Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting Big Coverage: Opening the Door a Bit More

Friend and former client Phil Libin got some great "ink" this weekend with a wonderful New York Times piece featuring his company, Evernote.

Despite the fact that I talk about social media quite often, I do believe that media relations remains an important arrow in the PR quiver. The catch, however, is that because of the current environment, getting high-level coverage is more difficult than ever. Fewer reporters means that more companies are fighting for fewer spaces in fewer stories.

This particular piece, written by Damon Darlin, focuses on the concept of giving away product for free with the hope of gaining revenue later. It's a concept that's been around for quite a while, but has gained traction most recently thanks to Chris Anderson's recent book Free.

In Evernote's case, Phil went into great detail about how Evernote planned to make money, providing the reporter with an inside look at how many people have tried Evernote (1.4 million in 18 months, 4500 each day), how many walk away (75 percent) and how many users remain active (500,000).

He then goes on to outline the conversion rate to paid customers (4 percent after a year using the service) and even revenue for July ($79,000).

Most companies balk at releasing this kind of information. When reporters have asked my clients in the past about financials, often the answer was a simple "we're a private company and we don't release that information." Most companies have a long list of good reasons for refusing to provide this data, but for a reporter looking for a good story, the details are extremely important. If a company can provide them, the payoff could be huge.

This is a case in point.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What do I look like on Twitter?

"I don't know if that's the right way to market yourself," so said my father after looking at my Twitter page.

My dad is no technology neophyte. The IT guy at his old company once commented that he was one of the few executives who understood the computer systems and was eager to embrace new technologies. And he didn't utter the sentence above after looking at my twitter page just once, but after following it for several weeks.

But when it comes to Twitter, he's been very confused by what he sees on my page. Not only are their hashtags, retweets (RT) and @ names, but then there are snippets of text that seem to have no context. It's like reading random sentences out of a Faulker novel.

On one level, he's right. Taken out of context my Twitter page is pretty hard too decipher. Some of those tweets are meant for "broadcast," some are responses to other individuals and some are parts of broader conversations.

This comes from how I use Twitter and my interaction point (Tweetdeck). Tweetdeck lets me create columns and follow just those particular conversations. So I have some people who make my "must follow" list as well as searches for terms of interest.

On Monday night, for example, I found myself tweeting during the Jets game and reacting to plays along with other Jet fans. I also annoyed some of those who don't appreciate my fan loyalty.

For that evening, I was having a conversation with a specific community. It's also worth noting that many Jets are, themselves, on Twitter and the Jets site happens to have a constantly running feed of the Jets players' tweets. Nice.

Yet, at the same time, I was taking part in Journchat, responding to questions and reading responses there. On Tweetdeck these things looked entirely separate to me, yet for someone following my tweets it must have seemed somewhat schizophrenic.

Some of that chaos comes from Twitter itself. It's part microblogging, part chat room. And while I use Tweetdeck, I know a lot of people who use the main page as their interface.

All that being said, I've met some great people through Twitter, I read many interesting articles thanks to Twitter and I feel I have taken part in a lot of great conversations. So I'm going to continue using it this way.

Even if it confuses my dad.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Move Your Conversations Offline!

"Well, you're just talking with avatars."

That's a quote from an attorney I happened to be speaking with this week when we were talking about social networking. In his mind, Twitter and Facebook are not populated by people, but by little pictures.

He's not alone in that thinking. In talking with a technology investor a few weeks ago I was told, rather dismissively, that Twitter is just a bunch of people talking about what they had for lunch.

What these people are missing is that Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FriendFeed (now owned by Facebook) and all these other tools essentially allow you a search engine for life. How many times have you been in a room looking at all the faces and trying to figure out who would make for interesting conversation? Usually a friend will lead you over to someone and say "you need to meet this person."

Or you'll overhear an animated conversation about your favorite baseball team or a good dinner they had recently. Just standing around you can get involved in that conversation and, eventually, it may turn into something more. You find out that this person lives in your area or has an interesting job, suddenly he/she is a contact!

Social networking tools, used wisely, offer you the same thing, but easier. Instead of looking at a sea of faces and trying to pick up the good conversations, you can run a simple search and find them. By seeing who your friends follow, you can see who they find interesting and listen in on those conversations. Suddenly, you'll find yourself involved, conversing and becoming the person OTHER people want to talk to.

But most important, don't make people just avatars. While Twitter and Facebook are great for connecting with people who are a world away, they are also wonderful at helping find people locally. All the tools are great for helping continue conversations, but nothing beats meeting someone face-to-face.

So let's break this down to steps:

  1. Join a social networking service -- I'm sure that 95% of the people reading this blog are already on Facebook and Twitter, but if you're not, then do it.
  2. Follow someone -- Start with someone you know, a buddy or something. Most services make it easy by doing a quick search on your Yahoo or Gmail accounts, then telling you who of your current friends are already using the service. Start with who you know. Of course, why not follow me?
  3. Listen -- You don't have to Tweet, you just have to listen. I suggest trying out Tweetdeck or Seesmic Desktop, but you can use the Twitter main page too. Run a search or two on something you love, for me it would be photography and the New York Jets, then see what people are saying. It's a start. Want to make it more professional? Throw in some keywords that are central to what you do. Or better yet, ask your peers for suggestions on some industry visionaries who are already using these services.
  4. Converse -- I'm sure that after listening for a while you'll have something to say, when you do, jump in. Over time those conversations will blend.
  5. Meet -- This is the critical step. Don't restrict your online conversations to just the online world. Get out and meet people. Look for Tweetups or even host one of your own. I've met some great people by just sitting at Taste on Tuesday mornings and telling solo PR folks to come on down!
And let me know how you do!