an idea that takes 15 minutes to work on, but it's based on four days of thinking about it - what is the proper rate to charge?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Taste Infringement Lawsuit

There's good marketing and there's bad marketing and then there's CokeZero getting sued for taste infringement Coca Cola marketing employers.

It's a brilliant plan - and they really pull it off. You find yourself laughing and thinking that this is a clever commercial that really drives home the point.

The premise is that two Coca Cola marketing guys want to sue their fellow employees over in the CokeZero product line for copying the taste too exactly. They sit with a number of lawyers and try to figure out how they can make the Coke Zero manager "curl up into the fetal position."



It's a good idea - hard to pull off, but a good idea, and they really do a good job from the entertainment angle, but then you realize that some of the videos are not actors, but real lawyers that are put into the situation by the ad agency. The marketing guys are improv actors, but three of the seven lawyers that are filmed are real attorneys.

Now that's funny.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Shape of Things To Come

Here's a great breakdown of logo trends for 2007. My advice? Don't be trendy. There's nothing quite as dissatisfying as looking back at your company branding and recognizing the exact year in which it was designed because of all the other logos that looked so much like yours. Don't be one of those (many, many) companies stuck with the proverbial swoosh logo from several years back. Be a rule breaker. Dare to be unique.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Mercedes Tortures Us... and We Love Them For It.

What can be worse than the total agony of drooling over a gorgeous Mercedes C Class online? How about being restricted to only a minute of access and then being sent away. Forever. Yes, that's definitely worse.

The luxury automobile maker has just launched a European mini-site that allows you to explore the latest features of the C Class by clicking on a series of photos. All while your measly :60 is ticking away before your very eyes.

One could argue that limiting access is both pointless (at best) and builds a negative association with the brand (at worst). But what I see is a clever agency trying to build desire. By limiting access you have the potential to create a sense of longing in the end user. With too much access comes familiarity. Too much familiarity can breed boredom. By restricting users to a minute on the site, it entices participants to sign up to book a test drive. And that is the real hook the mini-site has to offer.

I like the idea. And this may be geared toward the specific market of the launch. Presumably in Spain, limited access to content generates feelings of desire for the unattainable. Funny, because here in the states, it's the $65K price tag that causes pain and longing.

[via Adverblog]

Have Laptop, Will Travel

One of the best aspects of running a small business is the mobility you enjoy. While the bulk of our work is done at the office, on occasion it is a joy to pop out to a cafe for the afternoon. It adds variety to the week and somehow seems less like "work" when you have a barista 15 feet away and old friends connecting at the next table over. WiFi has truly made our life (and our profession) more enjoyable.

GeekSugar likens today's free wireless access to the free air conditioning of yesteryear.
"Wifi service is quickly becoming the air-conditioning of the Internet age, enticing customers into restaurants and other public spaces in the same way that cold “advertising air” deliberately blasted out the open doors of air-conditioned theaters in the early 20th century to help sell tickets, says The New York Times."
I would have to agree. The deciding factor between one coffeehouse versus another usually boils down to the availability of free WiFi. Even if I love the atmosphere (and coffee) of a particular cafe, you can bet I'm headed next door if I can get online for free. Not sure where your closest hotspot is located? Visit hotspotr today and unleash yourself from your office desk. It will do wonders for your workweek. Trust us.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Problem With Comment Spam

It was always going to occur - the spamming of the blogosphere. As long as we have had comment sections, we've had comment spam, and that's to be expected, deleted and blocked.

But manual comment spam is becoming a problem, as earnest new business bloggers read a magazine article or a blogpost suggesting that leaving comments on other blogs will help you get your name out because your url is listed.

Talk about creating a monster. The number of tone-deak marketing specialists out there "seeding" the blogosphere with their client's url is getting embarrassing. Are online marketers really this poorly trained?

To make sure we are all on the same page, let me back up.

1) A great way to market your website or blog is to leave comments on the websites and blogs of other people and companies. These comments should be relevant, interesting, and not just a blatant pitch to come look at your website.

2) "Relevant" is not defined as a post that covers the same general topic as your blog. Just because someone makes a post about how much they love coffee is not an excuse to leave a comment telling people to come to your coffee break site.

3) "Relevant" is defined as relevant to the post you're commenting on. If your comment doesn't have anything to do with the post, then you have no business leaving the comment.

4) "Relevant" matters because comments that are clearly comment spam actually work against you. They don't help your SEO - they don't help your branding, and you're likely to get a nasty e-mail, a nasty post, or at best, your hard work deleted for your efforts. Why are clients paying marketers to spam my comments? Would you pay a marketer to spray graffiti on overpasses with your company logo? Would you pay marketers to give polos out with your company logo on them to local gangs?

Please make sure your marketers aren't cheapening your brand and making you pay for it. I'll be happy to create a one-page list of Blogosphere Don't's and send it to you.

Mmmm, Tasty Don'ts.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Fishing In The Pond Of the Blogosphere

I don't like to cross-post content among our different blogs, but I felt this post would make sense to the brandstorming audience as well as to the online employment community.

I was musing about what the difference between a writer and a blogger were. As we struggle for the definition, my left brain tells me it's the software, whether or not it has comments, and if you self-label as a blogger.

My right brain tells me something, different.

A writer focuses on the content, teasing meaning and clothing argument in metaphor to generate results from a reader. The goal is to elicit emotions, whether those emotions be delight at reading a fiction novel, a thrill from reading a mystery, or trust from reading an industry expert.

A blogger joins a community of like-minded people and experiences life with them. That's the best definition. A blogger has to write to communicate, but their goal is to build a healthy ecosystem of other bloggers that supports them, encourages them, and feeds them, in the sense that getting "fed" is intellectual and emotional stimulation. Blogging is community.

Many people use the word community to mean - we want a captive audience to feed products to. Others use it as a decriptive term meant to break readers down into convenient demographics to sell ads to. I don't have a problem with those actions if they are ancillary. If your focus is making money, you are probably going to fail at building a strong community. The key is finding balance between monetizing your community and draining it of value.

Anyone who has fished a pond knows this. You have to be smart about how you extract value, or you risk destroying the ecosystem that keeps your community alive. What's cool about his metaphor is you can use it for so many examples: Fisheries, agriculture, poultry farms, and User Groups. There's also something to be said about teaching a man to fish in there.