Making connections

The tragic events of this week brings home to us all in a devastating way the importance of being connected with others.  For most people being alone is extremely tough.  Having one or two or a circle of friends with whom you can communicate is a powerful support as one goes through the travails of life. Continue reading

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Get An Avalanche Of Targeted Traffic By Writing Guest Posts

This article is contributed by Vadim Kirichenko.

You’ve probably been trying to get traffic for ages and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. After trying everything you can think of it might seem like there is nothing you can do to become a success. Lots of methods like SEO and video marketing take a long time before you see any decent results. You want something that will give you results in the shortest amount of time. Continue reading

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Do you trust your people enough to let them talk to customers?

That thought provoking question came to mind after reading a UIE Brain Sparks SpoolCast entitled: Company Culture Meets Customer Experience with Brian Kalma of Zappos.

Brian Kalma is Director of User Experience and Web Strategy for the darling of Internet retail,  Zappos.

On top of these duties, Brian also passionately supports social media outreach, where all employees are encouraged to look for comments about their company on places like Twitter and Facebook, and then actively engage with those customers, without oversight. For many companies, that would be a nightmare. Brian says it’s an amazing by-product of their dedication to their employees and their employee’s dedication to the customers. This is the basis of the Zappos culture, which Brian has to translate into content on their web site and use to drive sales.

And drive sales he has. 75% of their sales are from repeat customers, spending more than 2.5 times more in the following months than their initial purchase.

That is really impressive.  But think on those words in the quotation: For many companies, that would be a nightmare.  If your company is one of those, you might ask yourself one of the following questions to determine why you dare not follow the Zappos example:

  1. Do we hire the wrong people?
  2. Do we not train them well enough to deliver on the corporate values we care about?
  3. Do we manage them in a way that means they may not be wholly supportive of the company?

So many companies seem to need to closely control what their employees are allowed to say.  The legal department may even rule on what outside communications are permissible.  If you need to closely control what employees say, which of the three answers above is the reason for that.  Whichever it is, it is an indictment of the management decisions that are being taken.

If control is exercised because it has always been that way, then you need to realize that the Internet has changed the way people and organizations interact.  It’s time to move into the 21st century.  If for no other reason, then do it to make more sales.

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3 Most Memorable Moments in Search for 2008

I was moved to write this blog post after seeing the Search Engine Watch item by Nathania Johnson entitled 50 Most Memorable Moments in Search for 2008

It was one heck of a year for the search industry. The convergence of outside economic forces, a wild presidential election and the 2008 Beijing Olympics were all signs of an industry becoming more and more mainstream and global. Here’s a look at the completely subjective biggest stories in search from 2008.

I am a strong believer in the KISS principle and my favorite quotation is: I am sorry this letter is so long.  I did not have time to write a shorter one.  Some say that Mark Twain was the author, although the more literate suggest that it was originally written in French by Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.

I presume there must be two groups of people in the world.  There are those who like long lists.  And there are those who like short lists.  I am very much in the second group.  My preferred list has three items in it.  I guess with any less it could hardly be called a list.  However once it goes beyond three, then it is unlikely anyone will really remember all the elements of the list.

For search articles an additional reason for short lists is that with fewer links under the PageRank approach each link receives more authority.  With a list of 50 items each link receives only a miniscule proportion of the PageRank of the original article.  This does of course assume that the links have not been nofollow-ed.

For more general reasons short lists are better.  Long lists are tough to argue with.  Indeed after three days my comment was the first to be added to that article.  With only three items in my list of memorable moments, it is unlikely that everyone will agree.  Since conversations are what the Internet is all about, short lists therefore feed this process better.

From Nathania’s long list I believe the following three items are really the most memorable.  As it happens two of them are not even links, but clearly had to be included since they are very important.

2.  Search Advertising Plays Major Role in Elections  From the primaries to the general presidential election, it appeared that whoever outspent their competitor headed to the next step. Barack Obama, with his arsenal of cash, went on an online advertising shopping spree and will be inaugurated in a mere 21 days.

6.  Twitter Becomes Agent of Search Whether you deem it a micro-blogging tool or a mass chat client, Twitter went mainstream this year and the search industry was smack dab in the mix of things. Many users found Twitter useful for the actual conducting of searches, while others found it useful in networking.

11.  G1, the First Google Android Phone, Released Through T-mobile

Are these the three most memorable moments in search for 2008 for you? Please leave a comment and let us know what you think about all this.

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Relationships and Social Media

This morning, I became acquainted with what Jay Deragon has been writing on social media and suddenly the light came on.  As he said:

There is Friendfeed, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and a host of other platforms and tools for social conversations and user generated content. To say the least the space is very confusing and crowded if not overwhelming for those just entering and trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. While all these conversations stir interest, few focus on the critical elements required to effectively leverage the art and science of social media for specific gains.

That passage is taken from his article, Is Social Media An Art?  He goes on to say that the four driving factors are:

  1. Attention: Businesses and individuals are using the tools of the social web to garner attention from specific consumer markets of interest to the audience and the business.
  2. Attraction: To keep people’s attention a focus on design, content and utility are the elements which create stickiness which indicates attractiveness.
  3. Affinity: Content, design and community are the attributes of creating affinity to the proposition and the users of the online community. Unless the conversations related to the user’s needs or interest the attraction is lost because the users find little affinity to the conversations.
  4. Audience: Once 1, 2 & 3 are accomplished then you have an audience to provide continuous value propositions in order to reinforce 1, 2 & 3.

He summarizes that in another article, Is SM ROI Really Important? which is when the light bulb moment occurred. 

The more business people I talk to about all this social stuff the consistent response I get is “Show me how to make money with it”.

Any good sales person will tell you their number one objective is building relationships over time. Yet few if any company bothers to measure the cost of building relationships rather they measure the results of relationships. Measuring the results doesn’t tell you “how to build effective relations” or “which methods create the best relations.”

Relationships come from human experiences, not corporate spin and hyped promises. Human relationships are measured by trust, sincerity and common values. If you want a return on social media, then focus on conversations that build lasting relationships based on value exchanged and create great experiences.

There you have the crux of the matter.  Your company should measure how well it is working with social media by evaluating the relationships the company is creating with its customers and its prospects.  Unless worthwhile relationships are created, then efforts in social media will be ineffective and may even be without value.

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Twitter is the eye of the needle

if your Bible reading is a little rusty, you may not remember the eye of the needle quotation. It reads as follows:

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)
For the last two centuries it has been common teaching in Sunday School that there is a gate in Jerusalem called the eye of the needle through which a camel could not pass unless it stooped and first had all its baggage first removed. After dark, when the main gates were shut, travellers or merchants would have to use this smaller gate, through which the camel could only enter unencumbered and crawling on its knees! Great sermon material, with the parallels of coming to God on our knees without all our baggage.

As the text goes on to say, it is a lovely story and an excellent parable for preaching but unfortunately unfounded!

Nevertheless the quotation came to mind on hearing that GasPedal is presenting the BlogWell Seminar on How Big Companies Use Social Media – October 28th, 2008. The seminar features Cisco Systems, Graco, The Home Depot, Intel, Kaiser Permanente, UPS, Wells Fargo and Walmart.

Twitter is perhaps the epitome of a social system. It is simple and direct and with only 140 characters and spaces, you have got to keep your message simple. It struck me that this is an extension of the process set in hand by the ClueTrain Manifesto. That leveled the playing field and has meant that consumers have much greater power relative to suppliers in this Internet age. Of course the suppliers could arrange to have very complete websites to try to wow the customers. It’s much more difficult to do that in 140 characters and spaces. That is how the Internet is evolving. It is all about two-way communication rather than one-sided monologues.

BlogCouncil

It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall at the Blog Council.

The Blog Council is a forum for the heads of corporate blogging and social media at the largest corporations in the world. The Blog Council brings together all of these people to explore issues and share best practices with one another in a productive and private environment.

With the increasing democratization of the Internet through all of these social media, those heads of corporate blogging and social media have quite a challenge on their hands.

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Online Loans by social lending

 
Social Media Go Into Online Loans

Person-to-person lending is gaining ground on the Web, according to Jane Bryant Quinn in the Vancouver Sun today:

Social lending, person-to-person, is getting more attention as other sources of small loans dry up. Borrowers are looking for angels willing to make small business and personal loans. Angels gamble that they can find dependable people, make some money and have some fun.

She lists some interesting websites that a student or anyone else looking for an online loan may find worth checking out:

Zopa.com
Zopa is the world’s first social finance company. In 2005 it pioneered a way for people to lend and borrow directly with each other online. Since then, it has expanded across the world. In each country Zopa is a little different, but it’s always the same big idea.
Prosper.com
At Prosper.com, borrowers post the loan they want, the maximum interest rate they are willing to pay and, in most cases, their monthly income and expenses. Lenders bid on the loan, offering lower rates.
Lendingclub.com
Lendingclub.com specializes in loans within affinity groups such as alumni associations and Facebook friends. You can bet on individuals or buy into a portfolio of loans.
Fynanz.com
Fynanz.com bestows ratings on its student borrowers, with the best rates going to seniors and full-time students. You don’t get credit reports, but there may be co-signers, which helps.
Greennote.com
Here students don’t even have co-signers.

There are many more details in the original article. This certainly brings a whole new dimension to the notion of social media.

[Update as of October 9] Apparently Zopa US has now closed its doors. It was supported by credit unions, which have terminated this arrangement in these troubled economic times.

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Will Business Boldly Go Into The Social Media?

 
Social Media – The Final Frontier?

Pierre Far, in a guest post on Techipedia today asks the question, Is Social Media the Final Frontier of Marketing? Given the popularity of such activities as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, it’s clearly a question that many marketers must be asking.

As confirmation of the topicality of the question, only three days ago Business Week had a long nine page article suggesting that Social Media Will Change Your Business. A few quotes will show how Business Week is seeing all this.

Go ahead and bellyache about blogs. But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they are simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself. And they are going to shake up just about every business. … Given the changes barrelling down upon us, blogs are not a business elective. They are a prerequisite. And yes, that goes for us, too.

Still, blogs could end up providing the perfect response to mass media’s core concern: the splintering of its audience. Advertisers desperate to reach us need to tap niches (because we get together only once a year to watch the Super Bowl). By piggybacking on blogs, they can start working that vast blogocafé, table by table. Smart ones will get feedback, links to individuals-and their friends. That’s every marketer’s dream.

In a world chock-full of citizen publishers, we mainstream types control an ever-smaller chunk of human knowledge. Some of us will work to draw in more of what the bloggers know, vetting it, editing it, and packaging it into our closed productions. But here’s betting that we also forge ahead in the open world. The measure of success in that world is not a finished product. The winners will be those who host the very best conversations.

Overall Business Week seems to suggest that the big mainstream companies will still be the ones in control. Perhaps they’re missing the real point about social media. Pierre Far sees it in a different light.

The point is that consumers now have a more potent aggregate power: someone with a problem can now reach others with the same problem faster, build a community around this shared problem easily, and mobilize lots of people behind the common cause more efficiently. That’s what’s new: a significant leap in efficiency. This gives consumers a loud voice that companies have to listen to.

This message has been around for some time. It started with the Clue Train Manifesto in 1999. As the authors said then, As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies. If Business Week does not fully understand even now, how long will it take for the mainstream companies to realize that others are now in charge?

Related:
Business Blogging Now
Riding The Internet Tidal Wave
Smart Advertising On Cell Phones

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I Twitter Therefore I Am

 
The 2008 version of “I think therefore I am”

René Descartes felt that the proof of his existence was that he thought from time to time. Quite a number of people, including Richard Ziade, Richard Buchanan, Charles Rhyne, Graham Chastney among many others, are now confirming their existence by twittering.

It’s been around for some time although some of us were initially reluctant to twitter. Not so for many professionals who apparently have been using twitter extensively for some time. Now over the past few weeks it seems to have entered an explosive growth phase like so many other social media such as Facebook and YouTube.

Twitter

Twitter is disarmingly simple. You can tweat or receive tweats on your cell phone via instant messaging. 140 characters to tell whoever is listening whatever you feel like telling them. It can be almost like dropping pebbles down a very deep well. Sometimes you hear a splash. Sometimes you don’t. The Twitter FAQ gives a few more details but there is very little more to tell. It’s completely free and there are now a number of widgets (Apps) that simplify the process of twittering.

Twittering is now being used more extensively as an additional channel in Internet marketing. Lee Odden has provided a Guide to Twitter as a Tool for Marketing and PR, while Darren Rowse sets out some Tips for Bloggers. Clearly we’ve only seen the beginning of all this twittering activity.

So what will be the future of this new method of communication. Although it’s free it should not be difficult to monetize Twitter given the huge volume of traffic. The key concern must be whether this will become an increasingly noisy tower of Babel. Will the bandwidth be available to carry all the tweats? Twitter was overloaded apparently when Steve Jobs gave the keynote address at MacWorld 2008. It was again down this morning for a time. Twitter means instant communication. It can only work if instant always means instant.

Related:
35 Twitter Tips from 35 Twitter Users
26 Reasons Why I Love Twitter – Plus 27 More just in Case

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