Digital Street Journal

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We’ve moved, so to speak…

Hey folks, I’ve moved this blog over to Digital Street Journal.

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November 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Obama is blowing away McCain on online social networks

“‘Twas the night before the election…”

Here it is, the eve of the 2008 presidential election, and we’re (finally) about to elect a new president of the United States. This election has been long in coming and it has spawned a new way of politicking. (My own opinion is that it should have happened much earlier, but presidential campaigns are run by people who make money by creating TV commercials.)

I wanted to take a look at the level of online involvement that each campaign has inspired. For the past nine months, I’ve seen plenty of banner and large box ads for Barack Obama – a wise choice in my opinion – but not nearly that much for John McCain. Online display ads can be targeted and can bring a person right to an intended page so the person can get information that they are likely interested in.

But what intrigues me the most is how the campaigns used social media as marketing and networking tools. So I decided to tak a look at the larger social networks to gauge each candidate’s presence and the effectiveness. Looks like Barack Obama wins hands down.

MySpace

As of this writing, Barack Obama has 834,815 followers on MySpace. Compare that to John McCain’s 218, 136. That’s almost 4 times as many followers for Obama than McCain, with a difference of 616,679 – only 9,000 less than Sarah Palin’s home state of Alaska.

Obama’s page is filled with videos that a visitor can view or grab for viral effect. It has polling information. Basically tons of information that a fan could use to reach out to others in hopes to either impress them into voting for Obama and how and where to actually vote. His use of space was excellent and, for a page that has so much, it downloaded very quickly. One of the best features is the “Obama Everywhere” section, where the campaign connects you to Obama profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, iTunes, and Digg. Very simple, but truly shows how valuable social media can be.

McCain’s page is giving me problems. The masthead is excellent, but there isn’t much there. A video, a chart comparing the two candidates, and a link to polling places s there, but not much else. In fact, I’m getting a lot of blue space where there could be more info. Problems downloading? Poor execution on their part? I don’t know…but I tried reloading twice and got the same thing.

Facebook

Here, Obama dominates once again. He’s got 2,392,582 followers. That’s larger than 15 of the 50 states. Just as the MySpace prensence, the Facebook group page is filled with info to grab, fan followings, and up to the minute updates. The cleanliness of the site itself makes it better than the MySpace page if you’re looking to be informed or to connect with others, while the MySpace page comes off as more enthusiastic.

McCain’s page is it’s equal in content as if features a game called “Pork Invaders”, a tribute to his crusade against earmarks. But, unfortunately for the candidate, he has only 621,846 followers. Again, that’s just over 25% of the amount Obama has. Here, I’d say that the lack of overall enthusiasm on social networks shines through. Updates are sporadic. It makes it seem participation on these sites aren’t important.

YouTube

Well, you can obviously see a trend here. Barack Obama has 1805 uploaded videos with 18,474,483 views and 115,208 subscribers. John McCain has 330 videos with 2,044,717 views and 28,838 subscribers. Not even close. Again, four times as many subscribers. The big difference is the amount of views and subscribers.

What I’m thinking is that the Obama people know that social networks are a great tool and that their likely voters are part of that culture. McCain’s team has undervalued this resource.

Twitter

Yikes! Obama’s got 113,304 followers and McCain’s got only 4,686. While Obama doesn’t have that many updates, 258, McCain has only 25. From the way they’re written, it seems as if they’re from a supporter…or at least someone that has a connection to the campaign, but isn’t officially tweeting. A sorry effort.

Conclusions

While I think that social networks are more likely to attract younger people and younger people are more than likely to be Obama supporters, the difference in numbers here is telling. It’s a combination of those demographic trends and a likely lack of understanding and interest from the McCain people. This is a big mistake on the campaign’s part and it could harm the GOP for a long time.

Social networking is how many now communicate. How people get their news – or at least how they are directed to their news. It’s how people connect with others. That the Republicans haven’t taken initiatives to in some ways match the Obama’s campaign shows me that the apparatus put in place by the Democrats could give them the knowledge base and experience to dominate in online politicking for years to come.

This is going to be a close election, closer than most people think. And while I can’t say that online social media efforts will win it for Obama if he ends up being victorious, the connections that people make on line, the enthusiasm that it breeds, and the calls to action will, in my opinion give Barack Obama hundreds of thousands of votes…votes that can make a difference.

November 4, 2008 Posted by | Citizen Media, In the News, Newsmakers, Social Media, Society & Culture | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Social media will transcend the negative aspects of the recession

Let’s face it, we’re in a recession. In the past five weeks, the stock market has tanked, the credit market has dried up, and a very large rescue/bailout plan has seemingly had little effect. Companies are now cutting back and employees are being let go.

Usually, the first cut in a recession is personnel, followed closely by the marketing budget. And no matter how much marketers will protest, no matter how many case studies and white papers we can produce showing that cutting marketing is the exact wrong thing to do, CFO’s and other decision makers bring out their scalpels and/or machetes. No doubt this time will be different.

This post is going to be a call out to decision makers, both financial and marketing, to take a close look at social media adoption as a means to keep a competitive edge and how your organization could be damaged or at the very least miss significant marketing opportunities and to address problematic issues. Social media is a whole new ballgame because it covers so much – marketing, customer relations, media relations, public relations, and a whole lot more. And much of it is not controlled by the organization. With your initiatives, you remain somewhat in control – although not as much as you think or you’d like. But social media is now effecting your brand(s), your status within your category, your organization as a whole. That’s because much of social media is initiated and, thus, managed and controlled by outside influencers.

It is you that has to adapt to this new age. You may not understand it at this point. You may have never knowingly read a blog, and you may declare you have no interest in doing so. You may think company names (Google, Twitter, etc.) sound silly, Therefore, you may feel that all of this is unimportant. If you feel that way, you’re wrong. That’s because this isn’t all about you. It is about the way we are all communicating, learning, and exchanging ideas. It’s about how we are now being marketed to. Take the time to learn it. No excuses.

Forrester Research just released a study showing how the use of social media is growing among online adults in the US. What’s also telling is that it’s not just the numbers that are increasing, it is that the types of involvement reflect a deeper involvement by those that use it. If the internet allows greater interaction between user and others, then social media is the engine that drives it. And a solid majority of adults are hopping the drivers seat.

People are searching for information on products and services. They’re going to review sites. They may be blogging about your new line of products, the restaurant you own, the quality of your service. It may be direct comments or it may be part of an overall presentation someone has left.

Forrester found that, in 2008, only 25% of online adults are “inactives” when it comes to social media. The other 75% use social media -whether they know it or not – to express their views,feelings, and concerns. And 21% – just over 1 in 5, are now considered to be “creators”. People who publish blogs, write stories, and upload videos. That means millions of people are now taking time out of their lives to create, produce, and distribute content.

The above graphic show us the hierarchy of user involvement. Forrester reports that the largest group, not surprisingly, is “spectators” at 69% of users. Note that these groups overlap. This means that effectively 7 out of 10 online adults may well be conducting research on whatever is you produce or provide. Right off the bat, you should think of search engine marketing (SEM). But you also should realize that this means that these same people aren’t just using, say, Google, to find your website…they’re also headed over to online review sites to see what others are saying about you. They’re reading (and in many cases contributing to) online forums that talk directly or indirectly about you. And your competitors.

Here’s another graph that breaks down the percentage of each category amongst the online population:

Take note of the critics. Thirty seven percent are writing those reviews, commenting on forums and blogs…they’re getting involved. They are one step away from being creators. They are proof that our culture has changed. That, whether or not you understand it or not, your likely customer base is going online and “doing” social media to get info about you.

This means that regardless of whether or not there is a recession, regardless of whether or not you understand all of this, you need to develop a social media strategy to address the needs of your customers, to market and to promote. To engage.

The fact we’re going to be in a recession does not mean that we’re not going to stop getting involved with social media. And the reality is that that fact that many decision makers don’t see this quite yet will do nothing to slow it down.

October 25, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, In the News, Social Media, Society & Culture | , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging’s still got game

Paul Boutin, writing in Wired, has just pissed off a bunch of people.  With good reason.  He makes a reasonably cogent argument against blogging, but blows it by starting out as a dismayed populist that slides on over and becoming a disgruntled elitist.   He waxes sentimental as to how blogging once was, yet fails to see that for many, perhaps for the many who are just now entering the blogosphere, that their current experiences are just as meaningful as those that he experienced just a few short years ago.  And, to highlight his issues, he uses examples of leading bloggers so prominent (and perhaps unknowingly and unintentionally puts himself in their category) that I would hazard to guess that most of us readers can not relate to.  Sort of a “the cool people don’t do that anymore…it’s only the masses that do”.

All of that masked an intriguing and insightful article.  Today’s blogging atmosphere IS quite different from that of only a couple of years ago.  It has is some ways become more cluttered, reducing the level of discourse.  It has become more “professionalized”, with corporate leaders (or ghostbloggers) writing positive stories in blogspeak.  And it most definitely become a domain for marketers, advertisers, and PR people to promote and push ideas, products, and services.  And, sure, that’s had a negative effect.

But each individual’s blog is a their own thought platform.  That hasn’t changed.  And while he suggest bloggers move over to Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube – they ain’t the same.  Twitter, which I love, allows us 140 character spurts of info.  Not enough for real intellectual thought.  Flickr is important, but it’s a photo album.  And YouTube may not be for everyone as they may not want to speak to a camera and have the world see their thoughts.

Paul starts out by saying “Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.”

That’s not necessary.  That’s because many entering it right now – those that may be considered to be cut-rate journalists – aren’t looking to be respected amateur thought leaders.  Those days have passed and those of us that have been part of it have grown to accept it while those entering it now for the first time won’t really know the difference.

The point I take the most issue with is his use of Jason Calacanis and Robert Scoble as examples as trendsetters for us all.  They aren’t.  They are of the blogosphere elite who have earned their reputations but I won’t be comparing myself to them anytime soon.  I’d say most of the readers of this article wouldn’t – or shouldn’t either.  And we shouldn’t do what they do because, simply put, we aren’t in their league.  It would have been better off if Paul Boutin interviewed a couple of mid-level former bloggers who stopped or have considered stopping.  By highlighting the elite as examples, he brings forth the very hierarchy that blogging was supposed to neuter.

Overall, he’s absolutely right.  Blogging has changed and not always for the better.  And that’s not necessarily what I would want as well.  But maybe it’s time we altered our view of blogging and what makes it worthwhile.

October 22, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Newsmakers, Personal, Society & Culture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Beware of the seven percent

In a recent blog post on Twisted Image’s Six Pixels of Separation, “When Customers Attack, They’re Not Doing It Online”, Mitch Joel looks at a recent Harris Interactive study that shows us that 7% of consumers who encountered some sort of difficulty while they were trying to conduct an online transaction then turned to a blog or a social network to vent. Now, I couldn’t find the study on the Harris site, but I’ll take Mitch’s word for it and assume it deals strictly with online transactions.

Then Mitch goes on to say

Admit it, you thought it would be higher.

No. I won’t admit to that. I’d have thought it would be lower.

He then states

All in all, it’s still a little surprising how low these numbers seem.

No, it’s not surprising to me.

Sometimes I think we forget that most people out there aren’t necessarily all that familiar with blogs. Or online forums. Sure, they may read a blog or two now and then. And they may turn to a product review site when applicable. But that doesn’t mean that they play a proactive roll in contributing to these platforms. Just as we so often see only a few people get involved in all sorts of membership organizations and groups, we will also see what I would assume to be a smaller percentage of contributing complainers. For most, it is not a priority. It’s not part of someone’s nature or usual routine. Continue reading

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Citizen Media, In the News, Social Media, Society & Culture | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m interviewed on Media Bullseye

Last week, on October 10th, I was interviewed by Sarah Wurrey and Jen Zingsheim of Media Bullseye.  It was an honor to be asked.  Many thanks to Sarah and Jen.  The session was called “Social Media and the Meltdown”.

We talked on three topics.

First we talked about how rogue and anonymous employee bloggers can post a threat to their employers – but can provide a service to their fellow employees.  This may be especially important in slowing economic times where companies tend to cut back and often do so in a insensitive manner.

We then discussed how online reviews and/or complaints, while still relatively new and not as prevalent, pose a disproportional threat to companies because of their reach and longevity.

And finally, we took a look at how social media might be affected by the recession.  I don’t really paint a rosy picture as many of us in social media have yet to develop solid case studies with tangible ROI or haven’t been able to develop many direct relationships with clients (as opposed to been outsourced to via ad agencies and PR firms).

Thanks again to Sarah and Jen!

October 18, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Citizen Media, In the News, Newsmakers, Personal, Podcasting, Social Media, Society & Culture | Leave a comment

Reborn

Well, here we go.  Again.  I’ve started up Digital Street Journal after a 19 month hiatus.  I’ve been blogging over at Marketing Conversation.  And I’ll still be there.  A lot.

But there’s nothing like having your own blog.  So here we go.

October 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment