Refresh: Top 50 Most Influential Cycling Bloggers: Celebrating the ‘Cycle Chic’ Movement

26 08 2011

Eurobike and Interbike are fast approaching, making the cycling industry just about insane. We’re also lucky to have the USA Pro Challenge hurling through the Colorado Rockies this week. I will have the pleasure of attending Interbike again this year and hope to meet as many folks as possible. Drop me a line if you want to meet up for coffee: yann [at] extanz.com. I’ll also be DSLR cruising as usual!

Back in May 2010, I published the first list of Top 50 influencers in the blogosphere. With Interbike so close, it felt appropriate to refresh this list, which has grown considerably. Like last time, this partial list only looks at blogger influence and not twitter, Facebook or soon Google+ influences. I still updated the table to make it easy if you want to follow these awesome bloggers on Twitter or Facebook though. Disclaimer: This is a list and like any list, it misses things (e.g. who is influential by topics, bike types, brands, where is the buzz and plenty more…). It may also not reflect the amount of traffic each blog gets. It does represent inlinks between the thousand or so blogs in the cycling community however, so while VeloNews (arguably a blog) might have very high traffic (blog/mag) for example, it is not getting referrals like CycleChic.
You can follow each blogger’s tweets at yannr/cycling. I also have Paper.li producing a Daily Paper, to which you can read and subscribe here: http://paper.li/yannr/1308161136 – You’ll get the best of what they share on twitter. As usual, feedback is welcome – remember that we do study many other industries. Cycling is a passion of mine and it’s a nice show case of our understanding of new media influence. Please schedule coffee with me at Interbike if you want to know more, email: yann [at] extanz.com

Hard working bloggers can represent the biking culture in so many more ways than traditional media. Read their blogs, and think about bike products from their sponsors. There have been large movements in the Top 50 — up and down, with bloggers coming into the list and some disappearing. Here are my main take aways:

  • Watch the Cycle Chic Movement: Denmark Cycling Chic (TM) Copenhagen (9th in 2010) dethroned Bike Snob NYC this year, and there’s a very good reason. At least 11 of the Top 50 cycling bloggers here are women. Cycling Chic Copenhagen has started a global movement — we can see many links pointing to Mikael’s blog (not ‘her’ indeed). This sub-community is rocking the blogosphere, or shall say women are rocking it! Women bloggers are a definite force to be reckoned with in the cycling world. In any community, sub-communities have stronger ties. They read each other more closely and influence each other. They also link to each other more which shows in this list. Next year, I may have to separate them from the larger pool to be fair to the rest. If a blogger dropped from last year’s list, it doesn’t mean they are less influential however. The Cycling Chics are just getting stronger. More women in cycling is good IMHO :)
  • Twitter and Facebook use: Looking at the numbers, Twitter is the definite place for people to connect with the Top 50 bloggers (over Facebook) beside their blog. 18 months ago, only 10% were on Facebook. It’s the reverse today as a large majority (66%) are using this medium to keep in touch with their community. Still a good 1/3 do not have either a Facebook page or a Twitter page, depending on preference. I assume the main reasons are either it is to time consuming (Facebook especially) or too brief (Twitter) and lacks conversational meaning. It’s also interesting that a good 44% have not shifted to ‘vanity URL‘ on Facebook. Get on it people!
  • Influence through Twitter and Facebook: As we can see with the both the numbers of followers or fans, we could have re-ranked everything accordingly. There is not a strong correlation between bloggers’ influence and social network influence even though some clearly use it well to spread the word and engage i.e. Cycle Chic Copenhagen on Facebook or Bike Snob NYC on Twitter.
  • Other interesting tidbits: Some blogs have had an impressive progression like Let’s go ride a bike by going from 29th to 4th place or Lovely Biycle going from 38th to 6th. On the brand side, Surly is doing it right… by breaking the Top 50 while no other brand blog is even close (we’d be happy to advise :))
That’s all folks. I’m anxious to see your feedback and any data I may have missed. It’s fascinating how much it has evolved in 18 months and how much all blogs focus on cultures and micro-cultures, beyond the bikes themselves. It’s not about the bike, right?
and now drum roll please…. The rank is based on blogs influence, not twitter or facebook follow. It still makes for a interesting comparison.

Blog Twittter follow Facebook fans
1 Cycle Chic™ –  Copenhagen. 4,300 10,565
2 Bike Snob NYC 21,691  ?
3 Copenhagenize.com 5,235 1,096
4 Let’s Go Ride a Bike 2,500 297
5 EcoVelo 1,745 2,377
6 Lovely Bicycle! 731 ?
7 Amsterdamize 3,497 191
8 Bikes and The City 289 1,159
9 Fat Cyclist 14,361 ?
10 League of American Bicyclists 5,885 3,368
11 BikePortland.org 8,955 ?
12 Cyclelicious 5,011 877
13 A view from the cycle path ? ?
14 Urban Velo 3,434 3,685
15 Kent’s Bike Blog 1,094 ?
16 Bicycle Comics 2,783 1,077
17 RidingPretty-Bicycle Chic California 451 309
18 Chic Cyclists ? ?
19 Surly Bikes 3,130 1,598
20 Jill Outside 494 405
21 Los Angeles Cycle Chic 530 149
22 Change Your Life. Ride A Bike! ? 318
23 Commute by Bike 400 846
24 Sac Cycle Chic 1,341 613
25 Bike Hugger 8,716 2,922
26 vélocouture 77 82
27 Streetsblog New York City 3,174 1,580
28 i b i k e l o n d o n 2,065 ?
29 Bike Commuters 72 724
30 VeloNews 41,000 13,875
31 The Path Less Pedaled 193 3,920
32 Bike By The Sea Blog ? ?
33 Portlandize ? ?
34 Hungarian Cycle Chic 80 6,396
35 All Hail the Black Market 1,952 1,499
36 Cycle Chic Belgium ? 1,397
37 Cycle Chic Sundays! 120 541
38 Vélo Vogue 1,006 342
39 Sheffield Cycle Chic 267 56
40 London Cycle Chic 1,842 1,413
41 She Rides a Bike ? ?
42 Sydney Cycle Chic 951 550
43 Toronto Cycle Style 416 981 67
44 Clever Cycles 1,712 1,247
45 BikeBlogs.com 270 ?
46 MnBicycleCommuter ? ?
47 London Cyclist Blog 6,822 729
48 Vancouver Cycle Chic 433 359
49 Lublin Cycle Chic ? 76
50 London Cycle Chic ? ?

Ride on and see you in Vegas,

+YannR @YannR

Yann Ropars

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Whose words are they, anyway?

10 02 2011

Like in the non-virtual world, fights and squabbles are a part of online communities. After all, bloggers and tweeps are groups of like-minded people who have all congregated together in the vast space of the Web.  As with any group, there is bound to be friction and tension as people interact and connect.  We’ve seen before how bloggers will fiercely defend one of their own against a larger entity, and while bloggers will occasionally pick fights with each other, it’s generally a contained fallout.  Recently, however, there was a situation where the ramifications spread far beyond the bloggers involved. The subject matter? A familiar one: ownership of content.

Twitter conversations (or Twitter parties) are a common occurrence in certain communities.  Using a keyword and hashtag, a group of tweeple will congregate at the same time and hold a discussion.  Generally, there is at least one or two conversation hosts or moderators who set up and help guide the discussion.  The online travel community has several of these conversations on a weekly or monthly basis, the most popular being #TNI.  Run by a group called ZipSetGo, #TNI is a quickly moving conversation that covers a variety of travel related topics.  Up until a few weeks ago, everything seemed to be running fine until Pam Mandel (@nerdseyeview) noticed something on ZipSetGo’s website.  Under the Traveler’s Night In tab, there was a notice where ZipSetGo explained that they were compiling and publishing a book from the Twitter parties and that those participating in #TNI chat were giving their consent for their tweets to be used (this notice has since been removed from the website).  Pam Mandel was not comfortable with this potential use of her tweets and wrote an entry about it on her blog.  The response was immediate and overwhelming.

Comments on her blog started flooding in from both sides. The next #TNI conversation, held only a few days later, was rife with resentment and comments from people who ignored the topic at hand (Australia, I believe) and instead, drew lines in the proverbial sands of this battle.  In a show of fairness by both sides, Pam Mandel published a response from ZipSetGo publicly on her blog. She responded to them, they responded back and the readers continued to chime in.

From blog to twitter and back again, everyone seemed to have an opinion.  All the big names in the online travel community weighed in on one side or the other.  There was so much fallout that ZipSetGo eventually sent out a statement saying they had pulled the book from publication and all profits made would be donated to charity. Although the pulling of the book appears to have effectively ended this argument (or not), nothing was actually resolved and the underlying questions have yet to be answered.  The crux of the issue was this: Did ZipSetGo have the legal right to take words that someone typed in a Twitter conversation, put it into physical print form and profit from it? If reviews by Amazon customers are the property of Amazon itself, does ZipSetGo hold rights to any tweets sent out using the #TNI tag?  Or does that mean that Twitter does, but Twitter users do not?

In order to give you a more definitive answer than a half-shrug and a weak “eh….maybe?”, I asked business lawyer Elizabeth Lewis, who works mostly with online companies, for her professional insight.  Lewis quickly summarized the two legal opposing arguments for me: 1) to enter into a contract, both parties must know they’re entering into the contract,  and 2) in most cases, short phrases and slogans can’t be copyrighted.  Let’s examine these two aspects as related to this case study.

You cannot be bound to a contract if you weren’t even aware you were in one. The founders do all have http://www.zipsetgo.com in their twitter profiles and if you click on that link you could maneuver through their site to the paragraph (which has since been deleted) that supposedly released them to use #TNI tweets.  However, you can use the #TNI hashtag without ever having visited their site.  If you’ve ever participated in #TNI, you know that it can be hard enough just to follow the conversation, much less narrow in on the hosts and click through links in their profiles.  Unless ZipSetGo could prove that the tweeps participating in #TNI had read and agreed to the paragraph on their homepage, there is no ground for consent. Essentially, the use of the #TNI hashtag really makes no difference as to whether ZipSetGo could publish someone else’s tweets.

In most cases, short phrases and slogans can’t be copyrighted. Everyone knows that Twitter limits each tweet to 140 characters; it’s a defining (and challenging!) characteristic.  What we don’t know is whether 140 character is considered a short phrase or slogan as in most cases 140 characters do not have the creativity to qualify for a copyright.  Lewis explained that there is no qualification for what constitutes a “short phrase” since a case centered on a tweet has never gone through court.  140 character is approximately a few sentences long (although that can quickly be eaten up by retweeting, directing them at certain people, or by using hashtags to associate it within a certain context).  Tweeps have come up with all kinds of shortcuts and acronyms to help them fit complete thoughts into the limited amount of space they’re given but there is no legal understanding for whether a tweet falls under copyright non-protection.

So where does that leave us now?  Essentially, with a more assured shrug and a less hesitant “maybe.”  Lewis explained to me that the courts are way behind in social media law and until someone takes a situation like this into the courtroom and a judge makes a ruling, there is no legal precedent. However, she went on to explain that copyright looks at the whole of something being taken.  If ZipSetGo’s book had published the last thousand tweets from a specific (and uncompensated) twitter account, she would take the case.  However, if a single tweet was taken from the potential client’s history and published, she would have to look at the case more closely before deciding whether to take the case or not.

The moral of this story is perhaps best summed up by one wise #TNI participant’s point:

Which side of the line do you fall on?  Should ZipSetGo be able to publish their book without fear?  Is there an expectation for ownership of tweets?

~Laura

Thanks to michperu and Ed Yourdon for use of their images.





A Baker’s Dozen of the Best Food Blogs

1 07 2010

The blogosphere has communities for just about every interest group: golf aficionados, animal lovers, wine enthusiasts….if you can name it, there’s at least a couple hundred related blogs about it.  Even understanding that there is an online place for everyone, there is one community so massive that it has garnered books, a movie and thousands of blogs.  Not only is this a large community, but it is a very active one with much updating, in-linking, collaboration and commenting.  What makes this group so large and dynamic?

Well, I have a theory.  Social media offers the opportunity for people to connect with others and to build online relationships.  Offline, people often gather, bond and connect over food (think about family Thanksgivings, work dinners and friends all pitching in for pizza).  It’s really no surprise that these two activities have found and fallen in love with each other in the food blogging community.  After all, food is a universal: everybody eats. As 17andbaking says, “it seems to me that one of the most important things about being alive is, well, food.”  Not only is food something that complete strangers can discuss with ease and understanding, cooking is a creative and productive outlet.  While good cooking requires a certain skill set, anyone can choose to engage in the activity itself with only basic understanding and minimal equipment (although, as any twenty-something newly on their own will tell you, you may not want to eat the end result!).

In the midst of innumerable blogs by great home chefs and bakers, why does one blog get hundreds of comments per post, and another go unacknowledged for what are (probably) delicious recipes?  To answer this question, I took a tour through the top twelve food blogs (based on number of in-links) and came up with a list of five criteria that these blogs all have in common. Note: I skipped over some sites that are more accurately labeled as magazines rather than blogs.

1.     Good food. This one should be a given.  Inspired, delicious food with recipes that people want to replicate in their own kitchen.

2.     Clear and abundant pictures. The photography of food blogging is stunning.  Many times the images have a Pavlovian effect upon the audience, demanding an attempt of the recipe be planned even before the entry has been read.

3.     Well-written. Although blogs are essentially online diaries, there is no place at the top for a blog author who cannot write.

4.     Life/food intersection. These top blogs not only provides a recipe, but context.  Often, it is discussed why a certain recipe (old family favorite or an attempted replication of a restaurant dish recently eaten) or a particular ingredient (strange cravings or seasonal choices) are chosen.  The way life leads us to food and food connects to the rest of our life is examined and celebrated.

5.     Personality. Each of these bloggers reveals distinct traits and offers sneak peeks into their lives, sharing heartwarming stories or wry and funny anecdotes.  These blogs come alive with the characteristics of the writer/cook and woo the audience into friendship.

From these five ingredients rises incredible food blogs with devoted followings. Don’t believe it can be that simple?  Check out our top 12 food bloggers and see for yourself!

1.     101 Cookbooks

2.     Smitten Kitchen (This site is one of my favorites.  I made her Chocolate Mousse for our Ladies’ Night dessert this week and it was sumptious!)

3.     Chocolate & Zucchini

4.     David Lebovitz

5.     Orangette

6.     Simply Recipes

7.     delicious:days

8.     Kalyns Kitchen

9.      Becks & Posh (although this site hasn’t been updated in quite awhile, the number of references still pointing back to it speaks volumes and keeps it in the top twelve)

10.  The Amateur Gourmet

11. Cream Puffs in Venice

12.  The Pioneer Woman (there is a relatively simple chocolate cake recipe from The Pioneer Woman that puts all other chocolate cakes to shame. Do you have a birthday, holiday or weekday coming up?  Make this cake.  You will be glad you did.)

And because more is better when it comes to delectable food blogs, I’ll throw in my personal favorite, Joy the Baker, to make our list an even baker’s dozen.  All thirteen of these blogs illustrate the five characteristics mentioned above (and some more). Who else would you add to this list/recommend?

Are there any other traits that you believe are necessary for a certain food blog to rise above the rest?

Thanks to JSmith, Anonymous and Mr T in DC for use of their images!

~Laura





Under the Influence?? The 25 Most Influential Wine Bloggers going to Walla Walla #WBC10

23 06 2010

Around Extanz, we follow the wine blogging community with enthusiasm; both as amateur connoisseurs and with an interest in how wineries themselves are utilizing blogging and social media to build their brands. These blogs are alight with chatter about the upcoming Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington this weekend and we expect wineries to be paying attention to the blogging advice and social media guidance that comes out of this weekend’s many sessions and panels. Are you going to the Wine Bloggers Conference? Think you know who the most influential bloggers in attendance are? Our results may surprise you.

In Walla Walla, experts will be discussing how to increase the quality, visibility and influence of your wine blog, whether you’re someone with strong opinions on wine quality or you’re a winery looking to increase your brand awareness and customer base. There are a couple of basics for wineries to keep in mind that we imagine (or hope) you’ll hear over and over this weekend that will make your blog worth reading, a blog that people return to week after week, and a blog that other influencers take note of.

  1. Write for your audience. This may seem simple, but have you really looked at who your target audience is and considered what they would find useful, informative & entertaining?
  2. Focus outward. Simply writing about you or your business or your product does not good content make.
  3. Network and link it up. Get your blog out there, in front of the influencers and people to whom it would be interesting. This is where the use of social media can come in very handy.

So how do the conference experts that will be giving you insider knowledge to accomplish the above must-dos rank in the social media sphere? Let’s find out …

At Extanz we study influence, so we studied how the bloggers present in Walla Walla this year rank among each other in terms of influence (measured by in-links). We removed blogs that qualified as online magazines with multiple writers (Palate Press, Wine Business, Washington State Beer and Wine, and Mutineer Magazine) from the list so as to only rank independent bloggers. We also looked at their presence on Facebook and Twitter – not to gauge influence, but to get an idea of what social media tools influencers are finding useful. As we saw in the cycling community, Twitter is the social network of choice for wine bloggers as well.

Are the big names at the conference the top influencers of the wine blog community? Here are the Top 25 bloggers (of the 180 in attendance):

Blog Facebook ‘Likes’ (fans)/Friends Twitter Followers Twitter Following
1 1WineDude 1055 friends 4,139 2,893
2 Good Grape: A Wine Blog Manifesto 521 friends 2,697 2,943
3 Through The Walla Walla Grape Vine 125 members 1,533 1,386
4 Drink Nectar 2450 fans 2,673 2,665
5 Dirty South Wine 344 fans 3,841 3,455
6 Luscious Lushes 248 fans 3,200 3,405
7 Another Wine Blog 441 fans 1,615 1,538
8 Steve Heimoff | Wine Blog 1040 fans 663 160
9 Wine Peeps: A Wine Blog 2129 fans 1,989 1,698
10 Suburban Wino 323 fans 1,387 1,356
11 Cellarmistress’ Cellar Talk ? 1,929 1,598
12 Wine Tonite! 369 fans 2,667 2,298
13 Washington Wine Report 344 fans 1,373 1,219
14 Wine Biz Radio 1203 fans 6,088 2,051
15 BrixChicks ? 968 847
16 Vinotology Wine Blog 334 friends 1,711 1,543
17 PaulG’s Blog – Unfined & Unfiltered ? 468 282
18 RJ’s Wine Blog 351 friends 2,412 1,695
19 The Passionate Foodie 1071 friends 2,108 2,180
20 The Wine Whore 3409 friends 12,051 13,086
21 Notes From The Cellar 250 fans 806 245
22 Beyond the Bottle l Oregon Washington Wine Blog ? 535 376
23 Bricks of Wine 513 friends 1,792 936
24 The Wine Case ? 2,054 1,549
25 Seattle Wine Gal 4966 friends 7,302 6,622

Here are some questions for you:

  • What do you think of the results?
  • Which wine blogger(s) would you like to have been present at Walla Walla?
  • Regardless of ranking, who are you most looking forward to meeting or learning from this weekend?

With thanks to Chris g Collison, yashima, and Rob Winton for the images.

Salud!

SEE the follow up blog: http://extanz.com/2010/07/13/sparkling-feedback-on-wbc10-blog-influence-rank-the-sequel

Katie


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Jeremiah Owyang VS Forrester Research or the reality of digital footprint divorces

21 08 2009

Jeremiah Owyang

Yesterday’s news about Jeremia Owyang leaving Forrester research is a very important day for social media and its use by businesses. I’ve been a fan of Jeremiah’s work for a long time now. He was best described as an “idea factory” by his boss and I totally agree with this. He’s made (and will continue) to make a huge impact on social technology adoption and best practice “crystallization”.

Now, what were they thinking at Forrester? I am fascinated by the unplanned and de facto mash-up that is occurring between personal and corporation / brand digital footprints, especially since social networks have exploded.

Here are some stats to explain what I am referring to:

Forrester Jeremiah Owyang
Joined Twitter 2007-07-25 2006-12-19
Number of Followers (as of today) 24,000 51,000
Joined Forrester N/A October 2007
Number of tweets (as of today) 877 16,500

Obviously, Jeremiah has blown away Forrester in terms of followers but also in mastering the different social media tools. It was one of his best career moves as he wrote yesterday. Yes, it was his job to master those tools, but obviously his digital footprint and influence is bigger than Forrester’s in some ways. Onto another data point, web-traffic: Jeremiah’s blog is pretty much on a par with Forrester.com as you can see on the Compete graph…
Bottom Line –Jeremiah leaving Forrester is a huge loss for Forrester and probably even bigger loss compared with a similar departure 3-4 years ago before the social media boom.

I think it’s also a great example on how companies should think about leveraging the personal digital footprints of their employees, while making sure that the brand’s digital footprint grows proportionally to the employees they empower. Related questions include…

- Should Jeremiah have actually been using Forrester’s twitter account or blog more?
– Would Jeremiah have been as successful if he hadn’t used his personal accounts for work? I also prefer talking to people than brands directly… there’s a human side that is inherent to our gregarious nature.
– Should Forrester have asked him to tweet a little bit more on @forrester ? (877 tweets for @forrester vs 16,500 for @jowyang)?
– Will the person they hire after Jeremiah be required to…?
– Will employees be able to negotiate the use of their personal digital footprint when joining a company?
– Will employers require a minimum digital footprint from their employees?

My point is that Jeremiah’s digital footprint is leaving with him when he leaves Forrester. The long tail effect of his personal blog will be massive as he has worked as a very thorough and systematic aggregator, and like when Robert Scoble left Seagate to go to Rackspace, there will be a serious impact that no company has measured before.

To me, it’s a wake up call for companies using or considering social media. The pioneers you empower to guide your company through those green fields will become very powerful. This is good for you but needs to be considered. The David & Goliath story we’ve seen with the Kutcher vs CNN challenge to pass 1,000,000 followers is another classic example of what’s possible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you’ve considered this as part of your social media strategy.

Wishing good luck to Jeremiah’s new green fields,

@YannR





Social Media Neophytes and Great Hopes

16 07 2009

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel organized by the local Entrepreneurs network about social media. The audience was clearly a majority of neophytes from local businesses, agencies and even government. I think it was an eye opener for me as to what people have on their mind. For them, the 6 panelists certainly gave them tons of useful information. It was participant driven which was a great experience. My natural tendency is to discuss on this blog larger phenomena occurring in the social media world.  I’ll therefore try to address those same questions a bit more regularly on the Extanz blog. For now, I want to focus on some of the points raised at the event….

Time devoted-to make effective? What to listen? How to listen?

I think entrepreneurs are even more wary about the time sucker that social media can be. Let’s just consider Twitter to start with as it’s probably the most straight forward one. If you’re lucky, and you have more than one

computer screen, I would pull up applications like Tweetdeck, Seesmic or PeopleBrowsr and start setting up searches, creating groups by interest. Scout for topics that your company is involved with, see what results come up. Tools like Twitter or Friendfeed are the most valuable when listening or monitoring that action. You or your company’s ‘social’ networks act as a knowledge guardian, you’ll be able to stay on top of what’s of interest to you (being the Tour de France or what are your competitors are up to, what customers/consumers are saying, etc). Most of these applications will allow you to create ‘columns’ or ‘groups’ that filter by keyword. Scroll through it, see what is being said and reply / participate if it’s worth your time. You can also share links or articles you find valuable or simply RT (re-tweet) with your comments. I would also advise using these tools in conjunction with Google Alert, Filtrbox, OneRiot and other similar tools which are much more efficient search tools than staring at Twitter all day.

ROI 101: Return On Investment 101

Throw away any of the usual metrics you’ve learned. Building relationships for a person or a brand cannot be measured as a statistical number. You will still see more followers on Twitter, more fans on your facebook fan page. Ultimately, if you share valuable content and engage in conversations, you’ll have a clear sign that people like your content. This clearly has a more powerful impact for you or the brand you represent. Also, I hear too often that people don’t use Google Analytics yet on their… this is a must have. If you expect to show any sign that your time is spent appropriately, Google Analytics will be able to show you this progress.

What percentage of your marketing strategy should be devoted to social media?

That will depend on your audience. The more you deal with tech industries and the knowledge industry, the more important it’ll be for your company. For example, a company like Crocs (not so much knowledge industry based) has one full time dedicated employee for Social Media (George Smith Jr) out of 3-4k people worldwide. Make sure to think about every activity you carry as a company and how to leverage social media in relation to those activities. Social media is not a marketing play, it’s a relationship play. Relationships happen at every step of a company’s value chain. Social media can fit in those segments. See what happens. Draw conclusions. Be creative. Repeat.

Some simple steps to get started:

Level 1- Join groups related to your industry in Linkedin or Facebook, engage there. This might be enough as some of audience is already there.

Level 2- Join twitter, start following 50 people who you care about as a company, start listening, share interesting news in your industry or localized content, engage where you can.

Level 4- Create a facebook page and try to get your other marketing activities to promote that facebook page. Link your Twitter account to your facebook fan page.

Level 5- Start a blog… this is a difficult exercise and can be time consuming, but it is still what can carry your business voice the furtherest. Remember that if you blog, stay away from clogging, don’t use this as just another ad channel (#fail).

There are 100s of things you could do, but start there. Your company’s digital footprint will benefit and you may be able to spend 1-2 hours per week without losing your boss’ trust. Finally, it’s more complex than it seems. If you want to be effective at it, getting help is usually well worth it.

Off you go,

Thank you for you great pictures:  by quelquepartsurlaterre, ToniVCjohn.d.mcdonald

@YannR





Give ‘em a hammer… Give ‘em a twitter…

15 04 2009

As far as social media circles and events go, I like to think I get around. While I am getting around, I tend to meet 3 kind of folks. Recently, the kinds of conversations I have had with them have caused me to wonder about this whole social media hype thing that we’ve got going on…. so here’s my view…

Group 1: By far the largest and getting smaller by the minute….Never heard of it or totally confused. Social media what? Why do we need this anyway, it’s not really for business! Kids stuff. Goofing around.  Ok, everyone is talking about Twitter… maybe I should get on Twitter then (law of the hammer) and start pressing “follow”. But, errr, what am I going to do with it? I really don’t have time for this. Our website is a fine piece of art, we look good, we’re different. We’re participating, right?

Group 2: Getting up there now in numbers…..We’re afraid, man. What if someone, somewhere, says something, thinks something… geez we’re so used to sending those press releases over the fence… our sales people are here for the interactions… Inbound marketing, what? No, we have engineers for that.  They can see the future. We’ve just hired a guy who worked at Apple anyway. Sorted, man. The customer voice, yes, we do surveys – candy for  everyone! You’ve probably met someone like this recently too.

Group 3:  Finally the toolers,  social media is equal to social networking –  They are all over it, their company has a twitter account, and man it’s rocking in there, we’re doing it right cos we have a facebook fan page, a twitter account and the CEO is on Linkedin… This is social media, right…? Huh, well, let’s see now. Chances are good what we’re going to see is a bunch of mundane conversations when someone can spare some time… or maybe they’ll hire a junior cos “they know how that stuff works, right?” Ah, not so fast now. And blogging? Yeah, we do that or we thought of doing it but…

Yes folks, Give ‘em a twitter… Give ‘em a hammer. Everything is looking like a tweet :). Don’t get me wrong, Twitter is an awesome tool, just be mindful. I see workshops on Twitter or Linkedin everywhere like some kind of  new gold that we have all got to get a piece of.  But you know what? I just can’t see how just using one of these tools along is going to turn into a real return. Therein lies the catch….tweety-birds!

Questions you should ask yourself at this moment include:

  1. How is my web strategy supporting my overall marketing strategy?
  2. What are the different components of my web strategy?  Usability, design, copy, SEO, social networks, social media, blogging, adwords… maybe email marketing… Ultimately, it should be about lead generation and converting viewers into customers or at least starting the qualification process… right? Once again push doesn’t work and pull is not easy.
  3. Now, how will social media support your web strategy?  Is this about a time suck or truly turning your customers into advocates? What’s more,  if you venture into the social media space, how is the rest of your marketing plan supporting Social Media and vice-versa…??
Groundswell tool from Forrester Research

Groundswell tool from Forrester Research

My spin on the groundswell levels of success are that they are not mutually exclusive but reaching gold straight off the bat is kinda like managing a hole in one during your first round of golf. Some can. But the rest of us….. you get the picture.

So here is a potential way of looking at levels of success in Social Media…

Not Even On The Podium: You’re pushing your promotions through social networks. Your credibility will suffer. That’s more like a fail.

Bronze: You’re listening and talking with people but having mundane conversation is killing your efforts. Are you truly contributing or making noise e.g. Tweet: “going to the gym now”?

Silver: You’re engaging and energizing your customer base. Passion is the corner stone of social media; where are those passionate users? Are you empowering them to do more with products or services? Are you teaching them, educating them? Are you putting your customer in a position to teach other industry users? They may do a better job than you, you know…

Gold: You’re providing a 3rd space(s) where customers are actually talking to each other and supporting each other. You’ve integrated activities through social media as well as the customer voice or use of your product or services.

Bottom line, if you go on your own, measure and measure your effectiveness; engagement is an art. Wasting time is a hard price to pay for just being on the networks. If you need help, I would seriously check if your prospective provider has a rock solid methodology… it’s no surprise that “Establishing a method for engaging consumers in online conversation” is ranked top of the tactics used by companies by the Aberdeen Group.

Social Media is not a cooking recipe, there will be some experimentation. Having a sound methodology and measurable processes will save you a lot of guess work and just doing social media because everyone is buying a twitmmer these days. Finally,  in the words Social Media, there is also Media… quality media.

Thank you chazferret for his cool picture!

Onwards and upwards,

Yann






Social Media Interview With Walker Thompson [client]

30 03 2009
“I can find out more about you through the web than I can by spending an hour with you [...]“ Walker Thompson, VP of Sales and Marketing for Syndicom, Inc.

Last week we had the pleasure of interviewing Walker Thompson, VP of Sales & Marketing at
Syndicom Inc. Syndicom is a provider of a collaborative suite of products targeted at surgeons and medical device companies to work more efficiently.

Syndicom was definitely using traditional marketing and PR but felt they were lacking ways to engage with their wider market and influential blogosphere.
Walker felt that using RSS marketing could help Syndicom engage on their own terms and be able to distribute their own messages and content. As he puts it,  “I could suddenly present my message through many different networks (Facebook, Twitter etc….).” However, while Walker has been very active in the blogosphere for some time it was hard to know how to navigate through it in relation to the medical world. He struggled with how to spend time effectively using social media when he had other things to focus on and it’s moving so quickly —  a social media service provider was the only way go. Enter Extanz.

The results speak for themselves. Syndicom’s monthly website traffic has almost tripled in less than a year. This is significant given that Syndicom is a b2b niche focused business. Page views have doubled in the same 6 months and Syndicom’s Alexa ranking went from 7,000,000th place to 500,000th place in only a few months. The bottom line says Walker, “is that we’re relevant and part of the discussion.” People know what their product is, have a better idea of what they do and, by the way,  have read their blog!
Blogging is difficult by yourself, time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but the mothership of good social media programming. Syndicom used Extanz blogging as part of their sales education cycle with both business customers and core users. Combined with podcasts and comments on influential blogs, Syndicom’s content is more objective, professional and ethical. Return comments are a real indication of relational success. As Walker says, “Extanz clearly amplified reaching out to influential bloggers with a high level of vertical expertise. Other influential bloggers would inevitably come back and leave comments on our blog; this is real, influential, two way conversation.”
So what’s Walker’s conclusion on social media and online tools? “If you don’t embrace it, you’ll become irrelevant”. 90% of companies don’t have a blog and he thinks it’s critical to create trust. The way people work and interconnect has changed, if you don’t have a presence on these new media, you’re becoming harder to reach. Syndicom’s business is online and it’s pretty clear that online methods and tools are dramatically changing how medicine is practiced, research, discovered and taught.”
To hear more of Walker’s thoughts, listen to the podcast here:
To learn more about Extanz and how we can help you, click here.




Twitter vs Facebook and the fight for the crumbs…

19 03 2009

A few weeks ago, @kblucy did a quick poll in her Capstone class for students majoring in Communication – 4 out of 84 students are actually using Twitter.  They are all on Facebook or at least 90% of them. Twitter what? No, it’s just the fastest growing network these days. Maybe it’s generational. Or it’s how we use it but we see  Facebook slowly sending MySpace to a shelf and Twitter is thinking about doing the same to Facebook after refusing $500 Million from same. It didn’t  take long for Facebook to turn around and let ‘Fan Pages’ (companies, celebrities…) be able to update their ‘status’ (just came out last week) which Twitter does. Things are certainly heating up… some talk about collision.  

Have you heard of MyYearBook.com? Tagged.com?  Tumblr.com? Hi5.com? Bebo.com? … hmm, no? People have different needs, live in different places and use all those tools for different reasons. Depending on your marketing strategies, using those different platforms will have more or less returns.

I thought I’d give a bit of a run down of the different networks we use in our practice and why we use them. But before we go there,  I want to say that Personal Branding and Business Branding are colliding. Those students are increasingly growing their personal digital footprint on places like Facebook or MySpace. They will soon be working for corporations and companies. How will their personal representation affect your brand? Why bother sending a resume when you can find everyone online? If they are not online, I would be worried for you though.

Social Networks:

- MySpace: Still the largest network, your brand needs to be there and somewhat active especially if your target market is in the younger age bracket. We still see low traffic from this platform.

- Facebook: Its clean look and super organized way to manage your contacts and relationships has definitely worked wonders. It is driving good to moderate traffic, better in the consumer space.

- Linkedin / Plaxo: By nature, they were designed for more professional purposes. I find that Plaxo has been a more open platform in terms of using RSS but the traffic volume coming from Linkedin is higher. Linkedin was web-based from the start and definitely has the biggest market share. Since the fall, Linkedin allows you to update your company profile and help link personal identities. I mostly find those networks powerful to find people and be found.

- Twitter: with 812% of traffic growth, it’s still a small network but indeed posing an interesting threat. The main clue here is ‘Conversation’. Engaging in Twitter means that you can engage better with people and customers that you would not encounter otherwise. The big bonus: you can search real time conversations about products or brands… It’s a very powerful brand monitoring tool [Search.Twitter.com]  – You can also organically reach people or brands without the limitations of the Facebook fortress :)

- Hi5 and Bebo have been growing very fast respectively in UK/Europe for Bebo and Latin America for Hi5 but are still cumbersome platforms to use with limited RSS connectivity. As you can see, Twitter totally passed those networks during the fall of 2008.

So what now? Being on all the main social networks as a person or a brand is somewhat necessary but if you need to focus on a few only, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are the best bets, at least in North America.

Remember that Google Search is still your best bet for driving ‘semantic’ traffic and generating web leads to your company website. SEO (search engine  optimization) and CPC (AdSense) campaigns are good methods but you’re limited when it comes down to increasing brand trust. Blogging remains the best way to increase better qualified leads in your web pipeline.

Finally, remember that YouTube generates more search volume than Yahoo itself since fall 2008 , so if you can invest, make sure to get into video – blogging.

Cheers!

@yannr





Your Government 2.0 has arrived – U Ready?

21 01 2009

Lately,  the blogosphere has been speculating  if Mr Obama would ‘follow through’ the social media groundswell movement his campaign had started with his government.  Today was a good sign. From having his Blackberry taken away for security reasons (then given back to him), the “twitterverse” has kept debating. The HOPE is: “we don’t want the traditional way”, it’s a time for change, right? Will the new Oval Office still use  its new way after blowing through the roof of every social media form? Check out these stats from during the campaign: Twitter (165,000 followers), Facebook (close to 4,000,000 fans), MySpace (1,100,985 friends), Blogging, YouTube … etc.

Well, in the hour after the inauguration, we had the spark of an answer, the new WhiteHouse.Gov site is now up and features a blog on the front page :) – This will make those of us who think that blogging is the mothership of social media smile widely! There is no better way to engage and distribute your content today than through a [useful] blog. The Government is doing it , don’t be left behind! This is now the most cost effective way to reach out and spread the word about your brand’s higher purpose. Every blog is a natural SEO (Search Engine Optimization) method of increasing your relevancy.  RSS will distribute the mail (blog) for free and at the speed of light.

Along those lines (of doing the right thing), I had a brief interaction with @georgegsmithjr from Crocs recently – Wayne Sutton was interviewing George Smith at Crocs about their young voyage through Social Media. I think that many companies could certainly learn from their humble approach to social media [read more here] – They are tiptoeing into it,  their blog is buried on their site [unlike the new White House one on the front page] and feeding their blog to their brand fans in Facebook is not there yet, but they are definitely trying, kudos to them!  I speak to many marketing folks who are simply afraid of any ‘interaction’ with real people.  It’s funny how people can just become robots when they enter the work environment.  Crocs is definitely trying the right way, the human way. It’s time to engage, now that we have all that sociable leadership in the White House.

Today was another huge spike for the ‘people’s voice’ with Twitter experiencing moments of  5X more tweets per second than the normal daily rate. It’s always a good reminder that Twitter is now mainstream. Your customers and the most viral of them are on it :) Be there. Even if you or your company are not blogging, try yourself out with micro-blogging — it is a good place to start. I also highly recommend you use TweetDeck (Desktop Application) if you are going to use Twitter. Tweetdeck is way more efficient than using Twitter by itself.

Blogging, yes we can…

Cheers!

@yannr








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