Nov 08

How Ignoring Social Media is Like Ignoring Google Ten Years Ago

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how SEO and social media converge and contrast. It’s almost impossible to convince an SEO master that social media is worth a hill of beans, simply because they’ve vested too much in gaming a search engine for much of their internet careers and well, SEO does convert to business.

The difference between man-powered social media tools like Facebook and Twitter and algorithm-based search engines like Google is similar to this field goal kicking contest between 49ers Kicker Joe Nedney and a robot named Ziggy. People can be perform brilliantly, but they can also be temperamental, uninformed, or easily misled. Machines easily automate the work that people can do. Machines can break down though. They can be gamed by someone who understands their flaws. One slight calibration error can cause a world of havoc for all of the other parts, as well as for the user. Long story short, there is not one system that is perfect, and both systems have their place in the ecosystem that is the web.

social media man vs machineIn the case of Nedney and Ziggy the field goal kicking machine, man overcame machine because Nedney could adjust to the wind better. Look out, Google! Anyway.

I cannot tell you how many times I get told that people put up a Facebook page and a Twitter account, spend little time or money, and quickly determine there is no ROI to be seen in social media. I see this as a very dangerous attitude given the fact that Facebook grew to over 500 million users several months ago and their motto is “99 percent”, meaning they have only reached one percent of their potential. Twitter has 175 million users and gained 30 million users in just the past few months. Facebook and Twitter users also pack more bang for the buck since they spend 150 percent more than the average internet user.

Just like SEO was ten years ago, this is not a fad or trend. While Google usage will not stop growing as more and more users access the web more frequently, Facebook and Twitter aren’t going away either, apparently.

What’s the pain of not capitalizing on social media when it’s young, versus relatively matured like search engines are? Ask the countless businesses how much they have to spend on SEO to compete with sites that have been optimized for Google for ten years. Building backlinks isn’t easy, especially the number you have to build in a saturated market.

Building a presence in the “people powered search engines” that are Twitter and Facebook isn’t going to get easier. It’s only going to get harder and more expensive as more players enter the space and garner wins under their belt. Your competitors are fine tuning and beefing up their presence, utilizing the best tools, and getting valuable experience internally. What are you doing?

Jan 09

Find Your Flock on Twitter

I get bummed out when I find interesting people who simply don’t get Twitter. They sign up, follow a bunch of people, and then say, “It was just a bunch of people saying they like ice cream or going to work that day.”

Social media tools like Twitter are like cell phones. We don’t get cell phones and then plug in a bunch of numbers just to have them. We think of whom we would actually want to call on a regular basis, and then plug in their numbers. It’s the conversations that make the medium interesting.

Do you like certain blogs? Find out if the blog and the actually bloggers are on Twitter simply by Googling their name and “Twitter”. You can do the same for potential business partners, employees, celebrities, and anyone else. If they are boring, unfollow them or filter them out with tools like Seesmic or Tweetdeck.

Putting the people ahead of the medium ensures you are actually making the most of a very useful communication tool.

Nov 08

Twitter Lists: Find Useful People to Follow in Half the Time

I can honestly say I turned a lot of people onto TweetDeck. My friend Renato and I made this video back in the day about how its listing featured allowed you better organize people on Twitter. That was a big deal then.

Now I know this isn’t terribly new news, but Twitter Lists are pretty cool. Looking at who a person follows is something Robert Scoble has been doing for a while now, and now Twitter has been nice and has allowed us to all do this with half the work with categorization to boot. Essentially, they now allow us to share the groups we’d already set up in Twitter clients like Seesmic or TweetDeck, which is a huge catalyst to social networking in general.

I have created a few lists so far and will continue to create more with the intention that if you follow my lists, you will actually gain value by using Twitter. There are a lot of uses for them and until TweetDeck incorporates them (which I’ve heard it will, and Seesmic already has), I can see myself using them almost exclusively. I am also hunting for other people’s useful lists and have noticed that a lot of the people who are really savvy to certain industries are too busy to create them. I hope after time this changes (*hint hint*).

Aug 03

Are You Empowering Your Organization to Use Social Media Effectively?

social media cheerleader

Your PR team reads books and articles with titles like “Social Media for PR”. Your marketing team reads “Social Media for Marketing”. HR reads “Social Media for HR”. The developers or tech support teams may not be involved on purpose. Everyone gets stuck in their little worlds about what social media is for and what their role is.

Guess what? Your customers don’t see these roles as clear as you do. They see “This person works for Company X and therefore should be able/willing to solve my problem in some way”. That’s it.

Think of blogs, Twitter, etc. as hyperconnected cell phones. Anyone can find your number or where to find you. So if are in marketing mode and someone pings you on Twitter saying your technical support team dismissed their problem too soon, it doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Why? Because you could wake up, check your Google Alerts, and then find a nasty blog post pop up that not only mentions that your rep was bad, but that YOU are bad for ignoring their plea for help. All you had to do was tweet, “Please DM me your ticket number and I’ll have someone look into it.”

Having people in your organization on Twitter or blogging without connecting them to every part of your organization is like putting someone on a company phone system but not allowing them to transfer or even see the phone numbers of other people they work with. The more you advertise their phone numbers, the more issues you will face and the more you will look like a big jerk for not giving your social media team the information they need to help customers.

You aren’t in control of how you use social media–your audience is. They will use it for sales questions, bizdev questions, HR questions, tech support, or whatever random use pops in their head. They will use it to complain about you publicly. It’s great to think of social media engagement as a means for consumers to shape your brand, but it’s key to get your head out of the clouds and to be realistic. I as a consumer could care less about shaping your brand. I want your product or service to do what it is supposed to do for me in the most efficient way possible. Is your organization set up so that employees using social media can do this?

Here’s an example of how angered my friend Dave Delaney by not having a specific crucial feature. Dave warned people of, and then a Meetup VP actually reached out to Dave via email and phone. Could your social media team respond to this, or are they just pushing out smiley faces?

The lack of constraints involved with social media can give you a lot of freedom. There is also a lot of responsibility involved with that as well. In order to maintain a good reputation, it is crucial to give the kind of service that helps you earn that reputation. You aren’t going to be able to make this happen if your team members don’t even realize your social media people exist.

Jun 30

How Someone With 2000 Twitter Followers Can Be More Powerful than a Person with 25,000

Much of what Seth Godin says seems like common sense to me. Unfortunately, I’m finding more and more that companies need his lessons pounded into their brains. Here’s a video of Seth explaining that it doesn’t matter how many Twitter followers you have, it’s how effectively you can network with it:

The number of your social media followers does not matter. That’s like saying because you weigh a lot, you are a more powerful tennis player than Roger Federer. Federer can hit a tennis ball harder than people twice his size simply because he gets in position and has better technique. Tennis analogy not working for you? Here’s an example of what Seth is saying worked out:


1.) A person who blogs about foreign films starts following people who tweet about movies like “Dinner with Andre” or are tweeting about the Cannes Film Festival while it is occurring. By tweeting back and forth and engaging people, tweeting unique links, this person gets 2000 followers. Many of these followers have over 1000 film obsessed followers themselves.
2.) Another person buys followers, follows people just so they follow back, etc. The whole mentality of “I’ll follow you only if you follow back” is just childish. Tim O’Reilly offers useful info all the time and will probably never follow me in my lifetime. So what? Anyway, by playing this numbers game, this person gets a whopping 25,000 followers who are more concerned about reciprocal followers than actually getting useful information.

Say I’m marketing a foreign film. If I have these people tweet something with the intention of it getting as much exposure as possible, the person with 2000 followers will probably be of more use to me. Why? Because this person will get retweeted by people who actually care what I have to say, who would have a lot to offer their own followers by retweeting my stuff. Do the math:

2000 people exposed initially
x 6000 unique followers among these retweeters
600,000,000 possible impressions

vs. 25,000 possible impressions for person #2

Someone who just gets followers to have them will probably get few to no retweets, and often gets them simply with the notion that he or she will feel obligated to retweet in return. That’s lame. It’s not targeted or effective. So this person with tons of followers has little influence, because he or she is more focused on being perceived as influential rather than actually having something to say.

Power=mass x acceleration. If you are in the right position and surrounding yourself by people who actually care about what you are trying to do, you can do a lot more with a lot less. Ignore the numbers game. Engage people who are useful and who would find you useful. The numbers come, and not always where you expect them to.

Mar 18

My Big Twitter Advice

Effective tweets are
Like interactive haikus
Practice makes perfect.

Mar 04

Is Twitter Mainstream Yet? No (and That’s Okay).

From all reports, social media is going nowhere but up in every age demographic and geographic place. Twitter gets mentioned on CNN from time to time. Even FoxNews makes its usual mockery of it. With all this traditional press, is Twitter going mainstream?

There is no mainstream media anymore. And that is okay.

Due to the low barriers of entry the internet introduces, anyone can be “media”. There are many channels that can be used to introduce media and like Twitter, they can be created quickly and for little expense. This results in segmented media or niche media, a concept Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson calls “the long tail”.

Put it in perspective: Figures are not exact, but back in the day, up to 109 million people purchased Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. 24.56 million people in the U.S. alone watched American Idol just last Wednesday. 95 million people watched this last SuperBowl. Twitter has just under 6 million users despite being 100% free and unlike the SuperBowl, international. It’s not mainstream. That is okay.

Why is that okay? Because unlike other traditional mainstream sources, there is no overhead associated with it. The SuperBowl ad GoDaddy put out cost them at least $3 million. The Twitter contests I run for NameCheap, a rival registrar, cost around $15000. I can’t reach 95 million people, but I don’t have to because my costs are 200 times less. I am appealing to a niche, and since Twitter seems to be full of people who are at their computers a lot and therefore buy a lot of domains, it’s a much more targeted approach than the machine gun approach of a SuperBowl ad.

When printing presses were rare, the only book people could get their hands on was the Bible. It was “the mainstream” of the time. As printing presses were created en masse, people could increasingly print information that was more specialized to a local area or subject. We now have a medium (the internet) that allows people to create all sorts of different types of content in all sorts of forms. The overhead is lower, so more people publish in more ways and in different subjects. The diversity of media is amazing these days. In this way, the internet is destroying what we formerly knew of mainstream. When you tell someone that Twitter is now “mainstream”, please bare in mind the common perception of what mainstream actually is and the numbers associated with it (Michael Jackson, Super Bowl, Coca Cola, etc.).

Not everyone is going to like Twitter. Some people like videos. Some people like LiveJournal. My sister has a whole community on Flickr. Go to the DMV for ten minutes, look around, and tell me you are excited for Twitter to go mainstream. Media is segmented, will be segmented, and that is okay.

Dec 29

Results of the NameCheap Twitter Trivia Contest

Social media tools are free, but that doesn’t mean that you can get something from nothing. Whether you are spending time or money, social media marketing requires investment, just like growing food or building apps or anything else in life.

That’s why I was so happy to hear that Richard Kirkendall, the CEO of NameCheap and a client of mine, was interested in giving away free domains in a trivia contest on Twitter. I added the element of overall winners to it and a tracking page, wrote the questions, and worked on the automation of the questions with the CTO, and we were on our way. Essentially, @namecheap asked a trivia question in Twitter every hour on the hour. To win a free domain, you have to answer “@namecheap (answer). The fastest to answer as well as two players and random get $9.69 automatically put into a NameCheap account that they have to set up to play. Since Twitter has an API, it’s all integrated. The people who answered the most correctly won iPods.

What were the results?

  • Over 4,000 followers gained in less than one month. We got dozens of comments from people who loved the contest and might win a Shorty Award in the Tech category.
  • Mentions in Mashable, Yahoo News, Domain Name News, and over 30 pages of Google results with bloggers mentioning it from all around the world. The contest generated 131 backlinks to one page, which went from a PR 0 to a PR 5 in one month. I have no idea how many backlinks it generated for the homepage, but I imagine it was more than 131.
  • Over a 10% increase in traffic with 47% increase in new visitors.
  • 20% increase in new customers. This is not a startup, but a company that has been around since 2000.
  • It cost Richard some domains he might have not sold anyway, the price of a couple of press releases, a few people’s monthly salaries and four iPods. Bloggers are on Twitter. Do things on Twitter that get bloggers talking about you and you get backlinks without spending a fortune on paid links.

    Dec 15

    Result from my Zappos Experiment (and it’s Not Glowing)

    Zappos. Everyone loves their use of social media. They are the poster child for how a brand can use social media to evangelize.

    *Scooby Noise* Errr? Did not have such a good experience.

    I put up this post about a pair of shoes I wanted. I then went into Twitter and said “Hey @zappos, maybe you can help me out” and linked to the post. All I wanted was someone from Zappos to send me a few URLs with shoes that were similar so I didn’t have to comb through the site myself. And it took them a month to finally catch on, and I got three different people sending me messages on the subject. One of them found the exact pair for twice as much as I’d bought them for, but by this time, I’d already bought a similar pair of shoes from a department store for 30 dollars less. I was in Europe with limited internet access by the time they got back with me. Meh.

    I COULD NOT HAVE MADE THIS SALE ANY EASIER FOR THEM. I took a pic of the shoe I wanted with the size. Go and find it and send me a URL and NOT a product code, and do it when I ask you to and NOT weeks later. I give you money. Done. I operate the Twitter feed for @sunandski, and if someone made a sale this easy they would get a response within hours and perhaps minutes.

    Zappos is not the cheapest shoe site online by any stretch. Yes, they give you free shipping two ways, but if they charge more than even the manufacturer of the shoe, who cares? You can charge more if you offer the service, but in this instance, my shopping experience was not made any easier by going with Zappos.

    Crucify me for pointing this out. I really don’t care.

    Nov 12

    Yo Zappos, Maybe You Can Help Me Out

    I was quite dismayed that Zappos was laying off people. I love Zappos use of social media, but am a bit put off by their prices as I am a cheapass.

    Being a cheapass doesn’t always pay off, especially when you are trying to get a marketing company off the ground. The time you spend shopping ends up costing you the time you could be working. So I’m going to try and make Zappos social media strategy work for me.

    If someone at Zappos can ping me on Twitter with a fairly affordable brown shoe like this one in an 8.5, I’ll buy it. As you can see, the seam tore on one side and it’s sort of embarrassing. I know Zappos is expensive, but if they can save me the time of shopping and hassling with a return if I need it, I don’t care. It’s worth it.

    Here’s the shoe to be replaced:
    2008-11-12 21:49:12 -0600

    I’m always on the lookout for cool Puma kicks, but I’m all right there for the time being. I hope this search for a personal shopper works out.