Experts Say Marketing Sucks (and I almost agree)

Guy Kawasaki moderated a panel of some innovative web community founders at the CommunityNext Conference, and the video is fascinating. It’s not often I get a 1 hour video and watch it all the way through, but I’ve already watched this one twice.

1. Akash Garg of hi5
2. Sean Suhl of Suicide Girls
3. Max Levchin of Slide
4. James Hong of HotorNot
5. Markus Frind of PlentyofFish
6. Drew Curtis of Fark

Now, some of that may be because I‘m about to moderate a panel myself on User Gen, and I want to emulate Guy’s success here, but it’s also because I loved finding out how these guys created such viral communities.

Funniest comment:

Drew said they were taking alot of flack from the Washington Post because one of their headlines had said Anna Nicole Smith’s condition was *upgraded* to dead.

Most interesting:

None of these guys planned to go where they are with these companies, they followed their users ideas and they went with the natural flow of what was necessary. In fact, Sean said, in effect, the planning has to be loose, and you can’t just follow the rules.

Most consoling:

Turns out fear is ok. When I think about this blog or anything I’ve created, I always wonder when it’s all going to end. I know I’m not alone as so many entries on the blogosphere (and off) have to do with ‘the bubble bursting’, but I was consoled that Max says he’s often terrified that it will all disappear too. Made me feel better to know there was someone else out there that was obsessive about it.

Most exciting:

James says passion is everything. Just like I say about blogging that you won’t succeed if you don’t like what you are doing (ie pick a topic you love), James says you have to love what you do as an entrepreneur. If you can’t be passionate and love your product, then find something you can love and go with it.

The ‘duh moment (that everyone needs to understand):

Listen to your users. Passionate users know your product, even better than you do. When they talk you need to listen. Slide would be an entirely different product without user suggestions.

Although, I’d insert the fact that Markus says some users should NOT be listened to. Use your brain, and think about where your bread and butter is. Don’t implement stuff just because it was asked for… Some features are not helpful and could actually destroy the community you have created (ie chat rooms full of married people on a dating site).

On Marketing:

Most of these guys said that marketing was of little value to them (gasp). They said the viral things that really made them successful was an accident. Sure you can come up with a great idea, but the real truth is that if your company is doing something cool, people will talk about it.

HotorNot said that by the end of day one they had 40K unique users, and within a week they were seeing millions of page views per day. They showed it to cube-locked geeks (Intel workers, ironically) and they passed it around immediately. Sean from Suicide Girls says they spent tons of energy on a CSI episode in which their girls were featured, with no result and got a ton of result from a column on their site and from a YouTube video one of their girls uploaded (she was lipsyncing to a Hall and Oats song).

Now, as a marketing consultant, I want to disagree, but I can’t… Communities are where it’s at, and marketing has to make their job showcasing the communities that have evolved naturally and making them more user-friendly (off-site buys+clear, directioned thinking involving on-site assets). Marketing isn’t dead, but it’s way different than it was just last year.

Another Blog Evangelist Hire

I’m thrilled to report that my old friend, Martin McKeay, has been hired as the Product Evangelist for StillSecure. Now, if security isn’t something that you normally follow, I’ll enlighten you to what Martin has been doing for the last few years.

He’s an accomplished blogger with an enormous reach, but more than that, his podcast, based on security of course, is overwhelmingly popular with security geeks. This podcast captures the ears of the people who make the IT decisions in companies. (read: those fellows who turn the ear of the people who buy millions of dollars of servers, rack systems, blah, blah a year)

That’s valuable, and StillSecure was super-smart to take that into account. Sure, Martin could go anywhere and be a dynamite IT Security guy, but to hire him specifically for the role of Product Evangelist is using him where he’ll be of tremendous value to a company. Very smart…

And, as Jeremiah said, at events he knows how to work a room. Congratulations StillSecure, for snatching-up a dynamo!

smiley Disclosure: And, I’m not just saying that because Martin just gave me a Nokia 770 (for free). I’d sing his praises for free any day!

Forum Users Are Vocal

When I am looking to get the word out for a client, I often look at forums for inspiration, because I think the real conversations (since the pre-1995 AOL explosion), have always been on bulletin boards and forums. Forum users are loud-mouthed and honest and you can get a great idea of these things:

1. What they think about your product/site.
2. Which competitors they are choosing over you.
3. Their favorite sources of info (they quote liberally).

When I am in affiliate mode, I read these forums”

Digital Point, WickedFire, Webmasterworld, Sitepoint

The ones with RSS support get my attention first. The others, only when I have extra time, which is never. Before I wrote this, of course, I had to check and make sure the ISN’s forums had RSS, but, whew, they do, per forum. 😉

RSS was the ‘one-issue’ that I made sure I had when I set up my problogwriters forum (moderator needed, btw). There are only a handful of ways to achieve RSS forums for free, and SMF seemed the smartest, due to it’s beautiful integration with Joomla. Security breaches aside (I was hacked twice), this is still the solution I recommend to people.

But back to the topic at hand, forum users are influencers. I’d bet if you named off the top early bloggers, every one of them were forum users first. These people talk, and their ideas created a following.

As well, don’t overlook the SEO aspect. Do a search on a product, most likely you’ll get a forum (or several) in the top 10 results. These predominantly textual sites, much like blogs, are SEOed well by nature. If your product is great, you WANT it mentioned organically in forums. This creates a testimonial that is organically well placed SEO-wise and since it’s off your site, it is seen as user gen trustworthy. Of course, I stress I would NEVER suggest spamming a forum. This will almost always come back to bite you in the ass. If your product/site is crap, stay out of forums. If it is good, someone from your group needs to be in offsite forums on a regular basis with your link in their signature.

Don’t forget to use forums in your marketing push. Bloggers always talk about community. You won’t ever build a blog community that is as strong as a forum, even though some are close (think or any number of mommy blogs. The next post will focus on bringing the successful parts of a forum to your blog.

Passionate Users and ROI Calculation

Today I finally had time to read yesterday’s post by Kathy Sierra, “Inspiring your user-evangelists.” This is a must read for anyone who really wants to create a base of passionate users, rather than just increasing the numbers on this month’s campaign. What good is a 200% increase in March’s numbers if it means that May’s numbers are so abysmal in comparison that you get fired? The adage that you’re only as good as your last campaign is true when your numbers are all over the place. Consistency in performance is what your employer/client wants. We love those large spikes, but only in that we want to find out what caused them so they don’t go down.

Down is bad… 😉

More after the jump. Continue reading “Passionate Users and ROI Calculation”

Touring Intel and PodTech

I’m still in California meeting with the Intel Software Network and even though we’ve been pretty busy thus far, I convinced Jeremiah Owyang to give me a tour of his new digs at PodTech. I’ve known Jeremiah for a long time, first as a fellow member of the Podcast Roundtable and now as a good friend and colleague, so it was absolutely great to finally meet in person.

Jeremiah was in a meeting when I got there, so Linda Furrier and Darold Massaro were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedule to entertain me for a bit while he finished up. I got to meet John Furrier for a brief minute, which was great, and I raided their snack area in the meantime.

podtech's yummy snack roompodtech's yummy snack area

Within a few minutes I got to talk with both Jeremiah and Scoble, and all-in-all, the tour was quick but fun.

Scoble even alerted me to the bruhaha he kicked off over the weekend re: Intel’s New 45 Nanometer Processors. I enjoyed the video and was impressed by the delivery by Kelin Kuhn, the head of the department that is responsible for the breakthough, in that she talked in such a way that an admittedly clueless person like myself could follow along as to why a 10x reduction in gate leakage was beneficial. I guess I missed all of the coverage (ValleyWag, New York Times, etc.) due to my trips to Las Vegas and San Francisco in the last 10 days.

Jeremiah, Scoble and I chatted briefly about ‘bad press’ and ‘good press’, and the overall effect. I think that this much buzz, whether it is over a link-love battle or not, is great for both Podtech and Intel. What do you think?

Podcast With The CEO of Traineo is a weight loss/training social network. This is an interview I did with the CEO.

I’m actually having some fun playing around with this site, and I can see a place for this in the social networking space. My mom always said she never kept weight off unless she went to Weight Watchers. It was the support and accountability, she claimed, that really helped her take it off (and keep it off).

Traineo has the potential to be a support system for people who want to lose weight, or even those who want to work out effectively and productively. I know I enjoyed scrounging through the profiles, finding other pilates nerds, so if you’re into something weird (like the Wii sports group I joined), you might find other people to help support your weird-o physical fitness addiction.

If you like 43things (and who doesn’t???), you’ll love Traineo.

Subscribe to the podcast in or grab the feed here.

A full listing of my podcasts can be found here.

Blogger Meetup At Steelhead Brewery, Tuesday Jan 30th

Jeremiah Owyang has been kind enough to organize a blogger meetup next week so that I can meet some people face-to-face when I get to San Fran next week. Martin has offered up his car, Jay offered up his spare room (as long as I’m not crazy, he says), and several other people (PR flacks, bloggers, podcasters and videobloggers) have been kind enough to extend an invite to this Southern gal as well.

Please sign up for the event if you can make it. I’d love to meet you all. If you can’t make the event but want to meet up, send me an email and I’ll send you my cell number and the hotel I’m staying at. I’ll be in San Fran the 28th through the 31st.

Friendster Partners With Google

Out with Yahoo and in with Google as search provider and ad serving technology for the ailing Friendster.

Friendster – the pioneer social network founded in 2002 by Jonathan Abrams – is going to partner with Google to place ads on the community site and to power the search technology. It’s a deal similar to the Google/MySpace partnership inked last year. The financials were not disclosed for the approximately two-year deal. Of course, Friendster’s sub-1 million monthly unique visitors pale in comparison to MySpace, so it’s hardly close to the $900 million that Google agreed to pay News Corp to be the ad provider and exclusive search engine for Fox’s online properties, including MySpace. By partnering with Google (goog), Friendster will stop using Yahoo (yhoo) as its search engine.

Bambi says Friendster is trying to establish itself as the hip ‘after college’ social network, but I think that Facebook is doing nicely in that area already. Friendster should try something innovative, like becoming a parody of itself or really making fun of it’s position. They could be the Rodney Dangerfield of social networking. Certainly they are at a point that something innovative has to be done or they will never re-succeed.

Lee Odden’s Must Read Search Marketing Blogs

This is one of the most comprehensive lists of great SEM/SEO and social media blogs I’ve seen. There are roughly 250 feeds handpicked by Lee Odden. The OPML is here. For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure to meet OPML, she’s an easy way to add a collection of feeds to your reader. You can upload/import this file to your reader and save yourself a great deal of time when subscribing.

Weed out those you do not need, but this is a great way to start following this topic in the blogosphere.

Below is a collection of over 250 blogs covering search marketing with a few that venture into blogging, social media and new media public relations. This list is an output of my own RSS reader and it will update (add/remove) as I update the list of blogs and feeds that I track. I hope you find it useful.

I’m honored to say Practical Blogging made the list. 🙂