Articles tagged with: social

My Thoughts on BlogHer09 – the Good, Bad and Next

So for the first time since the BlogHer09 Conference I have 5 minutes to sit and think and write.

From July 24-25, 1200+ women gathered in Chicago for a conference by, about and for women bloggers. Mommybloggers, FitnessBloggers, HealthBloggers, BusinessBloggers, ShoppingBloggers, HumorBloggers, PetBloggers, and any other kind of blogger you could imagine. There were also a ton of women who dont blog but want to learn more and were ready to start.

And so were Brands. Tons of them. Official sponsors of the conference (Pepsi, HP, GM etc.), sponsors of the lunch (Ragu), brands in the exhibition hall, sponsors of individual parties, sponsors of individual bowling lanes at the BowlHer party, etc. Mostly CPG brands (Pepsi, Ragu, Pork the Other White Meat), but there were some apparel brands (Crocs), cosmetics brands (ELF), Nikon, HP & Microsoft there too. The brands were there with their own people (George from Crocs, Chris Barger from GM, Scott Monty from Ford, Bonin Bough from Pepsi, Bev from P&G, Johnson & Johnson had a guy there), their agencies (Social, PR or Marketing & guys like BlogTalkRadio) as well as bloggers Brands sponsored to attend.

And there were maybe 20 guys there in attendance (like Me and Carfi) who werent with a brand, or agency, but who were there to attend BlogHer09. The most common question I was asked was “what are you doing here?”. 🙂 Last year Carfi and Micah talked up BlogHer08 so much I decided I had to go, and I am glad I did.

First the Good:
Holy crap, this is one of the most well run conferences I have ever attended. It rivals Gnomedex in coordination and is almost 3-4x the size. It was organized, ran on time, the food was great, the sessions I sat in had spirited discussion and were amazing, the people were awesome, the wifi was pretty good and there was a lot of power for charging phones and laptops.

Two of the more amazing things that happened at BlogHer were Speed Dating and the Community Keynote. After the opening keynote with Lisa, Jory and Elisa, the entire audience got up and formed 2 circles (one inside the other) and proceeded to spend the next 20-30 minutes meeting new people as the inside circle moved one person over every minute. (this is where I got most of the “what are you doing here?” questions). A. This was fun. B. I got to meet some amazing women. C. I wish every conference I went to did this.

The Community Keynote followed the end of the first day’s sessions. Basically 10+ men and women from the BlogHer community got up to read their blog posts that the community had recommended and the curators selected. JD told the story of how she faked a concussion as a little kid and the hilarity that ensued. Grace talked about surviving and fighting back from abuse. Some funny, some sad, one about about race, one about getting something stuck somewhere (long story) but all were amazing. There wasnt a dry eye in the room from either laughter or tears.

And the price point for all this was ridiculous. At $305 (inc tax), this is one of the cheapest conferences tickets I have seen. For a conference with 1200+ attendees? With a really nice space, decent wifi, good drinks and food? With a waiting list (which I was on), BlogHer doesnt push all of the costs down on to the attendees ticket price – they push them onto the Brands.

Without the Brands it would have been either a smaller event or a more expensive one – and maybe not the same. This is a BUSINESS decision on the part of the BlogHer team. More Brands wanted to work with them ($$$) which allowed the Wait List to be opened up. Brands wanted to leverage the center of gravity being built by this community to get noticed and start conversations. Attendees want a great experience, with as much quality and at as low a cost as they can. It was Win-Win-Win (attendees, BlogHer the org and Brands) all around.

Brands want to connect with these women bloggers because they have influence and an audience. Just like a TV show, magazine in the newsstand or a golf player walking the back nine at Augusta. Unlike TV or celebrity endorsements, BlogHer09 is a forum to do just that AND listen to their opinions and have a discussion in realtime. Brands want to “share space” with these bloggers as they share their observations, opinions and ideas. Like any good marketer some want to sell product, some want to get noticed and some are taking steps into the Social pool.

J&J is a perfect example. They had a guy sitting in the PatientBloggers discussion who was GREAT. He wasnt shilling (selling anything), he didnt try to control the conversation or play the chest-thumping “I am J&J” game. He listened. He hung out. He added where he thought he could and HE THANKED THEM for sharing their stories. Holy crap. A company thanking anyone for anything other than “thanks for buyin my stuff”.

And that was a big deal for me. Watching Brands interact with the attendees. Watching attendees eyes light up when they met Bev from P&G or George the Crocs guy. Brands weren’t selling to them, but sitting with them at sessions and during breaks and at BOF tables at lunch. Attendees were getting to speak with the PEOPLE behind the products they buy and talk about. Interacting, learning together, asking questions, paying it forward. Some brands didn’t represent in the way or the frequency I would have liked (sending a blogger is AWESOME but I would have like to see their people, not just their agency folk) but others did. Brands were getting to show BlogHer attendees a human face and voice.

And it was GREAT to see agencies representing the right way at the sessions. Asking Bloggers about what they wanted from Agency interactions, how they wanted to be pitched (OR NOT), about how they felt about sponsored conversations, blog advertising etc.

The Bad
First off, I had a great time. But there were legitimate complaints from others. Complaints about Brand overload, about the over-emphasis on SWAG (Stuff We All Get), complaints about the quality of some of the panelists, a dummy trying to intimidate George from Crocs for a free pair of shoes (wtf?) all with this the FTC-Blogger-Advertising-Transparency debate running in the background. When I go to a conference I firmly believe that I get out of it what I put into it. If I hang back and don’t interact and complain incessantly, its my fault. If I engage and try to have the best possible experience I have EVERY right to point out things that piss me off because ITS MY CONFERENCE.

Brand Overload –

Yup, they were there, all over, at every party, session, room, lunch table, on the conference program, signage, in SWAG bags, etc. Either sponsoring a room or a party or a lunch or the drinks, whatever. BlogHer is a FUBU (for us by us) environment that has a deep connection to Brands. Every conference has sponsors and people footing the bill – because SOMEONE HAS TO PAY. But it seems to be, the difference here is that BlogHer, like Gnomedex, seems to do a great job of separating the pay from the play. Brands are there, they support the conference experience (keeping prices low, providing services like break rooms and drinks, etc.), and they bring their own experiences to the table (like the GM guys in the exhibition hall or the Hershey’s party) – its all part of the show. Brands are paying for ACCESS to the Attendees. Attendees pay for Access to the Brands and other Attendees. Access is a currency.

Is it bad? I haven’t been to previous BlogHer conferences so I don’t have context for that, but I don’t think the Brand integration at BlogHer09 was any worse than any other conference I have attended (and paid a LOT more for a lot less value). I didnt see Brands have any say over the editorial. Brands (and their agencies) are a fact at most conferences and it is up to the community of attendees and organizers to decide what level of Brand influence is allowed. “Too Many Brands!” is a valid complaint for some, but not for me.

SWAG Overload

There was NO SWAG FOR ME. I have to be honest, there was a TON of swag. Now at most conferences I go to, the SWAG includes tshirts or trinkets, pads and pens, etc. Sometimes there are giveaways for X-Boxes at parties and stuff. But BlogHer is different (are you seeing the trend here people?). At BlogHer swag was EVERYWHERE. Every party, all of the Brands in the Exhibition hall, pretty much everywhere. 2 or 3 times I was asked if I wanted to keep my swag bag (because there was nothin in there for me – but my Nephew scored the Spiderman book from leappad). George from Crocs was basically threatened with blogwarfare if he didnt get someone a pair of Crocs. There was a Swag bag stolen at some point. All that being said, I have no idea what BlogHers of the past were like but I have to assume based on some of the blog posts I have read regarding the SwagInsanity this year was over the top. Were people crazy for it? Yup.

Should it stop? Nope. Why? Because thats what the attendees (for the most part) wanted at the time. Free is powerful, value is in the eye of the beholder and people like stuff. Not everyone likes Pepsi and not everyone likes sessions about Twitter and not everyone likes blogging and not everyone likes Swag and not everyone likes the way a conference changes and and and… Brands want to give away stuff – they make TONS of Swag every year and events like BlogHer are a way of getting something with their brand in front of the public to take with them. BlogHer is trying to provide the best possible experience to the community and I think if a sponsor or Brand offers a giveaway they would be kinda nuts to turn it down. Now if the community gets together and says “hey Brands, save the Swag this year and feed 1000 kids in the third world” that would be interesting.

Panel Quality

I hate multi-track conferences (after being spoiled by Gnomedex-goodness). I hate them because I always feel like I am missing something and then I meet folks who were in another session and they rave about how great it was and I get session-envy (and hope someone recorded the session). BlogHer had multiple sessions running in parallel and more than a few times I had to choose between one and another. Some were great, and one or two invoked the “law of two feet” where I decided the session didnt interest me that much and split. 3 of the standout sessions include the PatientBlogging, Advanced Social Media, Syndication and Stats, and Sponsored vs Unsponsored with Anne-Marie Nichols of This Mama Cooks! Reviews and Lucretia Pruitt of GeekMommy.

Now StephanieBamBam wrote this piece about the panels and speakers at BlogHer09 and I think it raised some great points (and I doubt she is the only one). She points out that there are some amazing women in tech who werent speaking, how great the geeklabs were and how there needed to be more experts in the panels who were actually experts (she has a real issue with some of the content). Considering the current conversations on twitter and the blogs over the lack of women speakers at other events, this is a growing, important subject.

The Next
A couple of years ago I spent months talking up Gnomedex and how great an event it was, and how it was my favorite conference (and one I ALWAYS pay my own money to go to). I love the party Chris and Ponzi throw every year and I love catching up with my friends in realtime in one of my favorite cities in the world (Seattle). Unfortunately, that year, after convincing a client and other guys from the ad agency I worked at to attend the show was less than spectacular. The curatorship over content from previous years had seemed to slipped and there were MORE than a few duds – and in a single track conference I travelled across the country for, thats not a good thing. Actually the conference was a disappointment compared to years past and a number of people wrote passionately about how and where it didnt work that year (including me).

And thats the thing. Chris and Ponzi listened. Last year Gnomedex was easily the best of the 4 years I had attended. Great speakers, parties, and discussions. They took the community’s feedback with an open heart, pulled up their sleeves and got past it.

So how does this impact BlogHer? No conference is perfect for everyone, but there is no doubt that the BlogHer team did a kickass job across the board.
Brand overload? Perhaps.
Too much Swag? Maybe.
More focus on experts in the panels? Sure.

I am not a conference organizer, but they put on a great show, and have serious feedback for making next year better. The Swag issue is something the community needs to discuss and get past on their own. I think the Brands are kinda responsible for a number of people getting to go at all (either as guest-bloggers or as waitlist folks). Experts in panels is something that all shows have an issue with. I understand that BlogHer has a policy of refreshing the speakers list every year and sometimes people can’t make it or have to cancel – its a tough business.

Are they listening? The founders of BlogHer seem to have already started. Jory and Elisa have started commenting on their feelings of how it went and where it needs to gohere (Jory) and here (Elisa).

I plan on going next year and adding it to Gnomedex as a show I plan on going to every year (its that good).

And in the spirit of Brand overload, Scott tissue or Kleenex or someone should sponsor tissue boxes on all the tables for the BlogHer10 Community Keynote (see description above).

It’s there because it works…

Chris Brogan writes (in a great post you need to read here):

How much does one of those opportunities cost? It can’t be cheap to put up a billboard in an airport, right? That same amount would fund a social media project for an entire year, and you’d have clickable metrics for the effort. Wouldn’t that be a better return?

Did Chris remember the name of the company sponsoring the phone/laptop charging station (Samsung)? The Advertising worked (and got the fringe benefit of promotion on Chris’ blog)

Did Chris remember those Vending Machines in the airport (Apple and Best Buy)?? The Advertising worked (” fringe benefit” comment again).

Did Chris remember the 2 billboards before the Hudson News stand? How about the 2 page spread in the middle of this month’s WIRED? The 12 commercials that ran between when you sat down at Fox Sports Bar and when you got up?

Little Guy In The Subway With A Bag of $

Little Guy In The Subway With A Bag of $

The two examples he used (Samsung charging stations and the Apple or Best Buy vending machines) worked because they either provided immediate value (needing to juice up, a HUGE problem in most airports, or chargers, iPods, etc.) or potential future value. They fit within his/yours/my context. If my mom was travelling at the same time, she wouldnt notice who sponsored the power, because she doesnt travel with devices that need power. She might notice the Apple vending machines because they are novel/unique to her, but 5 years from now she will ignore them because they will be commonplace.

Billboards are a “shotgun” approach (with a ton of metrics behind it). The hope is, the right person happens to walk by who happens to have that product or service as part of their context (along with Direct Marketing phone, email, URL to let them find out more AND to let the marketer see effectiveness) or the creative in the ad connects with the user (for a brand campaign – the iconic APPLE ads are a great example of this). In the case of Brand ads, the marketer is paying for impressions (and they pay through the nose – those boards aren’t cheap). In the case of ads with some kind of direct component, the ROI can be (to a certain extent) measured. There are impressions and clickthrough rates to measure against. Is it personal? Nope.

Here is the thing: this stuff, these traditional techniques (print, radio, tv, out-of-home, ad banners, PR, etc.) aren’t going away. Sure, more of the budget is going to digital, but not all of it. There are more of them (less digitally savvy or complete luddites) than there are of us (people reading this, living this, sharing this thing of ours). Marketers still think of us in terms of CONSUMERS and demographics. The reason the old school isn’t going away, the reason we don’t have the advertising apocalypse is because of one thing – IT STILL WORKS.

While we keep saying Social Media is no longer an experiment, we need to keep the marketer’s context in mind. The CMO wants to be innovative, and the brand manager wants to change the world, but both have numbers (leads, impressions, brand value, etc.) that they have to meet to be successful, to grow their brand, get their bonus or in some cases keep their job (the avg lifespan of a CMO is currently something like 22 months). No one ever got fired for doing yet another Direct Mail campaign (where a 1% response rate is considered successful), billboard or tv/radio spot – they are part of the marketing mix. Even ad banners get clickthroughs and they are the “ritz crackers” (low value, not tasty or very effective) of digital advertising.

Small, growing and new brands can go all-in on Digital and Social because they need an edge, and the edge is reach and cost and hopefully shortcut the need for brand recognition and jump right to a relationship. P&G knows it needs Social and is working towards it for the long term (the same thing they did with radio and TV). Ford and GM know they need it, but have to work harder to connect emotionally and with passion (two things that are kinda requirements). If all you do is SELL SELL SELL, its kinda hard to “start a conversation” – you have to invest a lot (time, money, humility) to get respect and to get people to listen. That investment is happening now.

As the Social Media side of Digital grows and matures (and we get more news like the Dell metrics) it can make the case to take a bigger piece of the marketing pie. Digital is no longer sitting at the kids table when it comes to the Agency-Client relationship. Digital is getting more and more budget because it is effective and less expensive and has greater, time-agnostic reach. Sure, we might start shooting commercials for Hulu (or whatever replaces it) and we may see more immersive and experiential and integrated efforts in the future, but the Old School isn’t going away. An ad agency I interviewed a few months ago WILL NOT HIRE an account, strategist or creative without digital in the portfolio or CV. Its becoming that important.

But Social can be the “red thread” that ties the traditional and the digital together, make them more connected, connecting, relevant and responsive. Social (listening, outreach, participatory) can start changing the marketing mindset from campaign to commitment. But that is going to take time.

In 10 years we will have Marketers (CMOs and Brand Managers) who have grown up with Digital in their toolbox from the beginning. Thats when things will start getting weird (in a good way).


Like it? Hate it? Leave a comment below 🙂

The 50/50 Rule, Link Love & Reciprocity

The 50/50 Rule is something I started sharing with clients a while back. It’s nothing new or earth-shattering and TONS of individuals and companies are doing it EVERY SINGLE DAY. The idea is simple – to connect in the Social spaces where the users live, you need to spend half as much of your time talking about the users as you do about your brand/product/service/website/effort/whatever.

You need to be a neighbor, not Vince from ShamWOW (who I think is AWESOME, but not a good example of starting/having/maintaining/sharing a conversation). If all you do is pitch AT them all day, they will tune you out. If you spend at least half of your time celebrating them, encouraging them, recognizing them, sharing with the rest of the community what they are doing/have learned/successes/challenges, then they might listen to the other 50% of your “stuff”.

Link Love is described in Wikipedia as “the effect that web pages rank better when they have more and higher quality links pointing at them.” It is partly about attribution (making sure you acknowledge where a discussion or quote came from), but it is also about sharing these connections that you value with your users – and hopefully they will check out those links. This is a powerful gesture, because in the digital space, links are a currency. They have intrinsic value, links are an outward, public display of paying attention. Says Doc, “In simpler terms, humans are distinguished no only by their ability to talk, but also by their ability to point.”

Some real examples of Link Love:

  • Blogrolls are Link Love: they share with the readers of any given blog the other “voices we like”.
  • Trackbacks are Link Love: they create a connection between my blog post and another blogger’s post – a discrete, ping-based connection that says to the user and the blogosphere “hey, these things are related”.
  • Twitter posts are Link Love – I think enough of what someone is doing to share it with my circle of followers/friends
  • Comments (although sometimes NOT counted by Google thanks to comment spam) are Link Love – I think enough of the ideas in this post to not only leave a note, but also where I can be found later for thanks/feedback/comments/a beating.

How do we connect in with this link economy? Where does Reciprocity fit in?

We need to link to the voices and ideas outside our “four walls”. If our blogroll only contains the other blogs our company has created and not the blogs of the users then we aren’t using that currency properly. If we only comment on other corporate blogs, then we aren’t connecting with our community. If we have a twitter feed with thousands of followers, but only following a few users, then we are missing out on an opportunity to participate. As publishers/pundits/journalists/program managers and “experts” we need to send the link love out there first (real, authentic), without expectations that it will be returned until we have earned it – and earning it is completely in the mind of the user. You either add value or you don’t. You are sponge-worthy or you are not (to use a Seinfeld reference). Reciprocity in this context is less about obligation (“oh hell, he linked to me, so now I need to link to him”), and more about attention and intent (“X is paying attention to my ideas”, or better yet “wow, those guys from Company Y spend a lot of time talking about what the members of their community are doing”). Its about adding enough value that others think you are worthy of their currency (links, attention, comments – whatever your measure of success is).

One of the clearest, fastest ways of seeing the 50/50 Rule in action is on Twitter with users like Richard @ Dell and Zappos. Richard@DELL is one of the leaders in corporations working with social software like twitter and making business personal. He spends as much of his time sending users to other voices and links as he does “Dell Business” with his twitter feed. Zappos uses his tweet time to talk about the people he is meeting with and interacting than he does his own site (along with DMs to users who ask questions about Zappos.

Liz Strauss has this to say in her killer blog post about the 25 Twitter Traits/ Twitter Folks she admires:

Certain value and actions make people who care about having relationships and conversation before transactions easy to spot…
5. talk mostly about the accomplishments of others….
12. shout out good news, help in emergencies, and celebrate with everyone.
16. offer advice when people ask. Help whenever they can.

If you want people to talk to you and about you, then link to them for all the right reasons. Spend the time and the social capital to celebrate what they are doing. Show where you see the value in them. If you want them to link to you, give them lots of opportunities to find something valuable in what you are doing. A shout-out is a personal gesture regardless if it comes from the DJ booth, the radio or a blog post.

Thing to do:

1. If you are building a community anywhere (twitter, facebook, ning, wordpress, Meetup, etc.) spend the time to look at how much you are talking about “Me Me Me Me Me” and course correct NOW.
2. If you have nothing to to link to (don’t really have a relationship with the users beyond their consuming your “stuff”) then start that conversation NOW.
3. Use the features of the community to connect with users: ask them if they have blogs and add ’em to your blogroll (or have a special blogroll for your community members), send Link Love to them through microblogging platforms like Twitter, use the forums as a commons for discussion and to point out the achievements of the users
4. Celebrate your users and set an incredible example that shows the rest of the community just how much you appreciate them – small, simple gestures can have a real impact.
5. Reciprocity is like love – it isn’t an obligation, but something freely given. Hope but don’t demand, ask, but not too often.
6. Be “linky”, use the currency of the web to show your users what/who you think is valuable.
7. Be real. Don’t engage in linkbait, users notice and your credibility will suffer as a result
8. Send half of your time talking about the users, the community, the people outside your org, company, startup (the 50/50 rule)

Friends: CoBrandit

So when I worked for, I got the chance to work with a video company called CoBrandit on a series of videos that were different than what we had done before.

As a company, CorePerformance has an amazing amount of intellectual property in the health and fitness space (as part of Athletes’ Performance, the CP gets to leverage the knowledge and day-to-day experience of working with elite athletes in almost every sport). Like most great companies, the real secret of the operation was the amazing team behind the company.

One of our goals for the video program was to inform and educate our users by sharing the stories from the amazing people inside the company. CoBrandit worked with us to capture, edit and produce these stories in a way that was accessible and (in the future) share-able and give us some learnings on producing short form videos in an always-on environment (amazing people are insanely busy and we can rarely get them all in one place – so we need to go to them to shoot these stories).

Here is an example of their work:

Owen and Jesse (the founders of CoBrandit) are an amazing team to work with. They have a deep understanding of the social side of video, can shoot and edit, have a great reel, and THEY KNOW HOW TO LIGHT (which is a big deal). They also do a lot of work with linking and syndication of content and helping companies get their video in front of users.

I am a big fan of these guys and will work with them again.

To check out more CorePerformance videos (specific movement videos AND more educational pieces), go to and check out the Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, Recovery sections.

Money on the Table

Had a great conversation with a couple of really smart guys. They shoot video for a living, specifically videoblogs for themselves and some not-small companies, and they do it really well. Part of the discussion focused on the kinds of things they are doing these days with Facebook, widgets, syndicating their stories (videos) to different platforms and how they are connecting with users via authentic forms of outreach.

Can ya tell that I really like these guys?

All of these tactics, depending on the client, their goals and the strategy defined to meet those goals is worth every dime spent. All of the different ways they are working with media and connecting with users would appear in any of my decks. There is only one thing that bothered me about the discussion. These tactics, these methods, only work if the client/company/non profit is actively listening. If you do all the right things… but forget the most important thing, the social media program is leaving Money On The Table.

If you have a blogging platform and don’t have comments turned on, then you are missing an opportunity for your users to say “hi”. You are leaving money on the table.

If you have a YouTube channel but no one bothering to watch the comments, then you are leaving money on the table.

If you spend a fortune on an agency or consultant to help you design and execute a social media strategy, but don’t plan for the resources and effort required to maintain it for the long term, then you are leaving money on the table.

So whats the point of all that work, money, connections, copy, personnel if you are leaving money on the table. Until you can take the time, via comments or trackback or twitter, to say “thanks” to a blogger or forum or twitterbuddy who took the time to mention you, then you aren’t ready to move on to the next step.

Do the right thing…

Its been something top of mind for me the last couple of weeks. Doing the right thing. Not the easy thing. Not the fast thing. Not the thing thats right now. In a soon-to-come post this will make sense, but for now…

The right thing. The right way. Not “situationally” correct, or “what the handbook says”, but the right thing because it is right.

Chris Brogan drops a little mind bomb this evening during the debate about Ethics and Social Media.

Its a great post, and as usual a required read (he IS in your aggregator, right?).

Here are some of my thoughts regarding doing the right thing, ethics and social media:

If it feels easy you are doing it right

If you think you need might need to take a shower after coming up with a way to connect with users you should probably scratch that idea.

Be transparent. Be honest. Be Human.

If the user isn’t at the center of your strategy, planning, tactics and efforts then you should start over. Its not about budget, or the IWOOT (I Want One Of Those), or the client’s request. Its about the user. Its about doing the right thing by them. Its about partying with them. Its about creating and sharing spaces with them.

Viral isn’t synonymous with honest

If the deck has a slide about “gaming” anything (systems, users, groups, google, facebook, youtube ratings, etc,) its an EPIC FAIL

Are you proud of the work? Is it something you would put on your wall, describe at your kid’s “what does my do?” day at school, tell your buddies about over beers @ the 19th hole? If you aren’t proud of it, if you dont get psyched about it, if you dont get jazzed about how your users are connecting with the work, then why did you bother?

Do you trust the users? Do you value them? Do you tell them why decisions are made? Its ok to moderate comments if you tell the users UPFRONT what the rules on, AND THEN FOLLOW THEM. It’s ok to admit that you/your org/your company is just getting started, feeling this Social thing out, trying to change your mindset. Its ok for a huge company to admit to being a little scared. Heck, the users might actually give you the benefit of the doubt… as long as you dont take them for granted, try to play them, dismiss them.

There are so many ways to get caught. So many other ways to spend those $$$ that dont require you to make the effort, do the work, fight the good fight, have a conversation.

Why not do the right thing?

<mom> What do you say? </mom>

When we were little kids, my little brother and I heard this all the time. When Mrs Kennedy (not that one, the one on 138th street in the Bronx) gave us an ice pop, when grandma gave us a quarter, when someone told us we looked great in our leisure suits (if i ever find the photos, I will scan and add to flickr). Mom used that phrase because we were little, didn’t know any better, were too busy trying to scarf down the ice pop and because we were learning the social customs that (some) grownups already knew: when someone gives you a compliment or a gift, you say thank you.

How does this all relate to Social Interactions on the Web? Any decent Social Media effort will have some kind of Outreach program:

1. Identifying bloggers, podcasters, videobloggers, forums, communities, social spaces that have something in common with the Social Media Effort
2. Joining the spaces and conversations in a forward, transparent manner
3. Add value to the discussions and attention without expectation or demand of reciprocity (pay it forward slick ad guy)
4. Make good stuff, not marketing taglines or “socialized” press releases
5. Keep the effort going – this is more about bringing big corporations down to eye level with the user than “eyeballs” or “share” or “Audience”

So now a Social Media Effort is doing outreach the right way, is adding something to the conversation, is getting people talking. Users start talking. 2-way dialog meets the 2-way web:

Users start leaving comments on the Social Media Effort’s YouTube videos
Users start threads in a forum dedicated to some topic or subject that the Social Media Effort is engaged in
Users start twittering about it (thanks Pistachio!)
Users start blogging about it
Users start mentioning it in their podcasts, videoblogs, screencasts
Users start participating, giving you their clicks, their eyeballs, their intention, and their voices

Did you remember to say thank you?

In the “little kid” example, it starts in direct personal interactions and continues in the dreaded process of writing thank you notes for birthday and Christmas presents. In this Social Media world of ours, when a user leaves a comment on your blog do you look to see where they are coming from? Do you respond to their comment? Do you check out their blog? Do you look and see what they are writing, what they are into? Do you leave a comment on their blog? Do you add them to your blogroll? When they mention you in a forum like Videoblogging do you respond on-list or leave them a note or tweet? Do you have the processes and procedures in place to listen AND respond?

Not all users will have something to say that is profound or game changing or even nice. Sometimes it will be mean, or bitchy, or completely negative. Sometimes it will be missing the point entirely. Sometimes it will be a simple, anonymous “thanks guys” – and thats it. Its on their terms.

The point is, you are becoming a neighbor, joining a community, being part of something that is smaller and bigger than yourself. Scoble and Godin can’t answer every comment and no one expects a Social Media Effort to mean “direct, personal, immediate, one-to-one communication”. But they do expect that you are listening and they expect you to show it. Demonstrative examples of “hey, we aren’t asleep at the switch or using this Social Media stuff to scam you”.

Are YOU actively participating in the architectures of participation you are spending so much time and money and effort on? Are you showing the community you are trying to engage that you are both interesting AND interested? Social Media Efforts ache over how many ways they can engage the user and get them to hit the SUBMIT button, register, leave a comment or write a wiki entry. If you are spending all this time creating “feedback loops”: platforms, code and process to get users to interact and participate and join in, are you closing the loop?

Some Social Media Efforts spend a fortune (things like Radian6, BuzzMetrics, employees, PR/Ad/Social Media agency personnel) on listening to the places and spaces where users are talking about them. Some more grassroots or startup Social Media Efforts utilize Technorati/Google Alerts/Summize/TweetScan/Etc. and brute-force (human capital) to see where they are being mentioned.


  • Have a blogroll – it is an outward, persistent sign of the sites, people and voices you believe in.
  • Linklove – be “linky” – link to the users, call it out when they add something to the conversation, send the attention of the conversation at your door to their door
  • Celebrate the things happening OUTSIDE your four walls – if your entire conversation is “me, me, me” the conversation will become a monologue. Call out the wins and ideas of the community, show you are participating by checking out their flickr feed, their blog, their tweets, their Second Life island. Spend a % (make it a hard rule if you have to – “one story every day or week or hour will be dedicated to THEM”) of your time and blog space and twitter feed and flickr experience on the community
  • Participate – in the comments, forum, NING ring on your platforms AND the platforms where your users live. Don’t be radio-silent. Show them someone is there and her/his name is Susan or Fred not ADMIN or MODERATOR. Humans don’t have conversations with MODERATORS. In the same way that you call out what users are doing outside your four walls also participate on the user’s sites/platforms. Leave a comment on their blog or Flickr feed. Reply to their tweets. Show you are listening AND visiting
  • Don’t trust one person to be the “community manager” and be responsible for all the commenting and listening and responding – it is everyone’s job. Find ways to get individuals inside the company or org interested in participating. Give them small things to do, get their opinion on what they can do/interested in/would be willing to try. Not everyone wants to be on camera or a blogger – and they all have day-jobs. Make it as frictionless and as fun as possible. I would rather interact with someone inside than some hired blogger or agency wonk

When a user paid you a compliment with their attention, did you remember to write a thank you note?