Category Archives: Blogs

What Drives Word of Mouth? Interesting Content

Compelling content will drive word of mouth for your brand, even if that content is irreverant and in the form of *gasp* a 30-second spot on broadcast TV. Exhibit A: McDonald’s talking fish. 

YouTube views of most popular posting of the spot: 246,757 <warning: this tune will stick in your head like spackling paste>

Google blog search results for “McDonald’s talking fish”: 29,921

Members of McDonald’s Filet O Fish Commercial fan club on Facebook: 289 

The spot’s been running for two weeks.

Additions to the Blogroll

Two former colleagues are now newly independent and blogging: John Dodge, my former news boss at PC Week, and Abbie Lundberg, who I worked with at CXO Media. Both are highly respected in the tech publishing industry (and by me). John is a longtime journalist and the former editor in chief of Design News. Abbie is a longtime journalist and the former editor in chief of CIO magazine. I sense a trend here.

Media Slam Dunk: Eliot Spitzer

“Feeding frenzy” takes on a whole new meaning with 7/24 news cycles. Witness the Eliot Spitzer scandal. This guy was buried in a New York minute. My favorite tabloid covers:


You can even write your own NY Post headline.

Google News search results for “Eliot Spitzer” for March 11: 16,199

Google-indexed blog posts referencing “Eliot Spitzer ” on March 11: 2,160

Best jokes, compiled here.

Even advertisers are getting into the act.

Nothing’s more tasty to media folk than a holier-than-thou public figure caught with his pants down. The Steamroller gets steamrolled.

Social Media Curriculum: Beginner or Advanced?

Companies are all over the map in their embrace/avoidance of blogs and other social media. Some, especially tech firms, have given virtually free reign to their employees to launch blogs and talk directly to customers. Others are paralyzed by concerns over governance issues and the possibility that some corporate blogger will disclose something that doesn’t adhere to corporate policy or catches the probing eyes of the SEC.  

Even the experts can’t agree on how to approach corporate blogging. In the true spirit of this new medium, a curriculum of sorts has organically sprung up for social media marketing. Start with Jeremiah Owyang, a Forrester analyst who posted on the “three impossible conversations for corporations” (1. Asking for Feedback; 2. Saying Positive Things about your Competitors; 3. Admitting You Were Wrong.) Good, solid advice for the social media novice. 

David Churbuck retorted that those tips are way too basic to be useful for most corporate marketers, who he believes are past the Blogging 101 stage and are seeking more advanced education:

This corporate blogging stuff isn’t a two headed chicken in the freak tent anymore. This is mainstream baby. Anyone writing posts about “impossible” corporate conversations has to step it up – talk about the serious stuff, like – contravening corporate policy by privately resolving a blogged customer support issue and having the blogger publically state the solution and thereby set a precedent for all future complaints. Let’s get into that one and you’ll earn my respect.

Challenged to provide his own advice (as someone who lives the stuff daily), Churbuck offered a couple of Blogging 201 primers: one on the risks of a no-questions-asked blogger appeasement strategy, the other a broader list of 10 topics that he’d like to see more discussion about:

  1. Tool and platforms
  2. Pronouns
  3. Metrics
  4. Rogue SMM
  5. How to do SMM/SEO right
  6. Going Uplevel
  7. Organizational Ownership
  8. One vs many
  9. Review mechanism and buddy systems
  10. The politics of being a know-it-all

The pundit and the practitioner have both agreed to dig into these and other social media marketing topics over the next few months, which is good news for any marketer trying to get his or her arms around this brave new world of “customer engagement.”

Of course, any curriculum would be incomplete without some backround reading: I’ve provided a bit of that with a dusted-off interview I did in 2005 with Lenn Pryor, who created the Channel 9 website for Microsoft in 2004 that serves as a touchstone for current social media marketing.

Greek Gods of Spamdexing

I’ve been getting the usual stream of spam comments on my blog, but lately they’ve followed a new trend: all the poseur/posters have Greek names. What’s behind this new tactic in the spammers’ playbook? Do studies show that people are more likely to click on links from Greeks? Why am I being subjected to the wrath of these ancient gods? Evripides, Athones, Aikos, please explain yourselves. Oh, never mind – I just jettisoned you to WordPress’ version of Hades.

New Blog Alert: Business and Networking

Former CMO mag colleague Constantine von Hoffman has a new blog called Business and Networking, which if you knew Con or follow his other online exploits would immediately conclude that he’s playing it way too straight with the name. Anyhoo, he has a nice post today on the evolution of social networking from standalone site to online feature, keying off a post by Wired’s Chris Anderson. Con talks about the folly of businesses jumping on the social networking bandwagon without considering the need to provide good content as a hook for snagging like-minded enthusiasts:

Content/information that is aimed at a specific — not general — market. People already know where to go connect with everyone, now they need a place where they can connect with someone in particular. But don’t throw up a site and say it’s for Left-Handed Truffle makers and expect the Left-Handed Truffle makers to come flocking to you and provide all the content. Saying you’re aimed at a group is not enough. You have to give that group something beyond the ability to share videos, etc. That something is some sort of information.

As I pointed out a few months ago, I agree that the next big social networking movement will be toward niche/special-interest groups, not full-blown, category-owning destination sites like MySpace or Facebook. And as I noted on Con’s post, businesses can succeed as facilitators for users who share common interests, but they can’t force-feed community to their customer base.

Sock-Puppeting Puerilism

Normally smart people seem to lose all common sense when it comes to joining an online conversation under a fake name. The cloak of “sock puppeting” (a terrific phrase to describe the act of masking your identity when posting comments on a Web forum) can be incredibly empowering, even for people who already possess gobs of power.

John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods Market, is the latest poster boy for this inane and brand-damaging behavior. I’m sure you’ve heard the story by now: For more than seven years, Mackey posted comments on Yahoo message boards talking up Whole Foods and dumping on the competition. He posted under the handle “rahodeb” and never disclosed his true identify. Now he has the SEC on his back. Nice leadership. Nice irony too, considering his comments in the current issue of Fortune about his blog:   

“We want to communicate as honestly as we can. I am talking about the things I most care about. I don’t do what other bloggers do. I don’t post all the time. The great thing about blogging is that I don’t need you journalists to interpret me anymore.”

Yes, honesty. And integrity. And credibility. When you misrepresent yourself to others, you’re blowing off all three of those traits. I understand the limits that the CEO (or any officer) of a publicly traded company is under regarding what they can say about their business on public forums, but how that leads someone to make the leap to post anonymously on matters directly related to their company and business is beyond me. 

I guess the Web feeds our subconscious desires to perform uncivil acts without repercussions. Just as drivers hidden safely in their cars do unseemly things without pause – things they would never think of doing outside of their vehicles (cutting others off, tailgating, swearing in front of their kids) – the Internet (and its precursor, the online bulletin-board system) is a playground for drive-by postings from people lacking the confidence (or the balls) to stand behind their verbal attacks or contrarian opinions with their real names. (When I was with PC Week, a reader reacting to a negative column I wrote about Apple posted anonymously to express his desire that I would some day end up in prison getting gang-raped by a bunch of guys named Bubba, though he used far more colorful language to describe his fantasy. But I digress.)

Just as troubling as Mackey’s deception was his unapologetic response to being unmasked. Clearly, his actions aren’t in sync with the ideals for which his company supposedly stands. His own blog posting about “open, honest, candid communication” certainly rings hollow. When the actions of a company’s employees – from executives down to the rank and file – differ from the company’s brand promise, it will eventually lose the trust of its customers.

Microblogging: Who Needs It?

The Twitter revolution must be official now that Time, BusinessWeek and The New York Times have all covered it. Twitter is a platform for what some are calling “microblogging” – a combination of blogging and instant messaging that has no real point that I can see other than to let people follow you around virtually all day as you keep a running diary of your activities – in 140 or fewer characters. From the NYT:

For anyone unfamiliar with the latest trends in technology, “Twitterers” send and receive short messages, called “tweets,” on Twitter’s Web site, with instant messaging software, or with mobile phones. Unlike most text messages, tweets — usually in answer to Twitter’s prompt, “What are you doing?” — are routed among networks of friends. Strangers, called “followers,” can also choose to receive the tweets of people they find interesting. …

Most twitterers communicate with small networks of people they know, but the most popular have thousands of friends and followers. One of the best-loved twitterers, Paul Terry Walhaus, a gray-haired blogger from Austin, Tex., has 9,177 friends and 1,851 followers, according to the tracking site Twitterholic.

Perhaps I’m just envious of someone who has 9,177 friends (think of the parties!), but this is not for me.  

The general banality of the posts has turned off a lot of folks. Other tweets have had the opposite effect, landing their authors in virtual hot water as a stream-of-consciousness tidbit is picked up and circulated throughout the Web. Unlike traditional IM, Twitter posts don’t disappear after a chat session ends, so something you say in passing is bound to outrage someone, somewhere. The above link (a tweet by Steve Rubel from PR firm Edelman) caught the eye of PC Magazine Editor in Chief Jim Louderback, who responded to Rubel’s comment that he tosses PC Mag in the trash by threatening to cancel Rubel’s comp subscription and boycott Edelman’s tech clients (of which there are many). Rubel subsequently apologized in an effort to save face (and stave off the boycott), and presumably they will both co-exist happily ever after.

There may be legitimate uses for Twitter; I just can’t think of any. BusinessWeek speculates on a few:

In different contexts, say among friends or colleagues, knowing that someone is sick or at lunch explains why they aren’t returning your call or why they’re so cranky, argues Ross Mayfield, chief executive of corporate wiki outfit Socialtext Inc.

For that to happen, the information–or time required to enter it–can’t be overwhelming. And Twitter must refine its filters. Right now it’s possible to direct updates to one person, but imagine if you could selectively reach certain groups of colleagues and filter recipients according to subjects, like restaurants. Already, Twitter tools are popping up, such as maps that show where people are twittering and a Twitter search engine.

Anyway, Twitter founder Evan Williams is obviously a smart guy who has a track record of success with startups (former CEO of Odeo, co-founder of Blogger parent Pyra Labs, since sold to Google). So he’s probably onto something with Twitter, but I’m not yet convinced. Of course, in the late ’90s I thought instant messaging was a huge waste of time, and that seems to have done all right.