Megan McQ’s Musings

Archive for June 2009

Last week, I attended Blog Potomac, an industry ‘unconference’ in the DC area. I had the opportunity to hear from several industry thought-leaders in different areas of corporate communication.

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One of the most thought-provoking topics of the day regarded the concept of “personal branding,” an online strategy for an individual to consistently position their ‘unique brand’ across social media platforms.

There have been several emerging “personal brand experts” on the Internet that help individuals understand how to market themselves online. Traditionally, these ‘experts’ encourage others to brand themselves as experts in specific industries–specifically ones that companies are desperate for more knowledge in.

But I find a lot of issue in this matter. While these “personal branding experts” eschew the ideology that an individual needs to “pursue their passion” to become an “expert”, I think a lot of individuals are pressured into following the mainstream or forcing a passion that will help advance their career.

But I wholeheartedly agree with one of the speakers, Liz Strauss, who lightly addressed the issue of personal branding during her portion of the conference. While this is not an exact quotation, she said in response to personal branding that:

“Do not lay an ‘idea’ of who you are on top of your image. Live who you are.”

I believe that this ideology parallels one of the quotations I strive to adhere to. The quotation is from Frederick Douglass, one of the leaders of the abolitionist movement in the US:

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”

I believe that companies may need to be wary of “experts.” Especially those who claim to be ‘experts’ in social media.

For example, While I subscribe to well over 50 blogs which I try to read every day (amassing to 1,000+ blog posts weekly), I would never refer to myself as an ‘expert.’ This decision is primarily due to the nature of our business. By the time I finish reading my blog posts in the morning, the information is already obsolete.

The exponential rate at which my industry moves is one of the reasons I’m so drawn to it. While we understand our theories of transparency and authenticity (disclaimer: oversimplification), our industry trends and tactics evolve so quickly that the title ‘expert’ is in and of itself an indicator that one would be obsolete. For example, by the time one takes the time necessary to brand oneself as an ‘expert’ in a particular aspect of social media, they have already fallen behind the curve.

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As most of you know, I was recently selected to participate in a Blog-off competition at Community Marketing Blog.

The contest ended on May 30th, so I wanted to take this time and explain my strategy for generating the most traffic and comments as possible. I’m going to break down my strategy into 3 parts:

1. Pre-Competition

The pre-competition phase consisted of identifying my target audiences and how I was going to alert them about the competition. Since this contest was located online, I identified my audiences to be:

  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Offline (occasionally)

I wrote several emails, Facebook messages,  Facebook notes, and direct messages on Twitter to different groups of people online. I split up these initial emails at first so I could personalize them and thank individuals in advance for their participation. I explained why I was doing the contest and allowed any member of these emails they could OPT-OUT FROM THE EMAILS AT ANY TIME. I think it’s important not to spam people. While no one ‘opted-out’ of receiving the emails, I did have several people tell me which email address they would prefer to have the emails sent to them.

This pre-competition organization left me with time to prepare my blog posts and form my strategy for generating traffic to the site after it began.

2. After the gun shot! (During the competition)

After the competition began, I had already identified my strategy for reaching out to interested parties on several platforms.

Note: I’ll write another blog post on my ‘blogger best practices’. Here I’m only going to concentrate on my strategy for driving traffic.

After I wrote my first blog post, I was able to act accordingly:

  • I grouped all of my contacts and emailed them the bit.ly link I had created for my first post. The email consisted of several ways they could help. These included:

1. Go to the link

2. Email interested parties the link (and I included an email template)
3. Write a note with the link in it (and I included a note template)
4. Comment on the post! (and I left detailed instructions for how people could comment)

Note: I also left instructions on how people could sign up for a RSS feed if they did leave a comment so they knew if another person had responded to their comment directly.

5. Make the link your status on Facebook! (and I left a short text that people could copy and paste into their Facebook profiles)

6.Tweet the link! (and I included the tweet that they could copy and paste into their Twitter accounts).

I think it’s important to note that I made these instructions as easy as possible on the individual. People didn’t have to write their own emails, they could simply copy and paste my template into their draft. I think this helped my contacts reach more people.

Also, I only sent this email to them one time so that they knew I wasn’t spamming their inboxes and wasn’t trying to take up much of their time.

  • Commenting on comments: when people wrote an especially important comment or a conversation was being generated between commenters on a post, I made sure to comment back to the individuals in a comment as well. I believe this helped to spur conversation further.
  • Also, I would receive emails telling me the email addresses of people who commented. If I recognized the name, I was sure to send a direct email to that individual thanking them for their comment, and usually responded to what they had written. I believe this action helped generate more conversation and I was genuinely thankful for all of the effort people had put into helping me.

Another note: When I sent out my links to the posts, I had converted them into bit.ly form (a URL shortening service) so that I could track how many people had clicked on the link and from what source! Here’s what I have:

‘App’vertising: Monetizing Mobile: 167 Clicks, 20 comments

RIP Journalism 1.0:86 Clicks, 9 comments

Brand-jacking and Pickles: 87 Clicks, 11 comments

3. Wrap-Up

  • Now that the contest is over, I will be writing emails to the individual groups I made at the beginning of the contest. I’ll be thanking everyone for their time and announcing the results of the contest.
  • I’m also back to blogging here!
  • I believe all of the contestants will be having a conference call where we discuss all of the things we learned. I’m excited to hear everyone’s stories.

The Blog-off contest at Community Marketing Blog ended on the 30th of May.

Over the course of the two week competition, I ended up posting 3 times. These posts ranged in scope. One covered mobile advertising (or ‘app’vertising). It discussed the recent trends in the mobile marketing industry and how companies can increase brand awareness through effective mobile applications.

The second post talked about journalism in the social media era. I talked about how traditional journalism is being replaced by citizen journalism and how I thought this was a good thing in terms of marketing and branding campaigns. Citizen journalism increases transparency and strength of message from influencer bloggers.

My third post talked about the importance of digital monitoring due to digital WOM (word of mouth). It also touched on how companies must understand their online digital conversation before they engage their customers online.

I learned a lot from this competition. I’m proud of the conversation that was generated in the comments as well as how many people read the posts!

In my next post, I’ll talk about some of the ‘blogger best practices’ and my strategy for the competition.

Also, I’ll write a post and let you know who the winners of the contest are. If I am picked to be a permanent writer to the blog, I’ll have a press release with my bio sent out to 1+ million people on Linked-In and other prominent industry blogs. It will be very exciting.