From the category archives:

Blog Marketing

Building an online brand and reputation

by Jason Preston on March 4, 2008

One of the beautiful tricks you can pull on the world is to use the internet to convince people that you’re an expert in something.

In ways that people do not fully realize, the internet is incredibly democratizing. In order to be an expert, you don’t need a long and thorough record participating in a given industry. You don’t need to have credentials from any particular institution.

You just need to know what you’re talking about.

Maki over at Dosh Dosh does a weekly “advice column” based on questions that get sent in by readers. This week’s article is about how to build a reputation online. The advice is geared towards a student looking to build a name in the art field, but the branding advice applies equally well to companies aiming to establish a good online reputation.

Maki breaks it down into four big steps. I’ll let you read the article for the meat and potatoes, but here’s the dressing to get your taste buds wet:

  1. Build a home base on the web.
  2. Identify and participate in the right communities.
  3. Initiate media outreach to get publicity for your brand.
  4. Create online ventures to develop your net worth.

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Blogging helps you tell authentic stories

by Jason Preston on February 12, 2008

I spent part of last night poking my nose through various books in Barnes and Noble, including All Marketers are Liars, which will probably end up being the first Seth Godin book I actually buy (I never get tired of his blog).

One of the themes that I see recurring in Seth’s writing is this idea that a good marketer will tell stories, and a better marketer will tell authentic stories.

For any given business, this is so much easier than it ever was before. Blogging as a medium conveys a different feel than a press release or a television commercial. Viral YouTube videos have an aesthetic that no prime-time spot can ever hope to emulate.

What if the Blair Witch Project had come out as a series of YouTube videos? The medium affects the content.

Remember that when you blog, you’re not crafting a reality for your docile viewers, you’re sharing your reality with other people. And that can be a powerful story.

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Get extra search traffic by tagging yourself in del.icio.us

by Jason Preston on February 7, 2008

By now it’s almost common knowledge that an unbelievably large portion of your traffic is coming from Google, followed by the rest of the search engines combined, and then finally, you have a few referrals from other sites.

One of those other search engines is actually often overlooked, because it’s search database is filled, tagged, and categorized voluntarily by everyone as they surf the web: del.icio.us.

Fred Wilson posted recently about how you can get a surprisingly large amount of traffic from del.icio.us search if your posts are being tagged on their system. Here’s the traffic chart he posted:

A VC search traffic

So make a habit of tagging your posts in del.icio.us with relevant tags, and you could see your traffic take a jump.

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Designing a blog for ROI

by Jason Preston on February 5, 2008

ProBlogger Darren Rowse says he’s got a contest going for people to win a copy of Web Design for ROI, a book that he’s been enjoying in the past few weeks.

The book is called Web Design for ROI, and I have not read it, but I know that there’s plenty of research out there showing that web (and blog) design can have very significant impact on your ROI. I would be surprised if this book turned out to be a waste of time.

The funny sound bite that turns up most often on this subject is “the uglier your site, the more money you make.” Often this can be true, and while it’s a bit baffling at time, I chalk up a lot of the revenue to mis-clicked PPC ads. If you’re not paying for your site with AdSense, you might want to look a little bit further.

When I’m sitting down to sketch out a new blog or web site layout, I always ask myself two questions before I start, and the answers guide the layout and structure of the page. I suggest you do the same with your web site, and it might just improve your ROI:

  1. Where is the user most likely to arrive at my domain?
  2. What is the most important thing for them to see on my site?

In a lot of cases the answers will be, respectively: individual blog pages, and google ads. That’s what gives rise to “ugly” sites (permalink pages plastered with ads). But in your case the answers might be “Users land on FAQ answer pages and I want them to see our accessories store.”

That right there informs your web design. Check your pages – do they make a sensible path for the user?

The contest at ProBlogger is pretty easy to enter – just go leave a comment on that post letting him know what your favorite blog design is and why. Give it a shot.

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Want more traffic for your business blog? Blog more!

by Jason Preston on June 14, 2007

Not all business blogging is about attracting a bazillion visits every day. Blogs work great as internal tools, and function just as well for 50 people as they do for 50,000.

But I think those blogs are a minority. “How do I get more traffic?” has to be the number one question in mind for a lot of business bloggers. Blogging is a get-the-word-out type of tool, after all, and having more people read it means the word is getting out and around town.

I like to tell people that there are three secrets to getting lots of blog traffic. Two of them are hard. One of them is easy.

  1. Create compelling content (hard)
  2. Get people to link to you (hard)
  3. Post more (easy)

As it so happens, number 1 begets number 2, and number 3 often begets number 1. I’ve done the research myself, and it’s almost always true (yes, yes, I know–there are always exceptions): more posts means more traffic.

Surprisingly, it’s nearly impossible to find a service that tracks a blog’s number of posts per week. Blogpulse has a beta service up, but the number of blogs in their database is incredibly small at this point. Regardless, we collected the data anyway, starting from a list of blogs we accumulated when monitoring posts about CES last January.

When you take a blog’s number of posts per week, and plot it on a graph against their Alexa rank (I know, I know, it’s flawed–but it’s the only consistent public stats tool we can use at the moment), you get a scatter plot that looks like this:

Posts vs Alexa

It may not be the clearest statistical correlation in the history of statistics, but it’s not hard to spot the upward wedge on this chart, or how every blog posting over 100 times per week is in the top tier of the Alexa ranks.

There’s a reason that Engadget averages around 25 posts every day. People only come back to the site when something new is up. And while I wouldn’t recommend posting 25 times a day to most business bloggers, two a day will get you more traffic than one.

And of course you have twice as many chances to write something compelling.

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Personality

by Jason Preston on June 6, 2007

I spent the cramped and sweaty duration of a Southwest flight between Midland, TX and Seattle, WA, reading a copy of Fast Company that I picked up at one of the numerous concourse news stands. I don’t normally read magazines cover to cover, but this is the first issue of FC that I’ve ever picked up and I was pretty impressed.

I remember a column about branding tucked somewhere in the middle that ruminated on the value of making your business a talking point.

It’s well worth a read. I guess basic idea is that it’s a lot harder to generate “buzz” about your product if your product is inherently boring.

The cool part is that having “personality” is enough to get yourself talked about. Giving out cookies at a hotel check-in counter. Or I’ve always liked the snarky copy on the side of Vitamin Water bottles.

If you want to join the ranks of talked-about companies, a blog is a great way to give your company a personality.

Remember what Scoble was able to do for Microsoft? Transforming it, for many people, from a gigantic, faceless monolith into a slightly geeky, good-humored guy you could leave a comment with. Personality! Every company should have one.

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Online Community Engagement Strategies: Mashing up Chris Pirillo and Michael Raynor

by Teresa Valdez Klein on May 9, 2007

Chris Pirillo has nine excellent points about how to do business on the Web. I’d like to expand on his first point.

Chris writes:

It’s not just about having an open mind; it’s about having an open strategy. You can’t control the Internet. Once you put something out there for the world to consume, assume that they will consume it but not just in the format you offered. It doesn’t matter if it’s audio, video, text, software, hardware or any other service—they’ll want to use it in ways that you can’t even imagine.

This is what Michael Raynor was talking about when he told PR Squared’s Todd Defren that social media injects additional uncertainty into business operations.

And it has more serious implications than the simple re-purposing of content. Businesses need to approach all aspects of social media with an open strategy. Unlike traditional marketing efforts, nobody can control the pace or subject matter of a conversation online. Each individual that participates can take any discussion or line of thought in myriad new ways.

So how does traditional goal-setting jibe with this lack of control? I think it works something like this:

  1. Set a reasonable goal for your online interaction.
  2. Listen to each individual and how the community responds to the individual.
  3. Ask intelligent questions and listen to the responses.
  4. Ask, “is my reasonable goal still reasonable?”
  5. Either adjust goals to fit community response, or take another step toward your goal.
  6. Repeat steps 2-5.

What do you guys think?

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Using New Media to Market the Oldest Media: Simon & Schuster’s Book Channel on YouTube

by Teresa Valdez Klein on May 8, 2007

To give bibliophiles a look at the people behind their favorite contemporary works, publisher Simon & Schuster plans to launch a book channel on YouTube. The channel will feature two-minute clips of the CBS-owned publisher’s bestselling authors discussing their work and their lives as authors.

Their goal here is right on. The channel is an indirect way of giving users additional content that they find useful. But I think they should focus their distribution methods more broadly than just a YouTube channel. I’d like to see them host the videos on a blog of their own making, just as popular YouTube channel LonelyGirl15 ultimately did. Also, I’d like to see the series as a video podcast on iTunes, so that I can download it onto my iPhone and watch it on the bus.

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Why a Business Blog is the Best Tool for Developing Brand Authenticity

by Teresa Valdez Klein on May 7, 2007

An excellent examination of authenticity and branding floated through my RSS reader this morning, courtesy of Fast Company. While there is no foolproof recipe for authenticity, they do a good job of breaking it down to four key elements, based on the histories of authentic, and not-so-authentic branding strategies.

As I read the article, I found myself thinking that each of these four key elements of authenticity — sense of place, point of view, serving a larger purpose, and integrity — could be well served by a business blog.

Here’s how:

  1. A sense of place. This isn’t true of all brands. I don’t think anyone really cares where Jack from the Jack in the Box commercials lives. But for some brands, a link to heritage or culture is integral to the coveted sense of authenticity. The problem is that in many cases, the sense of place is nothing but smoke and mirrors, done with varying degrees of aptitude. And as we all know, smoke and mirrors does not translate well to the blogosphere.

    That said, if a brand truly does trace its origins back to a place, a blog can help bring that place — and the brand itself — alive for people the world over. For example, Plymouth Gin which sponsored our speaker dinner after last year’s conference, would benefit from just such a strategy. It lays authentic claim to Plymouth England, where the gin has been made since 1793.

  2. A strong point of view, fits in brilliantly with the goal of a blog. Fast Company uses Martha Stewart as an example of a brand that comes across as authentic because of the presence and distinct point of view of its leading lady. Martha’s recipes “stand in the face of a world where food is mass-produced and preparation for the average dinner is measured by the number of minutes it takes to microwave the thing.”

    If point of view is the secret sauce that makes a brand tick, then blogging is an organic extension of that brand. After all, what better way to express a point of view than a daily stream of posts written from that perspective? Wells Fargo does this brilliantly with it’s “Guided by History” blog, whose writers integrate the historical with the present by telling stories from their own lives. It has nothing to do with banking, yet it extends the Wells Fargo brand perfectly.

  3. Serving a larger purpose. According to FC, brands that fall into this category include Google, which stands for progress with a “do no evil” attitude and Whole Foods, which stands for a gourmet, organic lifestyle. Both are about more than just making money.

    If your goal for your brand is to explain the larger context in which your company makes the world a better place, then a blog can accomplish this. Just look at how General Electric has expanded its vision of innovation with its Global Research Blog. Recent topics include everything from statistical modeling and the HIV epidemic to what GE is doing with thermal science.

  4. Integrity McDonald’s used to take a defensive approach to its image as a destroyer of the environment. It even went so far as to sue Julia Hailes the author of a book about green living because she implicated them in the destruction of the rainforest.

    But McDonald’s realized quickly that if the brand said one thing while the company did another, people would no longer trust them. Today, Ms. Hailes’ criticisms are openly welcomed at McDonald’s corporate events. The company has extended this growing sense of environmental and social responsibility with its corporate social responsibility blog, where the brand’s integrity is put on full display.

Authenticity has growing cachet in marketing, and so should blogging. Because the single best way to seem authentic is to be authentic. Why fake it when you can do the real thing?

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The Difference Between Viral and Community Marketing

by Teresa Valdez Klein on March 6, 2007

Jeremiah Owyang makes a very astute observation when he points out the difference between creating a flash in the pan viral video and a long-term online community:

Many marketers want to ‘make their mark’ on the world and create such a viral video but let’s be honest the successful ones are few and far in between. I would be so bold to suggest that the best viral videos are rarely corporate created either, so let’s stop trying to do something unattainable.

Think long term, build out tools and programs that let product teams have ongoing dialogues with real customers and prospects to build better products.

It’s like the difference between a passionate fling and a stable, happy 20-year marriage. The fling can feel a lot more powerful, but you have to ask yourself what matters more?

So how do you build a long-term, stable community around your brand? You blog about what your customers care about, or you hire us to do it for you.

And no, this entire post was not written just so I could plug our consulting services. Jeremiah kicks ass!

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