March 22, 2007

2008's Rogue Element - The Candidate Evangelist

By Li Evans

Right off the heels of my review of the Republican Front Runners' websites, news of a video launched on YouTube that spoofs the famous Apple commercial appeared to be the hot topic on the campaign trail in the last two days.  The video's intent is to portray Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton as "big brother" and at the end, there's a mocked up apple logo - turned into the shape of an "O", with www.barackobama.com underneath it.

Of course Barack Obama's camp got the blame for creating this online guerrilla marketing piece, and of course the Obama camp denied involvement (they of course did not deny laughing about it).  Turns out, they really didn't have anything to do with it.  It was just a supporter, ironically, armed with ... of all things, a Mac and its powerful video editing software.

Phildevellishuggintonpost So who is this guerrilla political marketer that created the "Vote Different" video?  Well the Huffington Post got the scoop on that.  His name is Phillip de Vellis, and he contends that he's proud of what he did.  He was employed by Blue State Media that does provide services to the Obama camp, but he resigned from that company.  Blue State Media, however, contends that he was fired.

This campaign is beginning to shake out to be one where these candidates are going to have to become more technically savvy about monitoring their reputation online, or make sure their online marketing staff is that savvy.  What's probably the most telling about all of this, was the fact that it was someone, who wasn't paid for their efforts, they were just a staunch supporter of one candidate.

Soapbox With technology making it quite easy for "the common folk" to get their voice heard as well as social media giving anyone the easiest platform to speak up, these candidates NEED to become mindful of that.  Not only does social media give these candidates a great platform that's a lot cheaper than TV and a great way to reach a segment of the population that they probably couldn't reach before and start a conversation with them, there's something else these candidates are forgetting.  Social media also gives supporters of their opponents a place to start a conversation - one they cannot control and one that could potentially become much louder than theirs.

Do you think that this "1984" Hilary spoof on the Apple commercial is the last we'll see?  I highly doubt it, I think de Vellis exposed a very serious problem for these candidates, the element of the supporters' passion and willingness to express it.  The new "online marketing guerrillas" aren't these overpaid political consultants the candidates hire.  These new marketers are a rogue elements, they are passionate supporters of candidates who don't receive a dime for their creations - and that folks is going to be a major unknown element in the 2008 campaign.  These "Candidate Evangelists" (new term coined here!) are going to be a force and a factor that these candidates need to deal with up until November 2008.

March 10, 2007

Not Recognizing the Power of Social Media

By Li Evans

Power While we as search marketers (and perhaps some marketers and journalists) are isolated in our own type of fishbowl and totally understand the concept of social media and what it's a potential effects are for our clients as well as the power it holds, the rest of the known world - doesn't have a clue.  There's one particular group of our society, however, that should get up to speed on social media, or perhaps their agents or handlers should, that group being Celebrities.

I'm talking about most kinds of Celebrities, from Movies & TV to Sports.  This demographic of people think "oh neat! let me do that" without the faintest consideration that what they put on a MySpace page can be taken totally out of context and then replayed on the internet over and over again.  Something like that can take a very specifically crafted image that took years to establish and tank it within a matter of hours.

Yankovic3 The only group of celebrities that might have a handle on social media, at least in part, are Musicians.  MySpace was set up as a vehicle to help them reach out to their audiences beyond the listening of a CD or at a concert.  In this way, anyone could be part of the "unpaid fan club".  I covered how Werid Al has become the master of social media, compared to his peers, he's a success story that continues to impress.

Cjwilson This morning I came across an article about a pitcher from the Rangers (CJ Wilson), who has a Myspace page, who didn't think before he posted a comment on his other Ranger buddy's (Brandon McCarthy) MySpace page.  Although the comment in his mind was totally harmless and innocent, and had no ill intent in mind, others took the comment out of context and inferred that it was racist.  Since that time, the pitcher has apologized on the Lone Star Ball website, there are some comments to his apology mostly on the "accepting" side.

Yet another incident similar in nature to this MySpace snafu, the USC football team has been connected to a scandal on Facebook involving the creation of a group devoted to "White Power".  Oh but wait - that was all a joke!  Yes, I hear the sighs from all of you, that was mine you heard about 6:30 a.m. when I read the article.

The problem is that celebrities and athletes think this new stuff on the internet where everyone is talking and socializing is "cool", "hip", and "fun".  They can reach out and touch fans in another way, so easily with services like MySpace and Facebook and they can do this - without their agents knowledge. 

Rosie_odonnell Very few of these celebrities really understand the power that social media wields.  Some exceptions could be Rosie O'Donnell and Weird Al, but for the most part, celebrities are in their own fishbowl world and just don't care know.  Celebrities have agents an publicists to handle all the "caring" parts, and to clean up their messes, so at the end of the day - it's these professionals who should be educating themselves on this medium, or employ some search marketers to handle it for them.

March 07, 2007

Wikipedia Scandal Makes Fox News Front Page

By Li Evans

Foxnewswikipedia Today I pop out to FoxNews.com, and what's the second story?  "Contributor Scandal Rocks Wikipedia".  Yesterday while I was out reading the news in the industry, I came across this same story about Wikipedia's editor scandal, via Threadwatch. The entry on Threadwatch pointed to an article on The Independent about the editor scandal at Wikipedia.

If you didn't know, apparently this scandal came to light last week and has been set on simmer to cook and stew since that time.  Now, the story is just starting to pick up steam.  At the heart of the matter, a 24 year old editor at Wikipedia, known as EssJay on the site, passed himself off as a tenured professor of religion at a private university .  He (who's real name is Ryan Jordan, from Kentucky) even played the part pretty well on a recent Wikipedia podcast (hat tip to Carsten Cumbrowski!).

Jimbo Wales, of course is doing his best to downplay the controversy and say it doesn't expose any inherent weaknesses in Wikipedia, in a quote from the FoxNews.com article.

"I don't think this incident exposes any inherent weakness in Wikipedia, but it does expose a weakness that we will be working to address," Mr. Wales said. "The only thing inherent in the Wikipedia model is a volunteer effort to create the highest possible quality encyclopedia."

I think the contrary to Wales, in that it does expose some big inherent flaws in who you put trust in to "authenticate" information on the "encyclopedia".

Britannica Once again, (I know you've read this before from me) there is site for information when you research articles or need "definition" that is trusted by educational institutions as a true reference for information, it's called Britannica.  Perhaps, one of these days Google and Yahoo will stop discounting all those links as "authority" for Wikipedia, and give Britannica the "authority" presence it should have.

February 21, 2007

Is YouTube the New Napster?

By Li Evans

Flyers After a report I read about the NHL wanting to ban their videos from being embeded, which was subsequently corrected by the NHL on Steve's site - they aren't banning embedding videos, I really got to this eerie feeling reminiscent of Napster, right on the edge of the Internet Bubble.  Granted, this a very broad comparison - there's a lot of technology difference between YouTube and Napster, but there is still some comparisons on the marketing front.

There are a lot of media companies questioning the internet marketing strategies when it comes to YouTube.  YouTube like Napster makes it incredibly easy to share things, big media companies like CBS, NBC and Viacom are all trying to figure out how to recoup some profits from the medium, just like the RIAA wanted to with file sharing on Napster.

This is where lessons in reputation management, word of mouth marketing and internet marketing all converge.  When I first stated the RIAA, come on, admit it - you're immediate thought was a negative one.  You probably had the vision of big bullies who go after grandmothers who let their grandkids use their computers, suing them for thousand of dollars more than their social security checks are worth in a year.  You also, more than likely, had a thought something like "those jerks ruined Napster." Note, that no artist wants to be really linked to the RIAA - there's not one picture of a recognizable "star", or record company on their website, that's how bad their reputation is.

Joost Now, lets look at how different media companies are handling the sharing of video on YouTube and Google.  CBS has embraced YouTube and has seen a rise in veiwership it can directly attribute to the medium.  Viacom and NBC on the other hand have ordered YouTube to remove their content, but, they aren't suing the people who upload their clips, instead they offer the videos on their own sites or looking to other services like Joost to help with their content distribution. 

So which company benefits the most?  In the long run, more than likely it will be CBS, embracing a medium with so many "eyeballs" means they have another medium to advertise on, they just need to figure out that model, is it a banner at the bottom of the screen or perhaps some kind of logo background behind Katie Couric? 

Riaa At least these media companies recognize that this is another viable venue and are treating their viewers with respect, by not going after them directly.  In the case of the RIAA, the result is the back lash of people actually buying CD's has seen an incredible decline.  Music listeners now look to iTunes to pick and choose a song here and there.  And by far, they have probably the most horrid reputation among internet users as a bunch of money hungry lawyers who will bleed the last dime out of you if you downloaded even one song.

These next few months will be very telling for this particular segment of internet marketing.  Those who embrace the medium, can likely benefit in ways the really didn't think they could.  For those who reject the medium - it's all in how you reject it.  There's that old saying "Don't bite the hand that feeds you," it's a lesson the RIAA has learned the hard way over the last couple of years.

February 06, 2007

31 Places to Monitor Your Reputation Online

By Li Evans

With the explosion of Social Media in the last 6 months, there's a lot of new places that marketers and business people need to start monitoring their reputation on. From search engines to forums to social news sites, knowing who's talking about your company, its executives, your products or services online, is every more important.  Social media, whether marketers like it or not, is here and it's where Word of Mouth Marketing is starting and it also affects Search Engine results.  So with that in mind, I compiled a list of places to keep an eye on.  Feel free to comment, I'll add places if I've glaringly omitted a site.

StarbucksreputationmanagementSearch Engines
Search Engines are the foremost place you should be looking at managing your reputation. Who’s ranking for your company name, executive names, product or services? Your own website should be, if its not, its wise to figure out why you aren’t and another person is. You should also be concerned about who is ranking around you, the classic example is a search for the brand term “Starbucks.”

  1. Google
  2. Yahoo
  3. Live
  4. Ask
  5. 2nd Tiers (Lycos, LookSmart, Clusty, etc.)

YahoodirectoryDirectories
The directories, although they can be outdated, are still a place to make sure you are being represented in the proper way. When directories list your site, sometimes they misspell things, or get a description of a site completely wrong. If you paid to have your site included, make sure the submission is exactly how you want to be represented.

  1. DMOZ
  2. Best of The Web
  3. Yahoo
  4. Industry Specific Directories

Netscapesocialnews Social News Sites
One of the newest places that you need to keep an eye on for how your company, services and products are being represented. Although there isn’t much you can do to correct inaccurate information on these services, you should be aware it is out there and where its’ being reported.

  1. Netscape
  2. Newsvine
  3. Reddit
  4. Digg

DeliciouspageBookmarking Sites
It’s great when people can bookmark your website’s pages and share them. It’s a headache when they tag them wrong, or put in a wrong description and you start receiving traffic from them for all the wrong reasons. Like Social News Sites, there’s not a lot you can do to correct these errors, but knowing about them is half the battle, and knowing allows you to prepare how to handle the inaccuracies.

  1. Delicious
  2. Blue Dot
  3. Diigo
  4. Furl

Myspacefakemattcutts Social Networks
Have you secured your company’s MySpace page yet? Yes, as silly as it sounds, a MySpace or Facebook page for your company would be a smart move. It would stop impostors, and you could get the added benefit of being able to spread the “true” news to a whole network of very interested “Friends”.

  1. MySpace
  2. Facebook

Flickrpage Photo Sharing Sites
Photo sharing sites are a great place to share your logos, product pictures, and even photos of events your company is sponsoring. It is also a place you need to monitor for your company’s name, products and services. Like bookmarking sites, tags and descriptions can be added to photos, and although you cannot do much to change someone else’s perception, it’s about being aware of its inaccurate presence.

  1. Flickr
  2. Photobucket
  3. Picasa

Emeraldnutstechnorati Blogosphere
The wild, wild west of the internet, where a bad name can be created with one blog post, otherwise known as the Blogosphere. The most recent example of this is Jennifer Laycock’s incident with the National Pork Board. Within hours, the blogosphere went wild with this story. There have been other incidents like the Kryptonite Bike Lock incident, Microsoft’s giving laptops to bloggers, and Edelman & Walmart’s Flogging come right to the forefront of my mind. You need to keep an eye on the blogosphere, set up feeds to check what’s being posted about you, or look to see what kind of “buzz” is around your reputation.

Be aware, and come up with a game plan how to fix your problem if one creeps up. Also making sure to “claim” your site/blog/name on services like Technorati and MyBlogLog are essential. The last thing you want is an impostor getting a hold of your brand and doing damage.

  1. Technorati
  2. Blogpulse
  3. Google BlogSearch
  4. Ask Blogsearch
  5. MyBlogLog

Wikipediawalmartpage Other Sites
There’s a few other places that you should be aware of that don’t particularly fall into a “category”, but are equally important because of either the weight of their “perceived” authority or the viral effects and ability to spread news.

  1. Forums
  2. Message Boards
  3. Wikipedia
  4. StumbleUpon

I tried to round it to a number, but I think 31 on is just enough for any marketer to keep an eye on.  How about you, do you have any place in mind that I missed?  Feel free to comment below!

Related:
8 Online Marketing Tips for Libraries
Social Media Sites:  A Handy Reference Guide

November 26, 2006

Speculation: PR Newswire To Get Bid From Apax

By Li Evans

Pr_newswire_logo Rafat Ali at PaidContent.org has an article speculating the PR Newswire is about to get a billion dollar bid from Apax.  Apax is the company that acquired Incisive Media (who runs the Search Engine Strategies conferences) and took them from public to a private company.  Currently PR Newswire is owned by by UK-based B2B firm United Business Media (UBM).

I marked this headline as speculation, as right now, although it was reported in the UK Sunday Times, UBM is keeping tight lipped on this "rumor" and telling Reuters "there are currently no discussions."  Prweb_logo This is definitely something Public Relations professionals should be keeping an eye on, especially after the recent (August 2006) acquisition of PRWeb by Vocus.  The area of press releases and the web is about to become a pretty interesting place.

November 21, 2006

Google Bombing For a Good Cause

By Li Evans

I first saw this on Robert Scoble's blog late last night and then I just read Nathan Weinberg's blog and saw it there, after seeing it twice I investigated a little further.  It seems a racist website has a top billing on Google (complete with sitelinks!) for keywords related to Martin Luther King, Jr.  Chalk full of inaccuracies and hate, its really not a "true authority" on Martin Luther Kin Jr.

Tuttlesvc This is actually one of those times when looking at the SERPs once and a while and really gaging if your top authority is correct and fixing the errors that occur would be a GOOD thing.  Matt Cutts - if your listening go read Tuttle SVC to get the full information.

Here's my contribution!

Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King

November 12, 2006

Radio Shack Needs Sales Representative Training

By Li Evans

Radioshack I wasn't going to blog about this because this happened in the offline world, but I saw a posting on Seth Godin's blog about Radio Shack and it was pretty much the experience I had yesterday.  That's when I got to thinking about a post I wrote about Jackie Huba's experience with J.Crew.  That was a totally positive experience and the type of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) marketers treat as gold.

What Seth wrote and what I'm about to relate is something corporations should start taking note of as more and more consumers take to the web and even start blogging about their experiences, since its not the WOMM companies really want to see.

I don't know if it was the "Radio Shack Water" they all drank, but I had a bad experience at Radio Shack, too.  I should clarify, my father had the experience, I like Seth, was merely a spectator, shaking my head as I left the store.

As par for the course, my father comes in with his list and gives it to "Lance" at the Frackville, PA store.  I've seen my father do this before with no problems from the other sales reps, in fact most of them are very grateful my father has it so spelled out.  This guy gives a snarky remark "What's this?!"

Immediately, my "oh this is going to be fun" meter gets triggered. 

Rather than look at the list and go back to the area where the items would be, he goes to the computer.  Then gets all snarky again, "these will ALL have to be special ordered."  My dad replies "O.K., how long, because the last time it took 3 weeks."

"Oh it NEVER takes that long sir, it should only take 3 days. I believe you are mistaken when you say how long it took, because it never takes that many weeks."  We both heard the 3 days from this sales representative with "LAC" on his sleeves, and I was a bit taken aback by him telling my father he was wrong.

So the bantering with this sales rep, who's being very combative with my father goes on, and it's not  a nice in tone at all.  Finally the sales rep says it'll be 3 to FIVE days.  When my father questions him on why now its "to 5 days", Lance replies "I said 3-5 days before." 

WOW!  This guy was just plain out rude.  And upon leaving with a receipt for the products special ordered in hand, my father says "That guy said 3 days at first, you heard it too, right?  That guy's the reasons why I hate coming to Radio Shack, next time we'll drive to Moyer's in Pottsville." (smaller more personable electronics type store farther away).

Seth's story is pretty much along the same lines.  Radio Shack, with all it's recent woes (its had to close close to half its brick & mortar stores and has had to corporately restructure to prevent even more financial losses) would be wise to re-invest in training for their sales representatives.  I think they want them coming back to them in droves, not vowing to go to the competition.

Edelman Learns Fast - On The Ball for WalMart

By Li Evans

Edelman and WalMart are filling the blogosphere with a buzzing sound again.  At least this time Edelman is pro-actively addressing the situation in a timely matter.  That's good to hear especially since WOMMA's put their membership on review.

Nazisymbol Although Edelman's response time on this is much better than the flogging episode last month, the slow reaction of WalMart might be what hurts them the most this time.  In the middle of this past week - November 9th to be exact, a blog called Bent Corner posted about WalMart selling Nazi symbol t-shirts.  That post started getting a lot of traffic, and within a day Edelman was on the ball and emailed them regarding the t-shirts, saying they were going to be pulled from the stores.  Bent Corner followed up with a post, both posting Marshall Manson's reply, but also some investigation whether or not WalMart had truly pulled the t-shirts (they hadn't as of the blog's post yesterday 11/11/06).

I decided that since I had a trip to make to WalMart myself I'd check my local store out to see if the t-shirts had been pulled as well.  At first I could not find the little square poster with the t-shirt's main image on it.  If you go to this section, you'll know what I'm talking about.  There were a few "blank" containers, that contained scattered shirts.

Low and behold, there were these nazi t-shirts, all in one of those containers.  This wasn't like the other containers where it had bunches of mixed kind, these were all the same shirt in a container that was "blank". So for the sake of proof, I bought the t-shirt (which is now on its way back to the store to be returned) took a picture of the shirt and scanned in the receipt.  This store just took down the front cover display, the shirts were still there for purchase.

Naziwalmarttshirt Walmartreciept_1

Edelman is clearly on the ball about this situation.  They are addressing and engaging the blogosphere, it's their client who is slow on the uptake this time.  Their client also has pretty piss poor understanding of how offense this shirt really is, and that it needs to be entirely removed from the shelves, not just the display announcing its presence removed.  Of course this is entirely me assuming that Edelman and WalMart truly want this issues to stop the blogosphere from buzzing again.

Kudos to Edelman on the monitoring and engaging.  Rotten eggs to WalMart till the t-shirts are totally removed.

*please note, any sort of racist or inappropriate comments will not be posted.  this blog post is to focus on Edelman's reaction to WalMart selling these t-shirts.

October 22, 2006

Reflections: Edelman, WalMart & Flogs

By Li Evans

Edelmanengagingtheconversation The last two weeks haven't been the greatest for the Edelman PR Firm.  The revelation of their client's blogs (WalMart) being "fake", a term now coined as "Flogs" or "Flogging", and recent revelation of direct Edelman employees writing in the blogs have made it to the front page of at least one major news outlet.  There has even been a call for Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel to resign.

Personally, although there are some good points brought up on Strumpette, I'm not ready to put Richard Edelman's nor Steve Rubel's head on a pike and dance around in celebration.  I keep reading all these comments, and I just am amazed at the venom and what seems like the seething hatred.  I don't know whether it comes from hatred of the "big box store" (WalMart), or hatred of the fact that a "big company" has been caught in hypocrisy, where if it were a little guy, they'd be smooshed like bug under the heels of WOMMA.

People make mistakes, and you know what makes up companies - people.  Whether you take ownership of your mistakes and take steps to open the lines of communication, determines whether or not you learn from the mistake or your get buried by it.  Edelman is learning, even Steve Rubel is learning.

The truth is, this industry we all find ourselves in, Social Media Marketing, is so new - we are ALL learning.  We all make mis-steps, but opening ourselves up for engagement, although scary as hell for any company, it's vitally needed.  Edelman, nor Steve Rubel haven't closed up and hid away, in fact they've openly invited conversation and debate.  No one's taken comments off their blogs, no one's deleted and renamed email accounts.  They've even reached out - and yes they made calls to "big name bloggers" like Scoble, but I'm tired of hearing professionals in this industry make that be "Bad" thing. 

Instead of whining about them not reaching out to "small bloggers" - why not email them or make the comment?  Engage them in an intelligent conversation and debate, they are willing to listen.  I know this personally, because I took that step and found myself pleasantly surprised.

Sometimes as quick as the blogosphere is to judge a company's action - because of this "drive through society" we live in, we forget that companies, on a whole cannot react in the same instantaneous fashion.  Even more so, with this industry since the rules of engagement are still being defined.  Edelman was slow to respond, and wrong not to disclose the facts upfront, but they admitted their mistakes, acknowledged their wrongs, apologized, and now are engaging the conversation.  If you have issues and points to make email Edelman or Steve Rubel, I know they are listening.

I wrote in my prior post that I felt wrong that Edelman's apology was enough, that was my quick reactionary "drive through society" mind in action.  I've been thinking about that a lot this weekend.  Their apology and subsequent willingness to open dialog is more than enough for me, take that for what its worth - but in this "small blogger's" opinion, social media professionals should intelligently engage in this conversation or move on.

Related: Edelman Takes Ownership of Walmart Blogging Mess, More Walmart Flogs Written By Edelman Employees

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