Leading Virtually Really

This week on #LeadershipChat, we are honored to welcome Ann Handley, who is the Queen Of All Content over at MarketingProfs (OK, I made that title up, but really – doesn’t it fit?)

MarketingProfs is a virtual organization, and Ann has been involved for years in helping lead this widely-distributed group as it puts out a steady flow of solid content, organizes and runs conferences, services member needs, etc. It’s quite a challenge.

My co-host and co-founder of LeadershipChat Lisa Petrilli has a wonderful interview of Ann (Ann Handley’s Secrets to Successfully Leading Virtual Teams) where you can gain more particular insights.

In talking with Ann about this topic, what strikes me is this thought: Leading People Virtually is Leading People Really.

Whether you’re contained in an office, fully virtual, or in a hybrid environment, you’re leading people. The basic, foundational principles remain the same – communication, accountability, shared goals and purpose, clear lines of responsibility. And, with our maturing technology tools (on-line project management, video Skype, social media) it is more likely that we will increasingly grow comfortable with leading virtual teams – because we’ll have to.

Let’s face it – the old template of geographically-defined work places is going away for many areas of industry, especially the knowledge industry. Leading virtually is going to become, in many respects, the new normal. And it’s good to know that the core things that have always mattered in leadership carry right over – because people are people.

Ann has a lot more experience than most at this, and yet it boils down some very sensible themes. Although one aspect – leadership styles – should make for a very interesting part of the chat. Do you think introverts make better virtual leaders?

Join us Tuesday night at 8 pm ET as we explore this fascinating topic. You’ll find a smart, engaged group of growing leaders who want to share ideas and learn from others (including you!).

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Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Facebook’s Secret Weapon Unveiled: Ann Handley!

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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Free Books – Tonight Only!

As a little bonus for the folks who gather at #LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights (what? you haven’t joined in yet??? 8 pm ET on Twitter – hashtag = #LeadershipChat)), I’ve got giveaway copies of five top marketing/social media books.

Still trying to figure out HOW we’re going to award them tonight (got any ideas? leave a comment!), but nonetheless, here they are:

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

The Next Evolution of Marketing by Bob Gilbreath

The Now Revolution by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund (my review)

The New Small by Phil Simon (my review)

Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman

Extra bonus – Content Rules has been personally signed by Ann, directly to you – whoever you are!

So, join us for a lively discussion during #LeadershipChat tonight (Open Mic – any topic you wish to talk about) and see if you can win one of these brand-spanking new books for yourself, or for someone you know. Be sure to read beforehand about a Most Unusual Tweetup, from my co-moderator of LeadershipChat Lisa Petrilli.

Please note: due to postage considerations, winners need to have an address in the U.S. or Canada. When I’m as wealthy as all of these authors, maybe I can send books anywhere around the world…(OK, by then books will be holograms, but still…).

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Marketing Profs Digital Forum Re-cap

It was a cold week in Austin, TX. But there was plenty enough warmth among the attendees at the Marketing Profs Digital Forum, where a bunch of smart people (they let me in, too) gathered to think together about the future of digital marketing.

Or, actually, the present of digital marketing.

I won’t attempt to give a full overview, but instead, just put a spotlight on a few things that were exceptional.

Organization - the Marketing Profs staff did it right. And, they were all friendly and fun to talk to. You know what? That matters. Special kudos to Megan Leap who did a lot of the pre-event and on-site orchestration. And there was some scrambling that had to occur, with weather-related postponements and what not.

The Now RevolutionJay Baer and Amber Naslund kicked off the promotional tour for their new book, The Now Revolution. And – no surprise here – their presentation rocked. Especially their use of simple slide design as adjuncts to tell the story. Yes, slide design matters.

Content did Rule – Many of the presentations were quite meaty. Some of these conferences can get fluffy, but not here. Plus, and C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley (whom I consider a dear friend) gave a nice talk about the main thoughts in their recently-released book, Content Rules. Both are solid presenters (and, I finally got to meet C.C. for the first time).

Mobile - one of the best talks for me was Christina Kerley (CK)’s overview of why mobile is huge and getting huger. I’ve known CK for years but had not seen her present before. Fabulous. And I walked out totally convinced about the importance of developing for mobile RIGHT NOW.

Anthropology – huh? Yep, one of the highlights was a talk by an anthropologist, Michael Wesch, who gave a breathtaking 300,000 foot view of how media shapes and reflects culture. Many of us felt stunned at the end. It was also another example of using background slides to help tell a story rather than impart a content outline. Yes, storytelling matters.

Tom Martin – I’ve been hankering to meet Tom for years. We’ve talked and collaborated on-line; finally we got to hang out. Not only were our discussions fun and fruitful, but he gave a great talk on his Mardi Gras marketing initiative. Good times.

BBQ – Yes, one minor (but not unimportant!) reason for going to Austin was to have some great barbecue. And Tim Hayden helped orchestrate a very fun outing at the County Line, where the food was plentiful and delicious, and there was time to be with fine folks like Jason Falls, Frank Eliason, Aaron Strout, Tom Webster, Tamsen McMahon, Matt Ridings, and many more (yes, I know I’m forgetting names…can I get away with it by blaming age, the cold, or something else that avoids culpability??)

For me, this conference was about face time with people. I went to share vision and thoughts with folks I respect in the field, and I was not disappointed. It was also about having fun with semi-crazy folks like DJ Waldow, who along with CC Chapman and Matt Ridings helped produce an ad-hoc series of Ann Handley Day videos. Thanks to the Marketing Profs folks for putting on the event (despite all weather-related dampeners!), and I look forward to future events!

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“Ann Handley” Exposed

AnneH2During the recent MarketingProfs B2B Summit, a rogue band of “bloggerazzi” stumbled across a revelation that has rocked the blogosphere.

Mild-mannered social media maven “Ann Handley” (aka @marketingprofs) is a cover persona – a living avatar, if you will – for the marvelously-talented but long-lost film and singing star Anngelina Handlyee. The stunningly beautiful Ms. Handley was always the object of speculation among B-list bloggers, who wondered how such a dynamic luminary could be found humbly pumping out content in the obscure corners of the on-line networking world.

AnneH3Appearing Monday at the Marketing Profs event in a fetching black Maltoni 2-piece complemented with an original Armano handbag, the radiant Ms. Handley suddenly grabbed the mic and began to belt out show songs, much to the surprised delight of the gathered crowd. Her rendition of Dave Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston” was accidentally captured on blogger Beth Harte‘s iPhone Shazam music-recognition program, which identified the possessor of the world-class pipes as none other than the mysterious Handlyee, who had gone underground in 2001 after suffering fame-induced vertigo and a broken left pinkie nail.

AnneH4The bloggerazzi quickly gathered around the iPhone, and marveling that there was indeed an app for everything, decided to expose Ms. Handley then and there as the famous star Anngelina Handlyee. Not just any public humiliation would do, however. The news was tweeted, first in a mocking DM to Anngelina (who looked positively ravishing on Tuesday morning in a tan Verdino number), then to the entire world, even with #mpb2b Retweets to increase the humiliation.

Soon a long line formed, seeking autographs, DMs, RTs, pictures, and any mementos of the occasion that could possibly be re-sold on eBay, including Anngelina’s smashing Collier earrings or her classic Jason Baer bottle opener. The gorgeous Ms. Handlyee handled the adoration with grace and poise, though a poisonous glance at blogger Amber Naslund implied that future MarketingProfs post written by this bloggerazzi figure would likely go unpublished, though probably not unpunished.

It is unknown what future roles on stage or film the lovely, but flatter-proof Ms. Handlyee may play, now that she has been “outed” from her self-imposed obscurity. However, she may not be alone in her fate. There are blogger rumors about Olivier Blanchard and the disappearance of a certain famous singer from Graceland…

Oh – here’s the real MProfs B2B Forum review

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Prior StickyFigure spoofs

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MarketingProfs B2B Forum Re-cap: The Book

B2BForumForeward

The MarketingProfs B2B Forum was held on June 8-9 in Boston, MA. Boston, for those unfamiliar with the location, is home to Fenway Park (for you baseball junkies), Samuel Adams (for you beer junkies), and Chris Brogan (for you social media junkies). It is also the home of the largest money pit ever created before the TARP program, called the “Big Dig.” But that’s not relevant, actually. What is relevant is the startling revelation concerning “Ann Handley” that came out during the week. More on that in a later chapter.

Preface

renbostonThe Forum was held at the Renaissance Hotel, originally designed in 1781 to house the Continental Congress, and recently refurbished to include indoor plumbing, glass windows, and color TV. Oh, wait, that’s the Philadelphia one. Sorry – the Boston Renaissance is quite up to date, actually. Nicely designed meeting space, helpful staff, even a semi-reasonable set of power outlets in meeting rooms. And the MarketingProfs staff had the logistics and organization nailed. Especially nice – the open area used for breakfast roundtables and other informal gatherings.

Acknowledgments

This event could not have been possible without the labors of Roy Young, Allen Weiss, the great MP team, and the inimitable “Ann Handley,” whose secret life was finally revealed during the Forum. More on that later.

Chapter One – The Keynotes

BarrysmYou’ve heard of great timing? This B2B Forum had it. The very week that Twitter hit the cover of TIME magazine, the author of the article, Steven B Johnson, spoke to the assembled acolytes on “Why Twitter Matters.” He was engaging, funny, and very effective in his story-telling approach to presenting (Twitter as analagous to coffeehouses of a couple centuries back), and his well-designed (simple!) slides. The next day, we were treated to Barry Schwartz, professor at Swarthmore University, speaking on the topic of “Practical Wisdom,” drawing from a book he has written on that same theme. Very thought-provoking; the biggest response on the Twitter back-channel seemed to be to his distinction of job/career/calling. I got to sit next to him at lunch without realizing, at first, who he was – he proved to be as engaging in person as he was once he got up on the podium.

You want Peg Mulligan’s take? Sure you do. And Becky Pearce’s notes? Coming right up.

Chapter 2 – The Sessions

JayBaerAs always in a conference like this, there were some great sessions, and some less so, but things started off with a bang when Sandy Carter of IBM discussed some very interesting – low-cost AND effective – social media initiatives her division of the company has employed. KD Paine kicked off the second day with a nice talk on Measuring Value in Social Media. Both days also featured Hot Seat Labs, where experts critiqued, live, the web efforts of various companies represented in the hot seat panels. Overall, there was good variety in the workshop sessions, with 2-4 concurrent sessions going on at any one time. Plus, there were one-to-one therapy sessions with social media practitioners that attendees could sign up for, to get personalized expertise. Nice.

You want handouts? Why sure…here they are.

Chapter 3 – The Gastronomy

TweetupB2BI’ve been to conferences where you would not bother to write about food and drink. Not this one. The lunches included meals at round tables followed by keynotes (nice approach), and the Tuesday morning breakfast roundtables were a smash hit. Tables were set up to discuss various social media/emarketing themes, with discussions led by experts in the field – discussions were lively and helpful. Everyone loved the Monday night Tweetup, with tapas and libations, which was open not only for the conference attendees, but also to local folks who could not attend during the day but who wanted to join the socializing. And, the Monday night dinner featured strolling magicians doing card tricks – these guys were really good!

Chapter 4 – The Tweeting

MackJayThere were probably about 20 or so of us tweeting regularly throughout the conference. That makes it a bit noisy, esp. when Mack Collier and Beth Harte are contributing. :>} Mike Damphouse made some nice summaries of the tweets here and here, so I don’t have to repeat them. And Jay Baer had his own take right here. Suffice it to say the the Twitter back channel was active as usual, and many of those “outside” who couldn’t attend were suitably jealous as they read the #mpb2b tweets. Heh.

Chapter 5 – The Attendees

RoundtableThis show had about 275 people, and it was quite a mixed group. A solid majority seemed to be just discovering social media and how it can be put to use in business. Having been to a number of conferences top-heavy with “experts,” this was refreshing – a lot of these folks are in the day-to-day trenches of marketing and they’re trying to understand what many of us now take too much for granted. So there was less bleeding-edge posturing and more nitty-gritty dialogue – nice.

Oh, you wanted pictures? See what Robert Collins put together on Flickr.

Chapter 6 – The Revelation

AnneH1This turn of events was so cataclysmic – the revealing of the true identity of “Ann Handley” – that it had to be published separately, for fear that the crush of traffic would make this summary unavailable.

You’ll never think of Ann the same way again.

Because she’s really someone else.

Here’s the explosive story…“Ann Handley” Exposed.

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Appendix

A collection of blog posts is being assembled here (B2B According to Me) regarding the conference. Even Mack Collier liked it. There you will find links to the other posts put up by bloggers who are trying to butter up “Anne Handley” enough to win a free pass to the M Profs Digital Mixer in Chicago later this year. But I don’t play that game. No sirree….

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Five in the Morning 012209

From Mashable - By the Numbers: Inauguration’s Impact on Social Media. Enlightening stats and graphs. Wow! “The social web flexed its muscle yesterday with Twitter reporting five times the normal tweet volume, and Facebook/CNN showing mind blowing engagement.”

David Henderson offers a free e-book: Media Savvy in the Internet Era.

I’m Not your Catcher. My most recent MarketingProfs Daily Fix post. “For a while, I was enslaved, under contract, and you could pitch whatever you wanted at me. I would wear the mask, put on the glove, mutely make signs; but whatever signals I gave you about what I wanted, you simply ignored. You pitched what you wanted…”

Like wallowing in others’ mistakes? The Superlist of What NOT to do in Social Media has been updated! This link is full of amusing stuff.

On the other hand…Getting Great Testimonials, from Andy Sernovitz. Some excellent advice here, with a couple of very creative ideas drawn from two sources.

Social Media Marketing an Hour a DayLee Odden interviews Dave Evans, who wrote a book by that title.

–I guess I can’t count. That’s six, not five. Oh well, why not toss in one more…

AND, just for fun – Making friends in Social Media. Amusing cartoon from our friends at Hubspot.

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Five in the Morning 012009

5yellowSince it’s Inauguration Day in the U.S. we’ll start off with…

Obama, the new King of Branding (from Laura Ries). Barack Obama is not just our new President but a new type of leader, one like we have never seen before. Not only does he understand politics, but he also understands branding. Plus, she ties in the BlackBerry factor…

Don’t just dream. Do something. An inspiring story on William Arruda’s blog, about Mary McLeod Bethune. Sometimes we have a goal that for some reason or another doesn’t work and is not achieved.  Should we give up?  No!

Targeting the right…or wrong…social media influencers. Dead-on thoughts from Mack Collier at MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog. Can you name a few recent examples of companies using social media to embrace, empower, and excite their customer evangelists?

Where would we be without lots of lists! Small Business Trends gives us two for today: The Ultimate Small Business Twitter List (you may find some new follows here), and a Top Blogs List. Thanks Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends)!

The new Computer Science Corporation logo. I think the logo itself is pretty pedestrian, but the angled “projection” elements used in collateral materials is pretty decent visually. From that Brand New blog.

AND, just for fun – if you really have way too much time on your hands, every Super Bowl commercial ever shown. On Adland, via those Brand Flakes for Breakfast folks.

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Stretegic Serendipity

You probably have a strategy for your use of social media. But don’t forget the “pinball factor.” My latest MarketingProfs Daily Fix post, on Strategic Serendipity, is right here.

(Interestingly enough, Seth Godin published something on a similar theme today – Willing to be Lucky)

Five in the New Year

ny-eve-nyIt’s 2009 (and a beautiful morning here in Boonton, NJ)! And, I’m convinced, it’s a year when many are going to seize the future, thumb their noses at all the bad economic news, and create new careers for themselves.

With that in mind, I thought I’d pull together the year’s first Five in the Morning post with a handful of my posts from 2008 encouraging the networking and entrepreneurial spirit. So….

Do you have an Opportunity Network? (from MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog) – The old corporate safety net is gone. But the new safety network, and the new opportunity network, is here for all of us to weave ourselves into. My faith has grown the longer I’ve participated, that “If we build it, (opportunity) will come”…

Personal Branding – What’s your value-add? (from MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog) – You don’t have a brand worth a nickel unless you are clear in what value you have to offer. That’s true of personal branding, corporate branding, political branding, and whatever other type of branding du jour we’d like to dream up…

You – Projected (from my StickyFigure blog) – My feeling is that if a concept is valid, we should be able to distill it down to a very few words that capture it well. So, with personal branding, here is my take. Two words. You – Projected

I’m Pursuing (Niche) Domination (from MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog)  - What is niche domination? It’s creating, or moving into, a market cavity narrow enough that you can become the big fish, and expansive (or expand-able) enough that you can make a living dominating it…

Be Prepared – Like, Right Now (from my Impactiviti pharma blog) – Your future is in your hands, and you need to be prepared to take the reins at any time. In fact, even if you are gainfully employed, you need to take the reins right now. Let me suggest one simple word for each of us…

But what were my most popular posts of 2008? The StickyFigure Spoofs, of course! And, to launch 2009, here is the latest (or earliest): Social Media Maven named new Head Coach of Detroit Lions.

BONUS – If you haven’t tuned into Rick Liebling‘s Smart People / Smart Ideas series, it’s a good one. Here’s the recap from 2008. You can follow Rick on Twitter @eyecube

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Shannon Paul, Social Media Maven, Named new Head Coach of Detroit Lions

shannon-paulIn a startling move that has taken the blogsphere by storm, Shannon Paul, Chief Social Media Goddess of the Detroit Red Wings, has just been named head coach of the floundering Detroit Lions football franchise.

William Clay Ford, owner of the team and descendant of iconic Henry Ford, decided on Ms. Paul after witnessing the spectacular success of Scott Monty, recently-appointed social media guru of Ford Motor Company.

“Scott single-handedly kept us from from bankruptcy, from taking the poison pill of federal bailout money; and he also crowd-designed all of our new hybird vehicles right from his blog-thingie. He Twitterized us out of a death spiral by creative use of these new-fangled socialized media gadgets. I figured if one social medium expert could turn around Ford, surely another could take on the greater challenge of making the Lions competitive.”

It was also revealed that Ms. Paul was found after being “friended” on Facebook by unnamed Lions front-office staff, who also vetted her qualifications using Google and StumbleUpon.

Ms. Paul wasted no time assembling a top-notch support staff, including hiring Geoff Livingston, renowned for offensive prowess, and luring away “Big” Jim Connolly as head of trackbacks. Gary Vaynerchuk will be leaving the Wine Library to be Chief Sideline Libation Engineer, as part of his training for eventually taking over the NY Jets. Connie Reece has agreed to come on board as chief archivist for the Lions Championship Museum, currently housed in a corner of Ken Burbary‘s closet. She also began immediate negotiations with fans and the UAW, both groups of which had threatened a permanent boycott of the Lions.

Local Detroit blogger Karen Swim was initially non-commital about the news, having been bypassed in favor of her cross-town rival Ms. Paul, until being unexpectedly named head coach of the Detroit Pistons. “My goodness!” said Ms. Swim, “I figured I might have a shot at the Tigers, but the Pistons have actually won a few things! That’s a slam dunk FTW on you, Paul Shannon!”

“What I’m really looking forward to is the upcoming blogger draft,” exclaimed Ms. Paul. “We’re going for 140 top characters! I’ve had my eye on some serious talent, like “PR” Sarah Evans for Eighthback,  Jason Falls for Tight End or Wide Receiver (depends on Twit2fit progress off-season), and Barefoot Exec for Punter. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re losing Steve Olenski to the Colts, who traded Peyton Manning and two FriendFeed accounts to be named later to get him.”

Reaction around the NFL was mixed. Apparently, Chris Brogan has been approached by the startup Boston Pirates franchise to serve as their new head of operations, but he replied with 15 Reasons Never to Hire a Freshly-Shorn Blogger. The New York Jets are in secret discussions with 5-year veteran blogger Paul Chaney, who is robo-twittering negotiation progress from Brett Favre’s living room.

Meanwhile, Guy Kawasaki, who first broke the news on Truemors, capitalized on the trend by launching SocMedCoaches.Alltop.com, a news item promptly re-tweeted by 21,544 of his devoted disciples.

The ROI of hiring social media mavens for positions of leadership with sports teams is yet unproven, as is the ROI for just about anything social media related. Your mileage may vary. However, we have it on good authority that those with the most followers are the most important and authoritative, and so should provide the best bang-for-the-blog when making hiring decisions.

Oh, and I have to mention Ann Handley, of course. Just because…

Happy 2009 to all!

(Previous StickyFigure spoofs)

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Five in the Morning 120808

green5Upgrade your brainstorming! Paul Williams over at MarketingProfs Daily Fix shows us how.

Does your brand pass the CUB test? From the good folks at Brand Aid.

Right on, Target. One smart little move by Target makes a better shopping experience – and earns them more cash.

Buyology. Ivana Taylor reviews an interesting-sounding book on why we buy.

You’re read about the Zappos (shoe retailer) social media success story. Now, take a pictorial tour of HQ, courtesy of Guy Kawasaki. Never seen nothin’ like this before!!

OVERDOSE ON WOODRUFF BONUS – if you missed it at the end of the last week, the latest StickyFigure spoof: Social Media Museum has Bloggers All A-Twitter. Plus, on my personal blog (Steve’s Leaves), a Sunday Muse: Finding Grace. (And, Ann Handley just told me that my new MarketingProfs Daily Fix post is up: I’M PURSUING (niche) DOMINATION! This is probably the only time you’ll have a “Five in the Morning” trifecta – Woodruff links on three different blogs…)

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Five in the Morning 120408

If you Twitter, you’re probably wondering about some of the potentially “corrupting” trends. Here, Paul Chaney opens up a discussion about Twitter automation – as you’ll see in the comments, I am not in entire agreement. What do you think?? (btw, if you’re not following Paul, you should be: @pchaney)

Want to do free press releases? Dana Willhoit has the list of sites that do just that for you!

Tom Peters recommends two books on Design.

Robert Lesser talks us through Lead Generation using Web 2.0 approaches. From MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog.

Demogirl – now this is a cool service, pointed out by Greg Verdino. Quick, distilled “how-to” screencasts. Good, basic, useful implementation.

Extras – today only! Click before midnight and get 2 links for the price of 1!!!

Say – what does Steve Woodruff/@swoodruff/StickyFigure actually sound like? Find out! Four bloggers share in the latest AOC2 podcast.Thanks to Jay Ehret, @themarketingguy!

Hot off the blog presses – 40 Ways to Deliver Killer Blog Content. From Chris Brogan. Here’s my #41 – Aggregate Information that People Want.

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Five in the Morning 111808

One of my favorite local (NJ area) bloggers, CB Whittemore, on Social Media, the Elections, and what it all means for Marketing – Part 1 and Part 2.

At MarketingProfs Daily Fix, a post which is probably closest to the heart of what makes me tick – maybe more than anything I’ve previously written. What’s your Value-Add?

Amber Naslund says, Give it Away. Good stuff.

Everything is risky. Truthy thoughts and a great graphic from David Armano.

Will Twitter start to charge for Tweets?

PLUS…of course you’ve always been annoyed at how Starbucks names their cup sizes. This quick video (quite well done!) pokes a little fun. From the Swiss Miss.

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Five in the Morning 110708

Hey! Do you think we’re stupid? Drew McLellan‘s just askin’…

Why Start a Blog and 25 Tips to make it work. From the esteemed Valeria Maltoni. Great stuff here!

Ann Handley takes off on 5 in the Morning, with a 9 in the Morning! And these are some great posts…check them out!

Straight from the Web Success Diva herself, Defining your Business Goals in Social Media. Ripe thoughts here – definitely see what Maria Reyes-McDavis has to say.

From the Idea Sandbox – Create Customer Excitement with Traditions.

FRIDAY BONUS: A quick and timely reminder, from the camera of David Armano (while you’re there, check out this lovely shot also).

Oh, and on a positive note – Lego provides a great customer service story. Close to home, for us. Way to go, Lego!

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TwACORN Busted for Massive on-line Fraud

A-list Bloggers and Twitterers caught up in Widespread Scam

During what was expected to be a routine call to check on the report of an honest poll worker in the Richard Daley Memorial Electioneering Institute, Chicago police uncovered a massive on-line fraud operation that has shaken the blogging world to its core.

“We had gotten this anonymous call from a community organizer that there was an inside operative actually counting real votes and screening out fraudulent registrations,” said Sgt. Frank Mulcahey of the Chicago PD. “We can’t have that around here, as everyone knows…so after cracking down on that guy, we took a look in the basement and found this amazing underground operation hiding there, calling itself TwACORN.”

TwACORN turns out to be a secret organization whose sole purpose is to inflate the rankings of bloggers and Twitterers by generating fake subscriber numbers. Their technology infrastucture consists of slick programs they call RoboRSS, RoboComment, and RoboSub. With these tools, they have managed to play “kingmaker” to scores of unwitting digiterati, who were led to believe that they actually had an audience.

Chicagoland technology guru (and TwACORN victim) Todd Andrlik examined the programs and reported, with mixed admiration and dismay, that they were first-rate. “Here I thought I had all these engaged readers, who subscribed to my blog, read my tweets, and made interesting comments. Turns out that 90% of them were Robos from TwACORN. Now I see that a former high school friend, one second cousin, and some plumber in Nebraska are the only ones reading my stuff. Plus, my entire Top 3,000 blog ranking system with AdAge just got flushed!”

TwACORN Chief Obfuscating Officer Guy Yamaha explained from his jail cell; “We got our inspiration from MarketingProfs Daily Fix, actually. We thought – what could be more fun than to “fix” the numbers for all these self-absorbed bloggers? Just wait until Scoble finds out that only 14 people actually follow him – and three of those are in Iceland. Ha!”

Twitterers were scrambling to identify which of their subscribers were actually homeless folks, deceased, or Disney cartoon characters. The flood of confirmatory DMs was about to bring the system to its knees and launch a huge Fail Whale display, until it became clear that there were only 300 actual, breathing users of Twitter. Worldwide.

TwACORN was formed by pulling from the ranks of local community organizers, political activists, Robo-call tech folks, and Swiftboat veterans. “Look, all this blogging stuff is political anyway – we all know that. It’s a popularity contest, just like our national elections. So why not bring together the best minds from that field to help create a little chaos here?” declared Yamaha.

Meanwhile, a pall was cast over the glittering MarketingProfs Digital Mixer event in Scottsdale, when it was discovered that keynote speaker Arianna Huffington’s blogging property actually has only 33 readers. She was immediately pulled from the stage by Q-list blogger Ann Handley, and replaced by Tina Fey, who did a dead-on impersonation of Sarah Palin unsubscribing from the Huffington Post.

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Prior spoofs:

New TwIndependent party springs up overnight

Well-known Blogger Demoted to “Q-List”

Meaning of Life Unveiled!

Twitter Rockstar Half-Year Calendar…Tweeet!

(photo credit: David Alston)

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Five in the Morning 102108

Is new media marketing becoming “mainstreamed”? Check out what Paul Chaney has to say.

Re-branding…fish…with new names. Guess I hadn’t thought of that one. From the NameWire blog.

How can social media help with customer loyalty? Becky Carroll over at Customers Rock! begins a brief series this week, with quickie videos (at this link – a video from Jim Kukral). Anything Becky produces is worth your attention.

Why do we blog? Here’s what Darren Rowse (@problogger) found out when he asked his readers.

Ann Handley has Nine Questions for Guy Kawasaki. Read the Q&A here.

PLUS: Only Ann Handley could pull this off. From her blog A n n a r c h y: A Toast to Cancer.

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Your Opportunity Net(work)

My latest blog post for MarketingProfs Daily Fix is now up: Do you Have an Opportunity Net(work)?

Get beyond the idea of building a professional “safety net” – your network is an Opportunity Network!

Return on…Whatever

My latest MarketingProfs Daily Fix post focuses on the compulsion to try to establish Return on Whatever (RoW). I argue that the RoW is only appropriate for a limited subset of tactics that can be directly measured as to results…many good business decisions need to be made based on doing what we believe is right.

Extract: The problem is, the RoW mindset can inhibit people from making sound business decisions for the simple reason that something is the right thing to do. The green-tinted RoW glasses can be like handcuffs, preventing businesses from implementing healthy long-term strategies because of a compulsion to show short-term tactical dollar returns. Calculating financial returns on specifics, in other words, can be a murky science at best – and a ball-and-chain at worst.

Here’s the entire post: Return on Whatever

This link brings you to all my MP DailyFix posts.

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