Nearline communication: Facebook intends to squash Synch & Asynchronous modes

16 11 2010

Facebook caters to 500 million people, so pleasing everyone is quite the task. Despite its astonishing growth, Facebook still has some impediments that limit its usefulness for many of us. It’s not an information network, it’s hardly a professional network and certainly not a viable email system/network. So how about making communication a continuum?

This week, Facebook made one of the most interesting moves in their recent history.

They announced features to empower user control of their ‘relevancy stream’. It’s no surprise that with the acquisition of FriendFeed last year that some of its core philosophy should finally appear.  While FriendFeed may have been too feature rich and catered only to power users, it still is/was a very powerful way for users to make their stream ultra-relevant to their lives and across their identities. Facebook’s recently announced changes now promise us a better focused feed stream. We could maybe, finally, potentially, use the platform to do more meaningful stuff.

Perhaps more importantly, regardless of the device we’re using, Facebook wants our conversations with people (or brands) to flow seamlessly throughout, based on user preferences. If you’re like me, Facebook rarely disseminates information important to your professional life. So I limit it to people that matter on a personal level. In this information age, it’s not who you know but what you know. Other platforms like Tweetdeck or Seesmic have allowed users to segregate streams by relevance using columns. Unfortunately, Facebook’s current ‘interestingness’ feature still makes users miss a bunch of important info.

Twitter, LinkedIn and other mail systems should rightfully question how they will respond. The ability for Facebook users to segregate their streams will certainly encroach (in theory) on the territory of these other platforms. Google’s failed attempts (Wave, Buzz) to re-engineer itself into a single interface across different information needs and identities show that it’s not easy. We ‘humans’ don’t change that easily. Once something works, we’ll stick with it till something far better comes along. Algorithmic platforms like Flipboard and Paper.li have been helping us bring the signal to noise ratio down.  But for a network to stay relevant, it needs to bring that ratio down while increasing throughput or it will be outpaced by niche networks.

Some important consequences ensue:

If you’re boring or spammy, move over – If you’re facebooking too much about your lunches, you could find yourself more lonely… we may have finally found a spam solution.

Brands, it’s about to get tougher, which means you need to get real – A large number of fans could soon become fake fans if you’re not delivering VALUE to your followers.

Is it Facebook or Twitter? Perhaps a bit of both? – Facebook is trying to be more like Twitter since Twitter has been picking up much steam in the business world with a larger share of use among Fortune 500. Is this their answer?

So tell us, will you be using Facebook more for more things?

@YannR @Extanz

Turning brands into conversational hubs – See our services: https://extanz.com/services/





Wineries & Social Media Part 1: David moves faster than Goliath … again.

29 09 2010

With harvest season under way in much of wine country, it seemed an appropriate time to check out the presence of the broader U.S. wine industry on various social networks and examine how social media is being used by various levels of the industry. Blogging, the backbone of any social media program, became a favored tool among wineries, wine critics and wine enthusiasts far before social networks became a powerful tool for reaching a brand’s community (we recently looked at the most influential wine bloggers attending the Wala Wala Conference). For this blog however, I set out to compare how large wineries & vineyards with substantial marketing budgets and brand recognition and small wineries & vineyards looking to establish a brand are utilizing social media beyond just the blogosphere. I stumbled across the Chandon Escape contest last spring, a highly marketed and polished contest driven by social media where entrants earned more chances to win by becoming a Fan of the Chandon Facebook page and each time they tweeted the contest hashtag. Having observed this event and being familiar with the vast marketing budgets that the country’s largest wineries are working with, I expected to see the top wine companies and their brands with highly developed social media strategies and a broad presence across the networks. I was wrong.

There are thousands of vineyards and wineries throughout the US ranging in size, distribution and personality, and their media usage is just as diverse. As I mentioned, I expected the brands from the largest wine companies to have highly polished social media pages with sophisticated campaigns. Instead, I found them largely absent from the social networks with the lower ¾ (in terms of production) of the wineries & vineyards dominating the social media sphere. Wine makers are also utilizing social media for more than just customer outreach and expanding their brand recognition. We’ll be doing a three-part series on wineries and social media, taking a look at how both large and small wineries are working with social media, as well as how social networks are for more than just reaching customers. Part 1:

With the exception of a few brands for example, namely producers of bubbly like Korbel and Chandon, the largest of the large wineries & vineyards have a very small social media presence. Using this list and these profiles, I identified the top wineries in the US. The largest companies like E&J Gallo, Constellation Wines, The Wine Group, Bronco Wine Company & Robert Mondavi produce many of the country’s most well known wine brands but have largely ignored social media as a tool to engage their communities. Most of the companies’ brands have either no social media presence at all or host Facebook pages on which they are minimally active. This is not so unusual. Indeed, in our experience, the larger the company, the less comfortable they are entering the social media sphere. Nevertheless, for products where there is widespread passion like the wine industry, we expected to see more social media use.

In contrast, other large wineries that rank at the lower end of the top US wineries lists are embracing social media and getting recognized for it. Rick Bakas and St. Supery are receiving widespread attention (from the New York Times to Reuters) for running a strong social media program that includes a blog, active Facebook page, one of the strongest Twitter programs for a winery and an virtual & interactive wine tasting program. Although lacking a key component of a social media program – a blog – Wente Vineyards also stands out for their Facebook and Twitter activities. Many other wineries of this size can be found with an active social media program including (but not at all limited to) Dry Creek Vineyard, Murphy-Goode Winery, and J. Lohr. Aside from St. Supery and Wente, these larger wineries using social media are finding general success with the platforms by posting and engaging their Facebook & Twitter communities on a regular basis and hosting a blog (albeit the blogs are often under-utilized) but there is much room for improvement in expanding brand recognition, reaching new customers and utilizing the true networking powers of the social networking platforms.

So far, a very mixed bag for the largest US wineries in terms of their social media use. Some are knocking it out of the ballpark; some haven’t even heard the train coming. What are your thoughts on why the largest wineries are largely ignoring social media? Which large wineries have you seen doing great stuff with social media?

Stay tuned for Part 2!

With thanks to Big D2112, dr_XeNo and quinn.anya for the photos.

Katie

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Blogger Conferences 2010

20 09 2010

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about conferences and conventions for bloggers.  After all, the International Food Blogger Conference took place a few weeks ago in Seattle, BlogHer 2010 was a couple weeks before that at the beginning of August and  SOBCon Colorado was just this past weekend.  Whether you cringe at the thought of going to a conference or you love to get out from behind the computer and meet other bloggers in the industry, it’s important to recognize when these meetings are happening.  Whenever influential individuals in a community meet to discuss and connect, you can expect things to shift, people to try out new ideas, positions to be challenged and considered.  It’s always interesting to see which ideas planted during conference discussions can bloom out throughout the community at large, leading to some great and innovative blog entries.  However, it can be painstaking to try and keep track of which conferences are drawing near, especially as we begin to look forward to the holiday season (yep, I said it!).  We’ve taken the work out of knowing conference dates by composing this neat little list of those that are happening between now and the end of the year.  While we tried to stick to conferences that are happening domestically, one or two international conferences were snuck in there as well.

September:

24-26 Type-A Mom Conference

25  Camp Blogaway – Baldwin Park

30 Social Media Club: “Social Media & Family”

October

8-9 BlogHer Food Conference

8-10 Blogalicious Weekend

14-16  BlogWorld Expo

21-24 Revelvant Conference

22-24 European Wine Bloggers Conference

23 Bloggy Boot Camp-Austin

23 Show Me The Blog

25 Camp Blogaway

November

5-7 Global Getaway

5-7 Beer Bloggers Conference

5-7 I_Blog Conference

10-12  Social Media University

12-14 International Natural Food and Health Conference

13 Bloggy Boot Camp-St. George

December

4 WordCamp

10-12 Lavish!

These are all the conferences happening in the next few months, as far as I was able to find.  It is likely that those signed up for the first conference mentioned above will be especially appreciative of the list format and those who are organizing the final one will not be best pleased to be referred to as a conference, as they are branding their experience as an “unconference.”  Still, these are meetings to be aware of and to join into, if you’re so inclined.  While many of the conferences slotted to happen within the next several weeks are already sold out, a number of those also have waiting lists or ticket exchange forums. The conferences further down on the list are also still accepting new participants.

So if you’re a frequent conference go-er, share some of your experiences with us!  What kind of advice would you give to a newcomer?  Which conferences have been your favorite?  What moves a conference up in your esteem?  Are there any other conferences that should have made it onto our list? Finally, does anyone know of a conference using Plancast.com? If you do, let us know!

Thanks to rickbucich and alexdecarvalho for the blogger conference pictures!

~Laura

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Conversation Engines: it doesn’t matter how much we ‘get it’… we need to ‘get it’ more.

25 08 2010

Despite astonishing network growth, our tools have not been able to keep up with social noise. As an individual, I tend to limit my output and certainly limit the chit-chat. As a business, I believe it is important to pay attention to this trend: conversation have faded away. Businesses have created FB pages and Twitter accounts left and right. They ‘totally get it’. Data keeps coming in, failures are very common and some even say the social media bubble is about to burst. Katie was challenging our thinking behind how easy it seems to simplify things through facebook pages earlier this week. So what’s going on?

– Let’s face it, less is the new more… one reason I like(d) FriendFeed over Twitter and especially over Facebook is its quality of information. The Google Wave dream is no more and Google Buzz is now a noisy chamber. Social platforms have filled up a need on one side — they’ve allowed us to aggregate pertinent information for our personal and professional lives. But they have also created, in many cases, an addiction to real time information, empowering anyone to become a producer regardless of quality or qualification. Mainstream media has slowly struggled to stay relevant. Choose your path, stay relevant. It’s even more critical for a business. Many constituent voices need to be represented and people have learned to be more selective.

– Competing for attention: Nielsen released their latest study on internet usage early August to find that 23% of internet use is spent on social networks up from 16% a year ago. We’ve embraced social media beyond its (and our) wildest expectations, but we’re barely scratching the surface when it comes to truly turning an organization to serve its constituency through new media. In 2 years, we’ve moved from “what is social media?” to “super noise”. Some have chosen the careful path of information sharing, others have massively unfollowed, conversations have faded into a sharing frenzy. Quality of information and interaction has never been so important. Louis Gray’s comments “I quickly fatigue from the insanity” describing his (mine too) inability to cope with the amount of information revelations. Even more revealing, Louis just accepted a position with My6Sense as VP of Marketing. My6Sense is another algorithm based app focusing on generating relevant information. If the crowd can’t do it, the algorithm will. Companies ought to harness a wide variety of techniques to make those algorithms work in their own favor aka driving long tail traffic.

– Brands are struggling to become conversation partners: I continue to revisit the realization that brands want to only talk about stuff they are experts at, like they’re getting ready to broadcast. I believe the contrary. Your company doesn’t just have to only talk about stuff related to your product or services. Creating a mono-stream/logue of information across social platforms will only make people put you in a bucket for good. The shift from outbound to inbound marketing is a steep learning curve and requires dedicated attention. Empowering constituents (imagine onion layers) to discuss topics of interest with brands and amongst each other takes more than just putting information out there.

Can you relate? Do you think the bubble is ready to burst?

@YannR @Extanz






Should Everyone Be on Facebook? #B2B #apps

23 08 2010

Fostering strong and vibrant online communities is a key goal in any social media program. Social media allows businesses to harness the power of consumer referrals in ways not seen before. This isn’t new news; industry analysts and companies have recognized this for a number of years and the number of companies using social media to expand their consumer base and brand loyalty has grown exponentially. While more and more companies are launching their own Facebook pages, few utilize them to their full potential as Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group pointed out recently in his presentation on The 8 Success Criteria for Facebook Page Marketing. Owyang’s research revealed that most brands lack a concrete and well-defined strategy and fail to fully utilize Facebook’s features to build word of mouth among their customers. Owyang also lays out the key steps for successful Facebook page marketing, including:

  1. Set community expectations
  2. Provide cohesive branding
  3. Be up to date
  4. Live authenticity
  5. Participate in dialogue
  6. Enable peer-to-peer interaction
  7. Foster advocacy
  8. Solicit calls to action

This is great advice and is part of the key strategy for any Facebook community we enable our clients to develop, but it overlooks a couple of key issues that indicate where and how you engage. Without addressing these issues, businesses may end up with a false sense of possibility of the activity they can create on Facebook. Not all brands possess the sex appeal, business model & resources that the Fortune 500 companies Owyang researched do. So how should these brands use Facebook? Here are some points I would like discuss with the social media marketing community and the Altimeter Group when answering this question:

  1. Is Facebook marketing right for everyone? The implication from Owyang’s presentation is that because Facebook is where most people are already at and where everyone’s going, all brands should be engaging their communities on this platform. But is this true for Business-to-Business (B2B) brands? If your customer is not a single consumer that can advocate for your brand, but rather another corporation or a non-profit or a school district or a municipality, is Facebook a platform that you can reasonably expect to grow your business or should it be approached as a tool to expose your corporate culture and role in your industry as a thought leader? At Extanz, our experience indicates that Facebook must be one of a number of platforms used to reach your community in the B2B sector and resources should be spread across blogging, bloggers relations?, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.
  2. If a business doesn’t have the resources to be designing custom applications to foster advocacy and interaction, are third-party applications a tool brands will find success with? Our use of third-party apps for our clients varies dramatically according to clients. These apps typically request access to your page information and the right to use the results of your participation. While for certain demographics this is not an issue, in other markets, community members may be completely unwilling to allow the access and participate via a third-party app. Sometimes they are staunch protectors of their privacy, other times they are web-savvy enough to understand the access these apps are gaining or they are web-challenged enough to be intimidated by the technology.
  3. If the sex appeal isn’t there for your brand, either because it’s not a well-known brand or it’s B2B or it’s not an industry people generally engage around or it’s a brand with a community that demands privacy, will the community engage? Our experience says yes, but it requires a strategy that is not discussed as part of the 8 Successful Criteria produced by Altimeter. So, I’d propose we add a criterion: Be a resource for your community and activate around the community interests, not just your brand. Provide them substantive and useful content e.g. industry news, tips for their lifestyle related to your service or product, cutting edge developments or trends, local news that is important to the community etc. Do not just provide updates about your brand and company news.

Social media and Facebook marketing are unquestionably an integral component to online marketing and branding for most industries. The key is ensuring you lay out a strategy that carefully balances your business objectives with the needs of your constituent community as they can be quite different before you dive in rather than simply industry standards as your strategy.

What are your thoughts on the above issues? Does Facebook work for B2B marketing? Should third-party apps be presented in a way that insinuates they would be useful and necessary to Facebook marketing strategy for all brands? How have you engaged communities that don’t automatically want to talk about your brand?

With thanks to Igi’s TV Network and Spencer E. Holtaway for the images.

Katie





FlipBoard: Just a tipping point or a real game changer?

22 07 2010

The writing is on the wall…We’re moving closer to Social what? and we took a huge step yesterday with the release of FlipBoard, as part of the iPad store. A few years ago, given new powers, we flocked to new media. Clay Shirky called it the “largest increase in expressive capability in human history“.

Content production has soared to levels never reached before and ever since, we’ve been trying to find ways to sift through and find relevant content. This week, the iPad which almost outsold Mac sales during the last quarter, was equipped with what Scoble calls the first iPad “killer app”. FlipBoard, as an online powerful mechanism to deliver us relevant information, promises to transform our social networks experience (imagine a onion). We could throw Google search, Bing, and Twitter search out of the window as technology progressively makes our extended networks smarter and less noisy (i hope they remove the unnecessary FourSquare updates for example)… You can view the 20mn video released for more details on how it works.

Last week I really liked a post by Mahendra Palsule describing the different ways we now have to find information. It used to be media + Google. It’s now a tad more complex. Read more here about different form of information filtering: Algorithmic, Human, Crowdsourced, Shared Sources (Meta), Influence, Social Search. Even if Google has made massive progress and now the average number of keywords is 3 in a google search, algorithms alone can’t keep up. Our online networks can be tremendously powerful if we can organize them. Case in point: Facebook sucks big time in delivering me relevant social media information. Twitter is full of noise; even lists can be. FriendFeed (RIP) was still the best thing we had before Facebook swallowed it whole. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could combine these networks and use a better scanning and selection system for our social graph for all this information? FlipBoard promises that (even Marshall Kirkpatrick says he doesn’t want to work anymore but just flip away, and Flipboard got so successful yesterday that they servers couldn’t keep up). In summary, it promises social information and filtering at a whole new level.

Business/enterprise consequences? If you’re not in your constituents’ stream, GET IN it or GET IGNORED. Your cost of marketing will only rise as less and less people pay attention (ask print media if they are feeling it). In a world of information overload, brands are being asked to become increasingly experiential and less transactional. It starts by serving the brand’s constituency with relevant information. So get out there and start shaking hands/making friends!

@YannR @Extanz

EAVB_BBAPCSVFSB





Blue or Red pill? Brush strokes of a Resonance Marketing Framework.

14 07 2010

Remember the blue vs red pill conversation?

I’m here to talk about the red pill. The one that would bring uncertain truth. Truth is, the internet will continue to break down the walls of the information monopoly. Social influence of all sorts will speed up this disruption of old business models. A business will need its communit{ies} to survive, and that will require a more open partnership with them. There are still less of us who believe in “InBound Marketing” than in the overused “Social Media Marketing”, hence me crying ‘wolf’ a few weeks ago. Don’t we always wonder how something becomes viral and wish we had thought of it? I do. But let’s be honest, how many Apples are around and how can anyone pump enough koolaid into a community without being ignored or worse, forgotten. Should a brand be popular or influential? Beyond cool, it’s a question of innovation, and creating a sustainable culture of innovation requires all parts of the [organization + its constituents] to stay competitive.

That’s where Resonance Marketing comes in. Resonance marketing is about widening the lead generation funnel using new & social influence. Marketing is an ‘old branded’ term about influence we are subject to… except we are now more internet-smarter than before. Social media has empowered the masses to share more and faster than any time before. From Toyota to Nestle via Pizza Hut and to many other cases, the business blue-pill won’t work anymore. Businesses, leaders, brands are having to open up to being supported if they want to thrive in the new ‘social economy’.

How do we get communit{ies} to resonate with a company’s purpose (and vice versa)?

1- Deep motivations: Marketing as spoon feeding features and benefits that will attract customers, OVER. Comprehend, discuss what’s on the mind of your constituents and turn them into aficionados, HERE. Who are you after? If you believe in resonance, you’ll need aficionados. Clearly not everyone is equal in the community game. Your core constituents are the ones you’re seeking. Scoble called them the ‘passionate‘. At the Enthusiast Group, we called them … enthusiasts. They could be customers, employees, partners, journalists, bloggers, prospects, providers. They could be silent but preferably vocal. The tools are available for free but engaging with most networks and people to discover those who matter the most is the {red pill}. If a brand is sincere and seeks to empower its constituents, it’ll open itself up to what motivates the core constituents.

2- Nods to communities: Is social media the right strategy for you? Your Twitter account and Facebook page are great for light engagement but unless you’re the cool-brand in town and your constituents have too much time on their hand, you’ll likely get quickly fatigued and the boss will ask why are we doing this. The acid test of community commitment is to get ready to bring everyone to the party from the CEO to your competitors…. geez, that’s a lot. Our job is to bring everyone to the party. Trust me, it’ll take more than a Facebook page. Even better, in the open world, everyone in your company has an opinion about your last tweet. That’s right, it’s quickly going to feel like a democracy or even anarchy. Your constituents could care less about the internal politics. They want to feel part of the journey. When trying to evaluate how to participate, 50% of the work will actually happen outside of anything you control. In most scenarios, sub-segment of communities will already exist and engaging on those already existing can quickly fill up any social media manager’s plate. They can hang out on a Linkedin group, a passionate blog, in a group of super motivated moms or simply be someone who wants to boycott you {800,000 VS 6,900}. The possibilities are endless.

3- Social organisms: Yep there are many networks and we certainly can expect more to come as each of them serves different compartments of our lives. Foursquare founded in early ’09 has now passed 2 million signed up users… would we have guessed this 12 months ago? Brightkite had been here since 2007 and only reached the same milestone in February 2010. As Paul Adams puts it, “Social networks are a mean to an end, you need to understand what the end is.” To resonate, get used to change and go where your audience may be. As mentioned earlier, it often starts with a map. If you’re big, it’ll be tedious, but you certainly will be able to discern patterns quicker.

4- Resonance: The sum of all. It wasn’t about {the brand} to start with and {the brand} should be totally appreciative of being part of its constituents’ online matrix. We may have thought it was cool to have a ton of followers and likes/fans and fold back to the dunbar number. It’s the same for all your constituents. Let’s be clear, {the brand} is still seeking to generate leads from this entire new ecosystem, except that someone else is driving now. The way to ‘get the word out’ is through a new chain of events that will create resonance between and beyond constituents. It will be based on understanding the deep motivations of constituents, dynamics of communities (loose term) and lastly, social organisms and tools. Email gave us ‘permission marketing’, we seriously got tired of that. We now have social networks and blogs. Brands should make it about them, all the constituents, what ever the brand does – {the brand} entered their world and there is no return. Inbound will be red.

Thanks to Paul Adams for the graphics and for going back to the basics.

@YannR @Extanz





Where is our industry going? #SocialMedia

13 07 2010

When Michael Fruchter left for Pierson Grant in mid 09′, I thought “wow…. great opportunity good for him.” When a bit later late 09′, Wayne Sutton joined Twine Interactive (and may have left since), I started to think that things where changing and thought I’d better write a blog about this. I didn’t. Now Valeria Maltoni is moving to Powered and I’m thinking “geez, we’re morphing.” But into what? Remember the golden goose who laid the golden eggs? Are they migrating? Or is our industry slowly dying as companies ‘buy up’ the golden geese for the golden eggs?

In 3 years, our own practice Extanz, has evolved tremendously based on a core principle of the Higher Purpose (Got A Higher Purpose?, Trust 2.0 … Get Used To It, Twitter did it again, it’s about the people). Our industry has come to value ROI way more than it used to. At the heart of it, a culture of control has taken over. Companies had never encountered such a powerful force from such a small part of their customer base. They were used to sending one message, making one thing. Build it and of course, the people will come. But then the people started talking amongst themselves. Started dreaming, writing, building things themselves. They unleashed their own creativity and collectivity. Suddenly, we have a conversation being demanded. The market expect conversational brands. Agencies, once the meaning makers, now seek conversational expertise. They sense the talkative ones and just like the old days, the seek to control them. If you can just get hold of the speaker……then everyone will listen right?

Or will they?

And in the meantime, what of their conversational partners. What of the nature of conversation? What of the higher purpose of social media? Are we just media now?

@YannR @Extanz





Sparkling feedback on #wbc10 blog influence rank- The sequel

13 07 2010

A few weeks ago, we did a study trying to understand and measure the influence of those going to the Wine Blogger Conference. Mindful as we are of conversation and fully cognizant of the fact that as soon as you include some people in a list, you by definition, exclude some, we not only set up criteria for measuring influence but also asked for feedback. In the course of this study (crunching, crunching) we had to make some decisions. If you are an online journal or aggregator for example, we decided that you were not playing in the same league/space as regular, independent (and sometimes solo) bloggers. Your influence is a sum of many factors and contributors, we look at a specific angle. 2 very interesting points were made in the comments regarding this distinction in the blogging community, and after mulling on it, we thought we’d like to continue the debate.

1 – Does influence have a threshold?

Bean from Wine-Beer Washington pointed out to us that he should have been included on this list, even though we had excluded him based on the number of writers on his blog (he looked like a journal). After feedback and looking at our threshold, we now feel that Bean should have been part of the list from the start (crunching, crunching). The wine-beer blog in our method of ranking for the #wbc10 would rank 21st out of the top 25 of our list. So here’s a question for everyone in the industry: Do you think there is a consolidation of bloggers toward journals or magazines? How viable is the independent blogger model? When does a blog become a journal? Thoughts?

2- The personal blog vs. the company/organizational blog.

Relatedly, something very interesting is happening in the use of personal branding to support a corporate or business strategy (c.f. Jeremiah Oywang and Forrester). When creating this study we used the official list of the registrants provided by WBC10. Rick Bakas’ blog appears under the St Supery blog. The blog didn’t make it to our list of Top 25 since he had registered his business blog and thanks to Rick’s feedback, we considered his own personal blog (even though not registered on the official list) as part of our list. Rick also advocated his own personal blog as being more influential than the list had suggested. After re-compiling our data (crunching, crunching), we are happy to report that Rick’s personal blog ranks actually 20th of the list originally created. So, another question for everyone: how do you manage your personal brand vs the business your represent?

These kinds of conversations really allow us to reflect on the state of a blogging community – how it grows, who grows it, its lifecycle if you will. Another point made in the comments on the original post was that many wine bloggers were not discussing the actual process of making wine and the industry’s evolution in this area (or not). So a final question for the community: Can anyone recommend any wine bloggers who focus on this part of the beloved grape’s journey?

We look forward to hearing from you!

@YannR @Extanz





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