Another BlogWorld in the books. Another crazy week. Another outstanding opportunity to learn from some of the better minds in digital marketing, blogging and social media.
What did I take away? A few key themes emerged for me throughout the week.
Ask better questions
Tom Webster presented at BlogWorld NY in the spring and I missed it–I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. And, I’m sure glad I didn’t. Tom’s entire presentation could be boiled down to three simple world: Ask better questions. As a professional market researcher, Tom talked at length about how we need to ask these better questions to get better data. To get better insights. To get better answers.
Know your readers
Another speakers I hadn’t seen present before that I really wanted to see first-hand was Darren Rowse. I’ve followed Darren’s ProBlogger blog for years, and his personal stories and accounts have really resonated with me. And while I had a list of takeaways from this session, the most impactful was the mantra: Know your readers. Darren encouraged folks to develop audience profiles for their blog (great idea)–just like a marketer would do when thinking about their key targets. Give these readers a name. Describe them in detail. Demographics. Psychographics. The works. With those audience profiles in hand, you’ll be able to better target your content and make it more relevant for your readers.
Do your own work
Another key takeaway from Mr. Webster early on Thursday, but one I heard other speakers espouse throughout the week afterward (including Jason Falls on Saturday). Tom and Jason were talking about doing your own work with respect to research, but it’s really a good lesson for digital work across the board. Don’t try to mimic what other companies are doing–your brand is unique. You have different customers. Different circumstances. Different employees. Don’t take research you find online as gospel. Do your own first-hand research and see what makes sense for YOUR organization. Do your own work.
Have a back-up plan for success
I first heard Peter Shankman speak a few years ago when he came to a Minnesota PRSA event I helped organize. Nowadays, he’s “internet famous.” But, he’s still the same guy. He takes some heat for his approach and strong opinions from time to time, but I’ve always loved his presentations. He brings huge energy to the stage. And, more importantly, the guy knows how to tell a story. He had me, and a whole slew of people in that audience Thursday, hooked from the get go. One of the key lessons he shared: Have a back-up plan for success. If and when your video, blog post or project blows up online, make sure you have a plan in place to capitalize on that success. Sure, we all fail more than we succeed, but you want to be ready for success. Love Peter’s optimism.
And, I’ll leave you with one last note. It’s a video Shankman featured in his presentation, and it was the single most hilarious thing I read or watched all week. Enjoy.
If you’re a sports fan, you probably remember those Nick Bakay Tale of the Tape segments on ESPN where he’s pit one team, mascot, segment of fans against another in a “vs”-type scenario (here’s an example). It was 10 percent serious, and 90 percent comedy, but at the end of the segment he always had a winner. They weren’t always the funniest comparisons (with the exception of the mascot Tale of the Tape between the Stanford Tree and the Cal Bear–that was one of my favorites), but I liked the way he set up the segment and I loved his patented “advantage–push” phrase.
So, I thought I’d completely steal Bakay’s approach and use it for an event I’m very excited about this week (Disclosure: I co-organize the Social Media Business Summit track and I’m speaking this year): BlogWorld.
This year, for the first time, BlogWorld is moving from Las Vegas (which had been its home for the last several years since its beginnings) to La-La Land. So, why not compare and contrast the two venues? While the content in LA looks to be fantastic, I want to focus more on the “intangibles” around the event–those factors that round out your BlogWorld experience. So, let’s break it down: Vegas vs. LA.
After-Hours Scene: Las Vegas casino clubs vs. Los Angeles downtown clubs
I’m just thinking about the clubs where BlogWorld parties have been held in the past. Many of which have felt like big-time, big-city clubs. With a mix of summer flair–remember the closing BlogWorld party a couple years ago poolside at the Hilton with the 100-foot Barry Manilow mural? LA will most likely offer more of the same in the downtown area around the Convention Center. Just look at the line-up of official BlogWorld party sites: ICON LA Ultra Lounge, J Lounge and The Belasco. LA should be pretty solid, but damn, I’m going to miss Jason Falls annual Slushie-Bar Party.
Advantage: LA (for the change of pace)
Airport: McCarran International vs. LAX
I haven’t flown through LA in years, but flying in and out of Vegas is always a relative breeze. Easy in, easy out. Very few weather delays. And very few delays period in my limited experience. LAX is a west coast hub airport, so it’s obviously going to have a heckuva a lot more traffic than McCarran. Also, one of the biggest perks of McCarran for BlogWorld visitors? FREE Wi-Fi! Doesn’t look like LAX offers the same perk.
Advantage: Vegas (gotta go with the free wi-fi)
Vibe: Drunken gamblers and tourists vs. Wannabe actors, writers and producers
Vegas is a city based on tourism–especially on the strip (where BlogWorld was basically held). So, you’re pretty much exposed to all tourists during your visit. LA will be much different. Sure, there will be some tourists, but we’ll also get a heavy dose of “Hollywood types”–actors, writers and producers and those aspiring to hold those positions. Plus, it’s LA, so we’ll undoubtedly see our fair share of folks who are far more concerned with style than substance. You’ve seen The Hills, right?
Sight-seeing: Gambling/Cirque du Soleil Shows/Elvis Sightings vs. Hollywood/Trips to the beach/Larry David Sightings
There may be no better sight-seeing city in the U.S. than Vegas. You have the casinos. You have the world-class shows. You have amusement park rides. And, of course, you have the people just walking around. It’s a feast for the senses. LA’s no slouch in this category though. The Hollywood sign. Many beaches just a short drive away. And, of course, many potential celebrity sighting opportunities. Tough call here.
Advantage: LA (just for the additional beach angle and the fact that LA has a bit more “soul” than Vegas)
What Makes the City Unique: The Strip vs. Hollywood
Let’s break this down. The Strip offers: Rollercoasters atop tall buildings; replicas of major worldwide landmarks, endless buffets. volcanoes, 128 oz. daiquiris; sports books; and the most wedding chapels per square mile in the US. Hollywood offers: Hollywood Bowl; the Capitol Records building; Kodak Theater, Hollywood walking tours; the Hollywood sign; and many different Hollywood studios.
Fine dining: Vegas vs. LA
Sure, when at BlogWorld you’re usually eating at least two meals a day on-site or very close to on-site at the event. But, you usually have dinner options. So, that’s 2-3 meals in a feature city–a chance to see some of the better haunts that city has to offers. In Vegas, that largely meant the many restaurants inside casinos on the strip–which is actually a pretty impressive list. Vegas has come a long way in terms of upscale dining. On the other hand, LA will offer a whole different dynamic. Given the money of Hollywood (and just a big city, in general), fine restaurants shouldn’t be hard to find. Especially down by the Convention Center. And, given the melting pot that is LA, I’m guessing we’ll also find a wide variety of good food from different ethnicities as well.
By my math, we have a 3-2 margin for LA, with a one Nick Bakay push, which is good because I’m really looking forward to LA this week. New city. New opportunities. And, since I haven’t been to LA in more than 20 years, I’m looking forward to re-exploring the city a bit. So, while I will miss Vegas, the casinos, the shows, and Jason Falls Slushie Mall Bar party, I think most can agree we’re looking forward to discovering a new city for BlogWorld this week.
Photo courtesy of ertailara via FlickR Creative Commons.
Last week, I was in New York City for BlogWorld (disclosure: I co-organize the Social Media Business Summit track at BlogWorld). It was my first time in New York City, so for me, this particular trip was as much about the landscape and environment as it was about the content and the conference.
That said, I sat in a number of outstanding sessions at BlogWorld. And, while I took away at least one nugget from each session I participated in, there were a handful that were extremely useful and relevant for my world.
Below are 8 key takeaways from four outstanding sessions at last week’s BlogWorld:
Develop personas for you blog
Lee Odden gave a great presentation on the intersection between search and social. But, he also talked about some blogging best practices. Among them: Developing personas for your blog. Think about who you’re trying to reach—and create a complete description of this person. Is it a middle-aged housewife who’s tech-savvy? Is it a teen who spends upwards of 40 hours a week on his smart phone? Whatever the case, take the time to develop these personas (there may be more than one for your blog). By identifying these ideal readers, it will help you identify keywords (and what keywords THEY are searching for relevant to your brand) and encourage more relevant content.
Go beyond the basics when optimizing blog content
Sure, you want to think about optimizing your posts with keywords, titles, and tags, but quite often we forget about a number of other critical ways we can optimize our blog content. Remember to include alternate text for images you use in your posts. Use list posts regularly (with links). And this was the biggest ah-ha for me: Don’t forget about “social signals.” That is, star ratings, retweets and “Likes.” All these signals impact your larger SEO.
Create your own Facebook tab—in under five minutes
Two of the more interesting people I met all week were from the same company: WebTrends. One of those fellas was Justin Kistner, who led a session around iFrames and best practices for using the tool to develop useful Facebook tabs. The big takeaway? With iFrames, creating a tab is now a reality for everyone. In under 5 minutes. Just follow these steps:
* Visit www.facebook.com/developers—set up a new app
* Name the app
* Enter the tab name
* Enter the tab URL (the URL you will “point to”)
* Set the tab for the page
* Browse for WordPress themes (make sure it’s 525 pixels wide)
The key to Facebook success: Ask questions
Justin also shared some interesting Facebook statistics. Notably around the items that are the most clicked on by users. Content that focused on emotional stories or provocative, passionate debates were 2-3 times more likely to be clicked than other content. And simple, easy questions were 1.5-2 times more likely to be clicked than other content. While those passionate debates might be tough for brands to get involved with, organizations can sure share emotional stories and ask simple questions regularly. And, since those stories can take a while to find and develop, it’s the simple questions that can and should be posted most regularly. Think about what you could ask your fans. And remember, it doesn’t have to tie directly to your product or service. Think about what your fans care about. What interests them. And build questions around those interests.
Target your existing fans—not potential fans—when advertising on Facebook
Justin shared some interesting findings when it came to Facebook Advertising, too. Most fascinating was that ads to non-fans had an average click-thru rate of just .05% (half industry standard of a banner ad, mind you). Meanwhile, ads targeted at existing fans had an average click-thru rate of 35%. Quite a gap, right? So, I see two interesting points here for Facebook advertisers. 1) Consider using your existing fans as a way to get to potential new fans—in other words, target friends of fans when advertising. 2) Think about Facebook ads as an email list. Facebook ads can be a great way to get your messages, offers and information in front of your biggest fans on a regular basis. On a platform that they’re using. A lot.
Images are the most important part of your Facebook ad
One interesting slide Justin shared featured 9 different images. He then asked the audience which images we belived to be the most compelling when it came to the Facebook ad it was featured on. There were numerous guesses for different pics. Not a single person guessed the image that was the most clicked. Lesson? Test images as much as you do headlines and copy—it is often the most important piece of your ad.
Countering the social media blocking argument
Even though I’ve heard pieces of it before, Shel Holtz gave a great presentation on social media blocking. Surprisingly, a full 54% of companies are still blocking social media. This is an issue I run up against with new clients, so it was helpful to get a few new perspectives on how to counter that claim. Most notably 1) It’s futile—employees don’t need your networks anymore. They have their smart phones and they’re using them to access Facebook any time of day they want. 2) Better decision-making—people’s reliance on the Web-based professional networks has skyrockted the last three years. So, denying these decision makers the ability to access those networks seems counter-productive, right? Why not open them up so staff can ask friends and colleagues for tips, information and best practices? All data they can use to make your business run faster, smoother and more profitably. 3) Employee productivity—sure, we’ve talked about the general concept before, but I’ve never considered the entire scope. Think about staff time working at home and extra hours logged in evenings/weekends. And then ask yourself this: Would productivity really improve by blocking social networks? Or, would employees just find a different way to spend those 30-40 minutes a day they might spend online?
Tips to get your posts seen in the Facebook news feed
Bryan Person moderated a great panel about Facebook news feed optimization. In particular, Chad Wittman from EdgeRank and Dennis Yu from WebTrends had some very interesting tips and information to share. Among the most useful tips: 1) By using third-party platforms like Hootsuite, you decrease your news feed optimization–just a bit, 2) Use Facebook Questions to create discussion, which will ultimately help your question show up in the news feed, and 3) Targeting wall posts by geography can help optimize your content for the news feed–consider testing this for maybe one post a week and see how it works for your brand.
Note: Photo courtesy of the BlogWorld Posterous Blog.