Tag Archives: blogging

Discontent With Content

More fresh content is a reliably effective way to improve the search rankings of a website. Blogs and other social media are among the easiest ways to do this, yet many businesses are reluctant to even try.

It’s certainly not that entrepreneurs don’t have plenty to say about their products and businesses. Start talking to entrepreneurs about their businesses or products and it’s difficult to get them to shut up. The enthusiasm and interesting nuggets of information bubble over. Why won’t they contribute some of it to a blog, tweet, or news release?

Part of the challenge is that we are asking someone to change behavior. Like diet and exercise, content creation is not a one time event.  It’s a way of continuing a conversation with your customers. Thus already busy marketers are asked to become content developers. How can we ask them to add anything to their already overfilled schedules?

Part of the challenge is that blogging with the most popular systems such as WordPress, Typepad, and Blogger is still too awkward, unnatural and difficult for many people. When you do have an idea and a few spare minutes to create that bit of news worthy content, the systems get in the way.

WordPress, with which I manage this blog, illustrates the problem. It offers a surfeit of options in design choices and features. Although WordPress is available as a free download or hosted service, configuring, maintaining and tweaking it take time – sometimes a lot of time. Time is usually an entrepreneur’s scarcest resources. Thus the forest of abandoned blogs with only a few old posts. These don’t help search engine rankings and can give site visitors the impression that nobody’s home.

Some organizations outsource content development to a consultant or assign it to an intern, either of whom typically know much less about the business than you do. More often than not their output has a familiar “me too” feel. This is evident to your site’s visitors and so doesn’t help converting them to customers.

Just do it (not to borrow a phrase from Nike) can be a good place to start. But how? Don’t think blog: think send a brief email. Even very busy people use email.

How about a content creation tool with limited features and options (so you can’t spend lot’s of time preening and polishing), which works just by sending it an email? Systems like this already exist. One I’ve seen used with some success is Posterous. It’s a free hosted service, so your IT department won’t need to do anything with it (other than perhaps adding a link from your site).

Still don’t have enough time? You can probably reuse  an email message you’ve already written as the basis for your blog post. Maybe what your content creation strategy needs is a Swiss Army Knife with just one blade.

The $0 Gift Card

A-list blogger Chris Brogan in is involved in a controversy.

Unlike his usual commentary on marketing and media, Chris blogged about shopping at Kmart. On the shopping trip, he used a $500 gift card provided by Izea, a marketing agency retained by Kmart.

Chris began his post by stating that it was sponsored by Izea, though it was not clear that the sponsorship was his getting the $500 card.

Sponsored posts aren’t new. For example an influential blogger may be given a computer or appliance to review. Many journalists would hold this compromises independence and so decline gifts or any sort. Most bloggers, on the hand, don’t have sponsoring organizations to buy them products. They may advocate a standard of full disclosure of any gifts or compensation.

Chris could have visited Kmart without spending $500 or indeed anything at all (unlike, say, a restaurant review). His post would have been different, but it could have been done with a $0 gift card.

When The Client Doesn’t Get It

Twitter, is a light weight online service. It is limited, like text messaging, to messages of 140 characters (called Twitters or Tweets). It has the potential to afford rapid two way messaging either broadcast or personalized conversations among customers and partners.

In two years Twitter has grown from nothing to an estimated six million registered users. Other estimates are half of that. Whatever the actual number, it has moved beyond technologists and early adopters and is mentioned in mainstream publications such ad Fortune, Business Week and the Wall St. Journal. Twitter has become a channel in its own right.

The service is free to both individual and corporate users and can be accessed through the Web, mobile phones, or computer software. The potential is there to inform, intervene, monitor and connect with far less overhead and start up costs than email, web, blogging, Facebook, or other social marketing tactics. Its rapid response and low bandwidth make among the ost immediate and compelling of a new crop of mobile applications.

Yet when I suggest Twitter to marketers, who are not already users, their responses range from indifference to rejection. They are seldom even interested in trying it. Why is this?
They ask for clarification – so, what is it? And that’s the problem. It has been described as:

  • Light weight social networking
  • Micro-blogging
  • Instant messaging
  • Many to many texting


Visiting Twitters home page and viewing the torrent of passing traffic isn’t compelling. Twitter messages, they can indeed seem like self absorbed babbling.

  • It doesn’t fit well in any established category
  • It seems at least as much abused as well used
  • It demands creativity and a degree of innovation from its users. Success will require experimentation and evaluation
  • It has the danger to degenerate into online drivel
  • Good business cases and “best practices” are just starting to emerge

Twitter’s business model has yet to be developed. It has yet to figure out how to make money. At present, that’s more Twitter’s problem than yours; but you don’t want to invest thought an effort into a medium if it is not like to stay around.

Our old friend ROI is hard to measure. Actually the investment in a Twitter campaign or marketing program can be trivial – no money and Much less effort than say a blogging or Facebook strategy. However it will take some thought, time, and inspiration. It you start a Twitter conversation, be prepared to maintain it.

Twitter is, of course, just one of many media. It has been used successfully by Barack Obama, but less so by Hillary Clinton, and still less by John McCain (based on followers and traffic). Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts use Twitter; Peets Coffee, Folgers, Maxwell House and many others in the category appear not to. Dell and HP use it; Lenovo, Toshiba, and Sony don’t.

Among marketers, technologists, and some media cognoscenti Twitter is cool. This of course is no reason to use it.

What to do:

See if your firm, industry, products or issues are actively discussed on Twitter by searching at search.twitter.com.

Track and follow discussions of those influential in your industry.
Respond, when you have something to contribute.

Even Twitter fans admit it may take some getting used to. It looks quite different after using it for a week or two.

Are a significant number of your customers, or those who might influence your customers using Twitter. If you don’t know, you should to try to.

If they do, Twitter is worth a try. You may gain valuable market insight, test a concept, or launch a guerilla promotion campaign.

Otherwise, you would do better to reach prospects where they are through media they are acquainted with. Leave the cool to someone with venture capital to burn. Even if you’re sure Twitter could be a useful part of the marketing mix, let it go. In the words of the late LL Bean, who left no opinion of Twitter, “Nobody ever won an argument with a customer.”