Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sex Worker How-Tos

In Reality Check: Dealing With Assholes, Radical Vixen answers the question, "How do you deal with asshole clients?" It's for phone sex operators; but there's gold for any business owner ~ working on the phone or not.

In Rant: Strip clubs are for customers, not dancers, the SEXhobbyist gives a reminder just who the business is for. Along with clues for strippers, there are reminders for bedraggled business owners to recall that they may run the business, but if it's to be profitable, it must be focused on the customers.

Last, but certainly not least, Emilie gives safety advice on Anonymous Blogging for Sex Workers. A must read for anyone working with on the Internet. (Via Courtesan Connection.)

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Real Power Of Word Of Mouth

A firm’s most valuable customers are not those who buy the most; customers who refer new business are worth as much as the big spenders, or more. We've all been told that, but a new study, "How Valuable Is Word of Mouth?" (by Dr. Robert P. Leone of the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University and Dr. V. Kumar and J. Andrew Petersen, of the University of Connecticut) reveals the truth of it.

"Most companies with statistical models for customer valuation focus only on customer spending and don't factor in a customer's word-of-mouth value," says Dr. Leone. "We demonstrated that when companies try to ascertain how valuable individual customers are, it's not just about how much the customer spends but whether that individual can bring in new business."

Knowing which customers can potentially add the most to the bottom line is vital to the firm, he says. Broad-based marketing is expensive and inefficient. But detailed customer data can guide the content and timing of marketing pieces to segments of the customer base and achieve the greatest return on investment.

"But if a company creates a priority list of customers based solely on how much those customers spend, they risk focusing on the wrong individuals," says Dr. Leone. This is because high-volume spenders and good referrers are not generally the same people. And the value of the best referrers can far exceed that of the good spenders.

A year-long marketing campaign was directed at the affluents, advocates, and misers, offering incentives tailored to each of those three groups (but not to the champions). The goal was to encourage affluents to increase their referrals and thus become champions, advocates to increase spending to likewise become champions, and misers to become affluents, advocates, or champions by increasing spending or referrals or both.

The results were dramatic. Hundreds of affluents and advocates became champions, and throngs of misers upgraded into affluents, advocates, or champions.

The real return on investment, however, is even higher because the researchers did not include indirect referrals, which occur when referred new customers make referrals of their own.

If similar targeted marketing campaigns were to be directed at the telecommunication firm's 40 million other customers and the financial firm's 15 million customers, the profit potential could be staggering.

And, says Dr. Leone, future returns on marketing investments may be able to be improved even more.

"A new study we are conducting involves profiling customers who make a lot of referrals. We're looking for distinguishing characteristics such as demographics, profession, geographic area, and large social networks. Then we'll select other customers with similar profiles for targeted marketing with referral incentives," he says.

Dr. Leone concludes that companies with marketing efforts designed toward eliciting referrals should see much greater returns from their advertising expenditures than do companies relying on mass marketing.

"Mass marketing is very costly and inefficient, with low rates of response. But referrals from existing customers are personalized, so the odds of response are much greater," he explains. "The more targeted a company's marketing is, the more efficiently they can spend their marketing dollars."

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Today's Spam: Divert 1000's Of New Visitors

How would You like to divert 1000s of fresh new visitors daily?

Diverting visitors? Forget for a moment that as a piece of spam, I'm skeptical, at best, that you can deliver on anything... Forget that 'diverting visitors' sounds like dirty pool, like I'm a rancher stealing water from another rancher... Forget for a moment that some of the visitors I divert may scream bloody murder at being diverted to an adult site... But I won't forget that thousands, even millions, of "fresh new visitors daily" is meaningless if it's not targeted traffic.

Why would I want to divert a bunch of visitors who don't want to find me, my site, my product or service?

Playing a numbers game is one way to go about your business ~ I know of many 'successful' people (I've never seen their bank books) who claim they've used that model, and I've seen plenty of folks who clearly use that model ~ but for me it's not just lame, it's bad business.

Playing the numbers game is like the old saying, "Throw it at the wall and see what sticks," only this time the 'it' you are throwing isn't a business idea or product, but potential customers. I don't think I'll find prosperity throwing potential customers against a wall. Do you? You must if you think a numbers game is good business.

Those are people you're tossing about as if they don't matter. Diverting visitors, blasting folks with pop-ups & spam, this is annoying people and treating them as if they & their time just doesn't matter. Is that your message ~ that you just don't care about people, as long as they stick to your wall?

If you're not invested enough to cultivate the relationships, or the business itself, then don't go into business; just stay home and toss underwear against the wall.

I'm sure you'll find some that stick (and I wouldn't be surprised if it were at the same percentage too). But without any target, all you've got is some panties stuck against the walls.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Website Marketing Tips, Anyone?

Kelly at Extreme Restraints has an excellent post in her blog: Tips on a good site and it doesn't have to be an adult site.

Her number one is my number one, and most of it is sage advice. However, I do, as usual, take issue with a few points...
3. Copyright Statements

Everything you create and write on your web site warrants copyright declarations. So include it on every page AND keep it up to date.
Copyright is granted with everything you write or create, so copyright statements aren't necessary. And, stated or not, the rights only have teeth if and when you police and seek protection under the law.
9. Typos and Grammer Mistakes

Typographic mistakes will be noticed immediately. Typos are considered either due to a very novice or uncaring website owner. Typos are not made by professionals in business trying to make a living. Thus when you have typos and grammer errors on your website, visitors won’t think you take your site seriously, and they won’t either. They’ll think you’ll make all kinds of other mistakes too. Like shipping to an incorrect or mistyped address… not shipping at all, or… maybe you don’t even look at your website so …

Geez.. use a spell checker.. don’t rely on it… but use it and reread things before you post them on your site. Have someone else verify anything you put out there for the world to see.
Ironically, Kelly spelled "grammar" and 'jeez' wrong (along with a few other spelling errors in her post), and yet I'm not only still reading, but I'm posting the link and recommending it be read. If that's not taking her seriously, then what is?

But seriously, in a perfect world we'd like to be error-free ~ both in terms of creating and using/reading ~ but none of us lives in a perfect world. I can grab a book by Random House and find typos; so I'm not shocked when I find one in a website or blog.

So what I'm trying to say is, do try to avoid as many mistakes as you can; but don't sweat them too badly either. Sloppy shows, but so do the best intentions. To most people. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

6. Long Pages

There are so many example around you. Look at a new paper.. most articles are very short. Look at ads.. they’re short. Look at the most sucessful websites out there… they’re short. Most pages should be one screen with no scrolling down. I’ve done surveys and statistical analysis and read books on web usability that prove … drum roll … Of all the people who visit your web page.. only 20% of them will bother to scroll down to see the next screen full of information. Of that 20% only about 5% will scroll down for another chuck of screen. That means if you’ve got a page that is 3 screens long… then only 1 out of 100 visitors will ever see that. You are better off having a couple of pages that link together. Most successful stores do this. You’ll see an overview of a product that is 1 screen in length and a more details link (that goes to a long page of DUH! more details). Most site visitors don’t bother. But a buyer may want those more details.

So don’t waste your precious time and effort on carefully crafting really long pages. Keep it short and simple. Get your message out fast. Entice them to do something fas

Let me K.I.S.S. you… put your buy buttons at the top instead of only at the bottom.
First, I'd like to see where Kelly got those stats. Second, what were these stats for? The actions of whom do they supposedly depict? What of the stats which conclude that getting people to make the second click for more details is an aggravation, a sales turn-off? The problem with any such stats is the number of variables involved. Are these stats based on news sites? Commerce sites? What's the sampling? Demographics of the sampling? How did these people find 'you' to read 'you'? Do any of these things relate to your business? The fact is, the number of people reading 'you' is a matter of many things, such as SEO, site ranking, consumer faith, how well you've targeted your ads etc., etc., etc.

But I'm not going to refute them with stats of my own or anyone else's ~ and not because I'm lazy. It's because such stats are damn near irrelevant in my book.

Who is or isn't reading is based on many things, most important of which is why they are there reading.

In the case of Extreme Restraints, you hope it is because they are looking to purchase a bondage item. No one else really matters.

Turn it around, putting this in your control, who are you are writing for?

You are not writing for everyone, but specific someones ~ individual people, one by one. Essentially, you are writing for one person, but publishing it publicly so that they, or another like them, can read it over and over again when needed. That's your target market. Your page, your text, must meet each of their needs. Who is this person? What do they need? Are those stats about them or 'anyone'?

Going again with Extreme Restraints, the writing must fit the needs of each person shopping for bondage gear. Whether they know what they need or are researching for a future purchase; whether they have the money now or are bookmarking the item for when they do have the money; the text needs to answer all of their questions and concerns.

And if that means a 'long page', so be it.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What's More Important: Technorati, Alexa, Traffic, Pagerank or?

Alternate Title: Rankings, Smankings? (Part Two)

From my collected emails on the subject of what tools and stats are most vital, comes a set of questions like this:
I'm very confused with all the stats and ranking options... I'm not sure I have time to follow all of them. Which one or two are the most important? Isn't traffic, people actually visiting your site, the real bottom line?
Sure it's more important to get visitors to your site ~ if they arrive there looking for what you've got.

This is where monitoring your stats, referrals & tools comes in; there's no value in people arriving here for 'whores for hire' as I'm not that kind of whore. I know I may sound like I'm beating a dead horse here, but most of this reply comes down to your target market: Who are you trying to serve &/or appeal to?

If you are aiming for other professionals (such as media folks, buyers who might carry your product in their stores, those who buy ad space, investors etc.) then Alexa may be very important to you. While Alexa is by no means perfect, as noted here, it is free and so remains sort of a bible for many who are trying to evaluate the 'weight' of your site.

Alexa appeals to a more 'old white guy' mentality (not the uber rich sort; they use Nielsen//NetRatings), and thus is the wunderbar to beat when trying to appeal to conservative professionals or businesses. Alexa is also best for websites (as opposed to blogs). If any of this applies to you and your company, you'll want to monitor and increase your site's Alexa ranking.

If you are trying to be perceived as an authority, with a blog, then Technorati is the standard. Technorati basically monitors links to a blog ~ be they in sidebars or posts ~ and uses each unique site linking in as the way to determine authority. (More sites linking to you is more authoritative than several links from the same site.)

Technorati's ranking system is monitored by the hip and trendy, as well as those who need to know about the hip and trendy. Hip and trendy, of course, is relative ~ for the most part just knowing of and understanding the importance of blogs separates these folks from the old white guys at Alexa.

Technorati is widely used by both readers/consumers and professionals alike. Playing at Technorati (or at least monitoring the Top Searches, Top Tags and WTF posts) allows everyone (bloggers, media pros, consumers, companies, personalities, etc), to monitor trends ~ including bloggers, media pros, consumers, companies, personalities, etc. Some use Technorati as their blogging search engine, though they more likely refer to this as 'listening to conversations' because they are hip and trendy. (Though not uber hip & trendy or they'd be doing it at Twitter.)

PageRank is another way to measure your site's pull and power. This ranking system includes blogs and websites and is most often used by other webmasters and bloggers to evaluate the competition, SEO results, and/or another site for link swaps etc. It offers none of the options of play that Technorati does, nor does it have any appeal for readers/consumers really. In fact, I personally don't give much thought to page rank. This likely surprises no one, as I am no fan of SEO work. However, as your Technorati &/or Alexa rankings increase, so does (or so should) your page rank. So concentrate on one of both of them and PageRank takes care of itself. At least that's my philosophy.

What all of the above (and other sites/tools too) do is present collected data. It's up to you to interpret it ~ and put that knowledge to use.

As to what's more important to you, well, again that all comes down to what you're all about and who you want to reach ~ you'll want to use the tools which seem to most accurately reflect your potential customers.

If pressed to make a specific recommendation in a general sense it would be that each tool has merit and ideally you want each to increase your ranking in all of them. Working each tool or angle that fits your business is the best way to try to cover all the bases and to see where your marketing may be weakest.

However, remember that these are tools. They help you evaluate, offer means to monitor effects of programs/campaigns and changes in those programs/campaigns, but they are not, at the end of the day, success. Success is achieved when you receive sales ~ sales customers are happy with. For example, focusing on increasing your Technorati rank does not ensure that you'll increase your traffic or that someone from the media will contact you for a quote (and should you be blessed with the latter, that still doesn't ensure traffic or sales).

So use the tools, let them inspire and challenge you in running your business; but don't let them use & run you.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Minority Media & Marketing

Found in an unlikely spot (Silent Porn Star's post on risque Nipsey Russell recordings), I found this great bit on media and minorities:
The cover states it was the Negro National Network, but it was (should you care to continue searching) in reality the National Negro Network, started in 1953 by Leonard Evans. W. Leonard Evans, Jr. died in June of this year (2007); he left a wonderful legacy of African-American media. Here's a wonderful 1963 interview with Evans titled "Why Do We Need a Negro Sunday Supplement?" Should that site remove the recording, or you'd prefer to download it for listening to later (it is quite long), I've uploaded a copy here.
While hearing the word 'negro' sure is shocking, the 58 minute interview is worth downloading and listening to. Have we come a long way? How many of the questions and issues raised by Evans are worth asking today?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More On Women In The Adult Industry

From the LA Daily News:
"No one has done a full-blown market research of any kind into either the brick-and-mortar or the online adult consumer market place," said Tom Hymes, publisher of XBiz, a trade magazine about the industry.

"My own personal feeling of this is most (consumers) are still men, but I have seen more women coming into the industry to make content for other women, to build Web sites for women. The issue of women being creative and significant in the industry is not going away."

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Applause Is Nice; But Send Money Too

My friend, Emily Dubberley, is one of those interviewed in An orgasm of one's own: women who spank back.

Mostly this is just a plug *wink* but if you're interested in knowing more about women as a target market for your adult business read it.

Those who are in the biz, will love how the piece starts:
"A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." The crux of Virginia Woolf's polemic on female creativity -- first declared in 1928 and walloped around the theoretical arena ever since -- resounds today more than ever for the post-Sex and the City generation. Sure, the envisaged room is a "post-war Upper-East side walk-up" and the finances are limited by a substance abuse problem (expensive footwear), but the ethos remains the same: for women to create, they need agency.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Click-Through Rates

No one's asked lately, but here's more related to the history post and click-through rates (CTRs are the number of clicks divided by number of views or impressions). Here's some info on click-through rates sitting at half a percent (Jim Meskauskas, 2001):
In fact, CTRs are finally more in line with what is seen in the direct-response offline world. One-half of one percent is about what an advertiser can expect from a direct mail effort. Now that the web population is more reflective of the world at large, the kinds of things people do online and the regularity with which they do them will also mimic the offline world.
Which some people would say we shouldn't settle for anyway. But it's information I find interesting.

As Jim Meskauskas continues to say:
I think we are witnessing another sign that this industry is maturing: atrophy, consolidation, and stability showing in selected metrics. And the first metric to demonstrate this stability is the click-through rate.
While I've seen no number or averages for the adult industry (a tight-lipped lot), I can't imagine that overall performance is any different. At least the pattern of falling then steadying is what I've seen, and I do trust my own numbers.

Recent changes in behavioral targeting (BT) have generated stronger results. (Think of Contextual Targeting as the "more like this" in articles or Google ads, and BT as the "you might also like" at Amazon which takes in your behaviors including previous purchases.) Not surprising that it works; but also more than a bit creepy to many.

However, new information indicates that while BT and even what I'd call just plain old well-targeted ads may produce higher click-through rates, it is the advertising out of context which seems to generate the higher conversion rates.

At first this seems strange; shouldn't the best targeted ads generate the most interest? But we're talking about two dimensions here: well-targeted ads and context.

From Study: Behavioral Ads Convert Better Out of Context (Kevin Newcomb, October, 2006):
For most advertisers doing direct marketing, it makes more sense to serve behaviorally targeted ads in a different context than the behavior, such as serving ads targeting golf enthusiasts on a cooking site, he said. For behaviorally targeted ads shown in a different content category than that of the behavior, overall CTR is 108 percent higher and overall ATR is 19 percent higher than ads shown in the same category. ATR was higher in 5 of the nine segments with more than 10 million impressions.

If an advertiser is primarily concerned with driving traffic, then behaviorally targeted ads in the same category will perform better. CTR for ads shown in the same content category as behavior is 56 percent higher than ads shown in a different category. This was true in 7 of the nine segments.

There were some segments that did not conform to these results, [Dakota] Sullivan said. For instance, the "shoppers" segment showed the highest CTR from ads on career sites and the highest ATR on female-oriented sites. "Travelers" had the highest CTR on food sites and highest ATR on career sites.

"Previous research from others indicated an across-the-board rule of thumb, but we found it varies widely by category," Sullivan said.
It's interesting to note just how effective this could be if adult products and services could be included in the mix. For example, ads for escorts in luxury travel articles, erotica at iVillage, etc. I'm certain this would be a great boon for the advertisers and ad revenues. But we likely won't see that day. (A child could be surfing for that million dollar yacht rental and find :eek: an escort ad!)

In fact, BT is difficult for most of us (IT Team? As if!), but targeting isn't. And we all know context. So we can at least apply this thinking to our marketing and advertisements, even if we cannot create such software. And even if we cannot afford the ad rates at sites with such behaviorally targeted ads, or simply aren't welcome there at all, we can apply this thinking to our ad purchases and design.

This means not only considering at which sites you'll find your target market, but the other advertisers (and creative) are already there.

It makes sense if you consider it this way: "When the ads appear out of context, they help set your message apart. If someone sees a Sugarshots ad next to three car ads and a movie ad, it's going to be unique," [Doug] Schumaker said. "You've got to differentiate your message in any way you can." (Via Kevin Newcomb, February, 2006.)

While it's going to be tough to be the only dildo company or adult membership site at a sex blog, perhaps your ad can look completely different. And maybe, just maybe, you can find alternative sites to welcome your 'porn' advertising dollars. If you do, you'll be the only one there ~ for a little while anyway.

Then, like everything else, the numbers will lower, and lower, 'til they settle. Maybe not quite at half a percent; but they'll be lower.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

True OR False: Ads Don't Work On The Internet

Continuing my thoughts on marketing in a digital world...

To understand the situation, one needs to begin with a look backwards at the brief evolution of the Net in terms of Internet marketing.

Remember when banner ads were all the rage? Touted at the way to promote and advertise, they were compared to billboards, ads and other branding methods. At first, the click-thru rates were high, and investments in the standard 60 x 468 were considered de riguer for any decent webmaster.

When those lost their punch, one needed flashing and/or animated gifs. 'Movement' was deemed the best way to engage surfers. When those links pages became a swirling sea of flashing and animated banners, we quickly moved to skyscraper ads and ads placed within content rather than relegated to links pages. Their very size and prominence indicated power and deep pockets, their performance numbers were high ~ but quickly, surfers lost their interest in these too.

We were then told to forget about banners and branding and directed to buy keywords and start affiliate programs. Without really saying so, at least not directly admitting 'why' this was so, we were told banners didn't work. Pay per click and pay for performance models were better than spots based on time limits or impressions.

Next it was SEO. Text links (or 'hard links'), we were told, were far better because this was more powerful in feeding search engines. We were also told that surfers wanted or at least reacted to text links.

Along the way we've been told and coached that low click-thru rates are the norm. To make the most of the numbers game, to make that low percent a high number of clicks, we now are told to covet social networking linkage. No matter what the context, get linked there ~ it's where the cool kids are! So what if the rate is low, the percent of clicks nominal and conversions an even smaller percentage, we should settle for them because that's just the way it is.

But that's not 'just the way it is.' Or at least few are examining why it is that way.

When you look at the past, patters emerge. All these web promotions began with great results and then were dumped in favor of the next new thing. This isn't so surprising. Early adopters have better (the best) success rates. Innovators usually do. But their are other assumptions being made here which should be looked at.

The belief that once the numbers are low, the whole thing should be scrapped is a bit foolish. It's like throwing the baby out with the bath water, for Pete's sake. I'm not saying we should settle for low numbers and poor performances, but while we need to keep our companies and marketing campaigns out of the red, we cannot view things as simplistically as black or white. There are shades of grey (such as branding) and perhaps more importantly, one should look at why these campaigns failed.

There are many possible reasons for this: poorly created ads, poorly targeted ads, poor products/companies, companies with such large PR problems that ads are rendered useless, companies with such big profiles (saturation points) that ads are not relevant (at least in terms of triggering a click response), are just a few.

A popular assumption is that Internet advertising has failed (or has very low performance numbers) because Internet users bore easily and tire quickly of the ads. There's some merit to this, but I don't just think it's short attention spans.

Another popular assumption is that no one has either found the right way to implement ads (from a mechanism or technological point of view) or discovered a way to appeal to Internet users, as if we are some different species of human. To some extent Internet users are different than non-Internet users. But only in the same ways that TV viewers differ from radio folks, book readers differ from movie goers ~ as a target market. (And as you know, many target markets overlap ~ the key is in knowing the essentials of your business.) We are not a whole other species.

The bottom line is that most of us, Internet users or not, are tired and unresponsive to ads in general.

With cultural shifts towards skepticism and unethical business practices only adding to this mindset, this new medium and the citizens which virtually live in it aren't going to fall for the same old tricks. It's not just the novelty of 'new' which they/we tire of, it's the whole advertising system.

People today are bombarded by ads; and we are, by and large, OK with that. Call us practical, call us jaded, we understand the economics of companies selling things. We don't mind it. We don't mind it so much we tune it out most of the time.

The few things we do remember about ads is how they talk down to us, how they think we are incapable of thinking and researching for ourselves, and perhaps most of all, how companies, despite having copious amounts of information about us, do not know us at all.

We aren't so much offended by advertising as we are by how companies talk to us and about us.

Where the proverbial shit hits the fan with regards to the Internet is not that we are a new species, but that we are more vocal. This comes from a combination of factors. One, our youth, which generally brings with it more of an outspoken nature. Two, the fact that (duh) this new medium doesn't just 'allow' for interaction but is built upon it. So Internet users will speak out and loudly about idiot campaigns ~ and the companies which use them.

This is good news.

A smart marketer will spend time listening to what people are saying, especially to those groups they feel best represent their customers and potential customers, and put that information into use.

Does that mean ads don't work? No... Not entirely.

The real changes here are the new medium which presents new challenges in presentation and monetization, and the cultural shift to skepticism which is admittedly both affected by the Internet ~ as well as using the Internet to further drive and voice the shift. The good news is that we can not only use the Internet to see what works, what doesn't, and what's going on in our target market, but that we can find this all out rather quickly. If we are willing to listen and collect information, examine what we see and hear, and put it into use.

Subscribe to The Marketing Whore Newsletter and you'll get my ideas on ads and marketing campaigns that do work.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thinking Of Pinking?

In case you've been thinking of just splashing pink about your product or website to appeal to women, take a look at how it's been done historically.

Ask yourself if those ideas were good ones.

Then ask yourself if that's how you want to be viewed. *wink*

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Porn Stats Video

Slick, charming and clever, get the stats on the porn industry in this video.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Marketing In Communities: To Join or Not To Join

I dislike the term "Web 2.0" because it's a really cold term covering what technology does rather than what people want. For example, people don't want "Web 2.0" they want conversations; they do not want "social networking" as a industry folks call it, but a means to connect to people. (If escorting taught me anything, it's that the human desire for connection is very strong.)

So if you've been following my rants, my blither and my blather, by now we should be clear on what I think Web 2.0 is ~ better tools for communities. And communities are nothing new, nor new to the web; and the tools aren't revolutionary, just a bit evolutionary.

Don't get me wrong; I agree that communities are powerful and those dubbed social networks are a very important part of individual lives. In fact, this is my point! Communities are made of members who are there for their own reasons ~ which probably don't include being sold a bunch of stuff.

If you want to reach these community members you're going to have to join them in their communities.

You don't really make friends by adding one to your profile, and you don't make sales simply by having an account or profile. You're really going to have to join the community and become a participating member.

Like joining the church, you're going to have to play by their rules, go to all their functions, pay your dues and yes, actually convert. In fact, while in some faiths you may confess your sins and be forgiven, there's really no equivalent in social networking. Sure, you can make another account, take on another ID, but when all is said and done your previous damage is real (leaving you with one hell of a PR problem) and anything that remotely smells of your old self and your company/product is likely to have a very difficult time of it.

If you're going to join, you'll need to play all their reindeer games. This means you're going to have to read what other members post, participate in conversations that (at least sales wise) will seem to go nowhere, and in general know and care about who is there and what's going on there. I don't mean to sound like a jaded cynical bitch; but joining a community online isn't any different than joining one offline. Heaven help you if you join and are discovered to be a shill.

Sincerity, interest and integrity cannot be faked, so the only real way to survive this all is to join communities you'll enjoy participating in. This is easy if you really like your market and your product.

The double-bind comes in when you evaluate your potential communities in terms of your target market.

Spending your time in places you like, with people you like is fun; but if your goal is to market (yourself, your product or company) then you'd better be spending all those hours in places which matter. (And fun or not, this is going to be a huge investment of your time.)

To identify if a community is good for you, I always recommend lurking first. And not just one day. And even if it means registering to do so. Lurking lets you learn the unspoken rules and get a feel for the place. Better to lurk and leave than really step in it.

While lurking you are looking to see if:

The community seems worthy of your time. Is your target market really there?

As mentioned before, the hot spots for erotica authors aren't always where the (potential) book buyers are. In fact, one of the largest mistakes I see in marketing via communities are when folks gravitate towards groups which are very interesting, but do not contain their target market.

One of the best examples of these are entrepreneurial sites.

These and WHAM (Work At Home Moms) groups can be some of the most active communities, but think about it... Here's a group of people all trying to 'make it big,' trying to sell to one another. Most of the time, each member has less money than the next. Aside from the "I'll buy from you, you buy from me," at holiday time, what chance of sales do you have? Unless you're selling B2B, are offering a legit business opportunity, or want link swaps, I wouldn't bother. (Not to mention anyone with 'adult' products is likely not going to get a warm welcome.) Even adult webmaster boards fall into this category. (Sure, go, and learn; but be careful how much time you spend there and don't bother whoring yourself to the other whores.)

Think you see your target market there? Really? If so, you should be able to identify specific members who are part of your target market.

If you can't, then you need to do more research.

If you can, then you've likely identified influencers ~ those community members who are not only part of your target audience, but those who have the most authority and influence over others too.

The community (or your target market population within it) is large enough to warrant your time. Do the active member numbers support your investment in time?

The community is interesting enough, possibly enjoyable even, for you to honestly join and participate. In all the posts you're reading, have you found any which you would be willing/able to comment on?

I do not mean one or two, but several ~ and for heaven's sake, don't post until you're evaluation period is over ~ one-post-wonders are considered spammers.

The participation level is within your time constraints. How much time would being an active member require? And do you have it?

Slower or quieter communities may not be a bad thing. Depending upon your available time, it may be the only way you can really be an active member, or it may mean you can sneak one more community into your schedule.

If all your lurking research is favorable, then proceed slowly and according to the group rules (as stated and as witnessed).

If any answer is, "No," that doesn't mean your time is wasted. For one, you've saved yourself some future time on participating in a community which is not for you. And you've also likely spared yourself a PR problem. But you've also learned a few things ~ maybe even who the influencers are? If you have, perhaps you're best off contacting them to see if they'll post a review for you?

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How Blogs (Don't) Work; Or, The Great Blog Shake-Out

I do agree that shake-out is here and it's only going to continue. Not due to any blogging bubble being burst, but for the very reason blogging is popular: people want connection points (not drivel).

There are many blogs, with more being started every day. The reason that many fail is that many blogs do not offer conversations. A blog ~ a real blog or at least the kind of blogs I am referring to when I write here ~ is a place to publish ideas and to discuss those ideas.

It's the power of people to connect and discuss. Unlike passive or cold forms of communication, blogging is participatory. Receivers of communication are not just receivers but have the ability to become instant senders of messages of their own. I don't think this desire to connect is going to diminish anytime ~ the means by which we do it may, but the desire remains.

The shake-out I refer to is the process by which blogs survive. With so many choices, which blogs will people continue to read and (this is the really important part) carry out discussions in?

Here are some blogging 'styles' which do not foster conversations:

A) A business blog which just states press release info in a more casual tone without official formatting is not a blog ~ it's a listing of pitches from most recent to last. Ditto with authors, film makers etc. who announce their latest releases.

B) Having a blog which points to the latest news isn't necessarily a conversation. Your selection of news on a topic may be a service, for which you may have many readers, but it's not a conversation. In order to have a conversation you need to put more than the idea out there as a link or a sentence or two. You need to discuss it, not just present it. (Or consider yourself offering a service, not a conversation, and look at your stats and marketing accordingly.)

C) Having a blog which consists of pointing out all the ad campaigns which do not work or otherwise mocking others may be entertaining, but it's not a conversation.

D) Have a blog which is all photos and no talk is not a conversation. If it's porn, it's a masturbation session; if art, it's a gallery exhibition; but neither is a conversation.

In the adult industry this last one is the most prevalent problem. There are countless boring blogs which offer nothing that a pay site tour gallery doesn't. These folks just copy & post an image, stick in a link to their own site or an affiliate link, and call it a blog. "Look at naked Betty Sue" is rarely a discussion.

In fact, sex for all its popularity is one of those least likely to get a conversation; I know this from years with Sex-Kitten. It's difficult to get people, even anonymous ones, to talk about something so private. It's much easier to get someone to look at photos or a movie than it is to get a conversation going. Columns, reviews and op-ed pieces on sex tend to be 'just read' rather than discussed. Your traffic (as in visitors and readers) may be huge, but your conversations? Not-so-much.

This is why so many erotica authors I know resort/return to blogging about the business of being an author. When they blog about problems with publishing, publishers and other industry information they are far more likely to get others engaged in the conversation. But in doing so, they lose the interest of readers of erotica, who really aren't interested in this uglier (or more boring) side of books; erotica readers read erotica for arousal and entertainment, not for author bitch sessions. When authors (and others) do this, they've switched target audiences and no longer reach readers (potential buyers).

I know that this higher volume of comments makes you feel as if you're meeting your goal, but you're not. Sometimes you just have to satisfy yourself with your stats (traffic and page views) rather than your comments. (And don't think I'm backtracking on my statement about blogs being conversations ~ I'm not! But we'll get to that later; I don't want to get too far off-track now.)

Those who blog in these styles are likely the ones whining that the blog bubble has burst ~ or that blogging never was big anyway. Or, they soon will be. Because blogs like these will suffer in the shake-out.

At best what these bloggers are really doing is offering a conversation elsewhere ~ like passing a note in school. And like anything else in business, consumers like to cut-out the middle-man. They'll just go directly to the source instead.

As people pick and choose from the ala cart experience which is the blogosphere, there will be shake-out. But that's just the stuff of a competitive market. Even if it's for free, people select what's the best and toss the rest aside.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Marketing 'Sin' Becomes Scapegoat; Now That IS A Sin

In Sin City image repels corporate relocation, Brian Wargo reports that Las Vegas' sin marketing, "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas," may be good for tourism but it's an "impediment in luring corporate headquarters to Southern Nevada." This according to a white paper released by the Lied Institute for Real Estate Studies.

Unfortunately, it's not true.

I myself was intrigued by the idea of marketing gone awry ~ after all, targeting one market (in this case tourism) can negatively impact another, and heaven knows 'sin' and escapism isn't exactly a pull for corporate America. But once I read the article, it's rather clear that the issue isn't Vegas' tourism marketing efforts.

Let's look at what other issues/facts the article (and, presumably, the white paper) reveal:

* cost of living is currently at 110% of the national average

* housing is more expensive than 40 other markets

* "nothing" in the way of cultural amenities (such as theaters, performing arts and a good quality of life)

* "off the chart" crime

* continued increases in out-migration

* wages not keeping pace with the rising cost of living

* lack of decent schools

* transportation problems

* a lack of land for commercial use; land prices

* a lack of quality contractors and the casino industry, which outbids all competitors for contractors

What a list of concrete practical problems. Clearly the Vegas/Sin image isn't the problem here. At least not the only one.

While I am sure companies consider the adult playground image, it isn't as vital as asking employees to take a cut in quality of life and paying a decent wage for good employees. (In the article one executive is quoted as saying, "We have service employees coaching their kids to be valet parkers who can make $100,000 a year." That's got to affect your potential employee pool and the bottom line at hiring time.) Not to mention the problems with finding and building your physical location.

One of the round table members was correct when they said, "This is not an image issue, it is a reality issue. We can't keep talented people in the valley because there are no arts, no alternatives and no transportation." Though they should have added the other major problems to the list, at least they acknowledged that the image problem was not created by tourism marketing.

But I guess blaming sin makes for much better headlines. It sure is popular to point fingers at others, especially at the "haves" when you're the "have nots." And it must be easier to blame a successful marketing campaign than it is to create better schools, deal with your economy issues, your housing market, crime and transportation... But will this solve your problems?

The hysterical cries of sin as the wolf won't save your sheep.

Make no mistake, this article is obviously using the 'sex and sin' slant to sell copy. Look at the image they use ~ the quote reads: Exotic dancers freshen up in the unisex bathroom of Seamless Gentlemen's Club last year.

In doing so, the publication does a disservice to its readers. If a person just reads the headline, or stopped reading after the 4th paragraph ~ as many do because in standard newspaper format, all the info is at the top and the rest is just (supposed to be) details to back it up ~ they'd believe this pile of propaganda.

They'd believe that the marketing campaign to tourists was to blame for Las Vegas' corporate recruitment difficulties.

And that's false.

So here's yet another example of using 'sex to sell' ~ but in a very dirty way. They are not only luring folks with their lurid headlines, but they're intentionally misrepresenting the story, the issue. They are lying.

Along with misrepresenting themselves to readers this poor marketing attempt entirely misses the very readers who would have an interest in ~ ideas regarding ~ the real issues which face Las Vegas.

Talk about a repelling image.

As an adult industry professional, I am truly disgusted by things like this.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Business Bigots

Tom Paine wrote:
Reducing people to categories is useful, so that's why we do it. A woman is gay, straight or bisexual, and once in that pigeon hole, is no longer something we have to think about.
Which is true. Really it is. The ability to categorize and separate into groups is one of the reasons for human survival.
Thought is predicated on an ability to categorize input -- to recognize similarities and differences -- and action involves alteration of one's relationship to the environment. These are fundamental survival skills, and science and technology are their most important prostheses.
(Neil Greenberg (Professor of Zoology) "Science and Technology as Human Endeavors" as published in Liberal Education, 1986.)

In the creation of categories we ensure our survival in simple terms. Things are either "dangerous" or "safe," they are "like me" or "unlike me," they are "edible" or "inedible" etc. Through the use of science, we are able to more clearly identify and therefore categorize.

The American psychologist Eleanor Rosch made a series of studies examining the way in which individuals in many different situations and different cultures grouped objects into categories. During her study Rosch found that individuals not only classify objects as in (or out) of specific categories, but also judge them as 'better' or 'worse' examples of the category.

However, this strength of ours also has weaknesses, which are explained by Russel Kayser in "The Mechanism and Function of Awe: A Cognitive Enhancement Theory":
Our cognitive ability to affirm and negate, to recognize similarity and difference, and to see parts fitting into wholes, enables us to create predictable categories and concepts, and thereby map the world. This domain of categorization is described by Roschian Graded Structure, a conceptual model influential in designing the present study (Rosch, 1975).

The two basic principles of Roschian category theory are that categories provide the most information for the least cognitive effort, and that the world presents itself as a structured entity, not as a collection of arbitrary attributes. Roschian category theory concludes that maximum information is attained with the least cognitive effort when categories map world structure as efficiently as possible (Rosch, 1978).
When we do this with people, creating groups of types of people, we are creating stereotypes. Stereotypes are really just categories allowing us to "pre-judge" something. Prejudice and stereotypes are not necessarily 'bad' unless they are inaccurate, based on ignorance without direct or actual experience. When such inaccurate views are put into action, you have bigotry.

Marketers often make stereotypes and pre-judge people when creating 'targeting markets.' We often have to lump folks into categories in order to create products for them and to reach them. (What do these people need? What do they want? Where do these people live? What do they read?)

This is not a bad thing unless the marketer pays no attention to the real people in those assigned categories. A marketer who doesn't know and study markets, especially his own product's target market, is a lazy marketer. At best he just creates bad campaigns; at worst, he's a bigot.

Since categorization is vital yet requires the "least cognitive effort" this means many humans are lazy with categorization. They have placed an item in a category, a person in a group, and that's that ~ no further effort is required. Our human tendency to generalize also gets us in a lot of trouble. Even if there has been research, study and experience we need to remain flexible with our categorization.

As Kayser wrote:
Once categories are formed, it is important that they remain true to the real world on two levels. Categories must resist degradation, yet remain sensitive to change. Information degradation can erode the validity of a category to the point that it becomes a source of disinformation. But even if informational fidelity is maintained, the world continues to change, and categories must responsively adapt to these changes to remain valid. Rigid categories are nonadaptive. It is important that we keep our categories flexible so that we can map changes around us, but it is also important that the categories remain sufficiently stable to preserve predictability.
So when you consider your target market, what prejudices do you have? Is your definition of the market based on the real world, actual experiences, studies or accurate information? Has that group changed over time? Have you noticed this and changed your marketing to reflect it?

Naturally those of us in the adult industry feel we are put into meaningless stereotypical categories and are treated to business bigotry. Race and gender are still very misunderstood and this shows in the marketing. But what about you? What generalizations have you made which are no longer relevant?

When we speak of adaptation we should not just be talking about what latest tech gadget you use or which media format is 'the best' but rather we should be focusing on adapting our message properly. Then, armed with that message we should consider which medium will deliver that message best to our target audience.

Anything less isn't just bad marketing, unsuccessful marketing, but is business bigotry.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Surprise! Women Undeniable Majority Of Internet Users

According to eMarketer, women outnumber men online, and it's likely to stay that way:
Not only do females make up the majority of Internet users, but more of the female population goes online. This year, an estimated 66.2% of US females ages 3 and older will use the Internet at least once a month, compared with 64.2% of males, according to eMarketer. By 2011, 72.1% of females are expected to go online, vs. 69.3% of males.
According to their report:
Amid all the excitement online video is causing, marketers must keep one fact in mind: Of the estimated 97 million females online in the US, only 66% of them actually watch videos online, compared with 78% of males who do.
One thing they are quick to note is that women are not less savvy than men when it comes to Internet technology. And they believe that Web 2.0 (aka social networking) will only increase female use.

Why this continual surprise that women are using the Internet? Women outnumber men, so we should outnumber men on the Internet, yes?

But then in more in-depth news coverage of the eMarketer report, both in Reuters and in Sydney Morning Herald, eMarketer's senior analyst, Debra Aho Williamson, makes broader gender claims which seem to make this report more 'surprising.'

I was reminded the early days of the Internet, when many feared that women would never adopt it ~ or at least not in the way males had. This was easily a decade ago, and we're still talking about it? Sheesh. We've gone from ugly Geocities pages to ugly MySpace pages, from FrontPage to blogging, and from static html to all sorts of scripts and toys, so maybe we're still slow to understand what's important here.

They were partly right; women do use the Internet differently.

During those days, ecommerce was a large 'threat' to the way of WWW life ~ it was a perversion of what they held sacred. Sort of like the good old boys business club where they greedily yell "mine, Mine, MINE", only instead of old white men, the Internet had really young boys (most of whom were white too) and these kids and twenty-somethings thought it was all theirs and they didn't want to change.

But ecommerce came along and women were strong adopters of online shopping. No mere coincidence in my mind.

While men surfed for consumer reports, reviews and price comparisons, they still purchased locally in person. Women on the other hand, loved the time savings of shopping and purchasing online. They could sit at home in their jammies, after the kids were asleep, and complete so many shopping errands... This of course led to mommies and others to making the Internet a tool for simplification of their lives. Email, ecards, maps and other tools proved the pc was more than just a toy. But of course, more time online meant they would find other joys of the Internet.

While Williamson doesn't say anything which completely contradicts gender roles, there is still this aura of surprise.

Women are huge consumers, including of technology. Women are humans first, so we will be drawn to many of the same activities and uses of the Internet and technology. But our roles are different, so we may be drawn more to somethings more than others.

Women tend to be more social in terms of talking not just 'hanging out' so we likely will participate more in chats, forums, discussions and blogging than men who will just forward a video or a link to a website. Women and men may be interested in many of the same things, but women will want to talk about why they are interested in something whereas men typically think forwarding a clip or link is self-explanatory ~ it's all that needs to be said.

So why this continual surprise over the differences in gender usage? It's not like women stop being human when confronted with new things. Nor do our 'real world' gender differences cease to exist online.

(Those who think women are so different would likely buy this bridge I have for sale... It's in Brooklyn and if you charged a toll you could really rake it in! I also can also put you in touch with a man in Africa who has millions of dollars to deposit in your bank account ~ just email me your bank account and routing information. Since women are so different from men these offers from a woman must be true!)

But then again, the gaming industry long underestimated the number of women ~ including older women (30s-40s) ~ who were active gamers spending lots of cash & entire weekends playing games. Fundamentally, both the teenage boys and the more mature women played games for the same reason: to escape & to compete, but marketers still seem to be struggling to use this knowledge in both the creation of games and the presentation of games.

So why would should I expect pundits to recognize that women are a strong segment of this market, powerful users of this technology?

I guess maybe it will take more 'surprising' numbers in 'surprising' studies to convince them all.

...Meanwhile, if anyone is interested in that bridge, contact me.

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Powerful Pornography Stats

According to these Pornography Statistics...

The USA produces the most porn pages (with 244,661,900 ~ second place, Germany, isn't even close with 10,030,200), yet it isn't the highest per capita in spending on porn nor in revenues. Yet the US leads in video porn production. And US porn revenue exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC.

The pornography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink.

When it comes to women, 1/3 of visitors to adult websites are women. Twice as many women favor chat rooms as men. Also noted, women are far more likely to act out their behaviors in real life (such as having multiple partners, casual sex, or affairs).

For US users, the higher your income, the higher your porn spending ~ which likely is linked to disposable income, but also suggests that the average porn purchase is made by a college grad with a decent job (i.e. respectable persons). The bulk of users are aged 35-44 ~ and those older pay for porn more than younger folks do.

Every second 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography.

While you can (and should) read more from this statistical report, I'd like to point out that in the list of top 20 search terms, neither "erotica" nor "erotic stories" shows up. More proof that erotica is a tough marketing gig (and I know there are lots of you here with that task).

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Drive Traffic With The Top-Down... Or?

An MIT study reveals why we get so easily distracted and how regular focus differs from alarming focus (even to the point of differing brain waves pulsations at different frequencies):
Scientists have always recognized two different ways that the brain processes information coming from the outside world. Willful focus (as occurs when you gaze at a piece of art) produces what are called "top-down" signals, while automatic focus (like when a wailing siren snaps you to attention) produces "bottom-up" signals.
These two types of brain signals, "top-down" and "bottom-up," suggest an interesting question I pose to you: Would you rather get your market's attention in a willful focused manner ("top-down") or in an automatic or alarming means ("bottom-up")?

In a world where humans are bombarded with so many messages, activating the "bottom-up" signals may seem to have merit. After all, we hope that by quickly grabbing their attention, by standing out in the crowd, we can grab the customer.

Then again, one imagines a willful focus will result in less buyers-remorse and a happier, longer lasting relationship.

Before you decide, read this article on the psychology of decision making in speed-dating.

Then, please do share your thoughts!

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Blogging 101: Mission, Method, Madness (Part One)

As promised, we begin a blog primer illustrated via the progress of my latest project, the new The Blushing Ladies Journal. (Ta-Da!)

This blog is a group blog so there are a few differences and things to address which are in addition to a solo blog, but overall these are the basics: Mission, Method, Madness.

Before you begin anything you'll need to decide why you want or need a blog. This is your Mission.

It's not good enough, in my opinion, to simply say, "Everybody has one," "Everyone needs one," or "Gee, they look like fun!" Especially if this is a business or professional blog ~ and by 'professional' I'm not talking blog tone here, but your purpose. If you're just blogging to update your friends like a teen-diary, this is not my concern (though these tips won't hurt you); but if you're trying to increase your company or product visibility, brand yourself as an author model or other professional, you need to think clearly about what you're doing. Why do you want a blog? What is its purpose? (Hint: Lots of traffic and/or becoming a Blog God isn't a reason to blog; it's a by-product of having a good blog.)

Defining what you want or need to do with your blog includes deciding who you'll need to reach. Is it your suppliers? Potential buyers? Current customers and fans? Employees? Others in your field? Even if you ask yourself 'who' and think 'all of them,' you should know who your target audience is. Who do you need to read your blog in order to accomplish your Mission? Who you are speaking to/with?

Having a Mission focuses efforts; you need a target in order to judge success, and that includes a target market. You may, in fact, reach more than your target audience, but that's gravy.

In the case of Blushing Ladies, I wanted a blog which would speak to women who might not seek erotica ~ but would enjoy it if they only knew of it. (Many women fear erotic literature to be 'porn' or worse yet, just like those free 'dirty stories' which sound so much like invitations to cyber :shudder: and so they don't do searched for such things.) I wanted to reach those women ~ and those who had perhaps once sought erotica, but had bad experiences and so no longer believe in the good stuff.

Knowing that the best erotica authors are those who know issues of intimacy, relationships and romance ~ they have to in order to create compelling characters and stories ~ I thought it would be a great idea for these authors to share those insights. (Hey, we get lots of mail regarding these matters, so why not put that knowledge to good use?) Writing from this perspective of romance and relationships is a good (and I think creative) way to reach women readers.

The Mission is to reach customers; readers themselves, not other erotica authors, editors or publishers. This is an important distinction. The content isn't about the issues, politics and concerns of authors, publishers and editors; nor is it about using the lingo of those professionals. Any posts or writings outside the area of our Mission are wasted efforts.

Do not ~ I repeat, Do Not ~ start a blog (or any project really) without knowing your Mission.

Or your limitations.

Since blogs are best when updated frequently and with original content (not just links to the content of others or quick notes about why you've not been posting), knowing that I'm already approaching my own personal limits of being able to maintain such demands I (wisely) knew I'd need help. Forming a group blog makes sense from the time element alone, but I also (fortunately) know some great ladies who not only can write but have the same mission of reaching female readers who may not venture into more risque sites and publications. Ours is a well-matched group in terms of mission and personality (not all of us are 'the same,' so there are 'flavors' ~ but we compliment one another well).

Note: When you begin a blog (or any new project) it is easy to get so carried away with your own enthusiasm or the newness of the project that you'll underestimate the amount of work that you will have to do. It's not just the writing/creating of content. If you're lucky enough to have many or very active readers, you'll be busy with emails and all sort of other things which do take time. And of course there is marketing the blog too. So I urge you to consider the new work load in terms of your time ~ and then consider it again. Maybe even a third time.

Really.

In fact, I had hopes of having 5-7 group members (and we may get there one day), but several of the wise women I discussed this with, while very interested in the mission and opportunity, were aware that they just couldn't make the commitment. (I respect each of them all the more for being this self-aware and honest about their current limitations.)

Starting a group blog also involves the planning of other details. There are matters of main admin access, blog contact methods, site design, and other issues of 'making the blog.' Just who will do what?

But most important are the often overlooked matters of blog content. How often do members agree to write? What qualifies as content? Is it a word limit? Specific topics? Types of content (images, audio, text?) A combination of all this? Who owns the content? If each member owns what they write, can they re-publish it elsewhere? If so, when? What about linking? (Both member sites/blogs and their friends' projects too.) Are you going to use affiliate programs, sell ad space, etc. ~ and if so, how do you split those funds?

If you don't settle these matters up front, you're still going to have to face these matters at some point ~ and likely in the form of disputes as your members bicker about who's working more, who's being treated unfairly, etc.

It takes more thought up-front to set up a group blog; but you'll save time during the life of the blog as responsibilities are shared. (And most of this planning is done while you are still excited, so use that enthusiasm to work through all the details.)

If your potential blogging partners do not agree on what you deem necessary (in this case a commitment to posting at least once a week and to speak to female readers, not other authors or to reach possible publishers etc.), then don't partner with them. Yes, when you expose your idea to others you may risk 'giving away your idea,' but if you know you can't do it alone (or do it well alone), then you've lost nothing. And if you ask good people with decent ethics, they won't 'steal' anything anyway. (And if they do, crush 'em with your hugely successful blog!)

Once you've found your blogging partners and you've all agreed upon your mission, or you know you can commit to your Mission in full at a blog, you're ready to more onto the next steps: Method and Madness.

('Method' will be published in The Marketing Whore Newsletter ~ so if you have not yet subscribed, please do so!)

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bad Reviews... What Can You Do?

I had an email regarding 'bad reviews,' and thankfully I have two great examples to show you about how to handle them. Keeping my comments about the particular reviews and products out of things, these folks have, in my opinion, appropriately put their blogs to use in handling their concerns.

First is my friend Autumn, of Inky Blue Allusions, who feels that her site's review at Jane's was anything but thorough. The second is my publisher, Deanna with Ephemera Bound, who questions a reviewer regarding a book review.

Both ladies are respectful in their presentation. They link to the reviews, quote from the reviews, and are aware of and state their own biases. Better than just complaining, they use the conversational style and format of blogs to involve readers in the discussion.

Rather than just stopping their little feet they invite readers to discuss the issue, including pointing out where they may have gone 'wrong.' Are they right? Are they wrong? Hopefully their readers will tell them. After all, it is their readers, their target audience and fans, to whom these ladies need to appeal.

While their blog posts may not reach those reviewers (who I'm sure they'd like to change or otherwise address their ways), they are reaching the ones who matter: their customers and potential customers.

You may never be able to 'undo' the 'damages' of a less-than-favorable review, but you can make the most of it. If you made an error ~ if the reviewer has brought up points you should address ~ you can have a conversation and learn. If you or your product was treated unfairly, you have the chance to let your fans do some speaking for you.

I also recommend, if the ladies have not already done so, communicating with the reviewers. You can choose to do so prior to any public noise, or simply email them a link to your post inviting them into the discussion. It's really your call; do what feels most ethical and effective to you.

But you should never feel that you must accept the bad press in silence. In fact, I'd say you never should be silent about bad press (real bad situations or those which are just opinions) because every conversation is a learning opportunity.

Even if the bad press should prove to be just, you can learn from it and address it publicly too. If you remain silent, folks may think you just don't care. And that would be far worse than a simple bad review or comment.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Where The Links Lead

If a person took the time to read and to post comments at your blog, they likely are part of your target audience and so conversing with them is a matter of great importance; but what they do tells you even more than what they said in their comment. When it comes to blog comments I read them, of course. But I also follow the information they provide.

(Tip: Always use your Blogger or Wordpress ID or fill in the email and URL information so that folks can find/follow you.)

When you post a comment here I want to know more about you, so I'll follow the link. Looking at your blog or website gives me insight into why you believe as you do. And it often leads to interesting things...

A recent example is Urban Iconoclast's comment. From the ID link, I found 'his' blog and several of his blog pals too (many of which discuss marketing, so I urge you to go and link surf).

One hot topic running about nearly as frantic as any blog meme was the topic of Z-List and Z-List 2.0. Like Sugasm the idea of Z-List is to create link swapping hotlists which employs a blog post to send traffic to other blogs. However, unlike Sugasm the list members are not all on a theme. (For evidence thereof see Servant of Chaos, where the Z-List 2.0 is provided, showing that these blogs are not on a theme.) The problem with this is two-fold: Your neither build page rank or other authority with search engines, nor are you offering your readers more of what they are looking for.

As usual, I am more worried about the latter point ~ where you personally direct readers. If someone enters a Z-List member's blog, lord knows where they are sent, what they will find. Yes, you may get more eyeballs to your site, but it's my opinion that you're sending folks away to 'anywhere' just on the premise that you'll get eyeballs sent to you as an 'anything.' It's not targeted traffic. I'm not sure how much use this is unless you are desperate to get someone, anyone, other than your mom and sister to read your blog.

In defense of Z-List, it seems that they are trying to create a system or list from which you can somewhat pick & choose who you link to. However, the problem with selection from the list this way means you are not guaranteed to be selected (linked) yourself ~ and if this is all a crap shoot, then why bother to be on a list? Why not just hand-pick who you want to link to, swap with, and share readers with.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Why You Shouldn't Try To "Beat" Search Engines

This was sent out in the Marketing Whore Newsletter on 2/6/07, so please note that some of the Google numbers may have changed since then... Consider this a free sample, sans the subscribers only offer. Yes, I am whoring the newsletter. I want you to subscribe.

As written in Three Internet Contact Points one of the primary ways for your site to be found is via Internet search engines. The proof of how important search engine traffic lies in the number of articles, websites and software offerings which tell the webmaster how to 'beat the Google algorithm,' 'how to feed search engine spiders,' etc. I'm going to leave all those practices and gadgets to those folks (uh, after I remind you of this bit, Google Problems?) and talk about what I believe.

I believe in content. Write good, decent content and folks will find you in the search engines. It may not seem like it can compete with Mr SEO or some webmaster traffic philosophy, but it not only can ~ it will.

This is because humans use Google and other search engines to find specific information. Keywords and meta tags, once a huge part of how things were at least told to us as the way to be found, really have little practical use. This is why I say so:

Putting keywords such as 'teen sex' into a search engine will get you how many listings? 2,230,000. Do you think a person is going to be satisfied with that result? Nope. They are likely going to modify their search with additional information. They will try "teen sex" education (1,200,000 results), "teen sex" education condoms (158,000 results), "teen sex" education condoms boys stds (31,800 results), "teen sex" education condoms boys stds gym class (998 results), and "teen sex" education condoms boys stds prom (974 results).

They will do this because this helps them more precisely find the information they are looking for. (The same is done with entertainment and can be replicated with searches for "erotic stories," "webcam girls," PSOs etc.) Now the old school webmasters will tell you that this abundance of listings is exactly why you need to worry about Google algorithms, keyword selection (and purchase), and other SEO tricks to get primary placement & high page listings. But really now, who is going to buy all those words and phrases? And if you consider that this is only one search, by one person, can you guess what others you might need to buy? All those words replacing "boys" for "boy's" and for "girls" too. Not to mention "gym class" in quotes, and phy ed etc. Just buying "teen sex" isn't going to be a short-cut either. I could just have easily put in "sex education," "sex practices," "underage," "premarital," "high school" etc. Are you going to correctly guess and buy all those keywords?

One of the main things that webmasters and SEOs fail to understand when they want to 'beat' Google is what Google is trying to do. Google is trying to find the most relevant information that matches the searcher's query. It is trying to use programs to replicate human understanding and searching; they are trying to get the programs/algorithm to interpret what a searcher wants and give it to them. What you say about your site, with keywords and meta tags etc, is not the same as what your site is. You are likely much more (hopefully not less than) what your keywords and meta stuff says you are. Google knows that. This is why keywords are not gold or God or whatever you may have been taught.

In trying to take the search as question and help the person find the answer, Google employs not just what you say about your site, but what you site actually says. In other words, it 'reads' your site. It notes all the words and phrases, topics, image descriptions, tags and labels you have at your site. And, to check how much of an authority you are, it looks to see not only who links to you but for what. If your site is on teen abstinence and another site for parents regarding sex talk with kids links to you, that says more about you being an authority on teen abstinence than 100 different websites talking about you in assorted ways such as your cute puppy pics. Also, as seen with the 'miserable failure' that is George Bush, the words used to link to you are important. So 10 bloggers saying "teen abstinence" as the phrase to link to your site is more powerful than you might have thought.

This was not designed to keep small sites small or make big sites bigger, but is one way for the algorithm to interpret how much authority you do have. It may seem unfair at the onset, like some huge mountain to climb when your competition seems to have all the links placing them high on Google. But you can control these things. You control how much of an authority you are.

First of all, provide great, quality content. Even if you're a membership site selling photos, images, and movie downloads to members use words as much as possible especially on non-password protected pages. This not only makes sense as far as telling the visiting human what they are purchasing, but it tells Google and the other search engines trying to help humans what you are ~ and what you are not.

If folks did little but provide great content, and update frequently, they'd still be found in search engines by the folks who wanted what they have to offer. But you don't need to stop there.

Subscribe to The Marketing Whore Newsletter and find out what you've been missing.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

News (You Should Be Able) To Use

For those considering tech toy upgrades: Ringtones will always be bigger than mobile smut.

For those in or considering entering the European market, Middle aged British women have the lowest sex drive in Europe - and the most headaches.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

I Never Stop Wearing The Marketing Whore Hat

So Friday a potential client comes to me and asks if I'd take a freelance gig to help her with her site. She wants relatively short blog posts on a daily basis, and is looking for a pool of regular writers to do this: How many spots a week do I want? It's a paid gig, so I look around.

First problem: Her blog is full of nothing but posts which are obviously sales bits. I don't mind a good sales pitch but when the entire blog is only about how great her products are, I, like any other human, have to think, "Why read this?" If I wanted to read short sales pitches I'd grab the classified section. There's nothing to charm me into accepting the occasional direct pitch, nothing to slyly reference her products, no amusing anecdotes to make me smile, nothing to romance the lifestyle or desires associated with the product. It's all just blah blah buy. These aren't blog posts but glorified product descriptions.

Second problem: Exasperating the first problem of Boring with a capital B, she sells a grand total of 12 products. With a daily blog entry, that's 30 posts. Do the math: each product must be pushed at least twice a month. How many things can you say about one lotion? More importantly, how many times can a reader read about the same lotion? Not only is reader tolerance likely to be even lower than a creative writer's, but isn't the point of the blog to appeal to readers? If the target market isn't interested, what's the point?

Third problem: How does one write product reviews without the products? Writer pay is less than what each product costs, so it's not economically prudent for the writers to buy the product and review it. Even if you get to (must) write multiple pieces on the same product, how many times can you really review one product? Instead of looking for a handful of writers she'd be better off sending free product to 30 different people each month and getting their reviews. Even if they weren't all great reviews they'd be better than several people trying to find something new to say, forcing out "new" reviews, and just plain faking reviews. The wholesale cost of each product is cheaper than the per piece writing rate she offered (if using retail pricing, this is true for 10 of the 12 products, with the last 2 only $1 more) making this option more financially viable for herself as well. This, of course, still doesn't address the issue of reader interest, but at least it saves her some money and allows for more honest blog entries.

Overall, her business model is flawed. Her inventory may be grand, but her product line is too small to be effective with the marketing plan she's selected. And even with a larger product line, she'd still be missing out on the goods to move her goods because she's focusing on what the products are rather than what the buyer is looking for. It's much more difficult to fill a consumer need or desire when you don't even address it. All this yet with a product line that's not exclusive to her. Any sales she has must be due to pure dumb luck.

Based on this I politely decline the offer. Not just because I dislike the repetitive fake-review gig, but because I don't think she'll be around very long. And that will only leave me to find a replacement writing gig.

...Maybe she should stop the writer's gigs, save those funds, and hire me as a consultant? Heh Heh Heh.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Blog Field Trip: Niche & Audience

I had quite a few emails regarding my last post, Don't Be A Blog Playa, so I'll be going over a few of these here & in the newsletter.

These were some of the questions:

But what if one post seems really popular, shouldn't I then write/post more about that?

What if I really have several genuine interests?

Why would having many interests ruin readership or be a trust-breaker?


These questions made it really clear that there are a few areas, niche and audience, which I need to clarify before we move onto anything else with blogs. Blogger Slip of a Girl has kindly allowed her blog, A Slip Of A Girl, for use a a 'field trip' to illustrate some points about all of this.

First of all, her blog has a niche: lingerie. She has lingerie news, sales alerts, personal thoughts (and 'ranties') on lingerie trends and news, erotic stories with lingerie themes, photos of lingerie models, etc.

Second, it clearly has a targeted audience: lingerie lovers. Written for 'everyday women,' with some posts as advice for men, she clearly knows her audience ~ however, this wasn't always the case.

"At first, I was very tentative with my writing," she says. "I was unsure of what to say -- a case of nerves, I guess" she laughs. "Eventually, I just came out and said what I wanted to say -- as if talking to other women as idiotic as I over lingerie." She found her voice.

Voice is extremely important when blogging. Opinions, strong opinions, get more notice than kind milk-toast ones ~ but that doesn't mean you need to be shocking or mean. An opinion-less post isn't always going to capture interest, especially if it's just a 'this is on sale,' or 'look at this pretty pair of panties.' Some news sites can get away with that sort of a thing because the very nature of the story may be controversial or result in a reader having strong opinions. But a blog with just posts to coupon codes and new bras isn't going to get much notice.

And what happens when you get noticed?

As Slip found out, the comments and emails may be surprising. "The first avid adopters of my blog, the ones who communicated with me, were cross dressers. At first I was just glad that someone liked 'me' and happy to connect with other lingerie lovers -- but then I began to worry... What if they thought I was a cross dresser? Not because I have a problem with it at all, but I'm not a man. I didn't want people dismissing me and my opinions as those of a man when I am a woman. And I was nearly phobic that I would be taken as some authentic voice on CD when I knew very little about it. Now, of course, I know much more, but I still don't want to pose as some CD expert. Which is ironic as you now have me writing pieces for your book on cross dressers," she laughed, "but you know what I mean."

She worried that 'everyone' would be skeptical of her blog. Slip worried that by paying attention to the cross dressers that her non-CD readers would lose interest or that those in the cross dressing community would call her a fake. "I even thought that posting that I am a woman would be seen as 'protesting too much.' But I just decided to carry on. Being welcoming to those who have an interest in CD, but not catering so exclusively to them that I'd make 'regular lingerie lovers' feel left out. I guess the best way to put it is that I just carried on. It seems to have worked because my stats are higher and no one questions my status as a woman -- or my acceptance of CD and other 'kink'."

While she occasionally goes off on a tangent, such as the DIY/craft projects, this is rather limited and does not confuse the reader. She maintains her focus of lingerie even with the 'outside' posts because of the following:

Posts are tagged/labeled so that a reader may skip (or find) such posts as they so choose.

Posts are still in her niche (of girly related goodness) and speak to her audience.

These posts are sprinkled, like seasoning, so a reader isn't lost or left wondering if this is the same blog they visited last time.

Slip says, "Even if I write these crafty entries at the same time, I typically do not publish them all at once -- I spread them out so that they are there, included, but not leaving a visitor to conclude this is a crafting blog."

Overall, Slip does a fine job of working her niche and speaking to her audience. Do you?

Have questions? Ask them. As a conversation, this blog is participatory. I expect to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and even your comments which contradict what I have said ~ not every one's experience is the same and debate is healthy.

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Friday, February 2, 2007

Don't Be A Blog Playa

Blogging is often treated like dating, where folks fall in love with setting it up, posting some ramblings, and when no one gushes and fawns all over them, they move onto the next one. Surely someone will spot how wonderful they are instantly and they'll hook-up. Like the poser in the bar, if the readers don't make a stampede they move onto the next bar thinking there will be better fishing there.

This points to several problems for these bloggers (as well as those who date like this). Having a relationship and even just getting laid are a lot like making a sale &/or building a fan base. If you're having problems with your blog, here are some lessons.

One: the problem isn't location. There is no lucky bar stool granting you certain powers of seduction. Likewise, there isn't some magical corner to blog on. No matter what your location, how fancy your template or graphics, you are going to have to do something worthy of attention. If you've tried several blogs with the same unhappy results, perhaps you need to face facts that it isn't 'them'; it really is YOU.

Two: the problem is you. (Yeah, it bears repeating.) What have you given besides a facade or template? Have you tried engaging conversation? Sure, it's a blog and you may feel like you're supposed to do all the talking, but are you only talking about yourself? No one, not potential dates or blog readers, wants to hear all about you and only you. They want to know something of you, yes; they want to know what you have to offer them. But what they really want is a relationship with you. Can they trust you? Are you interesting, compatible? You have to talk to show them you are worthy of trust, that your opinion is valuable. You talk so they can evaluate you and that may take some time... Which brings us to the third issue. How committed are you?

There are several way to display your commitment issues.

Commitment issue one: Fishing for better fish. This shows when you are in a conversation with one woman yet are scanning the crowd for your ex, or to see if someone prettier enters the room; in blogging, it's the topic.

For example, you begin a blog about softcore art nudes but then you read that there's 'big affiliate money' in hardcore group orgies, so you switch to posts about that scene. Like the first woman you are talking to, your softcore fans notice. So do the orgy people. The result: you lose your credibility on all fronts and go home alone. You can't successfully be all things to all people. Pick a theme, niche, topic and stick with it.

Another example is replicating yourself. Lacking any real confidence in yourself, you give yourself a different personality, pose, or even a different name, pending which bar you're in. You are willing to be anyone but yourself to catch the masses; it's not sincere, and people notice. You 'get' no one. Bloggers make the same mistake.

Lacking any real confidence in their product, they cover all their bases by entering many niches. And not just at one blog either.

You've been out & about on the Internet, so I know you've seen those cookie-cutter blogs ~ the ones where it's clearly the same blogger, same template, same set of links, maybe even the same content posted. Sure, the title and URL are different, and maybe the template color changes, but there's nothing new here. These bloggers think they have The Formula; they'll recreate it everywhere and rake the money in. But it doesn't work.

Like a bar full of Madonnas in the 80's there's nothing special about any of them. Those blogs only compete against themselves ~ which is why smart women always ask what their friends are wearing; if they don't stand out, somehow, they are passed over. On the web, being passed over is a click 'back' away from the site. This is an obvious commitment issue. It's clear with this repetition that you the blogger aren't interested in focusing on anything or anyone. And you're so busy trying to stuff content into the blog you aren't doing any real talking or sharing which builds trust. Like the corny guy at the bar with tired old lines, folks don't trust you enough to go home with you. In the case of a blog, visitors aren't about to waste their time reading your tired bullshit when there's an engaging blog waiting for them.

It takes time and work to build a blog, just as it does to build a relationship. You can easily face burn-out the way it is without having to run around doing blogs (or people) you have no interest in ~ wouldn't you rather be exhausted doing something or someone you love or at least like?

Commitment issue two is rather like the first; it's the other side of the coin. If you pose, pander or otherwise act like a playa you aren't only showing a lack of concern for others but for yourself. You don't care who you get if you don't care about yourself. You are one desperate mother-fucker.

If you like big butts and you cannot lie, then blog about it. Don't worry if that's so last decade, not cool enough for the trendy hipsters, or limited with sites and products to sell, just blog it. Your sincere passion is in itself a truth ~ and bonding point between you and all the other big booty lovers. Committing to yourself and your love of round ass is saying both, "It's OK to love big booty," and, "You, with the big bum, come over here!" Isn't that point? Pretending to like skinny bony ass isn't going to get you readers. And if you're blogging to sell (your books, affiliate programs, your own big ass) isn't it the point to connect with these people?

It takes time, effort, and the balls (or ovaries) to believe in yourself. No one dates a whiny insecure person ~ at least not for long. No one does business with a waffling company, and no one reads a whiny insecure blogger.

Blog like you are dating. Be confident of who you are and project 'you' at all times. Stay and talk to who is interested in you ~ no matter the size of your audience. Stay in the same place so they know where to find you and show up when you say you will.

The bottom line: Don't be a blog playa.

Have questions? Comments? Post them or email The Whore.

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