Monday, October 20, 2008

When Content Isn't King

Last week on Cult of Gracie, Callie & I were joined by Pearly Writes and Rebecca Deos for a long conversation about SEO and content.

For the most part, we all agree: content is the best organic SEO. You'll have to listen to the show for where we split hairs regarding SEO and social network sites, etc., but worthy of noting here today was our discussion regarding use of content.

Callie and I began the conversation by stating that before you blog (or your business, really) you have to know your mission. How else are you going to measure your success? Part of this business of your mission relates to content, how to use it, and the matter of "should you give it away for free?"

While we all agreed there are times to withhold content for money, deciding 'when' is the tricky part. Callie, who does consulting & writes conceptual articles & "how to" posts, discussed how some of her most thoughtful "free stuff" was often either not understood & therefore misapplied, or read too quickly (a kind way of saying that folks didn't really get it) and the information was not used correctly. She's decided that she won't be giving such things away, but rather saving most of her "goodies" for clients ~ not just to be paid, but to ensure that the advice or concept is applied as intended. Rebecca, an escort, uses her blog to write about things that interest her purely as a way for prospective clients to know more about her. And certainly an author has to decide what stories/columns should be sold versus what can be given away for free, as 'exposure.'

In any case, this "to be paid or not to be paid" is a rather subjective decision ~ one which can only effectively be decided once you know your goals/mission.

But this lead to a conversation about the worth of writing ~ again, partially based upon all the recent loss of so many "sex columnists". (It's a conversation I appreciate being kept alive by grande folks such as Amber, Dacia, & Callie.)

My thoughts wandered to the matter of value ~ value beyond paid or not, or how much per word, etc., but the matter of the value of adult writing on human sexuality.

We know that sex is deemed a less legitimate conversation than say politics, finance, or technology. Everyone knows I find that both a stupid ideology (everybody literally has a reason to both know about & explore sexuality) and a dumb argument in light of the fact that sex does in fact sell ~ and I'm talking actually selling sex, be it porn, toys, or sex worker services ~ to the tune of millions, billions of dollars annually. But the value of sex writing, fiction and non-fiction, cannot be discussed only in terms of its relation to non sexual writing ~ if only for the fact that we're missing the definition of the value of writing in general. Time for some conceptual algebra.

What value does writing have? And perhaps, more pointedly, just what is of value on the Internet?

Lately I'm more and more struck by the freakish facts which point to the fact that technology & its tools (the code, widgets, etc. known as Web 2.0) garner more money, attention and credit than content.

Name a site, strip it of its content and what do you have? Just a bunch of code. Yet people are buying code and concepts of code & tools rather than putting money into what it is that people really come to, return to, and love sites for: content.

All websites are publications/productions, so this monetary focus on the tools of the publication/production is akin to gushing over the pencil, the typewriter, the lush yet blank pages of a magazine. I'm focusing on writing here (and perhaps it's warranted because words are still the way things are found on the Internet), but this applies to images too. For example, Flickr without photos and images is nothing but a a potentially cool tool that's not being used; it only becomes popular when the tool is used to deliver content.

But the money seems to be going to the folks who create the tools, while content creators, adult or otherwise, are slighted. It's too lopsided.

So perhaps the question we should all be asking isn't, "Should I give it away for free?" or even "When should I give it away for free?" but rather "When are the big sites with budgets going to realize how damn important content is?"

For the flip-side of this argument, please read Rebecca's thoughts from after the radio show.

And then, please do tell us all what you think about the use of content and the value of writing.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Adults Embracing & Embedding Facebook In Wordpress Blogs

The fabulous & much adored by The Marketing Whore Callie Simms has posted The Best Facebook & Wordpress Plugins for Adult Bloggers; a useful list if you are, indeed, stuck with Wordpress.

Why do I say "stuck" with Wordpress? Well, as seen in Callie's article, nearly everything with WP requires a freakin' plugin.

Yeah, I've defended Blogger & other platforms before against the Wordpress fans who believe the WP stands for "worship" ~ so why bother to do it again? Because I use WP at one of my mainstream gigs and I hate, hate, Hate it.

When it comes to hosting, WP is a hog. It requires SQL & PHP be installed on the server and as it uses a live database, is far more intense, requiring far more effort on the part of the server. This also means more stuff to go wrong. And then there's those plugin requirements for every little thing... :sigh:

So, when Callie says, "More and more adult bloggers & business owners are moving to Wordpress for their blogging platform because of simplicity it provides as a content management system," I have two questions:

1) Says who? Who says more and more adult bloggers & business owners are moving to Wordpress?

B) Who says it is a simpler platform &/or content management system?

If you are using WP, and want to do the Facebook thing, Callie's article is, as I said, useful. But if you aren't using WP you can simply use RSS to create/take dynamic content from virtually any social networking site (or use the tools/widgets most provide), as well as use RSS to place your content from elsewhere into your social network profile/pages; WP has no corner on that market.

Of course, all the general rules regarding being a polite adult content person within mainstream social networks still apply. And I'm still not a fan of the Facebook.

But you can hear more about that when Callie & I face-off on Facebook and other things this Wednesday on Cult of Gracie Radio.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Let's Make News With A Not New Affiliate Internet Widget

We've heard before that Social networkers turn into social sellers ~ at least that's the dream; that word of mouth, from friend to friend, one trusted person to another, will promote your product or service for you. But this story is specifically about a new Facebook application:
BSocial Networks Inc. has launched Market Lodge, a system designed for Facebook that enables the social network's users to create miniature e-commerce stores on their Facebook pages. Market Lodge allows Facebook users to select from 1,100 products from 50 retailers items to sell in their own shops.

Facebook users get a 10% commission for every product they sell (deposited in personal PayPal accounts), bSocial Networks gets a 35% to 50% commission, and retailers get an outlet to sell products to the 50 million consumers on Facebook without having to advertise, says Sue Spielman, bSocial Networks co-founder.
Sounds nifty, but really it's just another affiliate widget. Nothing against widgets; making it ultra easy for folks to promote means there's more likelihood they'll actually insert the affiliate code, especially if the interface is easy to use and automatically updates. But fundamentally, this isn't anything new. Right now any user at Facebook or other social network site can insert affiliate links as they wish.

And you'll note that unless you are the manufacturer or otherwise a direct seller of the product you'll not be able to afford commissions of up to 60%.
BSocial Networks plans to expand its initial offering of 1,100 products to thousands of products. Current retailers include Aurora Nova Skin Care, Holistic Pet, Inner Waves Organics, Oona Sara Designs and White Swan. The company also plans to expand its Market Lodge offering, initially created using the Facebook application program interface, to other social networks.
At least half of these products can be found at Amazon; which as most of you know, welcomes affiliates with adult business. The Amazon affiliate program not only offers many widgets, has a great history of making payments to affiliates, but with the wide range of products you often find additional monies earned with sales in categories you've never imagined.
"This is a consumer-to-consumer business platform that lets anyone in the social network create a personalized marketplace that reflects their hobbies and interests," Spielman says.
Not to become The Amazon Marketing Whore, but Amazon allows this with their affiliate stores, which can be designed to match your own brand &/or personal style.
"And when social networkers share their Market Lodge, they share with all of their friends in a setting of social trust, a social bond."
Or social annoyance; as the case may be.

While no one really minds if a friend or family member makes 50 cents off your purchase of naughty lingerie (especially if they never know what it is you bought), affiliate marketing in social networks can be about as much fun as that forced Avon purchase you make from the neighbor lady once a week ~ or the wrapping paper, oranges & scouting cookies you feel forced to buy at work.

Trusted or not, the push of 'buy this' all the time can get really tiresome. Even if it's not done by a marketing professional.

While the new application doesn't appear to be adult-friendly, you can find out more about bSocial's Market Lodge here.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Heated Rants & Cool Kids: Social Bookmarking

In this most recent episode of, "Waaa, it's hard to be an adult webmaster or blogger..."

Sara alerted me to Fleshbot's Why Does Digg Hate Porn (which, by the way, finally made me get off my figurative ass and audition for ability to post comments at Fleshbot), and so the saga continues.

Actually, there are two sagas here; one is the dealio with adult sites and the old censorship condom, and the other is the matter of social networking. Heck, there's a few more, but I'll start with these two and, driving my former English profs to rend their clothing and pull their hair, I'll not include them in the opening summary but just get to the others when I do.

Get a beverage and settle in; this is going to be a long post.

It's easy to take it personally when content is not accepted by sites like Digg; our sites/companies are like our babies and we don't like the other kids rejecting them. But let's look at things from their point of view: Somebody is gonna scream bloody hell and they don't want the trouble.
Case Study: Fark once had categories called "Boobies" and "Weeners" which was, as you imagine, links to softcore naked boobs and dicks (respectively, if not respectfully) and adult conversations or links. But advertisers would complain, prompting Fark to make changes.

First they went with the sneaky approach. When they got a new advertiser, they stopped publishing "Boobies" & "Weeners" for a few weeks, then figuring the advertisers had tired of watching their ad on Fark, they resumed the "Boobies" & "Weeners" postings. But eventually, either they tired of such monitoring or continued to get flack at Fark HQ, and they stopped.

Both "Boobies" and "Weeners" have been moved to Foobies.com, leaving Fark more acceptable to advertisers. (Interestingly, "Boobies" always out-number "Weeners" ~ and I'm not talking 2-1 as anatomy suggests. Is this proof that porn pics are still more a man-thing than some media would tell you? I'll get to those myths later; remind me.)

Fark went where the money was. Can you blame other social sites for doing the same?
Now, before you start yelping how other sites ~ sites even 'worse' than yours ~ get to sit at the cool kids' table, let me remind you that these are social sites and, as noted in the Fleshbot comments, you're in if one of the cool kids lets you in. Which all goes back to doing your research to discover who the quarterbacks and prom queens are (the marketing term for these people are 'influencers').

Remember, the Internet isn't much different than the real world; you just can't invite yourself to the cool kids' table, you must be asked.

Now, many folks will tell you that you just need to become a member and submit your link yourself. You join the social network, you post the link, and let others bump it up and help you drive the traffic. That's part of the 'poo' in Web Poo Point Doh.

Members know if you are really a member or if you're a user, a poser, a plant, a shill ~ a fake. To be a member, you have to be a member. You have to have actual, real conversations & make friends. In social networks this means leaving comments, ranking other links, messaging and using all the frills that said network provides to members. Over time, you'll learn what all the cool kids are into, what the lingo is, what the insider jokes and nicknames are, and assimilate in a myriad of ways. But even then, you may not get your link liked.

Why?

Because it's just like the real world, kiddos. You can join the new school, go to all the football games, but that won't make you prom king or queen.

So maybe you are really likable. Maybe you do fit in at this new school. But this is going to cost you a huge investment in time ~ so I hope you really like this place because you're going to have to show up at a lot of parties.

***

Recently (just hours before I made this post) my site, Sex-kitten.Net, had a link listed at Reddit ~ actually, at NSFW Reddit (which means it's Not Safe For Work). Nice, yes; but not just for me. This proves that some social bookmarking sites are open to adult linkage, but you may have to hunt for where they are allowed.

In some sort of twisted fate, the link the Reddit user put in was not the correct link and so it was taking people not to Shame, Shame, Shame; Shame of Fools (NWS) but to The Doctor (NWS). I have no idea how that happened and as tech was sleeping, I did a quick dirty fix by posting a note at the top of The Doctor, telling Reddit folks where to find the correct article. I mention this so you know that being slightly obsessive about your stats and refers can in fact be time well-spent.

Also in this Reddit experience was a reaffirmation that your link traffic may not benefit your site as you might think.

While (at the time of this post) no one has slammed or mocked the piece at Sex Kitten (which believe-you-me does happen), the increase in numbers is a quick thing. As soon as that little link of mine moves down the page, the light will cease to shine on my site.

In fact, that little light doesn't shine as brightly as you may imagine.

Instead of all those new readers scampering like kittens all over Sex Kitten, they came, read and left. As I write this there are no new comments (and don't say it's about registering there, I've seen this across platforms), and very few visit any additional pages on the site. Well, in this case, they may be seeing two pages; the bad link to The Doctor and then move on to the Shame piece as intended. But in general, you are darn lucky if 10% look at any other page of your site or post on your blog.

And the numbers are even less for any links off site.

This I know, 'cuz my refer logs tell me so.

(In this example, I also asked Secondhand Rose, who wrote Shame, to give me the numbers of refers coming to her blog from that piece; less than 2% at the time I wrote this.)

So why do so many people pray for such linkage? How do 'they' say that getting picked up by sites like Fleshbot, Reddit, Digg, Boing Boing etc., is the holy grail?

Well, links at such popular sites are good things. But moving from a one-hit-wonder to a popular site in your own right is rather like potato chips... Just one isn't enough.

Like traditional advertising, getting links at popular sites is a matter of awareness. See one ad for a movie and even if you were intrigued by it, you may forget about it and not go to see it; but see a number of them, and while you may not drop everything to line-up outside the theater, you're more likely to make plans to see it. That's how being featured at other sites is; the more often you are featured, the more links you get, the more people remember you and decide to adopt you somehow... buying your product or buying into your site (brand).

After seeing you a number of times, the big influencers may like you so much that they get your RSS and rush to be the first to post you themselves. (Cross your fingers!)

And if your content has broad enough appeal, enough of factor X for site 1, enough Y for site 2, etc., then your site, either that very same link or another page/post, will likely pass to another site as users troll sites for good stuff to pass onto their buddies. (Just like jokes or party invites travel from the cool kids' table to the locker room to the pompom squad.)

But all of this requires that you have content worthy of that influencer, that community, that site.

So stop reading here and get back to work creating your content. *wink*

Note: The Marketing Whore Newsletter, after a hiatus, will be sent tomorrow. So if you have not yet subscribed, please do so!

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Friday, December 28, 2007

The Modern Social Networking Version Of "It's All About Me"



Behold David Armano's brilliance:

When we think about social networks—we tend to focus on the connecting nodes. The links that bind us and what makes a network, a network. But the less frequently told story is the one where we spend countless hours building and maintaining our own little "social solar systems". In these "social systems" we have multiple planetary ecosystems revolving around us.

We are the center of our own micro-universe.

The trick is to get others to agree that your micro-universe is cool enough to visit & connect with, which is pretty hard to do when everyone is the center of their own, however micro, universe.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Stumbling About WIth Social Bookmarking Tools For Bloggers

Silent Porn Star (NWS) sent an email saying she had been getting a lot of recent traffic from StumbleUpon so she decided to add the group's bookmarking widget to her post.

However, StumbleUpon's info wasn't up to date for the new blogger format. She did some searching and found this post at Internet Mastery Center which was clear enough for her to follow, so she added not only StumbleUpon but several other social bookmarking tools & icons too.

Since this blog is not hosted by Blogger, I tried to modify the code to work here but it took lots of monkeying (plus you have to host each site's icon which can be a pain too). So I did some searching and found the free TheBookmarketer tool.

Not only free, but easy to install ~ at least for me. All I did was go into the template's html and post it after <$BlogItemBodyNot only free, but easy to install ~ at least for me. All I did was go into the template's html and post it after <$BlogItemBody$>.

I'm guessing that in new blogger, you would need to check "Expand Widget Templates" box in the html and post it after this paragraph of code:

I have no experience with WordPress admin areas & plugins (the latter being why I've never set up a WP blog), but I'm hoping that the previously mentioned info at Internet Mastery Center would be useful.

Related:

Problogger's post, Building Your Blog With StumbleUpon.

Social Networking Articles post, List of Social Bookmarking Buttons & Widgets for Your Web Sites & Blogs.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Like I've Been Saying...

In The Art and Science of Social Media and Community Relations Brian Solis says:
"It feels like I just went into a single's bar and shouted, 'will somebody be my friend!'"

..."Who is listening and are we talking in an echo chamber? The answer has been a little mixed. Yes, I have met new people, and am having new conversations. Is it as much as I was expecting or hoping for? No. But the lesson I am taking away from this is that if you do want to build new contacts that can help you, and that you can help, it takes time. Social networks are not a magic formula...Like in the outside world, it takes time to get to know people and develop relationships that can lead to meaningful action.
Sounds much like what I've been saying, right? Maybe They need to get me on one of these panels...

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Monday, October 15, 2007

The World Continues To Be Unsure Of How To Use Blogs And Pudding Cups

Some of today's readings make that all too clear.

Dosh Dosh writes The Smart Way to Get Traffic and Links: Creating a Prospect List for Bloggers, which is rather sound overall. A decent primer. However, I express caution over the suggest use of reciprocity:

The second reason for maintaining a prospect list is reciprocation. A lot of the cross-promotion you see online is the result of intentional reciprocation; doing something for someone because he or she did something for you.

Reciprocation is a basic aspect of culture and society. It pervades all human relationships and influences it tremendously. We may do something for someone with the hope (conscious or not) that someone may repay the favor in the future.

Cialdini’s rule of reciprocity explains:

This rule requires that one person try to repay what another person has provided. By obligating the recipient to an act of repayment in the future–the rule for reciprocation allows one individual to give something to another with the confidence that it is not being lost.

The decision to comply with someone’s request is frequently based upon the Rule of Reciprocity. Again, a possible and profitable tactic to gain probable compliance would be to give something to someone before asking for a favor in return.

Keeping a prospect list helps you to systematically record and reciprocate favors done for you, which dramatically improves the quality of the relationship you have.

This will help you to gradually turn bloggers into friends and future assets you can leverage for your business/website.

I believe that if you act as if a person 'owes you' or must 'repay' a debt, you'll not only be sorely disappointed, but aggravate others.

First and foremost you ought to be writing to and for your audience, not for a twisted case of I-owe-you ~ or in this case, You Owe Me.

Write with your audience in mind, link with your readership's interests in mind. Don't tell them about things which are unrelated to their needs and wants because you want to make the cool list or be invited to sit at the cool kids' table. Boing Boing is cool, but this blog isn't on their watch list ~ and why should it be? So no matter how often or in what context I link to them, contact them, The Marketing Whore is not going to get a post or a sidebar link.

Writing a post to get their attention (which I am not doing ~ look ma, no link!) is a waste of my time. Sending my readers, readers who are interested in marketing, is literally a time waster (a cool way to waste time, but wasting time nonetheless).

And just like those kids who bring extra pudding cups to school to try to get 'in' with the cool kids, no one falls for your clever pandering. They'll just take your pudding-cup-of-a-link and (at best) ignore you.

As a general rule we don't eat the pudding cups proffered by strangers. Take them, maybe; but eat them? No. Once we know a person, we'll take and eat their pudding cup ~ and thank them for it too. After awhile, we'll share our own pudding cups with them or even buy their other pudding products. But first we have to know them. It's no different here on the Internet. Links are like pudding cups. But consider them gifts to your readers who like you already ~ and want your pudding cups. First you must be known.

You can introduce yourself with a pudding cup (a link), an email, a comment post etc. But just as with any real world introduction, audition, job interview, etc., this doesn't mean they will like you or be willing to share their own pudding cups.

If you'd like to give a link introduction, you should read Ethical Theories of Social Networking ~ which isn't about MySpace so much as it is about proper participation in the blogging community.

Revellian's tips for how to properly link (especially with regards to key words etc.) is another good primer for giving good pudding cup. He gives the basics of keyword linking, including the 'how to' and 'why' which provides the foundation for best practices which are appreciated by other bloggers. (Which is like sharing pudding cups with your real friends, not giving them away to buy a friendship.)

Should you, dear reader, already be aware of such things I ask you to read it anyway ~ for two reasons.

One, key word linking works for both parties (the poster has those words on his/her blog as well as offers such key word weight to the blog they are sending readers too).

And two, thinking in terms of key words helps you evaluate if your linking is honestly relative to your readers &/or mission.

Consider your link text. If you find those key words irrelevant to your readership (target market), then perhaps this is not the right post for you. You could be wasting your efforts and your pudding cups.

Give your readers the pudding cups they want.

And don't forget to read When Does a Social Network Become a "Publicity Network"? for a great reminder on what social networks are (and are not).

A social networking tool becomes a publicity tool when "I speak, you speak, I reply, you reply" becomes "I speak, you listen".

Are these new publicity networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) the new press release? Think about it for a second, a press release is sent out to x journalists, news providers, etc. These new publicity networks do the same thing except in a quicker, more efficient way. In fact, Marshall over at RWW says these publicity networks are paying his rent. Naturally I am not suggesting that everyone uses these networks in a publicity-oriented manner, but it seems many of the smart marketers are doing so. As long as the people attached to your account (personal or business) understand that's the use, then it's a perfect marketing opportunity. In fact, these publicity networks may just overtake RSS in the long-term. And if you are working with a social media consultant who isn't leveraging these new publicity networks where appropriate, you need to find a new consultant.
While Allen Stern seems to contradict himself a bit in this post, if you read careful (and tread even more carefully) you'll learn a thing or two. Especially when added to the thoughts above. That community exists for them, and it may seem natural to scream, "Come take my pudding cups!" ~ but as discussed, it isn't appropriate. Or effective.

Or everyone would give away free pudding cups with purchase.

Keep your audience, your target market, in mind. Your mission is not really to sell 10,000 copies, memberships etc; it is to serve 10,000 people. How can you reach them to do this is marketing.

Always keep the concerns and needs of your audience forefront in your mind and you'll make less of an ass of yourself. And save a few pudding cups for yourself.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Social Media is About Sociology Not Technology

The bottom line is that we have to understand the sociology of social networks before we can either write them off as a useless tool or more importantly, participate in them.
From Brian Solis (PR 2.0), via Spin Thicket.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

SEO Talk That's Fun & Educational

You know I'm not much for SEO (I don't think it's spam, I just believe in content more than key words etc.), but darn if Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land doesn't capture my attention. Who wouldn't love a post (The Promise & Reality Of Mixing The Social Graph With Search Engines) which kicks off thus:
I'm having a bad day. Aside from my desktop crashing, we get another spate of "let's blame SEO" to start my morning off. Robert Scoble uses that theme as a launching pad for a series of videos on how Facebook potentially could be a killer search engine -- regardless of the fact he seems to have no clue that "social graph" or social networking mixing has been tried and abandoned with search. Having watched his videos, which have sparked much discussion, I'll do some debunking, some educating for those who want more history of what's been done in the area, plus I'll swing around to that New York Times article today that ascribes super-ranking powers to SEO. Plus, I'll use the F-word along the way. I said it was a bad day.
Educational and enjoyable ~ grab a cup of whatever it is you drink, and read.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If I Had A Million Dollars

Fleshbot says:
Teh internets are buzzing today with news about Zivity, a porny social networking site that's been likened to everything from MySpace to Playboy to Digg to Suicide Girls. If you're a regular reader of this site, you might be saying "Why is that news?" There must be half a dozen or more sites out there that have already tried to build a smuty website around the basic principles of Web 2.0—user-generated content, web-socializing, and community voting. So what makes this one special? It might have something to do with the $1 million it managed to sweet talk away from some high-powered Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
Just another thing to note in the the Web Poo Point Doh (remember, that's copyrighted!) hype.

If I had a million dollars, to spend or invest, that would not be my choice. I would even consider buying y'all each a green dress (but not a real green dress, that's cruel).

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Because They Agree With Me

Experts agree with me about Web Poo Point Doh. Well, they don't use my terminology, but Marc Andreesen says 'Web 2.0' is an Empty Buzzword. (I'm posting to Cadenhead rather than the source because I just like Cadenhead.)

Adult Blog Marketing has been updated, and I point it out as he's had darn near identical experiences to mine with both PenisBot and Technorati ~ though I was underwhelmed with Yahoo 360 due to the amount of time one must put in to mix & mingle (it's not where or how I want to spend my time). Definitely worth reading so you can weed out the time wasters.

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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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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Web Poo Point Doh (Part Deux)

Why join MySpace or Friendster or Ryze or Bebo or Tribe or Facebook? If these fish are all in one barrel, but they aren't there for you to shoot at them, why are they there?

Well, the theory is to find people you know and find others like you. This 'like you' point may be work related, like any other professional networking group; or it may be more social, where your family and friends congregate to share news etc.; or it could even be a mix of the two, say a burlesque community where fans and performers meet.

In the case of Flickr and YouTube, folks join for the free hosting and then connect to others via common interests; you meet me because we are both uploading sexploitation film clips, for example.

Now, blogs and Flickr have much in common. Even if you are not participating in the whole befriending and posting bulletins to your friends, you have the opportunity to use your account to broadcast your content (writings and photos). If your goal (or dream) is to make a living with your content (be a professional writer or photographer), you can achieve this by using your account or space as a portfolio. However...

Simply publishing your content doesn't mean it will be seen. Remember the early days of the Internet? Just because you build it, doesn't mean they will come. This was said about every website to point out that having a site didn't mean you were automatically going to be found. The same is true of your blog, Flickr account, MySpace page, etc. You have to market in order to make sure you are found.

Where Web Poo Point Doh makes things 'easier' is that there are far more tools built into these accounts. Where once a website had to worry about banner advertising, link swaps, using text and meta tags to feed spiders and jousting with algorithms, social networking gives you tools. Tools which allow for more immediate connections within the community, such as befriending, and tools which allow for connections outside the community, such as tags.

The ease of connection is nice; but remember, now you are competing with all the other fish in these ponds.

Of the millions who join, participation falls into three categories: Big adopters, low adopters, and quitters.

Big adopters usually make these sites more than daily logins. But more importantly than how often they are there is the matter of what they do there. They are active not only in posting in blogs, commenting, sending messages etc., but in be-friending. They seek out more friends ~ ones they know, one's they'd like to know and even those they don't care to know but who add to their self-image buy increasing the number on their lists.

This is not just done by teenagers, companies (or corporate shills), but by adults who want to feel popular. It's all about them, and they are here to be seen. Big friend counts are the 'it' factor, and their befriending of you is to add to their experience, their total; not yours.

But a funny thing happens on the way to big numbers ~ participation declines. It has to. One cannot make daily comments on the pages of others when your total is 2,500. (And if they do, they use a tool to spam such 'comments' or their other activities such as blog postings diminish. There are only so many hours in a day.)

Along with this decrease in active 'social connection,' there is a decrease in active reading. In other words they don't have time to read what everyone else is posting, even if they were so inclined as to make this not about themselves. So whether they have 10 friends or 1,000, they really only read the same number of posts. (This means the same number of pages ~ and advertisements. Maybe even less ads because now they are either immune to them or quickly moving past them to try to squeeze in one more blog post before bed.)

Low adopters are people who use the site but really only to keep up with people they really know (in real life or very good online buddies). These folks tend to be more 'sincere' in their use of the site as they don't go for some friend number (score) but focus on real relationships, i.e., they read as much as they post. They are invested in the connections they have and are not interested in friendship number counts. This means that these people not only don't seek 'friendships' but are less likely to accept 'befriending.' They are a close-knit group and their mistrust of interlopers as "selling something" is very high.

Then there are quitters (I admit, I've been one at a few sites). Dissatisfied with the hype, bored with the business of befriending, annoyed by spamming and legit advertising, feeling that since none of their friends are active there anymore it's just not worth the time, or some combination thereof, they just stop participating.

What it really comes down to is this: The big adopters are too busy to pay attention to you, the low adopters are interested in staying connected to those they know and aren't interested in meeting you, many members are inactive, and you are simply one of them, trying to be heard/seen.

To Be Continued...

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Web Poo Point Doh

As mentioned, humans are social beings and we love to connect. But as I've said, Web 2.0 (last time, I swear) for all its inflated headlines (and bottom lines) is nothing more than advances on things we already have. Messages are substitutes for email addresses, bulletin notices are group mailings, etc. Oh, just when I thought my rant was over...

I promised you some facts about social networking and I do plan to give them to you ~ but I'm still a bit frustrated over this whole matter of inflated importance and I feel that you all must understand some things before we get into the matters of working within such 'gold mines.'

What is all this stuff?

It's the creation of communities.

Each social networking site operates as a large group forum with smaller user created groups or forums. Even social bookmarking, video & image sharing, are really just connection points for groups to interact by means of posting comments, which is really a forum or message board system created around a subject matter. Forums have user profiles ~ being able to designate specific users as your friends is nifty for those who like to follow the pack or use the buddy system. (On the flip side, for lone wolves all this forced connection is rather annoying.) The bottom line is all this stuff is just another bunch of words for community.

Internet or digital communities are not only not new, they are not foreign concepts. Nor should they be the least bit unfamiliar. We all belong to communities, large and small. Where you work, your coworkers, your regular lunch spots ~ all are communities. Where you live, your church knitting group, your mommy and me group ~ these are all communities. Anytime you have groups of people regularly meeting or associating you have communities. In fact, wherever you have people gathered you have groups (which are not unlike communities except that the rules are more implied than stated rules of conduct). For example, going to the park with the kids on a Saturday is not a even organized or coordinated by all those who go to the park, but all agree to basic rules of behavior.

Why I'm being so damn obnoxious stating the obvious is because if this were really understood, people wouldn't be so damn confused about how to participate in social networking sites. Folks wouldn't be so inappropriate on message boards, booted off lists, or wonder why no one's clicking their posted link at 'such a popular site.'

If people knew the obvious, if they understood that online groups are no different than offline groups (as far as human expectations, tolerance and limits), they wouldn't be confused or make such a mess of things. And they do.

WalMarts are pretty busy places, especially on weekends. But you don't see anyone running in and yelling, "My DVD's are the greatest! You've got to come buy one from me!" Not even targeted attempts, bursting in to reach moms at Mommy and Me meetings or conservative women in their church groups, works this way. So why do online marketers do such things in online communities?

Well, for one, they keep seeing these communities as consumer laden gold mines. But they keep forgetting these fish may all be in one barrel, but they aren't there for you to shoot at them.

To Be Continued...

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Don't Make Me Talk About Web 2.0

First of all, I hate this "Web 2.0" frenzy. I hate it so much, that I wasn't even thrilled for being recognized as not blogging about it. But a few of you have asked about it and like it or not, it's 'news' so I'll get off my high horse and talk about it. (Rant is more like it.) And after I do this rant, I'll continue to talk about the so-called parts of Web 2.0, but I'll pretty much be banishing the phrase "Web 2.0".

Why do I hate it? Because it's based on a love of technology, not based on people.

I say this because social networking isn't really anything new. People have been contacting each other, sharing links and photos and doing all the same things before on the Internet via email, forums, news groups, websites etc.

This Web 2.0 hoopla is just a new way of doing the same old thing, which isn't bad ~ but so many rave about the marvels of it all when this technology for the most part hasn't taken into account human need and therefore misses the mark. It's provided us a new tool which may improve the way thing are done, but this bit of ease doesn't seem to be worth all the chatter. I say this because no one has really been able to monetize "Web 2.0" ~ and if you can't sell the tool, how much does the market need or want it?

From the point of the human consumer, the lack of interest in buying the tool speaks to the lack of fundamental understanding of the market it's supposed to serve.

(I know I may sound like I'm backtracking on my love of blogging, but I'm not. Blogging is one tool which offers something new ~ the ability to publish and converse in real time ~ and this is a case of a tool being useable. It's monetary value is still undecided. But we can prove blogging has value in that many folks pay for such things as the actual software and hosting, as well as the dollars spent in advertising. However, remarkable as blogging is, I do not consider blogging to be part of this "Web 2.0" talk. Blogs are, as I've said before, really a variation on website publishing, and as it lacks the embedded functionality of Web 2.0's biggest baby, Social Networking, I'm removing it from this conversation.)

Now I'd like to focus on Web 2.0's number one baby, Social Networking.

Many of you will point to this tool's profitability to say that is has value. I will in return point to the fact that there have only been two ways to monetize such sites: paid advertising and the sales of such sites.

The first is nothing new ~ paid spots on websites have been around for a long time and their merits/effectiveness are another conversation alltogether. For now, let's just say that applying the old advertisement to the new technology isn't a vote for the technology but just more realestate for advertising.

The second, sales of social networking sites, have proven to be for large sums of money. But if I were on the board of directors for a company who proposed to buy such a site I would ask, "Why should we buy this? What purpose does it serve?"

If the response is that "we'd get millions of eyeballs" I'd say there are two problems with that reply.

One, unless we are in the real estate or advertising sales business we should pass. For with such a purchase what we are in effect doing is buying the land the billboards are on and nothing more.

Two, let's scrutinize those "millions of eyeballs."

How many of these members are active? We hear the number of members bandied about, but we all know that not all members are active members. I myself have joined and then stopped playing there when I got bored (more on that in a moment). I'm still one of the masses, included in the count, but neither my body mass nor my eyeballs appear there any more.

Of those still active, how many are looking at and/or clicking on the ads? (I say 'and/or' because when it comes to the value of advertising many argue that being seen is as much the point as are the clicks. A whole other debate.) While we may not consider The Whore to be typical (subject to debate, I know) we can at least be assured that she is human and I will tell you that she is part of the skeptical, cynical consumer crowd. I don't like to be bombarded with ads and do not wait for them to load. I am the first to click on the 'skip this ad' option, and once familiar with where the ads are posted, I avoid looking there. All of these behaviors are easy to do and I daresay being done by "the millions of eyeballs."

So, if on the board of directors being presented with such a million dollar opportunity, I'd pass.

If the person(s) suggesting a buy-out of a social network had other ideas for such a purchase, I'd listen. But so far there are only two ways to make money off these sites, advertising and the sales of the site itself. You may think they are grand ways to make money, but keep in mind that members will not pay for memberships to these sites. So why buy one? What's the point of them as real entities?

But I know you all want to know about how to use them. You want to get the most of these millions of eyeballs looking at you. I'll go on and on about that next time. But remember, I won't be calling it Web 2.0.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Social Media Marketing Reading

Some required reading regarding social networks ~ keep in mind, if you have an adult site or blog, your content may not be welcome (and you'd likely be missing your target audience anyway).

Of How to Leverage Web 2.0 & Social Media Sites to Market Your Brand & Control Your Message, I have to say their comments about MySpace, Yahoo! 360 & Technorati accurately reflect my experiences and so I'm taking what they have to say about the others to heart.

In How Many Friends Does Your Book Have? there is a more hopeful or promising picture of MySpace ~ for authors anyway. I can't deny the stories told, but my experiences are more in line with what SEOmoz has to say (above).

Over at Spin Thicket (one of my addictions), they have a whole category dedicated to what they call Social Disease Media. Funny, sad-but-true, and just the facts, this section is good reading for those interested in Web 2.0/Social Networking.

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