Aaron Brazell

Blog World Expo: Bonus Day of Sessions

bw_joinme_135.gifFor anyone going to Blog World Expo in Vegas next month (you are going, aren’t you?), you’ll be interested to know that there is now a BONUS day of sessions courtesy of b5media. You can see the BWE announcement here. We have a jam packed lineup of sessions and speakers too. I’ll be doing a panel with Brian Clark of Copyblogger on using Digg and other Social Media tools to drive huge traffic to your blog. Allen Stern of Centernetworks and Jeremy Wright are talking about thriving as a B-List blogger. Marshall Kirkpatrick, also known for his writing on Read/Write Web and previously Techcrunch and Tris Hussey from blognation will be talking about creating a powerblogging toolset.

b5media’s own WordPress ninjas Brian Layman and Mark Jaquith will talk about using WordPress to its fullest. Leora Zellman and Mary Jo Manzanares, two of our Channel Editors, will be dishing out survival tips for network bloggers. I’ll give the CE that mentions my name first on the panel $50 in cash. ;-)

Of course, there’s also Alex Hillman from Philadelphia’s Independent’s Hall (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Podcamp Philly) and Jake McKee from Community Guy who will bring their experience to Creating Conversations. Finally, there’s a private session for b5’ers who want to join us at the end.

I’m really looking forward to BWE, and not because I’m flying Virgin America. This is going to be a fantastic chance to catch up with folks that I haven’t seen in awhile and meet folks I’ve yet had the chance to meet. Plus it’s Vegas and is by nature unbloggable. ;-) Kidding!

If you’re a full conference badge holder, you get access to this bonus day for free. You can also opt in and if you want to get into a session but can’t for some reason, just drop me an email and I’ll see what I can do.

Aaron Brazell

La Regla de Oro de Twitter Marketing

This post is the Spanish-translated version of “The Golden Rule of Twitter Marketing“, published earlier on this blog. It was graciously translated by Twitter friend @cosmic_sailor. Gracias!

Usted conoce Twitter, correcto? Es la red social que trae a personas juntas en una conversación penetrante acerca de cualquier sucede en un momento dado. Como Mensaje Instantáneo o como Blogs. Pero en 140 caracteres o menos. Desde Blackberries y teléfonos celulares a applicaciones de la computadora y la red. Twitter es la manifestación de una nueva tendencia fresca de microcontent.

Yo adoro Twitter. Yo lo he estado utilizando desde febrero y mientras yo no fui el adoptador más temprano, yo fui un adoptador temprano. He visto Twitter surgir como el facto “atrás canal” en conferencias, el catalizador para el meetups improvisado y sí, como un dispositivo del marketing.

Cada vez mas, yo he mirado expendedores saltar en abordar el carro de Twitter, pero yo me pregunto cuántas personas realmente “lo consigue”. Vea, Twitter cultiva transparencia. Las mismas personas que dejan caer pepitas diarias de la penetración profunda en Twitter durante el día, quizan Tweet acerca de tomar sus niños al paseo. Cada vez más, la gente pueden Tweet sobre sus ubicaciones como ellos toman roadtrips con órdenes especiales destinadas para tramar su ubicación en un mapa. Estas mismas personas en el próximo aliento explican por qué es que esta compañía o el político son el trato verdadero.

La energía de Twitter está en la autenticidad y la transparencia. He dicho a menudo que la marca de fábrica no es algo que se puede controlar por las compañías. La marca de fábrica es controlada por los clientes. La confianza es controlada por las compañías. Si los clientes no confían en a compañía, su marca de fábrica es inútil. Si confían en a compañía, esa compañía ha asegurado a vendedor para la vida. La confianza es construida por la autenticidad, por la transparencia. Es la cosa que permite que las compañías funcionen en el siglo XXI.

¿Así que cómo trabaja Twitter para expendedores? Bien, para algunos expendedores, ellos son inconscientes a la transparencia. Por ejemplo usted siempre puede decir quién esta “en la conversación” y así más transparente y confiable, por mirar la proporción de “Seguidores” a “Amigos”. Nunca confíe nadie que tiene un número apreciablemente desproporcionadamente más alto de amigos a seguidores. Los amigos son definidos como personas que usted escucha. Los seguidores son ésos que escuchan a usted. La conversación de un solo sentido es nunca un gran catalizador para la comunicación ni transparencia.

Otros expendedores quizás sigaran mas gente y tendran muchos mas amigos que los siguen, pero si la totalidad de sus Tweets consiste en la promoción de sus productos, usted tiene una calle de sentido único. Otra vez, nunca confía calles de sentido único. Hay dragones en esas colinas.

Yo siempre encuentro obligando tremendamente los productos vía Twitter simplemente por entrar en la conversación con personas. Hay varias gente en Twitter que ha reconocido el poder de Twitter como un medio para la promoción, mas ellos comprometen sus seguidores en la conversación – a veces no relacionado a su producto. El asombrar dinámico aquí es la marca personal.

Cuando un ejemplo, NewMediaJim es un cámara de NBC. El no promueve realmente NBC en lo que él hace, mas todos estan enterados que NBC es su empleador y basado en ese conocimiento, es muy intuitivo leer sus Tweets acerca de sus varias excursiones en su vida de la carrera – entrevistas con gente, manejanadas a bases militares para encontrar con las gente militares que regresan de la guerra, etc. Esto obliga el contenido.

En la otra cara del juego de NBC esta el TodayShow, la fuente oficial de Twitter conectado a la exposición de la mañana de NBC. Aquí está un ejemplo de Twitter que vende ido malo. No hay conversación. No hay apelación de unir en la conversación de opf de comunidad. Es una oficina pública de relaciones que libera los comunicados de prensa sobre Twitter en 140 caracteres o menos.

Si tuve que detallar una Regla de Oro de Twitter, sera:

Píe acerca de otros al menos tanto como usted Pía acerca de usted mismo.

Cerciórese que sus esfuerzos del marketing en Twitter entran en la conversación. Asegure que usted promueva otra persona contento tanto si no más que usted promueve su propio. Cerciórese a personas saben quién usted es. Twitter es personal, así que construye su marca personal. Sólo ayudará su negocio. Confíeme.

Aaron Brazell

From Hell to Heaven?

Remember Dell Hell? Jeff Jarvis used the BuzzMachine to slam Dell for his horrific customer experience buying a laptop two years ago. This series of posts epitomized growing dissent against the company, and served as a channel to punish the Texas computer maker for bad products and customer service experiences.

A lot has changed since then:


The Dell community has become a strong one. The company has listened to us, and participated transparently, honestly and openly — going so far as to put one of its exploded laptops on its blog to admit, yes, there is a problem (caused by the battery manufacturer). They even let us tell them what to do on IdeaStorm.

The company has done a lot to turn its brand around. And it is working. Is Dell perfect? No. I think their social media pros Lionel and Richard would be the first ones to tell you that. But they are part of the conversation, and they are actively serving the community. We actually do have a direct and very open line to Dell.

The result? Much better relationships throughout the social media world. And the leading voice of computer manufacturers in social media environments. Goodwill is abound for Dell these days, and rare is the mention of Dell Hell. Some competitors are opening up and blogging.

The take away for us as individuals trying to maintain our brands is that by listening, changing and participating we can survive bad experiences out here in the social media world. But the key is to listen (are you reading this, Scoble?), let people comment and provide input, and then create products, posts etc. I think that’s really been they key to Dell’s brand turnaround success. Coke had a similar experience as it went from indigestion on Mentos (bad) to Virtual Thirst in Second Life (good).

Tomorrow , Jarvis is expected to report on Dell, and discuss the progress they’ve made. While no one knows what the report will say, it is conceivable that Dell has literally gone from Hell to Heaven. Regardless, they’ve provided a powerful example of listening and change.

Updated, 10/18 at 6:50 p.m.

The story broke, and Jarvis did indeed say that Dell has repaired its tarnished image. Read the BusinessWeek article on Dell learning to listen.

Aaron Brazell

Controlling My Brand

Awhile ago, Chris Brogan wrote a list of 100 Blog Topics he would like to see. When I read those, I started drafts on three of the topics and determined that I would mull them over for awhile and when I felt like I had something worthwhile to say, I’d contribute my thoughts on those topics. A month later, I’m ready to tackle the first topic.

In the past few weeks, there’s been a notable shift here at this blog in what kinds of topics are tackled. The obvious slant is a business related slant. The mind of an entrepreneur. The thoughts of someone who finds the connected dots between the internet and social media tools available to us and business. In some cases, “business” is a vague term that is more aptly “practical common sense”.

We’ve talked a lot about brand recently and well into the past. A vast paradigm shift has occurred quietly and caught PR folks with their pants down. Why? Because a fundamental understanding of brand control is occurring and it’s outside of their control. In the good old days, brand was controlled via territorial trademark lawsuits, licensing provisions and PR firms. A brand was to be trusted because people will willingly become customers of a trusted brand. If you went to Best Buy, you were more likely to buy a Panasonic television at a premium cost point than you were a “generic” brand at half the price. “Panasonic is a great name”, you might have said. I remember going through this same routine in 1993 when purchasing my first CD stereo system. I bought JVC, because the JVC brand was “a good brand”.

In the good old days, brand was all about the corporate message – whether through advertising, press releases or user experience. Today, the only one of those things that matters is the user experience.

Today, organizations like the NFL and others continue heavy-handed brand control not realizing that brand is in the hands of the customers.

Today, brand is a matter of trust. Customers trust a brand because they have good experiences with the brand. The trust the brand, not because of a television commercial, but because they’ve been actively listened to and embraced. Customers who do not trust a brand, will not be customers for long and that hurts the bottom line. Customers who don’t trust the brand have made the brand worthless. Now who’s in the driver’s seat?

After purchasing my JVC CD stereo system in 1993, I had major problems with the internal workings. In dealing with customer service, my experience was soured. In my perception, warranties were not honored. I’ve never bought a piece of JVC equipment since. My trust in them disappeared in one instance. Their brand is worthless to me. Others, in the context of this time this blog has existed, have lost value in their brands as well – DirecTV, Comcast, The Hampton Inn.

For me, my brand is controlled by you – the reader. Additionally, my brand is controlled by other bloggers. My credibility is with those who follow me. I’ve taken the approach that I will engage the community around me because transparency builds trust. Trust builds brand. As trust grows, brand grows. Out of brand comes reach, job opportunities, speaking opportunities, user engagement, subject matter expertise and loyalty.

I’m a firm believer in brand control by engagement. What are your thoughts?

Added: By the way, here’s an example of a local café trying to control their brand in an internet age and having the opposite of their intended effect.

Aaron Brazell

Calling Maryland Area Internet Startups

If you represent or in some way are connected to internet startups in the Maryland or Washington, DC area, I’d very much like to talk to you. I’d love to hear what you are doing, get a demo if you are prepared to do so, and discover (and share) more of what is happening in this area. I’ve noticed in recent months that the area has quietly grown very active and I’m interested to find out more of what is happening out there.

Aaron Brazell

Google Reader Stats Still Pretty Useless

Did you know this blog has only 7 subscribers? Me neither. In facts, I’m solidly in the 800 subscriber range according to all authoritative stats on such things. However, Google Reader is reporting 7 subscribers. Keep in mind that these are subscribers to a feed using Google Reader, so expect some skew. But a 793+ subscriber skew is beyond a skew and more in the neighborhood of Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky”.


Oh wait, I have 55 subscribers to my Atom feed as well. Doesn’t really matter since all my feeds redirect to my FeedBurner feed anyway. How are these feeds different? Why doesn’t Google Reader respect 301 redirection which explicitly says “this feed no longer exists and is moved to this other location” (i.e. FeedBurner). Web browsers and in fact search engines including Google see this standard code and respect it. Google and the search engines purge all references to the old URL and index the new one. Browsers don’t cache 301’d pages. Yet Google Reader is handling all these feeds as different feeds. Why?

If you look at Mike Arrington and Robert Scoble’s posts where are they are fruitlessly frittering away at trying to track the nuances of these numbers, you’ll notice a couple more problems with this whole Google Reader subscriber number problem.

Everyone is having to tally up subscriptions. Why can’t it be boiled down by host names for a total. And even worse, Mashable does an uber-nice hatchet job on the stats pointing out that many of the top blogs are top blogs because they are default feeds in feed readers.

Aaron Brazell

The Golden Rule of Twitter Marketing

Para hablantes de español, leer Le Regla de Ora de Twitter Marketing.

You know Twitter, right? It’s the social network that ties people together in a pervasive conversation about whatever is happening at a given moment. Sort of like Instant Message. Sort of like Blogs. But in 140 characters or less. From Blackberries and Cell phones to desktop apps and the web. Twitter is the manifestation of a cool new trend of microcontent.

I love Twitter. I’ve been using it since February and while I was not the earliest adopter, I was an early adopter. I’ve seen Twitter emerge as the de facto “back channel” at conferences, the catalyst for impromptu meetups and yes, as a marketing device.

More and more, I’ve watched marketers jump on board the Twitter bandwagon but I wonder how many people really “get it”. See, Twitter cultivates transparency. The same people who drop daily nuggets of profound insight into Twitter during the day, might Tweet about taking their kids to the mall. Increasingly, folks are Tweeting their locations as they take roadtrips with special commands meant to plot their location on a map. These same people in the next breath are explaining why it is that this company or politician is the real deal.

Twitter’s power is in authenticity and transparency. I’ve often said that brand is not something that can be controlled by companies. Brand is controlled by customers. Trust is controlled by companies. If customers don’t trust a company, their brand is useless. If they do trust a company, that company has secured a marketer for life. Trust is built by authenticity, by transparency. It is the thing that allows companies to function in the 21st century.

So how does Twitter work for marketers? Well, for some marketers, they are oblivious to transparency. For instance, you can always tell who is “in the conversation” and thus more transparent and trustworthy, by looking at the ratio of “Followers” to “Friends”. Never trust anyone who has a significantly disproportionatly higher number of friends to followers. Friends are defined as people who you are listening to. Followers are those that are listening to you. One way conversation is never a great catalyst for communication or transparency.

Other marketers might follow lots of folks and have lots of friends following them, but if the entirety of their Tweets consist of promotion of their products, you have a one way street. Again, never trust one way streets. There’s dragons in those hills.

I always find tremendously compelling products via Twitter simply by engaging in conversation with people. There are a number of folks on Twitter who have recognized the power of Twitter as a medium for promotion, yet they engage their followers in conversation – sometimes unrelated to their product. The amazing dynamic here is personal brand.

As an example, NewMediaJim is an NBC cameraman. He is not really promoting NBC in what he does, yet everyone is accutely aware that NBC is his employer and based on that knowledge, it’s very insightful to read his Tweets about his various excursions into his career life – interviews with folks, drives to military bases to meet with military folks coming back from the war, etc. This is compelling content.

On the flip side of the NBC game is TodayShow, the official Twitter source connected to the NBC morning show. Here is an example of Twitter marketing gone bad. There is no conversation. There is no appeal to join into the community opf conversation. It is a public relations office releasing press releases over Twitter in 140 characters or less.

If I had to detail a Twitter Golden Rule it would:

Tweet about others at least as much as you Tweet about yourself.

Make sure that your marketing efforts on Twitter engage in conversation. Ensure that you are promoting someone else’s content as much if not more than you are promoting your own. Make sure people know who you are. Twitter is personal, so build your personal brand. It will only help your business. Trust me.

Aaron Brazell

Techmeme is not Brilliant

Jason Calancanis says “Techmeme is Brilliant“, (bolded on his site for emphasis, I guess – or SEO juice, who really knows). I disagree, but then again, it’s not hard to disagree with someone who claims to have the final, authoritative and officially official definition of Web 3.0.

I really think his definition, while well written and sufficiently non-abrasive, is wrong on it’s face. In his defense of Techmeme, the company that attempts to aggregate “the buzz” in the technology blogspace, into a synopsis that is able to be fit on a single page, Jason states that:

TechMeme’s imperfection is just a magnifacantion of our own imperfections.


In the real world some folks get too much attention relative to their ideas, while others with great ideas sometimes get marginalized. The marginalization could be based on them not being popular, their inability to communicate, or any number of reasons–fair and unfair.

<snip >

On TechMeme anyone with a great idea can take the top of the homepage. What the haters don’t realize (or like to forget for their own self-serving, self-loathing reasons) is that before Techmeme the only folks with a voice in technology were those with a print publication for the most part.


How anyone could hate on a open system like TechMeme is beyond me. Does the leaderboard change the dynamic? Sure… it’s not a good thing to get folks obsessed with moving up the list

Alright, so Jason has stated his case. Techmeme is not really all that brilliant though. It is not consistent, it does not evaluate story merit effectively, and it is not in the least bit open.


Consistency is important in any service that really wants to be seen as authoritative. Arguably, just about all the services that have come about during the period of the semantic web (Web 2.0, mind you) have had basic transparent principles around them. More companies use blogs. More people use Twitter. Folks have become voyeurs using uStream.tvor Kyte.tv.

With Techmeme, there is no transparency. No one is really sure what is happening behind the scenes. No one really understands how stories make it or don’t. No one really knows what weight is calculated into determining authority – not even a little hint. Breaking news from TechCrunch doesn’t make Techmeme while a long tail blogger might get that desirable headline. How does Techmeme work? Why can’t we see how it works? how is buzz determined? Who generates buzz?

Story Evaluation

I alluded to the problem in my post title The Elite 100.

Techmeme does not, as far as I know. There is no way to provide stories for consideration and in fact, selection of stories for headlines is seemingly arbitrary. For instance, my review of FeedBurner some time ago was picked up by Techmeme but another FeedBurner story – the one about Google Reader reporting its stats to FeedBurner – was a huge story everywhere. I was one of only four people who had early access to this story and I broke it before TechCrunch – but TechCrunch got the love. I didn’t get a “œcomment link” on that headline.

From an outside perspective, Techmeme seems wrong. It seems to give arbitrary weight to sources and stories. Without questioning the integrity of Gabe Rivera, Techmeme’s editor, I have to say that the whole thing smells of nepotism. The same elite sources are tapped regularly and sure the argument can be made for authoritative bias. That’s fine if that’s what it is. I expect the New York Times to have a story on Techmeme. They are the New York Times. They are “all the news that’s fit to print” yet the playing field in the internet age has leveled and in so many ways, Techmeme seems to be missing that.

Techmeme is not an Open Platform

I don’t quite understand why Jason calls Techmeme open. In fact, it is not open. Sure, it is theoretically possible to be listed in Techmeme. Sure anyone who is listed could have their moment in the spotlight. However, as alluded to earlier, there is no transparency in the process. There is no way to suggest a story be listed. There is no way to vote a story up or down as in Digg or as in Jason’s previous iteration of Netscape.

If someone can convince me that Techmeme is in fact open in some kind of way that is standards acceptable, then by all means”¦ convince me.

Otherwise, until then, my opinion remains that Techmeme is not in fact brilliant and is in fact a closed system based on arbitrary opinions of a few (if that many) select people. Sorry, Jason.

Aaron Brazell

Shifting Technosailor

Long time readers of this blog probably have been aware of the consolidation of the niche that I’ve been covering here. In the very early days, the topics were all over the place. At some point, that seemed to consolidate down to mostly technology related conversations. There was a definite focus for a period of time on technology that pertained to blogging but there was a problem there. Lots of people talk about blogging. There’s no real value add in blogging about blogging. In fact, my attention has been less on blogging as a topic and more on social media as a whole – the idea that average people have the ability to reach the world like never before.

But then Techcrunch does that and we all know about how the social media coverage landscape is thick when you consider services like Techmeme and Digg. Definitely the signal-to-noise ratio is out of control.

As a result, over the past six months or so, there has been a definite inclination toward stories that address issues with business – whether entrepreneurs or big business – and where the synergy has been with social media – and where it needs to be. This morning, Geoff Livingston wrote about social media press releases – and that’s a fantastic start to a new era. Actually, my point is that it is not new. My content has already favored the business side of things. What is new is recognizing officially the shift in direction. The only real change today is that instead of “Technology, Blogging and New Media”, the title bar reads “Technology, Business and New Media“. Definitely a recognition of what this blog is today.

guest blogging

Down with the Press Release!!

First of all, thank you, Aaron, for asking me to contribute to Technosailor. It’s great to be here, and also serving a readership that’s not in the insular marketing blogosphere bubble.

The best thing about writing for you (as opposed to communicators) is that you already understand that PR and marketing sucks. I don’t need to argue that point. You know what it’s like to get a ridiculous press release, have a flack ask you to write up their product on the blog, sit through ridiculous ads, or suffer through another BS webinar. You’ve been on the receiving end”¦ and hate it.

The great hope of folks like Shel Israel, Brian Solis, Todd Defren, Kami Huyse, Toby Bloomberg, Chris Heuer and other advanced marketing minds is that social media can correct the wayward ways of this backwards industry. We want to refocus it on the actual community. Marketing and PR should not be about leads, but about serving a community and building good will between an organization and its stakeholders (note this word is not Audience).

Social Media Releases

Let’s start with a simple example.

Nothing stinks more than the inexcusable press release ““ a.k.a. the mindless drivel — that marketing departments use to spam news reporters, bloggers, analysts and their stakeholders. The press release was a mass communication tool, blasted out over a wire mechanism to media outlets. It soon lose it its value to news organizations.

Why? As PR became a popular marketing tool in the 80s and 90s, businesses and organizations filled their news releases with positioning statements, posturing to the media and their target audiences.

News releases are a very self centered activity, and rarely offers actual news, mostly because companies and PR pros don’t understand what media outlets considered news to be, and the news needs of companies’ communities. As a result, press releases usually have no real news value to the media or associated communities. News is something that’s new, and as media are dedicated to business trends or events of significance that their communities care about ““ just like any decent blogger — they ignore news releases.

Though the press release does have some search engine optimization and secondary direct community outreach value, it’s not optimized for ultimate results. Thus the diminished value of news releases.

Enter Social Media Releases

News documents do have value. According to Outsell, Inc. in November 2006, 51% of information technologists (IT) source their news from press releases found on Yahoo or Google News over traditional trade journals (via Brian Solis). To better talk with an organization’s community, releases need to be re-engineered to better serve them.

SMRtemplate Originally created by Todd Defren of SHIFT Media, the social media release combines the best elements of new media and significantly streamlines the valuable elements of the news release. The social media release provides new media community members dynamic information, including a bulleted statements of value, additional sources, multimedia content (podcast, video, graphics, etc.).

Readers are provided social media methods of publishing via network tags ( a la Digg, Reddit, etc.), and can use these elements independently or as a whole, really to their tastes. And media members like them, too.

Why? Much less BS. When executed correctly, bulleted facts replace spin (a possible acronym: stupid PR imitating news). Concise readable documents create multiple paths for community members, bloggers and journalists alike to enage in more information.

Coca-Cola entered by taking an approach other than buying real estate and creating a store. Working with the crayon agency, Coca-Cola opted to break into the 3D metaverse by getting out amongst the population. During the Second Life launch event, one blogger in attendance told crayon agency team member Shel Holz that that the event was like a class in “How to do social media right.” Shel’s very successful blog details the results to date, which have already been significant, in turn validating the experimental social media release.

Other examples:

What It Means

The combination of outbound promotion and social network attraction creates a new dynamic marketing mechanism. This next generation press release is much more valuable to its audiences, is community centric, and enables widespread dissemination. It creates multiple methods of pulling in community members who may be interested in your service, product or ideas.

This does not mean all social media releases will succeed. Here are the facts. Over spun BS won’t work whether its bulleted or parenthetical; social media-enabled or plain text. Find in this October, 2006 Buzz Bin entry on what I believe to be the content benchmarks of a media-attention-worthy news release. But if you’re on either the giving or receiving side of promotion, then the social media release tactic should be considered a better vehicle for organizations to communicate with their communities.

If you’d like to learn more, visit Chris Heuer’s Elements of a Social Media Release.