Facebook Comments – Does It Make Sense for Your Site?

By Gordon Plutsky
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Should you add the Facebook Comments plug-in to your company’s website? Maybe, maybe not. King Fish Media’s director of marketing & research (and all-around smart guy) Gordon Plutsky explains.

Facebook recently introduced its Comments plug-in, which allows visitors to use their Facebook login to post comments. Content sites are quickly embracing Facebook Comments to replace their current system of commenting. You can see why.

From a viral marketing standpoint, Facebook Comments sounds like a dream: Now those comments appear not only on the company’s site, but on the commentor’s Facebook Newsfeed, too. But if we take a closer look, there are some big warning flags that businesses and consumers should heed. In fact, it starts to sound a bit more like a nightmare to me.

Reduces nasty comments … and all comments for that matter.

Sure, not allowing users to post anonymously or under a pseudonym cuts down on the number of negative or inappropriate comments, but guess what? It cuts down on comments, period. Way, way down.

Case in point: My local paper, the Salem News, had a rollicking comments section that contained a mix of good writing and opinion, tempered with some vicious personal attacks and outrageous accusations. It could be great fun to read, and a hot story could get 25-50 comments — some received well over 100.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, they went to a “real name” Facebook ID login to “add more civility” a few weeks ago. (Some speculate that any number of local politicians squelched the section because they were getting pounded by anonymous comments.) If deafening silence is civility, then they succeeded. Most stories now have no comments whatsoever, and the small handful of people who do comment are local cranks, retirees and people trying to get name recognition.

Then there is the whole issue of personal privacy.

The use of real name and identity will have a chilling effect on the desire to comment on topics outside of your professional venue.

We live in a hypersensitive and partisan era where flame wars break out easily over the major topics of the day. Do you really want to express your thoughtful and reasonable opinion on such hot-button topics as abortion, public employee unions, local politicians and global warming — not only using your name, but also potentially identifying your family, friends and employer along the way? I’ll pass on that, thanks.

So what’s the solution?

Well, for a lot of companies, it may be as simple as keeping your old system but doing a better job moderating it. Otherwise, as with the Salem News, your hope of monetizing the free content, increasing engagement and expanding readership backfires by cutting traffic and negatively impacting revenue.

So before you adopt the new Facebook Comments plug-in, think hard. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and do what is right by them — and your organization.

An Accidental Entrepreneur, 10 Years On

By Dan O'Sullivan
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I vividly remember my giddy first days at Sapient Corporation. The company — an Internet consultancy that was flying high during the dot-com bubble — had recently made the S&P 500. (We even got T-shirts to celebrate the accomplishment.) And I was lucky enough to land a job there just a few months after leaving my beloved sports-writing gig at ABC Sports.

I got the offer to join Sapient as a content strategist in June 2000. A few days before starting work, I met with someone in HR, who walked me through the employee benefits. It was the golden era of inflated stock options. The HR dude pulled up a chart on his laptop. “If you max out your contributions and our stock continues to perform at its recent pace, your holdings will be worth this much in 10 years.” It was something like $500,000. Wow, I was going to be semi-rich.

Five or six months after I started, we began hearing whispers about Sapient’s financial struggles. Managers and executives reassured us our jobs were safe, but some of us weren’t so sure.

In March 2001, I joined my future wife for a business trip in Orlando. We had a great week in the sun and on Friday morning packed our stuff and got ready for the ride back to the airport. Now, this was the pre-cellphone age, at least for me, and I didn’t have a laptop with me. So I had been out of contact with my office since the previous Friday. Before leaving for the airport, I checked my voice mail at work.

The first message was from early that morning. It was the co-CEO with the announcement that there would be layoffs that day. The second voice mail was my manager asking if I could give him a call ASAP. Gulp.

I couldn’t reach my manager before my flight, so I flew home not knowing if I was newly unemployed. When I touched down at Logan that afternoon, I reached a colleague who confirmed my suspicions. My first layoff.

I was pretty disappointed at the time. But 10 years later — hey, I should’ve had $500,000 in Sapient stock by now — I have no hard feelings toward my former employer. I made some good friends and valuable business contacts there. I learned a lot too, both about content strategy and the harsh realities of business.

Most important, getting the boot at Sapient pushed me into this career as a Hired Pen. I’m an accidental entrepreneur, and I love this life. Like I tell friends who have just lost their job, sometimes a layoff can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Tweet This, Not That: Five Tips for Writing Effective Tweets

By Anna Goldsmith
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You’ve got 140 characters. Sure, you could use them to tell your followers what you had for breakfast, but you probably know better than that. And if you’re using Twitter to generate new business and strengthen old relationships (you know you should be, right?), the pressure to say something smart, savvy and, dare-to-dream, “retweet-worthy” can be pretty daunting. Here are five tips to use those 140 characters wisely.

1) Be provocative.

No, I’m not talking sexy provocative — although that might get you a whole bunch of attention, too. I’m talking about the kind of tweet that poses a thought-provoking question. Your goal with Twitter is simply to get a conversation started. If nothing immediately springs to mind, see if you can find a news story that is at least tangentially related to your industry and pose a question about that.

2) Do a “how-to” or list.

People are suckers for both. “How to Navigate a Roomful of Strangers in Five Easy Steps,” ”Top Five Tips for Writing Effective Tweets,” etc. Even if you didn’t write the blog or article you’re linking to, you’re still positioning yourself as someone in the know.

3) “Retweet” something you found interesting.

Unless you’re a completely boring person, if something was interesting to you, it probably will be to other people, too. This isn’t plagiarism. This is information sharing and this is what Twitter is all about. Keep a list of go-to interesting people on hand so “you” always have something to say. And yes, if you aren’t simply clicking “retweet,” you do need to give them credit.

4) “Reply” to that something interesting and add your two cents.

Related to #3: Add your own two cents by replying to a tweet that caught your attention. In fact, regardless of how many provocative tweets you can generate on your own, it’s a good idea to reply to other tweets you read so you don’t seem like you’re just out there to promote yourself. (Even though that’s exactly what you’re doing.)

5) Remember you’re writing a headline, not a story.

I know you only have 140 characters, but tweets filled with abbreviations and lingo not only look awful, they turn off all but the most extreme Twexperts. (I may have made that word up, but probably not.) If you find yourself relying on abbreviations, maybe you’re trying to say too much. With Twitter you’re a headline writer, not a novelist.

Bonus advanced tip: That said, if you know what you’re doing, Twitter can be an effective way to tell longer narratives. This is particularly effective if you have a news story that needs to be told in real time. Master of the engaging “mini narrative” is NPR’s David Folkenflik, who regularly tweets about unfolding events and uses a “(more)” at the end of tweets. For example:

  • Fmr NPR SVP for fundraising Ron Schiller caught on tape criticizing Tea Party & GOP as he lunched w fake prospective Muslim donors (more)

But David still follows the golden rule of good tweeting: Say one thing and say it well.

Final word of warning: Don’t be that guy.

Twitter is a great business tool, but use it wisely. If you’re constantly self-promoting, you’re going to turn off your current followers and have no chance of getting new ones. Here’s a good rule of thumb: For every post you do to promote your business, have two that promote something someone else says or does. Remember: Twitter is a conversation, and we all hate the guy whose favorite topic is himself.

Anna Will Be a Featured Expert at Mass Innovation Nights

By Anna Goldsmith
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Am I really an expert? I’m not sure, but I do love giving my opinion about everything. So, when Bobbie Carlton, founder of Carlton PR and Marketing and Mass Innovation Nights (MIN), invited me to join the Mass Innovation Experts Corner, I gave her an enthusiastic yes. Or as enthusiastic as you can be over email without using emoticons.

Sounds cool, but what the heck is it?

MIN is a free monthly product launch party and networking event. The goal is to help entrepreneurs and start-ups connect with the social networking world, mainstream media, marketplace and each other. Every month they have a group of experts who donate their time to help other entrepreneurs with business problems, etc.

This March, in honor of National Women’s History Month, it’s a group of women experts. (As opposed to an expert about women.)

Okay, now when and where is it?

Ready for this? It’s at a place called the NERD Center in Cambridge on Wednesday, March 9. Registration and networking starts at 6:00 p.m., with presentations at 7:00 p.m and an after-party at a nearby bar at 8:30 p.m.

Let me know if you’re coming. I’m giving away free pens and will be sure to save you one.

* Wondering about the image? These are the original Microsoft nerds, circa 1978.

Witness to the Content Revolution

By Dan O'Sullivan
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Content Revolution TourMy partner Anna and I are big fans of Marketing Profs’ Ann Handley. We’re also big fans of free events with continental breakfast included. So when I heard Ann was a featured speaker at Bridgeline Digital’s Content Revolution event this morning, naturally I signed up.

As it turns out, Ann was ill. But her stand-in, C.C. Chapman, founder of Digital Dads and co-author of a book with Ann, did not disappoint. C.C. was ably assisted by Becki Dilworth, Bridgeline’s vice president of digital strategy.

I spend a lot of time reading up on content and attending professional events on the topic, so I feel like I’ve heard it all at this point. But at least I usually end up walking away with a useful tip or two and something to think about.

I left today’s event thinking about something C.C. pointed out: No matter what the industry, every business out there today is a publisher. We all need to be pushing content out there — via blogs, articles, white papers, whatever — to thrive in today’s marketplace.

Want proof? I wrote about this in January, citing a Hubspot study on how much blogs are affecting users’ online purchasing decisions. C.C. noted another Hubspot study that found companies that blog get 55% more traffic and 97% more inbound links.

So there you have it. The concept of “publish or perish,” which used to apply only to academia, is becoming pertinent to all of us. As C.C. said, “You are the publisher, and you must start thinking this way.”

The eternal conundrum? Two of the biggest content-marketing challenges people cite (according to a Marketing Profs survey) are producing content that is engaging and producing enough content. I guess that’s good news for copywriters like me.