Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Greater Good

As marketers, we most often use messaging and awareness to help drive sales. The focus on the bottom line and shareholder value leads the more progressive marketers to explore such vehicles as blogging, podcasts and video to engage customers, employees and CEO’s in effort to create a so-called community to build the brand which ultimately lead to…sales. Viral communication: an honest attempt to connect to the customer, or another form of Jedi mind trickery by corporations to get into consumer pockets?

The line between good and evil for corporations is blurred. And so begins my search. First stop on the quest to find “good” lead me to disaster and relief organizations (The Red Cross, FEMA and Aidmatrix). The American people had a lot to say about FEMA response to 2005 Hurricane Katrina. But aside from public statement in news and print, what did FEMA have to say for themselves? I was surprised to find two years later that while FEMA had a blog FEMA blog, the sole post was on the history and purposed of blogging. What a waste of space. While large corporations are blogging about their customer value and new product offering, more cause-worthy organizations are silent.

My angst and concern was to put ease when I came across the Aidmatrix blog. Communication on this blog is posted monthly and provides information on Aidmatrix contribution to disaster relief, warning about upcoming storm seasons, promotion to all the disaster relief organizations in America and the opportunity to click on a link and provide comment and feedback to the blogger. Aidmatrix does it right. Not only is the blog written in a personal voice but the link is prominently displayed on the Aidmatrix home page.

In cynical times and instant information age, it’s surprising that more non-profits are not using blogs as an insightful and inexpensive tool to gather information from customers as well as provide feedback on organization initiatives.

Assignment: Are there other non-profits who use viral marketing for the greater good?

BEHOLD THE POWER OF BLOG

The last time you heard from me, I gave you and assignment. I threw out a desperate plea for help getting my computer fixed. But I never thought anyone was listening.

Turns out I was wrong.

For those of you who haven’t followed my customer service saga, I posted an entry expressing my frustration about Lenovo’s warranty fulfillment. My 24 hour service repair had turned into two weeks of Lenovo runaround, and one huge headache.

However, within 24 hours of posting blog entry, I received a comment with the direct phone number of the VP of Web Marketing for Lenovo. I called him, a Lenovo Account Representative in my region was quick to follow-up, and immediately a team was dispatched. Yesterday a Lenovo rep drove from GreenBay, WI to Chicago, IL yesterday to personally deliver a new machine (with upgrades!). Not only did he meet me, but so did a representative from CDW, the company who originally sold me my laptop.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. Let me start by saying I HATE contrived viral marketing. I mean, had I suspected that either company expected me to post a blog about this experience I would have dug my heels into cyberspace and resisted every attempt. I mean, everyone knows you can’t nominate yourself for employee of the month.

But they didn’t. And I have never experienced such a quick customer response and such integrated corporate communications. The fact that they found me, communicated with each other, and solved the problem immediately was impressive. I was so blown away, in fact, that I couldn’t help but repeat the story to everyone I saw on Monday. The way I told it, Lenovo had swept in from cyberspace to save the day. I told my professors, my classmates, my family, and even that random undergrad in the cafeteria who was behind me at the register. Sorry to talk your ear off, young freshman. But someday, you’ll find yourself on the losing side of a customer service relationship, and when it does, you’ll thank that grad student who explained the Power of Blog.

And maybe, by the time it happens to him, customers won’t turn to the internet to get connected to a person who can help. Ideal, but doubtful.

Ironically, today is the last day of the Assignment. While we will continue to post our thoughts here, our class work is done. The object was to study the impact of blogs on corporations, and the purpose they serve for today’s consumer.

I’ve learned something, have you?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Top Ten Ways to Ruin Your Podcast

#10 - Name your podcast “Sometimes I like to think out loud and record myself”

#9 - Be the seven-layer dip of podcasts

#8 - Practice your used cars salesman impression

#7 - The only measuring you ever do is with your ruler

#6 - Just like the rules of dating, keep your listeners guessing

#5 - Look a gift horse in the mouth

#4 - Assume listening to your podcast is the only thing your audience has to do all day

#3 - Link your podcast to your grandmother's blog…only your grandmother's blog

#2 - Record your podcast on the El

#1 - Speak to Kellogg marketing listeners about customer-centric organizations

CEO and employee blogs: Who reads them?

Recently JetBlue’s founder David Neeleman stepped down from his post as chief executive officer, and (among other things) people want to know whether the new CEO David Barger will blog. Okay, maybe it’s just me—various class projects have me drowning in the travel industry lately.

I heard Neeleman speak at Northwestern University several weeks ago. Given his candor (maybe a little too much candor) that day and his heavy involvement in the company, I wasn’t surprised to find that Neeleman was one of only a handful of CEOs who blogged. His past entries announce JetBlue’s new service routes and the extra four inches of leg room on their A320 aircrafts. That’s nice but as a consumer would I read a CEO blog regularly for this type of information?

For one of my classes, I read a best practices case on Southwest Airlines. Given its dedicated employees who are supported by a strong corporate culture, which values FUN and LUV, I wasn’t surprised to find that Southwest has an employee blog. It looks like any employee can post an entry. I browsed through the blog and found entries from reservation agents, flight attendants and captains, marketing managers, culture activities reps and the manager of customer communications. The “Nuts about Southwest” blog is certainly a great way for employees to spread FUN and LUV throughout the organization.

One of my colleagues, Valerie Viral, suggested that I write something about my search for a CEO blog and employee blog. So here goes. I started with Sun Microsystems (because everyone praises it). Its CEO Jonathan Schwartz has a blog (which is pretty good and honest—it’s clear that he’s writing it, not the director of corporate communications—and it's available in 11 languages!) and more than 3,000 of its employees blog. But I couldn’t be bothered to read it. I figure it’s because I’m not one of their customers nor do I have much tech knowledge. So given my background in PR, I tried reading Richard Edelman’s blog, but I couldn’t be bothered to read that one either.

Who reads corporate blogs? (Other than students like me who are trying to do class projects.) If the organization where I worked had a blog, I’d probably read it regularly. But as a consumer I don’t think I would—actually I know I don’t. However, I might actively search for a CEO or employee blog when a company experiences a crisis. That’s when I’d want an opinion straight from the company.

Corporate blogs—whether written by the CEO or multiple employees—are great internal communications tools. They should replace the company newsletter. They’re also great tools to reach reporters who browse blogs for story ideas. I guess it means less work for your PR reps.

So should JetBlue’s new CEO blog? Or should it start an employees blog? That’s your assignment!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Inevitably, Wal Mart shows up (but only briefly)

Ever since blogging hit the scene companies of all types have been struggling with ways to capitalize on their appeal without infringing on the integrity that makes them popular. This has proven to be a tricky conundrum as the WalMart/Edelman scandal debacle proved. It would seem the public holds bloggers to stricter ethical standards than they do “legitimate” news and information organizations, even though these depend on advertisement dollars to subsist. Well, recently I found a strategy that aims to monetize the blog explosion in a model that, in theory, benefits both advertisers and bloggers.

The name of the company is Pay per Post and they promise to do just this, they pay bloggers to post about companies and products. Their business model depends on linking advertisers and bloggers in the same way that ad-sense hooks up publishers and advertisers. Using PayPerPost.com advertisers create an "opportunity" for bloggers. That opportunity, along with opportunities from other advertisers, appears on a searchable index displayed to PayPerPost bloggers. The bloggers review the requirements for the opportunities along with the amount offered by the advertiser (up to $20 per post) for blogging about the topic. The blogger writes about the opportunity, PayPerPost.com staff review the content and the blogger is paid upon completing the terms of the agreement. Founder Ted Murphy was quoted as saying:

"Media companies and celebrities have been compensated for endorsement and product placement for years. Finally bloggers will be compensated for all the traffic and sales they generate when they blog about products and companies."

I think that just as is the case with product placement, a blogger that enters this system will be jeopardizing the integrity of the medium. But, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, in the world of blogging this can be an unforgivable transgression.

Still, as you can see from the video on this page, there is definitely space for freedom of expression in these early posts. Also, it is entirely possible that, as we do with TV, quality and production value will dictate our tolerance of advertising in our entertainment. This is what advertisers who post on YouTube are betting on.

The other big issue, patent in the WalMart case, is that readers are probably more put off by the deception, than by reading something someone was paid to write. To head this off Pay per Post has come up with a “disclosure badge.” The badges—a small graphic appearing directly in blog postings created by the company's participating Consumer Content Creators—allow readers to not only see who is sponsoring the content, but also to benefit from links and other information provided by the sponsor.

It will be interesting to see how long it is before the democratic nature of blogging gives way to the oligarchic models of modern mass media just as Radio did and TV never got a chance to do.

Your Assignment: Become a Pay per Post Blogger and push the envelope… how far can you go and still get paid?


P.S. A small collection of nagging thoughts:

Every day hundreds, if not thousands, of advertising impacts bombard the average person. This is annoying, ugly and, most relevant to this particular discussion, demeaning.

Through products like DVR's and Firefox extensions that allow users to eliminate advertising from the internet, consumers are pushing back.

I propose a new terminology: customer dignity.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary dignity is "The quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect." As marketers we usually listen to these words and think: "how do I make my customers think I respect them?"

Maybe we should be thinking "How do I develop mutual respect between my customer and me?"


I believe products like Tivo should be an aberration. Whole industries have cropped up dedicated to help us avoid advertising, what message does this send? It seems consumers have been slowly pushed to their limits in terms of when, how and especially why companies communicate with them.


We have convinced ourselves that if our messages are relevant then we are somehow avoiding the reason people want to skip ads. I think we are minimizing a negative effect, we are leaving less of a footprint. We haven't solved the real issue.


I believe consumers have an underlying feeling of injustice, a dirty feeling from the branded life we live in.


The Masters Golf Tournament is a marketing anomaly. During coverage CBS broadcasts only 6 minutes of advertising for every hour of programming.This is caring about customers in real and tangible way.


Shouldn't cable TV have less advertisement than network TV? In theory I'm paying a subscription right? Only the movie channels truly embody the idea of cable TV and they are the only people who are actually growing their audience.


We can, and probably will, find an infinite number of empty spaces to fill with a sales pitch; I don't believe this means we should. Don't try to sell me every opportunity you get, I will stop listening to you and, if you push it, stop buying from you.


Should advertisers be concentrating, as I know them to be, on how to circumvent Tivo, or should they consider why DVR's exist at all? I believe if they figure out the latter they could take an important step towards achieving one of the most important competitive advantages out there, loyalty.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I AM CUSTOMER: HEAR ME ROAR!


I am the sad, frustrated and betrayed owner of a Lenovo Thinkpad.

On May 2, nine months after purchasing the shiny behemoth laptop, the lights went out. The screen went blank. Since I have a next-business- day repair service warranty for the computer, I didn’t think much of it. As a graduate student I am dependant on my laptop, but I could tough it out one day.

But here we are, 10 days later and I write this from a borrowed Mac.

I have placed 14 calls to customer service, spoken to 5 customer services reps and spent a cumulative 4 hours and 15 minutes on the phone, 74 of which were spent on hold. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have those 4 hours and 15 minutes back , BUT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SOMEONE JUST TAKE BACK THIS LENOVO!

Now, I wouldn’t normally do this—just spill this frustration out like this. But then, this IS my second blog. And what’s a little dish among friends?

Apparently a lot.

I finally called the company I purchased the computer through, CDW, to see if they could help. In my last, desperate attempt at a resolution I found myself blurting out “You’ve GOT to help me. I HAVE A BLOG!” Suddenly there was silence. I heard keys clicking in the background. Then I was told the call had been escalated to “critical” and that the situation would be resolved on Monday.

I had laid down the ultimate customer trump card without even knowing it. I threatened the four-letter-word that makes most corporations cringe: B-L-O-G.

Just as customers can praise the merits of their favorite products and services through blogs, negative viral can lead to a brand’s demise. Sites like www.my3cents.com have sprung up everywhere, allowing customers to complain, and tarnish brand reputations, overnight.

Maybe CDW had a flashback to perhaps the most infamous example of the power of negative viral: the demise of Dell. When Jeff Jarvis blogged about his negative experience, the company ignored his complaint, but thousands of frustrated customers did not.

It’s all about crowd management. There is no such thing as a “lone consumer.” I may look like one person to the customer representative at Lenovo, but I’m not. Like everyone else on the Web, I am networked.

But even Dell learned that backlash blogging can be valuable in its own right. Since the birth of “Dell Hell” the company has changed its attitude towards bloggers. As Jarvis says on his own blog, “bloggers tend to state their problems clearly, which makes it easier (and, I assume, more efficient) to solve them. A problem solved is not only a customer likely to be saved, but also often leads to good PR and branding as the bloggers recount their happy endings.”

In order to track viral, many companies are turning to “search engine reputation.” In his recent post, ClickZ expert Erik Daffom discusses the merits of monitoring “search engine reputation" (SERP), which he defines as the sum feeling a user takes away after querying a search engine for a company's name, product, or representative, regardless of whether the user actually clicks on any results. Viewing negative search results and and consumer rants erodes brand perception.

In order to track what is going on with your brand in the vast abyss of cyberspace many have turned to Google Alerts. The alert lets you know immediately when your name or company is discussed online. You can tag key words such as your company name, company URL and the names of key executives.

This way you can find unhappy customers like me.


Levono: you've been alerted!

ASSIGNMENT: Help me get my computer fixed!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Do You Watch or Do You Do?

Forrester’s recent Social Technographics study provides an illuminating snapshot into what motivates online users. It’s easy to see why this has direct implications to the importance of blogs and the viral impact they have when it comes to companies that seek to promote ideas, products and/or services.

The Forrester Report segments the online audience into different strata termed a “ladder of participation” with rungs at the top end of the ladder representing a higher level of participation. To my surprise, "Inactives" are by far the dominant group (52%). They're followed by Spectators, Joiners, Collectors, Critics and lastly Creators.

Personally, I suppose I have been slowly climbing the ladder—which is odd since I am definitely and elevator or escalator kind of gal. However, with the conception of “The Assignment” it seems that I have finally made it to the top, the desirable 13% of US online adult consumers who are "Creators" meaning that I have “posted to a blog, updated a Web page, or uploaded video they created within the last month.”

Like in Chutes and Ladders, I think I fall through the “Critic” and “Collector” rung, I don’t really post reviews or tag anything. And only because I enjoy keeping in touch with my International friends, did I opt to join any social networks—I’ll admit I don’t have a MySpace page and I am proud of it. I must confess to reading reviews fanatically though, as well as a set staple of blogs for fun and for education everyday, and I am starting to enjoy You Tube a whole lot more. Yes, I am spend most of my precious free time firmly planted as a “Spectator” and I can’t get enough.

This chart above really delves into people’s true level of engagement with the web and subsequently its impact on PR and marketing. Considering all the articles out there about social networking sites and the rate at which blogs seem to grow and the importance of quick adaptation, perhaps we have all been too concerned over the smallest part of the ladder? This report seems to contradict everything we’ve heard lately and illustrates that the largest part of the ladder is comprised of who have no desire to participate.

Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s recently published report has very important implications for corporations that are turning online messaging merely into a to-do list of technologies, and checking list items off one-by-one—including blogging, regardless of the audience it reaches or doesn’t reach. For many companies, the approach seems to have been to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

It’s the “what’s hot?” approach. If corporate blogging is mentioned as the latest thing, a slew of new corporate blogs appears. Product placement remains key, but now it’s how to get a popular blogger to mention it and then hope, fingers crossed, that it catches on. And companies seem to be excusing themselves, since we’ve heard time and again, online is the perfect market to test. I don’t believe that just because testing is available and easier to implement and there are emerging measures, try everything.

I believe that the key is to apply the IMC customer focus—focus on your audience and develop the right kind of communication strategy towards your core online customer depending on what you discover. STP (segment, targeting and positioning) is key, especially in an online environment. Send the right message the right way to the right target customer. If you do anything but, it may end up costing you your business and you won’t even know why. In addition to figuring out which social strategies to use first, Li suggests that the next logical step is to encourage your user to “climb up,” from being a “Spectator” to becoming more engaged.

Assignment: What about you? Where do you fall on the “Ladder of Participation”?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Blog into $$$

It’s no secret to the young music, art, fashion creator that the road to fame and exposure in today’s marketplace begins online. Serious creators reach out to fans and gain new fans on popular social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook), perform on video sharing sites (YouTube), and may even have their own website and blog. The online world generates an organic muse to keep the undiscovered creative, representative of “the people” and true to their art. I love the starving artist. But as I sit day in and day out figuring out how to create shareholder value and ROI, I can’t help but wonder…when does the starving artist get their piece of the pie? My heart aches for the artist who has the loyal following, more marketing savvy than YUM! Brands, and yet is forced to only make cents on the dollar.


So I surfed. And after diligently “researching” my favorite blogs (check out Fashionation and Notes from a Different Kitchen) I realized that while the artists were getting great free press, advertisement and exposure there is no measurement to determine if the awareness translates to sales. I decided my assignment is: Help the artist make money.

Here is my 5-step plan for the next big thing to be a trendsetter and measure revenue.

Step 1: Find your biggest advocate. There’s a ton of people out there using YOUR brand to affirm THEIR in-the-know trend status. Let them work for you(they already are!) by maintaining your blog.

Step 2: Give them the inside scoop. Don’t forget about your customer (aka fans). They want to know all about you and how you relate to them. You want to hear from them. They’ll love endorsing your latest creation.

Step 3: Be vehemently viral. Go all out! Put links to your YouTube fashion show, MySpace link, Second Life store, etc. on your blog page.

Step 4: Be exclusive. Here you go, this is the test. SELL exclusive creations only through your blog. These limited creations will not only generate the buzz you crave, but now you’ll be able to measure exactly how much of your online traffic generates sales.

Step 5: Evaluate. Use the blogs sales as a metric to determine what percent of unique hits to the blog resulted in purchase of exclusive content and determine if buzz-building impact overall sales.

Voila!

Assignment: Evaluate my and share your step-by-step plan to measure buzz .

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Corporate blog or flog: Can you measure it?

As a public relations professional in a former life, I can understand the sentiment that “blogs are like PR – you know there is a benefit but it can be tricky to quantify it,” as Charlene Li of Forrester describes blog measurement.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase: PR is an art, not a science and therefore you can’t measure it. And then I was told to calculate (meaningless) impressions. Is it 2.5 times the circulation for newspapers? But we can round up to 25, right? Ha. Blogs have value (as does PR), but unless you can show a return on investment few businesses will post them.

Here are a few ways a company could benefit from having a blog:

  • increased brand awareness
  • increased web site traffic
  • improved search-engine ranking
  • establish authority on a topic
  • a free focus group/a pulse on your customers
  • potential for press coverage

As I’ve learned in my IMC classes, measurement starts with setting your goals, defining metrics—either absolute or proxy measures—that will tell you whether or not you accomplished what you set out to do, and finally turning your insights into actions. Remember that measures are just information. What matters is how you use that information to make decisions.

So what about ROI in dollars? Well, all you have to do is assign a dollar value to your metrics. What’s the cost of search engine optimization and paid search programs? How much would a traditional focus group cost? How much would it cost to hire a PR firm to generate publicity for you?

In scouring the web for examples of good corporate blogs, I found that GM and Sun Microsystems are often cited. In fact there’s a Forrester case study on the ROI of GM’s FastLane Blog. According to the blogger’s choice awards, Googleblog.Blogspot.com, Blogsouthwest.com and Inspiredprotagonist.com are the best corporate blogs. Maybe you have better examples.

So should all corporations have a blog? Not necessarily. You need a purpose, and it shouldn’t be self-promotion or direct-selling. You have to have something to say—a reason for people to read your blog. And the ones that get read are not written in “corporate speak.”

Whatever you do, just don’t create a “flog”—a fake blog. Wal-Mart tried to do this with “Wal-Marting Across America,” which chronicled the travels of a couple who drove their RV cross country, stopped in Wal-Mart parking lots and sang the praises of Wal-Mart’s low prices and wide selection of organic foods. It was soon exposed as a promotional tactic created by Edelman, Wal-Mart’s public relations firm.

I’m sure there’s more—well, there’d better be more since I found a $695 eMarketer report and a couple of Forrester research studies on blog measurement. But I’m not about to spend that kind of money to tell you about it.

Assignment: Which corporate blogs are successful and which ones are all about self-promotion?

Friday, May 4, 2007

If I told you to jump off a bridge…

There are certain universal truths everybody clings to. We all know the grass is always greener, we know ketchup makes everything taste better and we absolutely know we won’t jump off that proverbial bridge… right? Well, one Stephen Tyrone Colbert (pronounced Cole-bare) has made me hesitate about that last one.

Stephen Colbert, for those of you who don’t know him, hosts a fake news show in the tradition of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Colbert portrays an ultra right-wing political pundit, cast in the image of Bill “Poppa Bear” O’Reilly, who “thinks” with his gut and considers “book” a dirty word. This Northwestern alum gained fame as a phlegmatic correspondent on the Daily Show but didn’t hit the big time until he got his own show, the Colbert Report (pronounced rapport). His controversial satire and pointed political humor landed him at last year’s foreign correspondent’s dinner, where he ignited supporters and critics alike by giving the president a more than stern talking-to. But what makes Colbert a really interesting case study for us marketing folks is his ability to mobilize millions of his minions through various web-based guerrilla initiatives.


First there was the Green Screen Challenge. Through his show Colbert invited viewers to manipulate a video in which he appears wielding a light-saber in front of a green screen.
This stunt was so popular that it spawned a copy by pop group The Decembrists and thousands of video submissions to YouTube. Still, the six figure entries to this challenge pale in comparison to the response he got for his next prank.


In 2006 the would-be Jedi instructed viewers to participate in a poll to name a bridge in Hungary.
Participants where instructed to enter the voting page of the Hungarian Government and nominate the name “Stephen Colbert Hid” (“Hid” is “bridge” in Hungarian.) Colbert amassed an impressive 17 million votes in two weeks, defeating his closest rival, Miklós Zrínyi Hid, by 15 million votes.


The most recent display of Colbert’s mass muscle came a few weeks ago when he urged his viewers to plant a Google bomb.A
Google bomb is an attempt to influence the ranking of a given page in results returned by the Google search engine. Because of the way that Google's algorithm works, a page will be ranked higher if the sites that link to that page use consistent anchor text. A Google bomb is created if a large number of sites link this way. In his April 17 show, Colbert urged his “nation” to make him the top result when “greatest living American” was queried in Google. Two days later his wish came true. As of this posting, Colbert’s home page is the No. 1 result for “greatest living American” as well as for “giant brass balls.”


Colbert, through his internet pranks, has demonstrated various of the most important concepts of viral marketing and blogs.
The green screen challenge is a wonderful example of user generated content and user empowerment. The Google bomb shows that web optimization should be an integral part of online marketing. And his bridge initiative which was disseminated through blogs across the world, speaks to the power of advocacy in a digital environment. Still, the most important lesson is the success of integration between main stream media (TV) and online marketing to create an emotional link between your brand and users.

So, would I jump off the bridge? You betcha! As long as it’s Stephen Colbert Hid…

Assignment: get the Colbert nation to read this post, we need the traffic!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

My First Time

WARNING: Before you read this, I have a confession to make. And it’s not easy…

I am a virgin blogger.

This is the first time I’ve waded into virtual words, and to be honest, I’m a little nervous. So, to get ready for my first posting, I did some research to figure out what makes a good blog. How is it done? Will I be good? What are other people doing? So I did a quick search of top ranked blogs on Technorati. And based on these top ranked search results, I think I'm onto you. And to be honest, I'm a little surprised.


Turns out, you're looking for the Shower Octopus.


And I can't blame you. An octopus, people. In the shower. We're not talking just one bottle hanging from your showerhead, but eight. Imagine! You must be, apparently, because Gizmodo.com, who brought me the Shower Octopus, is the number 3 ranked blog on Technorati.

shower-octopus.jpg

But let's be honest. This isn't the first blog you've read. You know better than I do that it gets better than having three shampoos, two conditioners and three shower gels hovering at eye level in the shower.

That's right. You heard me. There is the phone in the flashlight! I found a phone another one of the most talked about new gadgets on the blog. This Japanese gizmo from Willcom runs on flashlight batteries and has no screen and can be used in the case of an emergency... Like if you're in the shower and your octopus runs out of shampoo and shower gel at the same time.

And then, in my blog wanderings, I met Mark. Hi Mark. I like your glove. He was brought to me by the Blog Squad, an entire squad dedicated to building business blogs. They helped him boost his golf business by launching his blog. Mark writes, “ My blog has been the single best action I have taken in the way of marketing for my company and myself. I estimate that traffic has increased to my by 50% and have seen over $250,000 of new business come in just from people reading the blog and gaining confidence in dealing with my Thailand golf travel company.”

And then it hit me. From Shower Octopi, to flashlight phones, to my new buddy Mark—there is great power in Blog. I mean, if I can discover these gems in my first foray into the blogosphere, it's no wonder it's being harvested for marketing potential.

I hope this exploration was as good for you as it was for me. Thanks for reading. I have to go now--my flashlight is ringing.

Your assignment: What products have you seen on blogs that deserve their buzz?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Are You an H-O-T-T-I-E?

When there is up-to-the-moment information out “there” about Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan and numerous other celebrities, entertainment blogs become a vital source of information—so much so that clicking the refresh button during class or work becomes a necessity versus a propriety violation.

On Friday, April 27, 2007 the Medill Integrated Marketing Communications Professional Speakers Series hosted Richard Weiner, author, columnist and public relations expert. Richard Weiner is the author of Webster's New World Dictionary of Media and Communications, which was a Library Journal "Best Reference Book of the Year." He spoke to attendees (which also included some rather enthusiastic Cabbage Patch Kids uber-fans) about the business of media as well as the impact of blogs and their ability to distribute information through one of the Internet’s most often searched topics—entertainment.

The most striking point that Weiner made was that during our meeting hundreds of new blogs had been created (Possibly even including this one!). Weiner said that most blogs start as online diaries—secrets about each individual that they choose to share with the world.

Then there are “hot” blogs. Blogs that are so highly viewed that they are considered bona-fide “superstars.” Many of these jewels are celebrity gossip websites, which reveal secrets not about the authors of a blog, but secrets about the stars, like TMZ.com.

The problem that sometimes arises with these websites is that the information written is unverified. Readers consume and devour these rumors and then immediately pass it on by word of mouth or by sending a link to their friends and cubicle neighbors (behold, the power of viral marketing). Before you know it, it’s on that night’s ET or Access Hollywood, and through the power of repetition what was once rumor is now being reported as FACT.

In quite a few of our IMC classes we’ve talked about the importance of looking to see “where the money is.” So let’s take a moment and take a closer look at these entertainment blogs and whose interests they are serving. While authors of websites like PerezHilton.com may face constant lawsuits, few, if any, are shutting down as a result. They are a legitimate money-making machine for the bloggers, advertisers and for PR firms. First, advertisers are catching on to the potential gold-mine these websites represent—the amount of daily traffic is staggering. And while those in PR are often desperately doing damage control when online gossip websites get hold of their client’s latest wrongdoings, those same PR firms can definitely use the viral power of blogs to promote their client as well. In both cases, the PR firm makes $$$.

In fact, Weiner mentioned that the same concept could be applied to products and services. He went on to say that in this digital age, it is entirely possible for a product or a service to within days, become made or unmade.

So today’s assignment is an easy one. What’s the latest product or service that you think benefited most or benefited least from a blogger’s scrutiny?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Welcome

Welcome to the blog. Here you will find our thoughts and opinions on the world of viral marketing and the role of bloggers and blogging in this explosion. We hope to hear from you!