Archives for October 2010

“My Customers Don’t Use Social Media” and Other Lame Excuses

Fellow social media pro Jay Baer, and author of The Now Revolution, is busting some social media myths with his latest post, Destroying the 7 Myths of B2B Social Media. Jay Baer

My favorite busted myth was “My Customers Don’t Use Social Media”. I hear that one a lot from businesspeople.

“That’s interesting,” I said to a business person once. “How do you know?”

“Well, because I don’t use it,” said this otherwise-intelligent business owner.

I wanted to say, “You drive a sedan. Does that mean all your customers buy sedans? You have two kids. Do all your customers have two kids?” But I didn’t, because I’m a nice guy.

However, had I known what Jay knows, I would have instead offered some pretty interesting statistics instead:

According to the recent Social Technographics® report from Forrrester, 81% of U.S. adults with an Internet connection use social media in some form or function. Further, last year’s Forrester study of B2B technology buyers found that they use social media nearly twice as much as U.S. adults overall.

In other words, if 67% of US homes have broadband access,, 81% of them are on a social network, or 54.27% of people with broadband access are on a social network.

That’s half your customers, half your vendors, half your competitors. And if social media is so cheap to use, and your competitors are already on there, they’re reaching your vendors and your customers more efficiently, more frequently, and more effectively than you are.

Don’t assume that just because you don’t use social media means that the rest of your customers are waiting to join social networks until you do. Just because you do or don’t do something doesn’t mean your customers will follow suit.

If you want more proof, Jay recommended that you take your customer email list, and see which of them are active on different social media accounts by using Flowtown or Gist.

Another way to see whether your customers are using social media is to do the following:

  1. Create a new Gmail account with your company name or your name. (You should do this if you’re trying Flowtown or Gist too.)
  2. Upload your entire customer list to Gmail. (Don’t worry, your original is still safe.) Merge any duplicates.
  3. Create a Twitter account (Twitter.com) or LinkedIn account.
  4. You’ll be prompted to import your email list to see which of your contacts are on that network. Follow those instructions and connect your Gmail account.
  5. Start connecting with/following anyone in your list.

Those are the people who are using Twitter and LinkedIn. My guess is that at least 25% of your list will be found on those two networks, and possibly more.

So why aren’t you communicating with your customers on this channel? It’s cheaper than any advertising or trade shows. It’s more effective than traditional marketing. It targets your audience better than direct mail. It’s new enough that people are still paying attention to it. And it’s got enough acceptance that it’s not going away.

Basically, if you think your customers don’t use this because you don’t like it, you’re making a big mistake. Social media is not going to go away, and it’s only going to get bigger. People said the same thing about the Internet, computers in the workplace, fax machines, and telephones. But newer, more technologically-daring companies are willing to try these things, and they’re going to leave you in the dust.

A Look at Old School Journalism

When I wrote for my college newspaper, the Ball State Daily News, one of the things I liked to do was to put some paper in the manual typewriter, hammer out a few sentences, rip it out of the typewriter, and yell “COPY!!” which would always crack my editor up.

This was back in about 1988, when we thought that kind of news writing — furiously banging out news copy on clackety old typewriters — was old-fashioned, and that nobody did it anymore. After all, we were nearly at the 21st century, using dummy terminals to put all of our news into a mainframe that would process the story into a single column, where it could be printed, cut, waxed, and pasted up on the layout page.

The fact that I just used terms that most younger readers don’t know — paste up, wax, typewriter — probably renders the whole COPY!! joke unfunny.

I recently spoke to some journalism classes at Ball State about how to blog for newspapers. I tried referencing a few of my student journalism experiences, and even told an OJ Simpson story, and was met with blank stares. I didn’t realize until later that many of these students were born the year before I got married. They were two when the OJ Simpson trial was going on.

Still, I always appreciate the history of journalism, and I like knowing things about it, like the fact that copy boys were the boys who ran around the newsroom, grabbing papers out of writers’ hands. Writers who had just ripped their story out of the typewriter and shouted “COPY!!

I was interested to find this video in a post, “How to be an Old School Journalist,” on Alltop.com. While the segment at 5:06 may be a little… upsetting, keep in mind that the video is around 70 years old.

Although I’m not sure exactly how old the movie is, you get some clues just by looking at the hats and suits, the cars, and even the phones. It’s an interesting look at what they thought of journalists — and women — back in those days.

It’s even more interesting when you realize how far we have come as a news gathering society.

  • According to Google’s Eric Schmidt, we produce as much data in 2 days as we produced from the dawn of history up to 2003.
  • More women blog than men. In fact, the Blogher Network boasts 2,500 women bloggers as part of their network alone.
  • A story written for a blog can be produced in minutes, not hours. Publication of a post is immediate. No typesetting, printing, or delivery. Hit Publish, and it’s out there. A news story can be written in minutes, but then it has to be pasted up (electronically, of course), and then printed, and delivered. The shortest amount of time it can take is 4 – 6 hours from the completion of the story.
  • To own a major newspaper takes millions of dollars and requires specialized knowledge to run specialized machines that only serve one purpose: to put ink on paper. To run a major blog takes a $1,000 laptop and a wifi connection. And when you’re done, you can watch a movie on it.

In Linchpin (affiliate link), Seth Godin talks about how the factory, the means of production, can be owned for $3,000 for a laptop (Seriously? $3,000? Seth, call me. I’ve got a deal on a few Dells for you, 2,000 bucks each.)

Bil Browning, owner of the Bilerico Project (the largest LGBT news blog on the web) runs his blog with four directors/editors, and 90 contributors (I even contributed an article last year). But he doesn’t have an office, doesn’t have printing presses, doesn’t have any overhead, other than his servers, and the salaries for him and his four directors. When I compare the low cost — $1,000 for a laptop — and ease of which he is able to reach hundreds of thousands of readers each month versus the time and effort we put into reaching people via newspaper today versus the time and effort we put into reaching people via newspaper 70 years ago, it’s a wonder we ever got it done at all. It’s also easy to see how Bil is able to reach his readership much more easily and cheaply than most big city newspapers.

Watch the video, see how our grandparents and great-grandparents got their news and information, and see if you’re not amazed.

Five Blogging Secrets for Lawyers

We speak to a lot of lawyers about how they can use blogging to help promote their practice without violating their state’s marketing guidelines. Many attorneys are realizing that social media is a great legal marketing tool, and many of them are trying to learn how to use it.

The problem a lot of attorneys have in their marketing is that they are not allowed to use “competitive” language — we’re the best, we’re better, or ranked number one in our field — and they can’t offer guarantees. This means they have to tread carefully on their TV and phone book ads. That’s why you hear/read things like “tell them you mean business,” “we fight for you,” and “we don’t handle anything except personal injury.”

We’ve found that many attorneys are wary about blogging, but that it’s the smaller firms who are quick to embrace it. The larger, older firms are still not too sure whether they want to get mixed up in it, which means the small firms are getting there first, and finding great success in leaving the larger firms behind.

The biggest reasons for lawyers to blog are to show up higher in search engines (many people are turning away from Yellow Pages and doing searches for things like attorneys via Google), and to demonstrate to clients that they have the ability and knowledge to handle their particular needs. (We’ll discuss why attorneys need to blog at a later date.)

Here are five ways lawyers can blog without violating their state’s marketing rules

  • Talk about legal news. Talk about things happening in your state or other states. This helps you keep up with what’s going on in your community
  • Talk about developments in your field. If you work in intellectual property, talk about intellectual property news. If you work in personal injury, talk about personal injury law. This shows that you keep up with developments in your field, showing potential clients that you’re working to stay up-to-date with important information.
  • Write case studies. Check out important cases in the news (not your own, since you have to worry about attorney-client privilege), and do an analysis of the ramifications of that case. This is especially important as you discuss cases in your field.
  • Review basic laws for potential clients. We do this for one client — we talk about local and state laws that might affect citizens of that state, like how local vandalism laws might affect their Halloween pranks, tailgating laws in time for football season, and what to do if you want to start a business.
  • Answer legal questions from readers. Address some interesting or unknown points, teach people a little about the law, and give basic guidance to people so they understand how to pursue their legal questions further. I understand you can’t give legal advice, so it will be important to point out that this is not advice, but is used for educational purposes.

A Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures

A word is worth a thousand pictures.

Sure, the reverse is true — a picture is worth a thousand words — but I think the words, in many cases, are more valuable.

Because if I say the word “baby,” “tree,” or “friend,” each of you immediately had a picture flash in your mind of a particular baby, tree, or friend. Maybe it’s your own child or your baby pictures. It’s the tree you climbed when you were a kid. It’s the friend you haven’t kept in touch with.

A photo of my son when he was about 18 months old. A word is worth a thousand pictures, because if I just say 'baby' I'll bet you think of your own.

When I hear 'baby,' I think of my son.

We think in words. Our internal monologue is based on language, not pictures. Even when you flashed on the image of your errant friend, you probably thought, “I haven’t seen her in so long. I should call her.” You didn’t follow up her face with images of a sad face, a telephone, and a scene of the two of you, smiling and laughing, eating lunch.

Language is so ingrained in our way of thinking that it’s actually part of how we learn. In fact, many childhood experts say that it’s not until kids start talking through problems that they can direct their own learning and solve their own problems. According to an article from the National Association of School Psychologists, Motivating Learning in Young Children:

Preschoolers (age 3-5 years) are beginning to be more involved with verbal problem solving skills. They direct their own learning through speech and use vocal communication to direct their own behavior to solve problems. Young children are often heard talking themselves through a series of actions that lead to the solution of a problem. As children get older, this “talking out loud” will become an internal monologue. This newly developing ability to problem solve is the basis for motivation at this stage. Having the self confidence to know that one can solve a problem motivates the learner to accept other new and challenging situations, which in turn lead to greater learning.

Think about your own methods in working through a series of complicated steps, like trying to follow driving directions to an unfamiliar location. You turn off the radio, shush the kids, and start mumbling quietly to yourself:

“Okay, that’s 3235, and we want 3340. So it’s going to be on the other side of the str—dammit, I missed it!”

But that problem solving, that normally-internal monologue is based on our use of words, not pictures. We learn in words, we think in words, we solve problems in words.

Don’t get me wrong. I love pictures. I love photographs. I think people like Casey Mullins and Paul D’Andrea take some stunning photos that I’ll never be able to manage </sucking up>. Admittedly there are instances where mere words cannot do justice to the images of certain photos, and I don’t think we should even try.

But pictures can’t tell the entire story. Words can. Or at least do it better. Photos can’t explain, teach, educate, inspire, or persuade the way words can. Even when we see the most poignant or beautiful photos, we still need words to tell us what the photo is. Who’s in that photo? Where was it taken? What was he thinking when you took it?

What do you think? Do words conquer all? Is the pen mightier than the lens? Or are we visual people who gather and process information by what we see, not what we read? Leave your comments (or photos).

——
My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, who I also helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies (another affiliate link).

Tools Don’t Make The Expert, Knowledge Does

Chris Brogan said something in his Hemingway’s Pencils post last week that really hit my hot button:

Moleskine Notebook and Pilot G-2 Pen

No one ever asked Hemingway which pencils he used to write his books. The tools aren’t the thing. The effort and the content and the promotion and the connection and the networking and the building value are the thing.

This is an important distinction as people still equate the knowledge and experience of using social media tools with the quality of the work someone does, and whether they can call themselves a social media expert.

I have used Moleskine notebooks and Pilot G-2 pens for over six or seven years. I have used computers to write since 1986. I have gone through hundreds of legal pads. But none of this makes me a good writer. Knowing the best words to use to convey an idea, knowing how to construct sentences for maximum impact, knowing how to string ideas together, knowing how to tell a story. Those are the things that make me a good writer.

However, to listen to some of the “no social media experts” crowd, it’s the amount of time that I have used my writing tools that make me a good writer. And to hear their argument, I lose my expertise each time I switch to a different writing tool. Switch from pen to computer? Start all over, your pen writing knowledge is useless.

The point is that it doesn’t matter how long I have used a tool, it’s what I do with those tools that make me an expert. It’s not how long I have owned a particular pen, or if I switch to a different brand of notebook (as if). It’s the knowledge and experience that I bring to my writing that does it.

——
My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, who I also helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies (another affiliate link).

Finding a Working Definition of Ghost Blogging

With all of the controversy that seems to swirl around the acceptability of ghost blogging, I realized we weren’t really arguing about the same thing. The acceptance seemed to be based on their definition of the term.

Is it writing a blog post with the full input approval of a client? Or is it writing a post that doesn’t have any input, but does have approval? As I read descriptions and arguments by Jason Falls, Lindsay Manfredi, and other blogging luminaries, I realized it was the definition that was the problem.

So we created a short little survey to figure out what the most widely understood definition of ghost blogging to be. Survey respondents were given 5 different options of what ghost blogging might entail, and then asked to rate them on a 5 point scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree). These are the results out of 51 responses, out of a 5 point scale*:

  1. CLIENT writes a post, YOU proofread, edit, and publish under CLIENT’S name: 4 people disagreed or strongly disagreed (7.9%), but 43 people agreed or strongly agreed (84.3%). Rating: 4.41/5
  2. Interview CLIENT and write a post based on their answers. CLIENT approves before article is posted. 1 person strongly disagreed (2%), 47 agreed or strongly agreed 92.2%). Rating: 4.49/5
  3. Write a post for CLIENT using their ideas and past statements. CLIENT approves. 4 people disagreed 7.8%), 44 people agreed or strongly agreed (86.3%). Rating: 4.29/5
  4. Write a post on behalf of CLIENT, using their ideas and past statements. CLIENT does NOT approve post. 31 people scored SD or D (62%), while only 15 people scored A or SA (30%). Rating: 2.5/5
  5. Write a post for CLIENT, using YOUR ideas. CLIENT does NOT approve post. 40 people scored SD or D (78.4%), 8 people scored A or SA (15.7%). Rating: 1.86/5

(*These numbers won’t add up to 51 in this description, because I left the “neither agree nor disagree” out of this text for simplicity and brevity. The actual numbers are at the bottom of this post.)

Bar chart on the acceptance of ghost blogging

From these results, we can infer a few basic ideas about ghost blogging’s acceptability:

  • Ghost blogging is acceptable to most people as long as the client approves the posts before they are published. In fact, this was the most important factor in deciding whether ghost blogging is appropriate or not.
  • Ghost blogging is acceptable, as long as the client has input (#2), or at the very least, the ideas used have been addressed in the past (#3). Option #2 is akin to a copywriter sitting down with a client, and synthesizing the client’s thoughts and ideas into a piece of text. Option #3 is similar to a presidential speechwriter who is already familiar with the president’s stance on certain topics, and can write about them with authority.
  • At least 8 people thought it was acceptable to essentially put words in the client’s mouth without their knowledge. Personally, I can’t think of any instance where this would be acceptable, in business or government, let alone blogging. Even when I was writing speeches for the Indiana State Health Commissioner, everything had to follow her vision. Her administrative may have assigned the speech or project, but I had to know the Commissioner’s stand on the issues.
  • Conversely, 4 people thought it is wrong to even proofread and edit a client’s writings, and then post it on the client’s website on their behalf. While I’m a little worried that nearly 16% of the respondents thought it’s okay to pose as a client without the client’s knowledge, I can only wonder at how rigid the beliefs are of the people who are opposed to editing and then copying, pasting, and clicking “Publish.” It also worries me what they would think if they knew I had four editors poring over my book before the publishers printed it for me.

Because the first three options all scored above a 4.4, I can conclude that most people will accept the idea that ghost bloggers need the client’s input and approval before a post gets published. Anything that does not have at least the client’s approval crosses the line of acceptability, and anything that has both input and approval.

So, that is our baseline for acceptable ghost blogging. The next step is to find out how strongly people feel about it, and see if we can get a bigger group to respond. More on that later.

Ghost Blogging Survey Results