Book Review: Read This First: The Executive’s Guide to New Media-from Blogs to Social Networks

Executive’s Guide to New Media-from Blogs to Social Networks

Executive Alert! I recently finished reading Read This First: The Executive’s Guide to New Media-from Blogs to Social Networks by Ron Ploof.

Executive

Like most books on Social Media, it’s a bit behind the times, but that is to be expected, as the time from concept to print is often longer than the shelf life of many Social Media initiatives and news items.

Now, I would like to be fair.

 

Since I have read a number of Social Media books, I already know a lot of this. The main thrust of this book is to get to corporate executive types. That is, this is for people who have no time, and little desire to actually learn much about Social Media, but they still want to be up on things. Okay, so far, so good. However, I think that the medium of a book is, perhaps, misplaced. After all, if busy execs are too caught up in other things to really get into Social Media, then how are they gonna find the time to read a book? And this is a short one — it’s only about 150 or so pages, but still!

Seriously, when I was doing rate analyses at a larger insurer, I was told to make them so short that any executive reading them wouldn’t even have to use their vertical scroll wheel (you’d be surprised what you can do with small print and graphics). And that was back in 1999. In the over ten years since then, every executive has only gotten busier.

Positives

Be that as it may, it’s a fairly breezy read. Like I said, I know a lot of this stuff already, so to me it’s mainly skimmable, but it could be of use to a person with limited familiarity with them new fangled things like Facebook. I mean, it explains that Twitter is a microblogging service, etc. Certainly this is true, but I do hope that the intended audience for this book has read a few articles in the NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, The ABA Journal, Fox News, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, CNN.com or the like and so has probably already learned that nugget of information from one if not all of them.

Takeaways

For me, the most vital bit of information came at the end of the book (why is that always the case? For a book intended to be a cut to the chase for executives, putting this at the end is rather self-defeating). Essentially, it came in the form of an overall strategy, referred to as a New Media Plan, but really, this is decent advice for any sort of a corporate undertaking:

  • Set goals with timelines – well, yes. It makes sense to not just go blindly into things, plus budgets and patience are not infinite. However, I would say, there often needs to be more patience with this type of marketing than one might think. Yes, it’s fast and easy to get things out there — but it’s often not so fast and easy to reap what you have sown.
  • Develop a measurement plan – how else would you know whether anything was working? Ploof is careful to note that this might not just be raw numbers, and the items you’re measuring need to be germane. As in, if post a funny LOLcats Youtube on your site, you might get lots of hits but, unless you’re selling LOLcats tee shirts or the like, is anyone going to stick around and actually purchase your product? Plus, what if your market is B2C and only consists of five companies? Having three readers, and have them as major influencers in three of those companies is a home run, a rousing success, a touchdown, a hole in one, you get the idea and I’m tired of the sports metaphors. Having a million readers and none of them from the five all-important companies is one of those things that looks lovely on paper but means diddly.

More Takeaways

  • Create a Content Creation Engine – this is vital and it really needs more play, not just here, but anywhere. Creating a blog (like mine, even) means a commitment to the readership. It means, you intend to be there for the long haul. And so that means finding ways to get good content, make it, polish it, etc. For someone like me, I look for books like this, and news articles and other things that I think my readers might like and that fit in with my vision of Social Media marketing. For a large corporation like Coca-Cola, content could be generated in lots of ways – say, recipes, or commercial archives or news stories just to name three off the top of my head.
  • Align with traditional marketing programs – absolutely. There should be a symbiotic relationship between the two.
  • Participate within the community – this means, figure out (use Google Analytics for this) which keywords your customers and readers are using to get to you. Also, use those same keywords to go out into the ‘net and see what else it is they are seeing. Which blogs and communities are they getting to? Or which Flickr photo streams? Which Youtube videos are up? Add comments, like on Facebook, etc. And do damage control if you have to — as this is a way to find the bad with the good, too.

Additional Takeaways

  • Learn how to help community leaders – which bloggers really get your company? Maybe you’re a role-playing game site and there are fan fiction writers – so, who’s really good? Who are your fans? The ‘net has a lot of positives with the negatives. It’s not all about putting out fires. It’s also about promoting the good stuff.
  • Build your own online community – this can be through forums, it can be a Facebook page, it can be getting Twitter followers, etc. and,
  • Analyze and Adjust – but of course! If you’re about to hit an iceberg, you might wanna change course.

All in all, it was a decent read,. However, the strategy piece at the end, for me, mattered the most. Otherwise, I would suggest reading Avinash Kaushik or Shama Hyder Kabani.

Rating

2/5

Quinnipiac Assignment #15 – Reflections about ICM 522

Quinnipiac Assignment #15 – Reflections about ICM 522

With the end of my first Social Media class came a request for our overall impressions of how things went. Hence, I prepared Quinnipiac Assignment #15 – Reflections about ICM 522.

Quinnipiac Assignment #15 – Reflections about ICM 522

My classmates and I were also tasked with showcasing what we felt was our best work.

I was so very pleased that I had a few works to choose from, but I narrowed my choices down in order to save some space.

My reflections essay included comments about the video and essay portions of Module #4, Module #9, Module #10, Module #11,  and my Final Project; that video is duplicated below.

Module Four was about the Ad Astra Star Trek fan fiction writing community. Module Nine was about the Facebook page that my partner, Kim Scroggins, and I created for our ‘client’, the as-yet undiscovered Rhode Island rock band, J-Krak. Module Ten was about the creation and growth of the Twitter stream that we made for J-Krak. And Module Eleven was all about our less than successful experiments in spreading the gospel of J-Krak to MySpace and Google+ (the former was a particularly abysmal showing. At least our client’s presence on Google+ assured better placement in overall search results).

The class was great fun, and I could not get enough of studying for it. I have never, ever had a course like this before, where I was so into it that I could not wait to study, and I did all of the extra credit because I wanted to, and not because I necessarily needed to. That has never, ever been my experience with a class before this one. This overwhelmingly positive experience has given me the incentive to not only finish my Social Media Certification training, but I am also rather seriously considering going on and getting my Masters’ Degree in Communications, with a concentration in Social Media.

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Quinnipiac Assignment #7 – POST Method Building Social Media Strategy

Quinnipiac Assignment #7 – POST Method Building Social Media Strategy

Quinnipiac Assignment #7 – POST Method Building Social Media Strategy – For Quinnipiac Assignment #7 of ICM 522 (Social Media Platforms), I worked with my partner, Kim Scroggins, in order to develop the first three pieces of what is referred to as a POST Method – building social media strategy.

Quinnipiac Assignment #7 – POST Method in Building Social Media Strategy

POST (in the realm of social media strategy) stands for –

  • People
  • Objectives and
  • Strategy

Technology (the fourth piece of four) will come later during this semester. For now, we are to concentrate on the first three areas. This is, I feel, a great idea, as we so often (myself included) tend to put the cart before the horse when it comes to social media behaviors. We chase shiny new platforms without performing any social listening whatsoever, without doing any investigations into feasibility or even whether anyone thinks that the platform will be around next year, and without much of an idea of what we are even going to say once we get there.

Working with Kim Scroggins was great, and we began to truly gel together as an effective team. I do not believe that we ever had a serious conflict, and that is no exaggeration on my part.  Plus, at any time that some task or another needed to be accomplished, one or the other of us would simply do it. There was no nagging, and no feeling that one person or the other was taking on too much. There was no feeling that the workload was somehow unfairly divvied up, either.

Here is my half of the presentation (which just so happens to be the second half):

And here is Kim’s half of our joint assignment, which I hope you will also watch, partcularly as it is the beginning half and does act as something of an introduction to my own piece of our project,  Quinnipiac Assignment #7 – POST Method – Building Social Media Strategy.

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Website Planning

I suppose I should have planned my site better or maybe not just gone in and barreled my way in just to see what I could do.

I don’t think that’s truly awful as I have some ambitions but they feel very possible and within reach. I look at my notes and I see — yes, I need to fix and put up Google Search. I need to play with keywords some more. I need to do … a lot.

And SEO! Oh my gosh. There’s a boatload to learn there and I’m still busy reading the books. I can’t recall who said that Time is Nature’s Way of making it so that not everything happens all at once. And I can live with that as an idea. It shouldn’t all happen in one shot. It should flow and develop.

Patience, a virtue. And sometimes an elusive one. But one thing is for certain — once a year elapsed, suddenly, I had a Google Page Rank of 3. Was that by design? Well, yes. But the science and art of getting a Google Page Rank of anything over zero is so obscure and unknown as to be akin to deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now, I get that it’s all proprietary, e. g. intellectual property, etc., but c’mon! It gets silly after a while. Jigger this, don’t jigger that. Say this in some particular, special, magical fashion, and not in another.

Don’t spam. Well, yeah, that makes sense. But what is seen as proto-spam isn’t always. And what’s seen as non-spam, I suspect, sometimes is. I do recognize that Google is attempting to make rules to cover as many scenarios as possible. And they wish to check out what people like I do by using computer algorithms rather than actual humans, in order to be somewhat timely when it comes to investigating websites. But! It remains frustrating and, in my opinion, unnecessarily mysterious. A clue, s’il vous plait, and by that I mean a real one, by someone who is there and really, truly knows. The rest, it seems, are speculating, with varying degrees of accuracy and results.

I swear that figuring out how to get a good or at least decent Page Rank is harder than translating the Upanishads.

Plus I’m developing my strategy. It will, I am sure, change. But I already have ways to promote what I’m doing. This is not quite like cliff-jumping because I have experience in promoting my Examiner articles (http://www.examiner.com/x-34454-Boston-Extreme-Weight-Loss-Examiner). Oh, look, some promotion!

June 24, 2010 Lean Startup Circle Meeting

On June 24, 2010, I attended a Lean Startup Circle meeting held by Matthew Mamet and Matt Wiseley of EditMe. John Prendergast of BlueLeaf was the co-host.

The meeting began with John talking about what was essentially Lean 101. Lean Startup goes by the lean manufacturing principles of Toyota, whereby they attempt to minimize waste. Customer development is a sophisticated process whereby a product is developed but many companies don’t test what the people actually want. The lean principle is: try to replace guesses with facts, so make decisions based upon metrics.

Then the discussion turned to what pivoting is. In basketball, pivoting consists of the planting of one foot and turning the other one, so that one’s direction is slightly changed. The idea is similar for startups, e. g. you move to something new, by taking what you have and adjusting the direction ever so slightly. This is not a radical overhaul; it’s more like a small course correction. Lean is not the same as bootstrapping (e. g. self-funding) but the two concepts tend to mesh together well.

Then the program turned to EditMe’s experiences. EditMe started off small but eventually turned into (almost) all things to (almost) all people. Matt Wiseley became a Micro ISV, essentially a kind of one-man shop for developing the product. Feature after feature was released, and EditMe’s mission continued to become more and muddied. The Gartner Hype Cycle was explained, so what happened was, EditMe more or less rode a wave of interest but was harmed when that crested wave fell into a trough. What to do?

They surveyed their customers. They were looking for size and for usage of their product. This is customer discovery. After all, who knows what customers want better than … customers?

Next they went to A/B testing. The idea was to use Google Website Optimizer in order to determine which version(s) of their website would create the most conversion. A conversion happened when a visitor signed up for a free trial of their software. John noted that, in a future meetup of the Lean Startup Circle, David Cancel of Performable will be talking about why his company performs A/B testing.

Testing informed EditMe that certain website changes were winners. For example, adding customer logos to their home page added an air of validation from third parties. They also addressed some support questions by rewording their instructions, and headed some signup inquiries off at the pass by making their signup process considerably shorter (only four screens!).

Title copy, the bolding of copy and the perfecting of calls to action all produced big results. One tool they used was to check the Google Overlay to see where their users were clicking (or not). Big changes are preferable to small ones as results are clearer and emerge far more quickly. One week of testing was performed, and then a follow up test was performed for the purposes of confirming results. There was a 95% confidence interval.

Testing then led to an abundance of data, which needed to be understood. A database was created, in order to check the following steps:

  • Acquisition – are people coming to the site? Google Analytics was used to measure this.
  • Activation – are people converting to trial users? This was another area where Google Analytics was used as the measuring stick.
  • Retention – EditMe’s own data was used for this, to show whether trial users became paid users after the expiration of a 30-day trial period.
  • Referral – were customers telling their friends? EditMe used its own data for this. And,
  • Revenue – this information came from EditMe’s own financials.


EditMe was able to prove that conversions were rising. One idea that came out of testing was to see a marked difference between people who converted to paying customers and those who didn’t, in terms of their use of the product. Therefore, EditMe started to send out little reminders using Mail Chimp. They used autoresponders, custom events and drip campaigns, and were able to tie their information directly into mailings. Hence users who had not yet converted to paying customers are now sent a reminder email every week, telling them how complete their account is. This is directly attached to the differentials between converting users and nonconverters, e. g. if converting users have 12 users on site, and prospect only has eight users, the prospect’s customized email reminder tells them that they need four more users on site in order to make their profile more “complete”.

EditMe’s experience with lean methodologies and (pardon the pun) leaning more on analytics to drive decision-making, showed that it was a possible to, in a somewhat scientific manner, get a better understanding of –

  • Who would like their product;
  • Where to find them;
  • How to encourage them to try the product, and;
  • How to help them understand how to use the product.


And isn’t a fuller and richer understanding of customers a huge component of what social media marketing is all about? This was a very thoughtful discussion and there are two recommended readings: Four Steps to the Epiphany and E-Myth. They have gone onto my Amazon Wish List.

Boston SEO Meetup Group Meeting, June 7, 2010

On June 7, 2010, I attended a meetup held by the Arlington/Boston/Cambridge SEO group. I brought a DyIO with me and got to show it off.

The speaker was Eric Covino, who is a Search Engine Optimization expert. The first topic of conversation was the Google May Day update. Essentially what the Mayday update did was, it tamped down the numbers for companies which had been using their main pages as sources of good SEO numbers for their more obscure and deeper pages.

For example, a housewares site might have excellent SEO for its main page but not much for its page where it sells rakes. Under the old system, the rakes page benefited from being associated with the main page. Now, that is no longer the case, and the rakes page (in our hypothetical) must beef up its SEO on its own. It stands or falls, SEO-wise, based upon its own merits, and not on those of the main page. This is an advantage for smaller companies and companies with fewer deep pages (which, generally, is going to define smaller companies anyway). Stagnant sites show this (and all Google updates) much more readily than more actively updated sites, so in those instances, a change like this loomed large. However, companies with robust and actively updated sites may not have noticed too much of a difference, except in the sense that their rankings may have improved.

The real question, as always is: are we in a market where we can compete? That should be the question asked by every company. Focus on links and get onto directories, such as DMOZ (the Open Directory Project), Best of the Web and Business.com. Interacting where your users (or potential users) are is also very helpful. This means forums, blogs, etc. It’s all about content and calls to action. Keep adding and promoting content, blog about it, invite in guest bloggers and look to guest blog on others’ sites.

There was a lively discussion on keyword domains. That is, these are domains whereby the domain name is a precise match to the keywords used to search for it. An example, would be Clothes.com. There is a known bonus for having keywords that match one’s domain name. However, since individual words are pretty much all taken, there was a question as to whether separating keywords in a domain name, such as by using hyphens, would help or hinder a site’s rankings. The consensus was that the hyphens would probably not help.

Eric recommended SEO Book for information. For tracking, research and backlinks, he recommended checking out Open Site Explorer, which is free.

More recommendations were: Advanced Link Manager and Advanced Web Ranking. He also liked Raven SEO Tools, which has a link toolbar that’s $19/month. There’s also Majestic SEO but it does not seem to be updated on a timely basis.

Getting back to SEO Book, Eric noted that they have a free rank checker. He also recommended SEO Moz.

Personalization is key. Don’t just focus on rankings. Try local links, such as you can get from newspapers. Get listed on Universal Business Listings, Google Places (it was particularly recommended), CitySearch and Yelp.

The discussion then turned to Facebook ads. It was anecdotally reported that one person had gotten an 85% clickthrough rate for his business. It was agreed that, even if that rate is not perfectly correct, Facebook is very good for very granular targeting. It can be very worthwhile and it is rather inexpensive. Another idea was to use Tweetworks.

Inside Facebook was recommended as a book to read about the ins and outs of advertising and running social media business fan pages on Facebook.

One more tip about Facebook: make sure to embed the code for the Like Button, as this adds to any liker’s Facebook stream.

Finally, the hashtag for the event was #BostonSEO. Their next meetup is August 2nd; I am considering attending.

April 29, 2010 Acquia Webinar

On April 29, I listened in on a webinar being held by Acquia. The subject: Acquia JumpStart Program: Plant The Seeds for Drupal Success. The panelists were Bryan House (who was also hosting), Joanne Dawson and Robert Douglass.

All participants were sent a “Getting Started with Drupal Checklist”. Acquia’s mission is to help organizations of all sizes be successful with Drupal – this includes hosting, development, support and training, among other features. Stated simply, Drupal is an open-source forums (community) software solution (although it can be used for a lot more than that).

Acquia comes into a business and performs the Drupal installation themselves. Since Drupal installation can be rather difficult, this is a significant way to slash ramp-up time. The on-site Acquia personnel perform training, including, on the first day, an introduction, user management, content creation, taxonomy (organizing and categorizing the site), blocks (small boxes/widgets of content that can appear on the sides of a page) and the menu.

One pleasant addition is Acquia’s own forums, which are used to enhance their tech support. They have regular technical support, naturally, but it’s refreshing to see the company using its own product and feeling free enough to allow its users to help one another.

Acquia Drupal currently uses the most recent version of Drupal 6.

Job Interview!

I’ve got an interview today, from 12:30 to 2. Since I’ve got to get downtown in order to accomplish said interview, I’m kinda stuck with being unable to eat at any convenient time beforehand. This is normally not a huge issue, but when you’re a serious weight loser such as myself, it can get dicey if you can’t eat every few hours or so. I’ll live, I’ll be fine, I just like more order with such things.

Now, about the interview. It is not specifically for a social media marketing position. But there is some web development needed, so I can get more experience in that area. Plus it’s at a place I like. I don’t want to give away too much but I’m very happy with, for example, the location. I’d get to keep my gym, and be able to use public transportation. Both of those things dovetail with my fitness goals.

Speaking of fitness goals, I’m running a 5K on Sunday. It promises to rain. Ah, well. It’s not like I’ve never run in the rain before. I’m not so sweet that I’ll melt.

In the meantime, as I search for a good pin to put on my blazer, I look forward to today’s meeting and contemplate what it might end up meaning to me.

Onward!

Sunday Sunday Sunday

I suppose this blog is going to encompass not only my job search/career change efforts but also talk a bit about the development of the site in general.

I’m finally getting my act in gear in terms of uniformity and a vision.

Now, you might say to yourself, what’s this “finally” business? After all, haven’t you been open for less than a week?

Too true, but I like to be organized, and it’s obvious that, with a website, you need to be organized from the get-go.

Hence now I’ve got three (yay!) uniform pages. The resume is going to take more work as it’s such a different format from the other stuff.

I’m also going to, at some point, do some painting. I want to make my own background, my own button(s) and my own logo. I am not a great painter by any means, but it’s something I enjoy doing. Plus, ha! There’s no issues with copyright. I gotta figure I own my own watercolors.

Today we’re (I’m a married-type person) off to a Celtics game. Go green dudes!