How Has Blogging Changed? Some of Today’s Top Bloggers Have The Answer

Yaffe Tidbits 500th Blog PostFor this, our 500th blog post, I’m looking back at how blogging has changed since this whole thing started. And I’ve asked a number of bloggers for their thoughts on where blogging has been, where it is now and where it’s going next. I got a wide range of opinions from internationally known bloggers to local food and mommy bloggers. And while their opinions varied on many subjects, they all agreed that blogging is here to stay and is an integral part of today’s business strategies.

We started this blog in 2006, without a clue what to do with it. We tried to get everyone in the agency to write something, anything. We didn’t care what. We even had one person just post one of her recipes. Then there were some lean years with just a few posts and mostly tumble weeds rolling through our blog.

Nikki LittleNikki Little, Social Media Manager at Identity, had a similar experience, “I started my blog, Essential Elements, in 2007. If you look back at the posts from the beginning, you’ll see it was random thoughts with not much of a focus. Then, a few years later, I created a strategy for my blog and clearly defined the topics I wanted to write about.

Gini Dietrich 2Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich talks about those early days, “When we launched Spin Sucks in 2006, no one (and I mean no one) was blogging. There was no such thing as blogs that taught you how to write in a conversational way or blogs that taught you how to optimize your content or blogs that talked about visual content or blogs that simply showed you how to set one up. There were a bunch of geeks blogging and it seemed like it might have legs in the corporate communications world.”

Katherine Dallas HammondNow blogs are everywhere. Katherine Dallas Hammond, who pens Kioula’s Greek Food Journal, points to the WordPress download counterand the fact that it has nearly 30-million downloads. “Everyone has a blog and there’s a blog for everyone. That’s a good thing!”

But, the proliferation of blogs creates its own problems. Back in 2006 or 2007, we may not have known much, but we had the space to ourselves.

“Today, of course, all of that has changed,” says Gini Dietrich, “Now there’s more competition and content exhaustion. To enter the blogosphere today, you have to be ultra unique and have a fantastic platform. Otherwise you just won’t stand out.

Nikki Little agrees, “Blogs are alive and well, and while it’s harder to get attention now than it was 7-8 years ago, bloggers are still carving out their own niches, building passionate communities and finding ways to connect with companies they love.”

Probably the biggest change in blogging over recent years is how they’ve become an integral part of doing business these days. And how they’ve changed the media landscape. According to Optimind Technology, blogs are 63% more likely to influence purchase decisions than magazines.

Golden Ashby“Blogging has come a long way in recent years. From a rather unorganized collection of mostly personal journals, to a major voice in the new media landscape, blogging is clearly one of the most valuable resources of the Internet as we know it today, says Golden Ashby, President of the International Social Media Club. “Almost every major traditional media outlet has added blogging over the recent years to their arsenal of distribution channels. The value of blogging will only increase as we find more insightful ways of producing valuable content for the people who are looking to read it.”

Chad_WiebesickChad Wiebesick agrees. As Director of Social Media and Interactive Marketing for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, he is in charge of the Pure Michigan campaign that has become the most talked about travel destination in the world. And the Pure Michigan blog is an integral part of that success.

“The discipline of blogging has matured throughout the years and proven itself as an effective communications channel for businesses to drive traffic, generate leads and grow awareness,” says Chad.

Then he goes on to talk about blogging’s importance as an owned space, “Now more than ever, brands need to realize a blog is the only social platform they control and own 100%. On Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, you’re renting space. And you’re at Facebook’s mercy when they unilaterally make decisions affecting how much – or how little – of your content is shown to your followers. Build good content at the places you own first – your blog and your website.”

And not only are their own blogs important to brands, but connecting with bloggers who can promote your brand is also an important part of today’s marketing mix.

“As we all know, people are making a living off of blogging now,” says Nikki Little. “Companies pay bloggers (in cash and products) to serve as brand ambassadors and share their experiences using various products/services with their blog communities. While most bloggers aren’t trained journalists, from a PR/marketing perspective, I think it’s imperative to build relationships with bloggers and connect with bloggers who make sense for your brand.”

And as more and more companies are relying on bloggers to help tell their story, the work that those bloggers do has changed as well.

Lauren Weber“In the past, companies expected you to write a post — period, ” says Lauren Weber, who pens Mrs. Weber’s Neighborhood. “Now, bloggers wear many hats and are not only reporters, but photographers, social media gurus and a trusted source to consumers. Bloggers truly have the power to connect brands to people on a more personal level and are a group that businesses from small to large should not overlook.”

And finally, there are bloggers who say it’s not blogging that has changed, but the people who are doing it who have.

Joe Hakim“Blogging hasn’t changed much. I’m still trying to tell stories that are engaging and useful, says Joe Hakim, owner of The Hungry Dudes blog. “What has changed is point of view. As I grow, the focus of the blog shifts. Growth comes from experience and has allowed me to become more comfortable blogging about a wider range of subjects.”

Over the last 500 blog posts, a lot has changed. And I’m excited to see where this is going to go. What about you? Did we miss anything? What changes have you seen? Do you have predictions for where blogging will go next? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And special thanks to everyone who gave me their thoughts for this post. Make sure to check out all of their blogs!

Mike McClureMike McClure, Bloggity blog blogging!

 

Source: The Yaffe Group

Adapt or Die: Social Branding in the Digital Darwinism Age

Brian-Solis-SFAMA-Cropped-300x247

Social Media is all anybody talks about these days. But many organizations fall short of fully capitalizing on the opportunities that exist within social. Perhaps this is because they are approaching the execution of social marketing with the same expectations they have for traditional marketing, or maybe they don’t really understand their customer’s needs and wants. Social media is changing every aspect of how consumers behave. As business leaders and marketing professionals, we need to understand these changes, adapt, or become irrelevant.

GO is lucky enough to have the passionate and engaging Brian Solis come speak at many of our events. Brian is a world-renowned blogger (ranking among the top 1% of all blogs tracked by Technorati), award winning author and new media thought leader. He studies and influences the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, and culture. Brain is also a principal analyst at the Altimeter Group, a leading research based consulting firm where he puts these ideas to practice.

Brian discusses how “each layer of the complex consumer revolution that is changing the future of business, media, and culture” in relation to his book, The End of Business As Usual. The message that stands out to most was when Brian states, “social media isn’t owned by marketing, but instead the entire organization, and this changes everything”.

Social media often acts as a silo within marketing, customer service, or human resources. Brian suggests that just one department should not own social media, but instead, social media should act as the bridge between all departments. When consumers think about your company they do not see silos, departments and teams; they see one brand, one experience. Social media changes how consumers behave and interact with your brand. Consumers now dictate the channels used to engage with a brand, both online and offline. The new role of social media allows brands to help customers, fans, and influencers share a brand’s products and the “ideas” that bond us with them.

It is time for brands to move beyond the question of whether or not to participate in social media and define the social media optimization strategies they will use to build their community.
Brand--300x225

As marketing professionals and business leaders we must go beyond social strategy. Organizations must take account for customer needs, challenges, and options in order to build a holistic strategy around these needs. All communications must have the same message: the website, customer service, social media, marketing, etc. There are many metrics you can use to measure your social media success. Yet companies are always asking where’s the ROI? This is often times a path towards a social #fail. What’s possible for ROI is different for every brand. By design, businesses are optimized to collaborate in the matrix. Before we can innovate externally, we have to innovate internally.

The difference between a social brand and a social business is very simple. “While creating a social brand is a necessary endeavor, building a social business is an investment.” Here are a few more of our favorite takeaways from Brian’s presentation:

  • Create a social media foundation to deliver an integrated brand experience.
  • Align social media with internal business objectives.
  • Social media helps brands evolve and brings the offline and online worlds together.
  • When it comes to social, think like a customer. Help internal teams better understand who they’re trying to reach and what moves them. Bridge the consumer gap.
  • Connected customers see the world differently, uniting the online and offline worlds.
  • Remember: once a purchase is made, it’s often broadcasted via social media. Consumers continue to share their experience, good, and bad, and it contribute to the future decisions of others.

Perhaps the greatest take-away from Brian’s talk was his theory on Digital Darwinism which states that Social Media is here to stay and we will never go back to the way things were before. We must “Adapt or Die”. GO is always here to help you down whatever path you may embark. Do you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share?

Picture credit: Brian Solis

Adapt or Die: Social Branding in the Digital Darwinism Age

By, Golden Ashby, SFAMA Director of Social Media
& Kathryn Prescott, SFAMA LinkedIn Manager

Social Media is all anybody talks about these days. But many organizations fall short of fully capitalizing on the opportunities that exist within social. Perhaps this is because they are approaching the execution of social marketing with the same expectations they have for traditional marketing, or maybe they don’t really understand their customer’s needs and wants. Social media is changing every aspect of how consumers behave. As business leaders and marketing professionals, we need to understand these changes, adapt, or become irrelevant.

The San Francisco Chapter of the American Marketing association (SFAMA) was lucky enough to have had the passionate and engaging Brian Solis come speak to our members last week. Brian is a world-renowned blogger (ranking among the top 1% of all blogs tracked by Technorati), award winning author and new media thought leader. He studies and influences the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, and culture. Brain is also a principal analyst at the Altimeter Group, a leading research based consulting firm where he puts these ideas to practice.

Brian discussed how “each layer of the complex consumer revolution that is changing the future of business, media, and culture” in relation to his now book, The End of Business As Usual. Everybody in the room was in awe of Brian’s deep understanding of how digital connectivity affects the ever changing world of business.

The message that stood out most to us was when Brian stated, “social media isn’t owned by marketing, but instead the entire organization, and this changes everything”. You can see more of Brian’s top quotes from that night here. Social media is often siloed within marketing, customer service, or human resources. Brian suggests that just one department should not own social media, but instead, social media should act as the bridge between all departments. When consumers think about your company they do not see silos, departments and teams; they see one brand, one experience. Social media changes how consumers behave and interact with your brand. Consumers now dictate the channels used to engage with a brand, both online and offline. The new role of social media allows brands to help customers, fans, and influencers share a brand’s products and the “ideas” that bond us with them. It is time for brands to move beyond the question of whether or not to participate in social media and define the social media optimization strategies they will use to build their community.

As marketing professionals and business leaders we must go beyond social strategy. Organizations must take account for customer needs, challenges, and options in order to build a holistic strategy around these needs. All communications must have the same message: the website, customer service, social media, marketing, etc. There are many metrics you can use to measure your social media success. Yet people are still asking where’s the ROI? This is often times a path towards a #fail. What’s possible for ROI is different for every brand. By design, businesses are optimized to collaborate in the matrix. Before we can innovate externally, we have to innovate internally.

The difference between a social brand and a social business is very simple. “While creating a social brand is a necessary endeavor, building a social business is an investment.” Here are a few more of our favorite takeaways from Brian’s presentation:

• You should have a vision, mission, and purpose for your social media strategy.
• Create a social media foundation to deliver an integrated brand experience.
• Align social media with internal business objectives.
• Social media helps brands evolve and brings the offline and online worlds together.
• When it comes to social, think like a customer. Help internal teams better understand who they’re trying to reach and what moves them. Bridge the consumer gap.
• Connected customers see the world differently, uniting the online and offline worlds.
• Remember: once a purchase is made, it’s often broadcasted via social media. Consumers continue   to share their experience, good, and bad, and it contribute to the future decisions of others.”

Perhaps the greatest take-away from Brian’s talk was that Social Media is here to stay and we will never go back to the way things were before. “Adapt or Die”

We hope you enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime event and if you missed it you found this article beneficial as you embark upon your new social journey. The San Francisco chapter of the American Marketing Association is always here to help you down whatever path you may embark. Do you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share?

Picture credit: Brian Solis

Social Brands

Brands are finally starting to see the need to adapt a comprehensive social strategy. You can’t blame brands for being slow to adapt. Social media sites like Myspace were short-lived and Facebook started out as a social networking site for over-privileged college students. It was hard to take social media marketing seriously when it was first concepted. Who would have thought that in a few short years we would be developing detailed social media marketing strategies for some of the biggest brands in the world. Social media has given us the ability to receive and react to issues and news in real time. It gives brands the unique advantage of being able to receive and react to consumer feedback almost instantaneously. Companies of all sizes are already starting to change their way of doing business and infrastructure to adapt to these changes.

My portfolio is growing every day and I am proud to say I have worked with some remarkable brands. They are all very different, ranging from banks to transportation. But the end goal should all be the same, to engage! There are literally hundreds of brands actively engaging via social media now. Social media marketing has proven it’s here to stay, has sustainable ROI and brands are finding ways to accurately define ways to accurately measure their success. I think social media is largely defined by its ability to enable a new form of word of mouth. For brands, social media enables them to embrace this new power of word of mouth marketing and use it to build a powerful bond with their audience.

The new role of marketers is to help customers, fans, members, and influencers to share our products and the “ideas” that bond us with them. It is time for brands to move beyond the question of whether or not to participate in social media and define their social brand and what social media optimization strategies they will use to build their community. Specifically, brands need to look deep into the details of social profiles to better target marketing offers and increase conversion rates. These are just some of my thoughts on how to build brands via social media. There are many more. Can you think of any more good insights?

Photo Credits: Stanford, Foursquare

Social Media Metrics All Companies Should Measure

Social media marketing is being used more and more every day by companies everywhere and all top managers want to know how their ROI (Return on Investment) is going to be affected because of it. I am not going to lie, this is one of the hardest metrics to measure.  According to Brian Solis over 80% of professionals do not measure ROI for their company’s social media programs. I know the concept of using in social media  in your marketing plan is new and relatively untested, but it is just another form of marketing, public relations, advertising, etc. Everything can be measured and I will show you how.

The most common social media metrics companies are measuring are visitors (traffic sources), network size (followers, fans, members), the quantity and quantity of mention of your brand or product. These are all very important metrics to gauge how your overall social media efforts are doing. But as social media marketing is getting much more advanced, so are the ways of measuring them. Below are a few of the top ways to properly measure your social media tools:

Reach: The number of social media subscribers (Twitter followers, Facebook fans, LinkedIn group members, etc.) you have is directly related to the success of your social media. The more “reach,” you have, the more people will see your content, spread your messages, and therefore increase your ROI. It is very important to set benchmarks and track how your reach is increasing over time. If you’re not attracting new subscribers as time goes on, you may want to focus more of your social media efforts on generating new subscribers and building your reach to increase the value you get from social media marketing. You will want to make certain your content is distributed in a timely method on all your brands social media platforms. Hootsuite provides an great dashboard for this. You can use their free version or their enterprise one.  HootSuite allows organizations to use social web tools to schedule and publish messages to multiple social networks, monitor results and efficiently participate in conversations.  It allows members of your social media team to get an inside glimpses at what each individual team member is posting. It also offers a wide range of measuring and analytics tools. I highly recommend this tool for any social media user.

 

Blog interaction: I touched upon how blogs are the foundation for link building and creating SEO for your company in my community management blog. They are a great way for both B2C and B2C companies to interact and share their ideas. All of your usual social media platforms can be used to share, but social bookmarking sites (such as Delicious and Stubleupon) are a great way to get your blogs viewed by a wide audience. A great way of measuring this is by the comments and the actual blog views (most blogs have built in analytics to measure this).

Social media leads: It is important to track your web traffic from all social media sources, find out where they are coming from, and identify the top few sources over time. It is important to track and measure social media referrals as well.

Engagement levels: We all know it is important to measure how many comments or re-tweets you are getting  from your social media content, but it is also important to measure how much time people are spending on your social media platforms. For example, if people are not spending much time on your page, maybe your landing page needs better copy or maybe your page is not easy to read and find information on. You may want to consider adding a search tool. Radian6 is a very specialized social media monitoring tool that helps you track quite a lot of signals and get insights into your brands performance. It provides detailed analytics reports and charts. I am usually very hesitant to recommend this tool because of its complexity, it almost gives out too much information, but it is very popular and useful if it is properly defined.

Brand mentions via social media: It is important to track and measure both positive and negative mentions, and their quantities. Socialmention is a great (free) web based tool for easily measuring this. It finds the brand mentions on any particular channel like blog/micro blogs and gives you a comprehensive idea of how the brand is perceived by users. It also gives you a easy to view prospective on positive, negative or neutral things that are being said about your brand.

Loyalty and Virilty: Find out how many of your social circles are sharing your brands content and how often they share. This will give you a good idea of whether or not your content is relevant to your community. There is no use wasting time on creating content that nobody wants to read. It is also very important to find out which of your brands content is being reshared. Everybody wants their content to go viral and engaging, but not a lot of people take the time to measure and track that information. Alterian  offers a very detailed social media monitoring tool is one that gives advanced user behavior statistics, measures and analyze daily volume, demographics, location, positive or negative content tone, themes, and trending topics for your brand/product.

Activity ratio: Be sure to monitor how active is your company’s collective social network is. Pay attention to the ratio of active members vs total members, and chart this over time. This is very important to track when you run contests, ad’s, etc Activitycan be measured in a variety of ways, including using social applications. Omniture helps marketers quickly identify the most profitable paths through their Web site, determine where visitors are navigating away from their site, and identify critical success metrics for online marketing campaigns. It addresses these challenges by providing marketers with one place to measure, analyze, and optimize integrated data from all online initiatives across multiple marketing channels.

Conversions: Everybody wants their companies social network members to convert into subscriptions, sales, application use, or whatever other offering that can somehow be directly or indirectly monetized. (memberships, subscriptions, etc.) It is very important to measure all types of conversions and chart them over time. You may even want to set up tracking codes to measure the sales driven by your social media marketing.

These are some of the key social media metrics that I think all companies should be measuring and some of the tools you can use to measure their effectiveness. Every company is different and their brands target community should be carefully analyzed before using any of these tools or metrics. It is very important to measure application usage and resulting conversions.

Are there other metrics you measure that you feel are more important for your company? What tools do you use to measure social metrics?

Picture Credits: adtech, Hootsuite, Jamie Pappas