The Rule of Brand, SEO, Trust and Marketing

Almost five years ago, I started this blog without much idea what was going on. In fact, in many ways, it was an opportunity to pass time at work, in a job that I cared little about and that I was doing little more than doing time with. I setup a WordPress blog, went to town writing about whatever the heck I felt like writing about. It’s a common path followed by a great many bloggers.

At some point, however, I came to find my voice on this blog. I wrote in an authoritative way on topics that I was knowledgeable about. I challenged assumptions made in industry, and brought a common sense, no bullshit approach to conversation. I’ve been rewarded with many fans, followers and friends. Literally, my brand, personal or otherwise, is golden. As it should be.

This blog is not a make money quick kind of venture. In fact, I think I made $35 last time I got a check. Not much more than beer money, but that’s fine – I make my money because of my blog, not via my blog. I don’t play the game of SEO, link building and trying to get the most page views. That is a game played by a few power players who have worked the system and built up alliances. I have built my authority and stature, not on making money with my blog or by selling someone elses product in return for a kickback. I have not worried about how many pageviews and selling CPM advertising. I am worried about the quality of the content, the truth in my writing, the community that pays attention and, basically, changing the world one word at a time.

This is my value. This is why when I talk about Government and the web, even though I’m not one of the Goverati, people pay attention. This is why when I write about marketing, I get listed as a top marketer despite not being one. This is why when I examine technology policy, executives from technology companies email me.

This is the real shit. This is not fraud. This is not get rich quick scams.

I’ve said it many times, the most recently being at the excellent Bootstrap Maryland event… You do not control your brand. Your customers do.

I do not control my brand. My readers do. My community does.

My brand is not destroyed by Google bombing my name or brand into search engine rankings. When I get negative press, I let my community protect my brand. It makes no sense for me to engage in a protectionist way since I can’t protect my brand anyway.

This morning, I woke up to this story, where Jeremy Schoemaker attacks my brand and my name. Besides the fact that the post is completely schizophrenic and not very well thought out, much less executed, let’s look at the marketing techniques and think about brand. The title of the post is loaded up with my name and brand. He makes sure to this because that will weigh higher in the Google index. Indeed, his post is the 7th SERP in Google when you search for my name after only a few hours. Whatever.

It doesn’t change my business. It doesn’t change my brand. In fact, it doesn’t change my authority because my trust is with you, my community. On Twitter, I am being defended. Fine, whatever. I appreciate it.

In today’s online world, I am constantly hearing about companies who are afraid to converse because they don’t want disagreement. They lose the conversation. In some cases, they try to erase bad publicity.

Conversation is going to happen. Negative conversation is going to happen. The reality is that bad PR doesn’t kill a company. How the customers or community respond make the brand.

Class is adjourned.

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Friends vs. Fans

I think that maybe we’ve done some serious harm to the concept of friends with all this social media stuff.

Seriously.

On Facebook, how many of your friends are really friends?

I have over 2000 followers on Twitter. How many of them know my real name without looking?

How many events do people with significant online personal brand go to where people know who they really are?

Or is brand all that really matters in friendship?

Is it more important to have presence? Or relationship?

What do we do off camera, and who really knows?

If a tree falls in the middle of the woods, and everyone sees the tree online, did it really happen?

Do you find more value in spending time with four people or forty?

What does technosailor mean to you? Aaron Brazell?

Food for thought. Questions to be answered. Have we hurt our human experience or helped?

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Grow Where You're Planted

My offline friends will tell you how much I hate where I live. I moved here to Baltimore as a preteen with my parents and aside from a 4 year stint galavanting around New York State, including 2 years in NYC, I’ve lived in the Baltimore area since. I graduated from high school here. I got married here. We had our son here. I’ve developed my career here.

For better or for worse, Baltimore is home. I can point out The Wire locations. I could give you a photo tour of Hamden, Federal Hill and Catonsville. I can introduce you to “the best crabcakes in Baltimore.”

Historically, though, I hate it here.

In recent years, I’ve considered relocating to Seattle, San Francisco, Toronto, New York, Boston – anywhere would be better than good old Bmore.

The last move consideration was to Toronto where my employer, b5media is located. For whatever reason, I decided that wasn’t a great move for us. And so, we stayed in Baltimore. At that time, I decided that I was going to grow where I was planted. I’m in Baltimore, so I’m going to make the most of the opportunity to flourish here.

So, I began interacting with likeminded people here. (I did expand here to include Washington, D.C. since – it’s really the same place with only a 45 minute drive between us. I began attending as many social media events as I could. In Baltimore, I met , Greg Cangialosi, Steve Fisher, Greg Gershmann and more. (Some of these guys I’ve known for awhile). In D.C., I met Shashi and Shana, Rana and Eric, Jeff, Jonny, Jim and many many more.

Last night, at DC Media Makers I looked around the room (and the subsequent compulsory after-event at Capital City Brewing Company) at 30+ passionate people from very different background and very different lifestyles (Scott Stead comes from CNN, Stowe Boyd has a respectability aura all of his own, Chris Penn dropped in from Boston) and thought – how cool is this scene? Besides Boston, I don’t know of any single social media community that is well defined, interesting and really family-like as the Maryland-DC-Northern Virginia tech community. It’s actually sort of unreal, if I’m honest.

As I made the drive home from DC back to Baltimore, the phrase “Grow Where You’re Planted” kept turning over in my mind. You may not particularly like where you’re at, but you can make a difference in the community that you find yourself in. My take away for the weekend is that, as social media types, you should be doing everything in your power to get out of yourself and help the community grow.

I’m not sure that I have done anything particularly special for this community, but I know that I would rather invest myself in this community than in any other regional community anywhere else in the world.

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