Thoughts on marketing, social media, and web strategy

Mike Templeton is an experienced marketer with a history in building community on the web.

For Mike's reactions to what others are writing about social media, visit Mike Memos.

To get up-to-the-minute resources on marketing and social media, follow @miketempleton on Twitter.

Don't Let Microblogging Kill Macroblogging

If you’re here reading this post I’ll be very surprised, as this is the first new entry since mid-December. The reason I’m posting today is because I got a prod from a friend of mine on Twitter encouraging me not to make January 2009 the first month without a post in the 10 months that I’ve been doing this. So, here I am.

A Resolution

As the new year rolled in 30 days ago, I started a list of goals for 2009. One of those goals was to post more often on my blog, as I’ve become a bit sidetracked lately with all of the other projects and activities going on. Aside from writing ten articles per month for Generation Iowa over the past six months and blogging at least twice a week for Microblink, Twitter has been the main cause for my lack of macroblogging.

140 Characters is Easier than 140 Words

In a medium where a post must be 140 characters or less, it’s very easy to share with my audience what I am doing or what I am reading. It’s essentially just a sentence or two and it flows easily due to the applications I use to access Twitter. I can tweet from my iPhone, on the web, from my computer’s desktop or via SMS. To sit down and write a blog post, I’ve either got to be at my laptop or desktop computer, or feel like giving my thumbs a real workout.

Longer Posts Allow for Longer Interactions

Though it’s easier to snap out tiny bits of information, I feel it’s also good practice to engage in longer blog posts from time to time, as it keeps my writing skills honed and allows for deeper, more thoughtful and more complete interaction with an audience. Too many times I’ve seen good discussion topics go to waste because they are limited to a flurry of 140-character tweets back and forth between individuals. If they’d taken that conversation into a larger format, like a blog, the participation and capability for a thoughtful interaction to take place climb immensely.

Also, based on how quickly discussion topics rise and fall in a 140-character world, taking things back to a blog give people a chance to read, digest and form valuable responses.

My Promise to You: the Reader and the Audience

Going forward in 2009, I intend to post more of my thoughts on this blog. My goal is to have at least one new post per week. And if I haven’t lost your attention yet (I passed 140 characters some time ago), please subscribe to my RSS feed and check in from time to time. I love engaging with readers and getting feedback on the thoughts I throw out into this world.

#dmtweetup Does #uglysweaterparty and Supports a Good Cause

Last night was a unique #dmtweetup event because it was centered around ugly Christmas sweaters and those in need. The event, hosted at Impromptu Studio (@ImpromptuStudio) and sponsored by Olde Maine (@OldeMain) and the Technology Association of Iowa (@TechnologyIowa), was an informal social hour with the goal of donating clothes and household items to a local shelter and providing an outlet for networking for many of the people who have recently lost their jobs in the Des Moines area.

The bulk of those in attendance are all users on Twitter, which makes these types of events even more fun because you get to connect face-to-face with people you normally just talk to online in 140-character bursts. I was able to meet several new people who I’d not yet been introduced to and I made several new connections that I think will lead to great opportunities in the future.

To some people it may seem awfully strange that members of a common website could come together in person and support causes and our community the way #dmtweetup does, but our group is very unique in the way that we operate. Through the common ground and transparency of Twitter, users are able to learn about and be introduced to people they may have never met otherwise. Also, because we have that commonality in Twitter, it gives us all a sense of camaraderie and we go out of our way to support each other. People answer each others questions, pass along job leads, donate to good causes and show their support in any way they can.

It was great to see so many people (and new faces) at last night’s event as it really showed the organic networking power of good people here in Des Moines and a few strings of messages on the web.

Thanks to Dan Welk (@clickphotodm) of Click Photography, Metromix captured a number of photos from last night’s event, including this one of Robby Glazebrook and myself.

ABC5, the first local news station on Twitter (@ABC5_WOI), put together a great video story on the event.

Learn to Use Social Media for B2B with AAF of Des Moines

On Thursday this week I’ve been given the opportunity to sit with a panel of experts (thank you!) at an American Advertising Federation of Des Moines luncheon. The topic is “Using Social Media for B2B Marketing” and we hope to help answer questions from the group about how they can utilize the latest web technologies in B2B environments.

Official details are available on the AAF of Des Moines website.

November Meeting: Using Social Media For B2B

When: 11/20/2008

Panel includes:

Location:
Skyline Exhibits
2111 Dixon Street
Des Moines, IA 50316
(515) 727-5200

11:30: Doors open for networking
12:00: Lunch is served

Cost: $20 Members / $35 Non-Members / $17 Students

Our panel has had some fun organizing a bit of material beforehand and I look forward to meeting everyone at AAF and helping to answer questions. If you’re in the area, or even if you aren’t [a friend of mine on Twitter (@annetteschulte) is driving down from Cedar Rapids], please stop by and join us.

It Takes More Than Presence to Make Social Media Work

Microblink picked up a new follower on Twitter recently named Dennis Knesz (@DennisKnesz). Dennis is a self-proclaimed internet marketer and owner of Glass Medics, a glass repair business in Lehigh Valley, PA. I’m assuming he followed the Microblink account (@microblink) due to his internet marketing interests, but after a bit of investigation I find myself questioning his intent.

Twitter is Not a Place to Tout a Message

If you a quick look at Dennis’ tweets, you’ll realize that the conversation seems to be going one way and one way only. With tweets like, “If Your Ever In The Lehigh Valley PA. Area. And Need A Windshield Repair.. Give Me A Call… And Go To My Web Site For Info,” “Need Glass Repair? http://pa.local.yahoo.biz/glmedicswesaveem” and “http://tinyurl.com/6cne7f Glass Medics (we save’em),” this doesn’t really look like someone I’m going to be able to have a conversation with. If I did start a conversation, I’m probably just going to get an advertising message in response.

Looking at Dennis’ stats, he is following 1,997 people, has 554 followers and has posted 23 updates. With no @replies in his messages and essentially a list of self-serving tweets, I’m not even sure how we garned so many followers. My only explanation is that most are auto-follows.

Dennis may be the first glass repairman on Twitter, but judging by the way he is using it, it’s not going to be driving business through his door anytime soon.

YouTube is Great, If Your Videos are Meaningful

One of the links Dennis tweeted was to a YouTube video he had put together. Reluctantly, I watched the one minute, 22 second clip. As I was expecting, it turned out to be an 82 second commercial for his business, consisting of a shaky camera focused on a screen-printed shirt with a scripted, monotonous voiceover.

The video has 59 views, 0 ratings and 0 comments. The video is not engaging, it’s not contagious and it’s not viral. It appears to be a makeshift attempt at creating a video so the subject can be present on YouTube, just to be able to say there’s a video there. Again, I don’t see anyone clammering for their phone to call up and order glass repair.

Crummy Websites Won’t Work Just Because They’re on the Web

Browsing through Dennis’ web footprint, I found two different URLs for his company:

The Yahoo site looks to have taken one of their sitebuilder templates and then plugged in company content (which is actually decent), but everything is in bold, red font, making it somewhat difficult to read and a bit of an eyesore.

The second website has a decent domain (the “inpa” I suppose because glassmedics.com was taken) and a somewhat credible look, but things go downhill from there. The content is in severe need of some white space and a general restructuring for better comprehension. Colors are clashing and the rollover sidebar images don’t align well with the content (even having two home buttons that go to different pages). You can tell most of it was done with a WYSIWYG editor, evident by the constant changes in font size and type weight.

Again, the website appears to have been fashioned together quickly and without regard for the end result. It feels like the website was built because “we have to have a website” and little thought or consideration went into its planning and construction.

Invest in Your Web Presence and Consult with Someone Who Can Help

As much as I hate to see businesses entering the web and social media space with this kind of presence, it’s easy to be avoid. The goal of my marketing and web strategy consultancy, Dosovo, is to keep businesses from ending up like this. Many will say that it’s easy to become a content creator on the web, but to be effective with the content you are creating is an entirely different story.

So before you decide to roll out that corporate Twitter account or launch a company blog, stop to take a look at what your competitors are doing (or aren’t doing) and consider enlisting the services of someone that can help you make the most of your efforts.

Get Yourself to Highlight Midwest

If you’re at all involved in social media, web technologies or entrepreneurial ventures, you’ve got to be at Highlight Midwest on October 29, 2008 (Wednesday of next week!). Hell, even if you aren’t involved in any of those things, get down to KC for a chance to get involved.

Highlight Midwest is the first event of its kind to connect nearby communities and highlight the best and brightest web-related success stories in the Midwest. The drive for such an event comes in the wake of recent BarCamps in both Des Moines and Omaha, and the feeling that we, as citizens of the Midwest, need to demonstrate that local innovation is possible, even in a rapidly changing economic landscape.

The schedule for the event is outlined below:

Focused Highlights

9:00am – 4:00pm at the Record Bar

Some of the region’s finest entrepreneurs, technologists, social media experts and new media success stories will be presenting to our group.

Emcees: Alternageek’s Christa Casebeer and Microblink’s Rob Jensen.

New Heights for Flyover States

5:00pm – 8:00pm at the Kauffman Center of Kansas City

A reception showcasing the entrepreneurs, innovators and early-adopters using web technology to grow their businesses, advance their careers and enrich the regional economy in new ways:

  1. Up and coming social media strategists from each participating city will present an overview on how the web is changing their respective cities for the better and how new opportunities for innovation are expanding the importance of web-based technology in the Midwest.
  2. A wrap-up panel: Where do we go from here? After a day filled with all the cool individual things that are occurring in Des Moines, Kansas City, Omaha and the surrounding areas, we’ll discuss actionable items along the lines of “What now?“.

Emcee: Kauffman’s Vice President of Entrepreneurship, Bo Fishback.

I’ve been asked to be a speaker at the event and intend to give a presentation, Microblogging, Macro Impact, on Microblink‘s behalf. I’ll be analyzing the large-level impact of microblogging on the web and how both consumers and businesses are adapting to this disruptive, contagious medium.

Attend or Follow: Your Choice

If you’ve got the time to spare, get yourself down to this event. The connections that will be made and the ideas that will be shared will be invaluable. If you can’t make it, you can follow the Highlight Midwest blog or track #hm1 tweets on Twitter.

Don't Hide Your Blog from Search Engines

One of my side projects that has helped derail this blog is Microblink, a website dedicated to covering microblogging news, available platforms and applications for using them. We have been hard at work publishing new posts daily and spreading the word about the site to our potential audience.

One area we thought we had covered in the promotion of the site was Google, as WordPress does a very good job of pinging the search giant when new posts go live. However, there is one very important setting in your WordPress admin control panel that needs to be addressed if you want Google to find you.

In the control panel under Settings > Privacy, there is a simple radio button question that addresses the visibility of your blog. Essentially, the two options are “I want everyone to see my blog,” and “Please hide my blog from search engines.” The reason someone would choose the second option (and the reason we selected it for Microblink) is for when you are still in the development stages of your WordPress blog.

If you are still making lots of changes and edits to your blog in it’s initial setup, you don’t want Google or Technorati in there indexing your blog with outdated information. Getting everything in line first and then exposing the blog to search engines will make the process much more smooth.

If you don’t change the visibility for your blog when you are ready to launch, it will work against you, as it did for Microblink, because we could never get our description or other information to index in search results. Now, with a single click, we’re back in business and are allowing search engines in to properly index our content.

So, let this be a lesson to those of you working through WordPress in incognito mode.

Once you are ready to launch, be sure to change the privacy option back to full view.

Google to Launch Their Own Browser: Chrome

UPDATE: Google Chrome is now available to download.

Had I not done my due diligence in checking up on my various microblogging accounts, I might have missed out on one of the most exciting announcements from Google since we heard they were building a data center in Council Bluffs (in my home state of Iowa).

A note from Derick Jackson on Pownce mentioned, “Google ‘Chrome’ – New browser launching tomorrow. Awesome?” I followed the link to the official Google blog, where

The Modern View of the Browser

If you’ve been reading my blog at all in the past couple of months, you’ve probably noticed that I’m a Firefox fanatic. Mozilla created a browser that broke all the boundaries set by Microsoft’s luddite, yet monsterous,  Internet Explorer. Users could see different sites through tabbed windows within the browser, customize the way it looked with various themes and add any number of extensions and plugins to bend Firefox to their will, allowing it to accomplish tasks and perform feats that hadn’t been possible before.

Now, with Google Chrome, Google is looking to do the same, talking about ‘a fresh take on the browser’. Some of their main thoughts included:

  • the web has evolved from simple text pages to rich, interactive applications
  • we need a modern platform for web pages and applications
  • what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements
  • we want something that gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go

The team also describes the structure of Google Chrome as fitting in with the rest of the Google family:

Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. We designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple.

Will Google Chrome Have a Place in my Web?

Because I have a Google account and use many of their different applications and web services, I’ll be intrigued to test out their browser and see what they’ve come up with. It was mentioned that components from both Apple’s WebKit and Mozilla’s Firefox were included in the development, which means we just may see something that takes the best parts from everywhere and combines them all into one, not to mention it will probably interface well with your Google account and all of the services they offer.

Recently I’ve been testing several different browsers, trying to find something I could use in place of Firefox for all of the extra projects that I have going, like Microblink, which has a host of different user accounts on different websites, all being used to market that website. Rather than logging out of personal accounts and then into the Microblink accounts, it’s much easier just to perform all tasks related to Microblink in a different browser, keeping cookies, cache and passwords separate. Flock seems to be performing very well as the answer to that solution, and it’s built on the Firefox framework (which I love), but maybe Google has a player that could fit that bill as well. Only time will tell.

Google Chrome is Coming, but its not Done Yet

The beta version of Google Chrome launches tomorrow in over 100 countries (think about all of the translation work that had to happen on that project). For now, you can check out the comic book on Google Books that outlines the browser and its functions. Good luck getting in though, as it appears to be getting hit with a ton of traffic at the moment, everyone trying to get an early glimpse of Google’s latest gamechanger.

City of Des Moines Launches New Logo

And I like it. KCCI has the story and the resulting graphic, apparently worked on by a team of various City of Des Moines departments

The new logo uses the same colors as the previous version, blue and deep red, but the new imagery is much more powerful, in my opinion. The most significant feature is the solid blue bridge, as seen on 235 and south of downtown on MLK. Included within the arch is a simplistic silhoette of the downtown skyline, all tucked neatly above the bold red ‘Des Moines’ text.

The older logo plays into the bridges downtown spanning the Des Moines River and mimics their shape for the large DM initials, chalking up one point for people organizing events and groups with DM (like #dmtweetup) instead of DSM (as the official designation used by the Des Moines International Airport).

Some on Twitter are up in arms over the logo while others suggest the logo has questionable taste, but I see nothing to complain about. As a marketer, it’s often part of my place to pick things apart and always be looking for improvements, but I’m actually very satisfied with the way things turned out.

I agree with Mark Bockenstedt’s comment that “the old one was kinda lame“, and for me it didn’t truly represent the greatness and potential this city has. The old version had more likeness to a website built in 1995 with Microsoft Word, while the new logo speaks to an enriched and vibrant community through its bold use of color and illustration.

Hopefully some of the locals will chime in here with their thoughts, as I feel like this logo release has a bigger impact on marketers and techies like myself than it will on the general public. It would be great to hear some other arguments and viewpoints.

Sarah Lacy Stops in Des Moines on User Generated Book Tour

This weekend I attended a book reading event at East Village Books showcasing Silicon Valley reporter Sarah Lacy‘s first book, Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good.

Des Moines was just one of Sarah’s stops on what she has dubbed the User Generated Book Tour (UGBT). Sarah’s inspiration for this tour shines through in her post:

“I’m looking for places that have a thriving entrepreneur scene and a cool indie book store or bar that would sponsor the event. I think this book is an important window into entrepreneurship and I want to discuss it with people who are reading and enjoying it. Isn’t that why I spent a year writing it?”

At the event, Sarah introduced herself and gave a bit of background on herself and her 10 grueling years in the startup trenches of Silicon Valley. Sarah also highlighted her unique relationship with Mark Zuckerburg and other star entrepreneurs she had befriended over the years.

The section of the book that Sarah shared was a snippet from the end of the book that talked about Evan Williams’ travels from Blogger to Odeo to Twitter and the morality of business he dealt with.

Sarah answered several questions from the crowd, including a few from me regarding the impact of transparency in social media, social media as a liability for companies and leaked information and the possibilities that exist in today’s market based on the tools and platforms already available.

After signing through several copies of her book (which I happily purchased and will soon be reading), the #dmtweetup crew took Sarah and her husband Geoff out for one more night on the town at the Royal Mile.

Discussions carried over from EVB to the Royal Mile and everybody had a great time. For me, the best part about Sarah (and Geoff too!) was that they were both so down to Earth and welcoming. For someone who co-hosts shows for Yahoo! and spends her days rubbing shoulders with the tech elite of the country, I felt like she was very approachble and genuinely enjoyed spending time in our town.

Nathan Wright of Lava Row managed to capture some great footage and scored an interview with Sarah, talking about Digg’s rumored takeover and her impressions of Des Moines.

Sarah also recapped her midwest tour on her own blog, giving Omaha and Des Moines props:

“Both cities taught me so much about how the Web is changing entrepreneurship and really people’s lives in unique ways.”

Now that the weekend is gone and the work week is back, I’ve got a fine new book to keep me company. ;)

WordPress App for iPhone Released

Enough talk about the WordPress app! It’s finally here! Head over to the iTunes App Store and download it now.

This is my first post using the app and everything seems to be going smoothly.

Let me know what you think if you test it out.