Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Over the past year or so, Google has been giving us signs that its FeedBurner RSS service is heading into oblivion. Some observations:
- There is no official Google+ FeedBurner account.
- In July of this year, Google failed to renew the FeedBurner domain in Japan – feedburner.jp. A listing with Domain Tools indicates the domain is now owned by Satoshi Mito and is now inactive.
- On July 26th a post on the FeedBurner Blog, known as “AdSense for Feeds” indicated the blog was shutting down because as Google said, “we’re just not generating enough content here to warrant your time, so we won’t be posting here any longer.”
- On July 26th Google shut down the FeedBurner Twitter account with this message:
- On October 20th Google shut down the FeedBurner API causing developers who still rely on RSS technology to worry.
- Google also appears to have stopped offering customer support for FeedBurner. The “Contact Us” email link in FeedBurner no longer works and when I contacted Google I was told “Google doesn’t offer technical or other support for FeedBurner any longer.”
In the event you’ve forgotten how the RSS service works here’s a brief description. Once you connect your RSS feed with FeedBurner, Google caches the feed on its servers and delivers it to those who have subscribed to it. Subscribing to your feed is made easy because an HTML page replaces the XML file in your browser. Owners of the feed may also choose to embed ads in their feeds in order to monetize it. Most importantly, to many, FeedBurner provides a number of statistics such as the number of subscribers and the number of views to your blog posts, for example.
Some argue RSS is “Old School” but developers and podcasters still heavily rely on the service. In September, Dan Benjamin who runs a prominent podcast network, announced he was abandoning ship and moving to another RSS provider.
Many publishers rely on FeedBurner to publish their RSS feeds. It seems to be time to reconsider this as Google appears to be sending clear signs it could pull the plug on FeedBurner any day now. Hopefully Google will give us ample notice before it does pull the plug so we can look into some of the alternatives. Maybe we’ll look at some of those alternatives in a future post.
Understanding the Four Content Food Groups
- Now that we know what the food groups look like, let’s examine how to apply them to your social media strategy.
The Balanced Diet
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
It’s the new channel, the new trend and everyone and every brand that doesn’t want to be left behind is jumping right on. Needless to say the hype is gaining momentum and believe it or not, has still not peaked. Like everything that is new, exciting and quickly evolving, there are many misconceptions and myths about the Social Media channel. Here are just 5 myths that I would like to dispel. Forgive my tone (I tend to get passionate!).
Social Media Experts: What does it take to be Social Media savvy? Is it a matter of having a Twitter account and tweeting or just pushing out content? I interviewed many candidates that say that they are experts only to find out they know how to post on Facebook and Twitter but have no knowledge of insights and measurement tools. Knowing Facebook and Twitter, oh and let’s not forget LinkedIn, doesn’t make you an expert. Social media is so much more than those three platforms (!). It’s relating to trends, it’s content creation (blogging) and it’s understanding SEO! It’s integrating landing pages, it’s about engagement and mobile and hey… it’s also understanding website analytics (can you say Google Analytics?)! but mostly it’s about how to maximize return on you’re content.
Social Media is Inexpensive: You can achieve success in less than 15 minutes a day? Really? I’m a firm believer on you “get back” what you put in. So if you only spend 15 minutes a day on your Social Media initiatives, you’ll only get that back in return… or less. Social Media takes time and effort. It’s about social engagement. That means you have to be in tuned to your market’s interests and take advantage of opportunities that daily trends provide. You need to make sure that you contribute value to your audience and your community. To be part of your audience’s inner circle, you must invest the time. So ask yourself: “How much is your time really worth?”
Anyone Can Do It: This is really part B to the first myth listed above about Social Media Experts. It irks me that people really believe anyone can do it. If you are going to embrace the Social Media Channel, one thing you should assess is how to maximize return on you’re initiative (content). Just like speaking English doesn’t make you a writer and knowing design and Photoshop software doesn’t make you a graphic designer; knowing how to tweet or post to Facebook, doesn’t make you a marketing professional.
Social Media is a Fad: News flash: Social Media is here to stay. It’s a good vehicle to engage your audience and be present during the customer decision making journey. As a business and as a brand, you really need to get your head around that or get left behind. It’s a strong awareness building tool, and if you want to be considered when customers are ready to buy… then you need to be present. Social Media is part of the marketing channels and is here to stay! As such, there needs to be an intended result, a building of strategy and a consistent, constant approach.
Social Media is All You Need: Right now, Social Media is top of mind, constantly on topic, on trend. Does anyone remember when web sites first made their debut into the business world, and hence, the marketing world. How about online digital advertising? None of these were fads and none of these have disappeared. They have their place in any solid marketing and advertising campaign. I believe that Social Media too, will take it’s rightful place in the Marketing Channel Mix – keyword being mix, melody, part of a recipe, etc…
Social Media does not take the place of Marketing. The way I see it, Marketing has always been evolving. It has always had to develop and grow. I know this is a leap, but Marketing had to evolve when television first arrived. Social Media is the new Marketing Evolution.
"It's incredibly easy these days to get your thoughts out from your brain to the screens of people everywhere, and it's critical you take the time to pause when you feel emotions stirring. It's not just big brands and celebrities who make these missteps. More than ever you are judged by your public persona. Make sure it represents who you are completely, not just in the heat of the moment." —Matthew Arevalo, social media marketer who's worked with T-Mobile, Electronic Arts and AT&T on the importance of using social media efficiently.
Use self-control. Get off the grid. Curate. These three habits will help you manage your social-media footprint and make you more effective, whether you use the medium for work or pleasure. Here's a functional, easy guide to do just that.
Icons and avatars give the illusion of anonymity on the Internet because people there aren't shouting to the masses. And they can be free of true identification. Feeling at least somewhat removed from a post makes some more open with opinions, even detestable opinions. The need to self-control, or the lack of it, falls into two types of violators. One has the above habit, using the veil of secrecy to post what they would normally not. The other, is the type that cannot stop themselves from using the Web to surf, procrastinate, and do anything and everything besides what they probably should: Working.
If you fall into this category, and lack appropriate self-control, there's a good app for you, and it's free. Wisely, it's called Self Control.
The Self Control app limits your use of email and social media, locking you out of designated sites for pre-determined periods, while still giving you broader online access. If you can't stop trolling Facebook to see if your latest update got liked. And if you suffer from both afflictions, ranting anonymously and surfing in dangerous water, this could put you on a much needed time-out.
Go Off The Grid Occasionally
Let's say you're careful about what you post. Very careful. You know about the risks of over-sharing. You're the consummate professional. But, your'e alwaysready to respond. Always available. That can be exhausting, and exhaustion often leads to irritation, which usually ends with embarrassment.
What to do?
Get off the grid. Fellow RW writer Brian Proffitt recently wrote that knowledge workers should change their always-on mentality and stop answering email after business hours. Why: It improves your mood. Effective workers enjoy what they do. Once overworked, by your boss or your own over-accessibility, your spark and motivation drop severely.
So, take some time off, stow your mobile and get away from it all. My colleague Jon Mitchell did just that for four days. And while his digital detox is probably different from what you'll experience, you can feel the same thing he did: Recharged and re-inspired. Make this a habit and watch your productivity rejuvenate.
The final habit you should employ could be one of the most important of all. Make sense of all the white noise out there. All the voices. How do we filter it all? Turn to curation, a growing, but misunderstood, concept that can save you tremendous amounts of time directing you to what you need to know.
I like a service called spundge, which helps me filter search results so they are more effective, saving me a ton of time. When you're searching for specific, nuanced topics, this site gives you results in an easy-to-digest format that spares me from Google readers and extraneous searches. Now I spend that time on what I should be doing: Working.
This habit I can't stress enough, and it's only getting more refined. The next step in curation is personalization.
Personalization is what Facebook mastered from the get-go. Suddenly, each person's online experience was truly personalized. A company called Gravity is moving this concept further. It uses adaptive artificial-intelligence techniques to make news sites, like TechCrunch and CNN Money's iPad app, more individually relevant. Gravity monitors your habits to give you more of what you've looked at before.
And with semantic-analysis abilities, Gravity monitors news and posts for trending topics. If enough people talk or post about an item, that content appears on your home page.
"Think of it like a reverse search," explained Jim Benedetto, Gravity's chief technology officer.
He compared his company's service to pioneering adaptive-music player Pandora, which categorizes content fairly granularly and listeners rate songs to influence future content.
Monday, October 29, 2012
While brand managers and brand marketers don't necessarily need to dress like Abraham Lincoln - although the stovepipe hat may come back in fashion at some point - they would be wise to adhere to one of his most famous sayings: "Honesty is the best policy." (NOTE: I realize this saying has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin but I grew up believing it was Honest Abe so please don't spoil it for me.)
The context I bring this up comes in the form of online reviews and the writing thereof and the honesty, or lack thereof, within.
Online reviews, in case you didn't know, carry with them a lot of weight, influential weight I might add.
According to the Small Business Search Marketing Survey by American Express OPEN, U.S. small businesses can still count on word-of-mouth as a top way for shoppers to find them. Close behind, however, is the Internet. Local consumers now heavily rely on search engine power when shopping locally.
Earlier this year, Milo, an online product locator, put together a very telling infographic re: the power of online reviews.
- While word of mouth remains the most popular form of review (82%), over two-thirds (66%) of consumers look to the Internet for research and reviews
- 85% of consumers used the Internet at least once in the past year to find a local businesss
- Over three-quarters (76%) of consumers say they either occasionally or regularly use online reviews to determine which business/brand to use
- Over half (58%) of consumers trust a business that has a positive review
I Get By With A Little Yelp From My Friends
With more than 30 million (and growing) online reviews, Yelp is one of the more popular review sites. So one would imagine any business or brand would love to have positive reviews of their company on Yelp.
Ah but it's not that easy grasshopper. Alas there are some unscrupulous people in the world who try to circumvent the rules and create fictitious positive reviews with the intent of impressing the masses.
So Yelp did its best Redford & Newman impression and ran a sting to try and catch the alleged perpetrators.
From a recent New York Times article:
"A pest control company offered $5 to anyone who would post a review that the business itself had written. The moving company was willing to pay $50 but wanted original copy. An appliance repair shop provided a start: “I really appreciate that the service tech was on time, the problem was solved, everything was cleaned up and he was very professional. Please add 50 or more words,” the shop suggested. It would pay $30.
The highest payment was offered by a jewelry store in San Diego, which said it was forced to solicit reviews after others got away with doing it. “We have noticed that some of our larger, corporate run competitors have been unfairly trying to get reviews written for them on Yelp, which puts us at a disadvantage,” wrote Bert Levi of Levi Family Jewelers. He said he would pay $200 for a review of a new custom-designed ring."
Here is the actual letter the Levi Family Jewelers dispatched to wannabe reviewers:
As a result of being ensnared in the sting, the following warning now appears on the Levi Family Jewelers review page and will remain for the next three months:
You'll notice the word "here" in blue in the last sentence, that is a link to the aforementioned letter Bert Levi sent out to prospective reviewers. In other words, Yelp is not playing around kids. They are dead serious and they will shame any and all brands in a public square (aka the Internet) as a punishment for trying to "game the system" as Eric Singley, Yelp's vice president for consumer products and mobile puts it.
Singley also said that the group of businesses being outed now “is just a sample” of businesses that are soliciting reviews. In other words, this is the proverbial tip of a huge iceberg.
Every year the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs collaborate on a content marketing survey of B2B marketers. This year’s results are based on responses from 1,416 North American B2B marketers from all industries and all size companies. And just like last year, the adoption of content marketing and the sharing of it using social media continues to grow. We have selected some key data points from the survey and listed them for you below, complete with buttons to share on Twitter and LinkedIn. The complete study is embedded at the end of this post.