The State of the Blogosphere 2011

Part 14 in a series introducing my new book, The End of Business as Usual…this series serves as the book’s prequel.

When you think about social media, what do you envision? Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Foursquare? If you’re like me, blogs would have made the top of the list. But how can blogs survive in a time when the attention of connected consumers is not only precious, it’s elusive. After all, people can read no more than 140 characters at a time right? With the surplus of networks and a river of social activity that washes away personal information levees, how can we be anything but distracted?

I believe that we are indeed overwhelmed, but we are not distracted. We are in fact focused. Let me restate that last sentence. We are focused, against a different standard than that of five years ago, on what is important to us. If long-form content is shared within our interest graph and possesses relevant information that is true to our interests, it will be consumed. If it content, no matter how great its length, is true to who I am, I will share it. Not just because I want others to share in its relevance, but because doing so is a form of self-expression and the words of others can lend to a piece of the puzzle that completes me online and offline.

Over the years, blogs have formed the foundation of social media, democratizing the ability to publish thoughtful commentary, build a noteworthy community and equalize influence along the way.

Blogs are underrated and largely underestimated. Not only are they platforms for self-expression, shared experiences and observations, they are becoming a live index of history in the making as told by people for the people. Each year, I take to my blog to share the state of the blogosphere based on the annual report published by Technorati. Going back to 2004, Technorati has documented how blogs have changed the landscape for information commerce to not only provide insight into the world of blogs and the bloggers whose voices we are growing to trust across a variety of topics, but also into the numbers behind their ascendance.

The Age of Influence

Bloggers span from hobbyists to professionals, both part-time and full-time, corporate and also entrepreneurs. The vast majority of bloggers polled by Technorati fall into either the Gen Y or Gen X category.  It’s important to note that this isn’t reflective of the age demographics of who’s reading blogs, simply which age groups are actively publishing blogs.

Where in the World is my Blog?

The study was distributed only in English, yet bloggers from all over the world participated. While the majority of respondents blog from the United States, Europe, Latin America, and South Asia made notable appearances.

This reminds me of a trip during the winter of 2010 to Gdańsk, Poland where I had the opportunity to present at the annual Blog Forum event. To this day, it’s still memorable for many reasons. First, it was held in the original shipyards noted for its role in the Solidarity (Solidarność) movement recognized as one of the first steps in leading the collapse of communism across Eastern Europe. Second, the enthusiasm around blogging was euphoric, reminding me of the early days of social media in San Francisco circa 2005/2006. I presented the 2010 State of the Blogosphere at this event and here we are, one year later, and the passion only continues to intensify among creators who channel relevance through words and media.

The Blogger Experience

Bloggers are a diverse bunch. The majority of casual and professional bloggers have posted their views and experiences over the last two years. However, the concentration of bloggers closely follows with many blogging 4-6 and also greater than 6 years.

At the same time, bloggers aren’t focused on any one property. Professionals will blog at as many as four properties. This is up from an average of two blogs noted in the 2010 report.

It’s Time to Blog

In aggregate, most bloggers will spend anywhere between one-to-three hours blogging per week followed by three-to-five and five-to-10 weekly hours. 25% of professional bloggers are dedicating upwards of 40 hours or more per week. I’m not a professional blogger in that I do not derive revenues from my posts. But, I do invest over 10 hours on a weekly basis on researching and writing blog posts.

In terms of frequency, bloggers across the board will publish two-to-three posts per week. However, a notable percentage of professional, corporate, and entrepreneurial bloggers post once or twice per day.

Of those bloggers who are investing greater volumes of time and energy in blogs, it’s for good reason. It’s not just about pontification or sharing experiences in long-form. Bloggers can point to the ROI specifically…and it’s encouraging many to invest more in their blogging routines.

Most note that blogging has proven to be valuable for promoting their business or to one’s profession. Additionally, professional, casual, and corporate bloggers city audience engagement as motivation to create.

And, bloggers find that their work is getting taken more seriously as sources of trusted information and news.

From Traditional to New Media

As many as 40% of today’s professional and 35% of corporate bloggers once worked as a writer, reporter, producer, etc. in traditional media. The skillset is certainly optimized in terms of content creation. Learning social skills becomes critical for their continued success. On the corporate or entrepreneur fronts, the move to brand publishing or brand journalism as it’s often referenced, appears to be gaining momentum…thankfully. I’m relieved to hear that businesses are taking a more useful and informative approached to leading customers toward insight and resolution. My patience for marketing speak eroded long ago.

What is Your Source of Inspiration?

I found this slide interesting and also not surprising at the same time. Among the top influences for bloggers to find material to blog about is…well…other blogs. That also says everything at the same time. Blogs are often viewed as the people’s press and there can be an element of implied trust that yields the type of power that traditional media possessed in its golden years.

Nobodies are the New Somebodies

Brands look to influencers to help communicate the value or mission of the business to hopefully drive favorable actions. Bloggers continue to prove instrumental in brand marketing, advertising, and engagement. Let’s set aside the SEO and SMO advantages of blog influence for a moment. Let’s talk about everyday consumer influence. In the social web, people make decisions based on the information that’s presented to them in either the results of their search or the words of their friends and peers. Influence is the ability to cause effect or change behavior. Technorati found that between 40-50% of all bloggers, whether personal or professional blog about brands. The advantage of blogs for brands comes down to resonance. Blogs will live longer than Tweets or any status update for that matter.

Upwards of 70% of bloggers are already following their favorite brands in social media.

And knowing this importance on the relationships between bloggers and their communities, only 40% in aggregate have ever been approached by brands. Remember, it’s not just about the A-list, it’s about the magic middle!

With the love affair content creators, creators and consumers experience with the micromedia in social networks, blog posts contribute to the library of knowledge around any subject. They offer the ability to express perspective and offer context in  statusphere and they influence decisions, actions, and behavior. Whether it’s to demonstrate thought leadership, earn authority, generate leads, change perception or sentiment, blogs continue to lead the way while disrupting traditional media along the way. For businesses, the time is now to embrace your influencers and their networks, of all shapes and sizes, while blogging to become influential in the process.

Live to blog.

Blog to influence.

Order The End of Business as Usual today…

Part 1 – Digital Darwinism, Who’s Next
Part 2
– Social Media’s Impending Flood of Customer Unlikes and Unfollows
Part 3
– Social Media Customer Service is a Failure!
Part 4
– I think we need some time apart, it’s not me, it’s you
Part 5
– We are the 5th P: People
Part 6
– The State of Social Media 2011: Social is the new normal
Part 7
– I like you, but not in that way
Part 8
– Are You Building a Social Brand or a Social Business?
Part 9
– CMO’s are at the Crossroads of Customer Transactions and Engagement
Part 10
– From Social Commerce to Syndicated Commerce
Part 11
– You can’t go back to create a new beginning, but you can begin to change the ending
Part 12 – How to Make Customer Service Matter Again Part 1
Part 13 – How to Make Customer Service Matter Again Part 2
_____

Image Credit: Shutterstock (Edited)

Leadership in an Era of Digital Darwinism

As I think about disruptive technology, it’s clear that as an industry, we often get stuck in conversations about products, services, and features. In social media for example, we are enamored with Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and the like. At the same time, we tend to confuse emerging with disruptive technologies and overly invest in rising stars such as Instagram, Quora and to some extent Google+ before we understand the impact they have on our world and the impact we can have within each network.

Why does this matter?

As an analyst and as a geek, I too am captivated by all that’s new and shiny. I’m grounded however, by the real world conversations and actions necessary to translate trends into actionable insights. Innovation must be studied. Its impact must be understood. The benefits offered by disruptive technology must be analyzed to learn how it will benefit our business, whether its effects are of value to the business or market infrastructure, in customer and employee relationships, or in product or process breakthroughs. It’s not enough to experiment. While test and learn is a necessary ingredient in converting innovation into progress, it is in the recognition of opportunities where we need to begin. We need to start with a hypothesis or an idea about how technology plays a part in evolution and more importantly, how it allows businesses to realize its objectives better than it does today. It then takes research and experiments to prove or disprove your theory.

In addition to a culture of innovation, experimentation, and one that can recognize new opportunities, the future of evolution comes down to you and your leadership team.

I recently had the opportunity to join Steve Woodruff and Lisa Petrilli in their popular #LeadershipChat forum on Twitter. We discussed why this is the time where business as usual is no longer an operating model. We also dove into the importance of translating trends into opportunities to either lead or help leaders chart a new course. We indeed face an era of digital Darwinism, a phenomenon where technology and society evolve faster than our ability to adapt. This is a time for reflection and adaptation. In the words of Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

In 140 characters or less, here are some of the highlights of the discussion…

This book (The End of Business as Usual) marks a departure from your past writings. In what way(s)?

– Social media is disruptive in how people communicate, discover share. It is not a catalyst for leadership enlightenment #LeadershipChat

– To earn the attention of C-Level executives takes understanding, tenacity + ability to translate trends into opportunity

– Social media is only part of the story. The lessons many are just now learning are not unlike those who’ve focused on change

What’s advice re 1st step for a company to translate what see/know into actionable insight?

– My Advice? Stop focusing all of the $+resources on monitoring keywords put someone from BI on analytics

You see the “connected consumer” as a major driver of change in business. Why and how?

– The connected expand opportunities. They don’t follow the steps of other consumers. They influence + are influenced differently

– We have 3 distinct groups of consumers how they discover/communicate changes w/each – traditional, online connected

– Connected consumers are just that…connected. How they find share information and make decisions is not like the others

– The connected represent a wave of new consumerism require businesses to rethink amend its approach to reach lure them

How can businesses most effectively attract and interact with the “connected consumer”?

– Some believe that consumers don’t know what they want. If we listen to them, we react vs innovate, which = meh products

– Steve Jobs once said “You‘ve got to start w/the customer experience work backward – not the other way around”

– Consumers are becoming connected influential. The opportunity is for businesses to architect exceptional experiences

– From marketing to sales to service to experience, businesses must think about defining meaningful + shareable experiences

– People will always talk, whether they’re connected or not, so give them something to talk about. Every consumer group wins!

What will it take for leaders to adapt to – and lead – the new climate and culture of business?

– Quests toward customer-centricity follow 2 paths. 1) Get closer to customers thru social. 2) Create a customer culture

– Leaders often talk about transformation, change or vision much like politicians address the needs of people during election

– Leadership is earned. It’s not a right…it is a rite of passage. Leaders must see what others don’t do what others can’t

– There’s a drought of useful information-that’s OUR opportunity. We must translate what we see/know into actionable insights

– Change happens when persistence outlasts resistance it is also your opportunity to become part of the new leadership team

You talk adamantly about vision, higher purpose and mission, where’s the ROI in that? Is that what CEOs really want?

– What’s the ROI of vision or innovation? Often ROI stands for Return on Ignorance, which as you can imagine is usually low

– If you ask an exec what they truly want, the answer will vary across the board-profits, sales, efficiencies, happy employees

– I spent a lot of time w/@zappos Tony Hsieh. He once told me businesses excel if they focus on higher purpose vs bottom line

– I researched it companies focused on purpose, mission, experience tended to over index in satisfaction, profitability, etc

– Leaders don’t chase trends, they seek results. This requires customer engagement + experiences leads to mission/innovation

You can read the full transcript over at Hashtracking.

Order The End of Business as Usual today…

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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6 Steps for Protecting Corporate Reputation in the Social Media Age

Layla Revis is vice president of digital influence at Ogilvy PR Worldwide. Her specialties include international affairs, tourism and multicultural marketing.

It takes years to build a good reputation, but seconds to damage it beyond repair, as executives at companies from Dell to Domino’s certainly have found out.

This was a sentiment echoed by executives at the Senior Corporate Communication Management Conference in New York when discussing social media and corporate reputation and how to embrace the new reality of immediate communications.

When you consider the sheer volume of earned media, or word of mouth generated on the Internet each and every day, it is clear that “controlling” messaging is no longer an option for large companies, who, for many years, have been in the driver’s seat when it comes to their own reputation.

So how can a reputation bashing be avoided on the social web? Open communications and speedy response are among the pointers for corporate communicators. Marcus Molina, SVP – Latin American Communications, MasterCard shared these classic examples of corporate crisis and advice on how manage them effectively.

Dell Computers

In 2005, Dell computer owners experienced problems with the company’s formerly excellent customer service. Jeff Jarvis, a Dell customer, went to war with Dell on his blog BuzzMachine. Jarvis’s campaign brought the power of blogs to international attention, but it’s important to keep in mind that, as Market Sentinal pointed out, corporate reputations are damaged not by bloggers, but by corporate missteps.

Dell’s problems arose from its failure to deliver on customer service promises, not from Jeff Jarvis’s blog. However, once the customer service problem became public, Dell committed a second error by failing to address in public the issues that Jeff Jarvis had raised. Dell later decided to engage by establishing Direct 2 Dell, it’s own blog channel to address the concerns head on.

United Airlines

When a country musician saw his guitar tossed by United air raft handlers and United refused to offer any reimbursement for his damaged instrument, he recorded a song and posted a video on YouTube which, to date, has garnered 11 million hits, and was picked up by major media outlets.

Netflix

Qwikster, an online streaming service intended to offer Netflix subscribers more convenience, instead forced the company’s nearly 12 million customers with streaming + DVD accounts to create two accounts at two different domain names with two different sets of ratings and preferences. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t take long for Neflix to kill the idea after massive complaints. But in the three months it did take for Netflix to respond, its stock price fell from around $300/share to around $70/share.

Here are those critical steps to heed to avoid crises like those above.


1. Don’t Pretend a Crisis Is Not Happening


As Gemma Craven, EVP from Ogilvy’s 360 Digital Influence team says, “It’s no longer the Golden Hour, but the Golden Minute. Lack of a well crafted, well meaning response could cost you.”

Similarly, Robert DeFillippo, chief communications officer from Prudential Financial explains, “It’s just as dangerous to over respond as it is to under respond.”


2. Don’t Make an Empty Gesture


Apologizing for apologizing only comes across as lazy and uninspired.


3. Don’t Refuse to Backtrack


Netflix refused to go back to its original price and its stock still sags below what it used to be.

Social media should be used as a tool for honest communication. Admit your mistake, and speak directly to your customers about how you’ll be going back to fix things.


4. Develop Channels of Communication


Utilize or establish a blog, Twitter and Facebook networks and a strong company intranet to reassure customers and employees. This allows you to convey messaging through email, video, or webchats. It’s very democratic in nature. It’s a need in a world that evolves at the speed of light.


5. Establish a Crisis Communications Response Team


Companies must drive the messaging and response. Use listening platforms, monitor sentiment, and establish a dedicated team to inform and advise internal and external stakeholders of issues and responses.


6. Become Influential and Change Perceptions


Become influential. We are the centerpieces of this new world. If you don’t write, take speaking engagements, talk to your audiences and connect, you become irrelevant. You simply disappear.

Use these channels to focus the conversation around your brand so that when a crisis does arise, you have more control over the perception.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, iPandastudio

Hitwise Pins Pinterest to Pinboard of Top Social Networking Sites

Heather Dougherty, the Director of Research at Experian Hitwise, has written about a “Pinteresting Trend in Social Media.” She says, “Pinterest, a site launched in March 2010 that describes itself as an online pinboard to organize and share things you love, recently emerged as one of the top 10 websites within the Hitwise Social Networking Forums category.”

The invitation only site received nearly 11 million total visits during the week ending Dec. 17, 2011, almost 40 times the number of total visits versus just six months ago (the week ending June 18, 2011).

Pinterest

Pinterest content has something for everyone, but the site is dominated by images featuring home décor, crafts, fashion, and food. Not surprisingly, 58 percent of the visitors to the site in the 12 rolling weeks ending Dec. 17 were female and 59 percent were between the ages of 25 and 44.

Both Pinterest and the entire Social Networking Forums category receive their highest share of visits from California and Texas. However, the Social Networking category as a whole over-indexes on share of visits from Northeastern states, while Pinterest over-indexes on visits from the states in the Northwest and Southeast. This data indicates that Pinterest visitors have a different profile versus their counterparts visiting other social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube.

In fact, nine of the top ten over-indexed states for Pinterest visitors also over-index for the Hobbies and Crafts category (versus the online population) which is expected given the abundance of content about crafts on the website.

When comparing the Mosaic USA 2011 types that visit both Pinterest.com and Hobbies and Crafts websites during the 12 weeks ending Dec. 17, 2011, the data shows that Boomers and Boomerangs are the group most likely to visit, particularly the Pinterest website (comprising over 10% of visits). This group of consumers is characterized as baby boomers and young adults who are heavy web users who spend time on house and garden, sports and fitness, and family-oriented websites. This information is useful to companies who wish to target their content to be “pinned” by Pinterest users.

Meanwhile, in another part of the planet, James Murray, the Marketing and Research Analyst for Experian Hitwise UK, reports, “MySpace – once the most visited social network in the UK – fell out of the top 10 Social Networks and Forums rankings for the first time this November to be replaced by ‘discovery engine’ Stumble Upon.”

Now, this trend isn’t surprising since MySpace traffic in the UK has been in decline for the last three years. But, along with the “Pinteresting Trend” in the US, these trends demonstrate that the social media space continues to evolve.

So, what does this mean to social media marketers?

You should continue to focus on Facebook and YouTube, which Experian Hitwise reports are two of the four most-visited websites in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.

And you will want to pay attention to Twitter, Yahoo! Answers, and LinkedIn, which Hitwise ranks behind Facebook and YouTube in its list of Top 10 Social Networking Sites in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.

But keep your eyes open for other social networking sites like Pinterest, which ranked #9, and Google+, which ranked #10, in the Social Networking Forums category in the U.S. during the week ending Dec. 17, 2011.

The horse race isn’t over yet. If fact, it’s just starting to get interesting.

Register now for SES London 2012, the Leading Search Social Marketing Event, taking place 20-24 February, 2012. SES Conference Expo features presentations and panel discussions that cover all aspects of search engine-related promotion. Hurry, early bird rate expires February 3!

Top 5 Trends for Search & Social Media Marketing in 2012

2012-crystal-ballThe past year saw many new developments in online marketing, including evolving organic and paid search landscapes, convergence of social media and search marketing, growth of mobile and local searches and a rapid rise in spending on social media marketing using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Online marketers have only begun to explore and respond to these new opportunities.

Based on insights from customers, analysts, and partners, here are five predictions for the evolving landscape in 2012.

Mainstream Organizations Adopt Marketing Automation Social CRM


Marketing automation has traditionally consisted of email and email nurturing. However, 2011 witnessed the expansion of social CRM, enabling another channel to reach and interact with customers and it has become one of the fastest growing segments within the CRM industry.

In the next year, social CRM will evolve from an early adopter strategy into a mainstream solution for organizations wanting to connect marketing operations from the top of the funnel, to online search, down through sales and customer management. Companies that learn how to adopt and implement these solutions will more effectively be able to reach and engage with their customers and have a clearer path to a positive sales and marketing ROI.

Social Media Becomes an Increasing Factor in Search Algorithms


Social media networks are growing. In 2011, Facebook’s social signals were integrated into Bing search and Google+ emerged with native integration into Google search. Companies also started using social media in earnest and began experimenting with ways to influence their rankings using these social factors.

In 2012, this trend will continue with social media becoming more of a key component of search engine algorithms. For companies looking to preserve or improve their rankings, social marketing activities will no longer be optional; they will be a necessary element of traffic driving success.

Customers and Employees Become an Extended Part of Companies’ Marketing Teams


As social networks are used ever more frequently for aggregating and sharing interests, expect opinions, both positive and negative, about products and services to spread with lightening speed. As a result, businesses customer relationships will become increasingly focused on creating and managing perceptions.

In 2010, companies began listening to customers wants and needs via social buzz. In 2011, they focused on responding to digital customer commentary. In 2012, companies will need to proactively scale their marketing efforts by creating and sharing information with employees and influential customer evangelists to help define their brands, products and services from the ground up.

Salesforce.com’s recent extension of their Chatter feature, allowing businesses to share information and files with their customers through a hosted network, is early evidence of this.

Mobile + Social Evolve Together to Create New User Scenarios 


Customer interactions and purchases, in specific marketplaces such as travel, shopping, and dining, will occur with increasing frequency on mobile devices.

A recent study found a third of all American adults utilize smartphones and that number is expected to rise in the coming year. Travel related click-through-rates are already higher on mobile devices than on PCs and location-based marketing fueled by companies like Foursquare will continue to soar.

Online purchasing is indisputably moving to mobile. Google estimated that 44 percent of last-minute online shopping searches would come from smartphones and tablets. This holiday, the majority of last minute shopping transactions were expected to take place on mobile devices.

Marketers now have the opportunity to zoom in on specific and unique user scenarios they may not have been able to address using pure traditional online marketing tactics.

Daily Deals Receive Prominence in Search Engine Result Pages

google-serp-pedicure

Today if you search for “pedicure” on Google, the search engine results includes images of pedicures, a list of pedicure retail establishments and a map as to where you can get pedicures. With all the deal clutter currently in existence, it’s not a far cry to envision Google helping the end user out by including a “pedicure daily deal” in their search results. If it isn’t already in the works for 2012 (take note Google), it should be.

How would Google decide on a first page search results deal? In keeping with their philosophy of providing a superior customer experience, Google would tweak their ever-evolving algorithm appropriately. In any case, one could easily imagine Google giving prominence to their deal offerings and/or to deals with the most social network buzz.

Summary

The successful marketers in 2012 will be those who are quick to embrace and implement integrated online, search and social marketing campaigns. As marketers experiment with multiple mediums, having an integrated solution which measures ROI across the various channels will become ever more essential.

Register now for SES London 2012, the Leading Search Social Marketing Event, taking place 20-24 February, 2012. SES Conference Expo features presentations and panel discussions that cover all aspects of search engine-related promotion. Hurry, early bird rate expires February 3!