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November 2011

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.

Klout CEO “We Messed Up On This One and Are Deeply Sorry”

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Klout has been dealing with quite a bit of criticism lately when it comes to how they measure your social media influence and who they measure it by.

There is an interesting story in the New York Times about a mom who discovered Klout had created a profile for her 13 year old son. Needless to say she was surprised and shocked. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

The boy had never set up a Klout page for himself; he was only her Facebook “friend,” so she could monitor his interactions there. Klout had automatically created a page for him and assigned him a score. Then Ms. McGary’s 15-year-old daughter Mimi popped up on her Klout page — this time not with a Klout score of her own, just a nudge to Ms. McGary to invite Mimi to join.

Basically, Klout was creating profiles without social media users even knowing about it. Which meant it was creating profiles for minors. Klout has said they do not market to children and they no longer create profiles automatically.

In a blog post entitled “We Value Your Privacy” from yesterday (November 13th), Klout CEO Joe Fernandez, offered up an apology.

We will always be vigilant in working with the platforms (Twitter/Facebook/etc), our legal counsel, and the community to do what’s right here. We messed up on this one and are deeply sorry.

There are so many people who are already questioning Klout, so this came at a really bad time for the company.

At the end of February, Allison did a Brilliant Bloggers post about Klout. It definitely makes for some interesting reading and I would love to see how many of these bloggers have changed their mind about Klout since then.

What are your thoughts on Klout’s misstep with creating profiles without permission?

Google Search Gives Us a Sampling of Their Algorithm Changes

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The team at Google Search have recently made some changes to their overall process. In fact, they say they make over 500 changes to search in a given year. Obviously they’re not going to list all of them, since some are susceptible to gaming, but they have listed 10 changes, or “improvements” as they call it, made over the last couple of weeks.

Example of search results for "Occupy Oakland Protest"

You can see their list of changes here, but the one that most likely will interest bloggers is the “Fresher, more recent results”. Here’s what Google had to say about this tweak on their blog today:

As we announced just over a week ago, we’ve made a significant improvement to how we rank fresh content. This change impacts roughly 35 percent of total searches (around 6-10% of search results to a noticeable degree) and better determines the appropriate level of freshness for a given query.

They gave many more details at the beginning of November, explaining why they made the changes. Usually when we are searching for something on Google, we want fresh content.

One example they gave is when a person types in “Olympics”. Most likely the person searching is looking for information on the upcoming Olympic Games, not the ones from 1990. So, when you type in ‘Olympics‘ (without even specifying 2012) you’ll see search results for the upcoming Olympic Games first.

You might be asking exactly how much this affects the search results. Here is an update Google gave on November 7th:

Update 11/7/11: To clarify, when we say this algorithm impacted 35% of searches, we mean at least one result on the page was affected, as opposed to when we’ve said noticeably impacted in the past, which means changes that are significant enough that an average user would notice. Using that same scale, this change noticeably impacts 6 – 10% of searches, depending on the language and domain you’re searching on.

Have you noticed a difference in your Google search results or your blog traffic (if you blog on recent events, hot topics, etc) since this update was made?

Are QR Codes Dead?

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If QR codes are already dead, its epitaph would read “we hardly knew ye.” It seems like just yesterday that someone was explaining a QR code to me, and I’m a pretty tech-savvy person. I know that some of my less Internet-y friends don’t understand or use them, my sister doesn’t even have a smartphone, and at BlogWorld, a group of us were actually talking about how the scanning aps we have don’t work very well, so we don’t scan them very often.

So are QR codes already dead? Is this a failed technology that we should put in the “it was a cool idea that never really panned out” pile?

Recently, Dave Wieneke from AdAge wrote a piece entitled “Why Marketers Shouldn’t Waste Their Time With QR Codes.” It’s hard to disagree with his claims – that marketers love them more than consumers do. They’re overused and often just lead consumers to more advertising, which is turning off anyone who has decided to check out what this QR thing is all about.

Not everyone agrees with Wieneke, of course. On ClickZ, Melinda Krueger argues a case for QR codes and if you do a quick Google search for “cool QR codes” you’ll come up with tons of results for people and companies using them in really unique ways. At BlogWorld LA 2011, Peter Shankman actually used the Stefan Pinto ad pictured at right to highlight smart advertising – it’s an example of a QR code used in a really funny way.

But there are a lot of people misusing QR codes, and it’s perhaps making them irrelevant for all of us. I can’t tell you how many times I see QR codes on websites. Really? That doesn’t even make sense. Or when I scan a code, it often takes me to the company home page. So what? I could have found you easily online after shopping…a QR code wasn’t necessarily. There was no “next step” for users (like “liking” a Facebook page) or benefit (like getting a coupon for some free products).

I don’t think QR codes are dead…yet. They are perhaps in the hospital bed, but the disease isn’t incurable if we take action. What do you think? Are QR codes on the way out? Do you use them for your website or business? As a consumer, do you scan them when you see them as part of marketing campaigns?

Building Your New Media Empire

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This year, BlogWorld attendees heard from an esteemed panel of online empire builders – host Mitch Joel from Six Pixels of Separation, BlogHer CEO Lisa Stone, Michael Stelzner from Social Media Examiner, and CEO of Federated Media Publishing Deanna Brown. If you want to check out the entire keynote, definitely pick up a virtual ticket. Here were some of my favorite quotes from the panelists:

Deanna Brown

  • “I think it’s less about new empires and more about the fall of empires – the fall of old media.”
  • “The most successful bloggers in our network blog about what they love.”
  • “Avoid anything that puts you in a box.”

Michael Stelzner

  • “If you pick an area where you see a hole…you can build a massive following, and you can turn that into a business.”
  • “Figure out what your customers of prospects are interested in…and then give them what they want.”
  • “I say that I’m a publisher, I don’t say that I’m a blogger. I think that’s how we have to think about it.”

Lisa Stone

  • “Today’s empire of one has to have a diversified business model.”
  • “There is no contest that the most important thing you can do is deliver a fantastic story.”

Again, this is just a small sampling of the awesome empire-building advice these three panelists had to share! Check out the virtual ticket to see the entire presentation and get access to ALL of the sessions from BlogWorld LA 2011.

About the Speakers

Mitch Joel was recently named one of iMedia’s 25 Internet Marketing Leaders. He blogs at Six Pixels of Separation and is the president of Twist Media. You can find him on Twitter @mitchjoel.

Michael Stelzner is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner. Technorati and AdAge rank his site as one of the world’s Top 10 business blogs. You can find him on Twitter @Mike_Stelzner.

Lisa Stone is the co-founder and CEO of of BlogHer. Their content hub at BlogHer.com reaches more than 27 million women monthly. She’s on Twitter @lisastone.

Deanna Brown is the CEO of Federated Media Publishing and the co-founder of CondeNet, the digital division of publisher CondeNast. Find her on Twitter @deannabrown.

3 Social Media Rules to Follow to Prevent Embarrassment or Getting Fired

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Your co-workers are very proud of you for being smart with your social media

With the news of Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter blunder, I thought it would be appropriate this Friday to offer up 3 Social Media Rules to Follow. From celebrities and politicians to us average everyday people, there is quite the list of mistakes being made on both Twitter and Facebook.

I know some of you are going to head out to your local bars this weekend to kick back and relax. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s times like those that some of the biggest social media mistakes are made. Yep, you know the ones I’m talking about. And of course, some of them are made just because of sheer misinformation or ignorance.

So, let’s start this weekend off right. I want you to walk into your office Monday morning with your head held high, not thinking “I wonder how many people saw my Facebook post?”

3 Social Media Rules to Follow

1. Get a DD (designated driver) and a DPH (designated phone handler – yes, I just made that up)

In Peter Shankman’s keynote speech at BWELA, he gave some fantastic tips on blogging, business and life tips. One life tip he follows is to leave his phone at home when he goes out with a particular friend. He learned the hard way that you can tweet and Facebook some pretty stupid stuff when you’re, shall we say, not thinking 100% clearly. So, either leave the phone at home or give it to a trusted friend. Emphasis on trusted.

2. Know who your followers and friends are

Back in 2009, teacher Ashley Pane was fired from her job when she posted pictures of herself on a trip to Europe. Some of the pictures were of her holding glasses of alcohol, as well as a reference to a local trivia contest with a profanity in its title.

Although her Facebook page was private, she was friends with a few of the teachers from her school. Long story short, the principal found out about the photos through a parent, called her in and gave her a choice: resign or be suspended.

If you think posting certain photos of yourself or a status update could compromise your job, don’t post them. Better yet, don’t be “friends” with your boss or with your friends’ kids.

3. Get back to the good ‘ol days where everything didn’t end up on the internets (the s added to internet was done on purpose, in case you were wondering)

Do you remember those days? Long gone is the water cooler talk when everyone is chatting about their weekend. Instead, the water cooler talk usually involves “Oh Em Gee, did you SEE what Frank did this weekend?”

Imagine not posting what you did this weekend on Facebook or Twitter. As you walk into the office on Monday, you’ll be the mystery man or woman. No one will know where you were or what you did. You will actually have to tell them, face to face and in-real-life. Crazy idea, I know.

Now it’s your turn. Share some social media rules you follow, wish you would have followed or wish your friends would follow. And, have fun this weekend as you use your social media smarts.

Ashton Kutcher Hands Over His Twitter Account

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When Ashton Kutcher saw on the news that Penn State football coach Joe Paterno had been fired, he did what he usually does and headed to Twitter.

The Two and a Half Men star tweeted “How do you fire Jo Pa?” Little did he know the background on the story and exactly why the coach was fired. Needless to say, some of his 8 million Twitter followers were infuriated.

One user tweeted, “Who is more ignorant? @Aplusk, or the over EIGHT MILLION idiots who follow him?” Kutcher replied back with “honestly it’s me.”

Another person tweeted, “with 8 million followers, you MAY want to reserve your opinions until you know the whole story.” With Kutcher replying with an “agreed.”

All of these tweets have been erased from his feed.

As most of you probably know, Paterno was fired  over how he handled child sex abuse allegations against an assistant coach. Kutcher somehow missed that part of the story.

So, what does a celebrity do after a huge snafu like this one? He hires a Twitter Management team, which some are calling a huge mistake.

In a post titled “Twitter Management” Kutcher explained the situation and reasoning behind his decision. He talks about the fact that he has posted virtually every single one of his tweets on his own, but feels now that 8 million followers is too hard for one guy to manage.

A collection of over 8 million followers is not to be taken for granted. I feel responsible to deliver informed opinions and not spread gossip or rumors through my twitter feed. While I feel that running this feed myself gives me a closer relationship to my friends and fans I’ve come to realize that it has grown into more than a fun tool to communicate with people. While I will continue to express myself through @Aplusk, I’m going to turn the management of the feed over to my team at Katalyst as a secondary editorial measure, to ensure the quality of its content. My sincere apologies to anyone who I offended. It was a mistake that will not happen again.

One of Kutcher’s latest tweets was “As an advocate in the fight against child sexual exploitation, I could not be more remorseful for all involved in the Penn St. case.” I guess this is possibly his last tweet done by him and him only?

Is Ashton Kutcher making a mistake and committing Twitter suicide? Sound off in the comments.

Image Source: Twitter

70+ Brilliant Bloggers Talk About #BWELA 2011

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What a whirl-wind weekend it was in Los Angeles, right? BlogWorld Expo is my favorite time of year, since I get to see old friends, make new ones, and get educated! Brilliant Bloggers is a weekly series we do here on the BlogWorld blog to create resource pages about specific new media topics – but for this special edition, I wanted to collect as many posts as I could find about the event. Good, bad, or ugly, we want to know what you thought!

Definitely check out the entire Brilliant Bloggers series and consider coming back to submit posts for upcoming editions. We’d love to feature some of our speakers and attendees! Also, if I missed you post about BWELA 2011, PLEASE leave it in a comment below. The more round-ups we have to read, the better!

Brilliant Bloggers Talk About BWELA 2011:

Updated 11/12/2011: Even MORE Posts about BWELA 2011:

BONUS: Some Brilliant Tweets from BWELA 2011:

  • “One of the best messages of #bwela today went far beyond social media. @MariSmith: before doing anything, ask “What is my deepest intent?”” – from Aviva Mohilner (@avivamo)
  • “Wow. There are more people in this Google+ keynote than there are on Google+.” – from Jordan Cooper (@notaproblog)
  • “Google+ is to facebook what Macintosh is to Windows. DEEP THOUGHTS from @guykawasaki” – from Ellen Gerstein (@elleinthecity)
  • “New media vs traditional media is the new “To be or not to be”” – from Jorge Aguayo C. (@JorgeAguayoC)
  • “You need longevity in your thinking, think about what you’re doing with your audience over time.” – from Inside FMM (@InsideFMM)
  • “The hardest step: Lose everything that doesn’t relate to what you want to show. We think everything about us is important; it’s not.” – from Tiffany Monhollon (@tmonhollon)
  • “I really like the idea of an internal content library (via @Britopian)…we need to focus more on internal engagement & edu” – from Lauren Vargas (@vargasl)
  • “Best tip so far is from @soniasimone : Write down 3 take aways to implement right away in your biz from each session.” – from Heather C. Stephens (@StephensHeather)
  • “Jim Farley is speaking #BWELA. He is the CMO of @Ford. If you want to see a company that does it right in #SocialMedia – It’s Ford. Period.” – from Jeffrey Powers (@geekazine)
  • “Thanks to @kirstenwright ‘s #BWELA presentation I am looking at my @YouTube insight with a keener eye” – from Miss Lori (@misslori)
  • “The one thing I keep thinking abt since #bwela – Social media is to advert what reality TV was to sitcoms. Game changer & rooted in truth.” – from Callan Green (@CallanPaola)
  • “Focus was my #1 takeaway from #BWELA” – from Bruce Sallan (@BruceSallan)

Thank you SO MUCH, everyone, for all your awesome posts and tweets! If I missed yours, please leave a comment with the link so we can all enjoy it and I’ll be happy to add it to the list! Didn’t write about BWELA? Share a comment to tell us about the best tips you learned at the event!

Google+ Launches the Google Photography Prize

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During the Google+ for Business session at BlogWorld LA, Guy Kawasaki made a comment about passionate people using the social network, which I highlighted. He said “For me, Facebook is for friends and family and Google+ is for people who share your passion that you don’t know yet.

One group of passionate people whom he mentioned were on Google+ are photographers. Google+ agrees. So much so they’ve launched a contest looking for the photography stars of the future.

Not only are there quite a few amazing photographers hanging out on Google+, but a staggering number of photos have been posted.

Google+ is only a few months old, but the photography community is already thriving on it. Take a look at the profiles of Scott Jarvie, Thomas Hawk, Colby Brown or Claire Grigaut to see just a few of the inspiring photographers on Google+. More than 3.4 billion photos have been uploaded to the platform in the first 100 days.

Google is teaming up with Saatchi Gallery, London for the Google Photography Prize. This will give students around the world a chance to showcase their photos on Google+, as well as have their work exhibited on the world wide stage. It sounds like an amazing opportunity.

For more information on the contest, visit the Google Photography Prize page. For those of you who would like to see all of the great work being submitted, Saatchi Gallery, London will share updates on their page, so be sure to add them to your Google+ Circles.

Image Source: SXC

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