Empower Your Community To Spread Your Word

Evangelism Marketing - Paul O'Flaherty

I was contacted by a fledgling religious oriented startup that wanted to get various celebrity ministers and church leaders to make a specific declaration during one of their sermons.

Their goal could not have been achieved given their budget and timeframe so I offered some free advice which also happens to apply to almost every business no matter it’s size:

Send forth your evangelists.

Every business, no matter what type, has its fans and believers – people who actually care about the business, its products or goals. These people, whether acolytes within or believers on the outside, are your best marketing tool.

Evangelism marketing is the next step up from Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM), but the goal is the same – to have passionate people talking about your product!

Evangelism marketing is … in which companies develop customers who believe so strongly in a particular product or service that they freely try to convince others to buy and use it. The customers become voluntary advocates, actively spreading the word on behalf of the company.

As they act independently, evangelist customers often become key influencers. The fact that evangelists are not paid or associated with any company make their beliefs perceived by others as credible and trustworthy.

It costs very little to enable customers to spread your message, but it will take time and effort to promote them from simple customers to passionate advocates for your business.

Listen to them. Share their stories and incentivize them to spread the word as your advocates. Enable them to share their experiences on social media and in real life.

Organize them into a community, and show them that you care about their opinion. Interact with them and let that interaction be part of a larger conversation.

In the case of the startup mentioned above, I recommended that they organize their friends and followers as volunteers. Explain their mission and what they want to achieve to their volunteers, and create fun community events around achieving that goal.

Have group events to make calls, tweet, share and send emails, while you provide food, snacks, fun distractions and the thrill of achieving a common goal. Get everyone t-shirts and share pictures and updates from these events on social media. Spread the word about what they are doing and not only give them something to talk about online, but give them the means to do it too.

Taking this approach the startup would get a lot more “bang for the buck” and a longer sustained campaign, while also building a community around their message.

How you empower your evangelists is up to you, but must do it and you must make them part of your community.

There are very few things that a passionate community cannot achieve.

Blogging Without A Contact Form = You Miss Out

Blogging Without A Contact Form

I’ve said it before, and I’ll damn well say it again – “If you don’t have a contact form on your blog or site, you’re not worth my time following”.

Having spent a large part of this morning building a contact list of local bloggers for outreach, I’m shocked by how many don’t have even the simplest of contact mechanisms listed on their site.

I’m not even talking about putting your email address out there – how about a simple form so that I can reach out to you?

I respect that people want to protect their privacy and don’t want to inundated with spam, (neither of which need to occur if you set up a proper contact form) but it strikes me as lunacy to miss out on potential advertising, content, partnerships, feedback from your readers, and more because you don’t have one on your page.

Of course, you’ll receive a handful of messages that you’ll have little to no interest in, but it may end up being a small price to pay.

More importantly, it strikes me as disingenuous to build a community of readers but not give them the ability to reach you with thoughts that they may not want to leave publicly in your comments.

The Blogosphere Is Dead And Its Your Fault

Killing ouselves off!
Killing ourselves off!

Warning: ** If you’re easily offended I suggest you click off to another blog this instant because I will offend your delicate sensibilities. This post is about the blogosphere in its entirety and not about any one particular individual or their actions. **

I am sick to death of the blogsphere. It’s weak, it’s spineless and has about as much veracity as a neutered, toothless, three legged Chihuahua.

It’s dying.

I’d love to know what the root cause of the blogospheres apathetic decline into little more than a circle-jerk for various communities is, but I’m betting that from here on in we’re pretty much screwed.

We’ve descended into a mob of self serving, self centered sheeple that act with about as much individuality a a shoal of fish. One of us reacts and we all react, we all panic. We all cling to each other like sprat on the shores of community while the mackerel devour us.

We secretly despise each others success and revel in others failure, all the while acting like we’re all the best of buddies and that everything everybody writes is amazing and smells like roses.

Well it does smell like roses, until you realize it’s the smell of the bullshit you’ve thrown on the roses to fertilize them.

This weekend I’ve been deeply disturbed by the wishy washy, head stuck in the sand, lets avoid reality when it’s spitting down our throats,  nature of a fairly substantial number of my fellow bloggers.

The entire @MyBottlesUp story just sums it all up for me. Here you have a woman who blatantly fabricated a story that a goverment agency took her child from her. Tweeted about it wrote about it, tried to cash in on her “story” and then when faced with undeniable video evidence that it had never happened, accused the TSA of doctoring the video.

No remorse, no guilt, just more accusations.

So the TSA released more video. 9 videos in fact, showing her entire journey through airport security, sometimes from various angles.

The response of some of the people: “The TSA are faking it” or worse (because I can actually understand that there are a lot of wing-nut conspiracy freaks out there donning  their silver foil hats) the response of those who think we should let it be because she’s “not well”. She suffers from anxiety and substance abuse.

She was well enough to make this shit up. She was well enough to write about it. To tweet about lining up publishers. Well enough to try to pretend her site was down and to write a long response refuting the undeniable evidence.

Yet people want to protect her. They want to make excuses. They would much rather we all look like one big idiot community than do what is needed.

Take a stand. Say what she did was wrong and unfollow her. Unfollow her and unsubscribe from her everywhere. If she wants back make her earn it. Make her apologize.

A prime example of this spineless behavior is Blog with Integrity. You may have seen it, it’s a square blue badge which adorns some bloggers sites stating that they have basically signed a pledge to be goodie goodies… It’s noble. Naive, but noble.

@MyBottleUp proudly displays the “blog with integrity” badge on her sidebar. When the people behind the “I’m holier than thou emblem” were asked what their stance was on all the goings on, they responded by scurrying into the corner like mice afraid of their own shadow. They chose to stay out of it because you know, a blogger sporting their badge should never have to be talked to or asked to have it removed when they violate the principles it is supposed to represent.

Over the weekend, a blogger wrote a negative post about her experiences with the TSA during an airport security screening. The TSA refuted her claims in a post that included video of the incident. The inevitable blogstorm ensued.

The blogger displays the Blog with Integrity badge on her blog, and we have been asked in email, in posts and on Twitter about the matter. Some have called for us to ask her to remove the badge. Others merely wonder what we will do.

Here is our position:

Disputes and disagreements are between the parties involved. There are two sides to every story. It’s only fair to let a story play out before anyone makes up their mind.

Blog with Integrity is a voluntary community effort. Not a regulatory body. We don’t make decisions about your integrity. You do. Your readers do. The badge is a symbol of a blogger’s personal commitment to the principles of the pledge; only he or she can decide whether or not to display it.

In this case, we hope that everyone who has blogged, commented or tweeted about the incident will take the opportunity to re-examine his or her own words, and act accordingly.

Remember the final line of the pledge: “I own my words. Even if I occasionally have to eat them.”

Up Yours!
Up Yours!

Bullshit! Your badge either means something or it doesn’t. You are either serious about what it represents or you’re not.

If you’re going to shy away at the first point of contention then why even bother in the first place. Good intentions have never gotten anybody anywhere.

What exactly does the badge stand for if any unscrupulous twat can just slap it on the side of his or her blog and claim they’ve got integrity as if some mighty Monty Python finger descended from the heavens and shoved integrity up their backside?

I’m not one for regulating the blogosphere. But you know what? If it was my badge I would do some of the following in order to make it mean something:

  • Have a registry of sites that are displaying the badge.
  • Use some kind of script to track the distribution of the badge so it is tied to each website and if they violate the pledge turn off the badge.
  • Make community regulation an integral part of the system. After all it’s so much easier to stick to the rules when you have people supporting you and possibly snitching on you if you cheat…
  • Act like I give a shit when stuff like this goes down.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t really want to regulate the blogosphere, in fact I’ve lambasted Tim O’Reilly and others for suggesting such silliness in the past. But that said, if you’re going to try to do it, dear “Blog with Integrity” people, then for feck sake at least do it right!

I’m truly sick of todays blogosphere, where the ultra polite and light on brainwave activity have massive zombie hordes follower numbers while those who dare to express an actual opinion are ostracized to the edges of mediocrity. I honestly believe that John C Dovark is the only person to have crossed that divide, but that still plays out as a poor reflection on that esteemed section of the blogging community that act like everything is one great big group hug with Barney the purple pedophile.

Heaven forbid that someone be different. That someone suggest we don’t all have to brown nose each other all the time.

When the hell is the blogosphere going to finally grow up and stop moaning about what it doesn’t have, what bloggers believe (naively) they are entitled to and act like adults.

Adults can have opinions. We don’t have to go along with the crowd. We can do something different and be part of the community.We don’t have to think that every god damn post by every idiot we just happen to know is praiseworthy to the point of gushing…

We can call a spade a spade. We can call people out for what they’ve done wrong and praise them for what they’ve achieved. We can regulate ourselves without a laid out set of rules or crappy badges in our sidebars. I mean seriously who besides those that display them know what they’re for anyway?

All we have to do is accept that we are adults and that we have a community to protect and build if we ever want to get taken seriously.

Treat the community as a plant with each one of us acting as a gardener. I know that sounds daft but stick with me.

If a bit is rotten, does wrong, then don’t just ignore it. Cut it off. Each of us, one at a time. If that part heals, grows strong again, then let it back in for another chance.

If we all act like little gardeners and follow our own individual moral compass and just decide to unsubscribe, unfollow and not visit the blogs of people who we feel are not in the best interest of the community we will eventually find a natural middle ground where everyone is comfortable.

Yes the community will split. Probably into a number of parts. The marketers and spammers will find themselves marketing and spamming each other. The trolls will have nobody to play with etc… But the core will remain and just like cutting the dead branches off a tree in order to save it, the community will begin to grow and flourish again.

If we can just drop this, everybody be nice to everybody about everything no matter what attitude, the blogosphere will be a far better place and may actually start to earn some respect.

We need to drop the “He’s local so I’ll follow his blog or on twitter even though he’s a dick” bullshit. The same within communities such as mommybloggers. You can’t protect the idiots from themselves so let them go, let them die off.

Darwin called it natural selection. Survival of the fittest. The weak, infirm and just plain stupid die off so as not to pollute the gene pool and damage the entire species.

We’ve been protecting and making excuses for far too long. They’re like a cancer and our acceptance and encouragement is only weakening the entire body and eating us up from the inside while we trot around like idiots with our rose tinted glassed on pretending that everything is fine.

Very soon the only bloggers remaining will be barely capable of thought in more the 140 character bursts and only capable of that if they are participating in a community reach around scheme.

Culling the herd is a common practice to stop the spread of disease so that all the animals aren’t lost. If we don’t cull some of our herds, and soon, there won’t be any blogosphere left worth protecting.

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.

Are you losing money because of your sites comment system?

Even though I’ve had some pretty strong (and not so strong) opinions to express, I’ve not been commenting on a lot of sites lately because they won’t let me leave my URL when I sign up to comment.

For example, I was going to comment on Urlesque today, but when I scrolled down to the comment form I was confronted with the following and promptly clicked off to another site:

PaulOFlaherty_com Image Capture #9 - 'Last Shot - Ninja Hamster - The Web Photo I Can't Stop Looking At - Urlesque - Internet Trends, Viral Videos, Memes and Web Culture' - www_urlesque_com_2009_06_24_ninja-hamster

Now that kind of a log in process in order to leave a comment, just pisses me off because I’ve always thought that the idea was to make it as easy as possible for readers to leave a comment.

Instead, the people at Urlesque (and others who have a similar system) expect you to jump through the hoops of not only leaving a comment, but then waiting for a verification email and that is probably before you hit the first time moderation queue.

I can understand why sites may implement such an archaic and difficult commenting process. They want to reduce spam levels and the more difficult they make it for someone to leave a comment the more likely it is that the comment is genuine and the less work they’ll have to do moderating.

However, this kind of system, especially one that doesn’t allow you to leave a link to your own website when you comment, is a cop-out of the lazy and fails to realize that user comments are worth money to a publisher.

As I see it, when you publish a blog post you enter into an exchange with your readers.

Imagine that your blog is a bar and that every Thursday night for 1 hour you offer either free or half price beer to your customers in order to entice them to come in.

Your blog itself is the premises.

Your post is the free or cheap beer which you are using the bring the customers in.

The idea is that you want them to come in and click on your advertising or in this case to buy shots to complement the cheap beer they are having.

So, at this point, it’s easy to get people to come in and drink your free beer, but what you really want is customers who will come back during the times that you’re not running promotions and will become regulars in the bar.

These customers are what makes every bar it’s real money and whether or not you realize, these customers are actually the people who leave comments on your blog.

Nobody wants to drink in an empty bar and a lot of people feel disinclined to comment on posts where most other folks haven’t. A blog with few comments looks un-trafficked and gives the impression that (despite the reality) it is of low-quality content.

The customers who come in when there are no promotions running may not spend a lot of money on shots (or in this case click adverts), but they make the place look busy and that entices others in who will buy the shots.

From a website point of view every comment left is yet another piece of text for the search engines to crawl which may also bring you long tail search engine traffic, leading to increased page views and increased revenue over time.

See where I’m going with this? The harder you make it for people to comment, the less likely they are to leave a comment. It has a knock-on effect. Less comments, less commenter’s because there is no sense of community, also less content for the search engines which means less search engine traffic, all of which leads to a decline in your long term revenue.

It’s not alcohol that keeps people coming back to the same pub all the time. Alcohol can be purchased in any pub and cheaper in a liquor store. It’s the community. It’s the people that they get to come in to after work and hang out with. It’s the people that they get to talk to.

This talk ranges from sports to personal life, but invariably these people share things with each other and get to know each other. Jim got a new car, Teresa shows of pictures of her sisters baby etc…

Except, on blogs where it is difficult to comment, there is very little community and on blogs where you can’t share your URL, those who do stick around long enough for a quick “nippy sweetie” after work can’t show off those pictures of their niece’s and nephews or grand kids.

By making commenting difficult and cutting off peoples means to share info about themselves (their URL) you reduce the level of community and stop people from becoming regulars before they walk in the door.

Empty seats don’t entice people in.

Bars can’t live without their regular customers and blogs can’t do it without their community.

Dear Bloggers: Networkers Network. Everybody ElseJust Dhouts!

I had an awesome conversation on IM this morning with Sara from SuburbanOblivion about networking and bloggers and with her permission I’ve shared this gem of segment with you guys.

Sara: who says we have no power? 😉

me: nobody did

The problem lies with the definition of “we”

Sara: ?

do tell

me: We is a collective term

99% of individual bloggers have no power

Sara: very true

me: So really.. that 99% have no right to the term we

It’s that 1% that they latch on to 😉

LOL

Sorry.. just taking a provocative stance here

Sara: lol

nothing new

me: because it fits with what’s going though my brain at the minute

Sara: and I will say, one this this ‘collective’ is good at is networking and community

its not a matter of latching on, its a matter of building relationships

me: LOL.. 90% of bloggers do not build relationships

They latch on

Like junk floating in space

they latch onto the nearest big object that stays still long enough

Sara: maybe in your experience

me: The problem is that most bloggers just want to be heard..

They do not want to do the networking

they invest neither the time nor the work needed

The people who attend conferences and actually network are the minority

Sara: that doesn’t have to be done at conferences

me: No it doesn’t I never said that

Sara: I have a buttload of bloggers I email back ad forth with on a personal basis regularly

me: Yes you do.. and so do I..

get the point yet?

Networkers tend to network

Sara: and sites like Facebook and twitter make it even easier to get to know and keep in touch

me: They tend to be connected to other networkers

It doesn’t matter that the tools are there to be used..

Look at facebook, twitter, myspace, linked in..

friendfeed etc..

Look at your contacts

Sara: ok..

me: I’d wager that 75% or more of your contacts are the same on all of these networks

Networkers tend to network with other networks

er.. networkers

You have to look beyond that sphere

Sara: to a degree

me: You’re a networker and are connected to other networkers

Sara: never thought of it that way

I’m a blogger, and I like to get to know people

readers, potential readers

other friends too though 🙂

me: Yeah I know..

At the end of the day it really comes down to that old saying .. “birds of a feather flock together”

Sara: it IS networking, and I swear moms are a natural at that, but I’ve always thought the term ‘networker’ more as a business thing

if that makes any sense at all

likely not

me: Yeah I know

Sara: lol

At the end of the day, those of us that are part of the conversation are those of us who have the mind-set to network with and converse with others.

Everybody else, no matter what title they assign themselves is just another piece of flotsam washed up on the shore of the community they claim to be a part of.

Can You Buy A Blog Community?

What is the value of the O’Flaherty community? If the prices was right could I sell it?

Those two question have been on my mind since Chris Brogan asked “is your community for sale?” in his reactionary post to Andrew Baron putting his Twitter account up for sale.

What value would a purchaser take with them if they purchased the O’Flaherty outright, including my live show locations and  social network accounts.

What would somebody purchasing my name outright (or yours) be getting?

Obviously they’d be purchasing access to my audience. They would be forking out cash for my direct access to my RSS subscribers, the folks who visit my blog, follow updates on Facebook, watch O’Flaherty Live, everyone who subscribes via email.

In short they’d be paying for access to you!

Yet I think that such an investment would ultimately be a wasted investment regardless of which blogger you managed to purchase.

Blogger’s tend to have a unique community which is not the same as they community for a larger social site.

On a larger site such as say a popular forum you could actually purchase the community  because you wouldn’t be removing or replacing any aspect of the experience of the site. It’s the users interaction with each other around a topic that makes the community the community.

With blogs, once you’ve purchased a blog and remove the original author (or authors) you’ve taken away the key thing that made that site valuable in the first place.

On blogs it’s not as much about the users interaction with each other (although this is till very important) but more about their interaction with the author.

Blog readers become loyal to a blog because they typically become engaged by content. They feel an affinity towards the authors style of writing and personality.

This is something which can only very rarely be replicated. If you have a successful blog with a high reader count, the chances are that replacing the original author could result in a max exodus of readers.

Change the author and you change the readership.

Like print authors who are successful regardless of what publisher they use, good bloggers will take their audience with them to whatever new domain they decide to blog at leaving the original domain with little value except for the page rank and incoming traffic which may eventually die off as people stop linking to the site and the value of existing links diminishes.

Ultimately you end up paying for a very short lived period where you have the brief attention span of the original authors audience with diminishing return over time.

But what about a Twitter account, as in Andrew Barons case?

I would here that all you would be purchasing is the ability to spam the community for a brief period of time.

If other Twitter users are anything like me then they quickly stop following accounts that become spammy and I’m sure that the clicking of the “un-follow” button will be vastly accelerated once followers realize they are no longer following who they thought they were.

At the end of the day can your really buy a blog community? I don’t think so.