Archives for category: Week 6

One of the class posts I really like is Anthony’s Week 3 post on Marshall McLuhan.  http://depinaam.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/week-3-marshall-mcluhan/  The post is clear and concise, but it doesn’t leave anything out, either.  I especially appreciate the way he explains the Tetrad in relation to social media.  I think it’s a very effective analysis.

Anthony’s blog has the additional advantage of presenting a clean and uncluttered appearance.  His use of color, typography and whitespace is skillful. The total effect is attractive and visually inviting, and allows his message to stand out.

The other post I selected for this week’s assignment is Amanda M.’s, also about McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan Takes A Look Into the Future.  http://socialmedia1111.blogspot.com/2011/09/marshal-mcluhan-takes-look-into-future.html.  While one of Anthony’s posts key strengths is its straightforward objectivity, the thing that appeals to me about Amanda’s post is the personal insight she offers.  She draws you in, wondering what effects social media will have on our lives, and what will be next?  Amanda relates how, although she had previously not known about McLuhan and his work, she realizes now that she’s seen and lived many of the changes that he predicted.  Plus, Amanda found a really excellent audio video montage on McLuhan and his ideas, and included it at the top of her post.  The montage is a wonderful creative accent that speaks volumes, and it’s a great find.

Brian Solis:  Defining the Convergence of Media & Influence   http://www.briansolis.com/

One of the reason’s I selected this blog is that it showed up in first place on the Social Media Examiner’s Top Ten Social Media Blog’s of 2011.  Brian Solis has a lot of credibilty – he’s widely recognized as one of the leading authorities on Social Media.  Plus, Solis consistently makes the top ranks of Ad Age Digital’s Power 150, a daily ranking of international marketing blogs.  The Power 150 is a massive list, at more than 1,000 blogs, it’s a little overwhelming.

Solis’s blog has exceptionally thought-provoking posts.  It’s hard to read more than one, and retain even half of it.  His content is layered, interesting, and really good food-for-thought.  His posts’ contain multiple embedded links to some of his previous posts, guest posts by others, videos, items in the news, etc.  It’s kind of hard to choose just the best two.  But here is one that I think presents a really good take on one of the aspects of social media that hasn’t gotten much attention yet (at least not as far as marketing focused social media is concerned).

The Human Cost of Social Connectivity   http://www.briansolis.com/2011/09/the-human-cost-of-social-connectivity/

This blog examines what social media is doing to its users, and by users, Solis means all of us:  Marketers, businesses, audiences and customers.  He uses this blog to question our level of technological tolerance.  He notes that many, if not most of us, have already reached, and maybe passed, the point of saturation.

Solis observes that one of the most cherished values of modern civilization, privacy, no longer really exists anymore; at least, not in the way that it used to.  Solis argues that in the realm of social media, the price for participation, the cost of connectivity, is privacy.

The other most valuable, and limited asset that we must relinquish as a cost for connectivity, is time.

Solis suggests that the speed and breadth of social media’s evolution is making it increasingly difficult to keep up.  We’re so connected, it’s practically a full-time job, with plenty of overtime, just to stay current.  We’re running as fast as we can, and we’re just barely managing not to lose ground – forget about gaining any.  We’re pulled in all directions from our technological choices, and at the end of the day, we’re exhausted.

Of course, it’s not really an option just to disconnect, and walk away.

So, what do you do?  Well, Solis’ answers to this problem, and I think it’s a very difficult one, aren’t exactly a panacea.  Still, I think his response is realistic, even if it presents its own set of difficulties.  I think the essence of his response leads to the next post I selected from his blog:

The Number One Least Asked Question in Social Media … Why?   http://www.briansolis.com/2011/07/the-number-one-least-asked-question-in-social-media-why/

Even if your social marketing efforts are so good that you manage to use all the available platforms to their maximum benefit, masterfully exploiting the unique advantages of each one, are your marketing efforts really succeeding?  Is your voice, your company’s message, really being heard?  Does your brand matter?

Well, this post suggests that if you have any doubts (and you probably should), it may be because we aren’t asking the right questions.

Are you listening?  Are you really listening?  Your customers, your audience, needs to know.

Business needs to ask ‘Why’?  Why would my customers want to engage with my company in social media?  Why should they?

Truth be told, we can’t have meaningful discussions about becoming a social business if we don’t know why doing so is advantageous to customers and ultimately to the business itself. – Brian Solis

Solis showcases a well known venn-like diagram in this post, illustrating the balanced relationships between marketing’s “Four P’s”.  But the diagram is re-interpreted by the addition of a fifth element, a fifth ‘P’:  people.  Solis floats this “Fifth ’P’” right in the middle of the diagram; right at the single point where all four ‘P’s’ converge.

The reinterpreted diagram is meant to illustrate the answer to ‘Why?’

It’s all about the user experience.  Brand preference happens if your social media marketing, (and almost by definition, your product/service) consistently keeps the user experience in focus.

Truly understanding why your customer should bother to spare his/her time engaging with your company matters.  It matters because it’s the key to your company’s ability to move forward in an increasingly challenging digital realm and technological reign.  It’s the key to having, and keeping, social relevance.

It seems like such a simple thing.  It’s not about technology.  It’s not about digital expertise.  It’s about people.  It’s about the human experience.  I think Solis correctly identifies the most elusive quality in the world of business:  empathy.  It’s HUMAN, not digital, and it has currency.

Without genuinely acknowledging the value of your customer’s experience, you’re not really valuing your customer.  Your company shouldn’t, therefore, expect to be valued in return.  Your customer won’t bother with your website/blogposts/tweets/YouTube videos/whatever if you don’t make it worth their while.  Why should they?

If you want to capitalize on the value of social media for its marketing potential, you need to cultivate your customer, and that takes a world of commitment.  In return, there is the very real potential for a rich harvest of information  – information your company needs to stay one step ahead of its competitors.  And that, by the way, is the subject of one of Solis’s most recent posts, (also an excellent read):  Digital Darwinism:  Who’s Next?  http://www.briansolis.com/2011/09/end-of-business/ If you have the time, it’s definitely worth a look.

For a blog to be an effective marketing tool your primary focus is to build trust, credibility and a perception of expertise.  To truly connect with your audience, and keep its attention above all the din and clatter of the 21st century, your blog must offer content that matters.  As if that wasn’t a hard enough problem to solve, the way that content is presented also matters.  The content is the ‘what’, the presentation, the ‘how’.  How easy is your blog to read?  Is it intuitive to navigate?  Is it cluttered, or attractive?  Does it give a good first impression?

Here are a few other things, based on things I’ve learned from this class, from my classmates’ posts, from interviews of other ‘experts’, and from some of my own research, that I think might be considered in determining what makes an effective blog for marketing:

  • Content – is it relevant?  Is it fresh? Interactive?  Incentivized?
  • Timeliness of the posts is important
  • Does it include links to other related sites or media platforms, news, happenings, events, etc.?
  • Is it authentic?  Is it transparent?
  • Is it easy for people to respond to?  Can they quickly find where to post a comment?
  • Is it visually appealing?  Navigable?
  • Are the comment responses, prompt, considerate and valid?
  • Give the readers something of value

The above list is not all inclusive, but for me, they are among what I think the primary concerns should be.  For the most part, they are qualitative concerns, and so, in a way, subjective.

There are other key things a good marketing blog should do, but they are more objective.  They’re more like technological checkpoints to tick off.

  • Does your blog include key words for search engine optimization?
  • Has your blog submitted its URL to blog directories?  Does it have an option for an RSS subscription?
  • Are you using other social media channels to make them aware of your presence?

I know the list could be expanded, but, for me, the issues above make a good start at defining the outlines of an effective marketing blog.

For this week’s assignment, the three marketing blogs that I’ve chosen to evaluate are:  Whole Story,  http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/  ( Whole Foods Market),  The Perch,  http://magblog.audubon.org/  (Audubon’s Blog) and REI Blog http://findout.rei.com/blogs/.

The Perch  (Grade:  A)

The Perch (blog for the National Audubon Society) has timely updates, easy access to archives and many links that their audience would enjoy.  The Perch makes it easy to add comments, accompanied by an introductory short set of Comment Posting Rules.

The blog’s layout is clean, easy to read, and easy to navigate.  Bloggers are clearly listed, and the reader has quick access to biographical information with one click.

The Perch has plenty of inviting content.  I think the quality of the content alone provides a great take-away for the audience, and reason enough for them to return.

REI  (Grade:  B)

REI’s Blog has content that is fresh, relevant, and well-targeted to their audience.  Bloggers bios and their company relationships are easy and intuitive to find. The blog itself though, seems a little narrowly focused, but that might be because other adjacent tabs available on the company’s website thoroughly cover related items of interest.

The REI Blog layout is graphically pleasing, and that helps make it easy to read.  Most navigation within the sight is straightforward, although with some pages/links,  it takes longer than it should to get back to the blog homepage.  Comments can only be made if a reader first registers before logging in.  I think this is an obstacle that may not be completely necessary for site security, and is perhaps only a ploy to obtain the reader’s personal information.

No hard-sell here, but easy access to the company’s offerings should the customer be so inclined, is available.   Based upon REI’s audiences’ likely range of interests, there is a lot that they can take away from this blog, and they will be back again.

Whole Story  (Grade:  A)

The Whole Story is Whole Foods’ blog.  It’s directed primarily to foodie groups – those who like foods of all kinds, recipes, nutrition and all things natural and organic.  The blog makes available in a prominent location their video and podcast library.

Bloggers are identified, but clicking on the name takes you to the whole archive of the individual author.  To find the complete listing of blog contributors, you instead need to find the ‘Meet Our Contributors’ link, shoved way off into the top right corner of the page.  Not intuitive!  (It seemed backwards to me.)

The blog accepts comments without requiring registering or logging in, but there are still posting guidelines to be mindful of.

Visually, in spite of a somewhat dark background and light text, the layout is still easy to read, and carries through on the Whole Foods identity with its green theme.  For readers whose hunger is piqued by the food news and recipes, access to the Whole Foods webpage is easy enough with one click.  Nonetheless, there isn’t really any obvious selling happening within the blog itself.

In arriving at the grades that I assigned, I used the checklists at the top of this blog section, and then reviewed each blog against the checklist.  I did not include the last three bulleted items in the checklists, only the ‘qualitative’ items were included.