June 30, 2011

How to become a super-node in the attention era

To turn up in organic search, you need to play three-dimensional chess

Chris AbrahamI try to read through my RSS feeds every day. Today I stumbled upon an article by my friend Christopher S Penn, entitled Social media now directly influences search rankings.

It shows that Google is playing Tri-D chess in a world where most companies are mastering checkers:

If you’re marketing something, there’s now a direct incentive to build your network as large as possible among your prospective customers. Size matters.

Long story short: every search you make on Google returns results that are weighted heavily to favor people in your social network, especially those people and brands to have a lot of friends, likes, and followers.

In other words, you can access top organic search engine results for your company, brand, products and services by really diving into social media marketing and eveloping connections, followers, likes, and lists–getting people to like your brand on Facebook or follow your brand on Twitter hasn’t ever just been about brand awareness, it has also become an essential secret weapon for search engine ranking.

You should read Chris’ article for sure, but I have my own example to show how personally-tailored Google search has become

A few days ago a journalist friend of mine popped me a note to ask me if I knew the Rosetta Stone CEO.  I didn’t, however, he thought I must because my name came up twice when he searched for ‘Rosetta Stone” on Google.

See, I blogged for Rosetta Stone for a while and have used their products for years. When I did the same search, I didn’t show on the first page at all. Online, my friend’s world is heavily colored by me.

I showed up because he and I are connected via LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Talk, Gmail, Twitter, and who knows where else.

His search reality isn’t objective at all.  It is being heavily adjusted by the connections he has and will make to other people and brands online. In real time, immediately, to order, based on dozens of tacit connections.

Google isn’t stupid. I won’t show up in all of his web searches–only those that are relevant to what he wants. However, if I have ever written and published anything online that is, in fact, relevant, there’s an excellent chance I will turn up on page one, possibly even if he’s logged out of Gmail.

With the multitude of social network profiles that I possess and maintain, the nearly five-thousand friends I have on Facebook (including the high-caste of many of my friends), the 38,000 followers I have on Twitter, and my 12-year-old blog, my 2,200 contacts on LinkedIn, 3,400 folks on FourSquare, subscribers on FeedBurner, all my content on YouTube, and others, means that Google generally tries to include me in other people’s searches of the Internet, gaming serendipity to the point that I come up as a few of the search results on such a competed-for search term like Rosetta Stone in the Manhattan offices of one of the top global newspapers.

I chose to use this example because I have invested myself so heavily towards building these connections shamelessly. People wonder why I would engage in promiscuous “follow back” on Twitter and maintain the maximum friends on Facebook? Surely I am not special. I, like anyone else, cannot maintain close friendships in excess of Dunbar’s Number of 150 friends.

I have been doing this for myself, for my company, and for my clients, using myself as the most shameless example to prove the concept that having the “right” friends online, following the few “right” people and brands is not only wrong but dangerous.

Shoot for quantity plus quality followers

The more people you touch via social media and social network connections, the greater the chance that you will turn up as a top result in search results.

Yes, get the right followers, but also get as many followers as possible. In a world where people get their search results based on who their friends are and what they’re looking at or doing, you’re going to want to become connected to as many as humanly possible, possibly indiscriminately but certainly promiscuously. The more people you touch via social media and social network connections, the greater the chance that you will always be a top result whenever they do a search in your general direction.

Sure, my level of social media populism is not for everyone because it does take a lot of work, and pursuing the Cluetrain long tail of everyone can surely scare away some of your elite contacts and friends, which it has done, personally, because I do create a lot of content and “noise” to someone who only has 150 friends on LinkedIn, on MySpace, Friendster, and Twitter. I have surely driven them away and hear, “I had to unfollow you because you were the only person I ever saw on my
Facebook wall.” Fair enough. No worries.

While this example is personal, all of these map across to brand beautifully. I am co-founder and president of Abraham Harrison and Google knows that. It is on my Google Profile (you really need to look at this and set this up and try to get all your employees to set their profiles up as well). Google met me halfway when it came to the profile, too, as it was mostly already sorted out for me when I arrived. I just made sure they didn’t miss anything.

This might all seem like Mickey Mouse child’s play but the net effect is that the experience of daily search for tens of thousands of people online tends towards returning content that I have liked, dugg, retweeted, blogged, stumbled upon, thumbed up, shared, starred, emailed, and recommended, including a mainstream media highest-caste global newspaper journalist, and others. Their search reality is strangely influenced by my Internet behavior. That’s powerful. In the attention data game, I am considered a super-node.

In terms of an SEO strategy, this means–and has meant for a while–that simply nailing your site’s information architecture, naming convention, keyword-rich URLs and titles, content, keywords, ALT tags, and link strategy is not nearly enough.

The new secret weapon for Search Engine Optimization is digital Public Relations and Social Media Marketing.

Even more info on this strategy over on Steve Rubel and SEOmoz. Via Mike Moran’s Biznology blog.

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June 28, 2011

How to create a social media plan in 4 beefy steps

This is part three of our three-part Social Media Planning series, broken down into the following phases:

  1. Social media analysis
  2. Social media strategy
  3. Social media plan (below)

Deltina HayIn parts 1 and 2 we’ve looked at how to create a social media analysis and strategy.

Now it’s time for four beefy steps for completing a social media plan:

1. Outline a phased plan

  • Using recommendations from your social media strategy, outline a phased plan.
  • Make your first phase as manageable as possible based on the organization’s resources.
  • Subsequent phases should evaluate existing tools and goal fulfillment.

Here is an example of a two-phase plan:

Phase one

  • Optimize existing website
  • Start a blog for the organization
  • Optimize or create optimized accounts with some social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Create optimized accounts with and populate media communities such as Flickr and YouTube.
  • Integrate all of these accounts using an integration tool like Ping.fm or HootSuite.
  • Use an analytics/metrics tool such as PostRank or Radian6 to measure progress and success.
  • Continue reading

June 27, 2011

How to become one of the most respected companies in your industry

The story of Tripwire and the security industry

David SparkOne of the most critical and popular aspects of my business, Spark Media Solutions, is live event reporting and production, where I, backed by my team, attend conferences and trade shows and report on the event from the editorial viewpoint of the client.

If my client is interested in a subject that happens to be the subject of a conference, then they want to be a participant in that conversation. They can do that through live event reporting. Depending on how you approach the reporting, that editorial voice can take the form of either being at the center of discussion, a voice on that topic, or that of a moderator who acts as a hub for all information on that topic.

By attending live industry events, one of my clients, Tripwire, an Internet Technology security company, did an excellent job making their presence felt across the security industry. This is the story of how Tripwire and my colleagues worked together to build relations and content with and for the leading voices in the security industry.

How to become a respected voice

It’s free! No registration required.

Here’s what you’ll learn from this case study:

  • The importance of integrated marketing campaigns that combine traditional and social communications.
  • How to build relations through interviewing rather than pitching.
  • How to find your industry’s influencers.
  • Importance of speed and timing of content.
  • How to create a relationship with influencers that’s based on mutual passion.
  • How a brand journalism approach can be more effective for press relations than traditional PR.
  • The true value of social media ROI is the return on relationships.

Stock photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

June 24, 2011

Journalism and the social media revolution

Jolie O'Dell
Jolie O’Dell of Mashable at “Journalism and Social Media.”

JD LasicaLast night I attended a nice gathering at the San Jose Mercury News, organized by Social Media Club Silicon Valley, called “Journalism and Social Media.”

The organizers put together a powerhouse panel made up of:

• Kym McNicholas, anchor/reporter, Forbes Video Network.
• Jolie O’Dell, reporter and editor, Mashable
• Chris O’Brien, business columnist, San Jose Mercury News
• Julie Watts, award-winning consumer reporter/anchor, CBS5
• Brian Shields, online news manager, KRON 4

I got a few nice photos in this Flickr set, though in general did a poor job with the settings on my new Canon 5D. (And a disclaimer: I’m friends with several of the panelists.)

And much of the discussion was intriguing and noteworthy, if thematically scattered. For instance, it was fascinating to hear Jolie O’Dell, the social media rock star who’s a journalist with Mashable, take down the recent trend toward opinion-driven news reporting. She went on to say, “Sharing is the wrong way to judge social media news content. The trashy lame content gets the most shares.”

Still, I came away disappointed, for a few reasons. First, because I’m giving a keynote in Santiago, Chile, in August to a group of journalists running the new media programs of Chile’s major news organizations and wanted to get some insights about where this is all heading.

And second, because I’ve moderated or participated in many panels like this one over the years and wanted the conversation advanced. Instead, we were moored in misplaced conventional wisdom and rivers of meaningless generalizations about “bloggers” as people who only spout opinions — a 2002 cartoon caricature of what bloggers are all about.

What the conversation could have been

But poor framing by the moderator, and an odd decision to rely on Twitter questions rather than the audience right in front of her, sidetracked what could have been a deeply thoughtful conversation about how social media is transforming journalism as a craft and as a business. So we got a half-hour discussion about press releases (are you kidding me?) instead of delving into the really key issues of the day:

• How is the increasing emphasis by some successful sites on making news reports shareable, bite-size and formulaic (Top 10 Everything) affecting news reporting?

• Where was the discussion about the real-time Web (there’s even an entire conference devoted to the topic!) and how it’s affecting journalism?

• There was only a passing reference, by Brian, to the need for news consumers to learn how to differentiate between trusted, credible sources of news and information vs. rumor and misinformation.

• I don’t remember hearing the term “citizen journalism” used once throughout the evening. Continue reading

June 24, 2011

Create a social media strategy in four steps

This is the second part of our three-part Social Media Planning series, broken down into the following phases:

  1. Part 1: Social media analysis
  2. Part 2: Social media strategy (below)
  3. Part 3: Social media plan

Deltina HayOn Tuesday I introduced this short series on how to create a social media analysis, strategy and plan, defining how those different elements are important to achieve an optimal result with social media.

Today we’ll list four steps for completing a social media strategy.

1A strategy for the organization’s existing website:

  • Outline a strategy for optimizing the organization’s existing website.
  • You may suggest adding a blog, placing social bookmarking buttons from addtoany.com, or placing widgets and badges to highlight the organization’s Social Web presence.

2A strategy for improving the organization’s presence in existing social media sites:

  • Outline a plan of attack for improving and optimizing the existing social tools the organization has in place.
  • This may include a strategy to engage more with fans or to refocus efforts on a more realistic target market based on the social media analysis.

3A social media tools strategy:

  • Outline the tools you believe will most benefit the organization and why.
  • Include a statement about how the organization might specifically leverage each tool, but save the details for the “social media plan.”
  • Here is a collection of social networking stats by Web Strategist that can help you back up your recommendations.
  • This should be an overview of your recommended social media strategy, the actual social media plan will come after this phase.

4A social media analytics and metrics strategy:

  • Include recommended analytics and metrics tools.
  • Outline a plan for establishing an existing base line to use as a basis of comparison.
  • Save more detailed tactics for the social media plan.
  • Continue reading

June 22, 2011

How Facebook has quietly created a gold mine for marketers

Facebook ad

Inside the huge banner opportunity created by Facebook

Christopher RollysonFacebook’s development schedule epitomizes the “white water, fast iteration” approach to serving company and customer. Although its mishaps are legendary, it succeeds in consistently fielding a mind-numbing array of features, so it is difficult to keep up and very easy to miss the significance of things.

To wit, very few people people have noticed that Facebook has quietly revolutionized banner ads through a feature that is maligned by users but gold for marketers. This feature has created two opportunities for e-commerce marketers: a new means of inexpensive market research and an easy way to improve relationships with their viewers.

Read on to do this to your competitors before they do it to you.

‘You have removed this ad’: A spark in a dry forest

I hope you have used the “remove this ad” feature that Facebook introduced, I believe, in Q4 2009 or Q1 2010. When you mouse over most Facebook ads, you will see an “x” in the far right (1 — see above). When you click the “x” to remove the ad, you get the dialog box beneath, which gives you the radio buttons (2) and the all-important “other.” When you hit “Okay,” you get the gold box. Seems innocuous, right? Wrong. It has begun to change the expectations of your prospects, who will increasingly expect to give feedback on all ads.

Removing ads: Customer viewpoint

I have been using “remove this ad” since it was released, and I have noticed several things about it:

  • There’s very little talk about it online. Any dialog is dominated by users who hate “remove this ad” because they hate ads in general and they would like “removing” the ad to be permanent (i.e. bar chart brains would never reappear). Note that the gold box doesn’t promise banishing the ad. Users don’t care, though.
  • I’ll hypothesize that only a small portion of Facebook users bother to give feedback, but I’ll wager that most of those who do want to do it everywhere.
  • Yes, when you remove the ad, it isn’t banished from your land forever, but clicking the “x” and adding a peppery comment can be satisfying anyway.

Removing ads: A marketer’s viewpoint

Now, think about yourself as a buyer of millions of dollars of banner ads per year, which all CMOs do. What if, for appropriate (geeky) segments you would introduce this functionality in some of your banner ads (not necessarily on Facebook)? This would help you:

  • Conduct low-cost market research by collecting responses; on Facebook itself this is particularly interesting because Facebook knows user demographics. However, off-Facebook, wouldn’t you like to know if readers of certain sites find your ads offensive or …? (you design the responses)
The majority of ‘display’ ads will be selected by customers within 10 years at the outside; certain demographics much earlier.
  • Improve your relationship with prospects when you give them the option to respond; you suggest that you are interested in their viewpoints.
  • You can take this into account when selecting your ad mix. You read it here, in 2011: The majority of “display” ads will be selected by customers within 10 years at the outside; certain demographics much earlier.
  • I recommend pilots this year to get ahead of the market. Of course, many of your ads are syndicated, etc., but you can select specific situations to experiment and learn.

Continue reading