January 25, 2012

The anachronistic social media isolationist

http://d28v4r73i3n9fh.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/red-velvet-rope-policy-300x212.jpgChris AbrahamTo follow up on my last post, Being pretty isn’t enough for social media success, I wanted to discuss what I like to call Social Media Isolationism or Social Media Agoraphobia. And there are two forms of this sort of isolationism: invitational and exclusionary. They both mean you don’t venture outside your own four social media walls; however, the first is welcoming and the other is dismissive.

The welcoming pineapple

Jay Gatsby was a welcoming pineapple. He desperately wanted to woo his beloved Daisy and opened his grand home hoping he just might, one night, find her at one of his lavish parties. Or, at the very least, create enough buzz so that his lost love might hear of him and ask about him.

Not always the direct result of a grand romantic gesture, the welcoming pineapple is often associated with the feeling that one is so appealing, so compelling a brand, product, or service that your friends and neighbors should very well come a-calling. You host awesome dinner parties, right? You have the biggest television, have your own pool and tennis court, and have several guest rooms. Why would you ever want to leave your own social media home?

Why wouldn’t everyone want to take advantage of your generosity and party favor to want to go anywhere else, to say nothing of staying home in their pallid, beige, one-bedroom apartments? This generosity often comes with the stink of superiority or ego that eventually turns people off.

And if the proffered goodies are so compelling as to compel, this commitment might very well be contingent only upon the bounty, the booty, the swag lavished. In other words, your friends are bought and paid for and are your friends forever (or until you run out of cookies and candies and a subscription to cable).

In terms of a country, this open-border country would be glad to allow anyone in but since this country is obviously so awesome, offering everything and anything you could very well ever want in the first place, people just visit, nobody really ever leaves and a majority don’t even possess a passport. Continue reading

July 27, 2011

How to add value through your blog

Strategies for standing out in a world without context

Chris AbrahamI am in the middle of guiding some new bloggers over at Marketing Conversation on how to blog most effectively. It is pretty exciting and instructive because there are many things I take for granted. One of the biggest trends I see is internal shorthand. What I mean is that my bloggers tend to write based on a lot of assumed context. When they write my company name, they might choose AH instead of Abraham Harrison; and, since that AH is on a corporate blog, they might forget to link it to the best page in the corporate website.

They simply assume that people who are reading content from Marketing Conversation or Because the Medium is the Message — or even an article on the corporate website — are in on the joke. That they grok the context.

Not only is that not true, but it is dangerous, because I am guilty of it myself. I would say north of 80% of the people I engage with on a daily basis online don’t know that I am president of a digital agency with over 50 staff and dozens of clients.  See, I make the same assumptions.

I assume that I shouldn’t be so self-referential because “they” surely know who I am by now, I have been branding for years. Pretty darn shamelessly if you ask me — at least I thought so.  Not so.

Brand perceptions don’t keep up with reality

And I have not even gotten to the most important part: Even if people know who you are, what you do, the company you own, and its products and services intimately, their brand perception hasn’t evolved at the speed of your business.  What I did in 2006 is quite a bit different than what Abraham Harrison does now, as a company.

Even worse, after we spend all of this time, resources, hours, money, and brain trust on creating insightful analysis and share it for free on our blogs and via Twitter and Facebook, we’re living in a Derridian world: “there’s nothing outside the text.”  Let me explain. Continue reading

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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March 10, 2011

Starter kit for a social media strategy

Looking for Social Media Strategy

Creating a plan from scratch? These 7 tips will get you going

David Spark‘We need a social media strategy.” I hear this all the time. And companies have meetings upon meetings to discuss this. I’ve been a part of many of those meetings and it can be tiring to go through endless internal discussions as to what your social media strategy should be. You know what doesn’t work for a social media strategy? Not being social.

People just want to start.

Social media works when you become public about your discussion. So my recommendation is to fast track your social media strategy with the following recommendation.

While everybody’s situation is different, I find myself recommending the following basic model for most of my clients. Some of these recommendations are echoed in an article I recently wrote for Mashable titled, How to Jump-Start Your Career by Becoming an Online Influencer.

There are plenty of variations, but if you don’t know where to start, this model will work well for you.

Set up your own media outlet

TV StudioStep 1You need an outlet to publish your thoughts. You need a place where you can invite influencers and customers to be interviewed. You can’t become an online influencer if you don’t create content.

Repeating my mantra, “Content is the currency of social media and search.”

If you want to be traded and visible in social media and search, then you must create content – ideally good content.

There are many ways to do this, but if you want to save yourself a ton of headaches, complications, and cost simply set up a WordPress blog with a theme that’s optimized for social media and search, such as the Thesis theme. This blog uses WordPress and Thesis.

Create social identities

Step 2For most users and brands, you’ll want to have accounts and identities with the major sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Try to stay consistent and use the same username for all identities so as not to confuse yourself or your audience. KnowEm is a great service that will check across endless social services as to which names are and aren’t available.

Create a proactive editorial plan

Step 3Create thought pieces, how-to’s, explanations, videos, podcasts, or anything else that demonstrates your thought leadership in your space. This is where you form viewpoints that you hope to become leading opinions.

A simple way to produce a proactive editorial calendar is to simply ask your sales staff and sales partners, “Why are we losing sales?” You’ll get answers such as “We’re not even a consideration,” “They don’t know how we’re different than competitor X,” and “They didn’t think we had a solution for problem Z.”

Take all the answers, rank them 1-10 in terms of importance, and start creating content (e.g., articles, screencasts, how-to’s, case studies, video interviews) that answer those issues. Next time your sales staff are out in the field and they get hammered with one of these top ten questions, they’ll have your content as support and they’ll be able to close the sale. Continue reading