Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From Zero to Community: Webcast Archive

Here is the archive of the webcast, from Zero to Community, I did with Bert Dumars, VP of interactive marketing at Newell-Rubbermaid, and Rachel Happe, principal of The Community Roundtable two weeks ago.

This was hands down one of my favorites. How about you?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Want to Win a Pass to Inbound Marketing Summit Boston?

Our friend, Justin Levy, of New Marketing Labs was kind enough to give my Quick-n-Dirty podcast partner, Jennifer Leggio and me a few passes to the upcoming Inbound Marketing Summit: Boston to give away on our show. We've already given away passes the last two weeks during the show and we're going to give away another pass this Thursday to one lucky caller. However, we have one other pass that we're going to give away in a little bit of a different way...

Anyone that knew me in my early days of Twitter may remember my weekly "Tweet-ku" contests -- essentially a prize for the best haiku poem completed in a 140 characters. I would give away $20 iTunes gift cards. This time around, you don't need to do haiku (although your welcome to if you like) but Jennifer and I are looking for the most clever tweet ABOUT the @QuicknDirty podcast show. Yes, that's pretty vague but that's not by accident.

How do you enter you ask?


  • You must be following the @QuicknDirty podcast Twitter account
  • You can enter multiple times with multiple tweets
  • The tweets MUST contain a reference to the "@QuicknDirty" Twitter handle
  • Contest starts as of noon, PT today (September 28) and ends at midnight, PT on Wednesday, September 30.
  • The winner will be announced on the show (Thursday, October 1 at 3 PM PT / 6 PM ET)
I'm sure I've forgotten something so feel free to tweet me @aaronstrout or leave a comment down below.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Weekly Social Marketing Links: Week of 9/21

Cross-posted on Powered's blog

Oh how quickly the time passes. As some of you know, I try and do a weekly digest of the links that my team (marketing, sales and product) come up with for our recurring staff meeting. A series of all day meetings and the usual travel have conspired against me. Fortunately for you, that doesn't change the quality of the content/links that the team found.

With that as a backdrop, let's see what we've got...

Beth Lopez (Marketing)

(9/16) My article submission for this week is called The Great Trust Offensive. It appears the top 100 brands (as ranked by Interbrand) have fallen out of the trust tree with consumers. Edelman conducted a phone survey and found that only 44% of Americans stated they trusted business, down from 58% in the fall of 2007. As a result, many of the top brands are now focusing their advertising and messaging on re-building this trust with consumers and joining the “conversation”. The article goes on to provide case examples of McDonald’s, Ford and American Express and has CMO’s of these companies quoted throughout.

You can also view the 100 Best Global Brands 2009 in a slideshow format which provides a snippet of their marketing strategies. I’ll see if I can download the full report and provide to everyone. Here’s the link to the slideshow.


(9/4) Joe Marchese throws down the traditional vs. social marketing gauntlet in the blog post,
The $1 Million Social Media Marketing Challenge, which starts with “I think there is an inherent conflict in the following statement: "We can't measure social media ROI. But when we buy television in large amounts, we know it works." He goes on to state the problem with marketers comparing social media and TV and issues a challenge: If the ROI from social media is not equal to that from traditional media, his company will deliver free media until the difference is made up.

Interesting read to say the least.

DP Rabalais (Marketing)

(9/16) As I mentioned in our meeting, I thought it would be of value for all of us to become more familiar with Net Promoter Scores, since many companies place such a high value on them.


(9/4) The title is Social Net Branding Fails to Sway Women and the article was published today on brandweek.com. A study by ad:tech Chicago and Q Interactive that analyzes how women engage online with brands finds that 75 percent of women reported that social networking sites have little bearing on their purchasing decisions.

Sites have "somewhat" of an influence over 21.9 percent and greatly influence only 3.3 percent of users.

Only 10 percent of women said that participating in brand-related activities, such as finding information (8.7 percent) and writing reviews (1 percent), was their most common social media activity. Sending private messages to peers (34.6 percent), sharing photos (13.4 percent) and chatting (12.8 percent) ranked as women's top-three social media activities.

Bill Fanning (BizDev)

(9/16) I actually have two articles to share. The first is post on Eyecube blog titled, Congratulations TGI Friday’s, Now the Work Begins and the second post was written by Greg Verdino and posted to his blog titled, Social Media Marketers are a Shallow Bunch. Both posts highlight the latest campaign by TGI Friday’s to drive Facebook fans but are curious about what’s next. Now that they’ve blown out the goal of reaching 500,000 fans (875,170 fans as of this morning) how do they plan to keep them engaged. They’ve got a real opportunity to drive ongoing lasting relationships with their consumers and, quite frankly, revitalize an otherwise stale brand. Will they capitalize on it? We’ll keep watching and hope for the best. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my free burger… I think.


(9/4) This week’s shared post is from Jason Falls’ blog Social Media Explorer, titled, Brands Are People. It’s short and simple but powerful. He refers to a message he received from a friend who worked in the Golden Age of the Advertising Industry and a WWII fighter pilot. He says “It seems we got into the idea that ads were a lot easier than relationships.” I’d agree and we’ve been saying this for a while, but it just seems more credible coming from someone who actually lived and worked during that time.

The rise of TV as a mass marketing media was certainly a major contributing factor that widened the relationship gap between consumers and companies. We live and work in an amazing time where the rise of the internet has provided consumers a media that will require companies to break down the walls that divided them and re-learn how to build real relationships with consumers. The companies who choose to embrace the new media and master it will have a leg up on those who don’t.

Who knows…maybe in 30 years our kids will be watching a show like Mad Men where they act out the lives of today’s Social Media movers and shakers. If the characters are based on the folks I’ve seen speaking on Social Media panels over the last couple years, it’s bound to be funny but not nearly as classy!

Jay MacIntosh (BizDev)

(9/16) What Powered does is game-changing for marketing.

At the end of last year as I was becoming more familiar with social media marketing and our company, my intuition was that speaking with customers on their terms (i.e. things that they care about, when they’re interested and with people they trust) was the golden ticket for marketers. The disconnect for me was the lack of available data to support my intuition. What I had from our client programs, or third party sources, wasn’t quite complete or reliable enough so the results story often came up short. I think that’s recently begun to change due to a number of factors including our improved measurement & reporting capabilities as well as other practitioners publicly sharing their results.

Let’s look at one key marketing metric related to engagement – click through rate (CTR). This article from MediaPost Tuesday Super for Facebook Brand Pages talks about a study that found the average CTR on Facebook brand pages to be 6.76%. It goes on to say that certain days of the week perform multiple times better than other days of the week. Tuesday being the best and Friday being the worst. It’s encouraging to see that the Facebook 6.76% CTR kicks butt on other forms of marketing such as email (CTR 3.9%) and banner ads (CTR 0.2%). And what about Powered’s CTRs? For content our CTR is 50 friggin% - talk about kicking butt? For HP’s HHO site the CTR to their ecommerce is 7%. That’s kicking some serious booty.

And what about other ways marketing is measured like conversion, net promoter score (loyalty & advocacy), customer insight? What we deliver in these areas is also game-changing. So why aren’t more marketers going for the golden ticket? Is it lack of knowledge, understanding, familiarity, budget or something else they fear? I’d love to hear y’alls thoughts on this.

Don Sedota (Product)

(9/16) Although this probably isn’t groundbreaking insight to the team, I thought this article “When Facebook Fans Turn Ugly: Examining The Honda Accord Crosstour Page” was an interesting synopsis of a recent PR snafu that Honda had to deal with regarding their new FB page to promote the Accord Crosstour. After numerous comments from users about the ugliness of the car, a Honda rep (posing as a regular Joe) chimed in to give his support. Once he was outed, Honda had to do some quick damage control (some good, some not so good). The bad – removing the comments from the Honda rep which further enraged fans. Anyways, a good quick read that hits on some of the do’s and don’ts of containing a negative social media storm.

On a similar note, I have to feel kinda sorry for the Intuit reps that are trying to keep up with a hoard of unhappy Mint customers after Intuit acquired the financial site earlier this week. Ouch!


(9/4) Here are a couple of pretty entertaining articles that I found this past week.

The first one from David Berkowitz’s blog called, When Augmented Reality Goes Social talks about a few applications of augmented reality (when digital is layered over real-world experiences to “augment” the experience) and social. My favorite example is a Yelp application for the Android platform which is apparently still pretty buggy but allows you to walk down a street and through your camera lens you can view Yelp overlays in the appropriate spots to show different restaurants and their ratings (really cool). Apparently more applications like this are coming down the pipe.

The second one is social related but entertaining more than anything else. It’s a blog post by Jonathon Fields called PR Gone Bad. How to Anger Bloggers and Hose Your Client. Jonathon details a back and forth exchange he had with a PR firm who was trying to get him to review a new book for their client. The PR tactics are extremely traditional and impersonal and the ensuing exchange of emails between Jonathon and the PR rep is a classic example of how certain people still don’t get the fact that social marketing is changing the way PR firms and the like have to conduct their business. Well worth the read if you have a few minutes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Quick-n-dirty Podcast Recap (Yup, I Drew the Short Straw Again)

Somehow I managed to draw the short straw again this week...  So it's my turn to do the recap of the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show again this week. Fortunately, I think this was one of our best yet -- top three at least -- so I really don't mind taking the time to be the scribe for show number fifteen.

Before I dive in, I have two housekeeping items that I'd like to cover:
  1. We are giving away another free pass to the upcoming Inbound Marketing Summit so be sure you call into this week's show. The number is (347) 308-8632.
  2. There is a survey on the effectiveness of hashtags that my co-host, Jennifer Leggio, and friend, Deb Robison, have put into the field that needs more respondents. Please vote if you get a second.
With that said, onto the recap!

  • Featured Social Network: Threadsy. Well, this one's still in private beta so unfortunately you won't be able to see much of Threadsy first hand. But you can read more about it over hear at TechCrunch. Jennifer saw their demo via streaming video from the recent TechCrunch50 event and was impressed enough to want to cover it. In a nutshell, they "take all of your online communication and shove them into a single service." Note that I have already requested an invite!
  • Special Guest: Michael "Britopian" Brito. Yup, he's the guy that focuses on social over at this little chip manufacturing company in Silicon Valley called Intel. Oh wait, you've heard of it? Yeah, I thought you might have. Anyway, during the show Michael dropped some serious knowledge on how he/Intel look at engaging their customers through social. In fact, Michael was kind enough to share a pretty cool example of his efforts here.
  • Featured Tweeter: Chris Penn. Just read his Twitter bio... Financial aid expert, Edvisors.com CMO, PodCamp co-founder, MarketingOverCoffee.com co-host, speaker, author, USF marketing professor, actual ninja, unholy DK." How can you not like this guy? Seriously though, he creates some serious value both in person, on his podcasts and in his Twitter stream. Follow him. NOW!
  • Point / Counterpoint: I liked this one because Jennifer and I actually kind of disagreed on this one. She whined about argued the fact that with so much noise out their in the blogosphere, it was hard for new and/or quality voices to get a say. My counterpoint was that if content isn't good, people eventually vote with their feet (she used Mashable as an example of an organization that may have lost their way). I also chimed in that people who have good content need to be better advocates for themselves. If a tree falls in the woods, nobody hears it if nobody knows the tree existed.
Onto next week's show. Our featured guest will be the lovely, Laura Fitton. You know her as Pistachio. I know her as one of my teammates on Team Shuckri. You will soon know her as the CEO and co-founder of exciting new startup, oneforty. And as I mentioned before, we'll be giving away another free Inbound Marketing Summit pass so you can't afford to miss it! Just ask last week's winner, Bill Johnston (he's a good guy so Jennifer and I were both psyched that he won).

To listen to the show, you can either click play on the BlogTalkRadio icon on my blog or head on over to BlogTalkRadio (we're also on iTunes).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Teaching a Man to Fish: Brett's First Forray into Blogging

My friend, Brett Agnew, who is self-admittedly a little "technology adverse" (or Luddite) as Bryan Person likes to call it, is learning about the process of blogging. So, as we spend a Saturday afternoon BBQ-ing some ribs, watching college football and consuming some beverages, we are putting together a blog post so he can see how easy it is to whip something together.

To be fair, we're not completely resting on our laurels so in spite of our "manly" duties, we're also watching our two, two-year old daughters and Bryan's three year old son. A little mix of "guy" stuff and "daddy daycare."

During the course of our discussions, Brett wonders aloud about what he would cover if he were to create his own blog. The first title he came up with which Bryan and I are kind of bullish on is "The Evolution of a Man." Focus would be on how one evolves from boy  to mustang to man and all the steps in between.

For any of you that have advice for Brett and how he might get started, I've offered to triage any suggestions since he's still mostly an e-mail/phone guy (to his credit, he does own an iPhone). Thoughts?

Better Late than Never: Brogan Interviews Strout

When I first joined Powered Inc. last November, one of the first tactical things we did on the PR front was to announce my arrival at the company. One of the things our agency (pre-SHIFT) recommended was picking an A-list blogger to interview me. Given my pre-existing relationship with Chris Brogan, combined with his focus on inbound marketing, I thought he'd be the perfect person.

Fortunately, Chris was only at 200% capacity at that point since he had yet to publish his NY Times bestselling book, Trust Agents, with Julien Smith. The podcast itself is fairly raw (thanks to friend, Jim Storer, who did some light editing) but I was pleasantly surprised at how relevant it still is. Particularly since I had only been at Powered for a little over a month so I was on the early part of my knowledge ramp.

If you're an advocate of content marketing (hint hint Ann Handley, Simon Salt, Natanya Anderson and Joe Pulizzi), I'd love to get your thoughts in the comments below.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Plurk vs. Twitter: Who You Got?

Cross-posted on Deb Robison's blog

On last week's Quick-n-Dirty podcast show, my co-host, Jennifer Leggio and I spent some time talking about Twitter wannabe, Plurk, and why it never really took off (see Compete's comparative numbers). In fact, in my wrap up post, I went so far as to say that Plurk "sucked." Well, our friend and listener, Deb Robison, hopped on the show's live chat and told us not so fast. In fact, Deb argued that not only was Plurk not dead but rather that there were a number of reasons why she actually liked Plurk more than Twitter.

This conversation of course piqued my curiosity so I threw the idea out to Deb that we do a "point / counterpoint" on Plurk vs. Twitter. We agreed to divide and conquer with me writing the intro, both of us creating a list of "pro's and con's" and then Deb doing the wrap up. Since Deb gets the last word in this discussion, I have to say, she's done a great job getting me to think more about my harsh criticism of Plurk. That's not to say that I will jump back in and start using Plurk again but rather that I might take a "kinder and gentler" approach when I bring it up.
To make this a little more interactive, I did add my comments on Deb's lists in brackets -- I encouraged her to do the same (hers are in gray type):

Deb's Plurk Pro's
  1. threaded conversations easy to follow, seems to develop conversation better, more in-depth [AWS - fair point. Although there are a few third party apps that do this for Twitter like Mike Langford's TweetWorks]  Deb: yes, but is TweetWorks widely known? Oddly, one of the best apps for following threaded Twitter conversations is the app-formerly-known-as TwiterFon, now called echofon, but is only available on the iPhone and iPod Touch, so it too languishes in obscurity.
  2. consistency of group builds relationships greeting, familiarity, connections- asking about personal/work issues
  3. timeline and response mechanism prevent missing a conversation you were participating in [Aaron: Twitter could benefit from this although hashtags make an attempt to replicate] Deb: but you still have to do a search for a hashtag potentially taking you away from your Twitter stream- obviously not the case if you use Tweetdeck, or Tweetgrid, but both have limitations- there is often a lag time.
  4. easier to decide who to friend-can see them participate in other conversations and how they are connected to the people you already know
  5. groups formed around communities within plurk- plurkshops, plurk weightloss, recipe exchange
  6. constantly adding new features (where does the money come from?)
  7. can post from other services such as ping.fm and posterous
  8. private conversations take place among a group of people [Aaron: in my mind, this is Plurk's biggest advantage over Twitter. I've heard that this functionality is underway on Twitter but right now, it's frustratingly absent]
  9. **Has anyone noticed my high level of restraint here? I never mention that- Plurk rarely goes down. A lot of folks migrated to Plurk during the season of the FAIL Whale last year, but moved back once things stabilized. [Aaron: great point]
**Deb: I have added #9 as an afterthought here, can't believe I forgot it for the original list **

Deb's Plurk Con's
  1. no community evangelism [Aaron - where's Robert Scoble when you need him?]
  2. karma- it's only a novelty, not sure why people focus on it so much [Aaron - as I mentioned in the podcast, this is the thing I hate most about Plurk]
  3. hard to use on a PC- mouse trackball makes it easier to scroll side to side
  4. no SMS (IM though)
  5. only a couple of mobile apps

Aaron's Twitter Pro's
  1. Sheer numbers: Whether it's 20 million or 40 million (yes, there is a question as to how many of these folks are actually active), many of my friends are here en masse.  Deb: yes, but the numbers are overwhelming, some days I see people in my stream and think "who the hell is that and why am I following them? Or a friend doesn't show up in my stream for days. They were active, but for some reason only some Tweeps show up in the stream. I am sure volume is the issue.
  2. Simplicity: yes, it took a little while to figure out Twitter but it was a whole lot easier to navigate than the land of weird looking animals with bones sticking out of their necks. Deb: again, see my argument about karma- who cares? Are you subject to nightmares after seeing Plurk critters? It's about the conversation.
  3. Third party apps: due to Twitter's open architecture, I've loved the apps that have been developed around Twitter. Deb: yep, the Plurk people missed the boat on this one. Although, I don't understand why the Twitter folks couldn't seem to innovate, Plurk constantly adds new features which seem to play the role of a third party app.
  4. Low barrier to following/un-following: unlike Facebook, I like the fact that following or un-following someone on Twitter has very little stigma. I can "try" someone's stream if I like and then just as easily un-follow them if I don't find value. Deb: never had any problem unfollowing people on Plurk or Twitter, but I notice some people really get upset when unfollowed. What's the big deal? You have a thousand followers and you are going to miss me??
  5. Straightforward stream: while one might argue that this is the biggest strength and weakness of Twitter, I like the fact that I can dip in and out of the stream as I choose. If I want to update and walk away for a day, there's nobody waiting on the other side for me to finish my threaded conversation. Deb: yeah, but I have having to come in mid-stream when a conversation is going on and sort through the tweets to get to the origination of the convo. That is when I reach for TwitterFon (echofon).
Aaron's Twitter Con's
  1. Spam: with mass adoption comes opportunity. With opportunity comes scam artists. Unfortunately, this has become a huge pain in the ass when it comes to determining who to follow back.  Deb: I did not have to deal with a spammer until a couple of weeks ago. It was sending me through the roof. I experienced "SpamRage."
  2. Threaded conversations: while there are third party apps that do this, it would be nice to have this "in-line" on Twitter.
  3. No group DMs: as I commented above, there are many a time when I would love to be able to send a group DM. For instance, I group blog with a number of friends over at Big Papelbon and it would be nice to be able to send a comment to all the contributors via DM all at one time.
  4. Hard to follow lots of users: yes, I do use Tweetdeck which makes following discrete groups easier but it would be nice if Twitter had Friendfeed like capabilities to pre-segment people into groups. Based on Deb's "Plurk pro's" above, it sounds like you can do this on Plurk. Deb: you can create groups and/or private conversations sent to individuals of your choice on Plurk, but I rarely do it. Tweetdeck crashes constantly, so I don't use it anymore.

Gee, I feel like David Brooks and Gail Collins of the New York Times' The Conversation blog where the opposing parties exchange niceties about summer vacation, then give their POVs. The Conversation ends nicely and we politely agree to disagree. That having been said, while I wouldn't use the word "sucks" about Twitter, I don't like it as much as Plurk, but feel I have to use it for my work- held hostage by a little bird and a whale. Thanks for the lovely discourse Aaron and I hope your summer on the Cape didn't leave you with too bad of a sunburn. [Aaron: Deb, this has been a blast. And as you know, I love doing the point / counterpoint thing. Normally I spar weekly with Jennifer on the Quick-n-Dirty but I always welcome engaging with other smart folks like yourself.]

Friday, September 11, 2009

Q-n-D Recap: Kodak's Tom Hoehn and Why Plurk Sucks


That's right, this was the 14th Quick-n-Dirty podcast that Jennifer Leggio and I have co-hosted. I guess you could say that we've moved beyond our "pilot" phase and into the real world of podcasting. To that end, we have some exciting things to note:

  1. Jennifer is now doing her recaps on her Feeds blog over at ZDNet. That's not to say that "Stroutmeister" or "Mediaphyter" aren't kick ass blogs... it just means that we don't have anywhere near the pull that ZDNet does. This is a good thing.
  2. Our show has been selected as a "featured" podcast on BlogTalkRadio. I don't know how many shows BTR does this with but let's just assume it's a good thing.
So onto the recap from this week's show...
  • Featured Social Network: Plurk - first up, we did some trash talking about this "Twitter wannabe." Jennifer and I both joined late in 2008 but found very little value, especially when you compare it to Twitter. Jennifer and I remembered that friend, Mack Collier, was a heavy user back in the day (we won't hold that against him). We also found out that regular listener, Deb Robison, still uses Plurk. She likes the threaded conversations. To that end, Deb and I have agreed to do a joint "point / counterpoint" post. Stay tuned for that one.
  • Special Guest: Kodak's Director of Interactive and Convergence Media, Tom Hoehn, joined us for an extended session during the show. Our conversation focused on the way Kodak is tapping into the power of social to revolutionize one of the oldest public companies in the country. In particular, Tom talked about how Kodak CMO, Jeffrey Hayzlett and lead blogger/twitterer, Jenny Cisney, are helping him push forward with a social agenda, not just for the benefit of Kodak's customers but for their business partners as well. In fact, Tom was able to point us to their AWESOME new booklet of social media tips that Jeffrey, Tom and Jenny put together (definitely a MUST read). For additional background, see our aforementioned friend, Mack's, interview of Tom.
  • Featured Tweeter: Adam Cohen. Partner at interactive agency, Rosetta, Adam was one of the first 25 people I followed on Twitter (as I close in on 9,000 people I follow, that should tell you something). The reason Jen and I chose him as our "feature" was his blend of being helpful, funny and continually able to deliver great content. Viva la Adam!
  • Point / Counterpoint: To retweet or not retweet, that is the question... okay, so we didn't get all "Shakespeare" about this one but we did agree that some retweeting is okay, as long as you don't overdo it AND you add a little color commentary about why you are passing that info along. I personally like retweeting because I think if people are using me as a filter, they can see what types of blogs, videos, articles and podcasts I like. Jennifer was 1/2 sold on this.
Onto next week's show. Our featured guest will be Intel's, Michael Brito. Be sure to tune in. We'll also be giving away a pass to the upcoming Inbound Marketing Summit in Boston. Oh, and be on the lookout for Jennifer's interview on Bub.bilicio.us -- it should be coming out next week!
To listen to the show, you can either click play on the BlogTalkRadio icon on my blog or head on over to BlogTalkRadio (we're also on iTunes).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Un-Retired: The Start of Something New

Last Thursday, I took a bold step and announced my retirement from Twitter. My announcement coincided with my 20,000 update or tweet which is a pretty big deal when you think about how much time and effort it takes to do anything 20,000 times. While I knew it was unlikely that I would stay retired -- thus my comparison of my retirement to two of the greatest "un-retiring" athletes in the world -- I did enjoy my time away from microblogging.

So what did I do with my 120 hours of Twitter-free time? Well, in fairness, I wasn't completely Twitter free. In fact, a few of you caught me inadvertently sending DM's publicly (I did get a chuckle out of your mock outrage). But even though I did keep an eye on Twitter, I felt no pressure to respond, re-tweet or come up with clever little facts or quips. It was quite cathartic actually.

But you know what? I missed it. A lot. However, the time away did afford me the ability to think about what my future "social" strategy looked like. To that end, I've decided on makin
g a few changes as I move forward:
  1. I've talked a lot about signal to noise the last couple years but I haven't always done as good a job at delivering enough "signal." Now that my tweets are appearing on our company's home page, I'm more aware than ever of my conversations. That does NOT mean that I don't plan to swear, complain or throw out the occasional snarky tweet but instead, that I will think a little bit harder about lower value conversations (more on that in the next bullet).
  2. During my five day hiatus from Twitter, I did learn that I really do like conversing on Facebook. And you know what, Facebook is a great place for those "lower value" conversations that actually aren't really lower in value, but rather "de-valued" when they take place in front of tons of people that don't know you. What I mean by this is that out of the 9,500+ people that follow me on Twitter, I probably only know about 1,000 of them. On Facebook, I know closer to 750 of the 1,100 people that I've friended, and many are family members or friends from high school, college and live events.
  3. I need to spend more time blogging -- and not just fluff pieces. What I mean by this is that I felt really proud about posting the Age Wave piece that I co-penned with my friend, John Cass last week. We really thought that post through, did research and delivered a point of view. I want to do more of those thought pieces, both here and on my company blog. I also need to do a better job holding up my end of the bargain on the weekly podcast show I do with my partner in crime, Jennifer Leggio.
So there you have it. I'm officially un-retired. Yes, most of you knew this would come but hopefully I can keep up my resolution to refine my presence on Twitter and deliver more value than I have in the past. For those of you that don't like the new me, just come find me over on Facebook. In fact, you'll notice that I have a new, more serious avatar on Twitter while my old "grumpy-faced" avatar from SXSW has migrated to Facebook.

While I'm at it, I'm planning on getting healthy again. Yup, I've taken too much time off from running and eating well (7 months of commuting between MA and TX will do that to you). Make sure you ask me about my progress on this front regularly as I've found that guilt works wonders with me in terms of keeping me honest.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The NEW American Dream: An Ongoing Conversation

Back in May, two of my favorite content providers, Bill Simmons aka The Sports Guy and Malcolm Gladwell of Tipping Point and Blink fame engaged in an running blog post regarding the NBA among many other things. Not only was this a brilliant three part series but it has inspired me to create a running dialog with good friend, author and PR blogger, John Cass to do something similar regarding AMC's brilliant tv show, Madmen, the future of the American Dream and the role social media plays in changing the rules.

With that as a backdrop, John was kind enough to kick this off with his first shot. I'm not sure whether we'll continue this as a "part II" etc. but maybe we'll carry it over into the comments depending on how interested people are in the

From: John Cass
Sent: Thursday, August 13, 2009 12:21 PM
To: Aaron Strout
Subject: RE: American Dream: Social Media


There's a documentary attached to the Mad Men DVD series that describes the culture of advertising and Madison Avenue in the 1960s. After watching the documentary, the film emphasized that advertising helped to promote the meme of the American Dream by encouraging people in the 1960s to buy products so that as an American you could demonstrate you have arrived in middle class America. As advertising is no longer as effective as it once was, who is promoting the idea of the American Dream? Does social media have a role in defining today’s American Dream? Are your peers, friends and families developing the American Dream?

Also, given the recent concerns about pay per post and the influence of consumer product companies on bloggers, is the web evolving to the point where bloggers are becoming a proxy for advertisers? Susan Getgood discusses more on this idea of advertisers using bloggers as a proxy, and describes the pitfalls of the FTC Even if you do disclose payment or receiving a free product, I wonder are today’s champions of the 1960s idea of the American Dream, bloggers?


From: Aaron Strout
Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 1:25 PM
To: John Cass
Subject: RE: American Dream: Social Media


I was ecstatic when you first mentioned this concept – the fact that watching the documentary about the advertising industry on the Madmen season 2 DVD prompted you to ask the question, “if the ad men of the 1960’s essentially created the American Dream,” what does that mean in an era where advertising as we know it is all but dead? Or more importantly, what does that mean in an era where the greatest influencers of purchase behavior are now “us?”

I’ve responded with some thoughts and a question of my own. Hopefully we can engage in a few of these back and forth e-mails and then cross-post on our respective blogs. Ready?

Our mutual friend and senior Forrester analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, has an interesting theory about microinfluence / microcelebrities. I won’t pretend to be able to discuss this topic as eloquently as Mr. Owyang but the high level take away is that rather than having national or even regional ad campaigns driven by well known celebrities, we will instead seek out the folks like Robert Scoble, Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk -- leaders in the tech gadget, inbound marketing and wine enthusiast space -- to tell us which gadgets to buy, which trends to follow and what wines we should be collecting.

There is a reason I’ve singled out these three individuals is that all three have large voices in their respective fields – easily hundreds of thousands of followers that read their blogs, watch their videos and flock to them in droves at conferences and tweetups alike. These new influencers have many big brands and their agencies scratching their heads as they try and figure out how to tap into this “micro” power. Some have tried the paid for blogger route like K-Mart did via third party, Izea, with Brogan. While K-Mart, Chris and Izea all got their fair share of publicity out of this initiative, it was not exactly as they imagined. Quite frankly, I’m not sure the world is ready for paid for blogging… yet.

In the case of Scoble, he got snatched up by hosting giant, Rackspace, with a goal of having him continue his legacy of great content creation. Gary “Vee” as many of his fans know him has been the most successful by using his micro celebrity-hood to grow his family’s multi-million dollar wine and spirits business It’s only a matter of time before a big vintner or distributor scoops him up.

As the pack of micro-celebrities rise, the big question is what impact will this new breed have on “the American Dream?” Will Scoble drive future generations to schizophrenically jump from technology to technology, always seeking out the latest and greatest regardless of the brand? Will Chris Brogan lead to a new generation of voracious readers that eschew traditional marketing techniques for “new marketing?” Will Gary “Vee” as his fans know him teach people to turn the wine industry on its head by ignoring traditional ratings and reviews of current oenophiles and seek value and passion from their wine instead?

The one question you teed up inyour previous e-mail that I really like was one of “how the world will see America” in the future as a result of the shift in power from Madison Avenue to Joe blogger / Twitterer. I can’t help but think that this is going to be one of the areas of greatest impact, namely because people from all over the world can play a role in shaping opinion of products and services irrespective of their location. A developer in India can have the same voice as a designer in China, a marketer in Australia and an aspiring musician in LA. Instead of a select few ad men telling us what we’ll like and dislike, we’ll be listening to the micro-influencers while quietly helping to shape their opinion through wall posts, tweets and blog comments.

Instead of an “them vs. us” mentality, likes and dislikes will transcend geo-boundaries and rally around interests so “them” in the future might be “Google-ites” and the “us” might be “Apple enthusiasts.” So a question for you. What products that have traditionally been driven by Madison Avenue – like soft drinks, running shoes or jeans – will be impacted the soonest by this paradigm shift?


Sent: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 7:01 AM
From: John Cass
To: Aaron Strout
Subject: RE: American Dream: Social Media


I think Jeremiah's idea about sponsoring online celebrities makes a lot of sense. I think if you look at the Radian6 Twebinar campaign, not only was the campaign successful for Radian6, it launched the company, but the event helped propel Chris Brogan forward as well. Though to me, Robert, Chris and Gary are not really microcelebrities, certainly not Gary or Robert.

While paid for blogging might not work, hiring someone for consulting and moderating the event does appear to do, look at the twebinar again. As to your question about product, I think there's already been some movement look at Zappos and their strategy for using social media for selling shoes, I am sure the crowd has influenced their approach to selling and what to sell.

But let me think more on this question. In the meantime let me ask you this question: The American dream concept was originally meant that people had the opportunity to pursue their own personal dream. Does the advent of personal publishing, cloud computing, and the culture of participation now mean that the American dream can finally be achieved for more people


From: Aaron Strout
Sent: Thursday, August 20, 2009 12:38 AM
To: John Cass
Subject: RE: American Dream: Social Media


Great responses. Although I’m curious as to why you don’t think Robert, Gary and maybe even Chris aren’t microcelebrities? Is that because you think that they are too well known? If not them, then who are the microcelebrities? This is not a loaded question – I am genuinely curious.

Good call on the Radian6 Twebinar campaign. And I like Zappos as an example of social helping to sell shoes (and other stuff). They are a company that everyone should have on their radar. Although I’m concerned about how being owned by Amazon may affect their autonomy. I haven’t seen any drastic changes in behavior yet but I’d be surprised if they don’t try and reel in CEO, Tony Hsieh, a bit as his ongoing transparency could become a liability for the corporation. I have a couple of friends that work at Amazon. Maybe I’ll see if I can get their take. I may also consider asking Tony to come on the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show I do with my friend, Jennifer Leggio.

Onto your question for me regarding the American Dream and whether it's finally achievable thanks to social media. I'm going to give you a consulting answer and say, "maybe." By the way, I thought you'd appreciate that I'm writing my response to you while on a plane from NYC to Atlanta and the last episode of season 2 from Madmen is on - very apropos given the impetus for this post.

To drill down on my answer a little, I'll go further and say that the reason that we haven't fully achieved the American Dream due to the mass adoption of social media is that many people are still limited by time and connectivity. What I mean by this is that while WiFi access is more
accessible than ever (especially thanks to public libraries and internet cafes), a number of people, especially those who work in more traditional blue collar industries typically can't get to libraries or internet cafes during work hours. Also, for people working 1+ jobs a day, engaging in social media is a luxury. With that said, I'll say that we are close. I think that if there is a will, there is a way. Especially with the ever increasing penetration of internet enabled phones.

So, I think it's time for me to tee up a question for you. If a slice of the American Dream is for any musical artist to make money from the sale of their music, do all the downward pressures of free (albeit illegal) services like Bit Torrent and the rise of all-you-can eat services offered by Napster and some of the big wireless carriers going to rob these artists of this possibility?


From: John Cass
Sent: Thursday, August 20, 2009 7:18 AM
To: Aaron Strout
Subject: RE: American Dream: Social Media

Hi Aaron,

I think I'd have to understand the definition of a microcelebrity, maybe it's someone who is only famous within their own field? But when I think of Gary or Robert I believe they have transcended their field and have broader fame. Certainly Gary has that level with all of his TV appearances.

Do you recall the interchange between the Amazon.com CTO or CIO and a blogger a few years ago about social media, it could have been Robert Scoble. Might be interesting to look back at that and see if the CTO is still around?? Perhaps its time for Amazon.com to change and not Zappos!

What you say about the digital divide is true, though you gave me an idea, perhaps most people don't know how they can use social media for creativity, I wonder if our article should also attempt to inspire people to achieve all that they can do. I've always been motivated to give adults another chance through education, even though their current life might seem as if its difficult to change. I think social media gives people another easier opportunity to change themselves into something they want to be.

Regarding music, I think we've seen so many examples of unknown bands making it big because of their use of social media, that I'd argue that social media is more of a help to music by keeping it rich and varied rather than just corporate. It seems to me the quality of
American music has improved, maybe it is difficult for me to argue that social media was the cause but I suspect it was. For some big artists there may not be the same opportunity as there was in the 80's with making as much money, but perhaps now more artists will be able to make a living. I think that artists have to look for alternative ways to make money, such as concert tickets and other goods, the music can be sold but perhaps sometimes that's the loss leader to build the long term relationship.


From: Aaron Strout
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 1:23 PM
To: John Cass Subject: RE: American Dream: Social Media


I was hoping that was the direction you were going with the microcelebrity thing. You're right in the sense that Scoble and Garyvee have become semi-well known in the non-social circles. Chris B. is on his way there. [POST SCRIPT: I talked to Brogan last night and with his NY Times bestselling book and an upcoming television appearance on Dr. Phil have likely solidified his position as non-microcelebrity]

Great point on social helping bands. I've definitely seen it help some of the bigger bands like Radiohead and I'm sure there are hundreds of stories of smaller, lesser known bands tapping into the likes of MySpace and Twitter to grow their followings (same can be said about Pandora helping out). As for inspiring people to achieve all they can do, I like that goal. I'm going to suggest that for a different post. In fact, I just watched a movie last night called Revolutionary Road. A bit depressing but very well acted and it had a great message i.e. be careful of what you settle for. You game? Either way, doing this post via e-mail with you has been a blast. Your move..


From: John Cass
Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 2:43 PM
To: Aaron Strout Subject:
RE: American Dream: Social Media


Super, I'd definitely be up for continuing the conversation in a different post.I really like the idea of the American Dream inspiring people to be more than they are... especially already established and older people who might no longer be all that motivated because of where circumstances and choices have taken them in life. I think there's always hope, and it would be interesting to explore how social media has changed people's lives.

Great to collaborate on these ideas.. On a topical note, but seemingly related, I've been listening to some of the radio eulogies about Ted Kennedy, certainly a very inspiring man who drew a lot strength from his family, experiences and even tragedies, but who did something with those experiences.


Photo courtesy: http://kristisiegel.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My 20,000 Tweet...

Hmmm, trying to figure out what my 20,000 tweet should be. I have a few thoughts but figured folks may be willing to give me some suggestions here. If you missed my 10,000 update, it was a doozy. I know I won't be able to trump that so I'm thinking about the following ideas:
  • My favorite 20 tweets of all time (mine or others)
  • A charity message
  • My favorite 20 tweeters (fraught with social danger)
  • 20 tips for maximizing social (feeling like this might be a cop out)
So tell me oh wise ones, what should I do? I've only got about 20 tweets left before I hit the milestone.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Marketers Beware the Age Wave


92, 62 and 78.
These three numbers promise to have a major impact on marketing over the next five to 10 years. Why? The numbers highlight an on-going radical change in demographics in the United States. Seventy-eight is the number of Baby Boomers that were born between the years of 1946 and 1964. Sixty-two million is the number of Gen X-ers that were born between the years 1965 and 1979. And ninety-two million is the number of Gen Y-ers born—or ‘Millennials’ as they are often dubbed—between 1980 and 2001.*

Ken Dychtwald, psychologist, gerontologist, public speaker, and author, calls this an "Age Wave", a significant shift in demographics that replaces the “60 and 70 somethings” with “20 and 30 somethings.” Affecting not only the workforce but also consumers, marketers need to take into account the changing needs and desires of this emerging demographic.

Implications for You, the Marketer

It's obvious that Gen Y-ers spend a lot more time on the computer (and their 3G-enabled phones) than the older generations do, but what's more important to consider is the philosophical shift in mindset that is taking place.

For one, Gen Y-ers are more skeptical of advertising and rely more heavily on their peers for information and recommendations than the older crowd, who turn to more mainstream sources, like newspapers, for information.

They also expect you as a company to be more fully accessible online and to engage with them where they are most comfortable i.e. Facebook, Twitter, sites like GetSatisfaction and on Youtube.

Oh yeah, you better be on Facebook, because that's where they hang out with peers. And your Facebook page better not be full of corporate speak otherwise they'll not only not come back but they'll tell their friends that you simply "don't get it."

One needs only to look at the hemorrhaging of newspapers around the United States to see what happens when an industry doesn't change with the times. The Post Intelligencer is gone, Chicago Tribune in receivership, the Boston Globe may have the plug pulled by their New York Times Co. bosses and the hundred year old Christian Science Monitor has moved to online only with only a weekly digest coming out in paper. It's only a matter of time before other industries follow suit.

So what do marketers need to do to keep up? Here are a few simple steps that John and I have come up with to help you get started:
  • Listen: There's a better-than-average chance that your Gen Y customers are already talking about you online. Finding out what they're saying is a great place to start. Good, bad or indifferent, this information will help shape an approach to your audience. At the simplest, this can be accomplished by setting up Google alerts. There are also online monitoring services available from companies such as Radian6, Techrigy, BuzzStream, Nielsen, Visible Technologies, Meltwater News and Cymfony (more on this topic in a post that John and I did on ReadWriteWeb).
  • Converse: If your customers are talking about you on micro-blogging sites, like Twitter, set up a corporate account (but get some training/help first). Companies like New Marketing Labs and Digital Voodoo focus on advising companies in this capacity.
  • Engage: Show your customers you care by creating funny, creative and engaging content. A good B2B company that's leading by example in this regard is Boston-based Hubspot In the B2C realm, take a look at BlendTec and the approach they take to selling blenders.

Community Building with Gen Y

Gen Y’ers have embraced the concept of online communities and made it one of the hallmarks of their generation. Yes, places like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn fall into this category, but don't limit yourself to the pool of public social networking sites.

As Aaron and I mentioned above, engaging your key audience is critical, especially as the majority of users become younger and savvier. Develop social networks that connect people locally, but also let the wider community through their friends see the benefits of your community. Connect on Facebook and other popular culture social media technologies, and create your own social network.

Demonstrate You Understand What's Important To Gen Y
  • Community marketing: Sponsor and work with nonprofits in your marketing efforts. Green marketing can also be effective in demonstrating your company is taking steps to do something about the environment.
  • Community Evangelism: Give people positions of authority in the community you will cultivate the next generation of leaders and give people more reasons to join and stay in your community if you empower them to help you build the community.
  • Virtual Worlds: Gen Y is overloaded with advertising, cynical to an extent and tougher to make an impression on. Provide an experience that is rich and interactive the greater the chance of making an impression. Consider setting up a virtual world for your community like some of those that exist on SecondLife.

Key Take Aways

The boomer demographic dominated the American scene for decades. As this group moves into their golden years, other age groups will fill this gap in employment and culture. Gen X’ers don’t have nearly the numbers that the boomers have, but as Gen Y matures, filling the employment gap and becoming the dominant target demographic, American culture will undergo a great change.

Gen Y is already influencing how American's live and work as they become an increasing portion of the American workforce. Boomers & Gen X’ers beat the path, but Gen Y’ers have grown up in a world of digital media. They may not have all the experience or knowledge, but they do know how to really work within this new culture. Everyone else will adopt to their cultural standard. If you want to succeed in marketing to Gen Y, the strategies are content marketing and social media engagement. Develop compelling content that people actually want to read. Use that content to engage your Gen Y audience. Oh, by the way, this is also how you can market to Gen X and Boomers as those generations increase the role of the web in their lives.

Marketing is all about understanding your audience to satisfy their wants and needs. If your audience is Gen Y, you have to understand them in order to market to them. Even if Gen Y is not your audience, their culture will become mainstream American culture. Spending time on getting to know Gen Y’ers is a business opportunity, as that knowledge will prepare you for the new realities of living and marketing in the 21st century.

*Based on US Census Data, November 2008

Photo Courtesy: http://paulthissen.com