Although everywhere I turn people want to tell me about how mainstream Twitter use has become, I still beg to differ. While some really neat business applications have been uncovered, it’s still kind of like a hurricane or Swine Flu: getting all of the headlines because it’s such great media fodder. The question becomes, what happens to Twitter when it drops from the headlines and people are no longer interested in Ashton Kutcher? Will it ever reach the adoption rates of say blogging? Will the CDC be able to hold the attention of the 6000+ followers currently signing up by the hour to follow H1N1?
eMarketer.com reports that 14% of US Internet users update their blog at least once per month but more importantly 48% read a bloggers each month. So the next time someone questions the value of time you’re investing in social media with the common poke, “yeah but who’s reading it?” share with them a few of the top line results from this report.
I read with interest a recent article in the New York Times about a giant faux pas on the part of Target. It seems that Amy Jussel, who blogs on the site called Shaping Youth, was told by Target that they didn’t have time for non-traditional media and therefore would not make themselves available to respond her inquiry about a recent ad campaign.
I’m sorry but when did Target become in charge of deciding which members of the media were important which ones weren’t? As far as I’m aware, there is not guide that lists all of the traditional media nor is there a memebership organization or clan that you can join. But I’m being petty.
The more important point here is that this blogger contacted a major household brand (and one of my favorite places to shop) and was told to buzz off. So she wrote about it, as all good bloggers do, and she got picked up by the NYT. Last time I checked, the NYT was a major media outlet and so now because Target couldn’t make time for what they perceived as the little guys, they’ve gotten some ugly PR in the biz section of the NYT.
My point here is not to complain about Target (ok, maybe it is), but to point out the significance of some of the really insignificant things that you do. Every audience has the ability to play a really important part of your PR and media strategy. Businesses who decline to pay attention end up with egg on their face. Businesses who actively engage the blogosphere (and other so-called non-traditional and minor media) may work their way to the front page of the NYT without the help of a humongous Target-sized PR budget.
The conclusion? Make time for the little guys; treat them all as equal players in your PR and media relations strategy. It all adds up.
It took an article in the New York Times to bring to my attention a book that I should have found on my own had I been able to spend more time at Barnes & Noble lately: Aliza Sherman Risdahl, author of “The Everything Blogging Book” (Adams Media 2006). If you are reading this entry you’ve already then you’ve probably already bought into most of what she shares in the book (I haven’t actually read it so please let me know if I shoud pick up a copy).
In her interview with the NYT reporter, she explains that although blogging takes a lot of time, the most obvious candidates for blogging are consultants because“they are experts in their fields and are in the business of telling people what to do.”
The point she is making here is one of credibility. If you are in the business of delivering a service instead of a product that consumers can touch and feel, it is often difficult to communicate your value. Risdahl is encouraging you to use blogging as one of the instruments you use to overcoming that obstacle.
Of course if American Express is correct and only 5% of businesses with fewer than 100 employees have a blog, then it seems to me (but not all of the experts interviewed for the NYT story) that there is huge upside for businesses who market to small and medium size businesses in sharing some of what they know in a blog. Most of my professional service provider clients have fewer thatn 100 employees (and most fewer than 5) so let’s do the math here: 95% of your competition isn’t using blogging as a marketing tool.
I totally get that you are a busy and responsible professional and don’t want to take on a task that you cannot perform well. So don’t start your own blog (yet) but start reading AND contributing now. Quickly you’ll be closing the gap on those other 95%.
Hold on tight. That breeze you are feeling is being created by the thousands of people leaving the subscriber rolls of traditional dailies as they start using aggregators and tools like Google News to select and identify their own news. No longer content to let the Associated Press and the New York Times define what is newsworthy, these individuals are heading straight to the web. With RSS they can pull your news releases directly into their mailbox or reader and respond to or publish your news faster than any major communications company has ever been able to put things on a printed page. These so-called citizen journalists are the powerful force behind the growing blogosphere.
Having felt the changing winds of social media while working in a Web 2.0 world, business owners and PR professionals alike are feeling pressured to respond. But I’m finding that more often than not these same pros are faced with some level of uncertainty as to how and where to get their feet wet. When I bring up the subject of blogging with clients and prospects most respond that they don’t have time for that level of commitment or lack something to say. My friend Sherry Heyl, founder of Empowering Concepts and social media consultant extraordinaire, is quick to point out that the one doesn’t need a blog to contribute to the blogosphere. Instead, she has helped me explain to my clients the value of participation.
Just today I rec’d a link to an article from a client that was spot on his message. “How can we take advantage of this?” he asked. We could certainly compose a similarly-subjected press release but as the stats in the reports were already old news the immediate opportunity for him was simply to comment on the post, thereby sharing his expertise with an already-interested market and possibly cultivating a relationship with the authority who had published the piece. The value in that relationship? This new media reporter might reach out to my client in the future as “a subject matter expert” or better yet, allow him to appear as a “guest columnist.” Suddenly my client who didn’t have time for social media has recognized “participation” as his gateway.
I found one! Several months ago I mentioned my interest in businesses using blogging applications as a host for their on-line newsrooms as opposed to the CMS tool that they are using for the rest of the website. I immediately ran into some push-back from social media purists who were concerned about abuse of the technology, from web designers who were confused about why I would introduce another tool and from clients who thought I was telling them that they were going to create a blog.
Once I had this audience reassured of my pure intent, I still had a hard time uncovering live examples of my idea. But today I had coffee (tea actually) with a graphic designer who showed me his newsroom and guess what? He’s using wordpress! I was thrilled to find someone else embracing this concept and while I think there is still room for improvement (I sent him to the SHIFT presentation for ideas), I wanted to point you to his efforts and see how seamlessly he’s been able to integrate his newsroom with his website.
Shortly after I left Microsoft a few alumni friends introduced me to LinkedIn. I didn’t really understand it to begin with and have to admit that I have not taken full advantage of the opportunities that it presents. But over time as I periodically receive invitations from people I know (and some that I don’t), I’ve become more intrigued with the opportunities inside. I see how LinkedIn is going to play an important part in not only referral marketing (can you connect me with…?) but also in establishing credibility (wow, look at all the people you know).
LinkedIn has also secured a position for itself in the new social media newsroom. I think that is a great thing. Unfortunately it appears to be opening the doors to spam. Check out the pitch that Todd Defren recently received from Malibu Rum.
I share this with you as example number 1 of how PR Pros Should NOT use social media tools to engage bloggers.