Defending and Defining The Blog Culture


Blogs / social media are the only marketing/business strategies, that I know, that have their roots in a culture.  Therein lies the rub!*

Advertising, PR, marketing research even email and search engine optimization were developed from a need to support the ultimate business goal - the sale. Not so blogs. Blogs began as an innocent way to communicate online for a group of people who wanted to share ideas and information. 

I'll be the first to admit that it is the marketers who are morphing the purpose of blog into something quite different .. a persuasive marketing tool. However, most marketers, who are working in this emerging industry, realize that the value of blogs / social media is their ability to support and encourage open conversations. Most marketers are careful, if not passionate, about respecting the culture of blogs.
Sidebar: I know I'm over simplifying.

What is interesting, awesome, amazing and quite fascinating to me is the culture of blogs remains strong. It is said that the blogosphere self corrects. Sometimes it seems that there areKnight_1 knights in shining armor standing guard to protect the essence of blogs: Honestly. Transparency. Authenticity. Passion.

When you think about it .. in a world where relationships are developed virtually - Honestly. Transparency. Authenticity are critical. Building and maintaining trust is the cornerstone of developing an online community. No wonder bloggers are fast to draw their virtual swords when they find a blog that they consider is dishonest.

This week the trumpets were blown and bloggers rallied to defend the culture of the blogoshere.

From Newsweek: On Sept. 27, 2006, a folksy blog called Wal-Marting Across America was born. It features the journey of Laura and Jim, a couple on their maiden trip in an RV (recreational vehicle), capturing lives and stories as they journey from Las Vegas to Georgia, and park for free at Wal-Mart Stores (WMT ) parking lots. Laura's first blog post features a black-and-white photograph and humbly says: "We are not bloggers, but since our lives have always been more journey than destination we are explorers at heart…. We figured we'd give it a go."

What sounded like a brilliant social media strategy was discovered to be a hoax. The bloggers were hired by Wal-Mart. So what you may ask. The blog nor the bloggers never disclosed that fact. So what you may ask. Therein lies the rub!*

Laura and Jim may have been passionate about this project. The stories that Laura told may have been authentic. However, the lack of honesty and transparency - two important aspects of the culture of blogs were ignored. How can we really trust and believe in these people? In their stories? In Wal-Mart? 

Sidebar: Apparently no one trained Laura in the culture of blogs. Or clued her into the fact that blogs are more than "diaries" but the building blocks of an extended real online social community.

I’ve met too many people — real people, not imaginary Internet people — who’ve told me about all the good Wal-Mart has done.  Final Word post by Laura

However, who was really asleep at the virtual wheel? Was it Jim or Laura? Was it Wal-Mart? Or was it their PR/social media advisors' at Edelman, the PR firm that put the strategy into play?

Looks to me as though this is strike two for Edelman, on the Wart-Mart account, in terms of social media consulting. You may recall in March Edelman got called on to the blogopshere carpet for not being transparent in a bloggers' relations strategy. I don't get it.

I really like Richard Edelman and the work he does on his blog. He even kindly wrote a Blogger Story. And once sent me a thank you email for a comment I posted on his blog. Richard Edelman gets it.

But Richard, there seems to be a disconnect among your staff, who are consulting with clients on social media strategies, and the work you are publishing. How can your company, positioned as a leader in the social media industry, not understand or respect the values of this culture? Perhaps more of your people should be reading your blog and in particular this recent post One Step Into The Blogopshere which addresses the importance of trust.

The smart company will listen first, then speak, and listen again. It will speak from inside out, informing its employees, its consumers and yes, even its critics from non-governmental organizations before it speaks to investors, regulators and elite media. It recognizes the simple truth that in a world lacking trust in established institutions such as business, government and media, the most trusted source for information is a person like you.

The archives from the Wal-Marting Across America blog were pulled. With that went the stories that Laura wrote and the photos that Jim shot. Why would Wal-Mart do that if they believed the content was valuable and their strategy sound? 

In the last post by Laura she takes responsibility for not disclosing her relationship with Wal-Mart. Seems to me that Wal-Mart has made Laura the fall-woman. It was Wal-Mart's responsibility to set guidelines for their bloggers and ensure that full disclosure was posted on the blog.

I think Wal-Mart owes Laura and Jim an apology. I think the blogosphere owes Laura and Jim an apology too. Although Laura may be a talented writer, as I tell clients and people I speak to about blogging, blogs are unlike any other type of communications. The writing style and nuances are different. The Blogosphere is like playing jazz. You have to know the notes before you can create or change the music.

Sidebar: Therein lies the rub!* Interesting that this popular quote is a misquote from Shakespeare's famous "To Be Or Not To Be" speech in Hamlet.

To be, or not to be? that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune;

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

However, unlike Hamlet who is searching for complex answers about the existence of life and what death holds, answers to corporations' questions of how to develop a blog strategy begin with a much simpler response. A blog (character, corporate, topic, business or personal) must  revert to the preestablished values of blogging: Honestly. Transparency. Authenticity. Passion

And yes, dear divas and divos - ay, there's the rub! 

Talkin' Talkin' Talkin' Blogs!


A Pink_boa_16toss of a pink boa to divo Wayne Hurlbert for the opportunity to talk blogs with him on his new internet radio show Blog Business Success.  Wayne is a kind and gracious talk show host - as you might expect from reading his blog Blog Business World.

We talked blogs 101 and I must admit I was a bit choppy at the start. When we went 'off questions' and began to have a real conversation the show picked up more energy and more 'fun.'  LIttle Max even found his way into our discussion. Other topics included:

  • How blogs can enhance your company's marketing efforts
  • How blogs develop and nurture relationships with current and future customers
  • How blogs can add a new dimension to your public relations program
  • How blogs will help your website rise in the search engine rankings
  • How blogs create corner grocery store relationships

Blog Business Success is on Wednesday Thursday nights 8p EST. Add it to your Palm, Berry or retro calendar.

Communications Strategy For A Social Media World


Healthcare_vox Fard Johnmar, Healtcare Vox, pulls no punches in his new Free eBook, Envision Solutions E-book: From Command & Control To Engage & Encourage: A New Healthcare Communications Strategy For A Social Media World. He kicks off his theories with a powerful statement.

The healthcare industry will have no choice but to engage and develop social media if it is interested in helping people find accurate and helpful information online.

Although there has been some dabbling into blogs, podcast and vlogs the healthcare industry, as a whole, as been reluctant to take the big leap into social media. Fard explains that part of the hesitation is a reflection a culture of tightly control of information.

In industries such as pharmaceutical and biotech and hospitals which are all heavily regulated it is understandable that offering an open commincation forum may appear like a walk on the wild side. However, healthcare  providers that have entered into this world understand that providing an open dialogue is critical in educating consumers of healthcare.

From Command & Control To Engage & Encourage examines two models of communication strategy. The traditional Command and Control where information is carefully crafted and messages are spoon fed to the media and other stakeholders in a more or less 'pure' form. Although this model may appear to increase the odds that what is communicated = what people actually hear, in the social media world, it no longer works. Consumers of healthcare are online searching, talking and exchanging opinions about healthcare products and services.

I agree with Fard'd position that it is fool hearty for healthcare organizations to bury their heads in the sands of denial. As in other industries, ranging from technology to packaged goods to services, no company controls their messaging or the brand experience. The internet changed the rules of the game. Dr_kildareWe're not in Dr. Kildare's world of the 1960's! The sooner healthcare providers shake off the grains of sand the sooner they can begin to use social media as a competitive advantage to build stronger relationships with their customers.

Fard offers a solution in a social media communications model he calls Engage & Encourage

Engage & Encourage - A New Media Communication Strategy

Phase I - Engage
Aggressively working with influential developers of social media to encourage them to talk about healthcare issues, products/service

  • Conduct research to identify influential social media
  • Monitor the conversation

Phase II  - Encourage

  • Collaborating with social media to encourage the accurate transmission of healthcare messages
  • Producing social media that will help enrich and expand online healthcare dialog

Stage I - Research Social Media & Develop Messages

Stage II - Engage Traditional and Social Media

  • Advertising on blogs, podcasts,wikis, bulletin boars
  • Public/social media relations - developing messages to journalists and creators of social media and encouraging them to tell your story
  • Posting Multimedia on a Video Sharing Website

Stage III - Social & Traditional Media Deliver Messages

  • Monitor mentions

Stage IV - Encourage Accuracy & Dialog

  • Develop your own social media e.g., blog, podcast, vlog, discussion board to help shape the dialog

Stage V - Measure Audience Response

  • Media coverage, advertising reach, audience response

In addition Fard encourages healthcare organizations to get into the game by producing their own blogs, podcast, videos, wikis an/or message boards.

The eBook is an easy read and offers tips on how to begin the development of a social media communication strategy. Although written for the healthcare industry the concepts are applicable to any industry. The end quote brings it home.

Remember, we may live in a new world, but the old rules still apply. Powerful communications has always been about getting people to pay attention and take action. The engage and encourage strategy is just another means of achieving the same objective.

Sidebar: Fard Johnson's definition of social media - The term social media refers to a group of technologies that enable people to collaborate, interact or meet via the internet.

Sidebar: Cross posted on The Medical Blog Network

Blogger Stories: New Chapters


BStories_2logger Stories is a special blog that I launched to tell the stories of how people have been touched by blogs, podcasts, vlogs and other online interactions. Building a library of stories gives us an opportunity to understand how lives have been influenced by social media .. from the heart.

"Bedtime stories site for bloggers, where blogging dreams and posts may change the world." - A Bugged Life

What do a media guru from the other side of the world, a conversation conductor from the heartland of the U.S, a cupcake aficionado from Manhattan and a woman with a passion for green (and I don't mean Kermit) from a suburb in New England have in common?   Read the lastest Chapters of Blogger Stories to find out.

Melissa Fletcher: Alotta Errata
Mike Sansone: Conversation Conductor
Jack Yan: Persuader Blog
Nichelle Stephens: Nichelle Newsletter, Chicks and Giggles, Fame of the Land, Keeping Nickels, All Birthday_cupcake_2_2Cupcakes All The Time

Sidebar: Be sure to wish Jack Yan, Persuader Blog, a happy birthday today!

The next time you're on a boring conference call .. don't doodle. Read a Blogger Story!

Want to tell your Blogger Story? Drop me an email at bloggerstories at yahoo dot com.

A New CEO Blog From Mayfield Dairy Farms


Mayfield_logo Welcome Scottie Mayfield, CEO of Mayfield Dairy Farms and Rob Mayfield, VP to the wonderful world of blogs!

Although Mayfield Dairy Farms is a subsidiary of Dean Foods the company retains the culture of a close-knit, family business. Scottie and Rob Mayfield are grandsons of founder T.B. Mayfield. The company distributes throughout the southeast to Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia and Mississippi.

I've been waiting since the spring to write this post when Diva Amanda Carmichael, WaterhousePR, invited me to present a workshop and ideology session on blogs to one of the firms coolest clients Mayfield Dairy Farms. My first question to Amanda was not how should we position the strategy but, "Will Scottie  Mayfield be there?" Scottie Mayfield is the spokesperson of the brand and has quite a fan club .. including this Diva. <wink> And yes, ScottieScottie_mayfield was at our meeting and I wasn't disappointed. Scottie is as charming and down-to-earth as he appears in TV promotions.

One of Mayfield Dairy Farm's social media goals is in-line with the culture of blogs .. to tell the stories of the people who are the company. So while other dairy blogs may concentrate on providing information to specific segments, Mayfield's Dairy Blog is all about the behind the scene company stories.

Posts range from Rob's story about his childhood with Scottie to Scottie's post about new products and how ice cream flavors are chosen.

In keeping with that strategy it's not just all about Scottie and Rob. The Mayfield Dairy Blog is a multi author blog and includes an administrative assistant, plant managers and even a few sales and marketing people.

Welcome Mayfield Bloggers! - Mayfield "Moms" Brittney Smith, Lisa Dotson and Intern Cayci and Plant Managers Eddie Allen, Scott Watson and Mary Williams, GM and Alan Owen, Marketing and Robbie Roberts, Sales and Tangela Arnwine, HR and Chad McKeehan, Visitors Center and Jan Montgomery, Consumer Affairs and guest blogger Dr. Michael Zemel, "Guru of Nutrition" from the University of TN.

Scottie took some time out from making sure that Mayfield's latest flavor, Blueberry Cream Pie, was ready to hit the stores, to give me his take about how blogs fit into Mayfield Dairy Farm's marketing strategy.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Why did Mayfield Dairy Farms decide to blog?

Scottie Mayfield: We base many of our product decisions on the opinions of our consumers. We have two visitor centers. We have formal and informal focus groups on a frequent basis. We have an in-house consumer affairs department to answer phone calls.

We have over six hundred people, in the market daily, absorbing input from consumers. We have a group of 85 "Mayfield Moms" who sample consumers year round, and they provide feedback. I personally get out in the market and talk to people as much as I can.

We recently had over 500,000 votes cast by consumers to select a permanent ice cream flavor (Blueberry Cream Pie won). We want consumer input. Having a blog seemed like a natural extension of our efforts to provide consumers a way to talk to us.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Many CEO's are fearful of the blogoshere. They think the competition will discover their company's trade secrets, they think that negative comments will harm the brand and they feel they don't have time to blog. How would you respond?

Scottie Mayfield: We do some special things to make our milk taste better than other milks and to make our ice cream creamier than other ice creams. These extra steps are costly and take a real commitment on our part. They are not that secretive. We typically don't talk about the processes we use as much as the benefit.

I am not as concerned about our competitors reading our blog. I am more interested in having a personal dialog with our consumers. There is value in having that type dialog. If a consumer has a negative comment, I want to hear it.

If we are aware of a problem we can solve it. When I have the opportunity to talk to a consumer who has a problem, it provides me a great opportunity to understand, improve and most importantly show that specific consumer that I care about their problem. We may not be perfect, but we can fix things when they do not meet or exceed someone's expectations.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Level with me Scottie. You're among friends. Are you really writing the blog yourself?

Scottie Mayfield: We have several contributors to our blog. We all write our own entries each month. Some of mine have been pertinent to business and some have simply been personal experiences. I do write mine myself. I would admit that I have someone make sure my spelling is correct.  On a personal note, I enjoy your blog and I appreciate your interest in our blog.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Appreciate your kind words, Scottie. I am enjoying yours also. And thanks for the ice cream cone!

One more CEO for Debbie Weil's next book on Corporate Blogging!

CAFA Law Blog Joins "The Conversation"


Niche buster is what Anthony Rollo calls blogs. Anthony is the visionary behind the McGlinchy Stafford's CAFA Law Blog.Cafa_law_blog_mcglinchey_logo_1 I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony and the team of talented bloggers last week when I was invited to participate in the firm's Creative (Blog) Retreat. Hunter Twiford squashed all illusions that lawyers don't know how to party! However, everything about July in New Orleans is true .. hot and muggy.

The main goal of CAFA Law blog was to position the blog as a resource for the (at the time of launch) new Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. With that in mind, phase one of a long-term strategy, focused on content. Getting it up fast. Getting it up right. CAFA Law blog boasts write-ups of every single CAFA case about 100.

Sidebar: Techies interested in law take a look at the CAFA case against big boy Microsoft. Wonder what Robert Scoble's pals at Channel Nine would think ..

With an emphasis on content-content-content the community, interactive elements were put on the back burner. That's why I was brought in .. to help strategize phase two of the CAFA Law Blog .. joining the conversation. My thanks to Ashley Bond, the firm's marketing diva, who so gets the power of community.

A couple of questions and lessons learned. Can a blog that neglects community be successful? In marketing language it depends on the goals set.  For McGlinchey, one of the southeast's largest law firm, over 20k hits a month is a nice success indicator. Add accolades within the industry, a few new clients and a national reputation as experts in CAFA, nice Google rankings and it's not a bad day's work.

However, not taking advantage of social media:

  • limited exposure in conversations occurring in the blogosphere about CAFA
  • missed opportunities to reinforce the positioning as the Go To Blog for CAFA
  • limited bloggy networking opportunities that might lead to additional exposure e.g., speaking engagements, clients, media pick-up
  • missing one of joys of blogging .. the people interaction

Anthony has agreed to a Diva Marketing Biz Blog Profile interview. If you have any burning questions let me know and I'll include them. In the meantime, I'm excited for that the team is taking the leap into the discussion. Come on in the water's great .. and a drink from the Kool-Aid fountain can be refreshing.

A special treat for me was meeting Kevin O'Keefe of Lexblogs who was also on the agenda.

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Diva Marketing - A Leader In Marketing Blogs


Now that I have your attention ... no this really is not a shamless plug for Diva Marketing dahling. It's attribute to the power of search when it comes to marketing with blogs and the benefits that even a small brand can derive.

eMarketer released results of Search Engine User Behavior Study conducted by iProspect . The study analyzed search users behavors and their perceptions of companies in regard to natural search rankings.

According the Robert Murray, president of iProspect, "[Many] search engine users ascribe industry leadership to those brands within top results and believe them to be leaders in their fields."

That perception is gradually increasing. In 2006, 36% of respondents agreed with the statement "US search engine users who equate top positioning in search results with brand quality while 33% thought it was true in 2002.Emarketer_search__2_0406_3

90% of foks seldom venture beyond page three of a search. 62% of search engine users click on links returned within the first page of search results.

So why can Diva Marketing claim "leader in the marketing blog field" status? Number #2 in a Google search for marketing blog out of a total of 199,000,000. Google_diva_marketing_041706_1

Not too shabby for a wee brand trying to earn a reputation in what is becoming a cluttered and very fragmented field of blog strategy consulting.

Who is #1 you may ask, blog buddy Lee Odden.

Is SEO marketing important? I'm thrilled to be working with a new client, WaterhousePR, who discovered Diva Marketing from searching on marketing blog. We're working on an exciting blog project..stay tune for details.
Sidebar: Now that girlfriend was a shameless plug!

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Blog Posting : Is More Better?


Back in the olden days (say 39.278 seconds ago) of business/marketing blogs the chant of those who drank the Kool-Aid was content, content, content. More is better and more than more is better than that! A blog that isn't updated frequently - say three times a week - was thought of as dusty and musty (achoo!). How often to post is one of the FAQs  when I speak with new bloggers.

Blog buddy, Scott Burkett, Pothole on the Infobahn, told me about an Atlanta biz blog, Known Identity, that updates infrequently which led to an interesting chat. With Scotts okay here's our conversation about posting frequency and readers' expectations. 

Diva: Do you think the blog is "resting" or "resting in peace" since the last post was 3/28?

Scott: Given their tight niche, they probably don't have as "much to say", so I would imagine their posts are industry-event driven, rather than mouthpiece driven. I would expect some gaps here and there.
Sidebar: I think Scott just termed a new type of blog -> Mouthpiece Driven. Gotta love that one!

Diva: Which brings up another question..if content isn't updated frequently, does the it really matter if the content is perceived as valuable and one subscribes via RSS? Unless of course Google rankings and Search are part of your strategy.

Scott: I subscribe to some blogs that are updated perhaps once or twice a week (Charlene Li) while others are updated multiple times each day (Doc Searls). Some are updated once in a blue moon (Charlie Paparelli). The key to me is the value of the content, and the context of that content. I don't expect Charlie to write every day about angel investing, but I do expect Charlene Li to publish her mindshare more often.

Diva: So, does that mean your expectations are set by the blogger, the industry or both?

Scott: Both...if a blogger is a laggard in a fast-industry, they probably aren't worth tuning into. And vice-versa...

So how frequently should you post? The answer is ... It depends.(How's that for a marketer's response?) Seriously, it depends on how you've defined the goals and objectives of your blog strategy. If you're not concerned with search rankings once a month may be suffcient. If you want to be Diva of Google it might be several times a day. Of course, keep in mind the other part of the equation = quality of content. And as Scott says the speed of change in your industry.

Sorry Shel, the marketers are at it again..poking their fingers and morphing blogging. But here's a whispered secret ... you and I may agree more than you think (not about character blogs!) but about blogging changing marketing...although marketing is also changing blogging. [Naked Conversations Chapter Six Consultants Who Get It - page 94].

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Blogs Go To School


College_graduation_capIn 2004, the divo of blogs, predicted 2006 would be the year business/marketing blogs became accepted as a mainstream strategy. One sign that Robert might be on target is college profs are not only using blogs for class communications, but are teaching students how to use blogs as...hold on to your boas divas, legit marketing tactics.
Sidebar: If you've read Diva Marketing for long, you know that I believe blogs will be an important piece of a marketing strategy. 

Alex Brown, University of Delaware: Info Tech Applications In Marketing and Robert French Auburn University, Marketing Communications/Public Relations have been innovators in bringing blogs to college curriculum. Recently, Susan Dobscha, Bentley College, included a blog assignment in her Honors Seminar in Marketing.

This is the 4th (I think..Alex correct me if I'm off) class that Prof Brown has conducted where blogs were the heart of the course. Heart is a good word for the way Alex structures his classes. He uses the blog to not only communicate about the class but to post assignments, resources and of course, student blogs. Students are required to read blogs in a news aggregator, build their own blog,  and in true blog fashion, comment on classmates' blogs.Curious about the "required blog list?"

Diva Marketing (Blog)
Inside AdWords
John Battelle's Search Blog**
Modern Marketing
Naked Conversations**
Tim Berners Lee's Blog
** Class Text Books ... got ta love it! No boring academic books for Prof Alex's class. He's using Naked Conversations and John Battelle's Search Book.

By the way, Info Tech Applications In Marketing has a pretty good resource link list. Need a refresher on the impact of internet technologies on marketing strategies? The class notes are alone are worth a visit.   

Prof Dobscha's students are required to analyze marketing blog posts. Although a bit unnerving, I'm  honored that Diva Marketing is among the blogs that the students chose to follow. Thanks Caitlin and KarinaKarina3!Other blogs include:

Emergence Marketing
The Brand Builder 
Duct Tape Marketing
Creating Passionate Users
Decent Marketing
Wonder Branding

Their critiques offer an interesting, objective perspective. For the most part, they're looking for bloggers to provide more details and examples. Taking my cue from the students of Honors Seminar in Marketing, I'd like to know  how and why they chose their blogs.

Let's toss the caps high and twirl a tassle or two to the profs who are teaching the next generation of marketers about consumer generated marketing.

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