Archive for February, 2008

For Small Companies, Blogger Relations' Double-Edged Sword Bites Deeper

IStock_000004786268XSmallWhen talking about Blogger Relations, I tend to address my advice toward medium-to-large companies. 

Most professional marketers have figured out that Social Media can no longer be ignored, thus any good-sized corporation is now expected to have the savvy and wherewithal to listen, learn, respond and engage with the blogosphere. 

Invariably, those companies that haven’t yet “figured it out” learn pretty quickly, once they fall victim to a blogstorm, as Target did a few months ago.  And, to the blogosphere’s credit, most companies that learn to kowtow after such errors are quickly forgiven, and often given kudos for their newfound belief in the benefits of direct engagement.

But for every Target or Dell, there are thousands of small businesses that a) don’t “get” blogs,

b) don’t have the resources or knowledge to deal with bloggers effectively, and,

c) don’t warrant enough attention from Google and/or the blogosphere to be able to “recover” their online reputation from even the smallest blogstorm.

Example:  Tiny Details.  This company “designs, manufactures and distributes dollhouse miniature display pieces made by home assemblers.”  (Insert your own pun about how “small” this company must be!)

Blogger Stephen Ward and his wife contracted with Tiny Details to assemble some dollhouse pieces from their home.  I am unclear on the exact details about “what went wrong” from his post, but if you scroll through it, what’s interesting are the two levels of response from Tiny Details.

At first, the Tiny Details response is spot-on:

“We’ve had more than 55,000 home assemblers since 1999. With that kind of volume, there are going to be people who are unhappy. Our complaint volume is extremely low given the volume of business that we do… Miniatures are not for everyone, that’s for sure… We’re not illegitimate as you seem to portray. In fact, I invite you to come visit our offices, store, and warehouse here in New York… I certainly don’t want anyone to leave angry – there’s no need for it… ”

But, because Tiny Details is a small company, and because Google is awfully friendly to blogs, Ward’s post soon became the 3rd-ranked search result for Tiny Details

That’s a tough pill to swallow for a small company: any amount of traffic, however small, could now shrink to a trickle as a result of this online reputation hit! 

Could that be why Tiny Details execs subsequently threatened legal action, in the form of a libel suit?

This (bone-headed, imho) move only led to more linklove – in the form of more negative publicity from bloggers. 

As blogger Simon Owens sagely suggested to me in an email,

“I think with the Long Tail effect of the internet, small businesses are affected by things like this perhaps even more than big companies, because blog posts about them are more likely to pop up on the front pages of Google.

“If I were to write a long rant about a bad experience with Target, unless it gets hundreds of inbound links it’ll be buried under pages of search results. For small businesses, a single post can have a large negative effect.”

The message to small business owners: be careful Out There.  Google has a long memory.  Even a hiccup in your online reputation could have very long-lasting effects on your real-world business.

Social Media Meets Politics: Creative.We.Is.

DipdiveFor a long time during this very long race, we stroked our collective chins in the study of how Social Media was being used by the campaigns of the various presidential candidates.  

For example, in addition to his MyBarackObama forums, Obama has a presence on sites ranging from Facebook (for the kids) and Eons (for the AARP set), to AsianAve and MyBatanga and Faithbase.  Clinton’s on fewer Social Media sites, but hits the biggies including Twitter, YouTube, and a nicely-done Flickr account.  McCain’s set-up his own “McCainspace,” etc. 

But, like Kaitlyn Wilkins of Ogilvy, to me the most intriguing example of how Social Media is impacting the campaign gets back to the grassroots nature of the medium.  After all, “Social Media” is about content creation and sharing, by the people, for the people. 

We can debate whether or not the efforts of a multimillionaire rock artiste like the Black-Eyed Peas’ will.i.am represent Social Media.  Many are turned off by the Hollywood hype surrounding his “Yes We Can” video.  But check out will.i.am’s candid explanation re: the evolution of his video (bottom-left nav, his “Dip-finition”): sounds to me like Social Media… he was torn between Obama and Clinton, beleive it or not.  But when he finally got inspired, he rounded up some friends and made it happen…

Usually this process would take months… a bunch of record company people figuring out strategies and release dates…interviews…all that stuff… but this time i took it in my own hands…so i called my friends sarah pantera, mike jurkovac, fred goldring, and jesse dylan to help make it happen…and they called their friends…and we did it together in 48 hours…and instead of putting it in the hands of profit we put it in the hands of inspiration…”

And this rock&roll guy is not alone.  When you have a minute, check out user-created efforts like:

Ogilvy’s Wilkins “(fears) to think what will happen when the back room politicos get caught up to speed” on the ways of Social Media and user-generated content.  She’s right that faux attempts at consumer-generated content could become the “astroturf” of Social Media.

But call me an optimist.  I’m not so worried.  What’s not authentic and touching will simply not “go viral.”  I trust the public to suss out the charlatans.  And meanwhile the impact of these grassroots efforts are creative and inspiring to see.

NOTE TO READERS:  My blog went screwy today.  Among other challenges, the last 2 posts had to be re-posted and I lost the comments, etc.  My apologies for any inconvenience, and even more so to those who were kind enough to leave their thoughts!  I will continue to work on restoring those comments! 

Location, Location, Location

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It’s conventional wisdom that Google figured out that Search was the Internet’s killer app.

But I think Google’s smarter than that.  I think Google’s figured out that the true killer app is, “location, location, location.”

In “search,” clearly “location” is a critical component.  That’s why SEO is a thriving business.  It’s all about getting on that first page of results, either organically or through AdWord campaigns.

But Google has been taking the location concept further recently.

Look at “mobile” – the mobile version of Google Maps offers functions such as Real-Time Traffic (based on your location), business listings (based on your location), satellite imagery (based on your location), etc.

Look at “realty” – this Real Estate Search blew me away when I first noticed it (screenshot above).  Type something like “boulder, co. real estate” into Google and you get an interactive map of the top listings (i.e., by location), which you can sort by distance (a.k.a. location), price, square footage, # of bathrooms, etc.  Luckily for Realtors, the links drive traffic to their sites.

You can do the same thing with any business of course, from a search for Starbucks stores in SF to a search for Burger King outlets in Boston.  Why go to the Starbucks.com store locator if Google does all the work for you, including step-by-step directions on how to get to the nearest caffeine fuel-stop, based on your current location?

Old: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

New: “Wherever you go, go with GOOG.”

What other industries are so dependent on “location” that they’ll soon be devoured by the Googleplex?

What's Your Motivation?

IStock_000003505401XSmallLying on a beach always offers some much-needed perspective.  While “chillaxing” (my daughter’s word) in Puerto Rico last week, here’s a brief list of subjects that I didn’t think about:

Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Marketing, Tipping Points, Long Tails, etc.  Nope, none o’ that.

Instead, in-between pina coladas, I mused about the future.  How much longer do I want to work?  Where should my wife and I settle down, after the kids trundle off to college?  Where else on the map do I want to visit before I kick the bucket?  What are my biggest ambitions for SHIFT?

It’s important to know where you’re headed, and to also gain a clear perspective on what’s motivating you to get there.

I am sure that within a few days, I’ll re-engage with the Social Media sphere.  But for now I am actually enjoying this Blue Sky, Big World feeling.  The suntan will fade, but the path ahead will have been blazed a bit more clearly.

What do YOU dream about?  A log-cabin in the woods?  A beach house?  A trip to Egypt?  A million-dollar bank balance?  A houseful of grandkids?  A shiny new BMW?  World peace?

Do you have a clear goal?  Do you do at least one thing per day to help get you there?  What motivates you?

When I Get Back From Vacation I'll Be…

Back on the 25th.  Have a good week, blog buddies.




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