You may have boobs and kids, but you aren’t a mommy blogger!

It doesn’t matter who you are, we all feel the need to be part of a group, part of a collective which we can identify ourselves with. It gives us a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging and direction.

In the blogging world, this is a great thing. Groups create influence and help drive recognition and traffic, however, it all goes to hell in a hand basket when that group gets infiltrated by marketers.

That’s what has been happening with mommy bloggers recently and they’ve been having a rather public crisis of faith as they attempt to define what a mommy blogger is.

It all came to my attention when Sara wrote about the storm surrounding the idiotic idea of a “Blogger PR Blackout”, and came up again today when Stephanie Azzarone asked:

One wonders what would happen if the marketing world instituted an extended “Blogger Blackout” in return — no samples, no giveaways, no coupons, no trips. And readers would then keep going to those blogs because … ?

Kind of shines a light on what the PR world really thinks of bloggers, right?

Mommy bloggers are facing this issue because some of them appear to feel the need to, as Maria from Mommy Melee puts it, “lump together every blogger with a vagina and a child”.

Are you female, do you have kids? Then you’re a mommy blogger!

It’s as bad as being a Roman Catholic! No choice is given, they take you as soon as you’re warm.

As I see it from the outside, the mommy sphere consists of two distinct types of blogger (and those who straddle the fence of course), the actual mommy bloggers who talk about their kids, their lives, their experiences plus anything else that interests them and then you have those who use their blogs as a marketing tool to shill products and services to other mommy bloggers.

Now before I go any further, let me make it clear that I know plenty of women who are mothers and do not identify themselves as mommy bloggers. They are not being talked about here. I’m only talking about those who identify themselves as such, not those who are identified as such by the defensive and needy mob.

I have no problem with monetizing your blog. I attempt to monetize this one.

I have no problems with mom bloggers doing product reviews and giveaway’s.

What I do have a problem with is identity.

Once the focus of your blog stops being your own content and your own ideas you stop being a mommy/tech/sports blogger.

When posts that are your own exclusive content start becoming filler posts between the next marketing article, review or giveaway, you stop being a blogger.

When the sidebars and content of your blog contain more adverts than the personals section of a cheap tabloid rag, then you stop being a blogger.

Do you know what it is you become? You become a marketer! If driving products and profit is your primary goal with your blog, then you are a marketer.

I would suspect that the most ardent voices within the “mommysphere”, fighting to say that blogs full of product reviews are acceptable as mommy blogs are those who have transcended blogging into marketing.

They know that by being identified as mommy bloggers companies will give them more products to hawk and by being a so called mommy blogger they have a built n market.

Remove the mommy blogger association and all they’re left with is a blog that would otherwise be considered a splog – a spam blog.

The “mommysphere” has split into two groups – the mommy bloggers and the “mommy marketers” and the sooner it realizes that, the better off it will be.

Social Media Douchebags! Who tops your list?

New Media Douchebags Explained

One thing that bothers me about social media and this entire web 2.0/3.0/stardate 7265.39 climate that we have today is the number of self professed “experts” and “gurus” out there.

I’ve been around the web since pretty much the beginning and if there is one thing I am not, it’s an expert at all this stuff. I never will be. It’s a continually changing landscape with constantly emerging technologies and challenges and in order to get ahead in this, you are on a constant learning curve.

Perhaps, the one thing I do have however, is experience and from that perspective I can tell you, that the vast majority of “experts” are little better than the snake oil salesmen of the 1900’s and televangelists (because for some reason their omnipotent and all powerful god always needs your money!).

Let’s be honest, the vast majority of people involved in the social media/marketing game are just out their to make a quick buck at your expense. The web (and I bet your town) is full of intelligent, highly talented and proficient people, who are willing to give you, for free, their advice, time and help for little more than the chance to network and meet new people and friends.

(As a side note Social Media/Marketing = Social + Media, or Social and Media, or S&M! Think about it!)

Right, let me get to my point here.

Over a year ago, Kevin Dixie (of FuelMyBlog) and I were discussion the fact that all of the social networks always have a list of people you are recommended to follow when you join (or worse yet a list of people automatically added to your friends list) and the fact that this is just plain unfair.

A lot of these people are there, well, because they are on somebody else’s list, which inflated their “popularity” enough that the next site to come along says “Well, they’re on the Facebook/Twitter/Friendster list, that means they should be on ours!”

See where I’m going with this?

You have a situation where the vast majority of “popular” people are either artificially inflated (and not just in terms of their numbers, think silicone), are trying to sell you something, or are involved in obsessive compulsive circle-jerking with other marketers and “experts”.

So what does this have to do with Kevin, or even with you? I’m only stating what we all know already!

Well, here’s the kicker, back when Kevin and I were having that discussion we considered making a “Social Media Douchebags” list.

Basically an “anti-recommended” list.

A list of marketers (@mike_wesely),  trolls (@arrington), people who don’t even bother to write their own stream (@guykawasaki), and bleached blonde wannabes (@ijustine “I am the internet”? What all your ports or open or anybody can log on?) who consider themselves “stars” just because they have a large number of followers. A list of people who take your time, flood your stream and give little back. A list of people who are only popular because of the sheep mentality (@aplusk, @oprah)!

Today I propose that the list finally gets built.

If you’ve got someone you love to hate add their twitter address in the comments below and say why. Over the next few days I’ll sort and compose the list together (giving credit to all and adding in the reasons why!) and post the “name and shame” list of douchebags here.

Maybe then some of these people will stop what they’re doing, change their practices and I don’t know… stop being douchebags?

Who’s on your list of “Social Media Douchebags” and why?

You only get out what you put in

If you want traffic from social networking sites (like Fuelmyblog)to be driven to your blog then you need to participate in the sites.

Simply signing up, adding your site and then buggering off and ignoring the service will benefit you nothing and is quite simply a waste of time.

A word of warning. If after signing up for a service and not using it, you then have the nerve to email me and complain about the lack of traffic you received, when you’ve never so much as left a comment elsewhere, then I will take a very big stick and beat you round the head a few times with it.

Enough said!

Emotion versus marketing

I’m an emotional being. Very much so. If I wasn’t life would be so much easier.

Today I wrote a post that was entirely based on what I thought was a logical / marketing approach to breaking out of a stereotype.

Unfortunately my post was met by some with very emotional responses. Some were so emotional that it took a reply comment before they revisited my post to see what I actually wrote rather than what they first perceived I wrote ( and I thank them for re-visiting).

But why should a post about what is essentially a marketing question be met with such open hostility?

is it because of the demographic involved? Or is it something more?

Thoughts are appreciated, even from those who tell me I wasn’t being logical at all :)

Does Victoria’s Secret need to change it’s (business) model?

Victorias Secret

I always get a guilty little pleasure out of seeing a company loosing money because they’ve lost track of what their customer base is and how to reach out of them.

A recent example of this is Victoria’s Secret (yes the lingerie company, who’s catalogue is a guilty little pleasure for many a man ) who have seen a 12% drop in profits for the fourth quarter of 2007 and their first quarter earnings for 2008 are expected to perform well below Wall Street expectations.

The reasons for this could be many, but Sharen Turney, the CEO of Victoria’s Secret seams to believe it is because the brand has become to sexy and needs to be more "ultra feminine".

"We’ve so much gotten off our heritage … too sexy, and we use the word sexy a lot and really have forgotten the ultra feminine,"

This is where I sit up and take notice because I honestly believe that Victoria’s Secret is not loosing money because their brand in too sexy or not feminine enough but because they’ve forgotten who their market is and who really wields the purchasing power in the majority of households and of course, because of that every present bean, customer satisfaction!

Who buys lingerie?

Who are the market for Victoria’s Secret?

The chain was started in San Francisco in 1977 by Roy Raymond, who said he was embarrassed trying to buy lingerie for his wife and hoped to provide a comfortable place for men to shop.

That little nugget above would appear to indicate that the main market for Victoria’s Secret is men who lack the confidence to to walk into a lingerie store and pick something nice out for their significant other.

I would suspect that the truth is very far removed from that.

The truth is that in most households the women hold control of the purse strings and it is they who decide what lingerie they purchase.

I also suspect that it is due solely to the discretion of those women, that the vast majority of those men, who lack the confidence to purchase lingerie ever get to see a woman in it. But I digress.

These women not only want to look and feel sexy, they also want to feel comfortable and according to one of the best of the mommy blogger’s out there, the lingerie from Victoria’s Secret is quite simply not designed with real women in mind.

Explain to me why your panties are only sold up to size Large, which according to your website is about a size 14. Have you read the statistics lately? Do you realize the average woman in the US is a size 14? So what about the other half, the ‘above average’ sized contingency? Are they just SOL in your book?

In the the technology world this kind of a mistake would be the equivalent of designing an iPod that could only be used by people who were born with an extra finger.

It may look sexy as heck but you’ve seriously narrowed your market.

I buy lingerie for the comfort… Really!

Okay, so lets say that with respect to women, Victoria’s Secret have missed the boat, but what about the remaining section of their market?

  • What about that tiny percentage of unconfident guys who do actually order the stuff (and their wives probably never get to see it because they’re to shy to give it to them)?
  • What about those egotistical gits who think that because they fancy it their spouse will? (Here’s a free tip: the present is to make HER feel sexy and confident / comfortable!)
  • What about the guy who’s buying it for himself (you know what I mean)?

The more I think about these guys the more I am certain that they must feel robbed after every purchase they make.

Imagine you went out and bought and ordered a shiny new MacBook Air today, but when it arrived, you received a machine of identical technical specs, but the case was made out of cheap unfinished plastic?

The Victoria’s Secret catalogue creates exactly that same feeling of disappointment.

I mean, can you image how devastated you’d feel if your MacBook air turned up with plastic cover but with the same innards.

It would be like seeing a thong in the catalogue, on a super models backside, and then when you receive it and get to see it with it’s "real" covering, it ends up looking like a tiny bit of string wedged between two badly parked Volkswagens covered in orange peel.

Disappointment is not the word ;)

Would you buy a product from a company again after the end result was so vastly different from what you’ve seen advertised? I think not?

What do your customers actually want?

So, now we’ve established that VS have lost track of who is spending the money and who they’re real customer base is, so lets attempt to figure out what they can do to pull themselves (no pun intended) out of this rut.

First thing would be to rethink their choice of model. Again Sara said it best with:

You may think you are being progressive and open minded by using super models who are in their 30’s in some of your ads, but we aren’t fooled. We don’t look like those women,

Dove Campaign for real beauty Maybe Victoria’s Secret should take a leaf out of Doves book and their "Campaign for real beauty" commercials. (I can’t find a link to these videos anywhere – but if anybody can find an advert for "Dove Summer Glow" and you’ll know what I mean. I did find one copy on YouTube which has since been removed – go figure!).

Victoria’s Secret needs to get down to the art of making their lingerie appeal to real women. To making them believe that they can feel sexy, confident and comfortable in the their lingerie.

They also need to be promoting the idea that real women are sexy.

Before I go any further. Let me say one thing: Fat is not sexy.

Being fat does not make you are a "real" woman, or a "real" man for that matter.  It just means you’re unhealthy.

Neither is skinny sexy, not when it’s unnaturally so. All you after dinner puckers be warned.

Sexy is natural and healthy (emphasis on healthy).

Getting back to roots? Nah!

Victoria’s Secret does not need to get back to any roots of why the company was started.

"I feel so strongly about us getting back to our heritage and really thinking in terms of ultra feminine and not just the word sexy and becoming much more relevant to our customer," Turney said Thursday.

Victoria’s Secret needs to listen to what their current core customer demographic wants from them now and deliver on it. That’s the way forward. That’s they way to pull yourself up by the socks after a 12% drop.

Give the customers that actually spend the money and use the product what they want.

If you do that you’ll build return business, customer satisfaction and improve your brand reputation.

As tenuous as all this may be in connection to technology there is a valuable lesson to be learned here for ever
y company that produces any kind of product.

  • Don’t get caught up in your own hype.
  • Don’t start thinking that you know what your customers want better than they do.
  • Don’t get caught up in some dogmatic idea that the company was founded for one reason and can only exist to service that reason!

People, ideas, societies, cultures and markets change. If you want to stay on top you need to change with them and these changes can be drastic.

Yet, if you pay attention to what your customers want and you and are trying to predict what they might want, these changes can be easy to manage and allow your company to grow to meet their needs.

However, I must stress again, that attempting to predict what your customers want does not mean you’ll get it right and you need to shift gears rather quickly when you get it wrong.

Web hosts and the Viral Nature of bad news

conversation Andy Beard is thinking about moving his blog to a dedicated server. The move appears to have been put in motion by the recent experiences of Tricia and myself with regards to our treatment by our web hosts. (Vlad also pinged me today about his experiences with hosting from Yahoo!)

Now before I go any further I must admit to being remiss and say that it’s been a while since I’ve dropped a comment on Andy’s blog, although I never miss reading a post. I’m sorry mate.. 

Anyway, Andy’s post started a great discussion about problems with web hosts but one thing that got to me about it is something that appears to have slipped under most peoples radar.

and the viral nature of the blogosphere passes on the bad experience that bloggers are having with their web hosts

Isn’t that a shame?

I actually once posted about how well One.com had stood up when O’Flaherty was getting hammered by traffic for the Krak.dk thing.

Unfortunately that praise probably went unnoticed.

Bad news travels. It’s a fact and I’m sure if it’s speed could be measured it may prove to be the fastest traveling thing known to man.

Web hosts don’t appear to realize how important peer recommendations are to people that are looking for good hosting. After all, 99% of web hosts promise the same stuff so there’s not very much to differentiate them.

Web hosts need to realize that providing web hosting does not make them “active on the web”.

It facilitates other people to be active on the web. If those people are anything like me, they’ll have no problems slating your service when fail to deliver.

Web hosts need to be proactive on the web.

Customer support is all well and good when it works. Unfortunately, for a large percentages of web hosts, it doesn’t. The limited information they provide in many cases leads to frustration and anger and invokes enough wrath in many end users to obliterate a small country.. maybe Luxembourg.

Web hosts need to make themselves part of the discussing when things go wrong.

When a bloggers fires off a rant about his web host then they need to be there commenting on the blog and trying to work with the blogger to address the issue or explain the situation.

A complete lack of comments from the host only reinforces the bloggers point as the blogger remains unchallenged.

Maybe unchallenged is the wrong word here, maybe unanswered is better, but you get what I mean.

Even if the web host has completely cocked things up then a comment on the users site which simply explains what went wrong will earn them some brownie points.

They will, at least, appear to be part of the solution.

Also, and equally as important, is the need for a web host to be gracious when a blogger gives them praise. Dropping a comment to say thanks will put them in better standing.

Us bloggers like to know that you’re listening. It means a lot to us when we give praise to something that we get an acknowledgement for it. A little “thank you” note.

If we get a little “thank you” comment, we may even post about your service again!

We don’t give out praise that often you know. We can be a pretty mean bunch ;)

Web hosts generate a lot of bad PR for themselves simply by staying out of the conversation.

Bad news travels, and bad news for a web host means a loss in potential revenue.

Thankfully it’s very easy to reduce the impact of the bad news. Get involved in the conversation.

You don’t need to give away stuff, spend more money on advertising or AdWords, all you have to do in join the conversation.

You’ll look better and you’ll be in the minds of bloggers everywhere. You’ll get a reputation for being part of the solution and the conversation.

That, alone, will ear you a lot of free WOM marketing from bloggers. Everybody knows a blogger and bloggers are the voice of the internet.

(Image by Bright Meadow)

Bye Bye Blogsvertise

I’m deleting my account with Blogsvertise as soon as I’m finished writing this post.

I’ve had three “offers” assigned to me since I joined up and I must say that they’ve been dreadful. Whoever assigns tasks to bloggers over there needs a serious head check and to do a little homework before hitting that “send” button.

I’ve received tasks to write about the following 3 sites (all links are “no follow”):

The first 2 are tech related but completely beyond my means to write anything other than a mere “they exist” about. I don’t live in the U.S. so there is no way I’ll be writing about they’re service because I have no possibility to try it.

I’m certainly not going to be paying the $1.99 per minute call charge, on top of the international call rate from DENMARK.

I’m supposed to make money by writing about this service not spend more that the piddle poor $7.50 they’re offering me.

BuyDomain is another poor choice. Yeah, I can look at they’re site and see the extortionate amount of money people want for expired domains but am I going to call them? Am I going to purchase a domain to see what they’re service is really like?

Not for $10!

As for HawaiianBeachRentals.com! Why is it listed as “Technology and Gadgets” entry?

The poor matching of tasks to my blog is not the only reason why I’m leaving Blogsvertise. What they demand is nothing more than an advertisement and they offer far too little money for it.

This blog is registered with PayPerPost and ReviewMe. On both of these services I can demand around $100 for posts on my blog and that makes it worth my while, because when I write a review I invest the necessary time to make it worth reading.

As stated on my policies page:

Paid Reviews

I will do paid reviews on this site. All paid reviews will contain proper disclosure at the top and bottom of the article.

The content of the review will not be influenced or altered by the fact that I am being paid to do the review. The review will be honest!

A bad product or service will not receive a good review simply because I’m being paid to review it. However, I will, in the review, attempt to suggest ways in which the product or service could be improved.

Likewise, good services will not receive an excellent review simply because I’m being paid to review it.

My review will be honest and critical. If your product or service can’t stand up to a critical review, or you don’t wish to learn how to improve it, then I suggest you look elsewhere.

Blogsvertise doesn’t pay enough to be worth my time and I’m not going to be a shill when writing a review.

Bye Bye Blogsvertise!

Does Twitter have built in Trust?

Andy thinks that Twitter is unethical for business use and therefore made his last business related Twitter post last night!

Andy
AndyBeard I can’t find a way to use Twitter to comply with WOMMA so last business related update from me – full details here – http://tinyurl.com/29yr

Andy cites the following reasons:

Twitter is thus being used for WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing), and should be subject to the same ethics rules and recommendations as blogging.

  • Disclosure in the Twitter Interface – currently impossible because there simply isn’t enough room in 160 characters.
    <image removed>
  • Disclosure Link – maybe an ethical possibility, but you can’t add anchor text, and not all the URL is displayed
    <image removed>
  • Disclosure In Content – it is hard enough already to say anything meaningful within the number of words allowed, there is no way you could add a disclosure to the content as well.

Okay, I can see where you’re coming from with this one Andy, however I think you’re very much missing the fact that because you choose who your receive Twitters from, there is an expectation that you know what kind of Twitters you’re going to receive.

If you add Steve Rubel to your Twitter friends, you expect to get links to marketing stuff and stuff he’s related to. That’s why you added him to your Twitter friends list in the first place. Surely you can’t tell me it’s really because your interested in what the guy had for breakfast?

If you add Cali Lewis you expect to get updates about GeekBrief TV (awesome video podcast for those of you who don’t know it).

If you add me, you’ll expect links to stuff all over the web, and updates on my  podcast etc…

If I start a Twitter profile for my company, the I have to tell my customers that I have a Twitter profile they can follow, and then, as it is a company profile, it comes preloaded with the expectation that it will link to company related stuff.

You see Andy, it’s the entire “expectation” angle that makes Twitter ethical for word of mouth marketing.

You don’t just go to Twitter and start adding names at random to your friends list without first knowing a little something about who these people are. 

When I added Steve Rubel, I knew I’d get marketing related stuff! When I added Cali Lewis, I knew that some of the posts would be about GeekBrief related stuff! (It’s also nice to know what the prettiest and one of the smartest women in tech is up to!)

Twitter is not blogging! Actually, this level of innate expectation separates it even further from blogging! When you visit somebody’s blog that you’ve never heard of you have to research who they are by reading their posts and profiles to learn if you want to continue reading and trust their links.

You don’t need to do that with Twitter because you’ve already taken that step when you visited their blog, podcast or whatever and decided to follow them on Twitter.

Now, I’m fully aware that you can add people you don’t know especially if you have a ton of followers and just use the “add all” feature.

But if you add 200 or 1000 people that you don’t know, then you expect to get hit with crap and unethical links from time to time. It comes with the territory and it’s your own fault for adding them in the first place. You can remove offending linkers again, but it’s your own fault for adding unknowns to begin with.

The public timeline is not a marketing tool. The lifespan of a Twitter on the first page of the public timeline is to short to make it viable for any kind of exposure.

People add who they want to add, and should know what to expect of a person when they choose to add them to their friends list.

It’s to be expected that most bloggers (and others) will hold themselves to the same standard of linking on Twitter as they do on their blogs. If they don’t it will hurt their reputation with their followers. They’re followers are they’re audience and their blog readers. They know all to well, that if they do something unethical and get called out on it on Twitter, it will have the same negative reaction and effect as if they did it on their own blog.

If you added somebody to your Twitter friends, and they later betrayed the trust and expectation that came with adding them, then simply “unfriend” them and unsubscribe from their blog.

Twitter is like standing at the bar in the pub with your mates.

You don’t probe your friends about every recommendation they make to you. You expect them, not to recommend anything harmful to you! Its a very rate occasion when  you care if the recommendation benefits them as long as it benefits you as well.

But if they make a recommendation and you get burned, then you hold them accountable for it and possibly stop being friends with them.

And then come the marketers…

So the Twittervision buzz has started. Everybody has been twittering about for the last hour or so! I like it’s simplicity. There’s a huge amount of potential for spinoffs of the Twittervision idea.

However, no sooner had the Twitter buzz started when Steve Rubel said this:

Steve_rubel
steverubel Twittervision needs an aggregate map that shows the top Twittering cities and the most prolific people who live there.

To which Raymond Kristiansen replied:

Dltq2
dltq @steverubel: top twittering cities, top twitter users, sure, top 10 lists of all. but think about the long tail of this as well. the scope! 19 minutes ago from web in reply to steverubel

Now, this sounds like a good idea on the surface, but as I was out collecting Ex a number of things becan to occur to me.

If Twittervision were to show aggregate data showing the top twittering cities and the most prolific users, it wouldn’t take the marketers long to move in and abuse the system so that they can promote their wares using twitter as the channel.

They’re not really doing it on twitter now because in order for a Twitter to reach people they have to have you as a friend! The lifespan of a twitter on the twitter public timeline is to short to make it a good place to peddle your wares.

But, if you include this aggregate data on Twittervision, then suddenly it becomes a marketers paradise, as they can just spam twitter until they have the top spots as the most prolific users.

See where I’m going with this! The great thing about Twitter and Twittervision is the immediacy, the here and now. Displaying data, such as most prolific users is focusing on the past, and while the data may be interesting, it wouldn’t be long before it was gamed.

Let’s be honest, if the marketers don’t do it, then the porn guys will!

I also go thinking about who the most prolific Twitter users are. Watching the public timeline and Twittervision its painfully obvious that a lot of people are simply posting noise to Twitter all the time.

I’d nearly wager that the most prolific users are probably the same folks who blog about their belly button fluff and bowel movements simply for something to do.

They’re probably people with only 1 friend on the service but love to see their dribble on screen, but don’t have enough of an attention span to type a full blog post.

You know the kind of person I’m talking about. They’re certainly not the Scobels, Rubels or Calacanis’s of the world. 

Do we really want really want the most prolific bowel movers of the Twitter world displayed in all their glory?

Will I’m all for the idea of building on Twittervision, or spinning off services based on it’s idea, I like Twittervision because it does exactly what it does and no more.

Steve Rubels idea is great. I’m just not sure if that kind of data belongs on Twittervision!