Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Media's Love Affair With Twitter

I signed up for my Twitter account in May 2007, about a year after a lot of my techie friends did. I really didn't start using Twitter until last fall, and now it seems the whole world is using Twitter.

One thing that has really surprised me about the Twitter phenomenon is how quickly the media has embraced it. It's hard to read any magazine or watch a television program without a plug for Twitter. On-air broadcasters invite viewers to interact with them through Twitter, and often respond to viewer tweets while they're on the air. Think about how much free advertising and publicity (and subsequent word-of-mouth) Twitter is generating. Twitter is almost as popular as the Snuggie.

Just look at the Top 20 Twitterers on Twitterholic and you'll see what I mean. CNN, The New York Times, NPR, and Mashable all make the cut. Depending on your definition of media, you could easily add another 15 media Twitters when looking at the top 100.

I don't remember the media being so enamored with Facebook or MySpace - many media outlets were late to the party for those (and many had to pay-to-play when they got there). It seems that they don't want to miss the boat this time around. Twitter may not have a business model yet (that we know about), but they certainly have captured the attention of mainstream media (not to mention celebrities and other public figures).

So why does the media love Twitter so much? Here are a couple of possibilities:
  • It takes less than five minutes to set up the account - even with some brand-friendly customization.
  • It doesn't cost them a penny - Twitter is free, making it one of the most cost-effective channels for reaching audiences.
  • Accurate audience numbers - while Twitter is still small compared to other online channels, everyone knows how many followers you have. Many media outlets don't know for sure how large their online audience is (read this article in Technology Review for more on this).
  • Twitter has a huge "cool factor" for brands - instantly demonstrating that media participants "get it" and are in-tune to the Internet-savvy audiences that consume their content.
  • Traditional media is hurting - they need to embrace new channels or risk becoming extinct. With newspapers dying everyday, media needs to find new outlets to reach consumers.
  • Twitter drives traffic - with little effort, a media outlet can post a link to a new story and drive up to thousands of unique visitors to its site within minutes (not to mention the pass along retweet factor).
  • Instant feedback loop - journalists know instantly whether or not audiences are interested in their content, based on retweets, click-thru (using trackable URL shortening services and Web analytics), and general responses from readers.
  • Instant trend data (free research) - The media can keep tabs on current trends and topics in real-time, responding even faster to audience demand for coverage. They can also identify new expert sources and topics with relative ease, using simple searches and following the conversations of their followers.
  • The President used it - in part - to get elected. There is huge support from politicians and political journalists on Twitter. It's proven to work as a communication channel for them, why not for media?
  • The competition is using it. Regardless of whether or not Twitter shakes out to be a fad, or they find a business model that forces organizations to pay-to-play, media can't risk their competition having more Twittershare. They need to be there to keep up with the Jones.
These are just a few possibilities for what is behind the massive success Twitter has found so far among media users. It's obvious that Twitter is here to stay for now, as constant media mentions for Twitter drive new users in droves to this channel. It will be interesting to see how journalists continue to use this medium in the months to come.

Why do you think the media loves Twitter so much?

Friday, March 13, 2009

10 Tips for Using LinkedIn

A lot of people ask me about the social networks I use for B2B marketing and public relations. In truth, I only use one for this purpose - and that's LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the B2B social network. I think I joined LinkedIn when it first came around. At the time, I had a Friendster account too, and was trying to decide which one to use. I picked LinkedIn. Good choice.

When I started using LinkedIn, less than 10 percent of my network was in there, but I still found the service to be valuable. Fast forward to 2009, and just about everyone is using LinkedIn in the business world (even if they've just set up an account after giving in to all the peer pressure).

I have made the assumption in the past that everyone knows how to use LinkedIn. Then I'll mention a tip to a tech-savvy friend, and they had no idea they could do that. So here's my stab at 10 Tips for Using LinkedIn, from my own experiences:

1. The SEO Factor - search for "Jeremy Porter" in a search engine, and there's a good chance my LinkedIn profile will come up. Now it might seem like a vanity thing to do SEO on your name, but how do you think people find you? They search for you on the Web. Why not make it easy? LinkedIn pages perform great in search engines, but there are a couple of things you can do to boost your value. For starters, create your own vanity URL through LinkedIn. This is how I got the URL. When you can include a search term in the URL, it makes the page more relevant in searches. Second, link to your LinkedIn profile whenever you can. I've done this on job search sites, Twitter, and other pages to increase the number of inbound links pointing to Jeremy Porter's profile. For example, this blog post links to my profile.

2. Answer Some Questions - while a lot of the LinkedIn Answers can be a little spammy (like Yahoo Answers, if you're familiar with that). There are usually a couple of good questions out there that you can answer, depending on your expertise. When you answer questions, you share your expertise with others - expanding your reach and positioning yourself as an expert. If your answer is voted as one of the "Best Answers" for the question, you'll show up in all kinds of searches in LinkedIn.

3. Join a Group (And Join the Conversation) - there's now a group for everything on LinkedIn. You may want to seek out some groups related to your interests to find others with similar interests. This has been a good use of my time, as I've met countless people in the Atlanta community through groups. Don't just join any group you see though - pick ones that you're most interested in, you'll get more value out of your effort. If you join too many groups, you might turn people off. Of course, you can opt to only display certain groups you belong to on your profile, reserving other memberships for those in that group. I do this with several more obscure groups I belong to.

4. Complete Your Profile -
I'm always surprised by how many people don't complete their profile all the way. This is the single most important thing you can do on LinkedIn. It's the basis for all the connection recommendations, and it's the key to showing up in searches. It serves as your virtual bio or resume, and gives people instant access to your credentials.

5. Add a Picture -
people want to put a face to your name. Make it easy for them by uploading a photo. Pictures are worth a thousand words in LinkedIn, as they are everywhere else.

6. What Are You Reading? -
LinkedIn Applications launched in the past year. My favorite new application is the Amazon widget, which lets you share what you're reading with others. I've received tons of feedback from people that share the same reading interests as I do. In a way, it's much like a business book club for me. It's a great way to keep up with what others are reading too.

7. Find Alumni & Former Co-Workers -
this has been one of the most valuable uses of LinkedIn for me. I think I've connected with most of the people I went to school with - and I've greatly expanded my personal network by getting to know a lot of the alumni out there. You'll also be surprised by where people you used to work with work now. LinkedIn automates this process for you, suggesting people you might know, based on your profile. Take advantage of the suggestions and get to know more people. That's what LinkedIn is all about.

8. What Are You Doing? - some people think status updates are a waste of time, but I've connected with dozens of people based off updating my status. I've said things like "heading to Connecticut to see my family," and had friends in my network say "I didn't know you were from Connecticut, so am I." There are a lot of common ties that bind us. LinkedIn makes it easy to discover this at a much faster rate. The status update is a good tool for this.

9. Who Do Your Friends Know? - some people choose to hide their friend lists from others, but most are open about their Connections on LinkedIn. I've spent some time reviewing the friends my friends have in the past, and have connected with many people I wouldn't have thought of off the top of my head.

10. What's My Connection? -
there have been countless times when I've tried to get in touch with a hard-to-reach contact. Maybe it's a high-profile journalist or a C-level executive at a big company. LinkedIn has been a great tool for finding a way in the door. Simply search for the company name (or the person) and you'll see your degrees of separation to those people. It's much easier to get your foot in the door from a mutual connection than cold calling the secretary. Now keep in mind, you can't abuse this privilege - you need to have a good reason to contact the person, and you need to have a good relationship with the person you're asking for an intro from.

10.5. Provide Recommendations (And Get Them) - everyone has "References Available Upon Request", but LinkedIn lets you put them front and center. Have you worked with somebody that you really liked? Why not provide an endorsement for them through LinkedIn. This type of good karma can often come back to pay dividends for you. Just be sincere and honest in your praise of others - it's a reflection of your reputation and credibility as well.

11. Ask for Help - One more tip for you. If you need help - an answer to a question, quick feedback on a topic, or a suggestion for a new hire, use LinkedIn. Either create a question, a poll or put the question in your status (such as "looking for a graphic designer to help us design a new website"). You'll be surprised how quickly your network or the community-at-large will come to your aid.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Posting for the Sake of Posting

See, I knew this would happen. I finally bite the bullet on the blogging thing, then I don't do a post for over a month. Truth is, I've spread myself a little thin lately. Since most of the people that stumble across this blog are looking for me, I figured it's only fair to let you know what I've been up to.

The Day Job
Since last summer, I've been working for a long-time friend and colleague at Radius Online. Radius provides an all-in-one website and local search engine optimization solution for small businesses. For a low monthly fee, small businesses get a domain, hosting, professional website, content management and ongoing local search engine marketing help. For example, if you're an auto repair business in Decatur, Georgia, we make sure you show up in search terms for local auto repair. While there is a lot of competition from paid services like Yodle, Yelp!, ReachLocal and a lot of Pay-Per-Lead services out there, we're holding our own, delivering some great organic results for clients across the U.S. By the time you read this, we'll have more than 1,500 customers on our program.

I'm managing business development for Radius, integrating our solution with partners, resellers and affiliates serving the small business sector - which is a tall order. While the economy stinks all around, we believe this is the one area small businesses can safely invest to grow their businesses. We've actually seen demand increase for our services so far this year, and several big partners are evaluating our solution as part of their offerings.

The Startup
As some of you know, I've wanted to start a software company for a while. I think there are a lot of unmet needs for new solutions in the PR sector. For the past year or so, I've been working on developing a new product for journalists and PR professionals. While we're still keeping things under wraps, you can start to follow what we're up to on Twitter and the blog. Our first product will be available by mid-summer, and it looks like we'll have more than enough users lined up to take things for a test drive. It's an exciting time to be developing a solution for journalists, bloggers and PR professionals, since all of these segments are going through some big changes. I've been fortunate to pull a great team together, and I hope to be sharing much more of our progress with you soon.

My Other Startups
I now have three wonderful children four and under. Ethan just turned four, Ella is 17 months, and Alexa is five months. All the kids are doing well, but three little ones can be more than the Gabe and I can handle at sometimes. Seriously though, kids are the best startups of all, right? If you're not hanging out with me on Facebook, consider adding me as your friend. I've tried to keep the photos current, but they sure do grow up fast.

Lacrosse Coach
I remain dedicated to growing lacrosse in the Metro Atlanta area. For the second year now, I'm volunteering with the Henry County YMCA to help them build a sustainable youth lacrosse program. We've recently signed up to participate in the Georgia Youth Lacrosse Association and have eight games on the schedule for this spring. Somehow I manage to make it to a couple of practices and a game each week. Thankfully a lot of other people have stepped up to help the program this year, and it's exciting to see the growth and interest in lacrosse in our area. We now have more than 60 boys and 10 girls signed up in the program. I wouldn't be surprised to see this number double again by next season. If you have an interest in lacrosse, and you live anywhere near Henry County, let me know.

PR & Marketing Consulting
I continue to consult with several high-tech startups in the Atlanta area, around the areas of PR, marketing communications and social media. I like variety and startups, so it's a good opportunity for me to spice things up a bit (and bring in a little extra scratch for those hungry mouths at home). If you want to talk shop, or you need help on marketing or PR for your startup, please consider contacting me through LinkedIn.

I guess in the grand scheme of things, I really don't have that much going on. I'm sure you're all as busy as I am. But on the off chance that you were hoping for more frequent updates to Jeremy Porter's blog, I can't make any promises. I have a bunch of post ideas bouncing around in my head. If there's anything around my areas of interest or expertise that you'd like me to blog about, please make a suggestion in the Skribit box on this blog. I hope you're all doing well. Thanks for stopping by to read my blog.