www.RMIUG.org
January 10th, 2006
"Blogs, Podcasts, and Newsfeeds, Oh My: How to Capture the Online Conversation"

Minutes of the 1-10-06 meeting of the Rocky Mountain Internet Users Group (RMIUG):
"Blogs, Podcasts, and Newsfeeds, Oh My: How to Capture the Online Conversation"

MEETING SPONSORS

MicroStaff (http://www.microstaff.com) provides pizza and beverages. Microstaff also provides creative and technical talent for Web, Interactive Media, Marketing Communications, and Software Development projects.

ONEWARE (http://www.ONEWARE.com) pays for these meeting minutes. ONEWARE is a Colorado-based software company that provides semi-custom, web-based applications.

NCAR provides free use of their facility for our meetings.

Copy Diva (http://www.copydiva.com) provides the audio/visual equipment.

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MEETING MINUTES

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Speakers: James Clark & Derek Scruggs

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:

JAMES CLARK (Founding Partner of Room 214: http://www/room214.com)

James Clark has over 10 years' experience creating, managing and implementing successful communications campaigns for consumer product and high-tech companies. His core skill is to help teams rapidly examine and refine their market strategy, align communications and business goals, and establish communications priorities.

DEREK SCRUGGS (Founder of www.escalan.com)

Derek Scruggs is founder and CEO of Escalan, an agency that helps overworked marketing departments get things done online, including strategy, web site design, copy, email marketing, search engine marketing and custom applications. Derek is also the co-founder of Click Thru Stats, a "brain-dead simple" click-tracking service useful in everything from email marketing to searching engine advertising to web site traffic analysis. He is also a co-founder of the Enthusiast Group, a seed stage company that is doing lots of super-secret stuff with Really Simple Syndication (RSS), blogs, and podcasting.

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Helpful Links:

Site Tracking and Analytics:
http://www.opentracker.net
http://www.google.com/analytics/
http://www.clickthrustats.com

Ezine Article Services:
http://www.ezinearticles.com

Online Press Release Distribution:
http://www.prweb.com
http://www.prleap.com

Reverse Keyword Lookup:
http://www.urltrends.com

Free Keyword and Google Ranking Service:
http://www.nichebot.com

Aggregators
http://www.newsgator.com
http://www.feeddemon.com
http://www.bloglines.com
http://ranchero.com/netnewswire/

Blog search engines
http://www.feedster.com
http://www.technorati.com
http://blogsearch.google.com

Publishing tools
http://www.wordpress.org
http://www.typepad.com/
http://www.sixapart.com
http://spaces.msn.com
http://drupal.org/ (really more of a portal-style CMS)

More about RSS:
http://www.mnot.net/rss/tutorial/
http://rssgov.com/rssworkshop.html

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INTRODUCTION (Josh Zapin)

When the Internet first became a popular medium, if you built it, they would come. But today we have lots of media technologies and services, such as broadband, have come down dramatically in price. So the choices for how we communicate now are endless.

JAMES CLARK

Whoever owns the conversation owns the market; markets are conversations. Context is social medium. One-way dialog has now become a 2-way dialog. The issues are no longer given to a journalist who writes about a story from one perspective. Now it's a 2-way dialog.

We identify the customer or person who wants to enter the conversation --one who searches the internet and engage that person in a conversation. Search engines are now used by customers to identify where they want to put their money regarding specific subject matter/services.

Evolution of Authentic Dialog

My firm advises customers to get out there in the market and talk to other individuals, engage them in a conversation

The old communication model was completely a monologue: mainstream media, static websites, corporate brochures, traditional advertising.

The new communication model is a dialog between multiple people; the message is not "committeeized and lawyerized."

* If you hold yourself out as an expert, be prepared to have that title challenged every day. For example, if someone comes onto your site, your blog, you can have an actual conversation with them about what you know; it's not a one-way message.

* Insights, not dissertations.What I'm interested in (and others, too) are small insights that can keep me informed and in the loop.

* Removal of intermediaries - we don't need journalists to deliver news to us, we can be the direct contact. Ideas are discussed on blogs. So you can use a mainstream media tool, like an online news paper article, and at the end of it, refer them to your blog. It's a great way to get people to your site.

How do you incorporate the different aspects, mentioned above, into a dialog?

Use the knowledge you have about your industry, company and put yourself out there - talk about what you know and be challenged.

In order to be successful, you must first determine what's going on with your customer. You do this by following up.

Tracking a conversion. For example, a client downloads a white paper, free video on your site. You must follow up with customer. Is this a:
* Consultative sale?
* Impulse buy?
* Selling to CEO?
* What is Purchase frequency?

Analyze/measure data.

Site analytics - Online technology enables you to analyze everything. Look at web stats and determine amount of traffic based on press release. One good analytical tool is OpenTracker.net.
* Visitor behavior - learn about your site visitors; who are they?
* You must be testing your statistics against something. Tracking programs
tell you what you should measure up to. Gather two months of data on certain programs in your company and then compare the numbers based on that data.
* Blog tracking - where is the conversation online?
Many free tracking tools. Must be willing to dig into the data. Where is the "emotion?" Facts & statistics aren't what interest people. What are our emotions about certain products, areas, etc?

Consider the ad value equivalency of getting people to your site. If your site or blog is mentioned on front page of USA Today, that story is worth $300K in ad value.

Interpret Data

Have a control mechanism that determines how well your web site is working. Determine how users enter site, where do they visit first, etc?
* Know what you want to analyze
* Focus on conversations
* Set up a control, then test it

Blogging - Social Media

What are conversation entry points of blogging?
* Easy publishing
* Discoverability
* Dialog
* Permalinks (viral)
* Syndication
Tom Peters is a good blog example. He's very "out there" and visible. Willing to be challenged on his thoughts & expertise.

Conversation entry points of podcasting (like TiVo)
* Time shifting
* Easy publishing
* Authentic voice
* Personalization
* Tone
Typically, it's about understanding the person you're selling to. Podcasting is for "C" level and up - CEO, CTO, etc. That audience is more likely to listen to audio than communicate on a blog.

Conversation entry points of Article Marketing (e.g., white paper)
* Widespread distribution
* Easy publication
* Expert positioning
* Syndication

Conversation entry points of search engine optimization
* Targeted
* Relevant
* Expertise
* Validation
If your result is not in top 10 results, you don't exist.

Google is prime real estate. Every time someone searches Google for your industry, it puts your product right on the front page

Conversation entry points of Integration Paid search (pay-per-click)
* Search engines
* Content network
* Immediacy
* Controlled
* Advantage of pay per click: you can test different messages, specific keywords
* Disadvantage: can be risky if you don't know what you're doing (can be very expensive with less than effective results).

Conversation entry points of press release optimization & news aggregators:
* Google news
* Yahoo
* Immediacy
* Controlled
* Natural search - [Search releases - targeted to search engines, not really press worthy.]
* Syndication

Most current news available is from news aggregators. If you distribute news frequently, your business/product is always out there and always current.

Tracking methods
* Downloads
* Opens
* Top Keywords

The reality of communication
* Transparent
* Analytic
* Authentic
* Insight
* Real Time - give people the opportunity to participate in the conversation on a real-time basis
* Dialog
* Inclusion - keep the conversation going; don't shut down if there are disagreements
* Syndicate - spread the message around

DEREK SCRUGGS

Blogdom's Disruptive Technology

* RSS = Rich site summary or really simple syndication
* "Pull" technology that feels like "push" - your computer goes out and searches for content.
* 2.0 most common version, but 0.9x, 1.0 & a new version called Atom is still in the wild (Google uses this)
* Ongoing debate about is evolution
* 2.0 is safe bet

Primary elements of RSS feed:

Name
* Name of channel, sometimes called a feed
* For blogs, the name of the blog (e.g., Entry Gradient Reversals)

Description - keep it short & succinct

Link to the page with the item (www.linktoitempage.com)

What is an aggregator?
* Instead of browsing blogs and news sites, one by one in a browser, an aggregator downloads items for you to view at your leisure.
* At least a dozen are available. Five or six are serious commercial endeavors. NewsGator, based in Denver is popular one. FeedDemon is another aggregator
* Aggregator goes out periodically to get news, typically once every 3 hours.

A blog entry is hard to read. RSS sggregator makes it easy to read. NewsGator can pull articles into Outlook folders, for example, so you can read it at your leisure. You subscribe to different news feeds and the articles are delivered to your online mailbox.

Subscribing to a channel - You can subscribe to a search. Feed is updated based on what happens in the search. Almost all news sources use RSS.

Granularity (level of detail)

* Monitor comments on a specific post or article

You can subscribe not only to the feed, but also to the comments that were made about the article. Usually, it's a few people arguing back and forth; this is typical on a political news feed.

* Monitor search results on search engines. See what people are saying about an area you're trying to monitor. ["Google dance" - once a month when they update their index across all the servers, you could query results on diff. Google servers, and get diff results. This doesn't happen as much anymore since indexes are updated in real-time.] o Feedster o Technorati o Google Blog Search o IceRocket

Ping: when you post a comment on your blog, it notifies several different services and lets them know that new content has been posted.

* Notifications in del.icio.us (a web site) o Most popular feeds - you can subscribe to these o User based o Specific tags - can subscribe to specific tags (subjects), like health care or Golden Retrievers

If you find a site you like, bookmark it in del.icio.us. You put that in a folder and label it, and it's shared with lots of others. You can see what others bookmark (under "Business," for example) and they can see what you bookmark. Another way to share information.

Fred Wilson - venture capitalist in NY. If you tag something on his site, it immediately gets sent to his iPod.

You can subscribe to the feed for the project you're working on; others on the project can do the same, and you can share with others on the same project

Publishing Tools Abound

* WordPress.org
* Typepad.com
* Moveable Type (sixapart.com)
* Drupal.org
* Blogger.com (Google)
* MSN spaces
* Yahoo offers TypePad and WordPress w/ web hosting service

Tracking via FeedBurner

FeedBurner uses statistical methods to determine how many people are actually reading your feed, clicking through certain links, etc.

One user may hit a feed a dozen times and there may be nothing new, but this skews web stats because nothing new is there, even though lots of people visiting the site.

Podcasting - stats are hard to track. Visitors to a site downloaded something, but did they read it?
* Just an RSS feed with special type of aggregator that recognizes podcast (MP3) info.

Surfing is now limited because there are tools that search for you.

Whatever info you have, you need to syndicate the content so it gets out there and spread around. Static web pages are useless.

RSS feeds - can republish content in other places.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Do RSS feeds make you more subject to viruses?

A: No, because it's just a text file; no more risky than other files.

Q: Is RSS like an open stream video?

A: RSS feed is not a real-time broadcast, it's a static file, but it might point you to a URL that takes you to real-time, streaming video.

Q: How do you track comments on a blog? How would you track these?

A: Very hard to do this.

Q: Can you limit a blog to only certain officers, users in a company?

A: Yes, you can have authentication, password protection. Also, certain blogging tools specifically designed for Intranet, accessible only through VPN. It's the web site that protects you, not the file because it's static.

Q: What about reverse keyword lookup?

A: A product called www.urltrends.com lets you do this for free; www.wordtracker.com analyzes keyword searches (this is a pay service)

Q: How bad an idea is it to change a domain name?

A: If you change your domain name, it's very hard to get seen in Google. New domains sit for about 6 months before you'll see search results ("the sandbox")

If you're syndicating content, like pulling RSS feeds onto your own site, this is seen as fresh content and Google re-indexes your site. This is not stealing as long as you provide a link back to the original content.

Some additional comments:

The more you update your site, the more Google indexes it

You can find out how often your site came up when no one clicked on it.

Growing your business with Google - recommended book by Dave Taylor (www.intuitive.com)

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RMIUG (http://www.rmiug.org/) appreciates the sponsorship of
MicroStaff (www.microstaff.com), ONEWARE (http://www.ONEWARE.com), and Copy Diva (http://www.copydiva.com).

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