social media

SEO is simple, but not easy

Yes, yes, I know. Your customers are far too busy and intelligent to use social media and, even if they do, they do not use it for business-related activity. That’s an inaccurate belief. More than two-thirds of the population of North America and Europe are actively involved in social media on a daily basis, which means it is highly likely that your customer base does use at least one medium every day.

Two bits of information came out in some conversations today regarding how to optimize search for your website. Most of the conversations were around a report on Search Engine Land where Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, confirmed what the Google algorithms look for in search engine rankings. Here are the two most important activities you can do, based on my understanding:

  1. Engaging content is the most important thing for SEO

  2. Links back to your site

The first activity is all under your control. You identify and create the content on your site and if it is self-serving, bloated and sales focused, you are probably not going to see a lot of traffic coming to your site; probably not going to see that content shared or commented on; probably not going to see customers spend much time reading it; probably going to drive people away from the site before the time spent on the site can give you any value. So invest in good content that your customers want to consume.

The second activity is mostly out of your control because it requires people to add links to your content, and you can;t make them do that… unless your content is interesting. But there is something you can do: start using social media.

Yes, yes, I know. Your customers are far too busy and intelligent to use social media and, even if they do, they do not use it for business-related activity. That’s an inaccurate belief. More than two-thirds of the population of North America and Europe are actively involved in social media on a daily basis, which means it is highly likely that your customer base does use at least one medium every day.

Even if a significant number of your customer base doesn’t use social media, however, your active presence in social media is the second most importing thing for SEO because it provides multiple links back to your site. Every time you share an article, even if it is a crappy piece of marketing dreck it represents a link back to your site. If a good customer decides to click that link, share it (most don’t read the content on the link), or comment on it, it registers with the algorithm. 

Now, the second activity could be even more crucial for you if you insist on producing marketing dreck for content because at least it adds links back to your site. But if you invest in good content, the social media presence will make it even more valuable.

So keep it in mind: Your content and your social media activity are the most important activities for boosting SEO. Everything else is a waste of time without them.


Keeping crap out of your Linkedin feed

If you walk into a business event with a thousand people and you stand in a corner the entire night not engaging with anyone, the event is useless to you. Same with social media platforms. You only get the value back that you put into the participation.

The input on my concern about Linkedin’s future has created a massive response in the past week. More than 30 comments in my Linkedin post and a couple hundred direct messages and emails. All of the input is consistent.

While comments range from power users who say the will continue to be power users, to those that say they are leaving Linkedin altogether, but the consistently say that the level of SPAM is increasing, which makes the platform more difficult to use. So today I’d like to talk about techniques to eliminate the SPAM and make Linkedin useful for you. Linkedin-icon
If you walk into a business event with a thousand people and you stand in a corner the entire night not engaging with anyone, the event is useless to you. Same with social media platforms. You only get the value back that you put into the participation. 

Step one, when you join Linkedin, do not automatically add everyone from your contact lists until you’ve taken time to go through those lists and weed out useless contacts. If you don’t feel you have time to do that, don’t make those connections. Several respondent in the discussion said that when they joined they started getting all these requests to connect from people they said they didn’t know. But I had one of them check one of their contact lists (in this case, Yahoo) and he discovered all the names of the people asking for connections. He had no idea those names were in his list.

For the record, I did not add my lists to Linkedin until about 5 years after I joined and had gone through hours of cleaning up those lists.

Step two, actually look at the profile of the person asking to connect. Do you actually know them? Do you want to have them in this particular virtual community? If the answer is no, then you don’t have to accept it. But before you say know, check out their profile by clicking on their name in the request. This might be someone you want to connect to or it might be a fake profile. Here’s how you know:

Linkedin has a standard request and whenever I connect with someone I try to change it and make it personal to let them know why I want to connect. This doesn’t work when I use the app, because it doesn’t give me that option, but from the desktop I always state my case. If someone doesn’t make that effort that’s strike one. So next I go to their profile and if they don’t have a picture that’s strike two, if they do have a picture and it looks too slick (which happens more often when I see a picture of a young, pretty girl, I do a Google image search to see if they are that person. Many times, they have stolen the image from someone and in most cases, that’s where I stop altogether and delete the request. If they pass those two tests I look at who they work for, where they went to school, what their experience is and if it would be advantageous to both of us to connect. Fake profiles usually list the workplace generically (“a direct marketing firm”) and their title is just as generic. If they are not interesting or are just too generic it’s strike three. They are out.

That is not a foolproof system, however. I recently was approached by someone who claimed to be interested in investing in a client. I went through the basic vetting process and everything clicked. We began a conversation on Linkedin and certain forms were filled out. However, my intuition started tingling and I decided to check it out a bit further. The photo was right, the job description was right… but his email address was off. It was exactly the same as the legitimate company, but he added a dash between words to go to a fake site.

So that’s step three: Don’t be gullible. Take the time to look into the people who you are getting involved with. It really doesn’t take more than a few seconds.

 Linkedin and all the other platforms are not magical. They don’t operate without personal effort any more than a ream of paper can produce a great novel until you pick up a pencil and start writing. If you follow those three steps, you will dramatically see a reduction in your SPAM almost immediately.

The next and last installment will be how to get more legitimate contacts through a content strategy.

This content marketing thing; I don't think it means what you think it does.

Had a chat with Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute today about how well content marketing is doing in US business

Had a chat with Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute today about how well content marketing is doing in US business.  Of course we've all heard the glowing reports, but it turns out that the success is still very limited to only those that are doing it right.  And there aren't many of them at that.  Gee, who knew?  Here's the discussion.


It's not that social is failing business. Business just isn't doing it.

They are creating 20th century content, stuffing it into web 2.0 sites and putting links to social platforms so lots of people can see how god-awful their stuff is.

When I was a young journalist, I worked for the managing editor from Hell.  I'd write a story, turn it in, he'd cuss under his breath, crumple it up and say, "Do it again."  

He'd never tell me what was wrong with it, because he said he really didn't know, so he gave me no good direction.  I went through that for 18 months and was on the verge of being fired every month.  Talk about a gaunlet.  But after those 18 months I started to see what he saw and my copy started getting better.  Much better.  And I could explain what made a story good or bad, which came in handy for new reporters who started to go through the gauntlet.  Because I could help them, they became better faster, which made the paper better overall.  I went from becoming a crappy reporter to a damn good writer and editor.

Today I see much the same thing going on in small businesses and multinational corporations.  They all think they are doing social communications, but they aren't.  They are creating 20th century content, stuffing it into web 2.0 sites and putting links to social platforms so lots of people can see how god-awful their stuff is.  Their customers are acting like my old managing editor and tossing the stuff aside and mumbling under their breath, but they aren't telling the companies what is wrong, because most people don't know what makes good stuff.  They just know it when they see it.

Some studies are coming out that companies aren't seeing value in social communication and some are saying it just doesn't work.  It's like a carpenter who forgot nails complaining that his hammer doesn't work. 

There are companies out there that are doing really well at social, and that keeps getting reported:  That businesses have embraced the new communication medium and are making money like crazy with it.  Those people probably aren't you.  We know that now.  We've got the numbers and it isn't what's being reported.  We still have a long way to go before this new medium becomes the norm.

We'll be talking about this Monday on a Hangout on Air.  If you want the lowdown, tune in. 

Death of Journalism Part 3: How it changes mar com


To sum up our series today on the death of journalism as we know it, there is less and less independent analysis from the free press due to budgetary constraints.  Consumers are relying more and more on online content, especially video, to make their decisions but they still want objective content.  Businesses that understand this are turning to ethical journalism and sponsoring it directly to establish themselves as trusted sources of content.  The tech world is taking baby steps in this direction.  Xilinx and Altera hired former print journalists to manage in-house publications sent to current customers.  Cadence Design took a step further hired a journalist to manage blog content specifically to promote the companies products and services, but the efforts focus only on current customers.

Larger companies, like Pepsi, offer a section of the website devoted only to pop culture, not products.  Digikey, in contrast, offers industry news by respected journalists, but they keep the content proprietary and littered with promotional material diluting the potential for building trust.  Pepsi, however demonstrates the viability of their approach showing data that their section is driving sales, engagement and consumer loyalty.  

 Steve Rubel of Edelman wrote recently in a Linkedin article that companies who want to succeed in the new paradigm of information need to adopt a “newsroom mentality.” That means creating content that your audience needs to hear/read rather than what you want to tell them.  That’s a tall order for most marketing-minded executives who cut their teeth on Web 1.0 and still can’t figure out Facebook, which is why finding communicators with deep journalism roots can be the key to success.

 In the next year, companies that stop navel gazing are going to be the next market leaders, and it all comes down to what they do with content.  The press won’t be there to help them do that.  Time for a reality check.


Mark Cuban wrong. Facebook doing the right thing

Just read an interesting post in ReadWrite about Mark Cuban deciding to abandon Facebook because of the algorithm change forcing corporations to pay exorbitant fees to get play on the social network.  Frankly, I think he's wrong to do it, but Facebook is finally doing something right.

The great thing about Facebook, as opposed to Google, was that companies could get a lot of good exposure if they could get their customers to talk about what they thought about products.That's why I was an initial FB booster rather than press releases on Google as a means to reach an audience. It was true public relations, not companies gaming the SEO of Google for a higher page rank.

 In the beginning, it worked well.  Then companies got lazy, and so did Facebook, by creating corporate pages and finding ways to game the community attraction, just like Google allowed.  I was really getting sick of having to completely reorder my FB feed to keep the crappy fake Facebookers from filling it with corporate spam.  Now Facebook is charging corporations, like all those owned by Mark Cuban, for the right to spam the community and charging up the wazoo for it.

Well Cuban doesn't like the ROI (in other words he doesn't want to pay for anything) and he's switching to MySpace, Tumblr and Twitter to reach his fan base.  That very well may work for the penurious Cuban... for a while.  Pretty soon, though, networks will also have to figure out how to monetize all this spam traffic.

What Cuban, GM and all the other companies bitching about Facebook advertising fail to comprehend is that one happy, vocal customer is more valuable than a post spammed out to 10,000 who once pressed a like button.  Especially on Facebook.  Sociology studies have shown over the years that the average person exchanges opinions with 6 people every day in the natural world.  So in a company of 100 people, 600 others will receive information about that company in a day.  Social media changes that, however because the average social media user actively exchanges opinions with 165 people every day, who exchange those same opinions with another 165 people each that same day.  So an average fan will reach more than 27,000 people every day... for free.  The trick is you have to give them something they might actually want to share and it has to be more than, "Hey! buy my crap!"

That's the lesson Ford learned over GM.  GM put ads on Facebook that said "Buy our cars," and the effort failed horribly.  Ford put up ads that said "Here's how to take care of your car," which directed them to a site that gave them valuable information, which included, "While you're at it, have you considered a new car?"  Facebook advertising worked for Ford.  Didn't work for GM.  Do you see why?

Based on what I've seen coming out of Cuban's companies, he hasn't figured that out yet, which is why he doesn't see the value in Facebook.

But let's move from that to why Facebook is doing the right thing.  I once had a friend (who I met on Facebook) say, wryly, "Oh no! 10 million people are upset at Facebook's latest change and are threatening to leave.  What will the other 990 million of us do without them?"  Facebook has maintained dominance because it has gathered more users than any other online service faster than any other.  A very big deal was made about them passing the 1 billionth account.  But what they are doing now could very well cut that number by half very fast.  And they are doing it intentionally.

Social media has never been about reaching the most people.  It has always been about reaching the right people.  For the past couple of years, Facebook has become bloated with a lot of "non-people," which means they are not right.  Therefore, they need to go away or pay for the privilege of being in the worldwide community.  That means Facebook has decided to do the right thing and cull that community.  We may very well see Facebook drop to 500 million users in the next two years, which everyone will consider to be the death of Facebook.  Really.  500 million users is a failure.

No.  It is not.  It is the right thing.


My day in social media

 Today I...

  • Helped a young entrepreneur in Qatar refine his executive summary on a social media app designed to help charities raise money. (Linkedin)

  • Conducted a staff meeting (Skype) and reviewed documents and reports with the team in Boston and Austin (Dropbox)

  • Encouraged a young friend in Washington state who was in a sudden moment of crisis. (Facebook)

  • Finished editing a series of videos to help local voters work their way through the California ballot without using divisive campaign rhetoric. (Youtube)

  • Helped someone adjust their security settings on Facebook so she wasn’t blasting everything about her life to everyone on the web. (Facebook)

  • Suggested several candidates for a senior communications executive to a major semiconductor company identify. (

  • Put the early workings together for a fund raising project to help teacher take care of their cars. (

  • Set up a video channel to broadcast my daughter’s wedding to people who cannot attend. (Ustream)

This is pretty much a normal day for me.  I do it all from my home office.

Now, you were telling me that social media is just superficial and a waste of time and that you can operate much more efficiently without it.

(Oh yeah.  I wrote a blog post, too) 

Social Producers? Brian Solis, Get out of my head!

For those who have not discovered him yet, Brian Solis is a social media guru who has turned the medium into a science.  If you can, pick up his book Engage! and read it with a bottle of aspirin nearby, because you'll have a headache about a third of the way in.  Ever since I discovered him he regulalrly posts an explanation of something that has been noodling around in my brain.  It's kind of scary actually.

For example, today he posts a piece about infographics (that are all the rage now) and explains why they are so badly done in general. He asks,  "Are you trying to seek the embrace of your customers and the people who influence them or are you designing for those who will approve and fund your campaign?"

In that simple question he wraps up about 6 months of discussions I've had with companies about developing shareable, engaging content. 

I morphed my business out of PR a couple of years ago into whate we called a strategic earned media concept.  We created content designed to not only be acceptable and valuable  to B2B media but to their readers as well.  Everything we did was designed around those two strategic targets.  But the more content we created around that idea, the more we realized that our sponsoring companies had no idea what to do with it and had very little idea why it was valuable or why it seemed to work.  It was strategic communication and no one we worked with had ever seen anything like it.  Scared the crap out of them.

So in the past few months, we had pivoted once again into showing companies how we make the decision to create and/or share content, by using social media to identify key customers and attract their attention.  We had no idea what to call what we were now doing, so we called it "content marketing" because it seemed to be the closest to what we did.

Boy, were we off.  Solis defined it for us.  It's social production.

Most technology companies develop a solution to a specific problem and then assume that other people will have the same problem.  That's the basis of their business.  That assumption is also part of their marketing.  Occassionally, they are right.  Most of the time they are not, but they plow ahead believing their assumption to be correct, until they are completely bankrupt.  When you have a limited amount of revenue, going off half cocked like that seems to be a good idea because doing real market research is expensive.

Social media, however, gives you the ability to actually learn something specific about people who drive the market.  You can learn what they are interested in and what media they consume.  And except for the cost of personnel and time, it is virtually free.  That kind of knowledge creates relationships that can show if you actually have a good idea, what can make it better, who to sell it to and how to sell it.

But you can't do it by slappng together a pretty infographic or a punchy press release that is based on your assumptions, because (1) your assumptions are proably wrong and (2) almost every competitor is doing the same thing so you have no differentiator. You actually have to spend time on production of social content beyond wht you have done in the past

The filters of good content

Continuing on with our discussion about good content, I've come across some fascinating data regarding how customers in the world of semiconductor design are consuming it and what it means for social media.  Let's start with a poll taken by a company I've been consulting to in recent weeks.

The company wanted to get some attention from a select segment of customers.  The company estimates that their entire customer base consists of a few thousand people worldwide and they only need to reach a small part of that to be successful.  So they were looking into ways to best reach them.  Good content was a given in their estimation, but how to create that content and how to deliver it most efficiently was the question.  They had an assumption on what would be the best path that I questioned so I asked them to do something: talk to your current and potential customer about where they get their information.

I've asked my clients to do this for many years, but no one has ever done it.  They prefer to stick with assumptions.  I was stunned when this new company took me up on the idea.  And they went about it with a scientifically significant sampling.  What they discovered verified what I was telling them about the media, but also came up with some surprising results even for me.

What was not surprising (to me) was that the publications they thought about targeting with their content barely registered or did not register at all with their audience.  What was also not surprising was that EE Times and EDN were a virtual tie for first. I generally lump these two together since they are both UBM products and generally serve the same audience though for different purposes (more on that later).

What was mildly surprising was that Chip Design and came in tied for third and that John Cooley's DeepChip did not register at all.  I actually thought that the three would be much closer, but as I thought about it, what Chip Design and D&R focus on is generally a much higher level in semiconductor design.  That's a significant bit of information (more on that later, too.)

What knocked me out of my seat, however, was what came in a solid second.  


I've been following Linkedin for quite a while.  In fact, it was the first social media platform I ever got involved with.  However, until the past couple of years, it just kinda sat there in my browser bookmarks.  That changed in 2010 when I was able to help a client make a contact with a significant potential customer using my Linkedin contacts.  In that process I discovered groups and now belong to and, in some instances, moderate 31.  Some people have called my involvement scattered and can't imagine being able to follow that much, but the results of this survey showed my Linkedin involvement is not that remarkable.  The respondents stated they get their dose of news and opinion from 20 or more different groups.

But none of that information is actually original content.  It's based on content that group members have screened and found valuable... from places like EE Times, EDN and Chip Design.  

In my last post I said that readers are using social media to filter content.  This is a perfect example of how they are doing it.  They are relying on peers and trusted sources to scan through the content and then endorse it.  Most of the groups have moderation filters in place (people like me) who look at suggested content first before allowing it to be disseminated.  The content comes from other trusted sources (like Chip Design and EE Times) and then can be commented upon by members.

And because Linkedin has carefully adopted the image of a businesslike site, you don't get a lot of socio/political spam.

Linkedin was, at one time, the realm of HR managers and job seekers.  It still is very much that, but it has morphed into much more.  It has become a curation site for business information and, as a result, has become an increasingly important channel for  organizations that develop trusted content.  

There have been a few articles recently talking about the fiscal value of Linkedin over Twitter and Facebook.  Part of it is that Linkedin doesn't just get revenue from advertising, but also from subscriptions and job listings, keeping the overall cash flow positive. But the fact that it has proven valuable to business more than developing casual acquaintances has also kept it's stock value high (106 for LI vs 21 Facebook at this writing).  It has kept is focus much narrower and is therefore more broadly valued.  In that point let's go back to the issues of EETimes/EDN and Chip Design.

Fractured vs Focused Readership

The survey showed, as I said, that EE Times and ECN were in a dead heat for readers, which doesn't bother UBM at all, but the respondents said something interesting about EE Times: they approach the massive amounts of content in many different ways.  Some read the newsletters only, some just one or two DesignLine pages, some the weekly digital version, some the videos, some the online front page.  One even mentioned EE Times Confidential.  The audience for EE Times is highly fractured.  They can claim total readership in the millions but with so many channels, the chance that the content about your company will reach the eyeballs of your target audience is just a crap shoot.  Not so much for EDN, however.  The driving number of EDN readers say they go directly to for their content and move from there.  So getting front and center there means you get more potential readers for your material.  The downside is it is tougher to get through the editorial filter of EDN than it is for the multiple channels of EE Times.

That being said, channels like Chip Design and D&R give access to a much more select audience focused on issues more specific than EE Times and EDN, and the name of the game in media for high tech is not quantitative but qualitative (Point of order, the survey showed that everyone who reads Chip Design and D&R also read UBM content).

Companies need to look at media non-exclusively. You can't rule out the big media names and you can't assume that just because you like a style of writing that everyone else feels the same way.  My consultee was considering putting all their eggs in a single media bucket because they assumed that the bucket was the best possible choice.  A careful consideration can demonstrate that obvious choices are not necessarily good choices and the best choices are those that take time and effort to foster.  Social media can help, in a big way.

Good content takes work.

Continuing on with our discussion on what makes good content, I want to give a big shout-out to Don Tuite from Electronic Design who provided, in a comment with an outstanding example of what it takes to make a good technical news story.

Don pointed out that when he does a piece, he does a fair amount of editorializing, but that is tempered by a lot of information from many sources.  That speaks to the issue if truth in content.  An opinion is not necessarily untrue and passes the test when it is backed up by information from both sides.  To get to that point, however, requires a helluva lot of work.

Don's outline of his process took not only days of research and discussion, but time to put it straight in his own head and then write down his perception of reality.  If lucky, he gets to do that 20 or 30 times a year.  There are about 5 editors in the industry like Don so we can count on about 150 stories with that kind of effort over the course of a year, tops.

And there are about 1500 of those kind of stories out there, every year.  We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg regarding what options there are for Don's industry.  And there are about 100 other related industries.

Do you see where the problem lies?  There are not enough objective journalists to filter all the material so it becomes the responsibility of content producers outside of the ranks of journalism to start becoming better at creating real content, based on truth. 

The audience has the responsibility of keeping up on what Don and his peers produce and then filter through all the news releases and marketing documentation that has not received the same careful scoping that a journalist will give it.  That raw data feeds the monster known as the World Wide Web and overwhelms millions of people through web search, RSS and email.  Corporate communicators can make that job easier by creating trustworthy content, not just trying to boost their product.  If they become know for producing trusted content, when they do boost their company, it will more likely be consumable to the audience.

And once communicators start solving their credibility problem, they need to start understanding where their audiences are going to want to consume that information.

In my previous post on this I said that journalists use subjective filters to stem the flood of data.  I know one editor that will not accept emails from anyone he does not already know and trust.  Another can only be reached through direct messages on Twitter.  There are many who refuse to take emails, and phone calls and rely only on search tools.  Each journalist has chosen one or more ways to control the flow of information, just as a matter of survival. The audience, likewise, is increasingly using modern media to filter out the dross.  These new filters are as arbitrary and subjective as the journalists, maybe even more so.

There was a phrase I heard many times in various forms while working as a PR pro: "(1) We don't really need media relations or PR help because (2) our customers are engineers and (3) engineers talk to each other."  Part two is still true of these folks and Part three was true to a degree 10 years ago. Part one has never been true but is even a bigger untruth today.

Media relations is a very big need in the engineering industries because engineers are talking to each other more than ever and they are doing it over social media.  The Society of Automotive Engineers released a survey in 2010 that showed engineers have widely adopted social media as a means of discussing and investigating engineering options and products  I'm not talking about email and bulletin boards.   

The survey reported that, "In North America, 70% of respondents use Facebook versus 59% globally; and 67% of North American respondents use LinkedIn as opposed to 46% globally, according to the findings. YouTube is more popular among mobility engineers globally -- 45% said they use the site as opposed to only 29% in North America."

This isn't about those "damned kids," either.  Age did not play a significant role in determining one site over another.

Those engineers are sharing content they have found that they consider valid or needs discussion.  What they are not sharing is most of the marketing content being produced by the companies targeting their business.  

In 2009, The Napier partnership (a British PR firm) did a study on usage os social media by engineers and did an update in 2011.  They found social media usage grew dramatically among engineers in the electronic design industry but, at the same time, those engineers were increasingly dissatisfied by the quality of the content.  In other words, they were tired of press releases and marcom brochures. 

And that's the point of this post.  Your customers want real information, vetted and/or created by qualified communicators (preferably journalists) who spend time finding the real story.  If you lack the time, skill and resources to create that kind of content, you need to hire some one who does.  Don't wait until your publicist sets up a meeting at a trade show; don't crank out another press release; and don't fret over the hyperbole of another brochure until you do.  And once you figure that out, you need to figure out where those customers are getting that stuff.  I have an idea for you that I normally charge people for.  I'll tell you about it next time.


Truthiness won't set you free.

 A few weeks ago I started a discussion on Facebook on what goes into the creation of good content and that turned into the first in a series that ensued from the discussion.  Don Tuite of Electronic Design magazine asked an interesting question regarding what makes a piece of content "truthy," an adjective created by comedian Steven Colbert.  that question is a perfect example of what is wrong with content development today: the effort to make something seem true rather than try to make sure it is actually true.

 Tom Foremski wrote an interesting piece over on ZDNet on press-imposed censorship that fits in well as an example of what hampers the creation of good content. Foremski talks about the habit of B2B journalists to continually go to the well of what they consider "reliable" sources that invariably consist of the top players in a given industry.

 I've pointed out it past posts that every journalist has subjective filters when it comes to covering news.  A given subject can have as many as half a dozen legitimate sources for the news.  The journalist goes through the list of previous sources for the topic for the first round, consisting of PR and executives.  If need be a second round consisting of spokespeople from the top one or two players in the market will be contacted.  Rarely is there a second round where the journalist contacts low-level players.  That, however, may be exactly where the real information is.

 During my early days as a journalist I learned that the best stories usually came from the people no one notices:  A local Buddhist priest who turns out to be a Hiroshima survivor; the elderly man who raise parakeets and donates them to shut ins for company; the technologist who develops a new processor technology, once discarded by the industry, that actually resolves many of the problems with current processors.  These were all hidden stories that had been around for years until I stumbled across them.  That's what I was always taught was real news: something out of the ordinary.

 Journalists today are under paid and over worked.  They need to find ways to create as much content as they can with shrinking resources.  And the major players in the market are more than willing to make sure the unusual never makes the light of day by giving the harried reporters and editors "special access" to the corridors of power.  Those sources are dedicated to the concept of "truthiness."

 Good content is not "truthy."  It is true.  More often than not it has to come from the unusual suspects.  That's why at New Tech Press we impose a subjective filter of excluding the top players as often as possible (e.g. in our Semicon coverage we chose interviews with KLA Tencor, current number 4, as the lead interview...having been unable to get responses from Varian and Advantest).

 Can traditional journalists ignore the top players? Probably not.  There is too much pressure from publication management to keep the large potential advertisers happy and no pressure whatsoever from the lower-level companies who invest nothing in media buys.  But the lower-level companies can make an effort to use social media strategies to share good content (not necessarily about them) and help journalists get a broader view.

 More later.


What makes content good?

Good content has to be about something you know, and that cuts out 99 percent of the stuff in social media.

My last post on content as the driver of successful online programs got a relatively lively discussion over on my Facebook page and young Anton Molodetskiy (rhymes with "my broken jet ski") at the Hoffman Agency suggested I follow up with a post on what makes content "sharable."  Then a long time compatriot, Don Tuite (the analog guru at Electronic Design magazine) tossed out a bunch of questions.

"What about content nobody can find because it only shows up on page 10 of the search results? What about content that isn't true, but is truthy? If content is crowd-sourced, is it true? What makes for a 'trusted source.'?"

So, at the risk of giving away the store, because helping companies do this is my business, it's probably a good idea to get into this.  Let's start with Don's last question.

First, good content has to be about something you know, and that cuts out 99 percent of the stuff in social media.  Let's say, for argument's sake, that you are well versed in the subject of your content and that you are quite passionate about it.  This can describe almost any marketing person.

Second, you have to know what makes your audience excited about the subject matter.  This weeds out a LOT of corporate content because most marketing managers have no clue what the customer base really needs.  Their job is to tell the customer, tell them again and then tell them one more time what the company wants them to hear.  Truth is a luxury.  You may be one of those rare people who does understand the customer base but there are so many out there that don't that just by being an employee of a company cuts deeply into your credibility with the customer.  You will have to go a long way to convince them otherwise.  Social media can help with that, if you are willing to make the effort and/or investment in the process.

What makes for a "trusted source" is a relationship based on mutual respect.  While I was doing the PR thing, there were several journalists who would call me up and ask about a certain subject knowing that if one of my clients could not provide insight, I would provide contact information and introductions to sources even if they were not a client.  There were several who told me they would take my calls, even if I hadn't talked to them in a couple of years, because they "knew" I wouldn't call unless I had something interesting.  What made me get out of the PR thing was the complete lack of substance I was seeing coming out of the clientele and their absolute disrespect of the media.  Which was par for the course because they really didn't respect their customers either, for the most part.

You don't get to be a trusted source just because you can write stuff and post it on the interweb tubes.  You get there by knowing what you communicate about and respect your audience enough to know what they need to hear.  Journalists are good at that because they are not directly reliant on revenue from the company they are writing about.  Their audience may not agree with their perspective, but they generally trust that the journalist made some effort to look at the story as objectively as possible.

So if you're objective and independent that makes you a trusted source?  Nope.  It still goes back to the relationship.  When Don writes about technology, people read his stuff because (1) they have been reading the magazine he writes for for a while and (2) Don's stuff is what they are interested in.  They may not even know Don's name, but the source of the information (the publication) is trusted.  If Don were to change his style and start boosting certain companies' tech without regard for balance, the readers would soon stop trusting the source... and Electronic Design would find someone else to write the stuff.  That takes work because relationships take work.

Coming soon,  "Truthiness is a myth."

Does Facebook actually work? Depends...on you

There was a significant kerfuffle last week as General Motors' pulled their advertising from Facebook, with prognosticators pointing to the failure of Facebook as a marketing tools.  Having been recently in the market for a new car, and having bought a GM car in the end, I can say with certainty that GM's use of Facebook advertising really sucked.  And Ford's was much better.

Once I started online research for my car I started noticing ads for car manufacturers popping up on FB.  I noticed that GM ads were pretty standard.  Essentially, they said, "buy our car."  I was not impressed.  Then there was this one ad I found that didn't even mention who it was from.  It was a link to an article about the raw materials that go into electric vehicles.  I was considering EVs so I clicked on it.  It took me to a another manufacturers site, but not an ad. it was actually an article about the raw materials used in EVs.  And that gave me and opportunity to go check the specs of an EV for that manufacturer.

The bottom line was I was engaged in what the other manufacturer offered as content and I considered their offering for an EV.  Now, in the end, I chose a GM car because of other reasons, but I was not helped by what GM tried to sell me through Facebook.

That's the issue with social media.  Using it like a typical advertising platform will end in failure. Using it as a promotional tool alone will end in failure.  Offering real content that helps people make a decision succeeds.

If your social platform is not delivering results for you, don't blame the platform.  Get someone in with some perspective and look at your content

Bolaji Ojo is tired. Be interesting

In a continuation of my effort to catch up, EBN EiC Bolaji Ojo tipped me over the edge again bolstering my position, tangentially, my last post.

Ojo, and his partner in crime at EBN, Barbara Jorgensen addressed the product of not doing social media right: Site Fatigue.

"Each week," he wrote, "I receive a deluge of requests to Like companies on Facebook, follow tweets on Twitter, or be LinkedIn with others. Don't ask me to follow your tweets if they aren't worth following. Don't ask me to tag or recommend you if I can't justify the investment of my time."

Which has been my point for many years.  Social media is not about mass marketing communication.  It's about building relationships and trust.  If you are posting links to poorly written and repetitive press releases and marcom material (that's pretty much everyone) then you are not using social media properly or even efficiently.  You're just pissing people off.  And in the case of Bolaji and Barbara, those aren't people you want to annoy.

The problem is most marketers and engineers don't really know how to do anything else.  They are ensconced in their technology, absolutely sure that what they are doing and saying is completely unique and superior than it is to everyone else.  Most in-house communicators and the publicists they hire have no idea what is actually unique to their product.  It takes someone with objectivity and a broader world view to figure that out.  Someone, like, a journalist.

The problem is that journalists are so bombarded with extraneous, unusable content that they lack the time and resources to filter it out.  As Barbara commented, "Barbara chimed in with a comment to Bolaji's piece.  "I think there is opportunity here for anyone who is willing to be a filter. Not just a random filter: an educated, balanced filter." 

As I've pointed out in my series on earned media, some companies are hiring laid off journalists to manage their in-house publication efforts, which is a great first step.  But that effort doesn't really reach outside of the corporate wall and is, therefore, suspect to potential customers.

We seem to have reached a significant pain point in media.  My company, Footwasher Media, saw it coming many years ago.  Welcome, pilgrims.  Time to give us a call.


Dealing with reality vs. infographics

Over the past few weeks I've been wrapping up the beta project for our new business model and, as a result, I've been putting off a lot of writing.  So for the next few posts I'm going to be cleaning up the flotsam and jetsam that's accumulated on my desk.  First off, Infographics

The recent web fad of reducing an argument to a trite graphic is really irritating to me... especially when the position taken is so poorly researched that it negates the senders' credibility. I usually only comment directly back to the sender about the error, but back in March I got an unsolicited email (from someone who did not identifiy what axe they wanted to grind but I was able to discover it anyway) asking me to comment on it in my blog.  Here's my comment.

What a load of crap.

Here's the infographic.



Right from the beginning the hucksters pushing this information start out with a prevarication: that Wikipedia forced Encyclopedia Britannica to leave print.  It's not true.  It's not even sort of true.  Encyclopedia Britannica did announce it was leaving print this year, but not because of Wikipedia.  It did it because it can more easily update its information on line than it can in print.  Print sales of the EB were declining for years before Wikipedia came on the scene simply because people could look up information.  The company is actually doing quite well.

Now every other piece of information on the graphic could be correct, but by leading with something that is so blatantly false it makes it difficult to believe anything else.  That's where I have so much difficulty with this kind of information dissemination. 

The internet is full of crap, just as every other form of media is full of crap.  But what makes the 'net so different is that it is relatively easy to find out if the crap you are reading or viewing is true or false.  That's why I love social media and the internet.  I don't have to believe anything.  I can check everything.  That's also why a lot of marketing people and entrepreneurs (outside of web-based businesses) really prefer to avoid doing their work on the web.  Static printed graphics can make outrageous and/or vague statments without potential customers checking up on them immediately.

Now the publishers of the above crap added a bunch of url's to try to add and image of veracity to their stuff, but since they can't be clicked or copied it's difficult to check up ont heir sources.  This, too, is part of the practice: Give the illusion not the reality.

So, that's what I think of the infographic from, a company looking to replicate Wikipedia's success by disseminating poorly researched information.  I would highly recommend avoiding their practice.

There's media and then there's media, Finale

We live in a world that lacks both barriers and trust. While the rest of the world watches and shares what the corporate world and press produce, most of the producers are still trying to put some level of control on it. That is not going to change. Someone has to stand up and tackle the problem from a different angle.

In our last post in this series I stated that earned content isn't a sure thing no matter how much effort and cost you put into it.  That's because earned content -- news coverage that is beneficial to your cause, product or company -- has too many variable in the form of timing, resources within the news community and the interest of the general reading public.  Because of that confluence of variables, most companies don't approach public relations strategically but keep it in the tactical menu.  That's also why most PR efforts fail to impress the people that pay for them.

 That is not to say that earned media cannot be a strategic effort.

 Over the past decade, more and more companies have been pursuing a strategic earned media strategy by hiring laid-off editors and freelancers to run internal media efforts.   Some of the editors were not laid off but left because the money was just too good and others had been laid off for several months before the companies picked them up.  For example, Cadence, Xilinx and Altera have all hired editors that once worked at United Business Media and Reed publications.  This is a very good thing because these companies have recognized the skill and integrity of these journalists and want them to apply those attributes to their internal publications.  But there are two problems with these types of programs.

 First, most companies, however, cannot afford to make the expenditure of putting someone on salary and building an infrastructure around their work.  Second, the audience for the work is captive, existing behind the firewall with limited outreach. Furthermore, as much as the journalists creating the content are trustworthy, because the audience knows that this content is fully under control of the sponsoring company, it's trustworthiness is still suspect.   

 Remember that true earned content has to come from a third party.  Independent publications from media houses, like UBM, still carry the cachet of trust and therefore are more valuable. Even contributed material, like opinion pieces and press releases, can boost their integrity a bit by appearing in one of these third party publication... but they are not as trusted as the content created by an independent journalist.  That's still the holy grail for content... and it can be planned for and executed.

 For the past six months, Footwasher Media has been running a strategic earned media program for a public company.  In those six months we have created more than 60 pieces of content, with input from but independent of the sponsoring company, using the services of experienced and known journalists in the tech community.  That content has been shared with partnering media companies and published close to 200 times internationally.  The articles and videos have been viewed on the sponsor's site by more than 27,000 unique viewers (that's real people, not spider hits) and the partner publications have driven more than 4500 qualified leads to the sponsor.  The sponsor has stated that the content published has raised the visibility of the company among the international press to the degree that they have seen a serious increase in the number of unsolicited calls from the press in general.

 So how is it happening?  First, Footwasher Media has cultivated relationships with the press management over decades allowing a frank and open discussion of what is and isn't independent content.  We have dedicated ourselves to a standard of ethics that goes beyond lip-service and puts it in writing.  That creates a perception of trustworthiness in our relationship with them.  Second, our content is not behind a firewall, it's in the open and available to an audience larger than the  sales base of the sponsor.  Third, we work with the sponsor openly and honestly.  We tell them when something will or won't work in the program while remaining open to their suggestions.  We treat them as a source, first and foremost, not just, a source of income. Fourth, and finally, we act as a true intermediary in the discussion between the sponsor and the traditional press making sure both understand the needs of the other, not advocating for either.  Let's look at it graphically.

Polish.003 In the previous post I showed the relationship of earned, social, owned and purchased media, along with the levels of cost, effort and trustworthiness.  In this chart I add strategic earned media to the mix, placing it between social and tactical earned.  A strategic effort takes a bit more effort that tactical and costs more, but it drives up the creation of tactical and reduces the cost and effort that goes into tactical.  As a result, social, owned and purchased all get dragged closer to and in some case into the trust zone.

 We live in a world that lacks both barriers and trust.  While the rest of the world watches and shares what the corporate world and press produce, most of the producers are still trying to put some level of control on it.  That is not going to change.  Someone has to stand up and tackle the problem from a different angle.  That's what we are doing.

 It is a different way of looking at the exchange and dissemination of information to the world.  That's what it takes: open, honest, transparent and independent communication.

 And it works.


There's media and then there's media, Part 2

Social and earned media content is seen as truer because it is uncontrolled and has the perspective of the third party. Whether it comes from a known journalist or from the comments on a Facebook post, the readers know, in the least, that the author is not on your payroll. That provides a level of objectivity and even integrity that doesn't exist in an advertisement or corporate website.

 Last post we looked at "suspect content" that is distributed over owned and paid media.  It's suspect to the audience because it is highly controlled and partisan.  Today we look at the "trustworthy content" that is found in earned media.

 Social and earned media content is seen as truer because it is uncontrolled and has the perspective of the third party.  Whether it comes from a known journalist or from the comments on a Facebook post, the readers know, in the least, that the author is not on your payroll.  That provides a level of objectivity and even integrity that doesn't exist in an advertisement or corporate website.

 A lot of marketers will put the press release in the earned media content bucket, but they are completely wrong.  Now, I know Paul Miller at UBM will take issue with this, because UBM magazines and websites, as well as those at Hearst, Penton, Advantage, et al, publish a myriad of news releases on their pages.  Paul will claim that because they appear on their news engines it gives the information believability.  But then UBM also owns PR Newswire which is the "cash-cow" press-release distribution service the company owns. so he has to say that.  The viability of press releases is the cornerstone of most earned-media strategies in the corporate world.  But trust me, press releases do not equate with real earned media.

 Press releases are owned content, even when they appear in third-party print and online sites.  The content is determined and controlled by the source.  It's distribution is paid for by the source and no one believes the content except those already predisposed to believe it.  I've written a lot of press releases in my career and I have been tracking the readership for more than a decade.  I have discovered that almost all of all the true readers of press releases (excluding impressions caused by web-search spiders) consists of people employed by the company that issues the release, or employees and executives of the competition of those companies.  The percentage of journalists that read those releases off the wire is almost unmeasurable.  It's not that they don't want to read them.  They can't.  There are thousands of releases flooding through the wires every hour, so they are no help to the journalist trying to follow an industry or trend.  

 This is what creates earned media:

  1. A journalist/blogger's assignment

  2. A journalist/blogger's curiosity

  3. A journalist/blogger's personal relationships

  4. A journalist/blogger's field of vision and/or hearing

 That's it.  All four of those are intertwined.  There are some journalists I know that won't accept emails from sources they don't already know.  There are some that don't accept emails at all.  There are some that can only be reached through direct message through Twitter.  There are some that you can only contact by knowing where their favorite Starbuck's cafe is and hanging out there for a week.   They may go to tradeshows, but only stay in the sessions and avoid the show floor.  Some only go to the show floor and quickly walk through to see if anything grabs their attention and turn their badges around to make sure no one knows they are media.  They all have subjective filters they place in the way of information just to keep the flow to a dull roar.

 The press release that so many companies put so much concern and effort into is only for their reference once you have their attention.

 Getting earned media is not formulaic.  It is not free but it is less expensive than what owned and paid media costs.  But it takes an enormous amount of effort over a long period of time to attain ... unless you have an effective social media strategy.  What you probably think that means is not what what it really is.

 But before we get into that, we're going to talk about contributed articles.  That comes next.


There's media and then, there's media

I've come to realize that, while many companies engage in the various forms of media, very few know they should interrelate and even fewer understand how they interrelate. Let's see if we can fix that for some of you.

 Happy New Year and welcome to our first series of the year.

 Anyone in marketing knows the three primary buckets of media: paid, owned (or controlled) and earned.  Many in marketing know that social (or shared) media is a hybrid of owned and earned. Over the past year since we launched our inaugural strategic media program, however, I've come to realize that, while many companies engage in the various forms of media, very few know they should interrelate and even fewer understand how they interrelate.  Let's see if we can fix that for some of you.

 Footwasher Media approaches media and content on a scale of trustworthy to suspect.  On the trustworthy side of the scale is earned, followed by social.  On the opposite end of the scale is owned and paid.  In this post we're going to focus on the latter.

 Owned is content you create and distribute directly.  That includes collateral material, trade show efforts and even your website.  Because it is wholly owned and managed by you it is the most controllable and measurable.  You may bring third parties into the creation of the content, but generally the real expense is in the building of the delivery mechanism in the form of web design, SEO and graphics.  You are the sole arbiter of the content and success is wholly dependent on your ability to attract an audience and get them to accept what you say as true.

 Paid media is generally advertising or pay-for-play media, paid for by you but distributed by a third party, generally a media engine, like a magazine, news website or email service.  It is much more expensive than what you would put into owned content, but if it fails to produce expected results it is easier to blame the delivery medium and the creative agencies you engage.

 Both of these forms of content are highly suspect by your audience/customers for the very reason that they know it is one sided.  You are trying to get them to buy your product or service and you are fudging the data to your benefit, even when you completely believe that the data you are offering is legitimate.

 Of the two, paid content is the most suspect and unlikely to convince someone already doubtful of your argument.  Paid content is most successful when targeted at customers that have already made up their minds to send money your way.  It reinforces and justifies their decision creating the opportunity for a repeat sale... unless you really screwed up.  

 Owned content is also suspect but it is much more passive than paid content.  A magazine or banner ad on a third-party website is intrusive, but a potential or current customer chooses to come to your website or show booth because they want to know more.  They are already inclined toward deciding for you by this choice.  Whether they make the commitment, again, will be based on the persuasiveness of your argument.

 In our next post, we'll look at trustworthy content.

Print is still relevant. No, really. It is.

Been having some interesting discussions with social media marketing/techdev types the past few weeks and I've come to realize that the SM industry is about as inbred as an industry can get.  That's not good.  Here's the background:

I am still very tied into the old media world through very deep relationships.  I have good friends that not only work for newspapers, they own them.  5 years ago these friends saw they businesses crumbling but they still thought there was a chance to turn it around and the SM was just a fad.  Today it is quite different.  They understand they were wrong now, but they still don't understand how to put it into the context of their audience... because the SM industry doesn't care about context.  They care about selling stuff... through relationships.  In other words, an industry built on Amway marketing philosophy.

But that's not what social media is supposed to be about.  SM is about building community through shared information.  The health of that community is specifically tied to the validity of the information.  If your core of information is subjective gossip and self-promotion, you will have a very sick community.  If that community is based on objective information and common purpose, you have a healthy community.

That's where the headline comes in.  Our objective information core is still in print and old media.  When I hear people, whatever the age, sit down and talk about the state of the world, their opinion is still based or at least directly influenced by something they read in a newspaper or what someone they know told them about what they read in a newspaper.  Of course it is socially acceptable to say bad things about that source, or whether one actually agrees with the content.  But nonetheless, the core is still a newspaper and generally a local one.

But what happens if that information core goes away, like so many are? John Paton, the new CEO of MediaNews has said he is all in on digital for the future of newspapers, but at the same time MediaNews has been steadily shutting down local papers it buys and creating single entities for large metropolitan entries.  For, example, the respected Contra Costa Times is soon to be melded into a large entity covering everything from Walnut Creek to San Jose.  Good luck getting the news of your town's city council when that happens.  The community essense will be going away and with it an informed local electorate.

Even when a newspaper has only 10 percent of the local population reading it, that means 1 in 10 people you know are reading that paper and are influenced by it.  Ten percent of the electorate is nothing to sneeze at.  President Obama would kick his dog if it would boost his rating by 10 percent right now.  So why would a social media company turn up it's nose at the opportunity to reach 10,000 users every single freaking day?  I don't know either, but they are.

Communications is not an either/or process.  We have been hearing that social media will kill newspapers for a long time, but they are still there (and in fact are growing at 10 percent per annum outside of Europe and the US). TV was supposed to kill radio, but it is still there, too.  In fact, every form of communication since the dawn of media is still in use somewhere (What about stone carving, you ask? Anyone read --- in newspaper probably --- about the Martin Luther King Memorial).  There is a large as yet untapped market out there ready to be taken.  For the social media company that realizes that partnering with an old media company-- and making themselves relevant to their needs -- it will be the golden key to success.  All those that don't will end up following MySpace into irrelevancy.

SEO is not your concern, Part 3

OK, I’m a little behind it wrapping up this discussion.  Things are really getting crazy around here. 

A couple of weeks ago I started talking about how SEO is not your biggest concern with your website and then followed up with how social networks followed that up with creating target audiences.  My premise is that both of the automated egalitarian technologies are being gamed by companies and building a basic distrust within their audiences.  I wrapped up my last post with:

“So we are entering into another cycle; one that will be difficult for the current players to understand.  It is a cycle that will be based on ethics and trust and it is something that cannot be generated by an algorithm.”

We’re going to build on that today.

Trust is at the core of all genuine communication.  Once that goes out the window so does the communication.  That’s why search worked for a while because it wasn’t in the hands of the marketing department... until they figure that out.  That’s why social media (beginning with Friendster and Myspace) engendered trust because recommendations came from people you trusted... until the marketers figured that out, too. 

The problem with modern marketing is that there is an inherent imperative to “capture” market attention with communication media and hold it.  That’s the purpose of sophisticated SEO, website design, and social media strategy.  Everyone who truly understands media knows that is an impossible task, especially in the age of internet communication, and yet companies hold onto the paradigm.  Even media companies fall into the trap trying to find ways to make their audience at least bookmark their page.

The impossibility of that effort is due to the fact that there is absolutely no way to wall your audience off.  There are too many holes in the infrastructure.  Keeping your audience is like trying to eat warm jello with a fork.

So if you can’t entice your audience to stay with you with technology and you can’t make them only loyal to your Facebook page or website, how do you stay in front of your audience as much as possible so they don’t forget you or learn to mistrust you?

Ethics and sharing.  It’s that simple.

Social media works not because it is controllable but because it isn’t.  People will follow and engage with individuals on Facebook even if they don’t agree with them as long as you are sharing valuable content and demonstrating that you can be trusted.  That’s what services like Klout are all about.  If all you share is about how wonderful your company is, they know you are a shill and will either filter you out or “defriend” you.  But if you provide valuable information that may or may not be related to what you do, even if it basically disagrees with your positions, then you become a trusted source.

Moreover, the people in your network will start to share your content, regardless of what they think of your opinion, which increases your influence beyond those you already know.  Growth happens organically.

And that is what is about to happen in a relatively small segment of the tech industry very soon.  This organization is going to start creating and sharing content that has been vetted outside of the marketing department.  The sharing will not just be on their website or social media pages, but in partnership with traditional media.  In turn, they will provide connection to those media partners within their own online presence.  What is about to happen is the socialization of a corporate entity.

There are other companies trying to do this, but they are stuck in the paradigm that requires them to capture and hold audiences; that requires that the content stays “on message.”  It’s the paradigm that fails.

It’s what I’ve been talking about for 7 years.  It’s about to happen.