Mack opened with the example of Stormhoek (a winery). They were looking for a way to reach out to bloggers, and came up with the idea of giving 100 bloggers each a bottle of wine. They had some stipulations: must be a blogger in certain locations, must have been blogging for a certain period of time, etc. Didn't require them to blog about the wine.
The result was that bloggers not only started talking about the wine, but blogging about how great it was to be included in the conversation. What was interesting was even bloggers who didn't get the wine were blogging about how great it was for bloggers to be included in the conversation.
In less than 12 months, sales doubled.
So they started thinking about what to do for the next year. They decided to sponsor 100 "geek dinners" (meetups of bloggers at various conferences).
By the end of the next year, sales were up fivefold, and the increase has continued as they have continued to engage bloggers.
It's all about engaging in conversations with your customers. If you don't do it, someone else will.
You need to be aware of what bloggers are saying about you. Google Blog Search is one way -- search on your company name or on terms that are of interest to you and subscribe to the search results either via email or RSS. Any time a blogger posts something including those phrases, you'll know about it.
Tweetscan does pretty much the same thing for Twitter. These two things are a quick way to see what's being said about you online.
That allows you to respond, if necessary. Say thank you, correct an error, join in the conversation.
Should you blog?
Elements of a successful blog
Measuring the ROI of Blogging
Traffic and subscribers: You need to look at both of these together to get a true picture of your readership. For instance, traffic might be flat, but subscribers is growing. That might mean people are finding you through search or other means, and immediately subscribing (so they're reading through an RSS feed and not showing up on your actual site traffic).
Links: Technorati will show you how many blogs are linking to you in the past six months. See which posts get the most links and try to figure out why. You want things to increase, but it's important to know why they're increasing.
Comments: Probably more important than either traffic or links. If the number of comments per post is going up, this is a sign of an engaged audience. You can see which posts get the most comments -- these are topics your readers are interested in.
Grow your blog by leaving it.
The point is to interact with your visitors in their space: comment on their blogs, follow them on Twitter, link to them on FaceBook. Use social media tools in the same way (and for the same reason) as your readers do.
It's a reciprocal thing. You leave thoughtful intelligent comments on their blogs, and they'll eventually come back and leave comments on yours. Don't wait for them to come to you -- you go out and find them.
You don't have to blog to engage bloggers.
He gave the example of Chris Thik and his Movie Marketing Madness blog. Someone from Universal Studios was monitoring the blog space and saw Chris had been writing about the Miami Vice movie already, so contacted him and gave him a half-hour of time to talk more about the movie. Chris thought it was so cool and posted about it -- and within a day or so, at least 20 bloggers had picked up on it, all talking about how smart/cool it was for this PR person to be monitoring the blogosphere and be willing to engage the blogger.
It's still pretty rare that it happens, enough so that it stands out in the minds of bloggers and attracts much positive attention. So even if you don't have a blog, engage bloggers who are talking to your audience already.
Why blogging really matters
Mack had dozens, maybe hundreds of people he's met only online, so he set himself a goal to attend more conferences to get to know people in person. It was an amazing experience. People will go halfway around the world to meet people who are technically "strangers" (in that they've never met face to face before).
The affinity people have for the best bloggers just has to translate into something for the businesses they blog for.
The real value of blogging is that it allows people to connect with other people.
Points to remember
It's not about the tools, it's about the conversations and connections that the tools facilitate.
The conversation monetizes itself. Tim Jackson from Masi Bicycles says he's doubled the sales of his brand in a year, almost entirely on the strength of the community that's evolved around his personal blog. He only advertises a tiny bit, and it's not even a corporate blog directly promoting the brand, yet it's had a huge impact on sales.
Join your community. Don't worry so much about promoting yourself. Focus on becoming an active part of the community.
What blogging platform do you recommend? Mack uses Blogger, and has found a lot of ways to tweak it. He knows a lot of people are fond of WordPress, and if he had to do it all over again, he'd probably go with WordPress, but he's happy with Blogger.
What to do if you don't think you have something interesting to say? Should you try to answer questions, drive links back to pages, what? You have something interesting to say. It's just a matter of finding out what that is. You can promote yourself if you do it in the context of providing the information your readers are looking for. If you've been getting questions via email, try answering some of those online.
What about having a blog as part of your "regular" website? Mack doesn't think it's necessary to have a separate blog site, but you can if you want. Either way should work well.
What about clients who have great products and good writing skills, but are feeling overwhelmed? What tips can you offer to help them get started? That's where monitoring the blogosphere can be helpful. Start with that and see waht others are saying, dip your toes in the water by participating in conversations. That would likely lead them to wanting to blog eventually.
What are your thoughts about having someone ghostwrite your blog for those who don't have the time? He's against it, because if it has your name on it, it should come from you. It works best if you get in there and make your own mistakes. It's an authenticity thing. You need to be upfront about it if you do decide to have someone else writing your posts. Another alternative: group blogs. Let multiple employees blog, so nobody has to blog all that much. If you have multiple employees, this could be a way to get around the time-crunch issue. Another alternative: recruit evangelists from your user community and let them blog on your behalf. Example: the Fisk-A-Teers blog.
SEO tips for setting up a blog? WordPress is pretty much search friendly out of the box. It's also a great link attractor. The more you link out, the more others will link back. You can feed your blog posts to Twitter, which can bring you additional readers. When others read good stuff on your blog, they may send others there via Twitter or social bookmarking sites. Having a blog helps you focus on long-tail niche search phrases really well. You can talk about "small topics" in the blog that may not fit well in the standard corporate site.
What kind of stats? Wordpress 2.5 has stats built in now. You can easily install code for things like Google Analytics, which is free.
What about the negative side of blogging? You do have to consider if your company is going to be comfortable with what you post. You need to know what their policy is. When blogging for yourself, you need to be careful about how you express your opinions. It's good to be passionate, but keep in mind legal limits. Mack has heard of one company who's blogging policy is supposedly "don't be a jackass." Jennifer pointed out that getting sued (or threatened with a lawsuit) can be a good thing if you handle it correctly.
Check Mack's blog: The Viral Garden for more links/info on the blogging-related stuff he didn't get to cover in today's session.
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