Tuesday, April 6

Baffling Gawker: Classic Marketing Company


Gawker doesn't get it, and you might not either. Classic Marketing Company spent an estimated $107,075 to run a full-page "press release" in The New York Times.

It's not a great press release. It's only the typical boiler plate kind that says a whole lot of nothing, right down to the quote.

“SWS was selected because it has the marketing and sales expertise needed to position our brands for their continued growth," says Joe Ballin, president and CEO of Classic Marketing Company, before the release devolves into an inauthentic marketing pitch. "Fragoli is a unique, first of its kind beverage alcohol product that allows women to spoil themselves with something truly extravagant!"

There is so much wrong with the release that I'd need another post to correct it. Today, we'll just stick to the big picture.

How To Make Bad Marketing Worse With Logic.

Simple logic is the likely culprit in buying what Gawker calls the world's most expensive press release. And while we're very interested to learn if Joe Ballin, president and CEO of Classic Marketing Company, ever responds to their inquiry, it's easy enough to speculate.

At some point, press releases issued by Classic Marketing Company probably outperformed ads. So, for someone, it was easy to conclude that the release would be more effective than the ad in The New York Times. And there you have it.

Except...

Many marketing decisions fail because they are based on erroneous conclusions. And, while this is speculative, we've seen some marketers follow the same decision making path for decades. Here's our educated guess.

First, nobody asked whether the ad is effective. In this case, the answer is no. Sure, some beverage companies believe they can follow the fashion brand ad path with sexed up big product shots, but liqueurs need some help. People need to know what to do with them. This is why the Mud Slide is as well known as Kahlua coffee liqueur.

Second, the company completely misses its target audience. It places ads in wrong publications. And, the image of a woman biting the neck of the bottle would probably appeal more to men than women. Unfortunately, this product probably appeals to only a very small segment of men. It's also a stretch to think men would buy a liqueur to spoil their women.

Third, the press success was likely based on random pick ups and search engine ranking. Some pubs ran the full release for filler, and several probably picked up the only graph or two that constituted news. In the spirits distribution business, Southern Wine & Spirits has a strong brand. Classic Marketing Company, not so much. The pick up would be news to someone.

At the end of the day, the poorly thought out advertisement was outpaced by the poorly written release based on measuring reach over outcomes. And thus, someone allowed the release to take center stage in The New York Times. And, what do you know, it is getting exposure (for all the wrong reasons).

There is only one saving grace for the marketing ploy that misses on every level. It allows Southern Wine & Spirits to tell bar owners that Classic Marketing Company has invested in a campaign that includes The New York Times. So, they ought to buy a bottle or two for some rainy day when a patron might ask for it by name. After all, nobody likes a bar that can't deliver a drink.

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Monday, April 5

Shifting To Digital: Media Moves


According to a study conducted by PR Newswire, journalists are facing heavier workloads. However, if there is any good news for print, it's that the heavy workload provides increased job security as the fear of further job erosion has become moderate.

Last week, as part of my final class for Writing For Public Relations, I hosted Bruce Spotleson, group publisher for Greenspun Media Group, which publishes some 30 different online and print publications. Many of them are niche media publications, delivered free to targeted demographics within specific communities.

"Most of the dailies had made cuts in critical positions such as investigative reporters and political reporters," explained Spotleson. "They tend to be the most expensive positions for newspapers, but they are also among the most important."

While Spotleson has hope for the future and believes that publishers will survive (based in part on slight upticks across several economic indicators), he seems less certain about where the evolution will lead. As hard news reporting gives way to short breaking news, novelty, validation media, and highly trafficked informational light content similar to broadcast news, it is anybody's guess where the objective journalism will end up.

"Heavier workloads, shorter deadlines, and increased competition are causing journalists to seek out new sources of information to help them get their jobs done, including social networks," said Erica Iacono, executive editor of PRWeek. "Although these new tools offer a different way for journalists to interact with PR professionals and media consumers, there must still be a focus on the basic tenets of good journalism."

Unfortunately, good journalism doesn't always translate into readership, a requirement which has been thrust upon some journalists as publishers count page views. Counting hits tends to undermine quality news in favor of trolling for traffic.

Expect more of it. One of the biggest changes in the last year, just as "2010 PRWeek/PR Newswire Media Survey" reveals, is the merging of traditional journalism with online communications. Spotleson said Greespun Media and the Las Vegas Sun had done much the same last year. Reporters and online journalists are attempting to balance two mediums despite very different criteria and formats. Instead of long format in-depth analysis, journalists have to be just as comfortable with three-graph news blurbs.

Likewise, while Spotleson didn't provide details, he made it clear that news publishers are looking to the iPad as the future of print. He's not alone. The survey reinforces this fact, with a continued shift from print to online reporting. Fifty-seven percent of magazine and newspaper journalists indicated that this trend will continue in earnest. The survey also revealed that as many as 91 percent of bloggers and 68 percent of online reporters "always" or "sometimes" use blogs for research, only 35 percent of newspaper and 38 percent of print magazine journalists said they do.

The transition will likely cause some other changes not considered by PR Newswire. Specifically, wire services with the exception of ginning up SEO, will likely become less relevant than search and social networks. And publishers will have to balance being popular and providing quality news in order to remain competitive. Another possibility, according to Spotleson, is that some print could become its own niche. People tend to browse printed magazines when they are delivered to their door or mailbox for free, he said.

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Sunday, April 4

Recapping Content: Fresh Content


Sometimes something happens as a byproduct of social media. Someone stumbles upon something that works in terms of driving traffic and then they stick with it, pumping up more traffic generating posts that lack value to gain traction over real thinking.

Although the Fresh Content Project is an experiment that removes popularity from the equation to find which communicators are providing the best content, it also offers a glimpse at some of the best posts being shared by people who believe in the content they write. This lineup is no exception. See for yourself.

Best Fresh Content In Review, Week of March 22

Productive Crowdsourcing Requires Community Management.
Geoff Livingston pinpoints some of the challenges with crowdsourcing despite its growing popularity on the social web. Crowds aren't always trustworthy and sometimes they aren't even your customers. He concludes that crowdsourcing requires strong community management for companies to realize positive results. He's right. Community guidance is mission critical.

Six Questions To Ask Before Launching A Facebook Fan Page.
Shel Holtz brings some much needed strategic thinking to the process of creating Facebook fan pages. Before dashing off to start one without a plan, he rightly suggests considering who the audience might be, who the fan page might attract, who will manage the medium, who will provide content, and what is the contingency plan. There are more questions to ask, but these six serve up an excellent starter set.

Japanese Bureaucrats Crush Digital Economy Innovators.
David Meerman Scott delivers a powerful piece on how government and industry are actively blocking innovators in Japan from creating similar success in the fast-growing, new digital economy. It's an excellent story that might even mirror what is happening in the United States as government tends to serve slow-moving entrenched giants as opposed to small business upstarts even though small businesses employ as much as 80 percent of the workforce in the private sector (depending on the state). It's a must read for many reasons.

• How Marketers Can Prepare For The Next Wave of Mobile Adoption.
Most people know by now (and if they didn't, the iPad lines might have woken them up) the future is mobile. So we were thrilled to see that Jennifer Riggle created a composite of several key points that influence the future of communication. One of the most compelling will be the creation of mobile commerce. Clearly, the easier it is for consumers to buy products, the better.

The Cult of Mediocrity.
Andrew Weaver provides a wake-up call for small businesses and anyone in business. He ticks off a list of 13 elements that are indicative of mediocrity in the workplace. The result is always the same or, as Weaver puts it, a practice in depressing excellence. When you think about it, the same can be said about the Web. In an effort to produce traffic, communicators sometimes depress excellent content in favor of traffic attractors. Except, of course, any posts that find their way here.

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Saturday, April 3

Ranking Content Providers: Fresh Content Project, First Quarter

Last year, we launched an online experiment called the Fresh Content Project, which tracked approximately 100 blogs (currently at about 230) to determine how much popularity played a role in what communicators read online. We speculated it played a significant role, and sometimes at a detriment.

So, to put popularity to the test, we removed it from the equation and tracked approximately 100 blogs (currently at about 250) frequently referenced by a capped Twitter list of 300 communication-related professionals (currently at 248).

From those blogs, we narrowed the "Fresh Content" to choosing a single standout post every weekday (with weekend posts spilling into Monday). There is no algorithm. We picked one post per day. You can find out why we picked them here.

So what happened? Thirty-six communication-related professionals were picked at least once, with a handful picked more than once. Popularity, not surprisingly, is no measure for quality content. In fact, we even had to remove three popular blogs; two for plagiarizing the content of lesser known bloggers and one for providing consistently bad advice.

We're NOT including the names of those blogs or the balance of the blogs included in this experiment because it is designed to lift people up and not tear them down. So please don't ask if "so and so" was included in the experiment. They probably were. Besides, there are some people who are already on next quarter's list like Chris Koch, who was picked just yesterday.

Speaking of which, I might mention that we also made note of posts that, on any other day, might have been the pick. Mostly, we added that measure so we would not have to list ties in alphabetical order. Suffice to say that there are some worthwhile authors who haven't been picked yet.

So, here are 36 communication-related professionals who provided Fresh Content Picks in the first quarter of 2010. While some are suited for specific tastes, there is no mistaking that the top of this list (with more than one pick) ought to be in your reader.

The folks below represent some of the freshest, most original content related to communication today. And, we look forward to reading more of their fresh content in the second quarter along with some new faces. The comments are yours.

36 Fresh Content Communicators By Quality Of Content

1. Valeria Maltoni is a passionate brand strategist and author of the Conversation Agent. Her work frequently appears in other places and spaces, but you'll find a consistent stream of strategic communication content on her blog. Hands down, she is the hardest working communicator online with more fresh content picks than anyone. She pens posts you won't want to miss almost daily.

2. Geoff Livingston may have undergone some positive transitions this past year, but he still measures up as someone who not only practices what he preaches but does so with unabashed authenticity. Whether you follow his occasional work on The Buzz Bin or his personal blog, you'll find most posts play along. But then, without any warning, he takes a stand that strikes at the heart of an issue with such clarity, it reminds you that he doesn't embrace the Echo Chamber.

3. Ike Pigott is a smart guy who pens smart content that is generally too far off the beaten path on Occam's RazR for him to become popular. What you'll find, however, are ample amounts of truth that are only occasionally distracted by personal interests. The benefit is that, free from the trappings of being popular, he can call it like he sees it. He's also one of the better writers online. You'll love the prose.

4. Maria Reyes McDavis A.K.A. WebSuccessDiva, is "almost" a surprise find. Her online presence might have been well-known among people looking for SEO, but that isn't what makes Web Success Diva stand out. It's her smart and business savvy approach to strategies and tactics, the kind of skill sets that not enough communicators are working to develop. Reading her blog has become a real benefit since starting this experiment.

5. Lee Odden doesn't need much of an introduction to anyone who follows anything about SEO. He has been penning great content as CEO of Top Rank Online Marketing for what feels like forever. He's a veteran online marketer, but his expert understanding of SEO is what most people remember. There is a reason for that. He wasn't given any gift of popularity. He earns it.

6. Bill Sledzik, public relations professor at Kent State, doesn't provide the volume of content needed to keep up with the more popular people with opinions on public relations and sometimes social media. But what he does do at ToughSledding is provide value. What you'll find are posts that frequently bridge proven practices with tactics that some experts mistake as new ideas.

7. Mitch Joel is an author and digital marketer bent on good design. As he is a new media enthusiast, you're likely to find some posts on Six Degrees of Separation attempting to peer three steps into the possible future. While he sometimes misses, you'll find he hits more than his fair share by practicing a mantra that can best be described as rethinking everything.

8. Jay Ehret A.K.A. "The Marketing Guy" is chief officer of "awesomeness" at The Marketing Spot. Specializing in small business marketing consultation, Ehret has been around for some time. What you'll find is a retooling of social media to meet the needs of small business marketing as learned by big businesses once upon a time. Not everyone will appreciate his roll-up-the-sleeves approach, but you'll find more than a few gems on his blog.

9. Bob Conrad is one of the better but somehow underrated thinkers in the field. You'll find his work on The Good, The Bad, The Spin tends to challenge the status quo with new ideas, but not at the expense of traditional thought that continues to prove itself true. If he wrote more posts, he'd likely be higher on any list.

10. Callan Green is a junior account executive on the BG Creative team who lends her voice to the company's Don't Drink The Kool-Aid Blog. She's also one to watch. Green is already starting to stand out because she has the right background and obviously has the right guidance as a junior account executive. It's easy to say so because when she recaps lessons learned or shares observations, they are always spot on without too much slippage we see from longstanding social media experts.

11. Joel Postman is an internal communications executive for Learning@Cisco. His blog, Socialized, is rough to read in the format in which it is presented. But if you can get past the gray on gray tight columns (or subscribe in a reader), the content speaks for itself. Of late, Postman is making a great case as a well-meant contrarian who turns some readily accepted social media ideas on their heads. You have to love that.

12. Beth Harte wears many hats, which has contributed to a much slower posting pace at The Harte of Marketing. That isn't a bad thing. Since she scaled back on her postings, each post has become more important and much more grounded with her roots as a marketing professional. Apparently, the initial Kool-Aid buzz has worn off and she has become a welcome advocate for integrated communication.

13. Andrew Weaver writes about life, business, and everything in between on Leave It To Weaver. Sometimes it touches on communication and marketing issues, but not enough to operate inside the communication bubble. As a result, it's under-read despite the relevance. One of the most striking series shared by Weaver is The Cult of Mediocrity. It's a good series to follow, especially for any popular bloggers who didn't make the list.

14. Lauren Fernandez is an account executive at Moroch | PR who pulls double duty as a resident specialist in social media. Her work can be found at LAF and the best of it breaks away from what people want to read and centers on real industry need. Specifically, she sees that some social media experts are leading their lemming followers off the edge of a cliff and wants to do something about it. I give her credit. I'm inclined to let them fall.

15. Carl Haggerty is an enterprise architect at the Devon County Council who sometimes shares some heavy-handed and important topics at Carl's Notepad. Frequently, the posts revolve around U.K. government without the polarization of politics experienced in America. But more than government, his content tends to be refreshing because it covers how organizations interact with people. Something many Web developers might consider.

16. Adam Singer is responsible for The Future Buzz, which is a blog about Web marketing combined with public relations strategies. While he frequently makes the case for popularity measures (and why marketers need it), Singer demonstrates enough "why" to remind people he is not advocating popularity over expertise. What you'll also find is a lot of bullet-laced posts that make for easy reading, even if that reading isn't always memorable.

17. Dan Zarrella is a social, search, and self-dubbed viral marketing scientist who has built a solid following on The Social Media Marketing Handbook. While his writing is filled with social media buzz terms, including several he coined himself, you'll still find fresh content with an emphasis on sociology, even if he doesn't always link the two fields. More importantly, Zarrella is persistent in wanting to move social media away from soft-focus fantasies that popular marketing bloggers tend to preach.

18. John Jantsch is another one of those folks who most people know. Duct Tape Marketing rightfully pinned him down as one of the world's most practical marketers. Practicality is important if you hope to make a case for communication to the executives you hope will pay for it. At the same time, Jantsch teaches public relations firms and communicators something most forget. At the end of the day, communication companies are businesses too. Act like it.

19. John Bell, who heads up the global 360-degree influence team for Ogilvy Public Relations, demonstrates that not only can large agencies learn new media, but they can quickly become experts by applying proven strategies to new platforms. Digital Influence Mapping Project provides the focus for his work and the work being done at Ogilvy in this space.

20. Sree Sreenivasan, professor and dean of student affairs at Columbia Journalism School, contributes to places like DNA info and Mashable. While being a contributor makes his work harder to track, it's very clear Sreenivasan has tasked himself with helping journalists evolve at a pace that will help preserve the best of the profession.

21. Kelly Day is an associate creative director at BG Creative, the second team member to be included from its Don't Drink The Kool-Aid Blog. Although her simply stated insights into Facebook tend to be more popular than her tips for better creative, we're likely to attribute that to social media readership more than merit. The content contributions are equally solid and more designers will likely find her over time. (Sure wish she would update her blog-to-Twitter link soon).

22. Gini Dietrich is the CEO of Arment Dietrich. You'll find most of her work on F.A.D.S.. What you'll find is a blend of fresh, friendly commentary and marketing from a business perspective. While it didn't make a pick, read Predictable Success: The Lifecycle of Successful Businesses for a sense of her style.

23. Larry Kim, a search marketing enthusiast and founder of WordStream. You're more likely to find his written work elsewhere, places like the Search Engine Journal, but he always brings a unique perspective as a software engineering and search specialist.

24. Louis Gray is the managing director of new media for Paladin Advisors Group, which provides marketing, public relations, sales processes, and new media services to its clients. He shares observations about technology and innovation from Silicon Valley. What you'll find is exactly that, presented as a conversational diary recapping the news. The only difference is that this diary and scrapbook of sorts is open to the public and includes some interesting insights.

25. Aaron Brazell is author of the WordPress Bible and comes from an I.T. background, and was one of he first tech bloggers to capture a communication audience too. It's hard to pin down precisely why Technosailor lost some of its lift. Mostly, Brazell still provides a good read in between conference buzz and some gut guesses that fall short of the mark.

26. Jeff Bullas is a Web marketing practitioner with plenty of useful information that is usually presented as some sort of list at Jeffbullas's Blog. Almost all of it starts with a number of something, which is often the kind of stuff we avoid. However, what works is that some of these lists are backed by real data and time consuming research. It's not puff, and almost always includes new ideas for using various free tools to do it.

27. Barbara Nixon, Ph.D., teaches at Georgia Southern University online and Southeastern University offline. Her blog, Public Relations Matters, frequently covers public relations basics and entry level ideas on social media. What works is that she often covers what many social media experts don't know enough about to write about.

28. Shel Holtz has always positioned himself on the front end of technology and communication. It has served him well over the years, and will for many more years to come. A Shel of My Former Self is often a testament to that. What you'll find, in between the podcast marketing posts, are social media adoption tests for the sake of adoption and strategic communication applied to social media. Other times, however, you'll find Holtz to be surprisingly stubborn in framing up the world as it "should be."

29. David Meerman Scott saves much of his best work for places other than Web Ink Now, which tends to feature a much lighter sampling of topics than you might find on places like The Huffington Post, where he reminds us he still has the skills of a journalist.

30. Amber Naslund has become best known as director of community for Radian6, but her start with Altitude was a real pleasure to watch. What you'll find is that her content is engaging because it is infused with her infectious personality. Even when she retreads topics, it feels fresh and clearly articulated, especially as someone who learned most of her social media and marketing skills on the fly.

31. MarketingProfs, headed by Ann Handley, provides surprisingly solid content despite the irritating sign-in page. Sure, not all of the content is as fresh as you might find direct from contributors and not all authors are clearly identified. However, MarketingProfs keeps a pulse on public relations and marketing, with the occasional surprise breakthrough the noise moment thanks to objective research.

32. Jennifer Riggle is a public relations professional with CRT/tanaka, which is the firm that inherited The Buzz Bin from Geoff Livingston. She is intensely focused on mobile adoption and medical as it applies to social media. Sure, she writes other stuff, but her interests in these areas shine through with some solid thought, possibly ensuring that The Buzz Bin will eventually retain relevance beyond the originator. Good to see.

33. Chris Brogan is president of New Media Labs and many people in communication fields read his blog. Interestingly enough, though, only one post (though others were close) on the last day of the quarter cut through the clutter. That's not to say the Brogan blog isn't relevant. However, if you have ever heard him speak, you already know that the blog, nowadays, has become Brogan light.

34. Jonathan Fields, at a glance, comes across as one of the growing number of pop marketers that tend to capture some popularity because they are fun. But then the more you read Awake At The Wheel, you begin to realize that pop marketing packaging fuels some bigger ideas if you take the time to look for them, including his tribute to ten dead dudes.

35. Brian Solis truly owns the buzz term PR 2.0. What you'll find in between the self-promotion and his head-in-the-clouds preachiness approach to social media is one of the best comprehensive recappers of other people's research. He takes huge amounts of data and summarizes it without slashing it to sound bites like most people, making those posts well worth wading through the rest of it.

36. Jeremy Meyers is the only social media purist to make this list, but he does so deservedly. He didn't make it for his own content, but rather his uncanny ability to find some of the most important and overlooked content via his feed on posterous. It sets him apart because while many people guess at the future of the net, Meyers tends to find what is already happening.

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Friday, April 2

Targeting Mascots: Corporate Accountability International


In one of the more absurd public relations campaign linkages to date, Corporate Accountability International is making the case that the best way to prevent childhood obesity is to retire Ronald McDonald. According to the release, the percentage of obese children has tripled in children ages 2-5, and quadrupled in children ages 6-11.

"This clown is no friend to our children or their health," said national spokesperson Stacey Folsomof, Corporate Accountability International. "No icon has ever been more effective in hooking kids on a harmful product. Kids have become more obese and less healthy on his watch. He's a deep-fried Joe Camel for the 21st century. He deserves a break, and so do our kids."

According to the release, parents have a growing recognition that the fast food industry is the primary driver, with close to 60 percent of Americans feeling that the industry is responsible for the growing epidemic. The report, Clowning With Kids' Health, analyzes how Ronald McDonald and other children's marketing are at the heart of current trends.

Highlights From The Clowning Study.

• Two out of three Americans have a favorable impression of Ronald McDonald, which is the result of positive branding for 50 years.
• More than half "favor stopping corporations from using cartoons and other children's characters to sell harmful products to children."
• 47 percent support retiring Ronald as a corporate mascot, with 46 percent of those with a favorable impression of him also wanting to retire him.

How My Son Debunked The Study.

Since nobody in our office could find any evidence of children, ages 2-5, riding up to McDonald's drive-thru windows on tricycles to support their habit of Happy Meals and shakes, I asked them how do these kids get the merch? Blank stares. So I asked my son, age 11. He's on spring break.

"The few times we ever go near McDonald's, Mom drives us," he said, then amused. "But the image of Ronald McDonald doesn't make me want hamburgers. I would blame the Hamburglar."

Interesting. Based on his input, we might conclude that parents who drive their kids to McDonald's excessively might actually be responsible for childhood obesity. Or, if you prefer the wit and wisdom of an 11-year-old boy exposed to countless commercials, it might be the dude in the striped pajamas.

More likely, the real curators of childhood obesity beyond parents are school cafeteria lunches. You see, with the exception of schools smart enough to adopt the National Farm to School Network, students seem to be served a nutritional menu that could be below even McDonald's standards. Still, I wasn't sure. So I asked one of our clients, Allen Wong, who manages Kung Fu Plaza in Las Vegas, since Thai food is generally considered the healthiest in the world.

He cited a February 2008 article in Edutopia that compared school lunches in the United States, Russia, and Japan. Americans are eating turkey dogs and tater tots. Russians are eating beef, beet soup, and rye bread. And Japanese students are eating wonton miso soup, spinach and Chinese cabbage, rice, and milk.

Interesting. Based on his input we might draw some other conclusions. First, if Corporate Accountability International really intended to do something about childhood obesity, it might start with school lunches or the candy and snacks some school districts use as rewards. Second, the study proves there is a healthy trend in this county to blame everybody for the purchasing decisions of parents, except the parents.

Of course, if you don't see any of these points as glimmers of truth, then all I can suggest is you better be careful this weekend. I heard that the Easter Bunny is in town and he's ready to force feed children baskets full of candy. Except at our house. He tends to leave coins tucked inside those plastic eggs.

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Thursday, April 1

Preparing For Stardom: How To Slam Dunk Social Media


If you clicked on the title to learn more, I already know what you're thinking. You want to be a social media super star, but you're afraid it's too late.

Everybody who was nobody has already become somebody. All the top spots are taken and the good ideas are gone. And all the lucky breaks have been filled by people who have never known anything about marketing before social media came around.

But what if I told you it's not too late?

What if I told you that your lucky break is right around the corner? That you can still rise to the top of social media sophistry and Internet rhetoric. And that you, more than anybody else, could be the nobody you always dreamed about becoming.

Don't laugh. This is powerful stuff.

By following my slam dunk social media program developed by observing the tactics and behaviors of a few super successful social media giants over two decades, you too can become a super social media rock star success story. You won't have to work hard to achieve your goal. All you have to do is follow six simple steps.

Sure, it sounds unbelievable. But it's also very, very true.

To prove it, I'm going to give you the first five steps free, with no strings attached. That's right. Absolutely free. Are you ready? I hope so. In fact, if you're not already sitting down, you might want to right now.

Six Steps To Slam Dunk Social Media.

1. Proclaim blogs dead and start on social networks. It worked three years ago and it works today too. All the real action is happening on Twitter and Facebook.

Start with Twitter because it's especially easy. With a commitment of only 140 characters or less, you can tweet about virtually nothing. And the more nothing you tweet about the better. What is important is the number of tweets. You need at least 2,500 tweets to be taken seriously about the nothing you write about.

Don't have any ideas? No problem. Retweeting what other people tweet about counts. It's called generosity. Better yet, the more you retweet other people, the more people will retweet you, even if all you do is retweet other people. As your reciprocal retweets grow, so does your following.

2. Build that following. No experience needed. This is when the heavy lifting kicks into overdrive. Search for people who autofollow and set your account to autofollow. You don't even have to have anything in common. Sheer mass is a measure that people pay attention to. More followers equals more followers.

This tactic will get you the followers you want, whether you deserve them or not. Companies are especially good about this. Their social media experts have to demonstrate more followers each and every week. So, they are willing to follow just about anyone who follows them. But you can look for lists too.

You don't have to like the company. You don't have to buy from them. You don't even have to read their tweets as long as you have Tweetdeck to filter them out of the very few people you will actually talk to.

Once you reach a good number of followers, target people within a range of 500 followers less than you or more than you. Why? Those 500 under you will be grateful you noticed. And those with 500 or more than you are looking for followers too. (Bonus: this works for bloggers too.)

But that's not all there is to it. When you reach about 5,000 followers, turn on Auto DMs to direct them to your Facebook page where they can find the same content you post on Twitter. It's the easiest most effective way to inflate your following there too.

3. Start a blog and write about other people. It doesn't matter if you proclaimed blogs dead on social networks a few months ago. Nobody reads old tweets anyway. You simply need to say that your followers compelled you to start a blog. And what kind of creep would you be if you didn't listen?

I know. Starting a blog seems like such hard work, but it doesn't have to be. Just rehash old topics covered by other bloggers with a new twist. Most of them won't even notice. And those who do will probably write about you writing about them. Memes work too.

Sure, your teachers used to call this collusion or even plagiarism. But online, things are different. Social media experts call it reciprocity. Or in other words, the less original content at this stage the better for you to become a guru. Make it about them and they will lift you to the stars.

Feeling lightheaded yet? There's more. When you have enough traffic on your blog, start writing posts about how you were one of the very first bloggers. It doesn't matter when you actually started. Just pick a date when you can say you started something like a blog. Maybe it was a junior high school diary. Or, it could have been letters to your grandma. Or, if provided your parents did it more than once, there is nothing wrong with calling your ultrasounds your introduction to life streaming.

4. Lift the ladder and start to cash in. When you have about 10,000 to 40,000 followers, it's time to lift the ladder. You don't have to make your blog about them anymore. And you don't have to read their blogs. It's all about you or who you want to be.

You can even write a sappy blog post about how everyone still matters to you, but you just can't keep up any longer. This is also the right time to turn off your autofollow, chastise people who use autofollow, and dump at least 75 percent of your following. Just don't forget to tell them how very, very sorry you are to have no choice but to unfollow them.

The good news is that your influence will suddenly shoot through the roof! And that is much more important than a few broken hearts. Besides, if they want you to pay attention to them, they now need to earn it. Tell them to join your new Facebook fan page, blog group, or super secret newsletter about nothing.

The cool thing about the newsletters is that you can sell their names to junk mail houses and telemarketers. It is the first stage of cashing in on social media. Woo hoo! Sound too good to true? We haven't even scratched the surface yet. By now, you will be in the prime position to receive blogola (freebies for favorable reviews), paid posts (but never on your primary blog), and maybe even sponsorship ads anywhere and everywhere possible. Foreheads are especially lucrative. Just ask Seth Godin.

5. Surprise everyone with a pay wall. When you finally start to hit the big time and you are the nobody you always dreamed to be, it's time to give up on free content about nothing. People need to pay for the nothing you offer. Not only is it good money, but making people pay for it reminds them that you, and not they, are the expert.

If you do this really well, you can even convince people to volunteer their time to help you create content that they will then pay to read. How cool is that? Just remember to include a disclaimer that any idea, comment, or conversation they post on any of your social media assets is owned by you, forever and ever.

Even better, you can also start charging companies hundreds and thousands of dollars in consultation fees even if you have never had a client before. You don't have to show a portfolio, case study, or degree in anything. Your super fantastic online presence is proof enough. And if they don't like it, tell your followers to write bad things about them.

6. The super secret sixth slam dunk step.

There is only one more thing to do in order to achieve a level of success that rivals Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, and John Chow. Do you want to know what it is? Do you really?

I would be happy to tell you for the very modest price of $499.95. That's under $500.

Now, I know it seems like an awful lot of money. And normally, I would just give it away for free. However, I am afraid if I just gave away this secret without charging a nominal amount, you just wouldn't value it. Studies show that people value things that they have to pay for much more than anything they received for free. I am sure you understand.

If you would like to order the sixth step today, send me an e-mail in the next 14 days because this super secret step will only be offered for a limited time before I close the book on it forever. So don't delay. Just make sure you read the last line before sending in your payment that will guarantee you will become nobody twice as fast as you ever thought possible.

Happy April Fool's Day. All my best. And thanks to all those mentioned for being good sports.

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