Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Using High School Stereotypes to Compare FriendFeed to Twitter

Wednesday, 08. April 2009 by Anna Billstrom

Is FriendFeed the Coolest App No One Uses? I can’t argue- I’ve recruited countless people to Twitter but none so far to FriendFeed, despite crouching in a dark corner of a bar showing some friend the FriendFeed interface on my iPhone because “I can’t describe it”. A recent verbal roll call by Alex Scoble showed 300 over a 24 hour period. Even with double that number, if you take into account people who didn’t care to respond or don’t follow Alex, it’s still paltry compared to Twitter. OK, then dial Twitter back 2 years, and it still doesn’t compare well. Thing is, why are we comparing FriendFeed to Twitter? If you read Arrington’s article and read the quotes by Paul Bucheit- a FriendFeed founder- he tends to also wonder why the services are being considered competitors. In fact, the “raw feed” of Twitter to FriendFeed (in Bret Taylor’s words- another founder)* points more towards Twitter as a feeder to the application than a competitor.

Twitter does not pretend to be a feed aggregator, FriendFeed is one. It’s easy to describe Twitter- You write a message of 140 character word length. I would say FriendFeed’s description is: read your friend’s feeds and comment on them.

OK let me try again: I send my Last.FM, Flickr, Twitter, GoodReads, and Google Reader feeds to FriendFeed. All of my buddies can see what I’m listening to, reading, microblogging, and photographing. Vice-versa. It usually ends up with my obsession with MC Hammer and my friends teasing me about other bad old Hip Hop.

OK, maybe it’s best shown than described:
During the elections I was far more informed than most people I knew, because I’d get Digg-style “top of the heap” articles read via FF instantaneously. Our live-feed room on the elections was bar none the best to hear insights, fact-check, and ridicule the speakers.

Last note: people compare FriendFeed (FF) to Twitter mostly, I suspect, because there’s just nothing like FF out there, and Twitter is the closest, but it’s not a competitor. Twitter’s more like the hot high school football player that occasionally notices you at dances, but is slowly blowing out his knees and doesn’t study, and FriendFeed is the funny, charming computer geek that carries your books for you and opens doors. A little harder to get to know, but a lot more value.

* talked to Bret Taylor after a MySql meeting regarding the database structure which is totally fascinating in its own right: “How FriendFeed Uses MySql to Store Schema-less Data”.

Basic Twitter: Who Are You?

Monday, 06. April 2009 by Anna Billstrom

First, check out this profile and see if you can tell what’s amiss:

The biggest thing was: I don’t know what the acronym stands for. The profile should basically tell who you are, to all kinds of people, non-political folks, folks out of your niche, folks that are un-techy. Don’t rely on them to click on the URL, that’s there for follow-up info, but basic “who are you” info has to be in that profile.

Some other profiles that have a nice ratio of followers/followed and basic 411 right on the profile page:

Robert Scoble follows a lot of people, and engages with most of his followers.

Janet just twittered me (ha) that she “…thinks it’s worth it to add a link to an about me in the bio too. I use VisualCV now ‘stead o my websites.” I’ll definitely check that out.

What I like about these- full name, clearly says what they do, and they have nice “ratios”- that is, followers/followees. It’s a conversation for them, not a bullhorn.

Obvious spam example:

Zero followers, no posts, and no description. Easy.

For the sake of showing a full spectrum- here are oft-followed, rarely-follower profiles:

vb_twitter sean_twitter1

I end up being very wary of folks who are either followed, or subscribed, to more than 500 people. Why? Because I know how much work that is, even with Twitter tools. Users have different aproaches to the use of the tool, and if it’s a very lopsided ratio, they either use it as an inside-joke chat application, or a bullhorn. If it’s a more balanced ratio, it tends to be a threaded live discussion, which is what I prefer, and what I think is the best use of Twitter.

BTW, feel free to criticize mine at will!

Tea party, or note card? Social Marketing & Email Newsletters

Tuesday, 17. March 2009 by Anna Billstrom

A colleague of mine recently was very excited because they were going to get a lot more hits on their blog. They were promoting it in an email newsletter. They had actually gotten the marketing department to agree to the first paragraph of the email and the subject line, for an advertisement of the blog. This was their third announcement of the blog, to lukewarm results. Initially a hundred or so hits on the blog (from 100K or so email list). And very few stuck around.

The problem, I see, is that beyond the initial announcement, and frequent mention saying “check out our blog,” there is no reason to have a goal of moving an email list to a blog reader list, or seeming to communicate that to your readers.

For example, your sister likes you to call her when you have news, your aunt likes a nice note card, while your grandmother would be perfectly happy if you saved it up for the monthly tea party. It’s the same news- that you’re imparting- but they all want to know in different ways. If you want the best results, you’ll cater to their preferences. The blog is just one way of communicating. It’s more like the tea party (than the notecard, or the phone call) to carry this metaphor out.

So, why are people not really sticking around on the blog, from the email list? Assume the blog is fine- the main problem I see, is that those people really like emails, not blogs. They’re getting invited to tea parties, when they’d rather just get a notecard in the mail.

What you want to do is get NEW people to the tea party that are ALREADY into tea parties. Viral, social marketing – what I call “community work” – attracts those who are already into that method of communication. What you need to do is read other blogs, bring content to the attention of other readers (already into blogs), and promote on communities, thread discussions, social networks, etc., the cool content of this company. It’s a lot harder work than simply sending a note to your email list, over and over again, that there’s a blog. But the potential payoff is huge- a segment of new, interested prospects.

I see this on a larger scale- new technologies coming out, like Twitter- and marketing groups thinking they have to change or educate their existing mailing list. Mostly, because they had to train themselves. So, assume there is already a large segment of potential users who already understand this medium. Don’t take my word on it, check: and search for your brand.

Blogs can be simply another marketing channel, and the effort shouldn’t be to convert people to social media, but to find new customer segments, using social media.

Social Marketing Campaigns: Lessons Learned

Tuesday, 24. February 2009 by Anna Billstrom

Dumplings on Gu Lou Da Jie, Beijing

Warm dumplings in a doorway. You pick up some, in a clear bag, and then everyone knows you have dumplings. They can smell them, see you carrying them, and the idea is born. Maybe they want some? The brilliant village-style social marketing campaign.

More and more companies are hoping to jump on the bandwagon of social marketing- Twitter, Facebook, viral marketing and blogging. I’ve been involved, as a writer and marketer, in some good campaigns and some not-so-good campaigns. And, here I will share… some of my frustrations bundled up as “lessons.”

Be highly suspicious of PR companies
An important tenet of social marketing is to be transparent and honest. PR companies are having a difficult time transitioning from a stealth role of being the masterminds behind customer communication to an honest conversation with super fans and evangelists. The extra layer, between a company and its customers (or potential customers) also doesn’t help. So many times some PR flack is having a hard time communicating to me the essentials of the campaign- why would people want to buy/talk/blog/twitter about this campaign? Mostly because, either they’re juggling 10 campaigns and they all seem the same, or they don’t really understand the blogger’s perspective.

Hire Fans, Not Writers
Writers write well, it’s true, and many fans suck at writing. But that doesn’t mean that a writer can copy the heart and soul of the fan’s perspective. As someone who has faked it, believe me it’s obvious to another true fan. Sure, writing is hard for some people, akin to doing taxes, but more and more, with the advent of microblogging and camera phones, concise, on the spot eyewitness reports are having a lot more sway than the carefully crafted PR message. This goes into the honesty and transparency aspects of social marketing. Take everyone’s favorite whipping boy Motrin Moms. If they had given that cartoon character a real personality, a real woman who has a newborn, a thousand missiles woudln’t have been launched against her insecurities. People can smell a rat.

Probably the worst side effect of hiring an agency: the timing is all off. Things to happen *all at once.* Zappos’ CEO doesn’t email a PR person to check his twitter before he posts it. The old days of publishing schedules and editors are gone. Sure, editors are great, but they need to either setup writing style guides that can free the writer for quick posting, or be online and ready to post the article 24×7. One client flubbed the viral aspect of the campaign because everything needed to be submitted a month in advance. But they still wanted Twitter/Friendfeed/etc. coverage as if it was happening at that moment (a month in the future). See: honesty, transparency. There are ways of keeping editors in the loop and not letting writers go completely renegade, but you’re really losing the momentum if you leave it up to 9-5 work schedules or editorial calendars.

Voice and PR Speak
I recently received an email from a PR person with my “welcome message.” Just the fact that it was 800 words, and a Twitter feed is 125 (some-odd) characters… was my first tip-off that they were out of their league. Also, the wording of a press release is an interesting beast. It does not compute to blogging nor any other kind of microblog format. I chuckle at some PR companies’ methods of writing hooks, too. Oh, that’s fascinating that this person moved on to another company. So back to #1, be very wary of PR companies.

Lastly, Compensation
Either pay them like a real writing job, by the word, or don’t pay them. You need to hire fans, and fans really want the access to you, as the company. Don’t make it so valuable that you’re going to lure non-fans. Make sure that the compensation matches the interests or specialties that you want. If you’re a food magazine, offer some access to foodiness. This is where you have to be wary of PR companies, because they will have a roster of writers they want to use, and you have to say no, you want fans. Not people who could be fans with the right motivation.

Handy Social Media Tools

Tuesday, 17. February 2009 by Anna Billstrom

At sushi with two email marketers last week, I found myself answering the question “How do you follow 500 people?” and realizing it’d be a good blog post!

Tweetdeck. It’s one of the Twitter add-on tools, clients, that helps you organize your feeds. So I separate a few high frequency twitterers (@jowyang, @mashable, @MackCollier, @karllong) into that pane. Then, I create a group of people I know face-to-face, and then I have a group of email marketers- folks I’ve met at conferences, blogs I read, etc. in the world of online and especially email marketing- and then there’s the freeforall category.
- Other people use Twhirl, too.

FriendFeed. It’s a feed aggregator, one of an ilk that’s getting more and more popular. You can create groups, like Tweetdeck, and follow those, or simply watch the main flow of your friends. It’s hard to explain- in written terms- but I’ll give it a try. You can have as many feeds go into your “stream” as you want. I have Flickr, Twitter, Disqus, etc. I also follow a bunch of people, adn see their streems. OK so my main stream consists of 400 or so people and their feeds. There is an algorithm that determines the top of the dogpile on my main stream. So highly commented, popular, or recent feed items will pop up there first. What makes it different than Facebook’s “status” page is: I also see friends of friends. If their content is deemed worthy enough by the all mighty algorithm, their stuff will pop into my feed, making my social circle (potentially) a little wider.

But remember, it’s not a numbers game! As an editor told me last week, quality > quantity.

Women & Geekiness- Girl Geek Dinner #3

Friday, 30. January 2009 by Anna Billstrom

Attended the Girl Geek Dinner last night, put on by Very cool.

Girl geek dinner

It was packed, sold out, and I arrived early so I got a very full schwag bag, but had to leave early because of… jet lag. 8 PM and it felt like 3 AM.

Apple employees were there in full flying colors, filling the room with a great creative optimism!

Sat next to a Google/YouTube employee and we had a bunch of energetic discussions about cloud computing, copyright issues, the future of broadcast TV, and various social networks.

Another woman at our table is forming a marketing group for a retail company, and besides setting up their CRM system, I was curious as to her plans with social marketing. “We’re going to try traditional avenues first.” I thought that was savvy, and yet we started discussing various retail strategies I’d heard of and/or participated in.

Lots of job shifting and refocusing, but not at all as depressing as NPR or the news media would have you believe. Another woman at our table was recently laid off, but she cheerfully described herself as “an MBA student,” as she was taking night classes at UC Davis and could now focus all her time on it.

On my other side was a young woman writing system control apps at Sun. We compared notes on freezing server rooms and being “the only woman in my group.” I helped her out with some cool Silicon Valley networking groups where she could meet like-minded folks. Sadly I had to leave during the pitches, but it was a classic Silicon Valley networking meeting- a kind of freed up energy of geekiness and social comraderie.

Miscellaneous News Items- 12/10

Wednesday, 10. December 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Catch-up of other news that I didn’t write about while EmailInsiderSummit was going on:

Steve Isaacs at Deep Focus is handling the Flight of the Conchords Lip Dub Contest- the idea is to lipsync/dub the FotC song on their site. I heard of it yesterday, but what brought me to Youtube was watching the College Humor guys singing Hip-hop-opotomus (rap song).

RapLeaf has a Facebook plugin, and “social media screening” (free screening. RapLeaf is the tool that tells you where your users are, provided you give them emails, which I’m always a little squidgy about.

The “give a drink” app on Facebook has a real-world aspect now. Yep: Give real. You can buy someone a drink, they go to a bar and use a credit card, and it’s debited on there (or something, if I have it right- have not tested.)

Acteva, an event ticketing company, has a plug-in for Facebook too! (hence this post, as I kept reading the same email over and over again, “we have a plugin for FB…”). So you create your event in there, and then click “publish to FaceBook” and all of the event info, etc. are put there. Nice, as I know some non-profits that use Acteva.

I got a notice about the “wovel”- Firstworld, a choose-your-adventure style online novel by fellow alum Jemiah Jefferson.

Friend and fellow email marketing blogger Tamara Gielen is moving on to her own consultancy (from Ogilvy), check her out at BeRelevant!. Her blog was one of the first ones I read when getting my feet wet in the world of online marketing discussions, and her comprehension and analysis of current trends and methods is unmatched, in my opinion.

Bill McCloskey is demo’ing a new service and needs beta testers- more about it on Tamara’s site: Want to Beta Test a New Email Alert?

The Social Semantic Web Session

Wednesday, 10. December 2008 by Anna Billstrom

MailChimp at Email Insider Summit I enjoyed the content of Chris Marriot’s (of Axciom) Social Semantic Web. It was a nice demonstration of an area that we are slowly learning about, and I don’t think it’s presumptuous to say it will be the future of email, and the user’s experience online.

He introduced to us Google’s Social Graph API, the Linking Open Data Project by W3C, and Freebase.

OK, yes, those are a lot of random names that may be coming to you from nowhere. Suffice to say they’re worth a link, and if I tried to summarize what they did I’d be here all day, except to say that they are various systems of open data accessible by APIs and other methods.

The insight into email is that it will make deeper and more comprehensive content, quickly personalized, from a seemingly infinite array of types of interest data, making it a far richer experience for the recipient.

Questions after the session revolved around personal information, and whether the data would be somehow “owned” or copy writ by any individual or organization. Dylan Boyd of eROI mentioned that OpenID was already a way of users managing their own personal information across data resources.

Social Marketing Session: Embracing Your Fans

Tuesday, 09. December 2008 by Anna Billstrom

MailChimp at Email Insider Summit I was really looking forward to the social marketing session, moderated by Loren McDonald of Silverpop and on it: Brian Whalley of Our Stage, Karla Venell of General Mills, and Jay Stevens of MySpace.

Loren made a funny analogy- that marijuana,cocaine, heroin is to LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter. Some of us twittering in the session were a little caught off guard.

Great comment by Jay of MySpace regarding email: “I laugh at people who think email is killing social media, social media needs email now more than ever.

Some practical advice to email marketers- adding chiclets to the bottom of emails to share out the content. Also, you’d think, and what I wrote in MarketingProfs, is to add other methods to subscribe to this kind of content- RSS feeds, mainly.

Great examples of user-generated content, and emails, from Brian of OurStage. In all the social marketing was very focused on email and avenues that existing marketers are using to leverage social marketing. Having said that, I felt that the General Mills examples were pretty mild and confined. They could have done a lot more with their content, which was hinted at a few times by fan pages: the Lucky Charms, “Keep Lucky Charms Alive”:

Facebook | Search: lucky charms.

10,000 members have joined the group to “save Lucky Charms.” That nostalgia and content is so key, and could be leveraged and embraced by corporate General Mills. When they talked about control, and even Karla of General Mills brought up the issue of “What do we do with people using our brand,” it ended up being: embrace it, reward, include, and incorporate those fans that are ambassadors for your brand. Jay of MySpace made the point that it’s not enough to notice who are the mavens and trendsetters for aspects of your brand, but to include them.

Oh No the Sky is Falling, or, the Demise of Email… to Search?

Tuesday, 02. December 2008 by Anna Billstrom

Interesting thread on FaceBook between a few folks, namely Sarah Brown of Guru of New & my social marketing talk partner, Janet Fouts of TatuDigital. The launch of the thread was a report on eMarketer generally showing a lack of responses over email and an uptick in paid search, which these gals likened to social marketing’s final glory day as the top marketing channel.

“Consumers Opening Fewer E-Mails…Fewer consumers worldwide are opening marketing e-mails, according to a November 2008 study by MailerMailer.”

“Online retailers worldwide surveyed in July and August 2008 by E-Consultancy and R.O.EYE said that e-mail was second only to paid search when it came to driving high volume. “

Paid search! Ow, that’s gotta hurt. (smile to all of my SEO pals). A couple of things about this report:

1. Image suppression is the elephant in the middle of the room. It dramatically affects metrics, and namely, open rates. With more and more people using webmail email accounts, this increases, and the effects increase. I know I’m a broken record on this, but until analysts figure out a new method of measurement, I’m going to suspect any report on open rates.

2 This study was done prior to the holiday season. The recent onset of holiday surge emailing has nothing to do with it.

3. But the main gist, for me, is not that consumers aren’t opening emails (if that is indeed what is happening, which we can’t tell for sure because of my point #1), but that retailers are sending to them. Retailers are still not filtering out inactive subscribers. And, that’s going to come back and bite them, not just by diminished returns and low ROI, but by missing the boat completely on lifecycle emails. Retailers are using a perfectly good medium- email- and using it to have a boring conversation. “Wanna buy this? Wanna buy this? Wanna buy this? Wanna buy this?” You see my point.

Folks on our thread were talking about how they “don’t open emails” anymore, and how useless newsletters are, for their own PR. To me it’s not the demise of email, but the profusion of poor marketing- retail treating email as a cheap 4-color printing shop- instead of what many companies are doing, which is sophisticated, tailored email messages to individuals, not mass bulk mailings. When I say “tailored,” I’m not biasing this to mom & pop’s versus corporations. The size of the company has very little to do with how they address communicating to their customer, I’ve found. An example of lifecycle emails: what to send your subscriber when they haven’t opened an email in ages. Don’t keep sending them an email every week (or day!), but in a few months, send them a “do you still want to be subscribed?” email. Examples, here.

As for trends in marketing channels- I’ve seen slide after slide showing social marketing trending upwards at astronomical rates. I haven’t quite seen the ROI meet email’s- and in a broader vertical than online retail. That, I think, remains to be seen as social marketing matures.

My sources: the presentation by a Julie Katz of Forrester last year at a StrongMail seminar. Also, MarketingSherpa analysts on the future of email, from their presentation at the Summit last February. I can’t reproduce here as they were all-rights, etc.

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