Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Twitter's 1st evangelism comms guy, Linkedin's 2nd PR guy. These are my thoughts on tech, public relations, and life.

Five Reasons I ditched Writing App “iA Writer” for “Ulysses!”

Writing and blogging tools have come a long way since I first started using iA Writer, one of the simplest writing tools I could find to publish on WordPress or Medium. Today, there seem to be three writing apps of varying degrees of complexity from left to right that has risen to the top — iA Writer, Ulysses, and Scrivener.

Kafka on Writing or How to Beat Writer's Block
Kafka on Writing or How to Beat Writer’s Block

After some debate, and a few years of using iA Writer, I switched to Ulysses recently since it feels like a grown-up version of iA Writer. It takes the craft of writing seriously, provides an accountability better than any other writing platform and seems to make the inscrutable keyboard-friendly plain text formatting syntax — Markdown just as simple as needed. So, without further ado, here are the five reasons I decided to “upgrade” to Ulysses from iA Writer.

Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.

Franz Kafka, born on July 3rd and my greatest inspiration to overcoming writer’s block

Five Reasons to Switch to Ulysses!

  • Better Organization: There’s a story to be told about story-writing platforms like iA Writer and Scrivener but Ulysses organizes itself best from the eyes of a writer
    • The Writer’s Journey: The way the app is organized — from personal notes to blogging to writing a book; all the while allowing for random thoughts to permeate an “Inbox” is a terrific way to organize the writing process, regardless of your stage of writing interest.
    • Markdown Onboarding: The challenge at times (for me) with iA Writer was that the organization was rather nebulous around Markdown; 1 that seemingly is a feature, not a bug. Ulysses on the other hand does a pretty good job of educating you on Markdown and distills it down to core features that every writer needs – whether it is adding images, videos, or footnotes (all three of which I had desperately sought to add on iA Writer but constantly lost and finding myself scouring the web for Markdown syntax). Not only does Ulysses guide you while you type in markdown commands but it eases the confusion should you forget the syntax; like when you try to add a URL with the basic syntax, it automatically pops up the URL title bar and you take it from there vs. not knowing if what you did was right.
Markdown to add images on Ulysses
Markdown to add images on Ulysses

I get a distinct feeling, there’s a lot more onboarding magic waiting to happen within Ulysses as I continue to use it, and with the determination to get back into the daily writing game, it was crucial that I had a product that allowed me to see progress being made and that held me accountable.

Onboarding their Subscription and building a community made it worth the price of admission
Onboarding their Subscription and building a community made it worth the price of admission
  • Progress Bar: I love the goal-setting feature which pops up when you hit attachments in the main-screen that allows you to not only tag (which makes for the easiest organization; something that iA Writer was strangely lacking) but also lets you add images (yet another feature that I found missing in iA Writer because previews were almost impossible to do); but most importantly, it allows for goal setting (both in number of characters, but more importantly with a due date for your writing). Believe it or not, the past week has seen me draft over three posts, and being intentional about setting a date/time to start blogging and completing the process truly helps beat back writer’s block.
  • Backup & Version Control: Oddly enough, losing a well-written draft on iA Writer was the trigger that led to my switching apps and one that early users of Microsoft Word might recall. I still can’t find that iA doc which was lost while transferring it across folders on iCloud. And just the fact that Ulysses backs up all its documents with version control was enough for me to switch. Just syncing across devices within iOS isn’t enough (maybe if you’re a real amateur) but it’s the ability to hold the documents in place, for perpetuity that gives a writing app the distinction it deserves.

    It’s like one of my favorite moments from Seinfeld, where Jerry and Elaine mock the reservationist for taking their reservations but not holding it.

    See, you know how to take the reservation; you just don’t know how to hold the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of the reservation – the holding!

    Anybody can just take em.

     

  • Multimedia: Speaking of embedding YouTube videos, the only reason I briefly switched to Medium (more on this later) was their exceptional web editor that allows you to preview any multimedia link (from images to YouTube videos to tweets) right there on the page as will be seen on your published page. That’s a terrific feature and one that iA Writer could care less about (remember, they are the markdown writer — plain text writer) but frankly, most of my posts are social in that they connect to a bunch of images, videos, and tweets as jumping off points for conversations. Ulysses is helpful in embedding / previewing pics, embedding videos (not previewing) and are yet to allow for either on tweets. Regardless, this is a considerable upgrade from the iA Writer interface whose primary goal was not moving from your keyboard but made previewing quite the pain.
  • Quality Pays: Finally, the pricing. The fact is there’s a reason one pays for a Mac vs. a lesser priced PC and that argument has been made before. While iA Writer charges $29.99 for the Mac version, and $4.99 for the iOS Version and I haven’t paid a penny more since I purchased it years ago.

    Ulysses goes a different model — subscriptions! And while I’m not a fan (I frankly don’t have a clue how many apps I have subscribed for that I don’t use!) this is an app I plan to use on a regular basis. And on a feature-by-feature comparison, it wins. Frankly, it wins on their document organization, keywords, and backups, because — words matter. When you pay for quality, it shows. And $39.99 a year, ain’t too bad a price to pay for that.

What’d make it even better

Medium’s web-based editor is most definitely the best WYSIWYG editor on a blogging platform out there. It’s miles ahead of WordPress and that’s their secret sauce. I just wish something as simple as Ulysses or iA Writer will allow Twitter, YouTube and Image embeds (Ulysses allows image and video embeds — but (vid) embeds doesn’t translate to WordPress and it’s not as good as it can get, auto-play can be)

Regardless, I have to stress that writing on iA Writer is a terrific way to get into the habit of writing or getting back in the game. And you can always upgrade to Ulysses later. Love both these writing apps!

Tweet-Roll: Further Reading // Writers to Follow

Thanks to the following writers for their work that I reference and include above. But more importantly, this is a mini-version of blog-roll that used to be a great way to find a community of similar writers. When I started my blogging experience, I found a community of early bloggers who were included in my first blog-roll including @jowyang, @annhandley, @chrisbrogan, and of course, the incomparable @guykawasaki. Further reading and cast for this post, below: 

About Me: Thanks for reading. I’m Mario Sundar, Twitter’s 1st Evangelism lead in 2016, also LinkedIn’s 2nd PR guy between 2007 and 2012. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years and these are my thoughts on technology and communications.

If you like my writing, please subscribe, comment or respond here below. Or you can find me @mariosundar on Twitter.

  1. iA Writer aggressively markets itself as a Writer for Markdown and purposefully stays on point, making simple additions like images and videos painful.

Filed under: Business Blogging, New Products, What's New in Social Media, Writing, , ,

How to make Social Media work for Earnings

Does social media work well with earnings? It was my goal to find out a few weeks ago as we planned the social media component of LinkedIn’s first earnings announcement and the accompanying earnings call, which went out yesterday at 2pm Pacific time. For those of you who missed the action, here’s a recap.

But, I digress. My goal was to find out what are the key social media tools a company should leverage during an earnings call and I found there were two, in particular, that could come in handy. After the jump.

Step 1: Start with the Basics / 3 key social media channels

First off, figure out the key social media channels that’ll work best at disseminating information around the earnings to the right audiences (investors, customers, members of your service, etc.), in the right way (share friendly and compliant). This may seem simple, but planning every last detail whether it’s post, tweets or sequence of uploading content well in advance really helps.

Here are the three basic social media channels that we used for our first earnings call yesterday:

  1. The LinkedIn Blog – post from the CFO
  2. LinkedIn’s Company Page – will link to our twitter page @linkedin  (didn’t want too many tweets, cluttering our homepage there, so we decided to have select tweets that redirect to our Twitter page where I’d be live tweeting the call)
  3. LinkedIn’s Twitter Page (real–time updates during the earning call)

In addition, specific to the earnings call – I found the following two channels helpful. More on that in just a second.

  1. LinkedIn’s Slideshare Page
  2. LinkedIn’s StockTwits Page

This is of course, in concert, with your existing official channels that should kick-start the process (there are mandatory regulations that govern this process; so make sure you work with your legal team on figuring out that order). In our case, right after the press release crossed the wire, and the PDF slides were up on our IR site, the social media component went into play. So, time it well and stick to your schedule.

Trust me, it’s all a blur once the call starts and you start live tweeting – plus, there are so many moving parts that you’ve got to be careful you don’t mess up the ordering or accidentally upload stuff before the official news is out there. Also, don’t schedule stuff for auto-publishing, cos, you never know when things break.

Step 2: Make it easy to share / Slideshare 

I think the biggest advantage that social media brings to the table is the ability to let users – members, investors or other bloggers get a hold of content (like earnings deck slides) and make it easy for them to share. The earnings call (in our case) was an audio webcast and you had to register to listen in. You could also download a PDF deck of slides, but you’d have to email that and there’s no way to tweet that either.

Enter Slideshare.

Not only does Slideshare make it easy for you to upload your slides in private mode (premium feature) so you have it ready to go when the call starts, they also offer customization that lets you feature your earnings slide on your Slideshare homepage. And, of course, it makes sense to add your Twitter and StockTwits widget as well. More on that in a second.

Some examples of companies that use Slideshare around earnings: Dell, Amgen, and Pfizer. Here’s the brand new LinkedIn page.

Step 3: Get Compliant / Stocktwits

Finally, the biggest question that companies have about earnings call and social media is staying out of trouble and keeping your blog post/s and tweets compliant with regulations. First off, you wanna work closely with your legal team to nail the specifics around your Safe Harbor statement and Disclaimers, which we used on the blog post. But, what about tweets and 140 chars?

Enter Stocktwits.

If you’re live tweeting your earnings call — and I’d recommend you do that — ideally, you’d want to add a disclaimer to every tweet that contains financial information. Now, doing that manually is one heckuva problem and Stocktwits helped take care of that (premium feature we subscribed to).

They have a system which allows you to add a disclaimer to every tweet (it may be a simple tweet, link to other webpages, a slideshare page, etc.) That does reduce the # of characters for your tweet (from 140 to 117) but from my perspective the premium feature was worth the peace of mind. In addition, they allow you to send this out to your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook pages.

Here are some examples of companies that have used Stocktwits in a similar fashion: eBay, Dell, AEP.

And, here’s our Stocktwits LNKD page.

To summarize, the earnings call was like our other recent announcements on social media but the two new components that made the earnings call simpler, were Slideshare and Stocktwits. Here’s how I described it on their official blogs:

As a social media company, it was a no-brainer to use Slideshare to share our earnings call slides on our corporate blog. While Slideshare made it easy for our readers and followers to share this content virally, Stocktwits ensured that our status updates and tweets were compliant; both necessary components for an effective social IR strategy.

Work in social media for a company planning earnings? Got questions? Let me know.

Leave a comment or @mariosundar a question to me.

Filed under: Best-of, Business Blogging, HOW-TO Use Social Media, Linkedin, Slideshare, Social PR, Stocktwits, , , , ,

Top 10 Corporate Blogs: 2011 Edition

As someone who has studiously put together the top 10 business blog listings since 2006 (here’s the first such post that garnered over 120 comments — long standing record on this blog), I was glad to see another post posing the question “Are these the 10 best corporate blogs in the world?” via Ragan.

Written by Mark Schaefer, who recently taught a class on corporate blogging at Rutgers, the post covers interesting blogs that are not too promotional nor technology focused and I’m glad he did put together this list, cos one of these blogs even crept into our top 10 listings. Read on.

Couple of quick thoughts before I present to you the latest ranking of the most popular corporate blogs on the planet (methodology for the ranking is given below). The reason I started tracking these rankings was to identify the corporate blogs that stand the test of time within certain commonly agreed upon criteria. What’s interesting is that the top 10 blogs have pretty much stayed the same over time with the inclusion of some fast growing blogs (like Mint and this week’s new entrant – Whole Foods).

Without further ado, I give you the current state of the corporate blogosphere and the Top 10 corporate blogs ranked by Technorati [Disclosure: I run LinkedIn’s corporate blog, since 2007, which has been a Top 10 blog].

Top 10 Corporate Blogs in 2011 (per Technorati Authority)

General Motors, Monster, Dell and Digg have fallen off the Top 15 list. In particular, I’m surprised by Dell’s fall since I bet it has something to do with their restructured domain space (Yahoo! had the same problem), cos I know how well managed they both are. The ones in red are the blogs that are going down in the rankings and the green ones are either new entrants or the ones that are rising (some, fast) in popularity – for e.g. Delta and Whole Foods.

Note: Click through the above brand names to get to their corporate blog and feel free to bookmark them or subscribe to their posts on your favorite RSS reader.


Methodology:
I’m using the New PR Wiki (Corporate blog listings) and Technorati authority to help navigate the corporate blogosphere terrain. This term made most sense to rank corporate blogs for 2 reasons.

1. Popularity

“It is the # of blogs linking to a website in the last 6 months. The higher the number, the more authority the blog has”.

Not only does that give a clear indication of the popularity, it also provides context for this rank in the past 6 months. You’ll be surprised at the number of dead blogs in the list, since the last ranking.

2. It’s the number of blogs vs. number of links that’s being measured

It is important to note that we measure the number of blogs, rather than the number of links. So, if a blog links to your blog many times, it still only count as +1 toward your authority. Of course, new links mean the +1 will last another 180 days

Also, if you find any corporate blog (official) that find themselves in the middle of the above rankings, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Given my experience, both starting and running a corporate blog, I’ll continue investigating best practices and sharing them here. If you’re interested in learning more, please consider subscribing to this blog.

SAY “HI” ON TWITTER! LET’S CHAT.

Filed under: Business Blogging

If your small business does not have a blog, be concerned

A week ago, I found this gem of a video on the need for blogging. Some valuable comments from Seth Godin and Tom Peters on why blogging matters to any professional. I couldn’t help but think of how much more important blogging is to small businesses and wondered how many small businesses actually blogged. More on that after the jump.

Hat tip to Mitch Joel for the link and transcription to the video:

Seth Godin on blogging:

“Blogging is free. What matters is the meta-cognition of thinking about what you’re going to say. How do you explain yourself to the few employees – or your cat – or whoever is going to look at it? How do you force yourself to describe – in three paragraphs – why you did something?”

I couldn’t agree more. One of the greatest benefits blogging has afforded me as a professional, is that it helps me organize my thoughts on topics that I’m passionate about. It helped me find my career calling – social media and community marketing through hours of thinking about what I wanted to say to the people who equally cared for the topics I loved.

Why blogging matters to small business

With small businesses, it’s even better. It helps you and your team organize your thoughts on how you’d explain your business to your employees, your potential customers, existing customers… I could go on. In the process, you either win over new customers or solidify existing partnerships. And, you can afford to be irreverent, controversial or plain useful to your audience and rest assured you’ve established a great repository of well indexed content on the web for future prospects to find you.

And, we have data to prove that’s the case. Hubspot, an internet marketing company, tracked that companies that blog have a greater influx of visitors, inbound links, and indexed pages. This means two things for SMBs that blog: in the short term it potentially brings in a greater number of leads and in the long term it lets you build authority, page rank and SEO for your small business website and brand, yet again potentially leading to more leads.

Comparing site visits for SMBs tht blog and those tht dont

Resources available to small business

So, where should a small business start? There are a ton of resources out there, that educate you on how to start and manage a business blog. Take a look at some of my recent posts on similar categories and subscribe to a couple of other blogs that I’ve outlined below:

  1. Business Blogging Tips
  2. Social Media Policy
  3. Top Business Blog rankings
  4. Duct Tape Marketing
  5. AMEX Open Forum

If you like similar content you should subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter!

Let me finally leave you with the most important tip (measuring ROI on blogging) from a recent Mashable article that outlined 10 tips for corporate blogging, with a particular focus on small businesses.

You’re probably accustomed to tracking everything, and your blog is no different. If your blog is a page on your website, make sure your current web analytics tools are set to track all the same data that it monitors on your website. If you don’t currently have a web analytics tool, check out Google Analytics, a free analytics tool with an easy-to-use interface.

At the minimum, make sure you’re tracking site traffic, where referrals are coming from, and traffic-wise which posts are doing best. Learn from the data and adjust your blogging guidelines accordingly.

Filed under: Business Blogging

Top 5 Corporate Blogs’ Front Page Structure

Just today Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox published the findings of a recent eye tracking study on the reading habits around corporate blogs. Of course, I find this of immense interest both as the blog editor of a Top 10 corporate blog (LinkedIn), but more so since I publish rankings for the Top 10 corporate blogs out there. I found this a perfect opportunity to re-rank the top business blogs out there and study their front page structure.

More on the front page structure of the Top 5 Corporate blogs (ranked August 2010), after this confusing graphic.

Confusing Jakob Nielsen graphic comparing full articles vs. summaries

Before I continue, here were the results of the eye tracking study: “Showing summaries of many articles is more likely to draw in users than providing full articles, which can quickly exhaust reader interest.” This is probably true of all blogs but more so for corporate blogs which for the most part are just a feed of breaking news press release style items. That said, I’m glad to announce that we’re considering a redesign for the LinkedIn blog (more on that later). But, I digress…

Here are the top five corporate blogs on the planet today (based on Technorati Authority, Aug 2010) show an interesting breakdown and development in terms of their front page structure and design. Read on. Please note: these reviews are purely on front page design as well as social media engagement.

1. Google: While Google’s corporate blog has a killer Technorati popularity ranking, it’s design is pretty staid and boring – providing full articles, while not doing much to engage ANY conversation at all. No comments nor focus on the author of the post makes this blog as useful as a press center and that’s how Google wants to play it. Brand recognition, over 600K subscribers to the blog, over a million followers on Twitter ensures they’re widely read, but if you’re a small business owner and want to create an engaging blog with compelling content to educate your users – see #4 on this list (Mint blog). If you’re a brand that wants to create a press center 2.0, this model may suffice. Again, from a front page design perspective – THUMBS DOWN.

Google Blog's front page design


2. Facebook: Facebook’s corporate blog moved up in the rankings overtaking Twitter’s blog and their newly redesigned front page is only gonna help them further give Google’s blog a run for it’s money. Positives: Simple, easy to use design aesthetics, integration with Facebook (whether it’s the post author’s Facebook profile or integration with the Facebook fan page, which has over 15 million followers!), engaging design – summaries over full articles, terrific share functionality (Comments, Likes and Share – again fully integrating into the design one expects to see within Facebook), Facebook connect integration (Duh!), and each post also links to topic category links (brilliant!). Love everything about the blog front page / design / usability. THUMBS UP. AWESOMENESS!

Facebook's newly redesigned corporate blog front page

3. Twitter: Moved down a spot since last year’s corporate blog rankings, Twitter’s blog is currently HOT cos Twitter’s hot, but again they closely mimic the Google model. No comments nor integration with their product (their posts don’t even have a retweet button!!!) and it takes forever to identify the author of the post. Again, this is but a press center 2.0 model. Decent integration with the corporate Twitter account doesn’t make up for a poor front page design. THUMBS DOWN.

Newly redesigned Twitter business blog front page

4. Mint: Mint’s blog even prior to the Intuit acquisition, set the standard when it came to CONTENT. They created the most compelling, objectively viewed content around personal finance and data, which got organically picked up by the blogosphere and press in general. No wonder they have rocked to the Top 5 and are at #4, this year. From a front page design, they’re a tad cluttered, but contain all the hallmarks of a great content portal – carousel with featured stories, broad categories and personal finance that is easily accessible, article summaries vs. full articles, great sharing tools (integration with Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon, etc.), and JUST GREAT CONTENT that focuses on the product. THUMBS UP!

Mint's Corporate Blog front page: a bit noisy, but great content

Another corporate blog that kicks butt in the CONTENT category is Ok Cupid. Their content is exceptional and is quoted by mainstream press by the New York Times, but unfortunately Technorati has screwed up their authority rankings and I’ve no way to verify if they belong to our Top 10 rankings.

5. Yahoo! Search: Another straightforward old school corporate blog design with full articles vs. summaries. Also, Yahoo’s Yodel Anecdotal or Dell’s Direct2Dell corporate blog may have taken this spot if Technorati hadn’t screwed up their rankings this year. As for Yahoo’s Search Corporate blog front page design, I’d have to give it a THUMBS DOWN.

Old school Yahoo! Search corporate blog

Summary: The Top 5 corporate blogs show an interesting breakdown in terms of their full articles vs. summaries with #2 and 4  (both having made a jump to a higher rank this time) and both having not only summaries but also featured story sections with images that help drive engagement around compelling content. #1 and 3 did well because of their brands and their hotness in terms of popularity (in general) and newsworthiness.

While this may work in the short term, I think for business blogs to engage more of their audience I’d rather go the Facebook or Mint blog route. I’m also glad that the next iteration of LinkedIn’s corporate blog (ranked #9 currently on this 2010 listings) will have both a featured stories section as well as summaries over full articles. Stay tuned for more.

In the meanwhile, leave a comment if you feel your favorite corporate blog could be more popular than any of the above five blogs. Would love to know why?

If you like similar content you should subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter!

Filed under: Business Blogging

Why CEOs should break their bad email habits

Update: Brian Chen from Wired writes of Steve Jobs’ “email campaign” with input from Steve Rubel and Brian Solis. My $0.02 per my original blog post below: I think a CEO “email campaign” (if true) sounds a tad manipulative and opportunistic. That said, a consistent Twitter outreach from a CEO seems a more authentic way to reach a far wider audience – and more effective. I can assure you a twitter.com/stevejobs account will rival that of Gizmodo‘s w/ 83K followers and offer an easier way for a CEO to reach fans and media alike. Beg to differ. Please comment away. And, Thanks for reading!

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Turn on Techmeme yesterday and and this is what I saw.

CEO emails were all the rage on TechMeme yesterday!

This is not an isolated occurrence.  I’ve been seeing a lot of emails coming from 1 Infinite Loop in the past 24 hours as well as preceding weeks.

One email to Steve Jobs asked him what he thought of Gizmodo saying Google had leapfrogged Apple with the release of the new Android operating system. Steve’s response,“Not a chance.”

Another emailer (via Mac Rumors) asked if Google was showing up Apple with its developer conference and if Apple had big announcements for WWDC. Steve’s response, “You won’t be disappointed.”

And Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook completed the cycle with his email to Scobleizer, who then proceeded to ask the question: “When do you throw a CEOs privacy under the bus”. Scoble then answered the question with a screenshot of the email string and:

UPDATE: Zuckerberg gave me permission to print this email while I was typing this post.

Cue Seinfeld tone: What’s… the deal… with CEOs and emails these days?!

I constantly review CEOs and their attempts at blogging. I’d have to agree with Steve Jobs’ BFF Larry Ellison that there are far more important issues for a CEO to deal with than to regularly write blog posts.  His exact words were, I quote: “Blogging was a silly diversion” for former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz. Zing. Yes, there’s always the one off crisis management blog post that I believe a CEO can deliver with much impact, but regular blogging is overkill.

That said, since my last post on this topic, the landscape for corporate communication has been radically transformed thanks to Twitter and its ability to offer anybody (even CEOs) a chance to communicate to their audience (maybe peers, employees, customers or the media) in an authentic manner with a minimal investment of time.

CEO Twittering is easier than CEO blogging but still an investment of time

A twitter account is a perfect way to strike the right balance (I’ve said it before). Plus, for any CEO (especially, a celebrity like Steve Jobs) the sky is the limit when it comes to the following he can gather should he choose to tweet on a regular basis. I’m just saying, cos he’s been emailing a lot lately. With that in mind, I wrote down 5 questions for a CEO or executive to consider before choosing to start with social media. Print this out and share it with your CEO, in case of an emergency.

1. First ask yourself: “Do I have something interesting to say?”

And, is that on behalf of my company’s brand or my own. Most of the executives who blog have a great personality in front of the social media camera and are comfortable playing the role of a celebrity. But, if you’re camera shy and would rather just get the job done and move on (like HPs Mark Hurd), forget about it.

Check out other executives who tweet. Is this something you’d be comfortable doing?

  • Former GE rockstar CEO, Jack Welch (1.2M followers). Topics: Sports talk. Lots of it. (I predicted he would tweet. Sorta)
  • Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh (1.6M followers). Topics: Pithy, inspirational quotes.
  • Cisco’s CTO Padmasree (1.4M followers). Topics: Tech, music, weekends and lots of engagement with followers.
  • Express’ CMO Lisa (17K followers). Style: Topics: Yes, she tweets often about Fashion. In many cases Express’.
  • Formerly Kodak’s CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett (21K). Topics: Travel and book related.

And, so many more. Yes, it’s pretty amazing. Also, do you know of any CEOs who have established a presence on Facebook to engage with their “fans”? Sorry. Former Governor Sarah Palin doesn’t count.

2. Does this tie into your branding strategy?

What surprised me most about Steve Jobs’ late night emails (there’s a part of me that still wants to believe it is fake) is that it contradicts the carefully constructed image we have of Apple and by association Steve Jobs. It paints him more Howard Hughes than PT Barnum. Every brand needs to continue that brand imagery on Twitter as well.

In Express Retail’s case, they have an integrated marketing and branding strategy where they aggressively promote their Twitter and Facebook avatars through their packaging, etc. If you consider Twitter a marketing channel, then go all out and try to tie it into the larger marketing / branding efforts of the org.

3. Does this tie in with your communications strategy?

Let’s not forget all of the above CEO emails were with bloggers and journalists. Mostly bloggers. The fact is most bloggers (and increasingly journalists) are on Twitter, plus your conversations are going to be broadcast to millions of other users in addition, making your communication more effective than an email. Plus, you can always DM (private message) a journalist if you want to say: “No“.

Check out a list of bloggers and journalists who are on Twitter already.

4. Have you considered the legal ramifications?

Understand that blogs and Twitter fall under the FTC’s guidelines, so beware of frivolous brand endorsements. And, don’t forget the SEC since that could be a bigger problem for you especially if you’re a publicly traded company. Here are some of the issues they watch out for (Source: BNET).

  • How information posted on a company Web site can be considered “public” and how companies can comply with public disclosure requirements under Regulation FD by posting information on their web sites
  • The liability framework for certain types of electronic disclosure, including:
    • how companies can provide access to historical or archived data without it being considered reissued or republished every time it is accessed
    • how companies can link to third party information or Web sites without having to “adopt” that content for liability purposes
  • clarification of how the anti-fraud provisions apply to statements made by the company (or by a person acting on behalf of the company) in blogs and electronic shareholder forums.

5. Just tweet it

If you’ve answered all the above questions with a “Yes”, then take the tiny little step of actually setting up your Twitter account (which should take all of 2 minutes). And, send out your first “Hello World” tweet for the world to see. Yes, it may seem intimidating now, but the ramifications of a positive engaging conversation with your customers has a positive impact to your brand.

But all of this is valid ONLY if you’re truly interested in having this as an ongoing conversation. With Twitter it’s a small yet considerable investment of your valuable time, so think twice before you jump in. Because if you quit doing it, you’ll be worse off than if you never started twittering. An easier way, would be to establish a presence on LinkedIn. (Disclosure: Yes, I work there).

If you’re interested in these topics, please subscribe to my blog. And, don’t be a stranger. Leave a comment, rant, rave or tweet me @mariosundar.

Filed under: Business Blogging, Leadership Communication, Public Relations,

To (Business) blog or not to blog; that is NOT the question

Count me surprised when I stumbled upon a post on corporate blogging by Rex (Fimoculous), only to realize later that he’s now taking a break from blogging and has some of his friends guest blog for a while. But, I digress. Guest author ADM refers to an Inc post by Joel Spolsky: “Let’s take this offline“, which is surprisingly – you guessed right – not online! Bah! [Update: the post seems to be live right now]

The blog post focuses on the pros and cons of corporate blogging and most importantly its deficiencies, but unfortunately all I’ve access to are ADM’s post. So, here’s the gist from that source. I quote:

Blogging as a medium seems so personal, and often it is. But when you’re using a blog to promote a business, that blog can’t be about you, Sierra said. It has to be about your readers, who will, it’s hoped, become your customers… So, for example, if you’re selling a clever attachment to a camera that diffuses harsh flash light, don’t talk about the technical features or about your holiday sale (10 percent off!). Make a list of 10 tips for being a better photographer. If you’re opening a restaurant, don’t blog about your menu. Blog about great food. You’ll attract foodies who don’t care about your restaurant yet.

ADM doubts if corporate blogs are necessary these days but does go on to suggest that Joel may have gained a ton from running his blog for the past 10 years. (it seems to me that companies who lack a large customer base and name recognition could gain a lot by blogging the way he did.) True dat.

Of course, my answer to that question (to blog or not to blog) is biased, but I strongly feel that the question’s NOT, “should a company have a blog?”, but rather “how should a company blog?” (in today’s age of social networking). I’ve a couple more posts brewing on this topic. Plus, I’m currently working on making LinkedIn’s very own corporate blog better for our readers. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on what makes a corporate blog great? And, what makes it SUCK!? Comment away.

And, in the meanwhile, if you guys can ferret out that Inc post by Joel, please let me know.

Filed under: Business Blogging

Is Posterous ready for Corporate Blogging?

There were a couple of blog posts earlier today on Posterous now making it easier for management of group blogs. This is a welcome development for multiple author business blogs (like Tweetdeck’s for e.g.) on Posterous. But, before I go any further. For those of you wondering what Posterous is, here’s a starting point:

What is Posterous? Those of you wondering what Posterous is, here goes: “Posterous is the dead simple place to post everything. Just email us.”

Mashable writes that Posterous has now made it easier than ever for companies to adopt Posterous as purveyor of their social media goodness across the web. Given the past few years of research and practice (as blog editor for LinkedIn), I thought I’ll put Posterous to the test. Let’s figure out if the platform is ready for corporate blogging primetime.

As I’ve suggested in an earlier post of mine, corporate blogging has evolved from its ancestor – the static corporate website, to a far more complex, living, breathing social media portal these days. Take the Top 10 corporate blogs today, you’ll see that nearly half of them have a social media presence that extends far beyond a blog. Even the more traditional, larger Fortune 500 companies are testing the waters, with nearly 30% of them even having a Twitter account.

Eighty-one Fortune 500 companies sponsor public blogs, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Chevron Corp. and General Motors Corp., according to the Society for New Communications Research. Of those blogs, 23 link to corporate Twitter accounts.

To recap: in an effort to reach out and engage with their users, businesses now publish a slew of multimedia content – faster than ever. These include images (flickr, picasa, etc.), video (youtube, vimeo, etc.), microblogging (twitter, friendfeed, etc.), social networks (linkedin, facebook, etc.) that constitute the different sides of a company’s social media presence these days. Enter Posterous.

Five criteria to compare blogging platforms for a business blog

Posterous aims to mitigate the pain of managing these disparate multimedia streams of corporate content and as someone who has a personal Posterous account, I can attest to the fact that they do keep it real simple, so that anyone with an email address could get a blog up and running. Moving  forward, it looks like they’d like to extends that ease of usage to business brands who increasingly have a presence on social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and / or Facebook.

While managing LinkedIn’s corporate blog, I’ve stumbled upon certain basic functionality a business blog must possess. Why don’t we run this checklist through Posterous’ capabilities today:

1. Multiple authors / Review system:

The primary challenge of any corporate blog is the need for a simple system that will allow any or all of the company’s employees to blog and the ability for a blog editor to review that post. The review process is doubly important for many reasons, chief among which is that companies have to be doubly careful about publishing content, especially in today’s world of SEC regulations.

With today’s announcement, Posterous allows company brands to associate their official twitter account (twitter.com/companyname) to a company blog hosted on posterous (blog.companyname.com). So, if you’ve 3 contributors to your company blog, all three can post to the company’s posterous blog via email. This will then be automatically published to your Twitter company pages (for e.g.) if you’d like to. Not sure if it allows auto-population of your company’s Facebook page though. Leave a comment if you know the answer to that.

Multiple Authors posting to company group blog / twitter / facebook accounts: YES
Reviewing posts: NO

2. Ease of programmed publishing (Scheduled Posts, URLs, Scheduled tweets):

One of the most important features for brands using social media is the ability to schedule posts at different times, create custom URLs to enhance SEO and publish tweets from the brand’s twitter account. Currently, I do that using a combination of WordPress (for the blog) and Hootsuite (for Twitter). If your company uses Co-tweet as a customer service management dashboard, you can schedule tweets as well.


Ease of programmed publishing: NO

5. Ease of sharing across different platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook):

This is one of the strengths of Posterous. Its ability to come packaged with auto-publishing capability to a plethora of different multi-media sites is invaluable. Basically, you can hook up your Posterous accounts to your other social media accounts (could be your company’s official Flickr, Youtube, or Twitter account, etc.) to auto-publish to one or all of these platforms at the same time. Posterous also allows you to do the same to your (let’s say WordPress blog), but I did try that for Marketing Nirvana in the past and it sucked.

Ease of sharing: YES

4. Social Commenting Systems:

This would be an extension of the #3. Most blogs today have incorporated the ability for readers to submit comments through one of three ways: Disqus, Facebook or your Twitter id. Posterous is set up so that every blog has this capability. I’d love for them to add LinkedIn as the fourth way to comment on Posterous. Given their recent integration with the LinkedIn API (for status updates), I’m hoping they’ll consider this feature request as well.

Commenting systems: YES

5. Stats

This is the most important dashboard for any corporate blog, since it allows you to monitor the effectiveness of content and craft your blog schedule and content accordingly. Most companies can use a free tool like Google Analytics that lets you drill down into different stats (from visits, pageviews, pages / visit, etc.).

All that Posterous provides are the number of clicks for each post. This may be sufficient for small businesses but the larger companies have the need to integrate social media monitoring into their wider marketing strategy and in that case, this may not be as effective.

Analytics: NO (but provides basic data)

Conclusion. Are they ready?

So, is Posterous ready for corporate blogging? I think the ease of setup and commenting and sharing across multimedia platforms makes Posterous a viable alternative for small businesses and startups getting started on social media, but for larger companies; the need for enhanced analytics and programmed publishing may hinder adoption at this point in time.

That said, I’d guess this is but a first step from Posterous as they continue courting that segment of the market as well. What do you think?

Filed under: Business Blogging

Over 10% of all blogs are corporate! What are the Top 10?

Quick Update: Coca-cola whom I included in the corporate blog rankings a few months ago, just announced an ambitious program to send three corporate bloggers into space. Nah! Just kidding. They’ll be sending 3 bloggers across all the 206 countries they’re sold in, to chronicle happiness.

Quite an ambitious and buzz friendly theme. Read all about it here and check out their current blog here. Now back to the Top 10 corporate blogs on the planet…


Did you know:
Nearly 13% of bloggers interviewed for the State of the 2009 blogosphere (conducted by Technorati) either blog for themselves, their own company (I’d consider small businesses part of this category) or for a larger organization?! Not too shabby for a space that was in its infancy when I started blogging three years ago?

2009 State Of The Blogosphere - Corporate Blogging
State of the Corporate Blogosphere

The above slide from Richard Jalichandra’s presentation at Blog World gave me another reason to dust off the Corporate blog rankings that I’ve assiduously crafted over the past few years (July 2006, May 2008, and CEO blogs in 06). I’ve decided to publish these rankings annually to coincide with Technorati’s State of the blogosphere announcements.

So, what are the brands that have continued to effectively communicate to their users through social media such as a corporate blog? The permanence of many of the 15 companies listed was altered by two fast rising brands, Twitter and Mint, both of whom have been in the news this past year. [Disclosure: I maintain and run a corporate blog for LinkedIn that can be found in the rankings below].

Top 10 Corporate Blogs in 2009 (per Technorati Authority)

1. Google [Authority: 826]

2. Twitter [Authority: 733]

3. Facebook [Authority: 657]

4. Yahoo! [Authority: 656]

5. Dell [Authority: 641]

6. Mint [Authority: 633]

7. Yahoo! Search [Authority: 631]

8. LinkedIn [Authority: 610]

9. Adobe [Authority: 553]

10. General Motors [Authority: 537]

Bonus: 11 through 15 of the corporate blog rankings are below

11. Garmin [Authority: 502]

12. Monster [Authority: 123]

13. Southwest Airlines [Authority: 118]

14. Delta [Authority: 114]

15. Digg [Authority: 104]

Note: Click through the above brand names to get to their corporate blog and feel free to bookmark them or subscribe to their posts on your favorite RSS reader.


Methodology:
I’m using the New PR Wiki (Corporate blog listings) and Technorati authority to help navigate the corporate blogosphere terrain. This term made most sense to rank corporate blogs for 2 reasons.

1. Popularity

“It is the # of blogs linking to a website in the last 6 months. The higher the number, the more authority the blog has”.

Not only does that give a clear indication of the popularity, it also provides context for this rank in the past 6 months. You’ll be surprised at the number of dead blogs in the list, since the last ranking.

2. It’s the number of blogs vs. number of links that’s being measured

It is important to note that we measure the number of blogs, rather than the number of links. So, if a blog links to your blog many times, it still only count as +1 toward your authority. Of course, new links mean the +1 will last another 180 days

Also, if you find any corporate blog (official) that find themselves in the middle of the above rankings, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Given my experience, both starting and running a corporate blog myself, I’ll continue investigating best practices and sharing them here. If you’re interested in learning more, please consider subscribing to this blog.

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Filed under: Business Blogging

Social Media Policy: Not too Heavy, Not too Light!

Quicker Update: Ari Herzog adds his $0.02 on this topic for the Huffington Post, debating whether companies in the survey are blocking or banning usage of social networking sites. But, as I’ve mentioned in the below post, I’d like to reiterate that the focus here should be the opportunity for companies here. Encouraging correct usage of social media for employees is a great way to build your company brand. Thoughts? Leave a comment.

Quick Update: Ben McConnell (Church of the Customer) weighs in.

FACT: “54% of employers have completely prohibited their employees from their employees visiting Facebook, Twitter or MySpace while at work” according to a recent survey of CIOs of companies across the United States (via @Mashable)

The survey, which was developed by Robert Half Technology, is consistent with other recent reports that show companies are quickly moving to block social media in the workplace. Of course, even when companies allow social media, it doesn’t always end well for employees. Another recent report indicated that 8% of companies in the US have fired staff over social media misuse.

Companies are grappling with the emergence of social media tools like Twitter that allow for a rapid dissemination of content and ideas. Now, this could be a double edged sword for any organization but as I’ve been advocating on LinkedIn’s Talent Advantage blog – this is also a great opportunity for companies to build their brand through their employees. [Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn, a professional networking site not covered on the survey, as Community Evangelist]

Poll: Employers embrace of social media

As you can see from the above breakdown, over half of the employers polled seem to have banned any use of social media in the company, while 19% allowed it only for business and 26% allowed employees to use social media sites for personal purposes as well.

For lack of a better analogy, I think a good approach would be similar to the ads titled “Parents: the Anti-Drug” that you see on TV. Surveys have shown that listening to a kid’s concerns makes them far more communicative with a parent and has proven to be more effective at reducing risky behavior. Ditto for employers and social media guidelines.

Responsible companies will take time to educate their employees on how best to utilize social media to build their brand, explain what’s at stake and help clarify how improper use of social media could inadvertently end up destroying both the employee’s professional brand and hence the company brand.

To policy or not to policy (I meant police v.)

Still wondering how best to approach this seemingly intractable problem? As I mentioned, I just published part 2 on my series on helping companies craft social media guidelines and it’s about the 5 questions you should ask yourself before you craft a social media policy for your company. Here are some tips:

1. Ask yourself: does your company need a social media policy?

2. Find your existing company evangelists

3. Find alignment with your company values and culture (read my entire post with all 5 tips for companies here)

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So, in essence, while crafting a social media policy – don’t keep it too heavy,  nor too light; don’t ban complete usage, nor allow unfettered personal access while at work. And, remember that this is a great opportunity to build your employees brand, where they could share information about their company brand with the rest of the world. And, for employees – with great power comes great responsibility.

What is your company’s social media policy? Leave a comment (after the jump) in the comments section. If you like this content, feel free to follow me on Twitter.


Filed under: Best-of, Business Blogging, Employee Engagement