Thursday, September 27, 2007

How to Succeed in Social Networks

Are you keeping pace with the rapid evolution of communication and socializing? The future of your business depends on it.

Email is so old fashioned, younger generations are not even using it very much, if at all.

Everything’s going 3-M: micro, multi, mobile. Micro-content, multi-media, mobile computing. Text messaging is replacing email, micro-blogging is replacing blogs, and everything seems to be including multi-media (photos, audio, video) as mandatory features.

To fully appreciate what’s happening, let’s take a quick glance at the history of this evolution.

At first, computers communicated with each other, transferring data files back and forth, and executing remote operations, one computer requesting another to perform specific tasks. Computers used strings of binaries (O and 1) to talk to each other, while humans used machine languages (ENIAC code, COBOL, Fortran, Pascal, C++) to tell the computers what to do.

Computers were interacting with each other in networks, but humans were still rather isolated from each other. Then people started using this computer connectivity to connect with other human users.

This was the idea behind the invention of the web by CERN physicist Tim Berners-Lee. Web sites are primarily for people, not computers, or better: web sites are designed for humans who are using computers (and eventually computers enhanced with browsers). People started using computers to visit web sites where information, products, and other human consumption items were available for viewing or purchase.

You go to the web site, obtain the information, or buy the product you need, then you leave the web site.

You make no permanent mark on the site, though it might mark you, by placing a cookie on your computer. So you and the web site remained fairly separate. You took some content from the web site, but you didn’t add your own content to it.

And you certainly didn’t interact with others who were visiting the site, even though you might have had a lot of common interests and needs.

If we’re all using networked computers to access sites, what’s preventing us from shouting “hello, who are you?” to each other while we do it? The only hindrance was simply that the sites weren’t designed or coded for such human interaction. But that was about to change.

Bulletin boards, online forums, personal web pages with guest-books, and chat rooms appeared.

These sites enabled people to ask questions, make statements, share information, and clobber each other in arguments and debates. Now humans began interacting with each other, rather than just interacting with computers and web sites, to accomplish tasks. Peer-to-peer recommendations and user reviews, via the internet, began to replace ads and marketing as the way people found out about products and potential solutions to their problems.

But these interactive sites weren’t individualized for the members. People came to the online discussion site, and expressed themselves, but could not create their own customized page in these sites. Generally, they had no way to build their own little enclave or sub-group within such sites.

Then blogs came into being. Blogs are basically mini-websites that enable people to customize their own online venue for self-expression. With blogs, people could also build their own online communities. These communities consisted of lurkers (visitors who read without commenting) and comment posters (visitors who contribute external content to the blog, in the form of remarks, questions, and critique).

Blogs, however, exist in a certain degree of isolation. A blogger can link to other blogs via blogrolls (lists of other relevant blogs), and emailing other bloggers. But most blogs (with the exception of Weblogsinc. and similar “blog media network” of associated blogs) weren’t involved in any collective, social group beyond their fan base of loyal readers.

MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other sites then sprang up, enabling blog-like sites to function as elements within a highly interactive, communal environment. These sites heralded the rise of social blogging, a step beyond individual blogging.

The social aspect of these sites have made them tempting for businesses to attempt to “game” or exploit these communities. Misguided companies have thought of MySpace, Facebook, and other social sites as passive audiences for commercial messages or third party application modules (“plug-ins”) with embedded ads. Business that attempt to do this sometimes succeed, but mostly encounter backlash and ill will.

Now let’s look a bit closer at what’s being called Social Networking and Social Media.

Social Network = online group that enables members to express themselves, interact with others, and connect with people who share their interests.

Think of it as a web site that acts like a club or a party that you join.

You may have seen web sites where you have to “register” and “login” before you can access protected pages. These pages contain the real “meat”, the most valuable content and functions of the site. Often the goal of this registration is to collect marketing data about you, and to customize the pages you see on the site, according to your expressed interests.

In a social network, you “sign up” and “login” so you can create a new page in the site, consisting of a profile with photo or avatar, and various data about yourself, that other members can view and respond to via a messaging function. You can also display links to your own web site or blog, so others can visit them if they find you interesting.

Social networks can be built around shared interests in technology, music, video, photography, art, activism, politics, business, health, hobbies, pets, and other concerns.

An individual’s social network can consist of membership in multiple social media. Participating in social media is referred to as social networking.

Social Media = the web sites that enable social networking, or self-expression in a communal venue. Social networking is the activity, social network is while social media is the category of web site and web services that enable the activity.

“Social” means action within a group. “Media” means the action is not direct, person-to-person, like physical presence, but is taking place within a realm that acts as a go-between or conduit that provides the means of interacting.

Online Tool Community = a refined definition of social media, emphasizing how it revolves around a Web 2.0 technology that enables members to do something, usually at no charge, that was previously difficult, expensive, or impractical, if not impossible.

Members can use these tools in unexpected ways, including satirical political pseudo-commercials (YouTube), mutiny against tool provider (Digg), spamming via third party applications (Facebook), sexual predatory behavior (MySpace), malicious trolling (Twitter), and creating new blended applications (mash ups of, e.g., Google Maps and Craigs List).

What Social Network Members Want

Social networks (often abbreviated as “socnets”) provide tools that enable members to configure a customized version of a user page, create profiles and bios, manage invites and contact lists, upload photo, video, and music files, and interact with each other via multiple channels. Interaction tools include built-in chat rooms, bulletins, public notes, private messages, and comments (“in reply to”) on messages.

People join social networks to socialize, share, and self-promote.

While they’re not very receptive to marketing messages or sales hype, they do seek answers and advice. If you have experience and expertise of relevance, they may value your altruistic contributions to the social network.

Socnet users want to meet other people, make friends, find love, display art, showcase expertise, promote blog posts, distribute music mp3s, express feelings, state opinions, ask questions, praise bands, update their status, argue about issues, divulge personal trivia, and obtain peer-to-peer advice.

They want friends. They could use a self-less mentor, an expert who seeks to help first, and only secondarily, almost reluctantly, engage in sales behaviors. In the digital realm, marketing has to be 80% education and only 20% sales communication, especially in emerging technology markets. The better your customers understand how your product solves a problem better than your competitors’ products, the more likely they are to spread positive word of mouth advertising for you.

Examples of Social Network Sites:

· MySpace (high school kids and music bands)

· FaceBook (college kids, companies, and professionals)

· Dogster, Catster (pets and their obedient owners)

·, BlogTV, UstreamTV (lifecasters and special event live/archived video streaming)

· Tumblr (multi media blogging platform)

·, Wink, Stumble Upon (social bookmarking, sharing favorite web pages)

· Flickr (photo upload, hosting, sharing site)

· Spock, Gleamd (people search)

· LinkedIn, Jigsaw, eWorkMarkets (executives seeking job contacts)

· Twitter (micro-blogging: brief messages, status updates, link archiving)

· Pownce (micro-blogging with threaded comments and file sharing)

· GarageBand, Ning (music mp3 hosting, player embeds)

· Yippykaya (ecommerce social blogging)

· Freebase (open source, community-built database or meta-web)

· Instructables (expertise sharing, how-tos)

· Zaadz, Netsquared (world changers, activist community)

· 8apps (productivity tools community)

How To Approach Social Networks

You can’t fake it. Social network members can sense a company or individual who’s pretending to be unbiased, but is really oriented only to quick, easy sales. Manipulation is easily detected.

Ghost blogs, fake social media, and pseudo profiles are scams that are pre-judged. It’s common knowledge in the blogosphere that such antics are taboo. Old fashioned sales exploitation is what most companies seem tempted to do, but it typically backfires and generates negative PR.

On the web, trust (which is the mandatory precursor to sales) is given to those who have no covert commercial motives.

This is why peer-to-peer advice on products has so much impact. An example is customer reviews in Amazon. It's assumed that most users of a product are unlikely to be secret agents of a company's sales force. However, such non-transparent, undisclosed sales agendas do occur in the form of PayPerPost type activity, where a blogger is paid to praise or condemn a product or company.

Social network members seek uncoached, spontaneous, genuine reports of product use. Satisfied or unsatisfied, they want to hear uncompensated opinions from real users. They also want to hear from CEOs, business owners, and entrepreneurs who have special knowledge, professional insight about a topic of relevance.

People join social media sites to socialize, not to buy things. They want to connect with peers, share their thoughts and feelings, ask for technical help, showcase their art, distribute mp3s of their music, and generally have fun while learning from the experiences of others.

They do not join to be inundated with marketing messages, advertising, or commercial spam.

Socializing by definition excludes sales hype. If pushy, money-hungry salesmen showed up at a private party, they’d be kicked out, right? Aggressive, obnoxious sales pitches would spoil the fun.

It’s counter-productive to invade these sites just to push products at the communities. When companies try to do so, it backfires, generates negative buzz, and ends up doing more harm than good. Can you afford to alienate bloggers or social networkers?

In social media, a company representative will be warmly welcomed -- if that rep provides valuable, relevant information that the community needs, and is very low key about marketing anything.

Social media, and the web itself, is based on trust. Trust is gained by helping, advising, educating your audience. Promotional messages and ads are ignored or despised. But good advice, free samples, and instructional materials are actively sought, enjoyed, and respected.

See these social media sites as groups of potential friends who have needs you can meet, not as prospective consumers who you can take advantage of, or revenue streams that you can exploit. If you have a grossly commercial, non-helpful approach, you will be hated. And the negative publicity could possibly ruin your business.

Seth Godin ( and Laura Ries ( are good role models. They give tons of advice, insight, and relevant links. They want you to buy their books, seminars, and consulting services. But they almost never mention this, outside of some small, non-intrusive ads in their sidebars.

This is the royal road to trust, good will, and respect. Especially when it comes to social networking sites and tool communities. Think about what expertise you have that could be shared. Study these sites. Join a few of them. Watch what needs are expressed, what problems seek solutions, what questions are being asked. Then jump in and solve some of their problems.

If you gain their trust and respect, you'll probably gain some new paying customers, too! But be patient. Social media is not a "get rich quick" scheme zone.

It's more a "get trust slowly, but surely" arena. If you hang in there, and share some trivia now and then (what movies, hobbies, or music you like, for example), you'll be seen as a good member of the community, a regular guy or gal, and a source for solutions.

For example, within Twitter, some members unite in online Scrabble tournaments, and post links to social network sites devoted to various sewing and needlework activities. Other members announce upcoming technology conferences with links to the registration sites.

It's all about making friends, sharing insights, contributing content, and being a good neighbor.

The worst mistake you can make is to overtly exploit the community or pretend to be a non-commercial member of the online community, then promote products like you're an average user giving an unbiased report. The trust path is the only avenue to sustainable profits and long-term customer loyalty.

To succeed in influencing social networks, first be a good member of the community, sharing your opinions, feelings, and expertise abundantly. You’ll have fun, learn a lot from the others, and possibly be able to market your products in a supportive and interested group of potential customers.

Friday, September 21, 2007

7 rules of social media

"Universal Social Media Manifesto & Constitution", more commonly known as the unquestionable

"7 rules of social media"

#1 - All social media participants are created equal, with no A List members, and no special exemptions or considerations, not even for famous marketing authors or PR pundits.

#2 - Thou shalt nurture, protect, and preserve thy social media community, keeping it polite, or at least not too brutal or mind-boggling for newbs!

#3 - Thou shalt respect others and their contrary opinions, not self-promote exclusively, nor exploit, game, troll, be sadistic, or predatory.

#4 - Thou shalt not spam a social media community with commercial messages or pseudo-testimonial PayPerPost incentivized P2P recommendations or bashings.

#5 - All thy base-input are belong to us, the online community, to react to in whatever manner we please, for thou art contributing content to a web service provider and that is how you "pay" for your membership.

#6 - Thou shalt not allow thyself to feel anything from pixels and typed text, neither hope nor fear, neither anger nor dismay, and, armed with this sterling valor, shalt defend the community against all attack vectors, exposing and bashing frauds, abusers, and disruptors who care nothing for the goals, methods, and sensitivities of the members.

#7 - Thou shalt explain and evangelize the community in online and offline venues, crushing detractors, opposing mockers, and capturing the hearts of sincere souls unsoiled by the taints of brazen contradictors.

social media culture

If you want to move to a foreign country, for an extended business mission, or re-patriation and transfer of citizenship, you need to learn their language and culture. That is, if you truly care about the country, want to be really effective, getting along nicely with the people there. Right?

Same thing goes for social media.

"Social Media" vs. "Social Networking"

I say "social media" rather than "social networking". Social media means software, i.e. online platforms, customizable web services, that enable humans to express themselves and interact with others.

"Social" means interacting with other members of the online community.

"Media" means our self-expressions and interpersonal interactions are "mediated" by a go-between that connects us: the internet, and more specifically, the platform that sits on the web, like Twitter or Facebook.

Networking, yes, we "network", but that is a limiting term.

We network, or connect with people for personal or professional goals, but we mainly socialize and share. "Networking" has negative connotations from "network marketing" which is often just brazen attempts to game the search engines and trick people into multi-level affiliate marketing scams.

So I prefer "social media" to describe such online tool communities as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, Wikinomics, Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, Ning,, Rock You, Freebase, Tumblr, Virb, Zaadz,, Yippykaya, Campfire, GarageBand, and StumbleUpon.

Social Media = Online Tool Communities

"Tool Communities" because social media sites revolve around tools for self-expression, socializing, networking, creativity, productivity, file sharing, expertise displaying, music promotions, and peer-to-peer product recommendations.

Some members get really creative and experimental with the tools. Some "go viral" or become community leaders, web celebrities, and respected pundits. Others focus more on friendships, romance, or more subtle professional objectives.

Social media is built on web services that you use on an as needed basis. You don't have to maintain the site, though you may wish they paid more attention to member complaints and suggestions. All you do is login and use the site for whatever purpose you have in mind at the moment, or as part of a marketing or personal strategy.

You may want to meet potential lovers. Or you may seek to attract new business for your consulting services. Or you may want to rally people to support a political candidate. Perhaps you wish to drive traffic to a new blog your company designed for a client, and you think the posts at the client blog may be relevant and helpful to some in the social media community.

Self-expression vs. Socializing

Some members engage more in self-expression (and I include marketing and PR/promotions as corporate self-expression), while others participate primarily in socializing.

You'll see some members "giving out hugs", saying "good morning @username and @otherusername!", and transmitting messages based mostly on how they feel, what they're eating, where they're going (the notorious, universally loathed "airport posts"), or what they're thinking about (opinions, insights, observations, tips, questions, anger, etc.).

Other social media members will tend to transmit links to their own, or a client's, blog posts. Excessive to moderate self-promotional messages are rejected and even flamed, especially when the culprit refuses to interact with others.

Social interaction is enabled by transmitting messages directly @ another member, private Direct Message communications that only the recipient can read, group bulletins, and other means.

Social media spam is when someone uses the online community merely as a free advertising medium, or a venue for spewing offensive, disruptive, or super selfish messages in an attempt to start trouble or exploit the community.

Studying Comes Before Fully Participating

If you or your organization wish to influence, and perhaps sell products or services to, a social media community, you better study it first.

Study it from the outside a bit, then join it, but be slow to start yapping and arguing or informing the community. Slowly, delicately, try some interactions, some private messages, and see how members respond to you. Be sure to compliment, thank, and joke around, to show you're a decent and regular feller.

Don't pretend to be something you are not.

Learn the language, the style of messaging, the protocols and netiquette. Being pushy, one-way broadcasty, self-obsessed, insensitive, vulgar, fanatic, or relentlessly argumentative will cause many members to shun or condemn you and your company.

Social media culture must be understood, not only the general culture of Twitter, for example, but also for the subset of Twitter that is your Followers list, those members who receive all your tweets (Twitter messages). Your niche group will evolve and impose its own unspoken or directly stated "rules" and ways to behave.

In the microblogging, status update, link archiving realm of Twitter, you may also @ (direct a personal message) to a member who is not following you, and they'll receive all @username messages directed to them, and they may like your messages and decide to Follow you.

There's a finesse and a deep intimate awareness that must be achieved if you want to be effective in a social media community.

Most Important Rule of Social Media

The #1 Law is: Thou shalt respect others, and contrary opinions, and thou shalt not self-promote exclusively, nor shalt thou exploit, game, or troll the network for sadistic, predatory, or commercial purposes.

Controversy and debate are okay. Con artists, hate speechers, and sales bullies are despised.

Study the social media community you wish to participate in. Learn their ways. Watch who gets scolded, who drops out, who is well-liked, who is considered a jerk. Pay attention to how replies are generated, what the members consider "spamming" (too many messages per hour/day, too self-promotional, too similar to PayPerPost incentivized commercial messages, etc.).

Talk Like a Pirate Day

We had a Talk Like a Pirate Day two days ago, an internet meme that spread into Twitter. It took me half a day to pick up on it. Then I Googled it, found a Pirate Talk Glossary thing, a YouTube pirate talk tutorial, quickly mastered or made up some Pirate Talk lingo, changed my avatar to a pirate cartoon I found in Google Images, and got into the goofiness.

Not every member of Twitter was into Pirate Talk, but about half were, and we had so much fun teasing and flirting and goofing as pseudo-pirates. I messaged links to Wikipedia for "Babary Coast Pirates" and I used terms like "corsair", "kiss the gunner's daughter", "bilge-sucking", "seaweed eating", "swashbuckler", "blimey", "Davy Jones locker", and "arrrrr!"

It was good to Talk Like a Pirate for a day, as it came on the heels of some heated debates about various web celebrities and marketing tactics. It was comic relief and stress-busting. In a certain sense, we're all pirates. We plunder and pillage the mainstream media, Enronish CEOs, and deceptive marketing practices. We question, challenge, and argue against what we feel is wrong, evil, or oppressive.

Social media culture is far more important than "corporate messaging opportunities". If you see social media as just another advertising medium that follows the same old one-way broadcasting rules, you will be rejected. You'll probably cause more harm than good for your company.

Respect the social media group you want to influence. Influence it with good deeds, funny remarks, insightful tips, industry expertise, practical suggestions, relevant links to reputable sites and profound articles. Be yourself. Be real. Be altruistic.

But first: understand, appreciate, and comply with the culture.

Social media communities are virtual tribes, with tribal laws and rituals.

Monday, September 17, 2007

web analyst in a socnet

It's not easy being an active participating member of a socnet (social network).

A socnet is just an online family that you can join and unjoin or get disjoined from. So, you choose to become a member of the community, and you exhibit certain behaviors as you interact with other members, often in a variety of ways. Each socnet has its own protocols, netiquette, and consensus policies. Trouble-makers are rightly considered trolls.

But what about dissenters?

When you happen to be a web analyst, it can get tricky.

People may think you're starting fights when you're only interpreting and questioning the behavior of other members, or the social network site itself (e.g., why it refuses to listen to users, resists making suggested improvements, won't fix annoying bugs).

Web analyst in a socnet? Dour killjoy critic invades happy, silly flirty, needle nudging, digital hug distributing social media community?

That could be interesting. You make deconstructive remarks in a dry and dull tone, with no vendetta or wish to cause harm, as impersonal as possible? It still gets received as relentless flaming, your many scholarly messages explaining what's wrong with somebody else.

The other members may be startled by such open remarks. They might wish you'd go away. They were cozy and animated with joy, then you come along and upset everybody with caustic point of view and wretched perceptions. You rock the boat nauseatingly with your endless threading. You spoil the party by distributing digital gut punches, to offset inordinate digital hug prosting.

Harshing can be charming, so long as it's not directed at our heros, mentors, role models, or friends. Then we get offended and no longer wish to hear from that subversive iconoclast. We shut our minds and receptors to avoid being subjected to any more blasphemous barbs.

So a web analyst must joke around, share links to good sites discovered in ethnomethodology stagings, and just lighten up now and then, admit a fault perhaps, quote Kipling, or yak up some music band you liked a few minutes ago.

Just don't be __________ (fill in your disliked topic or tone) all the time and remember that some jokers think their Following you is some "gift" they're "bestowing" on you, and they can cruelly withdraw it at any time.

They don't want to read messages they disagree with. You're inflicting painful thoughts on them. They prefer fun and relaxation, and who can blame them?

Blogocombat can be mentally violent at times, upon rare occasions, and the digital bloodbath that can ensue makes some social media freaks disgusted, angry, or feeling like strangling you and your ugly, menacing words.

You become a vile text-generating entity, an object of scornful discourse, socnet leper, blacklister, a villain who deserves back channel, private DM (direct message) rants to subvert your fans. You're entitled to any retaliatory tactic, because you are someone who only hurts and never heals.

You're seen as a disturbance, a disappointment, a dementia.

"I'm out of time for hostile, critical, judgmental anything. Love is the killer app," is proclaimed with bright benevolence. Yes, let us love and not criticize anymore. No more questions, just harmony and support.

You're "hostile" because you're defending a social community against a warped intruder who may be trying to game, exploit, or engage in isolationist self-promotions to the members you have grown to like and respect.

Out of respect for the socnet, you, as nothing more than a lowly worm, question some seemingly invasive big shot.

You must be Blocked, Deleted, Removed, UnFriended, cast out into outer darkness to rot in your swollen karmic sewage. And darn it, maybe they're right. Or something.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

9 ways to improve your web site

Here are the most important aspects of your blog or web site, with questions and tips to help you improve it.

(1) Visual Impact: When your site hits the screen, what impact does it make? What’s the first, immediate, visual impression your site makes on new visitors?

Are the colors, graphics, and design appropriate? Does your site do a great job of presenting your company? Is it polished, personal, and pleasing to the eye? Or is it cold, amateur, generic, dull, old fashioned, ugly, unprofessional, complicated, anonymous, uninviting?

(2) Usability: Can site visitors quickly find the information they seek? Can users easily perform a task, and get the desired result? When a task is successful, do users get a confirmation message, assuring them of its completion?

What are the priority tasks that users want to perform on your site? What are the priority tasks you want users to perform on your site? How are you highlighting, explaining, and facilitating these tasks?

(3) Relevance: Do your customers or intended audience really seek what you display on your site? What needs do they have that are not being met by your site? What do your customers need to know so they can make a satisfying and appropriate product choice?

Blogs tend to dwell too much on personal feelings and experiences, with no lesson or warning to impart, no value to readers. Corporate sites can also be narcissistic and too focused on "we do this and this and this" and "we've been making this for X number of years" and "our products are top quality" and other fluff. Nobody buys it anymore.

The words "you" and "your" should push out the "we" and "our" copy in your site. Write the content from the viewpoint of how your stuff will benefit, entertain, or save money for your audience.

Not from the, what will seem selfish, viewpoint of how great your company and products are. On the web, customers are tired of the old sales bully hype pressures. They're advising each other now, peer to peer, and are turned off by old school sales strategies.

(4) Competitive Edge: How is your site differentiating you from your competitors? How many aspects of your site are based on direct customer input, suggestions, complaints? Based only on the web sites, would a typical prospect tend to choose your company, instead of competitors? What is it about your site that makes it stand out from the others?

Customers are now expecting companies to provide video, especially of news, tools, software, visually oriented services, and dynamic products whose benefits must be seen to be understood and believed. Technology, inspirational, and marketing topics are popular as audio podcasts.

How are you using, or at least linking to, video and audio on your site?

(5) Functionality: Do your online forms, tools, embedded video and audio players, site search, and other widgets work properly? Are they vulnerable to malicious attacks and spammers? Have you ever signed up for your own site’s newsletter?

(6) Link Strategy: Do you have links to substantiating or source material in your content? Do you link to reputable sites and authoritative blogs? Do you have graphic link buttons to trustworthy sites you endorse or enjoy, that quickly convey prestige-by-association for your site? While this is easy to fake, anybody can do it, still – consider adding graphic logo link badges to sites you feel are well-known, respected authorities.

You’ll drive traffic to good sites, they may reciprocate and display a link button for your site, and you’ll be saying, “I’m smart enough to know who’s smart in my field”.

Have you checked all your links lately, to ensure that they work? Only one way to be absolutely sure the URLs were typed in correctly: click them.

Links can change, unfortunately. Sometimes newspapers, magazines, and other information sites change the URL (web address) of certain pages. Often it’s the newspaper webmaster moving a story from the main page, and stashing it in an archive file. “Link rot”, i.e., web links that no longer navigate to the correct web page (generating a 404 Page Not Found error message), is very bad for site value and credibility.

(7) Credibility: Do you quote acknowledged experts outside your own company? Do you link to trade associations and trusted leaders in your field? Is your content up-to-date, free of typos and grammar mistakes? Are your claims and promotions modest and reserved, or frenzied and pushy?

Does your About page contain company history, photos and bios of key executives and customer contact personnel, and a clear explanation of what you do, make, or sell?

Do you link to sources of testimonials or endorsements?

(8) Update Frequency: Do you provide fresh content, in a news page, forum, blog, or upcoming events panel, that will make the site seem alive, with real people operating it? Or do web surfers and search engines shun your site because it seems abandoned, dead, disconnected from the dynamic, ever-growing, evolving web?

Learn from the incredible search engine boost blogs and micro-blogs like Twitter, get: keep that new content coming!

(9) Search Engine Findability: Can people find you on the web? When customers search for solutions, does your web site appear early in the search engine results? Is your site coded correctly to facilitate search engine spiders to index your site for search results pages?

Are you adding new content, with relevant keywords, to attract loyal readership and search engine indexers? Are you linking to and quoting other experts in your field? Are you writing educational, helpful, insightful articles and adding them to your site as free white papers, blog posts, or research documents?

Is your content so valuable and easy to read, that other sites link to and promote your site, thus increasing your authority value to search engines?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Steve Jobs teaches how NOT to market tech products

Steve Jobs lowered the price of an iPhone, only 10 weeks after product launch, from $500 to $300.

Backlash. Hostile emails. Harsh Twitters. Blogocombat against Jobs, Apple, iPhone.

Jobs issues an arrogant, stubborn, "Apple is Always Right, Customers are Whiners!" statement ("Open iPhone Letter") .

Choice, hard to swallow excerpts from the Steve Jobs "Open iPhone Letter" :

"After reading every one of these emails..."

"First, I am sure that we are making the correct decision to lower the price..."

"It benefits both Apple and every iPhone user to get as many new customers as possible in the iPhone 'tent'."

"This is life in the technology lane. If you always wait for the next price cut or to buy the new improved model, you'll never buy any technology product because there is always something better and less expensive on the horizon."

"...even though we are making the right decision to lower the price of iPhone, and even though the technology road is bumpy, we need to do a better job taking care of our early iPhone customers as we aggressively go after new ones with a lower price. Our early customers trusted us, and we must live up to that trust with our actions in moments like these."

A pompous, unrepentant, callous statement, guilt-tripping early adaptors for being naive, a statement that some marketing bloggers actually applaud, saying Jobs "stepped up to the plate" and "told the truth about tech marketing" (NY Times).

He did no such thing. He simply justified a pathetic act of desperation regarding a "breakthrough product" that didn't live up to sales expectations. More iPhones had to be sold. How to sell more? Lower the price! Brilliant! Er....

Early adaptors, those fanatic evangelists of Apple products who want to be the first to own new innovations, got screwed by this premature deep discount. Giving them a $100 rebate, a gift certificate that can only be used in the Apple store, amounts to about $25 in real value.

"Prices always drop eventually, get real!" is no justification for massive hype designed to sell a lot of product, at an inflated price, as fast as you can. And then, after the suckers have obtained the product and sing it's praises quite joyfully, turn against them, by offering a sweeter deal to the late arriving, less enthusiastic customers.

You're training people to NOT buy your products when first launched. The bugginess of 1.0 versions were bad enough. Apple adds insult to injury by making buggy 1.0 versions more expensive for early adaptors.

Early adaptors tend to be more vocal, connected, and combative, let's even say vengeful, than the more sluggish, passive, inarticulate masses.

You don't succeed in business by alienating, angering, and exploiting your most loyal users, your most sincere and deeply devoted customers. Make them pay a premium price, then reduce the price to bandwagon jumpers of the mass market? That's insane.

The next time you over-hype a "breakthrough" product, your sales will be slumped. Early adaptors, whom you treated like dummies, will now wait for the inevitable discount offer. Early sales figures will be lower than expected. Industry pundits will call the product launch underwhelming, a failure, or worse.

Seth Godin rewards early adaptors. As an early buyer of his book Free Prize Inside, I own the special, limited edition cereal box packaging. That's what you need to do for your fast-acting fans: give them a lower price or a special, elitist version of the product.

Treating your most loyal fans and most ecstatic customers like honored allies is the best approach.

Massive hype, quick initial sales, overblown publicity, customer shopping frenzies? That's old fashioned Silicon Valley slickee boy nonsense. It might be a good way to sell Harry Potter books and Super Bowl tickets. It's a stupid strategy for technology companies and most other businesses.

Even if Apple sales and stock prices get a bump upward, that's no measure of long-term success or ethical business practices. Alienate early adaptors, for greedy craving of quick profits, and see where it gets you.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

6 signs of a deceptive marketing expert

Con artists have web sites, and they use many tricks to fake credibility and seduce gullible visitors.

Some scams involve a person posing as a digital marketing wizard, online sales genius, or ecommerce expert. Using classic circus tricks and sophisticated influencing techniques, these "marketing experts" prey on trusting souls. Nice people, who aren't trained in detecting unscrupulous vendors of magically effective money-making schemes or miraculous solutions to their problems.

Unwary seekers of fast, easy riches may be robbed of huge amounts of slowing acquired, hard-earned cash.

Here are some warning signals that mark a "marketing expert" as a fraud to avoid.

6 Signs of a Deceptive
Online "Marketing Expert"

(1) Fake Endorsements

"Quotes" from reputable sources, like USA Today, Forbes, New York Times, or BusinessWeek, praising or at least mentioning vaguely, the expert. Impressive, right? These are all positive reviews. He really must be a #1 Authority of some sort, eh?

Look a bit closer.

There are no links to the articles quoted. Even after doing a Google search, and digging 22 pages into the search results, these alleged citations of praise do not appear.

Articles by credible, mainstream news media should appear early in a search results list, because the search engines favor such authorities. If these alleged quotes do not appear, it's because they don't exist and never did.

(2) Fake Testimonials

22 pages into the search results, and all you see are good things being said about the guy. That overwhelming bias should be the first warning that something's not right.

No legitimate companies or real people get zero complaints. Nobody gets all positive reviews. No company is perfect. So the overwhelming flattery and piles of positive hype should make you pause. Try clicking on a link and see what happens.

When you click on a link, the site is either a spin-off by the alleged expert (name dot com, ask name dot com, namemarketing dot com, etc.), or it's an affiliate, i.e. chump who bought into the expert's system, and agreed to "give back" to the expert by saying nice things, and only nice things, about him.

(3) Enforced Reciprocity

You're bullied into feeling "obligated". Your obligation is not only demanded, but specifically stated. Since the marketing wizard liar has shared his precious, fool-proof secrets with you, at an astronomically high price, you are necessarily duty-bound, as a person with a conscience, to "give back" to the expert.

After all, he had to spend far more time and money collecting and analyzing all these exotic hidden truths. He had to travel to special locations, wine and dine entrepreneurs, set up meetings with busy CEOs, prying valiantly into their deepest psyches -- to find all these great marketing ideas. Yeah. Right.

In reality, or so goes the spin he's putting on it, the expert is getting ripped off by you! The material he's providing is infinitely more valuable than the price he's charging for them. But that's okay, because sacrifice is mandatory. And now, it's your turn to sacrifice something.

You're guilt-tripped into "giving back". That means investing more money in his products, equipment, books, videos, audio seminars, and other, endless, super-success training material. Or investing in his company's stock. Or becoming a distributor.

(4) Guilt-Trip Distributorships

"You love these products, right?" the dealer/expert asks, aggressively. "You believe in them, don't you?"

You feel a trap springing up, but to be logical and honest, you reply, "Of course I do."

"Well, then, don't you want others to enjoy and benefit from them, too, along with you? Or are you selfish, concerned only for your own personal gain? If you have a heart of caring for others, you'd naturally want to bring them the benefits you're enjoying. Becoming a distributor is easy...(etc.)"

When the main point seems to be your becoming a distributor, and then your recruiting still more distributors, you've got a very fishy situation. You must be aware that most scams involve loading you with product, and psychologically coercing you, soon after becoming a customer, into becoming a dealer.

How many sales people sell you a product, then turn around and try to get you to become a sales person for it? That's not normal, and in some cases, it's not strictly ethical either.

(5) Massively Overpriced Products

Charlatans and con artists tend to inflate the prices of their products. Insanely high prices is an old trick to increase awe and expectations. They hope you're dazzled by the high prices, so that you automatically assume the products simply must be good, since they cost so much. It's called "perceived value" and it's one of the oldest scams in the world.

Books by legitimate marketing experts generally cost $25.00 to $50.00, unless the topic is extremely technical and written for top tier executives. Even then, marketing books remain on the lower end of the scale.

$800.00 is not a reasonable price for an online marketing book, nor is $5,000 a justifiable price for a set of audio CDs. 28 audio CDs on a topic seems more like brainwashing than education.

The fact that the author provides wild claims, exaggerated reasons why the stuff costs so much, basing the price on the awesome, huge amounts of money you'll make once you read and apply what you've learned. Another good reason to see this guy as a snake oil salesman. Legit experts make modest claims.

(6) Not Mentioned by Real Experts

A final test is: Do the real online marketing experts endorse, quote, or link to the guy?

If you do a little research, it's not hard to discover who the experts are.

You can start by looking at the most successful companies, and seeing who they consult. Or look at the top universities and see who they study and teach. Or then again, go to a blog by an established expert that all the other experts quote, and see who they link to and write articles about.

In marketing and sales, the genuine experts include Seth Godin, Al & Laura Ries, Jakob Nielsen, Tom Peters, Phil Kotler, Ann Handley, W. Chan Kim, Harvey McKay, John Hagel III, Clayton Christensen.

One way to determine who the experts are is to go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble web sites, and search for "online marketing", see what books are the best-selling in that topic.

Then read the industry reviews, or check the back dust-jacket cover blurbs.

Is the book favorably reviewed by the New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek, Harvard Business Review, Kellogg School of Marketing?

What individuals endorse it? CEOs of successful, well known companies? Good! Top rated university professors who teach marketing? Great! Other unknown marketing authors? Bad. Members and affiliates of his own programs? Not good.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

stalker trolls in lifecasting chat

Perverts love the internet, and their most recent rompings cluster around the slow-called "Lifecasting" of naive pretties. Not naughty cams, but just webcasting the absurdly trivial pulsing of their lives.

These live, unedited video feeds, from "hot" young ladies, attract dangerous, possibly homicidal, stalker trolls.

Stalker Trolls are perverts who seek to kidnap, rape, torture, and kill the easy prey of [preferably single and alone-living] female lifecasters.

They visit the chat rooms that are available next to the live video feed panel. This chat room is the vehicle that enables visitors to her channel to interact with her.

Some immature dorks will type in such phrases as "take your shirt off" or "tit squeeze", but what seem to be more sedate and refined chat users may have extremely sinister intentions. Female lifecasters must Kick and Ban them, or have mods (moderators) with that power, or, in the extreme case, allies who enter chat and bash the living crap out of all trolls.

These Stalker Trolls are'nt usually targets of bashing. They try to sneak under the mod radar. They're very polite, not flamers.

They ease up to the vulnerable, hopefully drunk or tipsy victim, and pry personal info from her. Her email address is easily obtained by promising to send her photos or music mp3s. Her physical address is quickly obtained by promising to send her a better webcam, or some other item the victim said she needed.

"Where is your husband?" they ask eventually, or swiftly, in a sweet and considerate, sympathetic manner, especially bold when they've seen her children on camera, and know their names.

"Because," they politely continue, "I know it's tough to raise kids without a man around..." all to pry this intimate knowledge from the unsuspecting, and fluidly confessing victim.

"Where do you live?" they ask after they determine the ex-Marine ex-husband, or child's father, is safely distant and out of the picture.

They want the woman, or the child, or both.

Stalker Trolls are shocked when confronted, they proclaim their brotherly intentions, their honorable ideals and dignified goals in merely wishing to be someone she could tell her story to, and maybe derive some mysterious therapeutic benefit from these stranger danger confession gushings.

But they intend to do great harm, abduction, and perhaps child molesting, rape, murder.

Lifecasting Chat Mods must bear this in mind, and Kick and Ban, or bash in a hateful and vicious manner, all such predators.