XMen Origins – Wolverine & 20th Century Fox Miss The Online Marketing Buzz

This past weekend the internet was buzzing. What were they buzzing about? The movie trailer for the new Wolverine movie coming out. It wasn’t on main stream news, where it was buzzing was on social networks, social news sites, video shares and forums as well as social communication channels like Twitter.

The trailer hit theaters as a lead in to the Keanu Reeves’ movie, a re-adaptation of “The Day The Earth Stood Still“. The first real big buzz coming Friday night. A smaller bit of buzz about the Wolverine movie came during Comic Con this year where they showed a slightly different trailer.

So how did 20th Century Fox stumble out of the gate on this one? There’s several ways, and as a marketer who’s well versed in online media, it just frustrated me to no end that these big movie houses still just do not get online marketing in any sense of the form.

What Happens When You Can’t Find The Website?

Let’s start with their website. Think you can find the official Wolverine website by typing in Wolverine Movie? How about Wolverine Movie Trailer? How about using it’s official movie title “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”? Nada – Zippo – Zilch. All through out the weekend I tried, today I took screen caps – no where in the top 10, take a look below (click the thumbnails to get a larger view).

Wolverine Movie Google Search   Wolverine Movie Trailer Google Search   X-Men Origins Wolverine Google Search

X-Men Origins Wolverine Official Site Google SearchTheir website is in flash, totally absolutely in flash with absolutely no content a search engine’s spider can read. The only thing it can read is the title tag for this site. Talk about being invisible to the search engines, and to the rabid Wolverine fans! It wasn’t until I typed in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine Official Site” did I get the movie site to come up in Google. Now tell me who the heck is going to type that in, other than me who was bound and determined to find the official site?

Video, Video, Video… It’s Where the People Are At

Now lets go to the subject of the trailer. Talk about needing to loosen control! 20th Century Fox definitely needs to loosen their death grip if they aren’t going to put their trailer out on their site the same day they release it in a movie theater. They also need to realize that when they don’t come up for “Wolverine Trailer” for their own site, they need to have it ranking else where, or someone else will. On Friday, Saturday and early Sunday there was still no Wolverine trailer on the official site, what in the world is wrong with their marketing team? Granted today when I went out to look the trailer is now there.

People were clamoring to see this trailer who didn’t want to go see this movie. Let me tell you, as a comic book gal, and a XMen fan from my childhood years, I was clamoring to see this trailer. I’ve been waiting like the rest of the XMen fans since the last movie to get more. We all scour the internet for clues, tidbits and the slightest bit of information we can glean to satisfy our need.

Thus why looking for this trailer became an obsessions with not just me, but others as well over the weekend. According to Groundswell, the author Charlene Li, points out that 29% of the people in social media are watching videos other people have made. Google was pulling down more trailers of Wolverine this weekend than you can imagine. But people were still searching for this trailer on YouTube and any other video share they could find.

Wolverine Trailer Search on YouTube

The Fans Take Action…. 20th Century Fox Misses Out

I did find it on another video share, I’m not going to say where, because I don’t want to see it taken down. I found another trailer from Comic Con too – and what’s amazing about that video, it captures people cheering during the trailer, talk about fandom! Cheering during a trailer – now that speaks volumes.

People were videoing the trailer from their phones while in the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still. They uploaded it to video shares and blogged about it. Why did they do this? 1) they love XMen, Wolverine in particular 2) they recognized that 20th Century Fox wasn’t filling their need or the need of others.

No where on YouTube is there an official Wolverine, 20th Century Fox, or Marvel Channel for the movie. What 20th Century Fox doesn’t realize is that there is real buzz going on about this movie. One look at Google Insights tells the story. Just over this weekend searches for Wolverine skyrocketed, several terms are break out terms with searches increasing over 1000% (I don’t get the big surge in Michigan though). None of these terms are pushing traffic towards the official XMen site either, and if you notice, none of these terms use the long arduous title that 20th Century Fox Does.

click images for a larger view
Google Insights - Wolverine - Trend and Map Data  Google Insights - Wolverine - Search Trend Data

So this leads to showing you the audience, a lesson in strategy in combining both SEO and Social Media strategies together when you are launching something big. When you understand online media, and aren’t having such a death grip on control of your brand, you can reap huge rewards. Unfortunately for 20th Century Fox, they are just making their fans of XMen and Wolverine not like them very much.

And btw the way, yes I did a fan girl squeal when I saw Gambit. 😉 ahhh Remmy LeBeau makes me weak!

Barack’s Youth Vote Energized by Social Media

Youth Vote for Obama - Picture by Washington PostAccording to CIRCLE, a nonpartisan research center studying youth engagement and civic education, without the youth vote, Barack Obama might have had one heck of a time winning this year’s election. That’s just how energized and how active a part in the campaign the youth vote has became. The youth overall turned out in record numbers this year. Although the increase might not seem big at first, a conservative estimate is only at 1% right now since votes are technically still being counted with the absentee and early voter ballots from 30+ states, that percentage is sure to rise.

Young Voters Favored Barack Obama 2 to 1

The youth vote was amazing, especially in Obama’s case. Voters in they age group of 18-29 voted for Obama 66% to McCain’s 32%, that’s over a 2 to one advantage. When you look at the higher age brackets, above 45 and especially above 65, McCain did better. Apparently thought, there were a lot more youth coming out to vote to overcome the over 65 difference that favored McCain.

When you also stop to think that this youth vote was also partially responsible for helping to get the word out and even drive people to the polls, the Obama campaign owes that age group a debt a gratitude. Without them, it might have been impossible to win, especially in those traditional red states. What’s even more impressive, these young voters broke away from the tradition of following their parents’, meaning that they made up their own minds and didn’t vote for a candidate because their Mother or Father did.

Barack Obama Engaged Youth Vote Through Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Flickr, YouTube, AIM, Yahoo Messenger. Today’s youth, or “The Millenials” as they are called by the media, generally discuss or consult everything with their social networks online before they make a decision. Morley Winograd & Michael D. Hais, the co-authors of “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics”, classify this group as the “Barney” generation. That’s right, that big ol’ purple dinosaur is back to torture us again, but in this case its lead this segment of the population to figure out their problems together, and that’s why this age group is turning to these social media sites.

Barney Generation - Photo from PBS KidsThe Barack Obama campaign figured out that utilizing the social media platforms to engage the youth in issues that they care about the most – paying for college, energy independence, the environment, health care, etc., was the most effective way to get them engaged. By having already engaged supporters reach out to their own network of friends, the “fire”, “buzz”, “movement” just spread. From the original networks, it spread to the friends-of-friends-of-friends. The engaged volunteers helped to make over 1 million calls, put up road signs, hand out stickers, drive voters to the polls, register their neighbors as voters and even write in independent blogs so their own network of peers could be informed about the campaign and the issues it was taking a stand on.

Not only did they write in blogs, they made videos, they took pictures, they created art online, they had contests and online watch parties. All of these promoted through social media. This all leads me to call Barack Obama the First Social Media President.

The question now becomes can Barack Obama continue to keep these young voters energized and actively engaged in these civic roles they just filled? Can he continue to tap into their mindset to help him look at issues as he governs in the White House, or will they just do like every other campaign has done in the past …. and forget about these enthusiastically charged voters? That’s the real question.

What Can Companies Take Away from Obama’s Use of Social Media?

Companies can certainly look at the strategies employed by the Obama campaign and learn a heck of a lot. If you are trying to reach the ages of 18 up to even 40, Social Media is definitely a way to actively engage with and audience who can become very enthusiastic and charged up. They can also easily communicate through mediums readily available and already active, rather than building out whole new marketing ideas, plans, strategies and so forth.

Social Media is definitely going main stream, especially after this election. Marketers will look to what it did for Obama’s campaign and think “I want that success, too!” Unfortunately it doesn’t always instantly translate for everyone. The key is to have a strategy and know where your audience is. If you don’t know that, it’s pretty much like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks.

emetrics: Reputation Management & Social Media

Katie Paine at eMetricsI first heard Katie Delahaye Paine speak at Blog Potomac this summer (thanks to Geoff Livingston for bringing her in to that event) and she just amazed me. Few speakers really enthrall me into what they are speaking about, but at that event Katie sure did. When I saw Katie listed as speaking here at eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in Washington DC, I circled that session in red as a must attend and report on.

Katie’s got a wonderful, straight forward, and to the point way of telling an audience “how it is”. Not in a rude way, but in a way that everyone sitting in those seats understood, what’s worth your time to look at and what’s a waste of your time. She’s got an amazing way to relate to audiences and it was certainly reflected in the questions asked when it was time for Q&A.

Katie started out her discussion talking about “reputation”. “The world ‘reputation’ is so 1999,” Katie began. The term that should be used today is ‘conversation’ and / or ‘having a conversation’. Trying to manage your reputation in a social media environment of today, is just plain silly (and futile), you just can’t.

Both PR Coverage and Social Media (it’s better when they are working together) have a big affect on how companies are perceived and in the end a big on affect on what they are doing. They key though, is to measure both what’s work and what’s not working. Companies also need to understand that people are talking online, they are saying and doing things with brands, products & services, whether you are active in the conversation or not.

Katie then presented the audience with some instances where companies were successfully using social media:

  • BestBuy measures 85% lower turnover as a result of its “Blue Shirt” community. 65k of their 85k employees are part of the community, the community has helped retain employees
  • State Farm measures it internal blog by the improvement in morale, they put tent cards on tables in cafeteria, re-branded their blog “ask your CEO” morale scores have gone through the roof – they feel “listened too”. Prior to this, it was just their CEO “talking to himself”, no one read the blog.
  • ASPCA and MADD can track online donations and increased membership back to its pr efforts and social media efforts
  • -Dell measures ROI based on the number of usable ideas generated in Ideastorm
  • -On Twitter a start up company got 100 great marketing ideas for free, a woman raised over 6k in day [I believe this might be Beth Canter, but Katie didn’t elaborate, Katie has a session I’ll have a wrap up of on SMG] and a wooden toy maker in NH got a nationwide contract
  • -$0 budget YouTube videos about Barack Obama were seen by 120 time the audience than Hilary Clinton’s video

So how do you know what caused the sale, conversion, registration, watching a video, etc.? As it is you don’t, how can you measure your success?

PR & Social Media – The Laws & The Myths

Katie then presented “The Immutable Laws of 21st Century PR Measurement”:

  • Banner ad & Popups are not the reason people buy stuff!
  • Its not about how many eyeballs, its the right eyeballs
  • Its not the media, its the conversation
  • Size doesn’t matte so stop screaming, start listening
  • “HTS” – How Idiots Track Success [this made me laugh out loud!]
    • (we’re use to big big numbers, but its about how you interpret the data)
  • -Be who you are and see who is pleased
  • -ROI doesn’t mean what you think it does because you can’t divide by zero

Along with the “Laws”, there’s also some “Myths of Measuring””

  • You can measure after the program is over
  • -Measuring reputation in expensive – if you think measurement is expensive, what’s the cost of ignorance?
  • Measurement is complicated
  • You can’t measure relationships
  • You can measure reputation

Reputation vs. Relationships

Katie Pain talks about social media & PR at eMetricsReputation = experience + actions + history + people
Katie stressed to the audience, you can manage relationships, you can’t manage reputation, to try and do so, especially in social media is pretty much a dead end. Relationships = trust, commitment, satisfaction, control mutuality, exchange / control. Katie explained that most relationship start with exchange, such as money for a product, but the important relationship to create is the communal relationship because its about loyalty.

7 Steps of Reputational ROI
1. Define the”R” – define the expected results
2. Define the “I” – what’s the investment
3. Understand your audiences and what motivates them
4. Define the metrics
5. Determine what you are benchmarking
6. Pick a tool to analyze the data
7. Then to do the “so what”

Listening to the Customers

Traditional PR drove and can still drive conversations on social media forums – its been going on since 1994, nothing new there. What is new, is the blogs and forums are now starting influence the conversations, for example Techcrunch, etc. But what businesses are finding is that these places were not big influencers on the consumers. What influenced the most – was other consumers reviewing products and services. People who actually bought and used the products and placing their thoughts, as opposed to an “expert” espousing “how great/bad” something was.

In a case study that Katie did for a client, their “traditional media” coverage was all bad press about a product, but yet this was one of their most successful products, when they filtered it down to find out why it was successful despite the bad press coverage, it was in the structured customer reviews of the product. The reviews of customers actually using the product were all positive.

Stop Doing Stupid Things, Your Reputation Changes

If you can change the conversation, you can improve your reputation. You can also improve your reputation by first listening and then responding. Negative coverage tends to come from companies, or company representative doing stupid things. This type of negative coverage can harm your reputation, because the web and social media allow things to travel at a fast rate.

Positive issue discussion over time, share of exposure, favorable position can all have an impact on engagement. Katie presented the case of the ASPCA. Rather than just “letting it happen”, they got everyone involved – analytics, marketing, social, etc. They did every possible known way to communicate except advertising. They utilized their online community, blog, myspace friends, youtube channel views, facebooks fans / causes …. but “So what”. None of this is a difference unless its put into context.

The big “Ah-Ha” was “what’s going on with online donations?” Her example of the ASPCA not really being “ahead” of the Michael Vick issue, and just letting legal handle it – they saw no increase in online donations. However, when the news broke about the ASPCA rehabbing the dogs Michael Vick had, they were ahead of the curve in promoting it through all those changes and their online donations grew.

Katie left the audience with this final thought, web analytics is not the tool for everything, media content analysis could be good, or relationship surveys. You need to match the analytical tool to the objective.

Can Businesses Combat the Constant, Experienced Complainer?

By Liana “Li” Evans

As a business, no doubt you will have your run in with an upset customer or two. But what happens when that customer turns into a troll? Or what happens when you are subjected to the “experienced complainer”?

Santa with the Reindeer ComplainerWhat’s an experienced complainer? Well those are the people who know how to “troll” the system. Knowing that if they complain enough, they’ll be placated with discounts, coupons, certificates, and special things all to “soothe” their complaints. They then figure out they can do this just about anywhere they go. All of a sudden, seemingly or magically they get free trips, special discounts, and the like, all because they threaten to write a letter of complaint. These days, even more damaging, they threaten to write a negative review on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Epinions, or even possibly more damaging – write a blog post with a scathing review, with links to your website that are nofollowed.

As customers, I’m sure we’ve seen these types of people. Nothing ever makes them happy, not even free things (undoubtedly they’ll find something wrong with that, too). So what’s a company to do? How can they fight back? Can they takes steps to protect their good name and reputation from these types of complainers, scammers and trolls?

Seems helpless doesn’t it? Well take heart, people in these social communities are smart. Especially if you are making an honest effort to communicate with your audience and reaching out to them. They can smell a “troll” a mile away. They can peg a constant complainer usually within 2-5 posts on a forum or a blog, and they can certainly use their own voice to “out” them as the scammer they seem to be.

Is there anything else you can do? Well in this day and age of digital photos, videos and instant reviews by bloggers and review sites, you do need to do your do diligence before taking extreme actions against the constant complainers. Research and documentation into them is probably the best course of action, to proove that the complainer has a history of “never being happy”.

Take the case of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and a couple from Cleveland. I wrote about them on SearchMarketingGurus. This couple has done nothing but complain for years and were “soothed” with discounts, special packages and percentages off – all because they were Diamond Club members. I did a little poking around in forums, and the wife seems to leave a wide path of complaints all over the place. The communities even call her a whiner.

Royal Caribbean seems to have done a bit of homework here, and felt they’d never be able to make this couple happy. Guess what they did? They banned the couple from taking cruises on their cruise line for life. Drastic? Perhaps, but it does alleviate the issue dealing with a customer who seems more out to take advantage of your business than anything else.

While banning customers from your business might not be the first option you want to take, it is there if you have the need to do so, but prepare for backlash, undoubtedly the customer will play the victim in the end. In the case of Royal Caribbean, the local news interviewed the wife about the distressing news RC banned them, and a website or two came to her defense, saying complaining to much got them banned. But looking at other sites, the wife has been outted as a “constant whiner” – so who’s right? I guess that’s up to Royal Caribbean’s customers and online community to make their decision with their wallets.

If you are active with your audience, talking to them, interacting with them in social media, believe it or not a lot of times your customers will take up your defense. So the lesson to be learned here is hold an honest conversation with your customers or audience, as they say, the best defense, is a great offense.

I’m A Social Media Goody 2 Shoes … And Proud Of It

By Liana “Li” Evans

Goody Two Shoes Comic by Flickr User ebbourg So yet another controversy when it comes to social media. I woke up to a plether of IM’s, Private Tweets and emails, to find out I’m a “Goody2Shoes”. I guess I could be upset, but I’m not. It’s par for the course in the world of Search these days. I could lash out at SEOMoz, because as many have pointed out, they let a post go to their own blog that attacks competitors (It has now been edited, but point being they originally let it out with the rather rude attacks on Matt Cutts, Lisa Barone and myself). I’ll let all those comments on the post speak for themselves. I’m sad that SEOMoz chose the path of inciting drama and discourse, but in the end that’s Rand’s business decision where to take his business, not mine. The drama gets the site links, and traffic, and I guess that trumps everything.

As for what Marty wrote about both Lisa Barone and myself and choosing to post it on SEMoz rather than taking ownership for it on his own blog, I can only guess he really needed the larger audience for the message he wanted to convey. I read Marty’s apology, “Lii and Lisa are pillars in this community…”, while I’d like to think it’s genuine, I was on the panel in Toronto, where I heard his example of vanity baiting in his presentation, I can’t help to think and question that this might another example of it.

As for my stance, I also guess when you take a position that fake profiles on StumbleUpon, and adding lots “fake” friends to make yourself look more popular, is not a sound strategy for entering the social media space, undoubtedly you’ll get flack, from those who find no flaws with this strategy. It happens, we all have different moral compasses, we all have different things that drive us to be what we perceive as a “great marketer”.

When I was taken aback by the tactics my co-panelists in Toronto presented and posted about it, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t off base. I asked a few people who just use social media without any knowledge of search or marketing what they thought of these tactics. The first person I asked as a 14 year old son of a friend who is an avid MySpace user. I asked him what he thought about adding all these famous people as friends, his reply was just one word “Lame“. I asked a friend I hang out at karaoke with the same question, her reply was “that’s just stupid, why would you friend them unless you liked them?

Next I asked a few people who I know use StumbleUpon for pure enjoyment, they have no marketing background, what they thought about people building fake “avatars”, or “fictitious profiles” on the service (btw, that’s a blatant violation of StumbleUpon’s TOS). My one friend from the EU said, “isn’t that illegal here?” (only illegal in the UK, sorry to say), another said “people do that? why in the world do they do that, that’s just crazy, and wrong, can’t they be honest?

Now if everyday people (not marketers) are saying this about these strategies, why would I advise my clients to implement those strategies? I wouldn’t and I wouldn’t promote doing this in a session at a major online marketing conference. I don’t see how creating fake profiles (or avatars) gains anyone any kind of ground in the end, when you are found out to be a fraud, all trust is lost.

What’s wrong with being honest? Really now, what’s wrong with starting a conversation, and honest one with real brand representatives, not one greeted immediately by fake/automated avatars that want to be my friend?

The only reason I can understand why SEO’s seem so fascinated with “gaming” social media by creating fake avatars and adding all these “non-friends” is for power and links. That’s really not what social media is about, not to the people inside the communities – only to SEO’s does this seem to matter.

If advocating that in social media, marketers be real, engage honestly in conversations with an audience or their customer, is deemed as “Goody 2 Shoes”, well I’ll gladly, and proudly wear that badge.


Now, I don’t know about you, but all this reference to Goody 2 Shoes, I really can’t get Adam Ant’s 80’s tune out of my head. 🙂

Photo/Comic Credit: ebbourg

In Social Media, Men Transact and Women Share

By Liana “Li” Evans

Men & Women Differ in Social Media UseThere is a definite difference in how men and women utilize, share, communicate and move around in social media. It’s actually fascinating to watch once you become aware of the differences. I started to notice the difference months ago, by studying the audiences in all the different social media mediums and how the people within the communities speak and communicate with one another.

My thoughts on this were further intrigued after reading two different pieces.

The first piece was Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I read this looking at the different demographics involved with the different types of social media channels. I was utterly fascinated with how social news and social bookmarking sites skewed highly male, and forums and networking skewed highly female.

My interested was further piqued after reading a survey conducted by Rapleaf (hat tip to Dianne Aull of BootstrapSEO for turning me on to this). In this smaller study, by smaller I mean the number of social media sites looked at, it showed overwhelmingly that women dominated sites like Facebook Friendster and Myspace. In this survey it showed that LinkedIn skewed highly male.

So why the difference? Why such lopsided numbers in demographics?

If you understand anything about how men and women react to one another, in general (and understand I do realize not all women and not all men fall into these categories, but a majority do), women converse and share more. Women want to talk about their experience, they want to express their feelings whether they are raving about a product, pissed of about the service they recieved or gushing about a book they just read, women love to share. Networking sites like MySpace and forums are places that not only facilitate this, but encourage it.

Men on the other hand are less expressive. It’s rare you see a man gushing about the brand new suit he picked up at Men’s Wharehouse, or ranting about how the lawn care guy didn’t really cut his grass the way he liked. Men tend to voice their opinion in the quickest and fastest ways they can, to get back to the tasks in front of them. This is why sites like Digg, LinkedIn and Delicious skew highly male. It’s simple, you write a review, you answer a question, you vote a story up, you bookmark a page. Simple, there’s not much “sharing” going on there.

I even find it fascinating with my friends across all the different networks. The most active friends I have on the Social News Sites – 95% are men. They are the ones sending me “shout outs” to come vote up their submissions – without any explanations, just the email. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, but as a woman, I tend to want a bit more (see I’m looking for expression). Men think really nothing of this, because it’s sort of like, I vote you up, you vote me up when it’s time.

RockYou.com ButtonsWomen, on the other hand generally approach it as, “Hey do you want to read this? If you like it, feel free to vote it up”, and send me a link to the actual article/post, rather than to the social site. I’m not saying one way is right over the other, I’m just pointing out, how men and women communicate differently.

For men, its seems interacting in social networks is more like a transaction, I’ll do this for you now, you’ll help me out down the line. For women in social networks it is more about sharing their feelings, and experiences on these networks. Even these networks and companies providing applications to these networks are becoming more and more attuned to it. Look at RockYou and Slide, the designs are very geared towards women with those “glittery” options right there at that top of both.

So how does this affect marketers? By knowing your demographic, it can help you to know where to start a conversation with your potential audience at. Where you can appeal to them more, basically on their own turf, where they feel most comfortable. If you are technology company, maybe you put together a knowledge base of articles on tech topics and start working with Digg, SlashDot and Delicious. If you’re a scrapbooking company, start groups on Facebook, upload photos on Flickr and join those scrapbooking forums. Knowing where your audience is is a big part of your strategy in social media, understanding how men and women differ in social media use can also go a long way in reaching the right audiences too.

Relationship Building – 6 Tips For Working in Social Media

By Liana Evans

Building RelationshipsAs much as social media is about starting conversations, its equally as much about building relationships. Once you start getting involved with social media, it becomes very apparent that it takes time and resources to build those relationships within your community that creates the brand loyalists and promoters, not to mention converting the skeptics.

It certainly doesn’t happen over night, or with one Social News site submission. Rather, it takes dedicated resources, as in real human beings, that represent your company or your brand to communicate one on one with individuals who are active in the social circles within your industry space. Shortcuts are few and far between, and in the end, only manage to “cheapen” or even destroy the trust you’ve built up in a relationship.

Take for example, outsourcing a blogger outreach program. A lot of companies out there will spout out how many emails they can send out to bloggers pitching your product, service or brand. If they do that, you should stop, pack up your things and walk out the door. That’s not how you are going to build relationships with bloggers, that’s only going to get them pissed off at you.

So what’s a company to do? Well here’s some simple tips to get your started on building relationships in the social media space.

  • Dedicate Resources
    Building relationships in social media requires resources, both time and bodies. You need to have a dedicated person or team that fields the responsibility of communicating on a one on one level with your audience. That means that this team of people needs to read blogs, manage friend lists, write comments, join groups, upload photos, participate in forums, be active on sites like Twitter or Plurk, write blogs posts for your blog and so on. Depending on your industry, you might need to even dedicate an expert to your team that can field questions with the right answers.

  • Be Real
    Building relationships in social media requires trust. That means, be real – be who you are. Let your employees be who they are, representatives of your brand. Building fake profiles, writing fake reviews, concocting fake blogs, lying about who you really are will all eventually bite you in the ass, so don’t even bother. Don’t ever underestimate the audience’s intelligence, they can smell a fake a mile away and will crucify you when you are found out.

  • Communicate Early & Often
    Whether its through newsletters, blogs or even forum posts, get out there and communicate! By communicating “early” you have the opportunity to head off those “storms” that can arise, but not only that, you can also get a jump start on topics that are hot in your industry and respond to them a lot earlier than your competition. Communicating often helps to build that relationship with your audience that they can trust you will be there, informing them of the valuable information they are looking for or need.

  • Get Involved
    Don’t just post links to your blog posts, or press releases in Twitter or Plurk, or posts on forums. That’s just going to make people ignore you, because it’s not a two way conversation. Actually get involved with your community. If people are looking for assistance, point them in the right direction, even if its not to your site, that’ll gain you much more respect rather than slapping a link to your product that isn’t related to what they asked.

    One of the best examples of this “getting involved” point I’m making is Tim Jackson the Brand Manager of Masi Bicycles. This man is deeply involved in the Plurk community and it’s benefiting Masi by leaps and bounds. Why? Because Tim’s done the first 3 bullet points here and has also gotten involved.

  • Reward Your Audience
    One thing to always keep in mind, as much as you are involved in building relationships in social media, so is everyone in your community. It’s not just you spending the time and effort, but your audience is as well. They take the time to post reviews, type up comments, write blog posts, do research to answer questions, test out new products or services. Make sure you remember to reward your community for the efforts, time and resources they are putting in. Last but not least, always remember to personally thank those community members who put forth the extra effort.

  • Remember to Listen
    Building a relationship requires that you listen more and talk less. That means, as much as your PR department wants you to be promoting, promoting and promoting, that’s the last thing you should be doing in social media. Social media offers a unique opportunity for you to get real reactions, learn about real issues or problems as well as successes straight from your customers’ perspectives. All of this is not hindered by the stigma of a focus group, where people might think then need to “give the right answers”. It’s amazing the things you can learn just by listening to what your customers or your audience is saying, take the time to read their posts in forums, comments to your blog posts, their tweets or plurks and even what they say in reviews. It can be well worth its weight in gold.

What Is Social Media’s Purpose? Honestly, It’s Not About Links

By Li Evans

What do you use social media for?

Do you use it to gain links? How about power? Maybe to trick people into thinking you are someone else? Perhaps as leverage to con someone into doing something on another social media site for you?

HonestyAt SES Toronto I was on the Social Media Success panel. I took this panel very seriously, I wanted to demonstrate how companies are using social media and creating their own success stories. The companies I chose to highlight wanted active conversation, true audience engagements and honest reviews and because they took that approach they had incredible success. I believe with every ounce of my being, social media is about conversations and sharing. I have a huge issue with applying shady link acquisition tactics, power manipulation and common trickery to social media.

There are people in the search industry that think social media is a numbers game, a numbers game that involves links. On the panel there were things presented that made my jaw drop, basically “shady” techniques, things like adding friends just for the numbers, creating multiple profiles, vanity baiting, and using your power on one social media site to gain something on another. To my colleagues on the panel, social media was all about the links and perceived power. Success to them in social media seemed to be about how many links you acquired, and what seemed to be cheap and fast tricks to get them.

I wasn’t alone in my dismay, Rahaf Harfoush expressed her shock at the lack of ethics presented.

People in the search industry wonder why SEO gets the stigma of being the “snake oil salesmen”. People in the search industry wonder why big companies are snubbing SEO, and don’t even look to SEO practitioners for Social Media assistance. Well when you try to apply SEO practices to social media wherein you are using it to gain links alone, or try to manipulate people into thinking things are true that aren’t, that’s how that reputation emerges, and the snubbing occurs.

Social Media is not about links.

Honesty is the Best PolicySocial Media is about conversations and the opportunity to share experiences through those conversations. Links are merely a by-product of a great social media campaign, and search engine rankings are merely a by-product as well. If you are measuring success in social media by the number of links you’ve acquired, you are really and truly missing out on what social media is all about.

What’s going to happen when Google finally devalues links from websites and looks more and puts more weight into what’s going on in social media? Social media offers so much more opportunity for the general public to voice their opinions about brands, products, companies and their opinion of what is really relevant, more so than a meager link from a website. Think of it this way, more people on the internet today participate in social media, than own a website. Guess what? These people are actively telling Google, Yahoo and MSN what they think is relevant by rating, commenting and participating in social media.

No fake profile, or adding friends, or using your “perceived power” is going to be able to easily change this, once it comes.

Remember, those discussions that are happening in social media channels, happen whether you are actively engaged in that conversation or not. So wouldn’t your time be better spent involving yourself with those conversations actively? Or would it be better spent adding a ton of fake friends to MySpace, conning a top Digg user into submitting your link for exchange of Wikipedia article help, or creating fake profiles on StumbleUpon?

Use social media for true customer engagements, be transparent, be honest, be who you are. People want to interact with real people from companies, they want Truth in Marketing. They want to tell stories about how great your employees are, what kind of heart you have and how you care about your customers and audience. The audiences couldn’t give a damn about your links, or how many sock puppet accounts you have.

Maybe when the search industry stops thinking of links first with social media, they will be taken a bit more seriously in the online marketing arena.

It’s Not the A-List Bloggers You Should Worry About

By Li Evans

What do Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama have in common? It is a woman. However, its not the woman that was taking the spotlight Saturday afternoon. No this time its not Hillary, so you need to guess again. Give up?

Mayhill Fowler, Photo Credit Thor Swift of Washington PostMayhill Fowler

WHO?! Yep, that’s right Mayhill Fowler, someone you probably never heard of until today. Both of these polished and charismatic politicians were rocked by this unsuspecting amateur blogger, who is among 2,500 bloggers that write on Arianna Huffington’s The Huffington Post. The 61 year old, mother of two and Tennessee native, caught both of these high profile people in rather unflattering situations.

Fowler, back in April, caught Barack Obama’s “Bitter” comments on tape and set loose a firestorm for his campaign efforts in my state of Pennsylvania. This was literally non-stop for 2 weeks prior to my state’s primary.

Last week, Fowler was in South Dakota and caught Bill Clinton in what seems to be an unguarded moment when he let loose on his thoughts about Vanity Fair and their article about him.

Fowler, has no journalistic training. Fowler has no online marketing training. Fowler is a citizen journalist who describes herself as a person who “just discovered that I’m impelled to get out there and get the truth of the matter” to Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz. Armed with her tape recorder (not even an iPod!), Fowler won’t even read her own posts, since the editors tend to change her lead-ins so more people will “click in” to read her pieces.

There’s a lesson here for businesses, public relations specialists and online marketers. It isn’t the A-listers like TechCrunch, Scoble or Rubel that are gettting the scoops these days and they should not be the sole focus of your online marketing efforts to get noticed or “picked up by”. Passionate bloggers who are in your industry writing about what they love best are who you should be paying attention, too.

As someone at one of my WOMMU breakout sessions said “A-Listers” at times can be like echo-chambers.

I couldn’t agree more. Be cognizant of the B,C and even D list bloggers. If those bloggers have any type of SEO training, their blog posts could start to rank right up there with the A-Listers. What’s more important to note, is that these “smaller” bloggers probably have a more passionate reader base, and a “scoop” on an “amateur” bloggers blog, can be just as damaging or beneficial, than the echo-chambers of the A-Listers.

Just ask Barack Obama and Bill Clinton about Mayhill Fowler, that should be enough to convince you.

*photo credit, Thor Swift of the Washington Post.