Looking Back at 300: Top 10 Posts on the Webbiquity Blog So Far

After 32 months (time flies when you’re having fun!) and 300 posts, here is a quick look back at the 10 most-read posts on the Webbiquity blog to date. This is an update of the looking back at 100 post in July 2010.

Again, thank you for reading the MarketingSherpa Readers Choice top b2b marketing blog for 2012. Without further ado, below are the 10 most-viewed posts on this blog to date. Some of the entries are surprising, but life and the web can be unpredictable. These are the posts that Webbiquity readers have “voted” as the best by their traffic so far.

Top 10 Posts So Far on the Webbiquity B2B Marketng Blog10. PR Monitoring and Management Tools: Which is Best? Vocus vs. Cision (November 8, 2011)

Vocus and Cision are both powerful and popular PR monitoring and management systems. Both provide PR and social media professionals with extensive capabilities for tracking and growing media coverage of their organizations or clients. So which is best?

9. How to Write an Effective Business Blog (January 8, 2010)

Helpful advice on choosing a blogging platform, authors, topics and frequency for an effective business blog. This post is starting to show its age, but the guidance is still useful to beginning bloggers.

8. 33 (of the) Best Marketing Strategy Guides and Insights of 2010 (February 14, 2011)

Sometimes it’s essential to step back from everyday marketing tactics to ask the bigger questions, like: What conceptual models are we basing our marketing assumptions and practices on, and what new models should we be thinking about? Which emerging trends do we need to keep an eye on? While you won’t find much in the way of “tips and tricks” in this post, you will find guidance on answers to these big-picture marketing questions and more here in some the best marketing strategy guides and insights of 2010. For a more up-to-date look at marketing strategy, check out the Best B2B Marketing and Sales Strategy Guides and Insights of 2011.

7. The One Effective Use of Facebook for B2B Marketing (March 9, 2010)

The intimate, informal nature of Facebook makes it the ideal venue to showcase the human side of your company, with content that may not be appropriate elsewhere. While I’d write this differently today, the post holds up pretty well considering there were “only” 350 million users on Facebook when this was published.

6. 78 (of the) Best Social Media Marketing Tips, Guides, Tools and Strategies of 2010 So Far (August 16, 2010)

More than six dozen of the best, most bookmark-able articles and blog posts about social media tactics, tools and strategies written in 2010, by leading writers like John Jantsch, Lori Dicker, Lee Odden, Lisa Barone, Jay Baer and many more. You can find a much fresher version of this type of content in the recently posted 33 (of the) Best Social Media Guides, Tips and Resources of 2012 So Far.

5. 50 (of the) Best Twitter Guides, Stats, Tips and Tools of 2010 So Far (October 5, 2010)

What are the best ways to use Twitter for business? How you can use it most effectively? Which tools are most helpful? You’ll find the answers to these questions and many more here—or check out more recent thought on the topic in Best Twitter Tips, Tools and Tactics of 2011.

4. The Nifty 50 Top Women of Twitter for 2011 (May 3, 2011)
50 of the most remarkable women on Twitter, from B2B marketers to social media experts, journalists, PR professionals, or just plain fascinating personalities. Though this list is almost timeless, The Top #Nifty50 Women in Technology on Twitter for 2012, published just last month, honors 50 remarkable women on Twitter who work for or with technology companies.

3. What’s the Best Social Media Monitoring Tool? It Depends (October 13, 2010)

The explosion of social media has led to a corresponding need for more sophisticated monitoring tools that can crawl the hundreds of social networking and bookmarking sites and millions of blogs across the globe. A rapidly proliferating collection of tools are being developed to meet the need. This post highlights nine tools at various price levels that may or may not be the best but are certainly among the most popular and capable social media monitoring tools currently available.

2. Best Email Marketing Tips, Tactics and Metrics of 2010 (February 21, 2011)

How can you use email marketing most effectively and avoid overloading your recipients with information? How can you grow the size of your email marketing list? Avoid mistakes that will cost you readers? Integrate your email and social media marketing efforts to improve results through both channels? Find the answers to those questions and others here in more than two dozen of the best email marketing guides of 2010. Or get more current email wisdom in 17 (of the) Best Email Marketing Guides of 2011.

And the number one, most viewed post of all time so far on the Webbiquity blog (imagine mental drum-roll sound here) is…

1. Best Social Media Stats, Facts and Marketing Research of 2010 (January 17, 2011)

Learn how buyers use social media, which platforms are most effective, and more here in the best social media marketing stats, facts and research of 2010. If you crave social media stats and data (clearly a popular topic), check out the much newer collection of such in 79 Remarkable Social Media Marketing Facts and Statistics for 2012.

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How (and Why) to Map Your Company’s Digital Landscape

With more than 90% of companies now using social media to find employees and 82% having a Facebook page, there’s no question that business use of social media has become commonplace. But “use” and “success” are two different things. Many organizations, having now realized that the “build it and they will come” model doesn’t work in social media and that it isn’t just another channel for promoting news releases and marketing brochures, are stepping back and retooling their social media strategies.

Evaluating Your Digital LandscapeIf you’re developing a new social media program, revamping one that’s failed to achieve hoped-for results, or just trying to make an existing strategy more successful, one key component to start with is an analysis of your social media or digital landscape. This analysis will help you understand:

  • • Where your prospective buyers are congregating in social media, and what they are talking about.
  • • What your competitors are doing in social media.
  • • Which voices are most influential in your market space.

Here’s a four step plan for creating a digital landscape analysis for your organization, to help build or rebuild a successful social media marketing strategy.

1. Evaluate how your competitors are using social media. For both strategic and benchmarking purposes, create a spreadsheet listing your top competitors and, for each, showing:

  • • Social features on their website (e.g. do they have a blog, how prominently is it featured, social bookmarking links, social media account links, etc.).
  • • Twitter metrics (followers, following, frequency of tweets, general level of interactivity).
  • • Facebook / LinkedIn / Google Plus metrics (i.e. followers/fans/circles, how complete is their profile, level of activity).
  • • YouTube metrics (total videos uploaded, subscribers, video views, recency of last update).
  • • Other social activity and presence (Flickr, SlideShare, Wikipedia, etc.).

Collecting this information is Phase I. This will give you a rough benchmark for your own social media activity (if you already have an active program) and will help you identify any positive outliers—competitors who are far more successful than average in social media—to take a closer look at.

When creating your strategy, you’ll revisit this data and take a closer look at exactly what these competitors are doing (particularly the more successful ones). The point is not to copy anyone else’s strategy as your company’s approach should be designed to capitalize on your own unique strengths, but rather just to see what you can learn from competitors’ success and make sure you aren’t overlooking any obvious tactics or techniques.

2. Identify the key influencers in your market. The next step is to identify the influential voices in your community that you’ll want to reach out to, connect with, and begin building relationships with. These are the journalists, bloggers, analysts (industry or financial) and others who can help amplify your content, spread your story, and lend credibility to your messages.

If you’ve got the budget, the quickest and easiest way to build a list is by using a PR and social media monitoring tool such as Cision, Vocus or MyMediaInfo.  If not, or to supplement the results from those paid tools, do some manual research using free tools like AllTop, Technorati and Google Blog Search.

These tools will tell you who is talking about a particular topic, but not necessarily how influential or important any individual source is. In an ideal world, there would be a standardized measure of some sort. Since we don’t live in an ideal world, use influencer rating tools like Klout and Kred in conjunction with checking which blogs are featured most often on blog rolls of target bloggers (an informative though imprecise measure of influence) and the Pagerank of each blog. Combing these measures provides at least a rough guide to the relative influence of various sources.

3. Find relevant groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. This is as simple as searching within “groups” on each social networking site for your primary keywords and recording the results. Note how many groups you find, how large the groups are, and how active they appear to be. Business-related topics will generally have more, larger groups on LinkedIn than Facebook, while the opposite is typically true for consumer topics.

Once you’re in the execution phase, you’ll of course want to monitor, contribute to and interact within the most important and active groups on your list. But in the digital landscape analysis, it’s enough to flag these groups for further investigation.

4. Look for other places where people are talking about your industry. Your prospective buyers are likely having conversations in places well beyond the big five social networking sites. If you’re using a professional (fee-based) social media monitoring tool, start there to identify these message boards, forums and other sites where people in your market are asking and answering questions.

An excellent free tool for conducting this research is Google Discussion Search (run a search on Google, click “More” in the left sidebar then click “Discussions”). It takes a bit of manual effort, but you can build a fairly comprehensive list of discussion forums and message boards by running multiple searches on Google Discussion Search, capturing the results to Excel using SEOquake, then sorting the list by frequency.

With these four steps completed, you’ll have a comprehensive picture of your company’s digital landscape in place to serve as a basis for developing a new or revised social media strategy and tactical plan.

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12 (of the) Best Social PR Guides, Tips and Techniques of 2011

What is the distinction between “traditional” public relations (PR) and online / interactive / social PR? Is there really a difference anymore—or is the boundary blurring?

One part of the confusion stems from the fact that in PR, as in many other crafts, the tools change and advance but the fundamental skills required remain the same. PR pros now use tools like Twitter, PitchEngine, PRWeb and Vocus in place of fax machines, media packets, wire services and Bacon’s, but the fundamental skills of storytelling and relationship-building remain crucial.

Another part of the confusion is based on the changing definition of “media.” Every print publication now has an online version. Many “traditional” journalists now write blogs; does that make them bloggers? What really is the distinction between megablogs like TechCrunch or Mashable and an online publication? And some multi-author blogs have morphed into hybrid portal/news/blog sites that are difficult to categorize.

Regardless, while the “art” of PR retains some constants,  the “science” has clearly evolved. What are the best practices for pitching journalists in this new environment? What are the (current) best practices for pitching bloggers? How can PR pros optimize their use of social media tools? How can you make a press release more friendly to blogs, Twitter and search engines?

Find the answers to these questions and more here in a dozen of the best social PR guides of the past year.

Pitching Basics – Rules of Engagement by Blogging PRWeb

Stacey AceveroNoting that “The perfect pitch is one that involves getting to know your target reporters and showing a genuine interest in helping them, rather than treating them as a means to an end,” the delightful Stacey Acevero of Vocus shares a helpful list of “do’s” (e.g., do your research, do be concise) and “don’ts” (e.g., send generic pitches) for successfully getting others to write about your product / service / news / client etc.

Blogger Outreach Remains Crucial for PR Pros by SocialTimes

Jay KrallJay Krall of Cision explains why blogger outreach remains important, how to find relevant bloggers within a particular topic area, and how to evaluate–and not evaluate–blogger influence, for example: “take one of the many varied specialties of lawyers who blog on topics like e-discovery or a particular state’s tax code – a blog with fewer than 10,000 readers may in fact serve as the tastemaker for the entire topic space. What makes sense instead is to judge a blog’s performance relative to its peers in the same topic area.”

Top 5 Innovative Ways PR Pros Are Using Social Media by Mashable

Leyl Master BlackLeyl Master Black presents five creative ways for communication professionals to use social media, among them: tapping into breaking news (“social media opens the door to a number of new tactics that can be deployed in a matter of minutes … if you’re quick on your feet”), creating proprietary influencer networks, and connecting with media / bloggers at events.

How to Turn a Blog Post into a Press Release by ProBlogger

Erika GimbelErika Gimbel outlines a six-step process for turning a blog post into a press release (“Both have many of the same elements: strong headlines, top-down format (most important stuff up front), etc.” as she points out), starting with making sure the post is newsworthy (“how-to” guides work well for blog posts, not so well for news releases) and ending with using third-person AP-style writing for the release.

Small Business…Big Coverage! by Blogging PRWeb

Jon GelbergGuest blogger Jon Gelberg contends that “you don’t have to be Apple or Google or Sony to get the attention of the press. All you need is an understanding of how the press (and online media) works and how best to get on their radar,” then describes how to find the right journalists and editors in a particular topic area and successfully pitch them on your story idea and expertise.

18 easy-breezy ideas for building a relationship with a journalist by Ragan’s PR Daily

Joan StewartJoan Stewart supplies “a handy list of how to prepare for, and conduct yourself during, a meeting” with a journalist or editor, from becoming familiar with that individual’s stories beforehand so you can discuss them intelligently, and bringing a media kit (or at least some brief background information) to asking how else you can help them and snail-mailing a real, paper thank-you note within 24 hours.

What brand marketers can learn from PR by iMedia Connection

Rebecca LiebRebecca Lieb, author of one of the best SEO books ever, observes that “Press releases don’t work (the way they used to) any more. They are no longer a private, one-to-one communications channel (once mailed, later faxed to newsrooms). Now, the second a press release is distributed over a wire service, it’s immediately picked up by all the major news services and web portals.” Today, press releases have to be search-optimized, written for a broader audience of influencers than just journalists, and (ideally) discussed in the right forums.

Pitching to Google’s Fresh New Algorithm via News, Blogs, Events & Google+ by Search Engine Watch

Lisa BuyerLisa Buyer reports that optimized news releases are now more important than ever given Google’s recent algorithm changes that promote the freshest content on news-themed web searches, then offers tips pertaining to PR SEO, online newsrooms, utilizing news blogs, capitalizing on events, the impact of Google+, content quality vs. quantity and more.

Six Tips For Making Your Press Release Twitter Friendly by Mediabistro

Tonya GarciaPointing to a recent study showing that “Twitter drives more traffic to press releases than Facebook,” Tonya Garcia details half a dozen tips for making news releases Twitter-friendly, such as using numbers (““If you have data within a press release, call it out in the headline”), using hashtags properly, including multimedia, and making quotes tweetable.

8 ways to get people to discuss your new product in social media by WebInkNow

David Meerman ScottDavid Meerman Scott passes along tips learned while promoting his most recent book, Newsjacking: How to Inject your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage. Among his recommendations: don’t reveal too much too soon (“I never used the word “newsjacking” anywhere on the web prior to November 14, which was launch day. I find that people have short attention spans. If I say ‘a book is coming’ but people cannot actually read it, few will act. So I chose to keep quiet.”), inject some controversy, and respond to people in real time.

5 excruciatingly dumb things PR pros do with social media by ragan.com

Priya RameshSuggesting “look around and you will see a huge gap between those who get it and those who only think they get it,” Priya Ramesh warns communications professionals not to do “dumb” things in social media like using a formal, business-like tone on social networks (nerdy); using social media as a broadcast medium rather than a conversational forum; and—my favorite—”joining the shiny-object bandwagon without a strategy.”

8 Steps to Leveraging PR for SEO by gShift Labs
***** 5 STARS

Krista LaRiviereKrista LaRiviere of gShift Labs notes that PR has taken on added importance in web presence due to Google’s recent Panda algorithm changes, which reduce the value of directory links, increase the influence of social signals on ranking, and reward content in certain topic areas for freshness, and provides and eight-step process for getting SEO value from every news release—beginning with keyword research and working through optimization, backlinks, and online distribution through an SEO-friendly PR distribution service.

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PR Monitoring and Management Tools: Which is Best? Vocus vs. Cision

Vocus and Cision are both powerful and popular PR monitoring and management systems. Both provide PR and social media professionals with extensive capabilities for tracking and growing media coverage of their organizations or clients. Among their features:

  • • An extensive database of professional journalists and social media influencers, with biographical information.
  • • Ability to monitor media coverage and brand mentions across a very wide range of sources.
  • • Capability to set up monitoring profiles for multiple keywords, topics, companies and products.
  • • Competitive and share-of-voice analysis and reporting.
  • • Optional social media monitoring and management.
  • • Online news release distribution.

Vocus vs. Cision for PR Monitoring and ManagementSo which is best? Well, “best” is obviously a subjective term, a matter of opinion. And people can reasonably hold different opinions. The fact is, both tools can do the job pretty well (hence their popularity). But there are clear differences between them. If your company or agency is weighing a decision on selecting a PR and social media monitoring and management tool (or perhaps making a change), here are five areas of comparison you may find helpful.

Media Database

Cision: A
Vocus: B+

Both tools offer extensive databases of publications, media professionals and bloggers. In the judgment of the PR professionals I work with, Cision’s database is just a bit more comprehensive.

Vocus vs. Cision User InterfaceUser Interface

Cision: C-
Vocus: D

User experience, unfortunately, isn’t a strength of either system. Both tools have complex, cumbersome user interfaces and are unnecessarily difficult to use. Both could benefit from a major UX/UI upgrade. The Cision interface is slightly better, but it’s like saying the Windows 95 interface is better than Windows 3.1. True, but neither meet modern standards for clarity and usability.

Customer Service

Vocus: B+
Cision: D

Overall, the Vocus team was outstanding to work with during our trial. They were friendly, knowledgeable, and training was customized to our needs and around our schedules. The company doesn’t quite merit an “A” only because there were some inconsistencies between individuals. But overall, Vocus customer service was excellent. Cision’s service on the other hand was dreadful. Training was regimented, and waiting 48 hours for a non-helpful response to an email is unimpressive. The company could clearly use some improvement in this area.

Online News Release Distribution

Vocus: A-
Cision: D

Vocus owns and utilizes PRWeb for its online distribution; Cision uses GlobeNewswire. According to an analysis from Comscore and Experian, as well as evaluations from other sources, PRWeb ranks among the best services for both media reach and SEO. GlobeNewswire takes up the rear.

Social Media Monitoring

Cision: B+
Vocus: B+

This is a tough criteria to grade because while both tools offer this option and perform social media monitoring and management quite well, the two vendors take completely different approaches. Vocus built its own tool, which is fully integrated into its PR monitoring system; Cision white-labels the Radian6 social media monitoring tool.

The advantages to the Vocus approach are that integration means one database, one system, and unified results and reporting. Also, since they own the tool, Vocus has the flexibility to negotiate on price with prospective buyers, who may thus get a better deal. Integration means there is only one user interface to learn. The downside: it’s the Vocus interface.

The benefit of Cision’s best-of-breed approach, on the other hand, is that the system combines the extensive Cision media database with the power of the highly-regard Radian6 tool for social media monitoring. The disadvantages are in pricing and the need to learn two separate systems. Also, the freshness and elegance of the Radian6 UI makes the clunkiness of the Cision interface even more obvious. It’s like parking a Ferrari next to an old Buick station wagon.

Other areas on which the decision is pretty much a wash include the amount of historical data available (both are limited to a few months, and could use improvement in this area) and search speed: Google can return a search on its index of the entire web in milliseconds, while it takes both of these tools several seconds to provide results from a much smaller database. Cision may be just slightly faster, but it’s not a big difference.

In the end, it’s a tough decision. Either tool will provide robust PR and social media monitoring management capabilities; it’s a matter of which strengths you need and which disadvantages you can live with.

So, you may ask, what decision did the b2b technology marketing and PR agency I work with make? A mix. We went with Cision for PR monitoring and management (a consensus decision, though not a unanimous one), but use PRWeb for online news release distribution. We use a mix of tools for social media monitoring, not having settled on one tool that can “do it all” tool yet.

Got an opinion on which tool is best? Leave a comment.

FTC Disclosure: I have no financial interest in either product—no dog in this fight. Both vendors provided free trials of their software systems for evaluation purposes. Other than those trials, there was no compensation offered or provided for this review.

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9 Criteria for Selecting a Social Media Monitoring Tool

Social media monitoring tools are increasing essential for companies of all sizes as the explosion of social media content renders manual monitoring efforts hopeless. But how do you choose one? With almost 200 social monitoring tools (and new entrants still coming to market), available at a range of price levels from free to if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it, how does an organization select the right social monitoring tool for its needs?

Social Media Monitoring Tools (logos)Whether you’ve a selection team working on this or the entire project has been delegated to you, here are nine critical considerations to keep in mind as you review and evaluate your options.

Range of coverage. Virtually every social media monitoring tool worthy of the label covers the big social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), social bookmarking sites (Digg, Reddit) and content sharing sites (YouTube, Flickr). Many include at least the most popular blogs as well. The best also monitor message boards and forums, easy to overlook but critical particularly for niche b2b products and services. For example, a discussion of the latest developments in aerospace composites is probably more likely to happen on a niche engineering forum than on Facebook.

Frequency of alerts. News can travel extremely fast through social media. Even if it’s “only” a customer complaint, you don’t want it sitting out there unanswered for long. It’s imperative that your social media monitoring tool provides realtime or near realtime monitoring and alerting, so you can respond to critical items promptly. Certainly, not every comment requires an immediate reply, but when a customer or prospect has a question or issue, response time matters. And in social media, the whole world can see how fast (or not) your response time is.

Workflow capabilities. A blogger raises a question about your company’s financial outlook. A user is frustrated by a perceived malfunction in your product. A customer shares an idea for an enhancement. A highly favorable product review is published in an online journal. You may discover any of these events through social media monitoring, but in each case not is the response different but the respondent is too. The financial question needs to be directed to your CEO or CFO; the user issue to customer support; the enhancement idea to product management; and the product review to marketing. If there is any significant volume of social media commentary about your product, service or company, look for a social media monitoring tool that provides workflow tools that make it quick and easy to notify and direct the right person to take action on each new mention.

Value. Price is always a consideration of course, but in selecting a potentially critical business tool like social media monitoring (consider the cost of BP’s social media failure), the more important consideration is “value,” as in: does the tool do at least as good a job at meeting the specific social media needs of my company as competing tools, and is it priced similarly or lower than tools offering equivalent functionality? “Free” is always a popular price point, but in the world of social media tools (as in many other areas of life), you get what you pay for. There are several free social media monitoring tools that provide limited functionality but can serve as a starting point for small businesses; however, larger and more socially active organizations will quickly recognize a need for more sophisticated fee-based offerings.

Support and training. Even with advanced UI design, more sophisticated tools are fundamentally more challenging to use. Be sure to get clarity on what kind of training is offered upfront, how much personalized assistance is offered as part of the package, how to get questions answered and how robust the internal help system is for ongoing use.

Metrics and reporting. What kind of reporting capabilities does the tool provide? Your specific needs will of course vary based on company size, level of social media activity and your organization’s specific goals and objectives, but two critical roles of reporting for any organization are: 1) the ability to demonstrate progress/change over time (e.g. more website traffic driven by social media) and 2) actionable analytics (measures that enable you to determine whether you should do more a specific activity, do less, or do it differently).

Geographic/language coverage. Enterprises that do business globally need the ability to track social media mentions across borders and in multiple languages. Global monitoring capability adds cost and complexity to a tool, so don’t buy it if you don’t need it, but for multinational businesses, this is essential functionality.

Integration with other applications. Again, small companies with fairly simple programs don’t need to be too concerned with this, but companies with larger, more complex social media programs should investigate how their social media tools under consideration integrate with applications such as CRM systems (e.g. Salesforce.com), marketing automation tools and web analytics packages.

Monitoring beyond social media. Finally, organizations that actively target both traditional and social media may want to look at tools like Vocus, Cision and/or Sysomos which integrate PR and social media monitoring functions into a single platform. Social media isn’t an island and marketing / outreach efforts there should ideally be integrated with other programs, so in these environments, monitoring capabilities beyond social media become valuable.

Keeping these nine criteria in mind (or least those that pertain to the size and complexity of social media efforts in your organization) will help you make the right choice from among the broad array of social media monitoring tools on the market.

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