Category: Featured

NewComm Forum: Trends, tips and thoughts about evolving social web communications

Before tactics, you need strategy. Before strategy, you need research. The analysis of your research will ultimately open doors to new ideas, opportunities and directions. Only then will you have insight.

“Research without insight is just trivia.” – Katie Delahaye Paine

Put simply, the 2009 NewComm Forum was a hotbed of insight dispensed and discussed by the new media communications elite. As appropriate for a research firm-sponsored event, the presentations and discussions were littered with heaps of advice and best practices.

ShelHoltz_NewCommForum09 Held in San Francisco, from April 26-29, the Forum catered to about 400 professionals from the communications, media and marketing industries. I honestly had difficulty choosing between the sessions – which were highly relevant and practical, as well as forward thinking. From the “New Business Models for News Organizations” roundtable discussion with Tom Foremski and Andria Carter to the “Social Media and Crisis Communications Revisited” keynote with Shel Holtz, the conference was pure bounty.

Beyond the lack of power strips for laptops, my only disappointment was that I could not attend all of the presentations, which were delivered in a break-out session format. Fortunately though, after the conference, many of the presentations were made available here for download.

The value of this conference is in its DNA as a product of the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR). If you work in communications, marketing and/or media and you’re not familiar with SNCR, you should be. According to the SNCR website, the organization is “a global nonprofit research and education foundation and think tank focused on the advanced study of the latest developments in new media and communications, and their effect on traditional media and business models, communications, culture and society.”

Include this conference in your budget for 2010. Now.

NOTE – Stay tuned for highlights from “The New Organization Landscape for Marketing Communications” a presentation (not available for download on the SNCR website) by Brian Solis. I will also create a separate post regarding the “Trends in Journalism” session.

Nine strategies for protecting your subscription revenue stream

ProprietaryRevenue1 Is your subscription revenue threatened by the current economic climate?

Whether your organization is b2b or b2c or non-profit, whether you’re a local business or global enterprise…and whether subscriptions and memberships are your business model or your gravy – now is the time to start protecting this precious revenue stream.

Here are nine strategies to get you on the path toward preservation – and, yes, possibly growth:

1.     Get creative with the packaging of your benefits and services

  • Figure out what benefits and services are being used the most and which ones are not. What benefits and services are not being offered that would be logistically and economically feasible to add?
    • Ask your existing customers using a quick online survey
    • Study your usage data, trends, and patterns
  • Pare down your packages so they include only the most popular and/or practical benefits and services and change pricing accordingly.  
  • For your big customers who want the existing entire enchilada: Spice the package with a few extra features and benefits (again, base this on data/feedback) and increase your price for the “premium” package by 15-20% minimum
  • Consider subscription packages for “niche” audiences – for Package1 example:
    • Verticals
    • Channels
    • Technologists
    • Millennials
    • Students / Seniors
    • Government / Non-profits

2.     Consider changes to your Terms of Service and/or Length of Contract (this can be extended or reduced based on your strategy and market)

3.     Offer an E-membership or E-subscription package at a greatly reduced rate

4.     Collaborate on a joint subscription/membership with another business or organization that may offer relevant, complementary services/offerings.

5.     Consider creating an online community as the heart of your subscription-based business model. Although it will require manpower to manage it, the technology is established and it’s free. Best of all, the community will be considered a valuable benefit in your subscription package.

6.     Promotions, Deals, Incentives, Limited Time Offers – Make them count. Don’t bother with 10 or 15 or even 20% off. Those offers will not move the needle in this economic climate. Try 20-25% off to start, buy-one-get one free, two-for-one, multiple seats, all-inclusive, 1 or 2 extra months added at the end of the contract, whatever…just make it compelling.

7.     Referral programs – It’s no mistake that this is lucky #7 on the list. The power and potential of this program alone – using the social web – is staggering (yes, even in this economy). To expound on this strategy would require a separate blog post.

8.     Testimonials – I know this sounds elementary; but when is the last time you updated your customer testimonials? Are they relevant to each of your target markets? How prominent are your testimonials? How ubiquitous are your testimonials and references (yes, this ties in to #7 too)?

9.     Make it as simple and seamless to renew as possible. Most important: Make it easy for your customers to give you money.

Note: If packaging creativity and flexibility are constrained by technology, it’s time to revisit your IT investments. Seriously. The collaboration and content management solutions out there today will astound you AND save you money and heartache in the near and long term.

Twitter DON’Ts: The Dirty Dozen

nodont1Dear fellow Tweeters: Here’s a list of Twitter Don’ts. If you find you can’t help yourself, or if you actually prefer to keep these on your Do list, please at least do your followers a favor by adhering to “moderation in all things.”

Yes, I know the ego is tough to keep in check; so just consider this a helpful “check” list:

1. Don’t use Twitter as a replacement for Google
“Does anyone know what time Lost starts?”

2. Don’t constantly ask people to digg, stumble and vote
“Please, I hardly ever ask…can you digg this article?”

3. Don’t feel compelled to report on the number of followers you have (yes, we know where to find the number if we are curious)
“In honor, of my 1700th follower, I am going to kiss my Chia Pet.”

4. Don’t abuse the requests to retweet (unless it’s an emergency like an Amber Alert)
8 am: “Please retweet…” 11 am: “Please retweet…”  1 pm: “Please retweet…”

5. Don’t take an Unfollow personally and don’t report on your Unfollows
Why do you think anyone cares?

6. Don’t threaten to Unfollow your followers if they don’t start answering your questions and engaging with you as often as you want
Now that’s what I call “social.”

7. Don’t just follow people who share your exact interests and beliefs. Mix it up a bit. Follow people you disagree with
You may learn something new or gain a new perspective (or, at a minimum, become tolerant – now THAT’S what I call “social!”)

8. Don’t report your Twitter rankings
Again, who cares? Actually, some people might (like people who aren’t on Twitter – heh)…I don’t.

9. Don’t abuse Twitter as a primary tool to promote your events and products
As a marketer, I can tell when this happens. For those with a following, it is called “lazy marketing.” For those without a following, it’s called “stupid marketing.”

10. Don’t announce who you’re unfollowing
One more time: Who cares?

11. Don’t tweet your rules for following and unfollowing (if you must have these rules, maybe you can put a link to them in your bio?)
This takes away from the spontaneity and beauty of that whole “social” thing.

12. Don’t announce your Twitter Update milestones
“For my 10,000th update on Twitter, I wanted to hang a Disco Ball – but this is actually the 10,000th update. Does it still count? Maybe I’ll do something for the 11,000th update then.”

Anyone care to make this list a “baker’s dozen?” What are your thoughts?

UPDATES for 9 March 2009: 

Photo Credit: FranUlloa (via everystockphoto.com)

LinkedIn’s soon-to-be-missed opportunity

Last month, over half a million jobs were lost in the USA alone. In the upcoming months, the number is expected to increase — globally.

ppl_networking1With hordes of people looking for work and networking opportunities, why is LinkedIn creating upgrades and improvements for its business clients and recruiters?

I understand that LinkedIn needs to make money…just like we all do. But doesn’t the carrot (in this case, the users – the folks who are in, about to enter or out of the job market) have to come before the donkey (businesses seeking consumer feedback and recruiters seeking talent)?

And wouldn’t a massive influx of new users – rushing to network and connect – create a carrot of epic proportions? Imagine doubling or tripling the size of LinkedIn’s user base. How appealing would that be for LinkedIn’s premium users, recruiter clients, and advertisers? The market research value *alone* is mind boggling.

LinkedIn has had plenty of time to prepare for this opportunity. It’s not as if we just started to get clued in about the unemployment numbers, which have been on a steady increase since the beginning of the year. And not just here in the USA either.

I know recently laid-off people who’ve gone to LinkedIn – either as new users or existing users looking to change their status. And it was a challenge. It’s a challenge because the system is not designed for the unemployed. It’s not designed for the self-employed either. It’s not designed for students or those who recently graduated. And it is definitely not designed for mothers who make side money working on the Internet from home. I could go on.

FOR EXAMPLE: Yesterday, I went over to LinkedIn to update my profile. Soon I was “wrestling” with the application to try to get it to do what I wanted and needed. I am a sole proprietor. I am my company. My company is me. I do not have a company name. Yet I had to supply a company name in order to continue updating my profile.

linkedinscreen2

So who is LinkedIn really designed for?

Is it for young adults?  Or veteran professionals (as described in the 4 Types of LinkedIn Users)? If yes, then why aren’t there more options for posting references and recommendations? Users should be able to include references / recommendations / kudos from past colleagues, employers, letters, emails, graduate school applications, etc. Even with an enhanced search function, sometimes it is still not easy to locate a reference from 20 years ago – who may or may not be alive today and able to join LinkedIn.

Another example: LinkedIn’s mandatory choices for “How Do You Know So and So?” are narrow and limiting (e.g. Why can’t we have an option for “Other” under Groups and Associations?) as well. The choices do not fully represent real-life situations.

So, to the folks who are designing and “improving” LinkedIn…

  • Who is your primary community?
  • What does your primary community need?
  • What circumstances might lead the members of your primary community to either sign up for the first time or update their profile?
  • How does your primary community use LinkedIn?
  • Have you asked your primary community members what they want from LinkedIn?

Like anything, the ability to grow depends first on the ability to survive. So, basic needs must be met before indulgent wants. If I don’t fit into LinkedIn’s advertising demographics and LinkedIn doesn’t fulfill my basic needs (to update a profile or change geographic location), does that mean I should look elsewhere for a different business networking platform?

I’ve been a member of LinkedIn for about three years. I’ve always considered it to be a valuable resource. But lately, it feels like LinkedIn and I are starting to grow apart. This was most recently validated when I tried to contact Customer Service “as a user” a number of times with no response. Shortly thereafter I gave LinkedIn another ping “as a business upgrade prospect” and received an immediate reply. So maybe LinkedIn is going through some growing pains of its own. Maybe it’s time for LinkedIn to further refine and hone its business focus so that it matches its own projection of the ideal advertising demographic profile.

In the world of Web 2.0, there’s no such thing as a “lock” on the market or a “defacto standard” product. If LinkedIn won’t meet the needs of the people in this rapidly growing segment – the unemployed – they will go elsewhere. Or more likely – create their own version of LinkedIn.

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15 steps to developing blogger relations (with a capital “R”)

Blogger relations and traditional media relations are not entirely uncommon. Of the following steps, which ones may also be applied to traditional media relations? And what other blogger-relations steps or tips would you add to this list?

  1. RESEARCH and identify the blogs relating to your space
  2. READ, read, and re-read those target blogs
  3. RETRAIN yourself to listen more and talk (broadcast) less
  4. RESPOND with thoughtful comments posted to target blogs
  5. RELATIONSHIP is key, so start to develop one with the blogger before you pitch
  6. RECIPROCITY in the relationship matters. So let the blogger get to know you as a person (and you should have some sort of online presence, too)
  7. RELEVANCE is highly relevant. Your pitch content must match interest of the blogger and his/her community
  8. REALLY SHORT pitches. Brevity counts! A three-liner is great. Shoot for the ultimate goal: 140 characters or less. Teaser pitches are OK.
  9. REVIEW target blogs for Pitch policy icon or Pitch policy; if no icon or policy, then ask (a great way to introduce yourself)
  10. RELEASES need to be social, as in template and tone
  11. RESPECT bloggers – as most don’t get paid; so in reality, their time is even more precious
  12. ROLE REVERSAL. It’s not about you or your company. Put yourself in the blogger’s shoes. What’s in it for the blogger?
  13. REALIZE that – like PR – Social Media (e.g., blogging) is based more on the Social Sciences, not technology
  14. RESOURCE. Be one for the blogger and blogger’s community; bring value (even if it means connecting blogger to another PR person) to the community and conversation. Be helpful and human.
  15. REAL. Be transparent and authentic. No B.S.

Thanks to the following folks for inspiration:

Renee Blodgett
Jennifer Van Grove
Brian Solis
Todd Defren

And last but not least…
Toby Bloomberg
In particular, I am especially grateful for Toby Bloomberg’s leadership in developing and sharing this most excellent series about blogger relations.

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