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What do Agencies (and Brands) Look for in a Blogger?

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If you are gearing up for this January’s New Media Expo/BlogWorld event then you’re probably interested in promoting your brand and blog. Since hundreds of agencies and large brands use our product (GroupHigh) to identify bloggers, research analytics, and manage blogger outreach campaigns, I thought it would be great to share what our clients think makes a great partner blogger.

In the past, outreach lists were built using an Excel spreadsheet, Google Blog Search, and a good amount of manual labor. The arduous task of finding and qualifying blogs for a campaign stood in the way of efficiently reaching out to bloggers. More importantly, this process didn’t help decipher which blog outlets were a proper fit for a given campaign. Today, there are many shortcuts and knowing how agencies and brands look for blogs is critical if you want to be included.

Searching Twitter Bios

There are many tools that make searching Twitter bios quick and easy, but Follower Wonk is probably the best. There is still a lot of hunting and pecking for bloggers, but Twitter specific metrics such as follower count help focus research on higher-quality outlets.

What this means for bloggers:  A Twitter Profile That Links to Your Blog Is A Must!

If agencies and brands are finding blogs by searching on Twitter it only makes sense that you ensure that your or your blog’s Twitter identity is clearly linked to your blog’s homepage. It is also a good idea to build your follower count, as followers is quickly becoming a leading factor in blog selection for outreach.

Blog Marketing Platforms

Tools like GroupHigh allow firms to search for and filter bloggers by almost any metric and content imaginable. Firms can easily find blogs by the content they write about most often, as well as how open they are to common marketing tactics such as guest posting, sponsored posting, contests, and product reviews.

What this means for bloggers:  Ensure that your blog’s content reflects your ambition!

If you are open to running contests on your blog, start today! Grab the PunchTab Giveaway App and run a small contest. If you are an aspiring fashion blogger, make sure that the title of your blog post denotes that you are reviewing a product. For example:

  • Product Review: Levi’s 501 Demin Jeans
  • First Thoughts: Levi’s 501 Demin Jeans
  • Just Purchased: Levi’s 501 Demin Jeans

Being obvious about what your content contains will help brands and agencies find you and pitch you more accurately.

Extra Tip: Many firms are beginning to target bloggers via Pinterest and Instagram. This is especially true for campaigns that involve rich media elements such as pictures and video. If you want to be considered for these campaigns make sure you have Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube channels clearly listed on your blog. Less than 2% of active bloggers list these modern social networks, but they are increasingly being used to target bloggers. It also won’t hurt to have followers and subscribers, as most firms seek blogs with over 1,000 followers/subscribers.

Blogger Networks

While blog networks initially existed to consolidate advertising across blogs of similar topics, they are also a common resource for firms that don’t want to spend a lot of time researching and building personal relationships. Firms that use a blog network typically pay for access and are guaranteed a certain reach, similar to the way banner ads are sold. Though this saves the firm time, the downside to this approach is that the authentic relationship between the firm and blogger is immediately compromised. It is then based on pay-to-play rather than a mutually beneficial relationship.

What this means for bloggers:  Join a network? Maybe?

There are many pros and cons to joining a blogger network. If you want to get involved with blogger networks that deal in sponsored posts, check out IZEA or BlogFrog. Additional information on blog networks can be found below:

In addition to looking for blogs in the aforementioned locations, firms also review a variety of metrics when deciding which blogs to build relationships with. Based on several of our highest-quality users, here is what we’ve seen over the past three months.

Firms are looking for:

  1. The ability to amplify a message socially. So make sure to list social profiles prominently on your site.
  2. A solid base of traffic and pageviews. While never completely accurate, most firms rely on Compete.com traffic data to make decisions. Once you begin building a relationship, don’t be offended if they ask for proof of your traffic from Google Analytics, this is commonplace especially among larger brands and agencies.
  3. Twitter Followers. The more the better. While 10 years ago firms would use Google’s PageRank as a quick barometer of your blog’s quality, today Twitter followers is the number one quality metric we see firms using to select blogs.  Most firms look for bloggers with a minimum of 500-1,000 followers.
  4. Google PageRank. Despite its aging status, many firms still rely on this statistic to include/exclude blogs from campaigns.
  5. Facebook Likes. While not as widely used as Twitter followers, Likes is often included in a custom score.

How are these numbers used?

Rather than rely on a debatable ranking or score, most firms take some combination of the above key metrics and create a custom metric in Excel. This could be something termed Social Reach, which could be a combination of Twitter followers and Facebook Likes. Other times it could be a total campaign reach, which would include followers, Likes, and traffic numbers. The highest rated blogs get included based on metrics like this very often.

In any event, I hope this post sheds a bit of insight into what the best agencies and brands are looking for in bloggers. Best of luck building your brand and I look forward to seeing you at NMX/BlogWorld in January.

Michael Brito: Chat Transcript

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This month at NMX we launched weekly, lunchtime chats on Facebook. Our first special guest was Michael Brito, SVP of Social Business at Edelman. Michael’s also one of the speakers at our BusinessNext Social Conference in January. His session is titled “The New Influencers: Brand Advocacy Inside and Out.”

Michael’s worked with big brands such as Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Yahoo!. He is also the author of Smart Business, Social Business: A Playbook for Social Media In Your Organization. If you missed our first, weekly chat with Michael, the transcript is below.

Shane Ketterman I have a question! What are 3 main differences between “influencers” and “advocates” and why is this important?

New Media Expo Michael – Tell us some of the ways brands can inspire customers to act as advocates.
Michael Brito: hi!…sorry I am a few minutes late!
New Media Expo It’s all good – We’re on Facebook time!
Michael Brito when I think about advocacy … a term called Reciprocal Altruism comes to mind… it’s this concept that we as marketers need to “give to the community, without any expectation of receiving anything i return”
Michael Brito if you take that concept and apply it to everything you do from a content perspective, that is how you turn friends, fans and followers into advocates
Michael Brito @Shane .. this one is easy….
Michael Brito Advocates already love the brand and talk about it everywhere. Influencers, for the most part, require incentives…
Shane Ketterman Thanks Michael! Do you think that Influencers and also be Altruistic and is that important?
Michael Brito there are also several tools you can use to help facilitate a brand advocate program …
Michael Brito Gaggle AMP, Social Toaster, Zuberance, Influitive, Social Chorus
New Media Expo What are some things to consider when putting together a customer advocacy progam?
Shane Ketterman I like the distinction actually and in a way – – we are all advocates for something – – I fall in love with things I use and tell others on a continual basis, but companies may not even know that I’m doing it…
David Schwartz Are Edelman clients looking for social media ROI as well as metrics?
Michael Brito @Shane — good point. Usually influencers are advocates of a certain vertical i.e. travel, technology … there are always exceptions
Michael Brito but rarely are they going to talk about just ONE brand. The advocates will .. assuming the level of emotional equity associated with their experiences with it
Megan Enloe Good point Shane. Michael can you share some ways companies can find and reward the people who already love them and are naturally being their advocates?
Mark Fidelman Do you think traditional PR is making the leap to Social? or are they still resisting the move?
Tina Baljian Michael- In the ”what’s in it for me” world, what can a brand do to encourage word of mouth marketing ?
Michael Brito Mark Fidelman .. they have to and if they haven’t yet began the transition, they will surely find themselves irrelevant and losing business.
Michael Brito @David yes, many of our clients report into digital marketing organizations so ROI is extremely important.
Michael Brito @megan usually advocates can be found through a conversation audit. An audit will tell you where the conversation is happening (twitter, blogs, forums, etc.), the sentiment of conversations and also identify the advocates. Also looking at your own facebook/twitter activity is a way to find advocates … they are the ones that are commenting/sharing/RTing, Liking your content the most. Simply MEasured (monitoring company) can also do this.
Dave Taylor Michael, social media is fundamentally about *people*, but that often is at odds with the need of a brand to remain autonomous and anonymous. There’s no Mr. Nike or Ms. Starbucks. The result: we have companies like Panasonic and Wal-Mart creating fake people to tap into social media’s buzz – astroturfing – or brands more identified by their representatives (I’m thinking of Microsoft and Robert Scoble) even when the person’s left the company. How do you counsel companies find a balance with this complex tension and be successful here on FB and elsewhere online?
Michael Brito @David — some ROI metrics also include decreasing call center calls, etc.
Mark Fidelman Michael Brito who inn your opinion has made the transition?
Michael Brito @Dave .. i look at it differetnly. Social media is about content… but that content should be created (paid, owned, earned) in a way that changes behavior. You can’t change behavior unless the brand is “human”. Dell is a great example of a company that has created employee advocacy .. basically enabling their employees to build their personas online. And guess what, they don’t just have one person. They have several hundred as does Intel and IBM Social Business.
Michael Brito so when I think of the Dell brand, I don’t think of Austin or a logo or whatever. I think of the people that work there that I have relationships with…
New Media Expo Michael Brito What can a brand do to seem more human when all customers see is a logo?
Michael Brito creating fake people isn’t smart and I think most companies have learned that this isn;t a best practice. Instead, they are using employees, customers and partners to feed into the content engine.
Michael Brito Mark Fidelman do I really need to answer this? LOL .. of course Edelman but also Ogilvy has done a fantastic job and even some of the smaller PR firms like Shift Communications, Voce, etc.
New Media Expo Beyond Facebook, what are some of the ways brands are reaching out to their communities/customers and achieving good results?
Michael Brito New Media Expo .. as I said in an earlier comments, employee advocacy (which I will talk about in my session) is the key to humanizing a brand. Not just empowering employees, but “enabling” them using content, process and even technology.
Michael Brito New Media Expo they are data mining their Jive/Lithium support communities and many are creating new communities using advocacy platforms like Fancorps, Influitive and Social Chorus.
New Media Expo Michael Brito – I know you had another appointment this afternoon. Thanks so much for joining us for our chat today, and I hope you won’t be a stranger on the NMX Facebook page.
Michael Brito Thank you New Media Expo .. had a great time!
Michael Brito I will stick around for a few more mnutes in case there are any more questions.
New Media Expo Thanks, Michael! Looking forward to your presentation at NMX and feel free to use this space to pitch your latest project.

Mark Fidelman Michael Brito I am very disappointed with most PR firms, where do you feel the industry needs to evolve? Also, Will traditional PR be dead in 5 years?

Michael Brito Mark Fidelman .. traditional PR functions like media relations will never go away. It will change but won’t be dead. The evolution needs to come because the skillset requirements will change. Many traditional PR pros don’t get social, search, paid media, etc. That will change.
If you enjoyed this chat, be sure to check out Michael’s session at the BusinessNext Social conference in January! And, if you’d like to join us for our next lunchtime chat, visit us on Facebook this Wednesday (10/31) at 10am PT/1pm ET as we welcome our special guest Phil Hollows, perhaps best-known for his work at FeedBlitz and author of List Building for Bloggers.

10 Ways to Double Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising

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Your nonprofit organization is finally gaining traction. Your friends and family come to your events, your website redesign has all the bells and whistles it needs to be taken seriously, and you’ve even been interviewed by a local reporter. But there’s one important thing missing: donations. After you’ve earned 501(c)(3) status, the onus is on you to raise money to keep your organization afloat. Fear not, noble citizen; social media is once again here to save the day and double your donation dollars.

Here are 10 sites to help you in your fundraising efforts:

1. Causecast

Tech entrepreneur Ryan Scott developed Causecast to help organizations through increased volunteer and fundraising engagement around social change. He and his team believe global change must be achieved through collaboration along with individual action. The site helps secure donations as well as volunteer hours from local businesses that are looking to make an impact in their community. The site also provides nonprofits with customizable tools that encourage new and old supporters to donate on your website, blog, and on Facebook. These services are free to your organization so you can spend the extra money on that iPad you’ve been meaning to buy for “business purposes.” Causecast boasts nearly 3,000 nonprofit members on its homepage, which includes some of the top organizations in the country.

2. PostRelease

If your organization hasn’t gotten in the habit of content marketing, you’re missing out on big businesses looking to place sponsored content on your website. Serial entrepreneur Justin Choi created PostRelease to minimize those pesky banner ads and facilitate a much more organic web experience. With a simple plugin, you automatically integrate relevant sponsored content into your blogs, forums, and content-rich sites. It serves as an automated revenue stream and/or you can use it to sell advertiser-sponsored content on your site(s). If you’re not already drooling, you’ll salivate at the ease in which the platform’s dashboard allows you to monitor and manage the sponsored content.

3. Google Grants

You’ve heard of Google, right? Up until now you may not have had much use for their main moneymaker, AdWords, but the search engine behemoth wants to give your organization $10,000 worth of free advertising on their homepage. All this coveted real estate requires is an application to their Google for Nonprofits site. Once approved, you can begin leveraging online advertising to reach donors, tracking online donations and promoting your organization’s website to ultimately grow your fundraising dollars.

4. Youtube for Nonprofits

The third largest search engine, YouTube, falls right in line with Google’s other product offerings for nonprofits. Have you ever watched a YouTube video so moving, so wrenching, so powerful that you wanted to donate right away? YouTube for Nonprofits provides that solution by allowing organizations to monetize video content with one click. Approved nonprofits can easily add a Google Checkout “Donate now” button to their YouTube page so every view can turn into a few bucks. Equally impressive, you can customize your channel with your organization’s logo as well as drive viewers to action by placing a “Call to Action” overlay on your videos.

5. Fundly

Fundly is a super social way to raise money for nonprofit initiatives with its plethora of social features. The site claims to increase donations by over 20%, while helping increase campaign visibility online by 424% on average. Percentages aside, your supporters are directed to a Fundly Cause custom page, where visitors learn more about your cause and can easily donate. They then can tell friends and family about their donation through Facebook, Twitter, and more. Some might call this bragging, I call it your new best friend. In a perfect world, social media aficionado Ashton Kutcher will make a donation to your campaign through the Fundly platform and his post of that contribution will go viral.

6. GoodSearch

GoodSearch takes web browsing to an altruistic level by allowing supporters to raise money for their favorite charities through search. The website donates money to your organization when your supporters search the Internet, shop online or dine out at local restaurants. Everyone you know does these things as often as they brush their teeth! Your fresh-breath supporters will have no qualms about a percentage of every eCommerce purchase they make or percentage of their restaurant bill at participating locations being donated to your charity. I urge you to get started sometime in the next millisecond and easily spread the word with the site’s email, social media, newsletter, and video resources.

7. HelpAttack!

Don’t you wish you could raise money through Facebook statuses, blog posts and even tweets? I’m sure your mother would actually join Twitter just to support your charity. Along with your mother, HelpAttack! lets supporters simply update one of their social sites to help you reach new levels in funding. Their donations are handled securely by a donation processor so can feel confident their good deeds are being funneled properly. The giving platform adds further incentive by rewarding donors with Coins that access new features, and gets others to join your noble cause.

8. Groupon Grassroots

Whether you love or hate Groupon, the daily deal site helps local nonprofits meet and exceed their fundraising goals through local participation. Dubbed Groupon Grassroots, the giving initiative evolved out of Groupon’s collective action platform to discover and support local causes. Each campaign connects like-minded individuals with a nonprofit to help realize a specific monetary threshold. Once that threshold is reached, Groupon sends 100% of the donations to the organization and you get to bask in those warm and fuzzy feelings. Known for their quippish content, a team of writers specific to Grassroots graciously crafts your campaign deals to maximize your “cool factor.”

9. eBayGivingWorks

eCommerce giant eBay enacted eBay GivingWorks to help nonprofits gain exposure and create a new revenue stream. With a simple sign up on www.missionfish.org, organizations gain access to eBay’s billion dollar marketplace. Your supporters can use eBay GivingWorks to donate 10% to 100% of their item’s final sale price to your charity. For every listing that benefits your organization, buyers will see a banner with your information, as well as a link to your eBay GivingWorks page. You can also encourage members, volunteers, donors, and affiliates to look for your organization to make purchases on your eBay GivingWorks page.

10. Crowdrise

Film star Edward Norton has been making major contributions to nonprofit sector for years but you won’t catch him patting himself on the back for it. Instead he helps run a trailblazing crowdfunding site with components of social networking and virtual competitions. Nonprofits and their supporters are encouraged to create a profile to raise money through contests, donations, and even purchasing actor Will Ferrell’s Super Sexy Hot Tan Sunscreen. Each project is complemented with a compelling story, vibrant pictures, and a real-time scroll of who’s donating.

Now that you have these awesome tools to reach your fundraising goals, stop making excuses and start making your donorship grow! Once you’ve found your groove with which sites work best for your organization, double down on those and build an avid community around your efforts. Remember, these social sites shouldn’t be used as gimmicks, but rather long-standing or reoccurring campaigns that create sustainable fundraising solutions.

How to Work with Brand Bloggers

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This post will help businesses, both large and small, understand brand blogs–sites written by consumers that exist for the sole purpose of talking about a company and/or its products. Do you know how to engage with brand bloggers and the opportunities that exist? Read on to learn more!

 

A topic near and dear to my heart is blogs that are created by customers which are all about well-known brands.  This is a phenomenon that is now down-right common.  It’s amazing how many customers have created blogs about well-known brands!

First, a few examples of the kinds of blogs that I’m talking about:

I’m sure there are many more brand fan blogs out there.  Those were just a few that were very easy to find with a few Google searches. The list of customer-created fan blogs is stunningly long.

For the large brand (or even a smaller brand), all of this can equal surprise and uncertainty. If you’re Lululemon, or any other brand where a customer has created a fan blog, you don’t know what they’re going to say next. You don’t know which products they’ll love. And, you never know if the fan blog will turn on the brand. There is a complete loss of control. Even worse, the brand may worry that the fan site will become so large that it will be confused with a corporate-created website. The brand’s voice then competes with the fan’s voice.

Since September 2009, I have been writing about Starbucks. There’s no doubt, they know I exist. I’m in the unusual position that I’m blogging about a brand close to home. I live not too far from the Starbucks headquarters and the first Starbucks in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. I am so close, I can actually easily go to Starbucks events that would only happen in Seattle. Because of this, I’ve met a number of corporate headquarters Starbucks employees.

My blog, as I write this, receives over 30,000 absolute unique visitors each month. It’s slowly grown over time. A year from now, I might be saying it has 35,000 or 40,000 uniques. It certainly didn’t start out at that level of readership – and that’s still fairly small. And obviously, I am not CNN or a major news source. However, it is possible that at an ordinary customer can have a real voice about a brand. For example, if you look at the Trader Joe’s blog mentioned above, you’ll see that its hit-counter lists well over 2 million hits so far! That’s one very popular blog!

There is no doubt that through Facebook and Twitter, it’s possible that a customer with a big brand fan blog might be able to have direct contact with other fans, possibly brand detractors, company employees, and even possibly corporate executives. All of this comes down to one thing: Each individual customer now has the possibility to have a much larger voice than ever before. Anyone can start a blog. The choice of the brand is to either engage or ignore. That’s it: either engage or ignore. My position is that engagement is the best option.

It’s been cited that a brand advocate is worth much more than an average customer.  Zuberance, a California-based company designed to energize brand advocates, writes “Brand Advocates are worth at least 5x more than average customers. This is because they spend more and their recommendations drive sales.”

The customer-created brand blog is not a mysterious unicorn. It’s real. Any brand could end up with customers writing about them. And honest reviews, unfiltered, and unsolicited, are the most genuine.

4 Tips for Working with Brand Bloggers: 

Recognize that a brand fan blog is fueled by passion for the brand

There is no doubt, for a customer to write for years consistently about a brand, he or she has to be filled with passion for the brand. Probably there are no “wet noodle” personalities with big successful brand fan blogs. Susan Martin’s IKEA fan blog is still going strong seven years into blogging. She started blogging in 2005 about IKEA. One doesn’t blog for seven years about IKEA without really having some passion for the brand.

Your customers who create long-term fan blogs love you. They passionately love you. And expect them to truly characterize the kind of personality that gets very passionate about a topic.

You can expect that one with a big, vocal passionate personality might have fixed convictions that he or she won’t budge on, or may come on strongly when engaged. Despite all this, passions fuels this.

Reach out to dedicated fan bloggers; do not ignore them

It takes a tremendous amount of work to keep a fan blog going. There isn’t a monetary incentive for the overwhelming majority of brand fan blogs. (I couldn’t find any evidence of any monetary compensation in any of the listed fan blogs above.)

A little reaching out goes a long way to keep inspiration alive.

And for many people, the more emotionally invested he or she feels in a brand, the less likely he or she is going to write negative commentary about it. Reaching out to brand bloggers can help lock in that emotional attachment to a brand. A brand can never control everything that is going to be said about it. And often times, honest feedback couched in a true vision of making the brand better is nothing to be scoffed at. Customers have great insights.

And so once again, since the fan brand blogger is not motivated by a paycheck, a little reaching out to the brand goes a long way.

For example, in 2010, IKEA reached out to their fans, hosting a IKEA brand evangelists event in New York City, and giving those fans a bag of gifts, and the latest IKEA catalogue two weeks early. Not every brand is going to host trips to New York City for their biggest fans, but it is definitely an example of a large brand truly recognizing and responding to brand evangelists.

In January 2012, I went to a nicely organized coffee tasting at the Olive Way Starbucks as part of the Starbucks PR department’s blogger outreach. I wrote about it here.  I love events that have a true element of exclusivity to them.  I enjoyed being able to see the Starbucks concept store, Roy Street, shortly before it opened to the public and being able to write about that before the store’s grand opening.

As yet another example of incredible blogger outreach, Anthropologie sent a number of bloggers on a trip to Philadelphia for the opening of a wedding-themed Anthropologie store. I have heard that Anthropologie did reach out to at least one blogger who writes specifically an Anthroplogie brand blog. The trip to Philadelphia is mentioned in an article by a wedding blogger.

Consider the bloggers who are dedicated to your brand. If the brand passes over a very passionate blogger, it may truly come off as if the blog is not appreciated.

I think even small gestures mean a lot. I was reading through Nathan Aaron’s “Method Lust” blog and noticed that now and then he mentions that Method will send him sneak previews of new products. It could be as simple as sending the brand advocate a bottle of Fig Aroma Spray.

Read the comments

The value of a brand blog doesn’t end at the author’s article. Read the comments. That’s so important, I feel like I should say it twice. Read the comments.

A blog that is getting even a dozen comments per article provides a lot of insight about customer response to a specific product or concept.

Remember the authenticity of the voice is priceless. As a great example of this, earlier this year I wrote an article about the Pink Lime Frozt and the Coconut Lime Frozt at Starbucks. You might be thinking that you’ve never heard of these beverages. In the spring of this year, Starbucks did a large test of these beverages, mostly in Southern states, though to date, there has never been a nationwide launch. But my article on the Pink Lime Frozt has over 50 comments. That’s a tremendous amount of feedback on a test product. The same thing happened when I wrote about the test product, the “Apple Crumble Frappuccino.” Don’t miss the chance to get valuable feedback.

On top of it all, the blog comments may have replies by the blog owner – one more chance to get to know the personality of the brand’s customer with a fan blog.

Be transparent at all times

There is nothing worse than having a brand-blogger customer reaching out to a corporate headquarters, and having him or her sent in circles, and/or being told that someone will get back to them, and no one does. Even worse, completely ignored emails.  It can equally leave a bad taste in one’s mouth if a brand PR person says (hypothetically), “We’d like you to try a new product  …” and then there is no follow up to arrange a trial of the new product.

If someone is passionate enough to dedicate years to blogging about your specific brand, he or she should not be left hanging in conversations with the corporation, whether in person or in an electronic form.

Good business manners are good business manners, whether dealing with people internally or externally.

At the end of the day, some of this is common sense. Develop a positive relationship with bloggers. They’re valuable for the brand due to their reach. A blogger who is reaching even 1,000 unique visitors a day, in some ways, has a megaphone in his or her hands. That person is akin to media in some ways. The positive relationship with the blogger can help ignite a positive outlook about the brand on that blog.

It’s likely that no brand is immune to the possibility of having a customer start an entire blog just to talk about that brand. Be ready and willing to reach and be transparent with that blogger.

Did You Miss Out on 44 Publicity Opportunities Last Week?

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Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a great resource for those looking to build up expertise and credibility in a field by offering information to reporters and PR professionals. The brainchild of Peter Shankman, HARO currently boasts over 200,000 sources as members, and I suspect that many of the savvy NMX blog readers are among those in this number. HARO provides a great opportunity for an individual (and sometimes a related business) to gain publicity and credibility via a variety of mainstream and alternative media outlets. When a reporter is looking for a source for a story, they post an inquiry to the HARO list, and folks can respond and offer their input. This can lead to being quoted in the story and often a backlink or referral from a highly-trafficked website (not to mention the ability to say “as seen in [insert well-known publication here]”.

Recently I started noticing a trend in the various HARO requests.

They want photos.

Lots of them.

Bloggers... with photos... at BlogWorld I counted… during a recent week, forty-four HARO requests asked for photographs. Sometimes it was of an office, product, or situation, but more commonly it was of you, the source. In order to get the free publicity (and arguably, credibility) that comes along with being published as a result of a HARO inquiry, you would need to submit a decent photo of yourself. For several years now we’ve heard that photos and graphics help drive reader engagement with our blog posts, and when a journalist or author is creating content of their own the same remains true. If they’re going to write about your experiences or cite you as an expert, there’s a good chance they’re going to want a photograph.

We often think of blogging as a text-centric medium, and we increasingly hear about vlogging and podcasts, but still photographs are an important bit of supporting material. If you don’t have some decent photos of yourself, I’d suggest that you should obtain some… they can be an important part of a blogger’s tool kit. As a professional photographer myself, I’m biased in suggesting that you find someone who knows what they’re doing to create your photos. You should be able to find someone near you who can create a professional business portrait for you. It doesn’t have to be stiff or formal…when I work with my clients we create images that reflect their personality and flair. If you don’t know a photographer or haven’t seen a recommendation from someone you trust, head over to the Professional Photographers of America’s Find a Photographer directory. You can search by location and find someone who’s a member of the professional organization. If you’re not in the US, see if there’s a professional photographer association in your locale.

Just as you’re probably prepared to give someone your elevator pitch, you should be ready to supply them with a photo if requested. Avoid disappointment of what would be an otherwise-great publicity opportunity because you don’t have a photo ready.

How PetFlow Cornered the Pet Food Industry

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You may not have heard of PetFlow.com yet, but if you have a pet, I’m sure you could use their service. How many times have you hated to run out and have to lug home a 30 pound bag of dog food? If you answered yes, then you might as well already be a customer of PetFlow, as they offering a full pet food delivery service. What’s even more important than their service, is how they got to where they are today and already doing over a million a month in business, in just a little over a year of going live.

Let’s breakdown the success of PetFlow and what you can learn from their company.

The Pet Industry

Step 1, find a niche that works. Outside of your family and kids, if you have a pet, they are your life. More people are spending money on buying food, toys and medical needs for their pet than even themselves! Here’s a mind blowing stat for you. While the rest of the world’s economy is in decline, the pet food industry is rocking. In 1994, over $17 billion was generated from the pet food industry, jump forward to 2011 and we are not seeing a $50 billion in annual spending. How’s that for a massive increase in spending within a niche that just doesn’t seem to stop growing.

A Little Internet Marketing Background Never Hurt

Step 2, stick with what you know. Before you start ripping your hair our and thinking of how great the pet food delivery concept is, and that it’s something you should have started, you also need to know that PetFlow was started by two extremely smart and talented guys, Alex Zhardanovsky and Joe Speiser. Since we are all in the internet marketing space, the names might already ring a bell, they were the guys who started Azoogle, which then was changed to EpicAdvertising. Using proceeds from their 40% sale of Azoogle, they put forth the idea to create PetFlow, and then put their marketing genius and connections to work. It wasn’t easy to convince the dog food brands to jump aboard a pet food delivery service, as many have failed in the past, but the guys at PetFlow were able to do it, and are now killing it in the pet food industry.

Incredible Ad Campaigns & Marketing

Step 3, what worked for one campaign, might work for another. As mentioned, the guys who started PetFlow have a vast background in internet marketing, as well as a decent amount of advertising dollars to promote the company. Using both of these tactics, the company can get right in the customers face and make them almost have to take advantage of pet food delivery right to their home. From online pet food coupons, offline flyers, over 200,000 fans on their Facebook Fan Page and search/banner marketing that would make any marketer jealous, PetFlow is top dog when it comes to advertising in the pet industry.

Cute Puppies and Kittens as Your Spokesperson!

Step 4, get the customers attention. What are some of the best ways that brands in the pet industry are selling their products, through the use of cute puppies, kittens and animals of course! Using this same concept, PetFlow has been able to incentive their ad campaigns and service to get right in the face of their customers. If you are visiting a web site or looking through a handful of flyers, how you are not going to stop and look at the cute animals that are begging for your attention. A true marketing tactic that seems so pure and innocent, yet works so well.

There is a lot we can learn from PetFlow, as well as a service nearly all pet owners can use. The principles mentioned above can be applied to any business model. Find and create a service that is needed, then build it and market around the customer. Through the use of amazing ad copy, online coupons and relating to the customer with real pets and animals, PetFlow has found success that will last them for many years to come.

Knock, Knock. Who’s There? We’re Not Really Sure. Might Not Be Toyota.

Author:

… by Lucretia Pruitt

The masthead at the top of the page reads Dear Crissy: Momhood Captured

A classy and pretty blog that takes you through the days and experiences of one mom – Crissy.  Her picture and her family’s hang to the upper right of the page serving as both guardians and a reminder that you are here on her site. Someplace that there are adults, kids, possibly animals, lessons to learn, things to be reflected back on. From the design of the site? You know you’re on a bona fide Mommy Blog here.

Do you want to know about Crissy? Click on the About link – she’s pretty open. You think you’re here for ADS & PR? Open that link right up – it’s clearly visible on the page.

Dear Crissy is a PR-friendly blog, and while I am happy to accept all pitches, I am more likely to respond if you address me by my name (brownie points if you spell it right), and demonstrate that you have taken a moment to familiarize yourself with my blog. That said, let’s talk! dearcrissy@gmail.com.

Well now, that makes sense.  If I were a PR or AD gal, or even a brand representative, looking to know if we could work with her? There it is in a nutshell.

You know what it doesn’t say though?

It doesn’t say what sets Crissy off. Namely: being treated by a would-be client as if she’s cheap, unskilled labor – simply there to be taken advantage of by anyone clever enough to make it sound like they’re doing her a favor. Worse if they think she’s too stupid to know that she’s being used.

It actually sets anyone off. But, if you’re a professional blogger? You lose count of the number of times you have to explain to someone that ‘no, you don’t work for free‘, and ‘no, not for “exposure” but for actual money, although you might be willing to consider a product to review and keep if it were something you’d consider buying anyways‘  and that you are smart enough to know the FTC regulations that pertain to your industry, and you will be disclosing it, and you won’t have words put in your mouth.

You move from patiently treating folks as if they just need a little education on the subject, to frustratedly realizing that if you have to be educating them on those very basic concepts? They shouldn’t be working in blogger outreach.

So recently, when Crissy Page opened up yet another email pitch (she gets many of those, daily – because she’s a good blogger with a large audience that is fairly engaged) she was perhaps not surprised, but truly offended to read the ‘pitch’ that was inside.  In her own words:

Toyota wants to give me a $10 Amazon gift card to post some of their recent “positive news” on my blog, Tweet it to my 32,000 Twitter followers, and give a whole slew of their videos an endorsement on YouTube. Seriously, Toyota? I mean, seriously?

It appeared to Crissy – and a lot of people who later read the contents of the email pitch she received posted in its entirety – that Toyota was offering to pay mom bloggers $10 a piece to bury recent bad press.

So then the blogging began – which is what bloggers do. They write about stuff they think is relevant to their readers.

Crissy’s post about it here not only included the email, but her reactions, and a link to a blog post from fellow mom blogger, Amanda Henson, over at High Impact Mom who had pointed out that a recent television ad by Toyota which had the line “we don’t make cars for magazines, or road tests, or bloggers – we make them for you…” was less than friendly to bloggers. Crissy said that she had nothing against the woman from MommyNetworks.org who had sent her the bad pitch but stated “I have no idea how much she was compensated by Toyota to recruit mom bloggers in this scenario. I can only assume it was more than a $10 Amazon gift card.

News of Crissy’s post started spreading quickly. Other blogs started picking up the story and the Twitter hashtag #ToyotaFail began showing up in Tweets about the incident with links back to her post.  Toyota’s social media team was paying attention though, and put up a tweet quickly using the hashtag to make sure it showed up on the “Twitter Channel” folks were listening to that read “Have found no contracted affiliation w/ mommynetworks. We don’t support this type of outreach. Getting to the bottom of this.^SD #toyotafail”

At around the same time Samantha Snyder, the owner of Mommy Networks, contacted Crissy by email stating that she had no professional affiliation with Toyota, but had initiated this program on her own, because she was both a loyal Toyota fan and because she thought she could use it as a ‘case study’ for Mommy Networks to attract new customers.

Some skepticism at this idea naturally arose in the comments section of Crissy’s post (which was updated to reflect new information as it came flying in.) The question as to where the money for the $10 Amazon Gift cards was coming from has yet to be answered.  But Samantha’s presence in the Comments section defending her actions brought a new question into focus: if Samantha had no relationship with Toyota – how was a blogger supposed to know if the pitch coming her way was legitimate?

Christy, who blogs at ShakeTheSalt.com, commented that “Between this and the Lansinoh thing, I’m thinking companies need to figure out who they are and are not working with.

Wait, what? Lansinoh? What Lansinoh thing?

A little digging on Google brought to light another such blogger/brand incident that occured recently over Lansinoh® breast pumps.  It appears that Jennifer McKinney (also known as @mckmama) had posted a giveaway on her blog of 4 Lansinoh® Affinity® Double Electric Breast Pumps.  From what can be ascertained by reading Lansinoh’s official response to the incident here and on Ms. McKinney’s post about the incident here – it seems clear that a PR agency had given Ms. McKinney the pumps to give away. Lansinoh claims it was done without their knowledge or approval. Ms. McKinney claims she has emails to the contrary. No one seems willing to name the mysterious PR agency/3rd party that acted on behalf of Lansinoh to offer Ms. McKinney the 4 pumps (valued at around $600.) What is not discernable is why Lansinoh felt that it needed to say “Lansinoh does not support or endorse the blog My Charming Kids or @MckMama” while admitting that their agency did in fact supply her with them.

A little more digging brings up a site that seems to be dedicated solely to exposing issues with Ms. McKinney, and from their own post on the matter here? They seem to have had a hand in bringing about Lansinoh’s awareness, the initial tweeted responses that Lansinoh was not affiliated with Ms. McKinney, her site, or the giveaway, and in part, the final statement that it was a “3rd party” who was responsible.

Let’s talk just a moment here about agency, shall we?

We social media types throw the word agency around a lot when we’re talking about who does what, and what kind of company is responsible for what kind of work.  But the term “agency” has a very specific, legal meaning in the U.S. The wikipedia entry for agency reads:

The law of agency is an area of commercial law dealing with a contractual or quasi-contractual, or non-contractual set of relationships when an agent is authorized to act on behalf of another (called the Principal) to create a legal relationship with a Third Party. Succinctly, it may be referred to as the relationship between a principal and an agent whereby the principal, expressly or impliedly, authorizes the agent to work under his control and on his behalf. The agent is, thus, required to negotiate on behalf of the principal or bring him and third parties into contractual relationship. This branch of law separates and regulates the relationships between:

* Agents and Principals;
* Agents and the Third Parties with whom they deal on their Principals’ behalf; and
* Principals and the Third Parties when the Agents purport to deal on their behalf.

Unless you’re a lawyer or just dig legalease, that sounds a little complex. So I’m going to put it in lay terms:

When a brand hires any “agency” whether it’s a PR agency, a Digital agency, or Social Media agency, the brand representatives sign papers with that agency that let them negotiate or contract with other people on the brand’s behalf.

This means that when a blogger is working with Bob’s PR Agency on a campaign for Susie’s Widgets, Bob is working as an agent for Susie to hire the blogger.

You see, too many bloggers have absolutely no background in business.  They are writers and community builders and dang good ones.  But that doesn’t mean that they automatically know that an “agent” has specific legal powers and responsibilities.

When the whole #ToyotaFail event came to the attention of Scott DeYager (@ScottDeYager) of Toyota’s social media team, the first thing he did was try to contact the folks at MommyNetworks to find out who she was working with. “@mommynetworks Hi there. Wondering if you could DM me who (if anyone) at Toyota contracted you to seed the Toyota news. Thanks.

One of the first things the folks at Lansinoh did was try to track down who, if anyone, was working with Ms. McKinney.

The reason for this is that if an agency contracted someone to work on your behalf? You can end up legally responsible for whatever they say or do in your name. Because, signing a contract with an agency giving them the power to create agreements with bloggers is the same as if you hired them yourself when it comes to legal stuff.

So who is responsible for what then?

Well, usually in cases like this if there are damages (another legally specific term), the lawyers and the courts start getting involved. And then it comes up to them to determine what the damage was, who was responsible, and whether or not the problem can be fixed (remedied) or can only be punished (punitive damages) in order to discourage people from doing it again.

In the instance of Jennifer McKinney and Lansinoh? According to her post, it looks like Jennifer is not taking any further actions. Lansinoh hasn’t said anything other than they’re “looking into their approval processes” which likely means that next contract with the PR agency they hired is likely to read a little differently.

On the Toyota-MommyNetworks front, as of the writing of this, Ms. Snyder had replaced her MommyNetworks.org site with an apology of sorts. A letter to Crissy & Toyota that reads a little bit like an admission, and a still a bit like an accusation that somehow this is Crissy’s fault.

She expresses the hope that everyone will just leave her alone now. And while it’s a nice idea to think that you can just say “oops, I’m sorry, I’ll stop. Go away now” – that depends entirely on what Toyota’s legal department will have to decide (and also that of Care.com’s – who on a sidenote was dragged into the mess due to a copyright in the footer of mommynetworks.org. One that Ms. Snyder said was ‘there when she bought the template from her designer.’)  The negative PR that arose from this incident may or may not be overlooked by the companies it hurt.  Since they were apparently the unwitting victim of this ill-conceived idea, they may not be so willing to let Ms. Snyder off the hook lest other bloggers think that they can do the same without consequences.

The fallout from the whole thing has yet to be felt.

As a result of things like this? There’s the question in blogger’s minds about who they can and can’t trust.  If a pitch comes from an agency, will the brand back it up?  Lansinoh didn’t back up Ms. McKinney.  If the pitch comes from someone who not only isn’t an agency, but also has no relationship with the brand – how will a blogger know it’s not legit?  Should their FTC mandated disclosures include the PR agency that hired the blogger on behalf of the brand?

And over on the brand side — How are you to protect yourself from well-meaning bloggers? Toyota did nothing in this case yet was the focus of a flurry of negative PR.  Do the brands know who the agencies are contracting with on their behalf? Are they included in the conversations and emails of the agencies and bloggers?  How much more work is it going to cause if they have to micromanage the agencies they hired so that they didn’t have to do this themselves?  What about the bloggers who need to verify if someone is working on their behalf – is there an obvious point of contact for them within the brand?

Christy over at ShakeTheSalt.com says “I do not think it falls on the blogger to fact check a PR reps claims that they represent XYZ brand. The chance of false claims from a PR rep about who they represent is slim to none.  Campaigns are not cheaply run and the product has to come from somewhere when product is involved.”

Kelby Carr who runs her own blogger network at TypeAParent.com commented on Crissy’s post “This is very scary…One, it is really disturbing that someone can slap up a site and start pretending to represent major corporations, and ask mom bloggers to do ethically questionable things for $10 gift cards. Two, I think there is a lesson in here for companies. Toyota is smart and clearly monitors the discussion about their company in social media. What about a company that doesn’t? That isn’t on Twitter and pays no attention to blogs? The truth might have never come out.

There will be a period of mistrust on both sides of the fence after episodes like these.  Which is sad, because they really need to be working together to make things work well.  The question of who should bear the burden? Well, I guess that depends on who stands the most to lose. At the moment, that pretty much looks like everybody.

Bonnie Harris on Traditional versus New Media (part 2)

Author:

Yesterday, I posted the first part of an interview with Bonnie Harris on traditional versus new media. Here’s the rest of that interview – some can’t miss information about new media in a world that comes from a different perspective. Check out part one before continuing with the rest below:

Allison: What are some of the differences between what most bloggers doing and how corporate blogs should be run?

Bonnie: I see a lot of blogs that look like they’re just hobbies of someone at the company. They don’t seem to have a strong mission, voice or purpose. Maybe someone likes to write and this is an outlet for that…that’s fine if there’s time for such an activity. I think, however, that without goals that translate to business goals (more revenue, better customer service, etc), most blogs just die.

I also see new blogs that are much too ambitious in the beginning. Unless you have the budget to do a big blog launch, no one will read it for a while. A couple posts a week by a problogger will work just fine to help build some archived content. Get a rhythm going, and a process, get your writing team and editorial guidelines established. THEN worry about great content, headlines, and search. I think most corporate bloggers do it backwards – they’re all gung ho to write the next Copyblogger when really they need to be managing all the components of a blog. Writing is just one piece of it.

Allison: What tips do you have for working with a team of professions at a company who all have access to the blog and social media accounts?

Bonnie: Again, think of the blog like a project. Have editorial guidelines, a calendar of blog posts, a clear mission and goals, and some frequency/content guidelines as well. You’ll find that some people are much more enthusiastic than others. Try to coach and train those people, and don’t worry so much about the folks that don’t want to contribute often. Blogging and social media aren’t for everyone, and you can’t force it. Having said that, if there are guidelines and a clear process, you’ll have a much easier time than you think.

Allison: For those who are interested in introducing blogging and new media to their managers/bosses/clients, what are some of the recommendations you have for helping them convince these old school marketers to get on board?

First of all, I would hesitate using the term “old school” – I think we need to blend new media and traditional tactics in order to be successful these days. Categorizing something as “old school” once again implies that it’s not as good or not as effective.

I do a lot of pilot, three month projects. Then I knock it out of the park during those three months.  And I ask THEM what goals they would like the blog to achieve…with some coaching from me of course. Maybe it’s more traffic to their product sales page. Perhaps they’d like to recruit influencers in the industry to write on the blog.  Most bloggers don’t do a good job of defining goals from a business standpoint. They don’t have to be aggressive goals, you just need to show progress against them. Again, it’s  about understanding how to justify this activity from a business perspective. Most of the time, I hear the person championing a new blog as saying something like “it’s the new way of marketing” or something vague like that. Those kinds of justifications won’t work with someone who has to manage your time and a budget.

Thank you so much for sharing all this valuable information with us, Bonnie. Readers, remember to check her out at the Wax Marketing blog and find her on Twitter!

Bonnie Harris on Traditional versus New Media (part 1)

Author:

Not every speaker proposal we got for BlogWorld was appropriate. Some were boring, over-done topics. Some were too self-promotional. Some were clearly thrown together in five minutes.

But some were fantastic. I don’t envy Deb, Dave, and Rick in having to pick from hundreds of awesome proposals for the relatively few spots we have open. Many proposals simply got passed up because there wasn’t enough space. Even more got passed up because multiple people wanted to talk about the same thing and someone else had more speaking experience. More still got passed up for other reasons, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t really great proposals. Bonnie Harris from Wax Marketing, in my opinion, had one of those proposals.

Luckily, I got a chance to speak with Bonnie about her top of choice – “Working with Old School Marketers.” In today’s world, there seems to me to be a great divide between those who understand new media and those who do not – which can sometimes cause problems when the two have to work together to create a comprehensive marketing plan for a business. Thank you, Bonnie, for agreeing to share you opinions and advice about this topic with everyone here at the BlogWorld blog!

Allison: Hi, Bonnie! Before we dive into this topic, tell us a little bit about your experiences working with traditional marketers and executives.

Bonnie: Most of the campaigns I work on involve integrated communications strategy.  We believe that a blend of messaging channels – traditional broadcast, combined with social media for example – is a powerful strategy if you pick the correct mix. For that reason I end up working with marketing executives at corporations, traditional publishers and agencies as well as new media consultants and bloggers in a lot of campaigns.

For example, I did a campaign for Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity to help promote  a series of videos on weight bias in schools and medical offices. We worked with the University’s public affairs office, the research scientists, bloggers in the “fatosphere” as well as mom bloggers ,  influencers on Twitter, traditional media such as the LA Times, and Good Morning America, medical trade press interested in obesity issues…the list went on and on.   My job as usual was to manage efforts across all these channels, and make sure they were in sync. We wanted to tweet at the same time our researcher was doing radio in LA, for example.  We blogged about weight bias when Jessica Simpson caught so much flack for her “mom jeans”. We used our celebrity spokesperson Emme to do interviews with mom bloggers and tried to time those just before her TV interviews.  That’s an example of what I do on a regular basis.

Allison: That definitely sounds like a challenging job. Do you find that there’s a disconnect between traditional marketers and today’s bloggers and new media experts?

Bonnie: I’m not sure disconnect is the right word. I think we simply have different perspectives and I’ve met great bloggers who really understand how to present ROI at a corporate meeting and marketing executives who are brilliant at social media. To me, if corporate bloggers and new media experts don’t understand how projects get justified in a corporate setting they will (and do) get very frustrated.  Also, they have to learn a greater respect for traditional marketing techniques and really get at least a baseline knowledge of what motivates sales. Because in effect, driving revenue is the bottom line in any for-profit corporation.

In return, marketing and PR folks need to stop treating bloggers like second class media. I was in a meeting recently where “mommy bloggers” were being discussed in an incredibly derisive tone. I luckily had some recent survey stats that showed the influence of moms on the internet, and they shut up pretty quickly. When we were doing the campaign for Yale, the mom bloggers and the “fatosphere” (they call themselves that, by the way) were the ones that really brought the videos to the attention of the traditional media, not the other way around.

Another thing traditional marketers need to understand is that the first place producers and editors look for sources and stories is the Internet. A strong digital footprint is an essential component of any modern communications strategy. (I say that a lot in meetings, by the way. It works.)

How can bloggers translate traditional stats into something traditional executives can understand?

I’ve never had any trouble with executives understanding web stats. Most of them get the principles of unique visitors, alexa rankings, etc. By the way, they tend to LOVE alexa…it shows them who is a their site in specific demographics, traffic percentages, and other really good information.

The problem is that bloggers need to show executives statistics that are relevant to them.  They could care less about unique pageviews. Show them that as your pageviews grew, it translated to something else that contributed to better customer service or higher traffic on the sales page. Then they’ll listen.

Just like web admins, bloggers need to think in terms of conversion. Traffic is great…but show them with Alexa that their key demographics are reading your blog. Show them that folks are going to a sales landing page from the blog. Show them that customers are engaging on the blog – or being driven to Facebook or Twitter from the blog and engaging there. Great blog content is a very small part of a corporate blog. You want to prove that it’s both a landing pad from other social media and a launch pad to other parts of the site where they can make money. You also want to show that it’s attracting and keeping readers with target demographics using Alexa stats, subscriber stats, whatever tools you have.

I do a small blog for a hearing aid company, it’s really simple but I post a couple times a week and tweet, etc.  An audiologist in another city saw the blog, and is now a client. That’s the ONLY justification I will ever have to do for that blog in my lifetime –  they are completely sold on having a blog now. It’s paid for itself already!  It’s really simple if you think according to management’s goals, not the goals of the blogger.

Wow, tons of information! So much that I’ve split up this interview into two parts. Check back tomorrow for more with Bonnie and traditional versus new media.

CEO's Are Actually "Social Media Slackers?"

Author:

news1_0 Looks like the biggest big-wigs of the biggest companies in the world might just have some explaining to do.  The world is shifting every day to a much more “socially networked” world, and everyone from your grandparents to your grandchildren are jumping on board and taking part.  That is, everyone except for CEO’s if reports that are coming in are as accurate as they believe they are.

That’s right, some of the CEO’s of the world’s largest and most successful companies are also some of the biggest slackers when it comes to social media and jumping on board the social networking bandwagon.  According to the most recent report done a company called ÜberCEO, who analyze and research the head honchos of the biggest companies:

“by Looking at their use of social media sites such as Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter and LinkedIn, ÜberCEO notably found that none of the Fortune 100 CEOs has a blog and “81% of CEOs don’t have a personal Facebook page…Perhaps most shocking of all, in light of Twitter’s popularity, “Only two CEOs have Twitter accounts.”

Is it me, or are those numbers astonishing?  Considering the fact that Fortune 100 companies include names from AT&T, Wal-Mart, Dell, Target, Rite-Aid and many, many others, you’d think that a greater percentage would be involved, especially considering the increasingly social nature that nearly all business on the internet is adopting.

The good news, however, is that for every major company that isn’t using Twitter, Facebook or any of the other major social networking sites and services, there are other companies that are using them, and they are on the rise.  Companies like Zappos, Ford and others are stepping it up, and while some might not be using their actual CEO’s to do the dirty work, at least they are getting their presence out there.

The real question is, when will the other 81% of the top CEO’s in the world get the hint, and start adding a little transparency to their business, and their lives?

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