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.

Social Media


#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.

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.

What Happens When Everyone Stops 'Using' Social Networks?

Today I saw a link on Twitter described as a ‘funny video about social media‘. The video is from Current and is titled, ‘Social Networking Wars‘. The video follows a situation between a grungy, Metallica-fanboy Gen Yer who isn’t logging in to his MySpace profile anymore. The MySpace logo starts whining about how he hasn’t logged in forever, and that MySpace has emailed him several times about a friend request, but still, the guy just doesn’t get excited about logging in. ‘”I’ll check it out when I get some time,” he says.

Who will come out on top? Maybe no one at all.

We’re better than them!

Next up comes the Facebook logo (where the user also has a profile), and Facebook brags about how he is better than MySpace. After Facebook comes a flurry of other social network logos, all vying for the guy’s time and proclaiming how each of them is superior to the other.

The scapegoat of the group is Friendster, whom everyone left back in the day for MySpace because it was the cooler place to be. Now users are leaving MySpace for Facebook. But for what? Users are leaving janky, neon-colorized profiles for a place that let’s you bite, poke and hug your friends, right after you send them an e-teddy bear for $2.

Friendster

Will users get fed up with social networking?

What will happen when people get tired of these social networks that just don’t have any real benefit to them? The guy in the video mentions, “I’ve wasted a lot of time playing around with you during the day and at my job, but now it’s time for me to get back to the real world.” Will we see a time in the near future where people drop the ‘fun’ and ‘cultural’ websites for those that are actually productive or beneficial?

Are these sites really worth what they’ve been valued at?

Another thing that has got me thinking about this lately was a conversation with Nathan Wright of Lava Row, tweeting about the recent $1B valuation of LinkedIn and how it stacks up against Facebook at $15B.

LinkedIn valued at $1B after another round of funding. Seems like a realistic valuation, moreso than Facebook's $15B imho. What do u think?

Is LinkedIn more realistic because it has business purposes? I still have trouble getting LinkedIn and finding the benefit.

Also because it's been profitable since day one. I wonder if some of Fbook's $15B is based on pure cultural significance?

I think a lot of it is based on culture. Its like the dot com era all over again, but this time with Web 2.0 shops.

Don’t get me wrong, I have accounts at Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and all the rest of them, but as I have to manage more and more applications and profiles on different websites, I find myself only logging on to those that I get real value from.

Now I’m wondering how many others out there are in the same boat?

A World of Choices, A Few Constants

In the social media realm it seems that new services are popping up all the time. Almost every new site launches in private beta and hands out invites to a select few who spread them around. I do my best to track down invites to new sites so I can check them out, but whether or not I go back is another story.

Over the past six to eight months, I’ve probably signed up for 20+ new websites or services. Some of my favorites include Twitter, Yelp and Bright Kite. Others that I’ve registered on, such as Digg and Ma.gnolia, are interesting in their own respects, but I don’t use them quite as often as others.

Anyone can launch a new site or service, but the real trick is getting first time visitors to come back again. Here’s my take on what makes a successful launch:

  1. Create a unique service. Offer your users the ability to do something different. Enable them to accomplish a task in a way they’ve not thought about before.
  2. Make it easy to use. Bulky user interfaces with too many extra features won’t fly. If it’s not easy to operate, people will ditch it for something that is.
  3. Make it easy to share. Develop widgets that users can add to their own websites or share with their friends. Create RSS feeds with your data and allow people to interact with it.
  4. Make it personal. Let users set their own variables. Give them options. If they want to access your site from a mobile device, give them that option.

There are many other things to take into consideration when building something new, but these four points are essential in my mind. If you fail at one of these, you’ll have a hard time keeping people around.

As Friendster and Bebo know, audiences can come and go. Keep yours coming back by taking some time to think about your own future.

Yelping All Over Town

If you haven’t heard of Yelp before, now is the time to check it out.

Yelp is “the fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what’s great (and not so great) in your world.”

In my own words, Yelp is a website where you can find addresses, photos, phone numbers and reviews of local businesses in your area. Instead of flipping through the Yellow Pages or skimming Google when you’re looking for a good place to eat, simply log on to your local Yelp section and find exactly what you’re after. Yelp also has a mobile version available for those with web-enabled phones (which makes the service even more feasible because its always with you).

I first learned about Yelp several months ago when someone from the Seattle area was talking about how she used Yelp to help promote the place she worked at. She explained that through building her Yelp profile and giving honest reviews of local businesses, she was able to make a name for herself as an expert “Yelper” in the area. As more and more locals learned about her and what it was that she did (marketing manager at a credit union), she became the resident “financial expert” in the eyes of other users. Whenever a financial question would pop up in the online community, she was the first person everyone talked to. Through all of this reputation building for her own name, it also helped elevate her employer’s level of awareness in the area and theoretically aided in driving more traffic through their doors.

After hearing the story about her experience with Yelp, I was interested to see what was happening with Yelpers in my area. Unfortunately, as I soon realized, not much at all was happening, neither in Ankeny or Des Moines. There is some traffic and usage, though not nearly as great as the Yelp hot spots like San Francisco (where Yelp started) or Seattle.

Being a lover of all things social media, I’ve taken it upon myself to embrace this website and to try to do my part in helping building the local Yelp community. I’m nowhere near the Yelp Elite level, but maybe it’s something I can aspire to be. :)

I’d also like to try leveraging the site for local businesses as a central feedback mechanism and see what kind of impact it has on business. Some eateries haven’t been quite so happy with Yelp (due to some public, negative reviews), but I think the purpose behind the site is good. In today’s highly interconnected world, if someone doesn’t like your business or has a negative opinion to voice, people are going to hear about it one way or the other, so why not just embrace the medium and see it as an opportunity to grow?

As a website trying to succeed in the Web 2.0 space, I think Yelp is doing a fine job. Everything they display comes directly from the users. Users submit the photos, write the reviews, add new business listings, update old data and help promote the site. I’m happy to be a user and can’t wait to see more locals using it.

For some of my latest reviews, check out Rookies Sports Bar & Grill, Breadeaux Pizza, Cafe Diem and Noodle Zoo. Be sure to add me as a friend once you get signed up on the site.

Happy Yelping!