Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Our eBay Bloggers Answers the Question: "Why Hire a Blogger?"

Laboratory rat, otherwise known as eBay blogger, Jeremy Wright, has written a post that answers the question: why hire someone to be your blogger?

Jeremy boils it down to 3 primary values in a blog:

1. Information aggregation
Whether for internal or external purposes, blogs represent a centralized place for people to get the right info right now about your company.

2. Knowledge management
A blog is some place you can position yourself as an industry leader and expert every day.

3. Feedback loop
A blog allows for comments, and therefore conversations with your customers, with your partners...whoever.

Now I often position the value of blogs (and their divergence from web sites in general) in three categories too, two of which seem to fit into Jeremy's and one that doesn't. Mine are:

1. Immediacy
This is somewhat encompassed in his first two items above. So often web sites are static; brochures get outdated, contact info changes, and things fall through the cracks. A blog can always be up to the minute.

2. Interactivity
Well, clearly covered by his third item.

3. Informality
Jeremy doesn't really address this issue, but I think one of the big edges a blog gives you is that it doesn't feel like marketing-speak. It feels authentic. It makes a connection between the blogger and the reader. And any consumer is more likely to buy more when they feel a connection to the product, to their sales person, to a company's values. Sometimes purchasing is an emotional decision. Like voting, it's not always dictated by pure logic or reason. We are human beings.

I really like Jeremy's attempt to explain blogging's value in a business setting, even if I think there's even more to be said. Do check it out.

TiVo (a truly addictive technology) Catching Some Flack

About a week ago I wrote over on my Personal Blog about a controversy being manufactured and spread by bloggers over a new TiVo "feature."

I agree that superimposing a banner ad on screen while fast forwarding through ads is not a feature for TiVo users.

But it is a feature for TiVo's other customers, the advertisers and content producers.

And I think it's a relatively small price for my eyes to pay to ensure that the company behind one of my two favorite technology possessions (the other being my iPod) stays in business.

I explained all the reasons I thought this was no big deal in my aforementioned post.

And I'm happy to see that Adfreak agrees.

But Steve Rubel thinks TiVo needs to respond to "save themselves."

What do you think?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Is Google jumping the shark with its latest addition: Orkut "Media"

Cross-post from my Personal Blog.

I've been meaning for a while to point out this new service on Google's "social networking" site, Orkut, called "Orkut Media"

I'm finally prompted to by reading this blog post from Corante president, Stowe Boyd.

I agree with him that none of the "social networking" sites I've tried, or continue to try, do much for me. I, too, am filled with ennui after using them for short spurts of time.

Orkut had promise, coming from Google and maintaining a certain exclusiveness that gave false hope that it wouldn't descend into yet another source of online spam. But as the spammy messages filled Message boxes, and each successive "Community" turned off the capability to send messages at all, it became yet another site I briefly visit each day to see if there's anything interesting going on, and then leave.

Now, they've introduced Orkut Media, a section on the site where they are going to publish written and photographic works from Orkut member submissions. Or supposedly that is the deal. But they've now revealed that most of the first crop of "essays" or "articles" to be found in the Media section are written by "staff writers."

And not so terrible interesting ones at that.

The goal is, I suppose, to give people more of a reason to stick around on Orkut. It's the same goal I think a blog can achieve for a company's web site.

But a company blog content is relevant to everything else you might find on a company's web site. How exactly are these random, brief stories relevant to anything else on Orkut? Maybe you'll go check out one of the author's profiles...and try to date them or something...but I don't see how this section drives you to hang around in other Orkut sections.

And I don't understand why people who are really into publishing stories etc. wouldn't simply use Google's Blogger to create their own web presence instead?

I don't get the strategy here. It feels totally random and not some organic evolution of the Orkut "service".

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Concise article on common start-up mistakes

I like this article in Entrepreneur.com that covers "What Not To Do" for the start-up entrepreneur.

Along with 17 Common Mistakes, the article also outlines 5 Tips for Success.

What interests me is how much the article focuses on Management/Leadership skills and Marketing, and not so much on development and execution.

In other words: know your market, analyze your concept in a brutally honest way, plan well and accurately, hire the right people, ask for truth not toadying, and have multiple strategies. You need strategies to get going, contingency strategies and exit strategies.

How many of you have worked somewhere and the bottom line comes down to phrases like: "missed the market", "squandered opportunities", ""poor management" or "technology no one wanted"?

VCs are starting to loosen up again acccording to some sources. I think personal experience and the pitfalls enumerated in this article should serve to remind prospective entrepreneurs (and the VCs that may invest in them) that the time to get strategic marketing input is at the very beginning, not just when you want to launch your product.

It all comes back to delivering something the market wants when it wants it, beating out the competition. And it's Marketing's job to help you figure that out!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Some Blogosphere Stats

The latest numbers are out on blogs...how many, who's creating them.

Nothing too surprising:

1. They're getting hotter.

2. It's still a fairly "young" pasttime.

3. And a very small number get really huge readership, but a large percentage of Internet users (~11%) now read at least some blog content regularly.)

What's your take-away. Look, the only people who should care about getting millions of blog hits per month are the major blegomaniacs out there...who track hits and links like notches on their PC-post...or major consumer brands trying to do something viral, even if they don't know why.

You, Mr. Small Business Man, or Ms. Corporate Communications Director, or Non-Profit Managing Director, you should care about getting a message out in an efficient, interactive and immediate way to your target. And if that target is your top 10 donors, or a desired 20 new clients, or a few dozen feet-on-the-street sales engineers working for your company or your channels, that's OK.

Blogging is a tool. I'll say it again and again. Use it.

Oh, and Worker Bees can help you figure out how to use it, you know, as a side note.

Recent Small World Incident Involving Client

Over at my personal blog I like to chronicle those small world incidents that happen to me...just a little living poof that the world is getting so small we can't afford to mess it up for anyone.

Yesterday I had a really small world incident involving Mark Lundholm, star of "Addicted", one of the show Worker Bees does marketing for. You can read all about it here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

UPDATED: Blogger For Hire on eBay

This is fascinating.

A blogger I know, and a pretty well-known one with lots of traffic, is auctioning 3 months of his blogging consultant skills on eBay.

You can see the auction here:
eBay Blogger Auction.

I've exchanged comments and email with this blogger recently, but have never met him. He has a very entrepreneurial spirit, and like me has been forging a career based on doing what he really enjoys.

The eBay concept seems really odd. I can't imagine he gets much action there (watch me be totally wrong) but I do imagine that creating the auction is a great blogger publicity stunt.

Look at me, I'm blogging about it the minute I heard about it. Why would I post alerting you to some guy who basically offers the same blogging consultancy services that I do? Because even I simply can't resist starting a conversation about this idea.

And that ingenuity and unique, buzzable approach might just get him the clients he's looking for.

Given that it's free to post on eBay and that the auction is creating free word of mouth, it could be an excellent marketing tactic. I'll have to check back in and let you know how he does!

UPDATE: Said well-known blogger informs me that he invested $70 to get "higher-visibility" eBay placement. Still, can't call that a huge investment...let's see how it turns out :)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Cool New Advertising Blog: Adfreak.com

Check out AdFreak.

And I say this not just because they use on of my Personal Blog posts as a reference definition for the term "techno-geeks" in this post.

If you're in advertising, hey even if you just like advertisements (and you can admit it...you watch the Super Bowl for the commercials like everyone else) you will enjoy this blog.

Friday, November 19, 2004

'Online Divas' Speak at the Tech

This Wednesday evening I attended a panel/networking event, entitled: "Online Divas" from a series entitled: "Conversations with Innovative Women in Technology Series."

Part of the lure for me was both the topic...innovation online, as seen through the prism of female experience...and the presence of diva blogger Halley Suitt on the panel. The other three "online divas" were definitely corporate types, the CMO from Yahoo, the VP CorpCom from Cisco and a Director of Consumer Web products from Google. Halley is a different breed...striking out on her own to make her living.

Moderator Moira Gunn is an NPR fixture, hosting its only show on Technology, TechNation.

My Assessment: the panel could have been a lot richer, in my humble opinion.

The conversation centered around two primary topics.

Topic #1: How women use the Internet, and how that might differ from how men, particularly techno-geek men, use it. There were few conclusions drawn, however, about how that would drive innovation moving forward, which, after all, was what the series is supposed to be about. We learned that shopping for clothes online is tough, and that men just don't understand.

Topic #2: Balancing career & children. You cannot, apparently, have a panel for any woman's group without discussing this. And frankly, I'm over it. Not only does it completely marginalize the numerous women who either a) are past their child-rearing days, b) are years from thinking abut it or c) shockingly simply aren't going to have kids (or can't)...but the conversations that arise are rarely really useful/helpful/surprising etc. If you want some support group time, go find a support group. This was even more obvious than usual with this group since two of the four women on the panel had both stay-at-home husbands AND nannies. Tell me how many women in the audience that applied to?!

All of the women seemed sharp (although Gunn got a bit incoherent at one point.) Halley, in particular was a breath of fresh air. I felt the moderator had a slight problem with marginalizing the Director from Google...Marissa Mayer, who, as the youngest member of the panel and the most immersed in the technology execution side, was probably the panelist Gunn related to least.

But I was mostly disappointed that there were so much personal anecdote telling and so little thoughtful commentary on the tech/Internet industry, and how women can leverage their ideas and their skills to succeed in it.

The best part was afterwards, meeting Halley in person and running into Mary Hodder, who I had enjoyed meeting so much at BloggerCon. Had some good conversation there, about the future of online technology, why women are perfectly positioned to drive that future, and of course, men and sex.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

CEO Blogging: rules, regulations...what?

If you read any of my BloggerCon recaps, you know I'm not a big fan of trying to define, constrain, regulate, or in any way narrow the reach of blogs.

I don't understand how on the one hand people in the blogosphere or technosphere can say a) the Internet is free or b) it's not getting 10,000 hits, it's getting the right 10 hits or c) decry all forms of governemnt intrusion into the Internet, but at the same time...they are all about trying to tell you what constitutes a worthy blog.

I subscribe to 130 subscriptions in my news aggregator as of this writing, and can tell you there are very few blogs that follow the same pattern. And that's a good thing. Spice of life and all that.

Why am I bringing this up? Last night, at dinner with Renee Blodgett, we discussed a recent post by Seth Godin on whether CEOs should blog (I'll give you a hint...he has a bunch of rules to determine whether they should or not.) Renee begs to differ and posted saying so.

Where do I stand? In Renee's corner.

Godin posted five "requirements" to make blogs "work", and claimed four out of five are required, or just forget about it. Hmmm, can't say I agree. Let's look at the "requirements":

Candor: well, yes, especially due to regulatory issues, a CEO better be telling the truth. I'll give Godin this one.

Urgency: nope. Most blogs I read are not "urgent". Often they are casually observational in a non-urgent way. I suppose if you consider the blog an advocacy tool...or if you're trying to make it one big call to action, then urgency might matter...but the point of a CEO blog is to give investors/customers a different view of the company/product/service...not the same old marketing view.

Timeliness: again, nope. If a blogger tells a good story I don't really care if it happened to them today or two weeks ago. I'm not living their life in the moment. I don't need to be reading about it in the moment. I grant you that a blog should be updated at least weekly, give or take. But frankly, reviewing all my feeds in a reader, I don't really notice when a particular feed hasn't been updated in a while. Sometimes a post pops up, and I do think, "huh, haven't heard from them in a while." But it's hardly a huge problem for me.

Pithiness: I'm not one of those (obviously from my own blog) that believes blog entries have to be only 1 or 2 paragraphs. If it's worthwhile tell me about it...take your time if it's a good story. Crap content is a waste of my time whether it's 1 page or 1 sentence. Good content is worth my time, pithy or verbose.

Controversy: whatever. I don't even get this. Not all blogs are political. Controversy is so not a part of most blogs I read regularly.

Just a small part of the conversation from last night's dinner.

Just here to tell you CEOs out there that Renee and I think you should blog, Godin be damned!

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Blog Business Summit in Seattle this January

I'm excited to see this event coming up in a couple of months.

I think the blogging world is at the point where it will either break free of its own self-involved little bubble and reach its true potential, or it will sink under the weight of its current, exclusive nature and its sense of misplaced propriety.

This Blog Business Summit seems to imply that some people, at any rate, are ready to make the former happen.

And I say 'Bravo.'

I've said it before; I'll say it again: blogging is a tremendous tool. I hope to attend this Summit and hear how others are using the tool creatively. And hope to share what I'm doing with my clients.

Review of Worker Bees Discounted Show: "Hooray For What!"

Saw one of my client's shows last night and posted my mini-review over at my Personal Blog. It was 42nd St. Moon's production of "Hooray For What!".

Here is the review.

Don't forget it runs until November 28th and there are exclusive discounts for readers of the 42nd St. Moon blog.

Recap of My EBIG WIG Presentation

Last week I presented to a group of women at the monthly meeting of the EBIG Women's Interest Group.

The presentation is one I've given on several previous occasions "Advancing in a Technical World...without a technical degree."

Every time I do one of these events it reminds me how much I enjoy public speaking, especially when you get some good give and take going. I spiced up my presentation with several new illustrative anecdotes, and it's instructive that for every tale I told, there were women in the room with similar stories.

Certain issues seemed to resonate: acknowledging the need to be politically savvy within an organization, learning to manage UP, working on the all important intangible "leadership" qualities that so often are cited as shortcomings when there's nothing else to fall back on.

I've learned there are some incorrigible people who will always think in their teeny tiny engineering-centric, narrow-minded box (dare I say it: especially when a woman is involved.) If you can identify such people and avoid working for them...rather than trying to win them over...your life will probably be much more stress-free. But most of the world is, how shall I say it...corrigible? And it's worth it to think outside your own self-limiting box and go after what you're interested in, even if you have t do a little more proving of yourself along the way.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

More on Marketing's New "Definition"

Remember last month when I waxed somewhat disdainful on the AMA's new "definition" of marketing?

Well, here we are a month later and someone else is finally getting some interesting conversation going on about it.

It's over at the What's Your Brand Mantra blog.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

FCC to States: Hands Off VoIP

The Merc reports today that the FCC is declaring authority over Voice over IP, rather than let individual states set individual rules for it.

Have to say, much as I find Michael Powell to be one of those wolf-in-sheep's-clothing, "I seem reasonable, but I'm really a closet fascist" kind of guys, this seems like a no-brainer right decision.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Complete BloggerCon Wrap-Ups

If you're interested in a session by session wrap up of BloggerCon, they're posted over at my Personal Blog:

BloggerCon Podcasting session

BloggerCon Overload session

BloggerCon Core Values session

BloggerCon Making Money session

BloggerCon Closing session

Politics & the Internet

Amongst all the analysis and punditry surrounding what happened in last week's election, I saw one piece of analysis that looked at a very small part of the infrastructure of the campaign. Jakob Nielsen's useit.com, a site dedicated primarily to web usability, examined the role of email newsletters.

He compared the calls to action in Bush and Kerry newsletters in the last weeks of the election and found that Kerry's focused primarily on money-raising, while Bush's focused primarily on getting out the vote and issues.

So, so different from the general impression people had of these candidates...Bush with the large war chest, Kerry all wonky and into the details.

It's not that raising money via the internet was a bad idea...certainly it evened the playing field for much of the campaign.

Nielsen's point is more that Kerry's campaign overplayed it. By the last week people were so used to getting the money requests that they were running out to any other message.

Meanwhile, Bush's campaign focused on turnout late in the game, and turnout won it for them.

Lessons for marketers everywhere:

1. Don't let your marketing messages get stale or too "expected."

2. Don't be afraid to ask for actions that are more intangible than a sale...asking for loyalty, for referrals, for feedback can come in handy as much as asking for a sale.

3. Plan ahead. When times get crazy it may be a lot easier to stick with what you know...and that may make your marketing boring. Planning the evolution of your message over an extended period of time lets you carry out a higher level strategy even when the world is going crazy all around you.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

When Is a Blog Not a Blog? Post BloggerCon III Debate.

Got home last night from BloggerCon III and promptly got into a heated "discussion" with the S.O. about the definition of a blog.

I don't think when you talk about blogs it means one, monolithic idea of what a blog is. I brought this up at the closing session yesterday.

To me blogs are a new (and very cool) tool to execute already existing functions...often more creatively, more efficiently, and with a far wider reach...but still what is being done with blogs is still:

1. Publishing
2. Communicating
3. Marketing
4. Entertaining
5. Educating
6. Reviewing and recommending

and so on.

What do I think blogs have in common?

1. Chronological history: it's not a blog if you can't scroll through time to see the evolution of the ideas.
2. Dynamism: it's not a blog if you post once and leave it for a year.
3. Personality: it's not a blog if it doesn't sound like a live person thought it, then wrote it down.

I don't think blogs have to be a conversation.

I don't think blogs have to be a series of short entries (which my S.O. definitely seems to think defines blogs.)

I don't think blogs have to be an altruistic endeavor undertaken purely for the love of telling people what you think.

Blogging technology and blogging tools have evolved to broaden the reach of blogs into a variety of cool applications.

The S.O. really disagrees...and he wants to know where to draw the line.

Interestingly, no sooner did I scan my news reader this morning, but I found this post from the WriteLife blog about, yup, defining a blog. He very wisely distinguishes between blogging technology, blogging's history and blogging today.

I agree. Blogging can evolve beyond a college diary. No, it's not that it can; it's that it has.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Off to BloggerCon 2004

I'll be spending all day tomorrow at BloggerCon, a conference about...you guessed it...blogging.

Should be an interesting day. I think I'll be attending sessions on Blog Overload, Core Values for web behavior and blogging, and Making Money via blogging.

Tonight was the pre-conference dinner at Ming's Restaurant.

People still seem really surprised to hear about someone offering blogging as a marketing service.

I'm sure there will be some discussion of it in the Core Values session...wondering how I can blog for others and keep my credibility. I think it's pretty simple:

1. Be honest

2. Be entertaining

No one will care if you are those two things.

Speaking About blogging for the SVAMA...in 5 months

The Silicon Valley chapter of the American Marketing Association puts on regular workshops and panels...many of which I attend in the audience.

In April 2005, they're putting on one with an intriguing title: Everything You Pretend to Know About Technology and Hope No One Asks.

I've been lined up to speak on leveraging blogging tools for business applications. I'm not sure what the other panelists' bailywicks are.

More details are still to come, but here's a link to the calendar item.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

This month's Silicon Veggie column

All about being vegetarian for the holidays.

Don't cry for me carnivores.

Read all about it here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Pretty Good Advice for New Bloggers

About.com's Shai Coggins gives 6 tips for time management to bloggers trying to wrok blogging into their lives.

Some of the advice is advice I follow: I do keep a list of bloggable ideas that I haven't gotten to yet. I definitely use an aggregator, and I do try to blog very quickly...as the thoughts occur, so that it sounds close to how I would talk...not formal...not stilted.

I'm not one for scheduling specific days/times to blog. Given all the blogs I actively maintain, I'm blogging every day. But I don't allocate specific hours of the day to do so. I grab that time whenever I feel the urge hit me.

All in all, I can't argue with any of her advice, even the advice I don't personally follow!

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