Eating Dog Food

Sometimes you have to do things because they are right, even though you don’t want to. I yielded to staff pressure last week, and committed resources to doing more with our Tenacity5 Media social media accounts. We have to eat our own dog food here.

Why not engage in social before now? I honestly felt doing the client work was more important given how small the company is (three people currently).

Plus I have developed a bad attitude towards social media boutiques — all talk and no experience. So I didn’t want to have the company grouped within a category I consider to be increasingly marginalized by the bad.

But good marketing is good marketing. Quality marketing includes social as part of the overall strategy today, I don’t care what kind of business you have. That doesn’t necessitate an over reliance on a medium, but you can’t avoid it anymore.

A parallel can be drawn to blogging in the 2015 era. Just like I wouldn’t over rely on a blog today, I still think blogging is part of the mix. So I blog once a week just to eat my own dog food. It’s the right thing to do.

Walk the Talk

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Practicing what you preach was the very reason that I engaged in deep emersion with visual media through photography. I also invested in a significant website upgrade with a focus on the visual.

It’s really hard to take someone’s opinion about visual communications seriously if they don’t practice those same views. That is apparent every time I read a social media blogger’s text-heavy post about visual media (see paragraph 2).

Many people wag their fingers at what everyone else is doing wrong, and opine about the way things should be. This is easy to do. It is the path of the pundit.

But sooner or later, you have to stand on your own efforts. It’s one thing to engage in criticism, it’s another thing to become a demonstrative example. One creates attention, the other builds reputation.

We’ve got to eat our own dog food at Tenacity5, and that starts with me.

Featured image by Mel. Second image by Mazen Alhadad.

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Blog Sabotage!

Long time readers have probably noticed a metamorphosis. Even more personal, focusing on life and issues outside of marketing, this has become much more of a writer’s blog than a professional marketer’s vehicle. Along the way over the past four months, I shed about 50% of my traffic! One could say I sabotaged my own blog.

Certainly if you are one of the seven angels of blogging doom, the critical pen is flying right now. Not so fast.

A year ago, I would have been freaking out about such a traffic dip (In fact, I was). This time I’m not.

The renaissance of this blog that began last summer was part of my effort to market the last book. In doing so I built superfluous traffic related to marketing. This was done by playing some popularity games known to generate eyeballs on today’s social web.

Then after SxSW I changed course.

Why?  If I had kept going as I was, when I launch Exodus this August most readers would likely have felt robbed. Imagine getting non-stop marketing blogs every week, year after year, and suddenly have a post-apocalyptic science fiction book dropped in your feed.

I also realized that from a reputation standpoint, I don’t necessarily need a well trafficked marketing blog to generate business. At this point in my career, continued public successes like the Demand Success conference, and general online visibility matter more.

Why not start a second blog? Because I want to write fiction, and am a man that works, who fathers a child, and who desires work life balance. I’d rather write one blog well than two poorly. So I made my decision, and redirected my resources rather than redeploy new ones.

If my blog was a garden, I pruned back bushes, cutting away dead growth, and replanted several vegetables and flowers. As a result, while smaller, those of you that visit and comment seem more engaged and frequent. Thank you for that.

Now I simply need to stay the course and let the blog grow. Here are the things I did to cut back and refocus:

1) Shifted Topics

I shifted topics, added essays, and focused more on science fiction, writing, essays, philosophy and general musings on writing. That was the first clear cut. People were visiting for marketing and social media schtick.

While readers still get a blog or two a week on marketing, it’s when there is something to add to the conversation as opposed to meeting a weekly quota. The lesser marketing conversation will continue, but it is not the business blog that old readers were visiting.

In addition, it’s been a while since I wrote an essay, but that has more to do with fatigue and readying Exodus. I expect to return to long form in the not too distant future.

2) Removed Share Counts

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Image by IkariCologne

When social sharing counts first became popular during the rise of Facebook and Twitter, many bloggers resisted including the numbers. We argued content should stand on its own merit, and become shared because it was good, not because it was popular.

But the social web thrives on attention and popularity. When people see high share counts, they are more likely to reshare. And to some extent — like almost every blogger — I succumbed to that.

As time passed, I even made fun of it with posts and commentary. After joining Triberr, my share counts swelled thanks to new distribution. And as those numbers grew, I enjoyed a new perception of popularity, right or wrong, with high public share counts. I am not sure that perception was accurate given the nature of Triberr (which I still love and use).

To this day I think many total share counts are gamed, the blogging equivalent of the steroid era in baseball. Automated tweets plus anomalies like Buffer counts cause me to snort when I see these numbers. For example, the Buffer reshare number is added to the total share number, in spite of Buffer shares getting double (or triple or quadruple) counted when they are sent through networks like Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn.

I know too much about share counts to consider them a valid metric, even if they create more traffic. Look, I want my stuff read. But I want people to share my content because its awesome or it caused them to think or some other reason.

If my content is popular because of its strength then I’m OK with that. I’m not OK with the perception of popularity based on reshares, though. To me that wreaks of an attention bubble. So I made the change in late April to remove share counts. You could call this move a return to old school values.

3) Cut Frequency

I found that writing essays, publishing four times a week here, once a week on the Vocus blog, and book development this Spring was exhausting mentally. I needed to cut something, or start sacrificing my work and family life quality. So I reduced a post a week, and also rerun the periodic relevant Vocus post.

Boy, that move from four to three posts was a precipitous blow. I lost 30 percent of my traffic by simply going from four to three blogs a week. Frequency matters a lot when you are building the fly wheel. It matters most to Google and the search indices, but it matters.

Now that I am through editing Exodus, I still have book work to do (production and marketing), and am not eager to return to a higher frequency. There is a short term fix for frequency that will be revealed during the September/October/November timeframe.

But after that I intend to go back three posts a week so I can start working on The War to Persevere: Book Two of The Fundamentalists this winter.

Conclusion

Sometimes the road less traveled is the one that feels best. I can live with the lesser result in exchange for focusing on my current writing projects, as well as writing what my heart desires.

What do you think? Pruning or self sabotage?

Featured image by Thomas Kilpper.

Get and Keep Readers

White Blossoms, Red Kimono

The following speech was given at Saturday’s New York City Tribeup.

We live in an attention economy. The way content gets found today with social validation and search requires that posts, videos and pictures get referred to and talked about by others.

As a blogger, I did well during the RSS era with the Buzz Bin. I sold that blog as part of an acquisition. In the process I lost 5000 RSS subscribers.

For a little while, my personal blog did well in its stead based on my social network communities and good will. This created a second wave of success.

I then did a bunch of stupid things like cut down frequency, blog without editorial direction, engaged in a few immature blog wars, and restricted my frequency. These things effectively eroded my blog’s social support.

After a period of roughly the past half year, a guest blogging campaign, being exposed to Gini Dietrich‘s brilliant mind while launching our book, and a reinvigorated content mission with a committed frequency, my personal blog began to rebound. Then I joined Triberr, effectively capping a comeback, my third wave of personal blogging success.

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How David Blogger Can Beat Goliath with Triberr

Hannover Bridge / Aquarius J

Join me on September 22 in New York City for the Triberr Takeover conference.

Today, media companies dominate the blogosphere. How can a small independent Davina or David blogger compete with Goliath brands like AOL, Gawker and Mashable?

In a recent call about a World Hunger Day campaign I’m engaged with on behalf of Yum! Brands and Razoo, I compared my blogger list with PR firm’s list of preferred social channels. None of the names conflicted, as the PR firm was focused on media company driven blogs.

This picture of which blogs mattered to each party — independent groundswell versus big media — typifies the picture of which type of masthead really gets the majority of attention online.

The task of becoming read has gotten harder with the rise of social network sharing and semantic search. Voices who used to be authoritative receded. While there are still strong independent blogs out there, many have faded into diminished status or have simply stopped publishing.
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The PR Industry Can’t Help Itself

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Of all the professional skill groups that can be included in the marketing toolkit, public relations is the most ridiculous (PR is also used for public affairs and other non-marketing activities). Filled with backwards unethical and untrained professionals that consistently spam people and promote attention metrics instead of actual outcomes, the PR profession can’t help its poor image.
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Beware of Pedestals in the Attention Economy

The Devil's Horns

Danah Boyd wrote a fantastic post last week about Internet fame and its negative impact on individuals. It is easy to buy into the rock star kool aid when people frequently sing your accolades (and fallacies) online and at events, especially when popularity is valued by society as an achievement. But accepting a pedestal as an individual, and viewing a personality in a higher light presents numerous difficulties, many of which are hard to surmount for those who don’t expect to ever receive such accolades.

As the attention economy strengthens, we have failed to provide a balanced view of attention, and how to truly address it. The Boyd post talks about Kiki Kannibal’s trials and objectifcation as a teen Internet celeb, and then Boyd’s own experiences. Having had a turn at microfame, it is easy to identify with Boyd’s comments.

When Now Is Gone came out in 2007, there were so many people saying how great it was, touting the accomplishment of publishing a book, and me as the author (please forgive the rare digression into first person). The lavished perception of brilliance was intoxicating. My wife Caitlin wanted to kill me, and this was the beginning of a long year of difficulties that almost cost us our marriage. Fortunately, we worked things out.

Looking back, I had a timely intervention just weeks after the book came out at the hands of the Fairfax County Police. It came in the form of my third reckless speeding ticket in six months. Speeding to make appointments and work tasks seemed necessary because I was so busy (and important) in my own mind. Virginia DMV had a different take, and felt it would be better if I didn’t drive at all for three months, and suspended my driver’s license.

Employees drove me to appointments, and I spent many, many hours in the DC Metro system. It was virtually impossible to think I was a hot shit personality while I took the bus and metro to meetings. Big blogger boy on the back of the bus. Yeah.

This forced humility was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. As the attention continued, the license suspension reminded me not to take it seriously. And when people became overzealous, I pointed out that I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like they did. Later in 2008, I did a stint of volunteer service at Alexandria County jail; again, a great reminder of where I could be if my self centered speeding and possibly worse manifestations of selfishness had continued. But for the grace of God, as they say.

Applied to the Larger Attention Economy

It has been hard watching several peers succumb to the big Internet influencer hype, a result of the attention economy. Perhaps my reaction has been stronger and more severe than most, partly because I knew these people before they assumed their pedestals, and partly because I see the worst in me when their behavior takes a more ego-centric bend. Truthfully, it scares the crap out of me.

So many of these so called rock stars have fallible sides which we don’t see, or turn a blind eye towards. This is no different than the recent difficulties Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lance Armstrong are experiencing in the larger public limelight. These two men have done great things, but because we put them on and they accepted such high pedestals, their very flawed defects have decimated public trust.

We need to be careful about turning great acts into great myths and legends. Our culture creates unsustainable images that cannot help but disillusion and disappoint both the people who assume these pedestals and their fans. There are no social media Gods, but there are illusions that can cause us to become distracted and lose months, even years of time chasing things that don’t really matter.

In the end, it is our actions that make us noteworthy as people, both good and bad. Greatness is a daily act. So is failure. In an attention economy you can live on a success for a long time, but sooner or later, you have to do something else worthwhile. We have an equal opportunity to do good or act poorly every day, and in fact, rare is the person who isn’t human and doesn’t do a bit of both. That’s why it’s important to beware of pedestals.