Social and Search

Photo by Gerlos

Last week I was invited back to a panel at the ninth "Marketing to the High-End Bride" event, held at the newly-opened W Hotel in Boston -- you can hear the audio and see some photos on the WeddingProf site. At the event, I finally got to meet Scott Smigler of Exclusive Concepts. I really enjoyed our conversation -- both on the stage (where we disagreed about ghost writing but agreed on most everything else) and after the event. Scott's organizing an upcoming event for SEMPO Boston, and asked what I thought about the intersection between search and social these days. Here's my response -- I hope to be able to share my perspective at the event -- I'll let you know as soon as it's organized.

In Fresh Ground's opinion, there are two approaches to social media: proactive and reactive. Proactive social media is content-driven, reactive social media is conversation-driven.

Either way, search is often a second thought -- most practitioners take a "if you build it they will find it" attitude when it comes to social media and search. They figure that either way -- by virtue of good content, frequent updates and a large community -- search will just happen. This is partly true, but there's still a disconnect between these two fields that can only be bridged through analytics and metrics: understanding the direct relationship between social, search and web traffic.

I think most social media people don't think about the other way around -- that search can drive social. This negative bias was reinforced recently when Facebook overtook Google in terms of site traffic sources. We perhaps need to be reminded that it's still a two-way street, and that a stronger emphasis on search can still be very rewarding.

What do you think about this intersection?


Steve Wildstrom on the New Journalism: Fresh Ground #10

Steve Wildstrom wrote BusinessWeek’s “Technology & You” column from its creation in 1994 until BusinessWeek’s acquisition by Bloomberg in December, 2009. Fresh Ground Principal Chuck Tanowitz caught up with him at DEMO Spring 2010 where they discussed his current projects and thoughts on the future of journalism (not to mention a few business models that might work for newly independent journalists).

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“Journalistic freelancing is very very difficult these days because, basically, pricing has gone to hell. You’ve got thousands of people out there willing to do something — I can’t say it’s really the same thing that professional journalists do, but it seems to be good enough for a lot of people — and they’re doing it for nothing.”

“It’s kind of an ethical wasteland… It’s very situational. You have to figure out the rules as you go along. One thing I have been doing is some blogging for [a company] — what amount to feature pieces… I’m not writing specifically about [their] products, but I’m writing about a field that’s of interest to them.”

“I [thought] I’d get a lot of pushback from my journalistic colleagues. I didn’t.”

“I’m also writing product reviews … that would not be published anywhere, so they can anticipate what they can expect to see when they launch.”

“I think it’s becoming important for companies to promote themselves in new ways. [Sam Whitmore] has been promoting this idea for some time: that companies, because of the changes in journalism, can’t really count on journalists to cover their products in the way they used to, and they have to get more sophisticated about basically doing internal journalism to promote their own products.”

“I am not looking to build an empire at this point in my career. I’m not looking to retire either….”

“I think that Om [Malik] has done a fabulous job [with] GigaOm Pro…. Basically he’s providing analyst-type reports really competitive with what Gartner and Forrester [do] at substantially lower prices.”

“The fact is what analysts do and what journalists do is not particularly different, they just do it for different audiences.”

“In my years with BusinessWeek, I don’t think I ever quoted an analyst…. I found quoting an analyst was a lot like quoting another journalist, which … I wouldn’t do.”

“I wish I had a copy editor [as a blogger]. Good copy editors are invaluable [and] hard to find. It drives me crazy every time I get a blog comment pointing out a grammar error, a spelling error…. I’d be a lot happier if that editing got done before it got posted.”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

Listen Now:

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Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.


DEMO Debrief

I spoke with Chip Griffin today, giving him a recap of my DEMO experience, including some of the highlights from the event. You can listen to my recap on Chip's Pardon the Disruption blog.

While we were there, Chuck had a chance to catch up with Steve Wildstrom. We'll post that podcast interview later today.


Renter? Landlord? Just Want an iPad? (A Fresh Ground Client)

Tweet to Win a Free iPadAnother one of the fun projects we're working on is helping launch Rentometer Pro, which offers a one-stop resource for landlords to better advertise, manage and maintain their properties in one, easy-to-use online site. To support the launch, we've organized a "Tweepstakes." Find out if you're paying too much for rent or charging too little by visiting, find out how your property rates when the rent is compared to other similar properties nearby, and then tweet your results to win an iPad.

Any tweets that begin with "According to @rentometer" (without the quotes of course) are eligible to win. Visit for rules and an easy way to enter.


What's Your SocialWish? (A Fresh Ground Client)

Our apologies for letting the blog and podcast slip a bit lately. I promise you there's some great stuff coming from us in both camps. Chuck and I have been hard at work ramping up four programs, not to mention trying to keep the momentum going for LaunchCamp as our plans to take it on the road continue to move forward. Stay tuned for a new podcast episode soon!

Chuck and I are out at DEMO Spring 2010 this week, helping our client SocialWish launch. SocialWish combines collaborative social gifting and universal wishlist functionality. Do you have big ticket items in your wish lists or online registries that never get bought? Do you have big dreams that need some funding? SocialWish lets people collaborate to make these dreams and wishes come true. Wish lists aren't new, but SocialWish takes an interesting new spin on an old concept, and we think the time is right -- it's all about "payments" these days, as PayPal rightly pointed out on stage today at DEMO.

Rather than the big splash technique, we're taking what Tony Sapienza calls the "Rolling Thunder" approach here at the show: DEMO attendees get a sneak preview, but you'll have to wait if you're not here. You can, however, sign up for the private beta now. Invitations will go out over the next few weeks...

Stay tuned for more news and updates on what we're working on!


Chatroulette’s Prospects

I admit, I'm a skeptic. While I think chatroulette is brilliant in its simplicity, very much like Google was when it came out, the similarities stop there. I'm a big believer in serendipity, but the media buzz around it -- including the recent Ben Folds story -- has to taper off. Will the chatroulette guy be able to capitalize on all the fame and make some money? Possibly, but I think the money will come from Russia, not the US. I've been wrong before -- and plenty of people have argued with me on this point -- but I think that first, the barriers to entry are far too low to make this worth a substantial investment, second, the user interface doesn't make for very scalable marketing efforts (it's event more one-to-one marketing that face-to-face marketing!), and last but not least, the rather, um, colorful content limits their potential advertising customers.

You can read more of my and others' thoughts on chatroulette in BusinessWeek.


Scientology, Journalism and Money in a New Media World

The age of new media means that anyone can publish. That much we know. But the full implications of this switch are just becoming clear.

Take the situation in Tampa Bay, Florida, in which the St. Petersburg Times has a long history of investigative stories about the locally-based Church of Scientology. From a traditional journalistic standpoint this is good work. The Times has an extensive record of ethical reporting and its standards are some of the best in the industry. No one questions the work they do.

Well, except for the Church of Scientology, which took exception to the whole idea. Twenty years ago the church probably would have fought any allegations in the Times through legal means or by undertaking a media-relations campaign aimed at other publications. Maybe they would have opened up their doors to a local TV news program or asked their members to bring friends as a grass roots effort.

But in today's world they did something very interesting: they turned the Times reporting tactics on the Times. First reported by Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post, the news has spread quickly, with most stories asking whether this is a good idea.  It's not like the church is a neophyte in the journalistic world. They've had a publication called Freedom for some time.

It seems that the Church of Scientology knew what it was doing when it picked its reporters. It didn't pick just anyone, but people with great credentials including a reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize, the former executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors and a former producer for the venerable TV program "60 Minutes."

The St. Petersburg Times didn't answer questions and pretty much stonewalled the whole process. Their defense was pretty simple: this wasn't journalism it was a hatchet job from a biased party. Of course, the church has made similar allegations against the Times. But is this particular piece a hatchet job? The reporters themselves took the job pretty seriously. Steve Weinberg, the executive director mentioned above, told Kurtz that he put $5000 in his bank account to play the role of editor and "tried to make sure it's a good piece of journalism criticism, just like I've written a gazillion times. . . . For me it's kind of like editing a Columbia Journalism Review piece." But he continued that this wasn't your normal reporting job: "It certainly wouldn't be something just any reporter would do. My role was more limited, and I can certainly use the money these days."

Ah yes, the money, the journalists got theirs up front, by the way. When the jobs came open True/Slant pointed it out, and asked openly whether a journalist should take the gig, but ended with "work is work." Journalistic organizations are laying off quality reporters by the truckload. At the same time, companies need content to attract readers to their blogs, Websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds or anything else that takes a feed. Journalists are people with skills who need to eat. If their skills aren't appreciated in the traditional journalism industry, they'll just make a move. Wouldn't you?

Oddly, in a comment on the True/Slant post, Steve Weinberg himself weighed in (first), saying "Recently, an experienced investigative journalist who has found it difficult to Steve Weinbergconduct his work because of the economic downturn asked me if he should apply for the Scientologists’ opening. I told him no, even though I like to see superb investigative reporting no matter who is funding it. More than any other existing organization that comes to mind, the Scientologists have been so hostile to outside journalists that I cannot see crossing the line to accept employment there. But I told my acquaintance that I’m speaking only for myself. After all, for some folks, work is indeed work, as the T/S posting by Matt Stroud says."

I guess "work is work" trumps his fears about the Church of Scientology. Or maybe he told his buddy "no" because he needed the work himself.

But the question still remains: is this particular effort really journalism? The journalists who worked on the report certainly think so, though the critics have their knickers in a knot about the whole thing. They're asking weighty questions like "what does this mean for the industry?" Although, I'm curious how loudly they'd ask those questions when the pinkslip lands on their desk and they're forced to find new jobs.

My personal problem with the actions of the Church of Scientology aren't in what they did, but what they're not doing. They're not releasing the reporting. That's what journalism is all about, shining a light into the darkest corners of society. It's not just about finding those places, but about turning on the light and letting the world see it. The Church isn't releasing the reporting.

If you're going to create content, then let's see it.


What We’ve Learned So Far

This video, shot at the last Inbound Marketing Summit, touches on a number of important reminders and, I think, nicely sums up in a minute-and-a-half the last year or so of thought on social media:

  1. It's all about content. Katie Paine answers the perennial chicken and egg question of which comes first -- or rather, which is more important -- content or community: "It's all about the content, and are you coming up with new ideas and new thoughts, because that's what gets people engaged."
  2. It's not just the marketing team's job. Rebecca Corliss reminds us that the marketing team isn't the only group within your organization that should be (and, don't fool yourself, is) using social media.
  3. Engagement means action. Mike Schneider advices us to make sure we've got a call to action in our messaging.
  4. Marketer, know thyself. Gary Vee encourages us to be authentic, honest and transparent.
  5. Measure twice, cut once. I have the last word (not Katie, but I'm sure she'll redress this), and it's on the importance of measurement.

Renee Hopkins on Innovation: Fresh Ground #9

Renee Hopkins is the editor of Strategy & Innovation and the lead editor of Innosight’s InnoBlog. She sat down with Todd Van Hoosear to discuss a challenge facing many organizations: how do you create a business culture that both encourages and captures innovation? Creative thinking, which is one of the essential components of innovation, does not like to be constrained by business processes. Renee helps us tackle how you can reconcile these two very different dynamics and build a structure for capitalizing on innovation.

Some of the more interesting excerpts:

“Innovation is something new that’s been created … that is providing some value…. It’s not just a dream, there’s something active about it.”

“I’m probably one of the few people who can say that a blog actually directly brought them to a job…. The blog sealed the deal, otherwise I would’ve been nobody to them.”

“We help companies grow by helping them understand how they can make innovation repeatable.”

“Innovation starts with … solving a job that the customer has to get done.”

“We don’t want to come out of the box. That’s such a nasty cliche, but what you really want to do is clearly define the box, and then ideate your butt off all the way inside that box so that you’re coming up with ideas very deeply in this space….”

“It’s not the technology that disrupts, it’s the business model.”

About the Fresh Ground Podcast: Each week, we feature 10 minutes of insights from people driving change in today’s competitive business and media landscape. We talk about the evolving worlds of media, public relations, marketing and business, with a special focus on creating more social organizations.

Listen Now:

icon for podbean Standard Podcasts: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download | Embeddable Player | Hits (0)

Our opening music is "D.I.Y." by A Band Called Quinn from the album "Sun Moon Stars" and is available from Music Alley, the Podsafe Music Network.


Social Media DNA: Does Your Company Have It?

LaunchCamp divided pretty easily into two camps, companies and executives who:

  1. Understand social networking technologies inherently; and
  2. Know they need to do something, but are not sure what.

This divide isn’t new and frankly, it’s not going to end any time soon. In the past I’ve been asked to design training programs only to find that some people within an organization understand social technologies and concepts very well and wanted to move on beyond the basics. Then there are those who are still figuring out how to sign up for a Twitter account or maybe have just dipped their toe into Facebook.

With this type of audience one size never fits all.

But for LaunchCamp it wasn’t just a division among individuals as Isis Maternity Community Manager Cindy Meltzer noted during our recent conversation. It could also be felt in corporate culture.

During the startup panel it became apparent that most tech-based companies being founded today are steeped in social networking tools. Not just because the founders are young, in fact their ages run the spectrum, but because the genesis for their ideas come from first understanding social networking. In other words: the aspect of marketing that takes conversation into account is built in. It’s part of their DNA.

Jules Pieri, CEO of the Daily Grommet

Take the example of the Daily Grommet. When moderator David Beisel asked about how much each company spent on launch marketing, the answer came back as nothing. Though, as Jules will tell you, it was nothing EXTRA. Frankly, marketing is baked into the idea of “Citizen Commerce,” which is the idea that the customers drive the direction of the products featured each day. This isn’t a one-way system of “we produce, you buy” but community conversation of “we find what you want.”

Since the community members are, by nature, excited by the products they’re more likely to take action and talk about them.

The same goes for Runkeeper, which factored sharing right into the product. From the start the idea wasn’t only to use a mobile device to track your routes and save information about you, but to share that information with your friends. By doing that you are, in fact, sharing the product you’re using. If friends want to share back they need to get that product too. The viral nature is built in, not tacked on later.

By contrast I hear from companies that have traditional business models and are looking for a way to build social networking into their marketing programs. This isn’t a bad thing (in fact, it’s great) but it’s also just the start.

To truly engage in this world each company must look beyond their marketing departments and find their communities, then use the tools to engage them. After all, that’s how new companies are finding their way.

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