Monday, December 28, 2009

Local Communities: The Last Frontier

By Andy Santamaria

Just like the Gold Rush in 1800's, we had a similar rush to seize certain markets online at the turn of the century. Out of the dust emerged giants like Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook. Then we started to see smaller markets/niches being grabbed and expanding exponentially. If you were the first person to start a blog on technology and gadgets, you got a little attention. If you were very good and didn't sleep, you may have made a name for yourself like Gizmodo or Engadget.

The mass land grab is over.
Starting a blog is extremely hard now. Getting noticed by the masses for your niche is laughable. Steve Rubel explains why here. Want to start a blog/video podcast on wine? Gary will crush you. How about giving presentations? That's pretty unique, right? Nope, Garr Reynolds is the best voice of authority and he got a book deal out of it. Ok, so maybe you want to do something extremely obscure like being a professional home-office organizer? Yeah, no. Brandi Kajino has already tapped that niche and has aligned herself with great startups like Evernote.

You aren't going to beat Gary at wine podcasting. What if you live in a great area for local brewing? Though I don't know much about brewing, I'd argue that The Midwest is a great area for it. And so we begin, what may be, one of the final onlne land-grabs.

Revenge of the Local Celebrity.
Find a niche that is significant to your community. What if you had a blog/podcast where you interviewed, tasted, and reviewed ONLY local breweries in Minnesota (OK, maybe Wisconsin too..)? I'd be that if you had the right motivation, talent, and persistance, you could quickly become the voice of reason in Minneapolis. Bars and breweries would flock to your site and beg you to drink their beer. Doesn't sound that bad, right?

Get Going.
What's even better is that Minneapolis is virtually untouched right now for powerful online niches. It's not like you're in SF or NYC where they already have caught on to this. Now is the best time to start something that you've always wanted. Involve your community and be ready for the long road ahead. I've got a few projects that I'm starting where I plan to do exactly what I've described above.

I'm not going to give out that many examples because they are easy to come up with. What are you into? What do you read for fun? What's your favorite type of show? Find the big fish that has a national audience and make your own version significant to Minnesota, or better yet, Minneapolis.

How about you? Are you going to start the next design blog that critiques local artists? The next bakery blog that covers the best and freshest bread in the city? I'd love to know. Email me.

Andy Santamaria is a journalism student at the University of Minnesota. His blog mainly covers creative businesses in the Twin Cities. He also writes about new media, advertising and technology. Follow him on Twitter, @andysantamaria

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Social Media: How to Lose a Customer in 10 Days

By Philip Wocken

So you and your company have decided to embrace social media as a marketing medium. Congratulations! What do you do next? In this post, we’ll learn what not to do next as we follow Ralph, the marketing manager at (the names and companies have been changed to protect those involved).
Day 1: Ralph has decided that today was the day that jumped into social media. Ralph had heard about Twitter, his daughter has one of those Facebook accounts and he’d heard about all of those websites with names that he couldn’t pronounce and that weren’t even spelled correctly. Nevertheless, rather than seek help or advice from someone—anyone—who had some experience with social media, he decided that he would learn about social media as he went along.

Day 2: Today, Ralph wanted to focus on getting a large Twitter following. He logged on and spent all day “following” every user he could. By 4:00, he was following 1300 people and only 45 people were following him back (they have adjusted their settings to automatically follow back anyone who follows them). He had yet to send out a tweet.

Day 3: Since he wanted to learn about social media as he went along, he has decided that he doesn’t want to be tied down by a plan. He heard someone mention something about creating a content plan, but he concluded that he will update his content as he thinks of new topics. After all, he considers himself to be a pretty smart guy.

Day 4: Somehow, even though he hadn’t sent out any tweets, Ralph was getting followers on Twitter. Remembering that he got a lot of Direct Messages from people when he followed them, he thought that it would be a great idea to send out those messages to those who follow Unfortunately, he has decided to make the distribution of these messages so that they will automatically be sent out 10 hours after someone decided to follow At 4:00 pm, Mary followed At 2:00 am, she was rudely awakened by Ralph’s Direct Message. Mary was intelligent enough to figure out that what was thinly veiled as a personal and attentive message was nothing more than an artificially personalized advertisement. Mary, and everyone else who wanted to follow, undoubtedly felt insulted that Ralph was so artificial in his attempt to build a relationship with them. “Gosh,” Mary thinks, “ [’s main competitor] actually reached out to me and made a genuine connection. I’ll remember that!”

Day 5-9: Under the impression that he was really getting the hang of “this social media thing,” Ralph abandoned all of his other marketing activities/channels and decided to send out his first tweet: “ is your #1 source for all things widgets! Check us out on the web at!” He spends the next four days sending out tweets that sound like this every 20 minutes. He changed a couple of words here and there, but the message was still the same. Sick of being bombarded with advertisements and due to the lack of genuine, interesting content, the small following that Ralph has built up in the first few days immediately abandoned ship. On Day 9, Ralph now has 12 followers (those 12 never login to Twitter, so that haven’t been bombarded...yet).

Day 10: Somehow, Ralph stumbled across a blog and forum community that was setup specifically to smear They ridiculed Ralph’s social media “strategy” and a couple of user even started some false rumors about the company. Ralph, determined to set the record straight, logged on and scolded the site for allowing false statements to fester. Met with a defensive group of users, the conversation quickly escalated to a nasty argument. Within hours, Ralph’s comments were sent all over the web and were picked up by a couple of dozen blogs. The reputation of his company is now dangerously tarnished. Furious, Ralph concluded that “this social media thing is all just a bunch of hype.”
Don’t be like Ralph. While it may be an extreme example, it happens every day. If you’ve decided to incorporate social media into your marketing mix, I think that you have made a very wise decision. Use this opportunity to talk to someone who knows a thing or two about this ever-changing industry before you dive in. Or, at the very least, educate yourself so that you can avoid making the same mistakes as Ralph. No customer wants to do business with a guy like Ralph.
Have you, or someone you know, had an experience similar to Ralph’s (no names please!)? How do you learn about social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please enter them in the comment box below.
Philip Wocken is an inventive marketing manager specializing in Online Marketing techniques. He can be reached on Twitter @BuzzBrains or email him at

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Geek Girls Recap from MN AMA Annual Conference

By Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker, Geek Girls
During our recent presentation at the MN-AMA's Get in the Game Conference, we focused on giving people a solid foundation of 101-level social media knowledge. First, we defined social media as the sites and applications we use to connect, have conversations and share content with each other. Now -- in that spirit -- we'd like to share more content with you, and maybe even open up a conversation.
Where to Start
After defining social media, we assumed everyone in the room had two basic objectives: to establish and manage a social presence, and to define and implement a monitoring and response process.
The steps we suggest for social media success are:
- Define goals
- Set benchmarks
- Educate internal audiences
- Create processes and policies to manage content and conversation
Thinking about social media as a conversation is vital, and "conversation" is a new mindset for many marketers. Social media is not a strictly push tactic. It's about listening, connecting, and participating. These conversations and connections can be a powerful way to connect with your audiences (both internal and external), but you need to teach internal audiences how to behave this way. Companies, organizations and brands are not used to having two-way conversations with their audiences. They are often structured such that one department "talks" and another department "listens" -- and sometimes those two departments barely talk to one another!
Define Goals
When you consider your goals it's also important to think about the goals of the audience with whom you are trying to connect.
Keep in mind when defining your goals it's hard to measure ROI in the ways that you are used to. Often there is no clear call-to-action with social media, and you might have to do some listening before you can make clear goals.
In many cases, old measurement models don't quite fit. Luckily, lots of new ways of thinking about how to measure social media are beginning to emerge.
Set Benchmarks
It's never a good idea to jump into the internet with no strategy or direction in mind, and it's important to set benchmarks and checkpoints to compare to in the future. Sounds familiar, right? It's not like this approach is new, but because social media is "The Next Big Thing!" far too many marketers seem to be jumping into the tactics without enough strategic forethought.
At the very least, you can start listening to what's being said in a variety of social networks to gauge the overall number of conversations and get a sense of whether the energy is bad or good.
Initially, the idea of monitoring Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. can seem overwhelming. The good news is that for most brands it doesn't have to be! There are many free tools like Twitter Search, Google Alerts, and RSS feeds and, for many brands, it's possible to start with a homegrown monitoring solution. (Later, as you start getting more comfortable with social media monitoring, you might consider a paid service or agency.)
Below are some guides on how to set up and use different monitoring services:
As a company, you should also be thinking about implementing a social media policy so employees have a clear understanding around what is okay to share, and what the "voice" of the company or brand in the social media space is. A great way to get internal audiences involved is to host a bootcamp or workshop to educate employees about their role in representing the company or brand.
Separating The Personal & The Professional Online
Create Processes & Procedures
In addition to educating audiences, you need to make sure that your company has some sort of internal process for responding to conversations in social spaces. Once you start listening, you're going to want to talk! So, who approves those responses? How do you handle any possible legal issues? What do you respond to, and what do you ignore? What is the voice and tone of your company or brand?
Again, depending on the size of your organization, these processes don't have to be overly complicated. But, it's good to think through the questions before you dive in. Here's a wonderfully simple example of a local restaurant doing social media "right."
Get in the Game
The last thing to remember is that you're not alone: there are plenty of other companies and professionals out there trying these tools for the first time, and there are lots of resources and people out there to help you. Our goal, as the Geek Girls, is for everyone to feel like no question is stupid when you're trying something new. Drop us a line and let us know what you think! We'd love to hear from you.
Thanks for having us!
Nancy Lyons, President and CEO, and Meghan Wilker, Managing Director, work for Clockwork Active Media Systems. In 2008, Lyons and Wilker launched the Geek Girls Guide blog to demystify technology and publish their perspectives on the interactive industry. Visit our blog at or follow us on Twitter: Nancy (@nylons), Meghan (@irishgirl) or @geekgirlsguide.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Building Your Marketing Tool Kit

By Emily Jasper

I may not be able to speak for most marketing executives, but in my experience, there are some attributes your team needs to have to be successful. Some of these may be no brainers, but you should always be looking at your team to determine if it’s the best it can be. For example, it probably makes sense for your team to have these qualities distributed across the group instead of all in one person. It’s the same idea as not to leave all of your eggs in one basket. Your golden boy could leave and you’re left with a low-performing team.

Innovation: I want to point out that innovation and creativity can be treated differently. Creative people can take something and give it a fabulous new look or use. Innovative people help make that something to begin with. If your group has been tasked with lots of new development, you really need innovative people to keep you going. Having at least one person who wants to build from beginning-to-end gives your creative team something to gnaw on.

Organization: At least one person should get excited about spreadsheets and project plans. Someone who likes structured boundaries will help keep the group on task. Being an Organizing nut also means challenging the group, playing devil’s advocate and making the group think beyond the boundaries. As I always tell my colleagues, I can think outside the box, but I need a box to begin with.

Youth: Including a young twenty-something on your team can keep you in tune to a part of the world you aren’t used to. Trust me, there are still many marketing professionals who have no idea how to leverage Twitter. If you say Interweb, there’s a small panic that goes through the room. Young employees not only bring some background understanding of the new Web, but also another challenging mind. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” isn’t good enough for this generation (and the ones to come).

Speed: If you ask someone in the world what they think of when you say Marketing Department, you’ll get an answer similar to this, “Those flashy New York people running the halls in stilettos and wearing expensive suits.” Sure, there are those who may have personal experience with their own organization’s department and have quite a different opinion, but the media world presents marketing departments in companies just like the large Marketing firms. Which means your company expects you to be like those high-profile New York firms. You should have speed and a pulse on what’s going on in the world. Part of your speed should also include agility: being able to shift priorities and resources on a dime.

Patience: Since your company expects agility, you also need patience for numerous and insane requests. Even if you try to manage expectations, there’s always someone mad because you made it difficult to carry out their last minute request. Patience and grace will keep your team functioning well with each other, and with the rest of the organization.

While many more attributes could be added to this list, these can help you build a tool kit for a successful team. You know how hard it is to hang a picture with a hammer and no nails. At the end of the day, you care about the tool kit, but your organization cares about getting that picture hung up.

Emily Jasper is a Corporate Marketing Manager with PDI Ninth House. In addition to marketing, Emily has sales and PR experience from previous roles. Currently, she writes a blog, "From the Gen Y Perspective," and can be followed on Twitter at

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