Wednesday, April 8

Uniting People: Bloggers Unite For Hunger & Hope


With each passing second, one person will die of hunger. Every fourth second, that person will be a child. In fact, hunger accounts for almost 60 percent of all deaths in the world, making starvation the single greatest killer on the planet.

There is no need to discover a cure. There is no scientific breakthrough waiting to be discovered. And yet, they die.

On April 29, thousands of bloggers will call for change. Not only will they call for change, but they will call for change that provides long-term solutions that reduce starvation and lifts people out of extreme poverty. You too can be part of it.

Unite For Hunger & Hope on April 29

BlogCatalog, Bloggers Unite, Copywrite, Ink., and Heifer International have partnered to launch a social awareness campaign that asks everyone talk about world hunger on April 29 and point people toward solutions. While bloggers from around the world will provide the cornerstone of the campaign, a blog is not required to make a difference.

"With the new BloggersUnite platform, people don't need a blog to join or make a difference," says Antony Berkman, president of BlogCatalog. "They only have to want to make a difference. Do they want to? I don't know, but I sincerely hope so with all my heart."

Using BloggersUnite.org as an event coordination page, Unite For Hunger & Hope provides bloggers and social network members an opportunity to join the campaign. Once they do, they can join the event, post about the event, talk about event, share the event with friends, add badges to their blogs or network pages, and find informational resources (that are currently in development). While any organization that provides solutions to solve world hunger is appropriate, Heifer International, currently celebrating its Pass On The Gift campaign, is one best practice example.

What makes Heifer International stand out as a best practice? It doesn't feed people for a day. It teaches them for life. Specifically, this global non-profit provides sustainable solutions to end hunger and poverty by providing livestock and agricultural training to improve lives.

"Heifer International is thrilled to be a part of Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope," said Tom Peterson, senior director of Heifer International. "Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope is a great way to harness the power of the Internet, and it coincides with our Pass on the Gift campaign.”

The Pass on the Gift campaign is a month-long celebration that allows participants to get involved and work together to end hunger. With an entire month of stories highlighted from around the world, Heifer International will share dozens of examples and ceremonies that anyone can write, post, or share on April 29 posts.

Already this month, Heifer International took Manhattan, brought attention to the plight of small farmers, and inspired people to host awareness-generating local events with something as simple as a pizza party. But all of this doesn't have to end with 30 days if enough people highlight any of these programs on April 29.

"BlogCatalog members have been responsible for generating hundreds of thousands of posts on topics that range from AIDS to human rights," says Berkman. "Now, when you combine that with social networks, it sends a very powerful message to the media and world leaders that hunger is not only something we can address, but it's something we can solve. There is no need to wait for a cure. With organizations like Heifer International, we only need to help them increase the number of people they touch every day."

Since 1944, Heifer International has helped communities learn to become self-sufficient by raising animals that provide direct benefits such as milk, eggs, wool, fertilizer, as well as indirect benefits that increase family incomes for better housing, nutrition, health care, and schools. For more information, visit its site.

Since 2007, BlogCatalog’s Bloggers Unite initiative has evolved from the first blogger-driven social awareness campaign initiative into a self-sustaining social awareness network. More than 190,000 bloggers interact on BlogCatalog.com every day and provide the foundation for BloggersUnite.org. But their efforts do not stop with two social networks for bloggers. Many of them work together with friends and family on social networks ranging from Twitter and Facebook to Digg and Bedo.

So what do you think? Is hunger worth writing, talking, and doing something about? You can start right here today.

Tuesday, April 7

Cutting Market Share: TNS Media Intelligence Study


Last December, TNS Media Intelligence noted that total measured advertising expenditures in the first nine months of 2008 declined by 1.7 percent as compared to the same period in 2007. Since, spending has been dramatically cut, with television being especially hard hit. Network advertisers lost almost 10 percent of revenue in the fourth quarter 2008.

“Media ad spending, which began tiptoeing into negative territory in early 2007, has crossed an inflection point in the past six months as the economic downturn has become more widespread,” said Jon Swallen, SVP Research at TNS. “Preliminary data from the fourth quarter indicate a further slackening of the overall advertising market.”

A subsequent study, released this March by TNS, demonstrates such dramatic cuts are a mistake. Specifically, the study showed that when marketers cut spending during a downturn, they lose market share and brand awareness to private labels.

TNS covered eight U.S.-based household and personal-care marketers that cut measured media spending an average of 8.8 percent, which was higher than the 5 percent cut among advertisers overall. According to AdAge, U.S.-based household, personal-care and beauty marketers slashed spending 14 percent on average in the fourth quarter. The results are dramatic, but not surprising — companies that went with the flow of the boom-bust cycle and cut ad spending tended to lose more share to private labels both immediately and over the long term.

The Internet recession-proof myth.

Despite the study, some social media "experts" claim the recent advertising decline is merely a sign of the times, even going so far as to say that advertising is no longer needed. However, it's simply not true.

Recessionary cutbacks have had an impact across the board. As Simon Owens noted, spending on blogs, especially political blogs in an off-election year, is down.

"Everyone looks at the numbers and says, 'Wow, advertising is growing 20 percent a year online,' and they get really excited about that," Henry Copeland, the CEO of Blogads told Owens. "But most of that growth is cost-per-click — it's Google, it's AdWords, it's AdSense."

On the surface, other studies seem to indicate the opposite, citing that 63 percent of companies plan to increase their social media marketing budgets in 2009. However, the discretionary spending doesn't seem to be reaching content sites like Pajama Media, which closed its doors.

In addition to Google, Adwords, and Adsense as Copeland said, the investment seems to be made in direct-to-consumer presence on the Internet, hindered only by social media's continued challenge to prove itself as remotely measurable. (It's measurable.) However, that still leaves one piece of the puzzle missing.

If social media can supposedly supplant advertising as some suggest, then why would large marketers lose market share to private labels despite being among the earliest adopters of social media? In looking at several studies, it seems obvious that ad cutbacks are the common denominator, which means advertising is still a critical component to communication.

Isolated research creates erroneous conclusions.

Unless you look at the world with the lens of a single discipline, it seems very obvious how communication fits together. While each of the three disciplines — advertising, public relations, and social media — crossover into each other's area, each are particularly strong in specific areas.

• Advertising is best suited to establish awareness
• Public relations is best suited to establish position
• Social media is best suited to establish engagement

Naturally, all three can effectively establish awareness, position, and engagement, but it's generally more effective when all three work together. And, as illustrated by the March study, it doesn't change in a down economy. Companies that win are those that continue to communicate across several streams, with the right mix of which being largely situational.

Monday, April 6

Measuring Communication, Cost Part 2


One of the most overlooked cost considerations in communication measurement is the "time to produce" or "speed to market." While the cost less is tangible than direct expenses, it's no less important because it can have a dramatic impact on communication.

As Laurence Haughton once titled his book "It's Not the Big That Eat the Small... It's the Fast That Eat the Slow." In the book, he and Jason Jennings contend that only the swiftest of corporations will thrive in today's marketplace. And while I've disagreed with Haughton before, this is one point where he is half right.

How Time To Produce Impacts Public Relations.

A few months ago, a public relations firm had an opportunity to deeply expose one of its clients to a new audience by tying in local results on a national study. In terms of news value, the story had impact, proximity, timeliness, human interest, and sensitivity — five of the ten elements that make news.

Unfortunately, the release that could have made headlines and would have resulted in speaking engagements took three weeks, leaving less than a one week window to retain any news value at all. The result was a single story in one online publication that didn't reach the intended audience.

While the late release didn't create any negative impressions, the costs associated with the release produced a negative return on communication. And, had it been a crisis communication situation, three weeks would have been just enough time to kill the organization.

How Time To Produce Impacts Advertising.

The same intangible cost has an impact on advertising as well. For example, most Web sites take two to three times longer to produce than a blog, most print advertisements take two to three times longer to produce and place than online advertisements (even longer when compared to non-ad communication vehicles), and most television commercials take four times longer to produce than an online video.

This isn't meant to disparage traditional advertising. It's needed. However, in prioritizing production, quicker and more efficient methods of communication might be worth considering. Every day there is no communication is another day that potential customers are making different purchasing decisions or increasing brand loyalty or promoting the competition.

So Why Was Haughton Only Half Right?

Sometimes companies race ahead too fast. In 2007, for example, we took note of several companies attempting to leap frog to the next level as fast as possible. One of the applications, BlogRush, has long since crashed.

There were several reasons for the "crash," but part of the underlying problem was that its customers could not keep up with the changes taking place and neither did their communication. The lesson to be learned remained the same. Planned product rollouts plus expedited and efficient communication usually wins the day.

Download The Abstract: Measure: I | O = ROC

The ROC is an abstract method of measuring the value of business communication by recognizing that the return on communication — advertising, marketing, public relations, internal communication, and social media — is related to the intent of the communication and the outcome it produces. Every Monday, the ROC series explores portions of the abstract.

Friday, April 3

Considering "That Guy": Chris Brogan


Yesterday, Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs, wrote a post about "that guy." You know, "that one" who engages in social media from a purely push marketing perspective.

"'That guy' shows up and starts bullhorning (sic) her message into the crowd," he writes. “'Hi! I can show you thirty ways to make money while you sleep!'”

To make matters worse, the less attention they receive, the louder they get. THE BIGGER THEIR WORDS BECOME. And the more exclamation points they use!!! As if ... as if punctuation and caps can somehow communicate what their words fail to say.

Sooner or later, "that guy" or "that gal" might even find themselves in a virtual vacuum because the outcome of their marketing message results in aversion as opposed to attraction. Don't they know, in the words of Mary Stewart, that "it is harder to kill a whisper than even a shouted calumny." Shhh...

Brogan then offers ten ways to build relationships before you ask anything. It's a useful list. I encourage you to check it out.

However, all the tactics in the world can't help you if you don't change the strategy. Most online communication, especially one-to-one communication, is virtually identical to face-to-face communication, with exception to its relative permanence. The brain doesn't distinguish between online and offline experiences, and perhaps, neither might you.

There is no difference between online and offline engagement.

"That guy" and "that gal" exist offline too. They are the same people pumping business cards into the hands of everyone at a business luncheon before the smile that accompanies an initial introduction has time to fade long enough for our brains to file away their face for future recognition. "That guy" and "that gal" are the ones who give marketing sales a bad name.

Sure, card pumping works in the short term much like a lion pouncing on prey. But long term, it only leads to indigestion as little whispers become attached to their reputation. You might have heard them before. "Oh no," they might say. "Here she/he comes again." And with those whispers, over time, come feelings of aversion.

Really, it's not all that different from what Bill Murray's (Phil Conner) character felt when he saw Stephen Tobolowsky (Ned Ryerson) on the front end of the film Groundhog Day. In fact, we all felt aversion to Ned. That is, until we had a chance to see him as a real person, much later in the movie.

My point is simple enough: there is only one secret to online engagement. While business blogs are fine, and we all expect they might share something about the business, individual engagement is person to person and requires offline sensibility. Why? Because it's the same. Did you hear that? Yeah ... it's the same.

Just don't tell "that guy." We appreciate the early warning.

Thursday, April 2

Leaking Wolverine: How Much Is Too Much?


"If it's a good movie, it won't f*cking matter. People will go see it. But if it's a bad movie, it could have consequences." — Geoff Ammer, recently departed worldwide head of marketing and distribution for Marvel Studios

At least that is the theory Ammer told AdAge about the an early print of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" being leaked via file-sharing technology such as BitTorrent. But is it true?

According to sources, News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox initially pointed out that the film had been leaked in an e-mail statement, drawing even more attention to the leak before it was removed by a site they did not identify. (It was BitTorrent). Along with the announcement, News Corp. rose 34 cents, or 5.1 percent, to $6.96 today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

The buzz up more than quadrupled interest in the film yesterday as more than 75,000 downloads took place in a few hours. Prior, mentions of the film were steady but otherwise uneventful.

The studio also said the F.B.I. and the Motion Picture Association of America were both investigating the film’s premature distribution. The real concern, according to the studio, is that the leak was only 90 percent complete and has since received some negative buzz on blogs such as In Gob We Trust, which said "The entire film just felt cheesy, more in the vein of Batman Forever than anything else."

“We’ve never seen a high-profile film—a film of this budget, a tentpole movie with this box office potential—leak in any form this early,” said Eric Garland of file-sharing monitor BigChampagne told The New York Times.

In early 2008, a three-episode leak of Jericho Season Two (almost half of the truncated second season) quelled the excitement of the series return to television after a hard fought campaign by fans. CBS later told us it did not intentionally leak three episodes, but did release three episodes to reviewers.

That leak provided a interesting look at how fans view online leaks. Half were appalled by it; half speculated that the studio wanted the series leaked. Indeed, sometimes they do. The entertainment business is relying more and more on buzz to make major decisions. And a well-timed leak of information, clips, etc. can help drive it.

Both Jericho fans and Veronica Mars fans have kept a close eye on speculation that their series might find a new home on the silver screen. For Jericho fans, they've been receiving some mixed, although positive messages, about a Jericho movie. Veronica Mars fans have had a harder time hearing what many considered a green light only to have it turn red.

We disagree with the "leak to win" theories that seem to play on the emotions of fans or run too deep of a risk to derail momentum upon bad reviews by people predisposed to dislike them. In my opinion, fan groups, many of which are immersed in social media and vested in the creations, deserve authenticity from studios over roller coaster rides that only hope to measure prevailing interest. It's not that difficult to talk about the project over leaking the product, and provide movies a chance to thrive on their own merit.

All too often, leaks, intentional or not, are reviewed and commented on by the wrong people — people with little interest in the material — and then are panned. X-Men Origins: Wolverine could become a poster child example. In this case, the leak has resulted in a split decision among people who have seen the semi-complete film, thereby hindering early momentum that might have been driven by pockets of X-Men fans like those at X-Men Fan Site or groups within sites like Superherohype.com.

Wednesday, April 1

Releasing SME 14.0, Beta: Copywrite, Ink.


For the last several months, Copywrite, Ink. has been working with a former Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity (CADIE) developer on a side project to take social media to the next level. We call it SME 14.0.

That's right. Rather than plod along from Social Media Expert 1.0 to 2.0 then to 3.0, we've leapfrogged right over all those cool and catchy numerals to Social Media Expert 14.0. And, for today only, you too can become a Social Media Expert 14.0 (SME 14.0) beta tester. (If you like Hunch, you'll love SME 14.0!)

Social Media Breakthrough: SME 14.0 Highlights

Virtual Followers. Everybody knows that social media is all about numbers. The more popular your blog, profile page, or social network account becomes, well, the more popular it becomes. With virtual followers, you can forget the early social media stages and jump right to "Mr. or Mrs. Popularity" because they come built in with every blog or page you create! Just pick a number — 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 followers — and real people will automatically want to follow you.

Even better, with virtual followers, you have even more reason to ignore those pesky critics. After all, who cares what real people think when you have hundreds or thousands or millions of virtual followers praising your every move!

Automatic Retweets. Inspired by Mack Collier. For anyone worried about their Twitter strategy, worry no more. Automatically set your Twitter account to Retweet everything specific people say and gain popularity, influence, and authority. That's right. Never miss an opportunity to Retweet select real people so they Retweet you!

When combined with the power of virtual followers, your message could be Retweeted 10, 20, 20,000 or 20,000,000 times as quickly (or throughout the day) as you want. With 10,000 Retweets per tweet, nobody will ever question your authority again.

Predetermined Crowd Sourcing. You know and I know it too. As Josh Catone said back in 2007 "a million idiots are better than one Einstein." The only problem is that crowd sourcing and clients don't always mix, until now!

We've fixed the paradigm with SME 14.0. By planting thoughts in the crowd with Jedi mind trick technologies so each and every crowd will be predisposed to agree with whatever you or your client thinks. You can forget manipulation because SME 14.0 sticks whatever outcome you want right inside their mushy little cerebellums.

Don't believe it? Just ask us for our short list of alpha testers and see for yourself. One of these early adopters even convinced you to invest what might amount to $75-$125 billion in failing companies!

Automated SEO Posts. No time to blog, but you want SEO like only Mr. Web Guru can do? Problem solved. With automated SEO posts, you can pick a subject and have it mashed up with all of the hottest search terms today. Here is one real life headline example...

"Jennifer Garner and Paris Hilton Tickle Obama On Google For Taskbar News and SME 14.0!"

Not only is it vetted as powerful a SEO headline, but it's proven to please your virtual followers after predetermined crowd source testing! Organic disruption of the Web has never felt so good.

Total Transparency. Sure, I know what you're thinking (seriously). Doesn't SME 14.0 game the system? Is it really authentic? How about transparent? Well, it absolutely is all those things and more!

You see, last December, we took Geoff Livingston's post about Pew/Internet research to heart. It said “The transparency of people and organizations will increase, but that will not necessarily yield more personal integrity, social tolerance, or forgiveness.”

Total Transparency solves the first part of the Pew/Internet challenge. With Total Transparency features, what you "think" is precisely what is posted across all your social network platforms. That's right. No more sugar coating. You think it, say "post with SEO," and SME 14.0 automatically transmits from your brain to the board.*

*Warning: SME 14.0 is not responsible for outcomes thought in a water closet, on a nude beach, or other potentially distracting environments.

Ethics Checker 1.0. SME 14.0 also solves the second part of the Pew/Internet research statement with Ethics Check 1.0. Just prior to posting your thoughts direct, Ethics Checker 1.0 springs into action.

Want to give away a K-mart gift card or provide people the inside scoop on a duck without the push back? Now you can!

Ethics Checker 1.0 rates your "thought post" just prior to letting it zoom across the Web. This built in bonus program rates your post for potential ethical impacts on a scale of one (nice halo, baby) to ten (red tomato moment).

If you think that is impressive, next year SME 14.1 will come pre-installed with Ethics Checker 2.0, which includes a little man who looks a lot like Malcolm McDowell. Any time you have a "thought post" rating higher than a five, the little man will slap your face, eventually curbing you of unethical behavior once and for all.

Ultimate Fan 32.5 Add On Enroll as a beta tester for the SME 14.0 right now, and you'll also get UF 32.5. UF 32.5 was designed for all those people who have no original thoughts whatsoever! No thoughts? Never fear, UF 32.5 is here!

Now you can follow your SME 14.0 favorites in style. UF 32.5 automatically RTs, comments, writes praise posts on everything they say and do. Pick from plenty of options "Your best post ever!" to "I'm a mindless follower of >Blank< and you ought to be too!" Amazingly accurate and loads of fun, UF 32.5 is the ultimate tool to kiss some serious SME butt. In fact, over time, the UF 32.5 even helps you think, dress, talk, and post like all of your favs and peeps do!

Here's an actual testimonial from an UF 32.5 alpha tester...

"I used to talk about Jeff Jarvis all the time until my friends got sick of me. But now, thanks to UF 32.5, I am Jeff Jarvis and everybody loves me! The tag line says it all 'Who cares what Google would do when you can be a Jarvis too!'" — Jeff Jarvis, formerly Daniel Sheehan, and soon to be Robert Scoble.

SME 14.0 and the bonus program, UF 32.5 is not for everyone. It's only intended for people who use the Internet. Some restrictions apply. Not currently available in France. Beta testers also receive new program announcements more frequent than Ragan updates. Advanced training sessions coming soon: "The Lazy Person's Guide To Linkbait," "How To Fake Read A Post And Still Comment Like You Care," and "How To Post On SlideShare When You Don't Know What FAQ Means."

Important Disclaimer: Using these products will in no way assimilate you, to the best of our knowledge. Any similarities between the Borg and SME 14.0 packaging are purely coincidental and meant for entertainment purposes. It is also a healthy nod to the upcoming Star Trek film, despite no appearances of the Borg in this upcoming film.
 

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