Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vyatta - Extremely Creative B2B Marketing

Vyatta-Vote-PosterSomeone recently forwarded me the Vyatta newsletter. Vyatta provides open-source router and firewall solutions. Intriguing in and of itself, but in addition, the company does an exceptionally creative job of marketing.

The newsletter is nicely put together, with important news at the top (they get PR), a silly but probably effetive free offer about half way down on the right side (they get humor) and links to their Facebook and LinkedIn groups (they get social networking).

What really caught my attention, however, was the link at the bottom to Vyatta Ads Not Fit for Print. This would have been a $200,000 web page if an agency produced it, but by developing it in "open source" fashion through input from their users, they (presumably) slashed that cost significantly.

Nice.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan : mike@digitalrdm.com

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Briefly: My Interview with Jon Miller

Jon Miller at marketing automation vendor Marketo, just posted his interview with me, B2B Marketing Thought Leadership: Tom Pick. I'm a bit too modest to be totally comfortable with a title like that, but I appreciate the compliment nonetheless.

So, if you'd like to read my blathering on about marketing innovation, blogging, social bookmarking, SEO, SMO, SEM, b2b lead generation, lead management and B2B marketing and PR in general (which maybe you do, since you're here after all), check out Jon's interview.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Best of 2008 (So Far) - Cool Web Tools, Part 1

This content has been moved to Best of 2008: Cool Web Tools on the Webbiquity blog.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Friday, August 22, 2008

For Marketers, What Recession? Part 2

As an update to the What Recession? post here in May, here are the latest figures. U.S. GDP grew 1.9% in the second quarter, so once again, we are not technically in a recession. On the other hand, the overall unemployment rate spiked upward to 5.7%; not catastrophic, but clearly disturbing.

Still, these two numbers taken together may signal a positive trend. Second quarter GDP growth increased over the first quarter, which had in turn increased over the fourth quarter of 2007. And the last time the unemployment rate was this high was...March, 2004—well after the end of the last recession. In other words, the unemployment rate tends to be a lagging indicator. The fact that the jobless rate is now at a peak, while GDP growth is accelerating, may signal the end of a relatively modest recession. Of course, the policy choices of the new administration after November could swing things in either direction.

But for marketers, at least one measure—the MarketingSherpa Career Classifieds—shows no sign of a downturn. Here are the updated weekly figures over the last 90 days:


As pointed out in the May post, if we're really in a recession, the blue line in the graph above should be plunging "while the purple line shoots skyward—which is exactly what happened back in 2000. That clearly isn't happening today."

Again, it's only one indicator, and the current sunny outlook for marketers could cloud up in a hurry if the Fed gets overzealous in fighting inflation, or taxes are increased, or any of a number of other things happen. But the fact that that marketers, usually among the first crewmembers to be thrown overboard in an economic tempest, apparently aren't getting tossed to the sharks in droves is still news to be celebrated.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Five Ways to Give Back Through Social Media

Focused as many of us are on our own companies' or clients' economic anxieties, it's easy to forget that downturns (or even the perceptions of downturns) hit non-profit organizations particularly hard. When money is tight, charitable giving is an easy, if unfortunate, area to cut. In response, non-profits are getting more creative in using social media and other online tools to provide people with more ways to contribute than simply reaching for nearly-empty wallets.

1. GoodSearch/GoodShop

One example is GoodSearch.com, a search engine that makes a donation for every search, and it's partner organization GoodShop.com, an online shopping mall with more than 700 leading retailers that directs a percentage of every sale to the user's favorite charity.

According to GoodSearch.com co-founder JJ Ramberg, with gas prices rising and the housing market already in a slump, economic fears have led to a drop in charitable contributions nationwide, making it harder for non-profits to keep up with an increased demand for their services. As donations get pinched, many are refocusing their fundraising efforts.

"GoodSearch.com and GoodShop.com...allow supporters to give to their favorite organizations without spending a dime. GoodSearch.com is the Yahoo-powered search engine that donates a penny per search to the charity or school of the users’ choice. GoodShop donates a percentage of every purchase from (participating) retailers." Over 60,000 nonprofits across the country are actively earning funds from the GoodSearch and GoodShop strategy with over 100 organizations submitting new applications daily. Success stories range from the ASPCA which has earned more than $15,000 to care for animals to the Bubel Aiken Foundation which has earned more than $8,000 to send disabled children to summer camp.

2. iBakeSale.com

GoodSearch is unique (as far as I know). GoodShop is similar to iBakeSale.com, which now has more than 300 participating merchants, and provides rebates averaging 8% that can be directed to the charity of the shopper's choice. iBakeSale was founded about a year ago by Jonathan Treiber. Where GoodShop is geared toward supporting large national non-profits, iBakeSale is ideal for local fundraising (sports teams, church groups etc.) plus larger schools and charities.

3. Idea.org

Non-profit group Idea.org is involved in a number of interesting projects relating to how people interact with the online world. For example, their Vision Simulator tool helps web designers understand how people with different types of vision impairment see the web. The organization recently published a study entitled Factors That Improve Online Experiences, which explored factors that drive online experience as expressed by the three different subject groups – nonprofit organizations and cities, web designers and firms, and the general public.

4. All About Pets

As reported by Kristen Nicole on Mashable, "The Blue Cross, a UK-based pet charity, is hoping to drive some traffic to its new website, allaboutpets, with an Oddcast-powered viral marketing scheme that is sure to get some attention. The Oddcast talking avatars, which can be customized at TalkingPets.org, are being put to use in a campaign that’s quite similar to Elf Yourself, where users can choose a pet avatar or upload an image of their own pet." The Blue Cross is Britain’s pet charity, providing support, information and advice for pet and horse owners. The charity relies on donations and fundraising for its income. AllAboutPets is essentially a social networking site for British pet owners.

5. Zanby

Zanby is a group-oriented social networking site. It enables virtually any type of group—family, business, club etc.—to set up its own social networking space, but is somewhat more geared toward non-profit and charitable groups than are sites like Ning. For example, the site is used by Engineers Without Borders, a non-profit humanitarian organization established to partner with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life.

Until things improve, as Red Green says, "I'm pulling for you. We're all in this together."

*****

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Best of 2008 (So Far) - Search Engine Marketing, Part 1

This content has been moved to Best of 2008: Search Engine Marketing on the Webbiquity blog.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, August 11, 2008

WMC Interviews: Tim Young of Socialcast


Last week I had the opportunity to interview Tim Young, CEO of Socialcast, an on-demand social networking platform that brings collaboration and knowledge-sharing capabilities to intranets. The software is designed to help organizations better harness the collective intelligence of employees by providing them with a secure, internal set of tools for social networking (profiles and connections), social updating (like Twitter) and social bookmarking with project management functionality. Current customers include retailers Hot Topic and Guitar Center.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): Tim, it appears that unlike tools such as Ning or Zanby, which are designed to let organizations create their own external social networks, Socialcast is more of an internal corporate social network tool, sort of an "Intranet 2.0" platform. Is that a fair description?

Tim Young (TY): You're correct. Socialcast is focused on using social dynamics to solve organization's internal information problems. The Socialcast application is a customizable internal corporate social network designed to allow the employees within a company to share information, ask questions, get answers, and engage more deeply in their daily work. It's a secure, private site that can either complement or replace a traditional intranet depending on the needs of the company. Our tool focuses on capturing the tacit knowledge held by multiple generations and geographically dispersed employees, resulting in a knowledge-sharing and collaboration portal that unites the minds of a company's entire workforce.


WMC: Socialcast is described as "designed for enterprises of all sizes,' but what really are the characteristics of organizations that this is best suited for—size, industry, geography, process type, etc.?

TY: We've seen the best application in two arenas—any company that employs knowledge workers, and organizations who have a geographically dispersed workforce. We've found that Socialcast fills an information gap for knowledge workers, making expertise and data much easier to find. For example in the retail industry, we've found that Socialcast unites corporate and store-level employees, creating a direct link from the staff that touches the customer to the staff that makes company-wide decisions.


WMC: I've seen increasing use of wikis by companies for internal collaboration; how is Socialcast different?

TY: Wikis are an excellent collaboration tool but in our opinion are not social software. In most cases wikis lack the concept of authorship and fail to focus on the individuals who created the knowledge and who else in the organization should be aware of it. We employ a wiki-like feature called "Pages" inside Socialcast. However, we also incorporate more features and tools that provide a structured way to get questions answered and to surface new ideas from employees at all levels to the top tiers of management. Additionally, our platform is built with social networking DNA—so all of these activities can be traced back to actual users with identities and identifiable knowledge in the community. Essentially, a wiki is just one piece of our software that can be used as a collaboration tool.


WMC: There's no mention on your website of features like file uploading / sharing / revision control—does Socialcast offer document sharing and control functionality?

TY: Because of Socialcast's focus on tacit knowledge vs. explicit knowledge, we don't support document storage. Instead we provide two alternative methods of sharing document-based knowledge.

1. Linking to a file that lives on the intranet—if you have a Word document that is accessible via your intranet, you can link to it as you would for any other web-based document. This creates a link to the file location so that users can discover where they can find data they need. This method does require that you have access to your intranet from whatever computer you're using.

2. "Pages" feature—we like to encourage the use of the Pages wiki-feature discussed above so that users can manually input information that once lived in a document into a searchable, changeable format. So, this same Word document can simply be cut and pasted into a page, and users can access/search this data at any time.

Not enabling document storage was a careful consideration for Socialcast. We realize that other enterprise software providers do have this function. However, because our goal is to truly connect people and their minds to each other, versus connecting people to static data, we elected to create alternatives to document storage that could serve as a starting point for collaboration and discussion.

Additionally, our research has shown that many companies already have specific solutions in place for sharing documents internally, many of which have strict governance and access controls (for example, NASA). By linking to those we are able to stay true to the restrictions put in place by a firm's IT staff without creating yet another file repository that IT would have to control and govern.


WMC: How is Socialcast priced?

TY: Socialcast is priced at $5 per user per month for all clients.


WMC: For many enterprises, employee knowledge is spread across documents, databases, emails and other systems. A common approach to addressing this is through enterprise search. How does Socialcast integrate with enterprise search platforms, such as Microsoft FAST, Attivio or Endeca?

TY: Currently we offer a robust search interface from within the Socialcast application but we recognize the need to interoperate with organizations existing search products and platforms. We are currently in process of working with a number of enterprise search providers to connect our Socialcast API into their search products. We hope to make some exciting announcements around this effort during the fourth quarter of this year.


WMC: Who do you see as the primary competition for Socialcast?

TY: Socialcast is a unique application that blends a traditional consumer social networking layer with KM tools to capture and share tacit knowledge. This unique approach allows Socialcast to solve specific information challenges that companies are currently facing included knowledge retention and socialization. Many large enterprise vendors (Microsoft, IBM, Oracle) are beginning to add "social" features to their existing product suites but they are merely feature add-ons and not the core of a product. There are also a number of smaller enterprise vendors that are bringing social software to the enterprise but like Socialcast each has a unique focus and approach; Socialtext with wikis, ConnectBeam with social bookmarking, SelectMinds with alumni focused networks.


WMC: Anything else people should know about Socialcast?

TY: Socialcast brings a unique and effective approach to social networking and messaging in the enterprise that was born from building highly successful consumer social networks. At our core Socialcast has always been focused on making product decisions based on extensive research and data mining. Our product development is heavily customer and end user centric in its approach and methods. We invest heavily in research and development to bring impactful and meaningful product innovations to the market. Currently we are engaged in research in network science, collective intelligence, flock theory, emergence behaviors, and conversation theory.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Best PR Blog - Vote for Harry!

The inimitable Harry Hoover at THINKing is locked in a tight battle in the PRWeek blog competition. To vote, scroll down to the bottom where you see the charts and click on "My Creative Team." Let's put Harry over the top!

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PitchEngine Simplifies Social PR


I've been participating in an alpha test of a new social press release creation tool called PitchEngine (public beta coming soon). In the words of PitchEngine creator Jason Kintzler, "PitchEngine shakes up the PR industry making it possible for PR pros, brands, and agencies to build and share digital, social media releases with their contacts for free. Our PitchEngine SMR (social media release) takes the press release to the next level, eliminating the need for antiquated email attachments, word documents, image CDs, and more."

Although the tool has a few minor glitches at this point (the number of characters permitted for subheads and the "quick pitch" is way too small, the feature for adding Resources and Related Links is touchy, and hyperlinks have to be recreated after cut-and-paste from Word), overall it's very slick and easy to use. I created a social media release for version 10 of the Quick View Plus desktop file viewing utility (a VERY useful application BTW) from Avantstar, and other than a little manual effort on the links, the process was quick and easy. Reporting capabilities will be added soon.

PitchEngine provides an intuitive interface for creating the release; adding images, video and audio files; applying tags; and including social networking links for press contacts. It's a slick tool that includes some nice touches, such as automatically creating a shortened URL for use with Twitter. You can keep with the latest developments on the PitchEngine blog.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Using Blogs for Social Media Optimization


Blogs are one of six broad types of social media. This post will discuss how PR and marketing professionals can use blogs (even if you don't write your own) to increase brand awareness and credibility; the next will discuss all of the other tools of social media.

Blogs are a big deal; they are mainstream and competing with traditional media. There are a lot of them—Technorati tracks more than 15 million active blogs, and although the rate of growth has slowed, there are still thousands of new blogs started each day. Blogs help with SEO, whether you have your own or are generating links to your website from others. More than 60% of U.S. Internet users, and more 70% globally, have read a blog within the past 12 months. And blogs have become a key source of information for executive decision makers.

The first step in developing a blog strategy is understanding the landscape of blogs in your industry. You can search for relevant blogs using keywords pertaining to your business as well as searching for competitor names. While regular search engines can be used, that's a tedious process; it's much more efficient to use blog-specific search tools such as Google blog search, Technorati, BlogMarks, Blogarama and/or Blog Catalog. In addition, check out the blogrolls of the most relevant blogs you find.

The next step is to monitor blogs to discover what's being written about your company, product or other specific topic of interest. You can set up Google Alerts for free, although these won't catch everything (they're likely to miss quite a bit actually). Bloglines is a helpful free tool for monitoring blogs you've already identified; you can add their RSS feeds and monitor posts from one spot. If you have a modest budget (hundreds of dollars per month) for monitoring, try a service like WebClipping or CyberAlert. If you've got a bigger budget (thousands of dollars per month), you can step up to a professional-strength PR monitoring and current awareness tool such as Vocus, Moreover or YellowBrix.

Once you have a feel for the blog ecosystem in your industry, you can begin blogger outreach:

Commenting is a great way to start. Make sure your comments add something to the conversation and aren't simply self-promotional.

Contact the blogger as the next step. Contact should be personal (use the blogger's name, refer to the blog directly, act like you've been there before), compelling (tell a great story) and of course relevant to topics the blogger normally writes about.

Provide assets the blogger can use to enhance the post, such as original research results, images, video, or the offer of an interview with a key executive or other expert.

Writing a guest post is an excellent next step once you have a relationship of trust established with a blogger.

Promote posts when you get coverage. Increasing their exposure (and traffic) is a key incentive in getting bloggers to write about your topic.

And finally, follow up with key bloggers on your list. If they write about you, THANK THEM. If not, ask if it's okay for you to send them an occasional update on your firm/product/service and any interesting developments.

If you have your own blog, you can use many of these tactics to increase your audience through exposure on and links from other blogs. But even if you don't have your own, you can use these practices to increase exposure and build credibility for your company or product in relevant industry blogs.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Branding & Entertainment? Web 2.0? Pick an Event, a Coast and a Discount

Being the most informed and sophisticated marketing and PR executives on the planet, readers of this blog know that WebMarketCentral is the place to find a comprehensive calendar of live and online marketing events. However, in that wealth of content, it's easy to overlook something. Here are two events that deserve special attention.

L A Office RoadShow Branding and EntertainmentFor brand marketers, the L.A. Office RoadShow runs September 16-18 in Hollywood. There's no other event like this one for meeting the "players" and making connections in the entertainment industry. RoadShow is a global event that brings brand marketers together with 100 marketing execs from 40 top entertainment companies. Brands of all sizes can discover and capitalize on entertainment tie-in opportunities. It's a unique annual event where brand marketers can meet the right people and develop valuable industry partnerships for brand promotion.

The people behind RoadShow are offering WebMarketCentral readers extended special pricing on advance registration—a $200 discount to marketers who call (310) 275-2088 and register before August 31st with the promo code RS08-RD. To find out more information about the event, including present companies, current attendees and travel information, check out www.RoadShowHollywood.com.
Web 2.0 Expo New York
On the other side of the country, the Web 2.0 Expo will come to New York City September 16-19. Tim O'Reilly and TechWeb take this event, connecting the builders of the web with the brightest minds, hottest ideas, and most useful tools, to the East Coast for the first time. Web 2.0 Expo will bring together executives from the big brands and big industries in New York with the creative minds behind the next generation of the Internet, to learn, share, network and shape the future. This event will bring together the thinkers behind and builders of the next generation web: designers, developers, entrepreneurs, marketers, business strategists, and venture capitalists. Together, they'll share experiences, lessons from failure, ideas for what's next, and how to practically apply new web technologies. Web 2.0 is about creating more business value while providing a more meaningful experience for customers, delivering relevant information and increasing collaboration.

Interested? Use discount code webny08bd17 to receive either $100 off the conference or a free Expo Pass when you register at web2expo.com/ny.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Friday, August 01, 2008

The Importance of Proofreading

From John Andrews at johnon.com today, this is priceless:
    First, let me highlight an amusing snippet of text from a creative agency that claims to include SEO in their client work:

“Many of our clients have spent countless marketing dollars with little success.”

    You have to love the irony. That is the “copy” on the website of an agency looking to earn your business. Beautiful.

(It's real; you can find the original by clicking on "Search Engine Positioning" here.)

That brought to mind a poster that my eighth grade English teacher had hanging in her room (really odd how the brain works sometimes on a Friday afternoon, no?). It was a poster about using words and punctuation carefully, and while I certainly can't remember the whole thing now, I remember that among the example sentences were:
    Never break your bread or roll in your soup.

    Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address while traveling to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope.

    Joe likes seafood better than his wife.

And of course, the classic "I shot an elephant in my pajamas." Strange that the poster doesn't seem to be available anywhere online, but my junior high days were just a bit before Internet time.

Author Lynne Truss even managed with Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation to write a best seller on this sort of thing.

So be careful out there. Enjoy your weekend. That's all I got.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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