I’m Done with Social Media – Sort of

I’ve decided to stop posting about social media on this site. I obviously have nothing against social media itself, as I’ve crowed about it for years on this blog. Instead, I’m going to start posting more about marketing and advertising – the things you might want to know about once you have mastered all this new media.

Four years ago I started blogging for the advertising agency I worked for. They had two blogs – one for the agency proper, and one for the Interactive house. I was writing most of the posts, covering what was happening in Internet news and new media, but also in marketing, advertising, PR and traditional media.

When they told me to learn everything about what people were calling “social bookmarking,” that became a hot topic for both of our blogs. Our readers were hungry for information on the heretofore unheard of Twitter, MySpace, SecondLife… things that showed everyone the future was in progress.

That is no longer a problem, though. Just about anyone can get 1000 followers on Twitter, and once they do they usually use that as proof that they’re experts. There are so many bloggers writing about some arcane Facebook trick, there isn’t much of anything you can’t learn about Facebook with a quick Google search. And the number of stories telling you how you need a mobile app and QR code are legion.

However, there’s hardly anyone talking about communications, messaging, and how social media should be used to help your business. I see a lot of people showing their prowess at getting Likes and retweets and now +1, but then they fall short on how to turn these people into customers. It does not matter how neat all this new technology is if you can’t turn online fans into customers.

So there may still be some posts in the future about social, but from now on it will only be in the context of what you should say. I’ll also continue to post commercials I think do a good job of core messaging, and campaigns that work.

I think this is far more important than tips and tricks, and certainly a lot more enjoyable for me to write about.

Because if I have to write another post about how QR codes don’t work or how to get more Twitter followers, I’m going to pound nails into the floor with my forehead.

There’s no right way to do Social Media

Answer this question: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

  1. A cab, if you can get one
  3. Practice

All of these are right. (Though that last one was more right back in the age of vaudeville.) It’s just a matter of what you mean, and where you’re coming from.

I read a lot of social media “experts” who tell of the “right” way to do social media, and it always cracks me up. They may have a way that works, or know of a company that killed with a particular approach… and then take the next step saying it is THE way to do social media marketing. 

When you hear that, you should be suspicious.

I can understand why they say this. There’s a huge market for people who can provide simple answers. Millions are still trying to figure out how to “make social media work for them,” so if somebody with a blog and a consulting business can step up and give it to them, they’ll get a lot of attention.

As someone who blogs about social media, of course, this could include me. I try not to give that level of sweeping advice myself, and instead focus on the things that people do wrong. Hell, I’ve buttered my bread with other people’s bad ideas for the sake of blog posts for years.

There are also plenty of people with good tips for success, and examples of campaigns that worked. When you see these, though, you have to take them in the context of the company and product that did them.

Old Spice’s success on Twitter and Facebook is a perfect – and common – example: Their success was based on an original and brilliant television commercial. If you mimicked everything Old Spice did on line but didn’t have that winning commercial, I don’t think you’d have the same success.

The only real advice anyone can give about social media is to do it a lot, experiment, and be fluid. (“Wha? Fluid? What the hell are you talking about?” Relax, I’ll get to it.)

If you’re consistently posting on that Facebook Fan Page or Twitter account, and you’re doing what you need to do to build a following, eventually you’ll get it. If you want that to happen faster, it’s going to cost you real money, likely in the form of an ad agency doing it for you.

As for being fluid, be sure you’re aware of what people are talking about, where they’re saying it, how they’re saying it… and keep up with them. The companies that scored big on Facebook are the same ones who learned how to use Myspace before it. The ones who succeeded in Twitter are the ones who learned the value of a hashtag and trending topics. Constant education is necessary in social media marketing – but the ideas for your campaign and your messaging will have to be your own.

Hey, you never know – over time you will get very comfortable with “thinking outside the box,” (which is the most insidiously inside the box expression of all time, but whatever,) doing your own messaging, and wielding these social media tools yourself. Then, you could be inspired to invent an approach no one else ever thought of, and force us to write blog articles about how brilliant you are.

Because there still aren’t any degrees for this stuff, and the majority of social media professionals are just guessing.

Learning New Tricks: Staying interesting in an interesting world

Well, I admit it – I fell off on the blog this last week. In my defense, I’ve been trying to learn Adobe Flash, and besides all the other things I have to get done, that takes time.

Why Flash? Primarily because I want to start an animated vlog in 2011. It’s ambitious, sure, but if done right it will be interesting. And if there’s one thing I have endeavored to do with my online publishing, it’s be interesting. (If and when I get it going, I’ll let you know.)

You always need to add more to your toolbox if you want to stay interesting. Too many bloggers and online publishers of other stripes take for granted that people will want to see or read what they’ve done, just because they’ve done it. That’s a mistake. Whatever it is you’re sending out into the world, you owe it to the world to be as captivating as you can every time.

Eric Reid, @CiaoEnrico

Me, at Ignite Phoenix - 3/30/2010

Earlier this year I was a presenter at Ignite Phoenix #6. At that time, I thought it would be something fun, a chance to flex the theater muscles a bit. But since people were paying, I could not take for granted that people would just love whatever I spewed out – I had an obligation to entertain them. The idea behind Ignite is to share your passion, but frankly, if people are paying to see what you have to say, you owe them something special.

Think of your site that way. People do not owe you traffic, or clicks, or conversions. If your product is so jim-dandy wonderful, maybe you don’t need to do much. But if not, you have to put extra effort into being visually stimulating, thought provoking, or even entertaining in order to get them to see what you need them to see.

Whether you’re blogging, posting to a Facebook Page or Tweeting, if you want to get anywhere, you’d better be delivering something worth people’s time.

The New Twitter and the Future of Blogging

As you might already know, Twitter announced this week that they’ll be redesigning their user experience dramatically. They will partner with several other sites to allow users to publish content in tweets. These sites are: Dailybooth, DeviantArt, Etsy, Flickr, Justin.TV, Kickstarter, Kiva, Photozou, Plixi, USTREAM, Vimeo, Yfrog, and YouTube

But a comment a co-worker of mine made was, I thought, very interesting: What effect will this have on Tumblr?

Tumblr is a blogging platform that many people love for it’s ability to easily share media in almost exactly the same way, the difference being it can also host the pictures, videos or even audio recordings shared. The one thing Tumblr has always had going against it is a lack of users. This may be because comments can only be made by one’s connections.

Twitter, however, is already widely used and has many people trolling other people’s content. You might find a Tumblr page if you know the address, or if the author has done the right kind of SEO to get it found. Not that there aren’t great and popular Tumblr blogs – it’s just that there isn’t a dedicated group of users like there is with Twitter.

Twitter vs Tumblr

Twitter vs Tumblr

If I’m going to be honest, though, Tumblr – and more generally, blogging – is BETTER than Twitter. And I’ll tell you why:

A friend of mine has a blog on Tumblr documenting his 180 days using only his iPad for personal use, covering each day on the blog until he can buy a new Mac. Like Twitter is attempting to do now, Tumblr allows him to share media on the page, not links to other sites that hold it.

But as a blogging platform, it also allows him to write. If he has something to share at length, he can. Twitter, by it’s definition, doesn’t allow that. I think this is a growing problem with social media being so widespread, that the simplest, most effortless kind of communication is what will always fair best. Blogs, on the other hand, which started it all, fade in popularity because they require something of both the reader and the author: A willingness to enjoy lots of words.

This thought occured to me first, ironically, on Twitter. I was talking with an old friend from my LiveJournal days, @Giania:

@CiaoEnrico: I remember not only writing 1000 word posts about my life, I read other people’s 1000 word posts. I miss that!
@Giania: Yeah me too. I feel like everything’s faster & less clear these days. I have a love/hate relationship with the shift

Twitter’s great for quick exchanges like this, granted. But some of us like sharing a lot more than this – and friends are willing to read it, trust me. When you only have a dozen or so friends, all of them writing about what’s going on in their lives, you care and want to be involved. You keep up with them, offer advice, get into arguments, console… there may not be as many connections as there are on Facebook or Twitter, but the connections you do have are of higher quality.

Maybe the problem is that so many of us who come to Social Media don’t know how good it can be, only that it’s a great way to be potentially famous. So many people cynically value responses, comments and views for their ability to make what they’ve posted get seen by more people – not because of the real reason for comments and responses – socializing with other people.

In short, I like what Twitter is doing for publishing. I’m not crazy about what they’ve done to truncate conversations.

Until people decide they have more to say than 140 characters at a time will allow, “short” is simply where it is.

Learning to Post through Travel Blogging

Tonya on the Monorail - February 2009

I’ll be heading to Orlando for the week for a nice vacation with my girlfriend. It’s been a year since we went, and in that time a LOT has changed. I’m just happy everything has turned out so well for me.

(Not to sound trite if you’re looking for work right now, but remember: Sometimes losing your job can lead to the best opportunity of your life.)

Unfortunately, this also means I probably won’t be blogging this week. At least not about SEO, social media, marketing, PR… all those things I love quipping about on here.

Instead, my Girlfriend and I will be posting about our trip on our separate travel blog, 20 Pounds of Disney. We’ll put up all our videos and pictures here, as well as some tips on how to make a trip like this happen. (My girlfriend works for the travel industry, and is a pagan god of putting deals together. If I told you how little this trip cost, you’d weep openly.)

Still, since I brought it up, travel is always a great excuse to learn blogging if you’re new to it. (Hey! I’ve got a social media post brewing in me after all!)

A lot of people know they want to create a blog for their business or to have something more to show employers than a resume and a Linkedin profile. The problem is learning the habit of blogging. When you travel, though, you see all sorts of new things worth telling others about. Having something you’re excited about is a great excuse to post.

Besides that, your friends and family are a built in audience. You know you’re going to ambush them with your pictures and your stories when you get back. If you blog about it, you don’t have to – and they can look and read whenever they damn well feel like it. Everybody wins!

SMAZ 2 – Social Media Arizona 2010

Conferences work when you hear that one thing that makes you say, “Yes! That’s what I needed!” It’s when you get that one chunk of information you were either hoping to find out, or that you didn’t know you needed until you heard it.

Today’s Social Media Arizona event had several of those moments for me, but here are the two that stick out:

1) Leave off the last paragraph of a blog post. If you don’t wrap up the story you tell, it leaves readers wanting more, and gets them to want to finish it with their own comments.

2) If you want to convince your company it needs to explore social media, find the 1 or 2 executives who are the forward thinking ones, the ones most likely to get it. If you can win them over, they will win the rest over.

"SMAZ 2"

SMAZ 2 in Tempe, AZ

I like having thoughts like these given to me. You can read blogs and watch training videos and you won’t necessarily find these important bits of philosophy in them. It’s encouraging to me when this happens. Mostly because, unfortunately, a lot of conferences don’t have a great deal of new, useful information in them. Especially when you’re talking about social media.

I don’t claim to know all there is about social. But I’ve heard enough presentations now that I hear the same things being taught repeatedly: Be real, have a goal, it’s about the conversations not the tools, and measure your progress. (Which, frankly, is good advice whatever marketing you do.) Beginners will doubtlessly find all of this interesting and exciting. They should. Social media is a brave new world. It’s the wild west. But once you hear these axioms enough, you hit a ceiling, where you hunger for new information, some new take.

Maybe at that point, you just need to go out and create your own stories, your own eye-opening study or tactic to share. Or maybe the best parts of any seminar can be gleaned from the Twitter posts that come out of it.

This isn’t a slam on conferences, mind you. Like I said, I was floating from room to room, and may just have missed the really good parts everyone was sharing. Still, I wonder if there’s always enough new information to share at all of the SEMPO, AZIMA, and even SMAZ events.

So, seriously – what do you think?

Blue Tooth Douchbag

My friend Brian came up with the blog, “Blue Tooth Douchebag” – a cry in the dark against people who wear those awful earpieces in public. Every day there’s some new photo of a douchebag wearing a bluetooth, taken by one of his readers/supporters. (I’m proud to say I got one in too – I’ve framed it and hung it up on my non-existent digital wall.)

My submission to BTDB - I didn't get paid, but I am leeching off the bandwidth by posting this.

Each picture has a smart-ass write up, and everyone’s invited to pile onto the unfortunate cretin wearing the offending electronics. The reason the site works, I think, is that by now most of us have had to tolerate these people. It’s disturbing to share an elevator with someone talking into the Borg implant coming out of their head, pretending their talking into the air is none of our business. Most people find these people targets for our derision, and BTDB fulfills that need for us.

Beyond that, BTDB shows that all you need is a good idea and the willingness to commit to it. This was all started with a single idea, but it didn’t just appear from the ether with a “pop.” Serious work was put into the layout, and it’s been around long enough for word-of-mouth to spread.

Most importantly, IT GETS UPDATED ALL THE TIME. If you want your blog to take off, you have to post to it all of the time. I’ll admit – I’m bad at this myself. I’m nowhere near as prolific as the blogs I’m going to do write-ups of this week. I think I lack ambition.

Anyway, look the site over and have some laughs. Then take notes. I know someone out there has an idea for a “Rude Customer Service Blog,” a “Children in Public Wigging Out Blog,” or a “How Does this Doofus get a Girlfriend This Hot Blog.”

You can definitely make your idea work. All that matters is that it be a good idea, and you commit to it.

Blogs are Everywhere

In 2006, Technorati came out with the (then) startling statistic that there were over 70 million blogs in existance, with something like 10,000 more coming on line every day. Now Technorati says there are 113 million blogs, with 175,000 being started every day. Even with embarrassingly high abandonment rates, (7.5 million of these blogs are active) blogging was really taking off – 184 million bloggers create 570,000 per day.

We used that stat to show that blogs had arrived. It turns out we were wrong – because NOW they’ve arrived.

Here’s why: The timeline of blogs breaks down into three parts. The first one came around 2001, after the dot-bomb. A lot of out of work tech geeks started publishing just to have something to do.

The fad caught on, and after a while some companies even started getting attention for their own blogs. When they joined in, that’s when the second wave hit. People were only just learning what blogs were, and their understanding was that it was either a corporate communications device, or a place where emo kids in their second semester at college talk about rain and poetry and how they can’t get laid.

The third wave of blogging has hit just this year, though. This year, everyone seems to be blogging. People without tech jobs, who don’t work for someone else, have some blog or another. People I know who last year didn’t even know what The Twitter was are now publishing on their own. It’s fantastic.

I’m sure the reason for all these new blogs is somewhere in between the number of people out of work and the sheer ease of setting one up. When I started blogging in 2002, there was only LiveJournal. (And skinning it was, as now, a bear to do.) With WordPress and Blogger and Myspace and Tumblr, you can be up and running in as little as five minutes. If you want to buy a domain name for it as well, a day. (Unless you use GoDaddy, in which case go with God because there’s just no telling.)

What I love about all this is the variety of blog types. People aren’t satisfied to just write about their day. Those are great when you’re friends with the author, or, like LJ in the old days, you were blogging to a community that blogged back. That kind of “here’s what’s up with me today” publishing is handily taken care of by Facebook and Twitter, so there’s no need to create a blog just for that.

Which is another reason I think blogs are as big as they are today. Given the lifespan of all other Internet fads, they really should have imploded by now. But blogs can be about anything, going in any direction the author wants to go in.

This week I’m going to try to post about some of my favorite blogs. You probably haven’t heard of them, because for me blogging isn’t about being on top of the most popular posts or knowing what the cool kids know, it’s about hearing more from the people I want to hear more from.

Blogs are Codependant


That phrase – this post’s title – was another morsel of interesting phrasing from this week’s Phoenix Wordcamp. Brent Spore said this during his his “Designing for WordPress” presentation. You know, the more I think about what I took away from this year’s WordPress, the more I realize I was more interested in discussions of content creation than I was in designing or tools or plug-ins.

But I’m a writer, so I would be.

But so what? Let’s get back to this codependency statement. If you want to have a blog, for whatever reason, you need to post to it regularly. Not once a week, or as often as you can get to it – but constantly. A lot of blogs start out with someone excited about the idea of putting out their ideas and exchanging them with others, only to eventually fall off the horse and forget about it completely.

And I have to admit, I fell into this this month. Having just started my new job, I haven’t had the time to dedicate to “Ciao, Enrico” like I did when I was blissfully unemployed. And it shows in my search rankings.

I regularly Google “ciaoenrico” to see how my blog is faring for this one unique phrase. Seeing how I do for “seo” or “small business marketing” is useless, since there are so many other phrases to compete with. On this, though, I am usually the winner, since Enrico Berlinguer never blogged.

This week I noticed a significant drop in this site’s ranking, from first place to fifth. That’s not a bad fall, but a fair sized one. Usually, if you have the keyword right there in your URL, or in this case, when the keyword practically is the URL, it should score first in a Google SERP. But it has dropped to fifth place, behind my Twitter and Friendfeed and Flickr accounts, and even my old LiveJournal blog, which I hardly ever use anymore.

Why? Because I ignored this bitch for too long. This may be the flagship for “ciaoenrico,” but Google cares about the most current, up-to-date content source for the things it places first. My FriendFeed profile gets new stuff added to it whenever I sneeze, so it makes sense it’s all the way up there.

I’ve said before I’m all in favor of taking breaks from your blog when you need it. Search placement isn’t everything, and if you come back fresh you can get back to seriously writing and getting that ground back. But be careful: Laziness tends to become a habit if you let it, and then your hard work will go down the drain.

I’m going to get serious about this blog for the next couple of weeks again. (Thanks for the inspiration, Phoenix Wordcamp!) Then we’ll see if those rankings go back up!

Should you use social if the “real you” isn’t interesting?

Phoenix Wordcamp 2009

Phoenix Wordcamp 2009

Just got back from Phoenix Wordcamp, and it was very hit or miss – the first half of the day’s speakers were… well, lacking.

But everyone later in the day was stellar, especially Merlin Mann’s “Something Something Social Media: The Overdue Minority Report,” which wasn’t really a minority report at all, since his opinions of social media were largely preaching to the choir: Stop trying to game people, stop worrying about your followers, post quality content… and so say all of us.

What I really found interesting, though, was a phrase he shared during a bit about Brand Management: “‘Brand Management’ is only necessary if you’re being fake, or you’re being boring.”

Fair enough – if you’re being your real self on social networks, there’s no reason to have to measure out what you say about yourself and how you say it.

But what if you are boring?

Well, in my opinion, if you don’t have anything necessarily interesting or useful to share with people, you probably shouldn’t be blogging. If your Twitter posts are all the stereotypical bits about meals you’ve had and where you’re going after work, you probably shouldn’t expect a superstar following. And if you have a business that has nothing worth sharing regularly, you really need to stop trying.

It’s a bit elitist, though, isn’t it? When everyone says your business has to be involved in some way with social media, if you are a bore, what else are you supposed to do? Brand management – whether you’re a person or a business – is designed to calculate presentation so you can control what people think of you.

It’s basic PR: Mel Gibson was being himself a couple of years ago when he got pulled over for drunk driving. His being “real” didn’t do him any favors. (Though you have to at least give him this – he wasn’t boring.) Clearly, brand management is useful. Maybe some people are good enough and smart enough and interesting enough that they don’t need to think about it, but for everyone else it can be pretty important stuff.

Maybe that kind of elitism is good. Maybe it’s just common sense that if you don’t have something to say, you shouldn’t be trying to speak.

Sometimes being yourself and being interesting are mutually exclusive. If that’s the case, the next Wordcamp, or Podcamp, or SMAZ, or whichever Internet publishing event we all go to should have a panel on how it isn’t necessary to be involved in social media. Not just the usual, “video isn’t for everyone,” “blogging isn’t for everyone,” or “Twitter isn’t for everyone” warnings. But really, if you have a business in a boring industry, and you’re as boring as it is, maybe you really should just concentrate on your SEO and PPC and media buys for your web site instead of worrying about how to jazz up a blog.

If we can’t do that, then we need to stop talking about the tools of social media, and start talking about strategies for content.