Today’s cool new social technologies are once again discovering that nothing gets attention like plain-old email. As social and media aggregation technologies evolve into powerful tools of personal news delivery, email remains one of the most effective means of personal delivery.
PandoDaily did an article on retiring RSS feeds as Google retires Reader, the RSS reader that Google will discontinue on July 1. The author, Mike Tatum, quit using RSS readers and decided to look at alternatives. His article lists several, one of which is Pulse, which currently is my favorite way of reading news. Tatum complains, rightly in my view, that Pulse does not feel comprehensive, with its push methodology. You can add almost anything to Pulse; I find it awkward—but not so awkward that I’m currently looking for an alternative.
Tatum realized that the best alternative he’s found to RSS is plain old email: he’s reading more more email newsletters.
Tatum is not the only one. This week, Wired writer Ryan Tate published, “Why Email Newsletter Won’t Die,” which features the social media aggregation tool RebelMouse. RebelMouse provides a service that aggregates all of your social media activity, especially the links you share, into a single page.
I’ve been experimenting with the service on and off since it launched nearly a year ago, and it’s sweet. My tweets are automatically posted, including a picture. The idea behind the service is to provide “a social media front page,” a term they use that I like. Here’s my page:
I use RebelMouse’s Embed function to feature my RebelMouse feed at the top part of my personal blog. This screenshot from my blog shows how it looks on the post, in contrast to the native RebelMouse page above. Contrast the posts from RebelMouse on the left to my complete native Twitter feed on the left to see its appeal.
Now the company has launched “RebelAlerts,” which works over plain-old email. The service allows people to sign up for a daily newsletter feed. As of this week, you can integrate with MailChimp. And I’ll bet that future email-list integration options are in the works.
I am very likely to use this version, though I don’t use MailChimp, because, as Tate quoted Jake Levine, general manager at Digg, the news aggregation service that recently launched a daily email service: “If something is important to you, e-mail products are the one reliable way to make sure you’ll see it.”
Finally, Matthew Ingram, media writer at GigaOm, reported last week about LinkedIn’s evolution as a media entity. In the last few months, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Today, which posts news updates on profiles. Last week, LinkedIn refreshed LinkedIn Today by launching “content channels” that individuals can subscribe to, sending an aggregated feed from multiple publications.
Along with LinkedIn’s purchase of Pulse, it’s part of the company’s strategy to become a media company. LinkedIn’s new magazine-style custom news channels, as Ingram writes, “has the potential to become a real competitor to other news aggregators and providers.”
And, yes, LinkedIn sends LinkedIn Today updates using plain-old email.
Every now and then, a piece will appear on the death of email, a more than 40-year-old technology. It hasn’t happened yet and is not likely to disappear anytime soon. Email remains the best way to put content in front of a potential reader, whether that content originates from an individual, a brand, or a media outlet—and whether it’s distributed through a website, social media channel, or individual.
Read our past posts on email delivery and marketing:
A packed room of largely first-time attendees came to the Social Media Club of Chicago’s March meeting to hear about this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference—”SouthBy,” in the lingo of the regulars.
The event was held at DraftFCB’s offices in Chicago, notable to me for the impeccably done brown terrazzo up on the 14th floor. You don’t see much terrazzo in office buildings outside lobbies. (I notice because we have an association of terrazzo contractors as a client.)
Panelists agreed that this year’s interactive conference did feature an Earth-shaking digital trend as in years past, such as Twitter in 2007. The 25% increase in attendance, to more than 27,000, stood out. It sounded like a lot of little things came together: an integration of people, brands, and disciplines into a conversational and interactive whole. Several themes stood out to me as I listened:
International emerges. Chris Miller (@scubachris) mentioned that there were more international attendees and presenters than in any of the more than a dozen SXSW conferences he’s attended, with a notable emphasis on the developing world. The internet in the developing world does not look like a monitor; it shows up on a mobile phone, and not a smart phone at that. They are doing wonderful things with plain-old cell phones and SMS in Africa, including epayments.
Things are becoming connected. One of the year’s trends is “the internet of things,” as Melissa Pierce (@melissapierce) noted. Look for apps to become increasingly interconnected with each other and to increasingly diverse types of devices throughout every aspect of our daily lives.
We will be producers. We started to become publishers with blogging in 2004, the beginning of a movement within IBM to show the behemoth corporation’s human faces and personal opinions, Ed Brill (@edbrill) mentioned. With 3D printing, we will all become producers, Lizz Kannenberg (@lizzkannenberg) said.
Service and thoughtfulness rule. Brands that served participant needs got noticed most, Lizz Kannenberg (@lizzkannenberg) said. Everyone has t-shirts. Snacks are good if they are done right. But anything that serves a need of 27,000 people at a fast-paced conference can stand out. Uber, the mobile-based towncar and taxi service, got high marks for providing much-need transportation on several levels, from free basic service to ultra-luxury vehicles.
Collaborate and converse. Panelists remarked on increased collaboration among the digital, film, and music disciplines. Brands sought to collaborate with technology vendors, and the whole event (I have never been) sounds like one big conversation among nerds morphing into another among hipsters, with the two types blending as life becomes digital while retaining the human yearning to connect face to face.
I noticed yesterday that I had done 999 tweets, right on the precipice of my third major Twitter milestone. Coincidentally, I read that today is Twitter’s seventh birthday, and I think it’s awesomely appropriate for me to send my 1,000 tweet on this day.
I’m sure it was my friend and social media expert extraordinaire Barbara Rozgonyi, who once told me that any 1,000 milestone is significant: 1,000 followed (pretty easy), 1,000 followers (harder especially if you’re seeking quality and fit), and 1,000 tweets.
That one should be the easiest, though in my case I would not be surprised if I took longer to reach that milestone than most others. People who do not tweet at all and who monitor and read tweets may never make it, nor will the people who simply lose interest in the medium, as I have on more than one occasion since I started my account on () 2007.
I joined when I gave a presentation in August 2007 on the wonders of Web 2.0. I had been reading about the next version of the web with high interest and put together an online survey of our email list during June 2007. Most respondents found web 2.0 relevant to their business but felt they lacked knowledge while nearly 80% were (extremely or very) interested in learning more about web 2.0 technologies.
In looking at the results now, it’s interesting to see that the term “social media” did not appear, though we wrote and asked about “social networks.” Twitter was not mentioned; I demonstrated the service when I presented the results in August 2007.
Some results were prescient as well. This respondent comment in some way predicted the rise of content marketing: “Being constantly user-focused and developing new ways to deliver content to users will have a big impact on our strategy; we will most likely continue to shy away from user contributed content.”
I called myself a “Twitter skeptic” in a November 2008 blog post on Twitter and social media best practices. But I kept at it on and off, and by August of 2009 I had developed a Twitter list of B2B payments companies that led to a client and the development of www.epaydb.com, a directory of payments companies and content that we maintained until last year. Visit the site to view the Twitter news feeds and read how it grew out of a Twitter list.
As a final note, I listened intently last Tuesday evening to WBEZ as it broadcast an interview with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, on The Commonwealth Club of California. It’s well worth the time to learn about his management style, as well as the past, present, and future one Twitter.
Skeptic no more. I remain more of a content curator and sharer in by tweets than conversationalist, yet I do, and on this day of tweet 1,000, look forward to 10,000.
Dave Kerpen is a likeable guy—or a #Likeable guy, in social media terms. He probably hears that one a lot because he is very likeable as a speaker, and his business is all about the marketing power of social media, with two books featuring “Likeable” as the first words in the title.
His presentation and book titles focus on the “Likes” of Facebook for the sake of simplicity, but his talk Friday, Feb. 19 in Chicago gave a sense of social media marketing’s strategic fullness while blowing some of its myths. BigFrontier put on the talk as part of mobium marketing’s long-running New Paradigm series.
There’s a myth that social media is free. It isn’t. “The number-one cost of social media is time,” Kerpen says. “Your time, your staff’s time, intern time, an agency’s time. If you’re going to do social media marketing well, it’s going to take time.”
Another myth: social media produces instant results. “It’s like a large cocktail party. You have conversations, and as those relationships mature, you will get results,” Kerpen says.
He told a number of stories about social media and business. The story about the Rio Las Vegas is a great one about how a company listened to him on social media—he was complaining about the service at another hotel on the Strip—and through only an empathic tweet gained, over the course of some period of time, at least $10,000 in new business from Kerpen and his large social network.
The network effects of social media conversations and comments are incredible, making listening as well as participating critical for businesses of any type, including business-to-business companies. “There’s no such thing as B2B; there’s only B2P,” he says, “because at the end of the day, we don’t sell to businesses, we sell to people.”
Social media tools today make it easy to target people within a business, especially LinkedIn. You can target ads in both LinkedIn and Facebook extremely specifically: company, title, demographic, location—nearly anything tagged in a profile, actually. Facebook’s new Social Graph search will compound the personal effect of social marketing, for both consumer and business brands. As Kerpen put it:
“Ten years ago, you’d go to find a dentist in the Yellow Pages or a coupon book. Five years ago, you would go to Google and search for “dentists.” Now I can search on Facebook for the dentists my friends like the most. This is a total game changer and potential Google killer.”
B2B brand conversations also take place in ways whose influence you cannot predict. As an example, I came across a short story in Fast Company called “The Juice Train,” which turned out to be a video about a new fuel-efficient train, powered by General Electric locomotives and operated by CSX Transportation. It pulls more than half-a-million gallons of Tropicana orange juice from Florida to New Jersey. GE’s electromotive marketing department produced the video and included quick visuals of CSX and Tropicana. I told my wife about it this morning with positive references to all three brands, and now I’ve written it up in a blog, complete with a link to the fast-motion video, which is extremely cool if you like trains:
You aren’t likely to go out and buy a GE locomotive, nor am I. But I’ll bet you like GE just a little bit more, and the effects of these conversations as they move through social networks certainly can’t hurt, especially because the content is generated by someone who doesn’t work for GE. (For the record, I refuse to call myself or anyone else who makes a comment on a social network a “user.”)
Social media makes it easier to tell and distribute a story, and the best stories a business can tell will provide value to the reader (entertainment, in the case of the GE video). From a sales point of view, “education and engagement last a lot longer than in the traditional sales cycle,” Kerpen says, “but when you do drive sales, you get loyalty through the work you put in. . . . Focus on building relationships, telling stories, providing value, and generating business through pull marketing.”
And don’t worry about making mistakes—because you will say the wrong thing. “At the end of the day, it’s just a very large cocktail party. Sometimes at a cocktail party, we put our foot in the mouth. We say we’re sorry and get on with life.”
In the late 90s and early 2000s, the public imagined a typical blogger as a slovenly guy with an untamed beard, probably ornamented with a Cheerio or two, typing out his opinions of the latest Star Wars prequel rumors.
Blogs and bloggers were called immature, profane, and larcenous. A lot of people didn’t even like the word blog. As a portmanteau of “web” and “log,” it sounds more like a combination of “blah” and “ugh.”
Today, our perception of blogging is much different. Once the nemesis of Old Media, blogs now offer a vital voice within the digital domains of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. In fact, there is a total of 128 blogs among those three sites (50, 52, and 26 blogs, respectively).
And businesses have taken to blogs in a big way. A blog gives a brand another way to hone its voice. It can be a medium for employees to connect with customers while giving the company a human face. Blogs can also yield higher search rankings and grow brand awareness.
Oh yes, what a difference a decade can make. Last week, Anthony De Rosa, social media editor of Reuters, summed up how the tables have turned in less than 140 characters:
Making a difference, one blog at a time
And now blogs are contributing to public policy, too. The most recent example is the Federal Reserve Bank’s adoption of nominal GDP (NGDP) targeting. Once something of a fringe-theory, NGDP targeting has entered the mainstream (of economists, anyway), and much of the credit is being given to the blogging efforts of Scott Sumner.
While Sumner holds a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago and is now an economics professor at Bentley University, his influence was not always substantial. But in 2009, he launched a blog, TheMoneyIllusion, in which he has persistently espoused the idea of NGDP targeting.
Here’s a post from the Economist‘s blog, which links to George Mason University economics professor Tyler Cowen’s blog post at Marginal Revolution, which gives credit to Sumner and his blog for this new direction in Fed policy. (That sentence is meant to illustrate the popularity of blogs among very smart people.)
It’s safe to say that blogs have really grown up. They went through their awkward phase in which they were sneered at, distrusted, and often reviled by whole industries. But today the blog is the medium of game-changing ideas and constructive conversations. From the private to the public sector and everywhere in between (journalism), the blog is now an indispensable facilitator of communication that many people can no longer imagine living without.
Parties, presentations, and handshakes. They are all part of the conference experience, but the opportunities for improved brand awareness, lead generation, and partnership growth don’t end there. In fact, your company’s most effective marketing could very well occur after the event.
Here are some ideas that can keep your company fresh in the minds of clients, vendors, and industry leaders:
Produce a report. Recap what you learned, who you met, what new technologies you’re excited about. Get creative. If it’s interesting to you, it’s likely going to get the attention of other players in your industry.
Contribute an article. Nothing speaks to a company’s legitimacy better than a cosign from an industry publication. It doesn’t have to be traditional media, either. Guest blog posts on relevant websites can be read even more widely than old-school outlets, and they’re easy to share via social media.
Engage in social media. Look up every person you met and invite them to connect on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, and like their company Facebook page. Send regular updates, including items from a post-conference blog. If you’ve been meaning to set up an account on any of these sites, now is the time. We recommend picking two of the Big Three.
Here’s an example of a project we did for Bank of America:
Canright covered a conference roundtable for BofA, writing a “Conference Findings” and case study report for the bank. In addition to the comments from BofA customers and experts in the roundtable, we researched industry trends to provide additional value to readers.
BofA distributed the report initially to attendees and companies that could not make the event. After getting positive feedback, they added it to their website as a free download for visitors.
Canright writes, designs, and produces a wide variety of conference content, including:
Follow-up articles or white papers from presentations
Brochures, article reprints, and product data sheets
Social media assessment and training
Promotional materials, and handouts
Speakers’ presentations (scripts and PowerPoints)
It’s conference season. Let Canright Communications help you make the most of it with excellent content. To learn more, call Collin Canright at (773) 426-7000 or email at email@example.com for an assessment of your conference materials.
Sometime early last week, I was walking past the bookshelf in my apartment when I did something unusual: I actually stopped and looked at a few of the titles.
The first book to grab my attention was one called Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking by Andy Sernovitz. I picked it up to scan the contents and intro, but before long I was laying on the couch, in full reading mode. The book kept my attention during my rides to and from work the entire week, and it was still fresh on my mind early Tuesday morning when I was sitting down to get a haircut.
Joe Gambino has been dicing domes from the third floor of the Tribune Tower for over twenty years. He’s got an old-school barber way about him, always asking which way I part my hair and snipping accordingly. There’s a classic masculinity about this shop, too, with no attention paid to wall art or the few random bottles of hair product in the display case, but Playboys are neatly splayed on a table next to where I sometimes sit and wait. At 26, I still can’t bring myself to open one in public, opting instead for a Scientific American.
That morning there was already one other man in the barbershop chatting with Joe when I got there. His presence was fortunate, because it was early, and after Joe and I both shared our Memorial Day weekend activities with each other, I was out of topics of conversation.
The man asked Joe, “Did you hear about the White Sox giving all the police officers free tickets to any game of the season?”
Joe had. I hadn’t.
Boom. Word-of-mouth marketing. Beautiful in its simplicity, no?
Some people might dismiss WOM as an antiquated technique of the pre-Social Era. Indeed, Word of Mouth Marketing was published in 2006. In his book, Sernovitz places particular emphasis on blogs, because that was before the platform exploded into so many mutations that continue to proliferate at warp speed. These new social media amplify strong WOM campaigns, rendering the fundamental WOM strategy all the more important.
WOM still begins with a great idea that will get people talking:
“Let’s give tickets to every Chicago police officer to thank them for their service.”
SIDE NOTE: Anyone reading this who keeps up with the turbulent world of Chicago politics might know that the back story behind this idea is a bit more complicated than that, but let’s assume that the idea sprang organically from somewhere within the White Sox organization.
Way back in the day—I’m talking two thousand eight—this news would have most likely been disseminated via a barbershop-type scenario or a news story that you just happened to stumble across. But this is 2012, a time when complete strangers share opinions, news, recommendations, and more with one another through a constellation of media. Here’s a small sample of tweets referencing the aforementioned story, which was generated after a quick search of “white sox cops”:
These people and many more all liked the story for one reason or another, so they tweeted it. With a story like this, people might tell a few friends, maybe a coworker or two. But they will absolutely tweet it. Or pin it. Or post it to Facebook or Tumblr or maybe even the blog they’ve been updating since 2006. Some people will post it to all of their accounts with just one click.
No, they don’t have to actually use their mouths for it to count as word-of-mouth marketing.
Sernovitz writes, “You need to do two things: Find a super-simple message and help people share it.” He also makes this observation: “People share surprisingly simple and stupid things.”
I know it’s true because I found three great articles on content marketing in my in-box this morning, reminding me of several more I had marked in the dreaded “to read” bookmark.
In FM Signal, from John Battelle of Federated Media, I found a link to “Story Time: The Rise Of Content Marketing,” an article in cmo.com. Anoop Sahgal tells how content marketing is not new. It goes back man years to magazines published by companies wanting to help their customers live and work better.
It’s a very good introduction to content marketing. I especially like his description of what content marketing is and does:
“Content marketing involves creating and curating unique, relevant, and compelling materials that position a company as a genuine industry expert or brand deserving of loyalty. A company’s content can take many forms, including advertorials, white papers, email newsletters, blogs, webinars, Web content, and videos. It can be created by the company, its users, or even by competitors. The overall goal is to attract and retain customers and help ensure that they will not only purchase more products and services, but also become brand evangelists.”
The section “Five Ways to Tell a Story” is also worth a look.
Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media Studios provides “17-Point Checklist for Web Content,” a blog post designed “to make your content more search friendly, sharable, and effective.” It covers the basics of making sure blog and web page content gives you the most Google juice while remaining readable by people.
A story from the Social Media Examiner, “17 Creative Social Media Marketing Mini Case Studies,” puts it all together. These success stories, from both b2b and b2c companies, point to one critical lesson: know your audience and give them stories they can use. Each case study focuses on a different content technique, including blogging, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn.
For a more in-depth explanation of content marketing techniques and five longer b2b content marketing case studies, register for the MarketingProfs website and download “Content Marketing Success Stories.”
My partner, Collin, and I were working on content promoting an event the other day, and were looking at ways to describe today’s business environment. He first mentioned “challenging”—which we hear a lot these days—but then he went on to write, “where change is continual and ‘normal’ is out of date.”
Reflecting on this phrase, I think he’s right. The whole concept of “normal,” in business these days, seems not only out of date, but a way of thinking that would be counter-productive to the flexibility of a business.
In our own business, we have been continually evolving our business services in response to the changing needs of our customers over the last 2-3 years. Overall, we support our clients with marketing and sales content.
But that’s where “normal” ends. The multitude of ways we can deliver that content means that we write content and format it according to the channel or channels used–while making sure the core message remains consistent.
We are always studying a number of new ways of communicating with our audiences. So along with the more traditional avenues–articles, white papers, and case studies–we’re also working on the messaging and content for social media and blogs, search optimization on web pages, information for mobile devices and tablets.
Those are new channels and ways of helping our clients deliver useful information wherever and whenever, on the audience’s terms.
So, does normal even exist anymore? Normal to me is a word that stands for stasis and certainty, something which is not the environment of today, business or personal.