Just say NO to trust, and then what?

I have a post in the works about trust and marketing, and I’m stuck.

I have issues. Specifically, I have issues with advertisers who don’t get that marketing is hand in glove with trust. I’m going to clear the air.

Yes, it’s true. I am going to rant. I’d put this aside, and it’s still bugging me, so here it is.

How Not to Market to Me

In my 101 day round up I mentioned that I need to write an advertising policy.

I also need to promote and custom-design the My Top Spots widget, and add an advertising policy. Pandering is nicer with ethics and personalization, eh?

Speaking of (potential) pandering, within a couple days someone posted a comment on the post asking me to contact them about advertising. I thought: if this was a forum that I was moderating my first thought would be to pull it as a link drop. I correct myself: this is blog, not a forum, and the comment is not a post. I check the author link and find a link exchange advertising site. I email them.

Thanks for stopping in at my blog. I’m going to stick with the scratchback.com Top Spots widget for a while longer, probably until the redesign is done. I haven’t thought through what else I’d want to do.

The scratchback widget has had a couple people register who I had to delete. They’d registered with a coming-soon placeholder on a domain, which would be a quick way to buy a link for a porn/pharma spam site, without the person hosting it knowing. What standards do you have for any links you’d like to see placed on my site?

The reply did not answer my question about their standards for what links they’d place. Instead, they said “Thanks, but…” and asked for a $30 paid review of their services and my paypal account email address. Warning bells go off in my head. It is not a good sign that they ignore a question about quality control. I email them again.

I cannot review your service because I do not know anything about your service, from my own experience or from what people I respect have said.

This isn’t strictly true. I am starting to remember a rant somebody posted about a very similar series of emails.

They respond with a five paragraph sales letter. The last email, the one where they tell me they want me to write a review of them for $30, was two lines long. Some of the information in the current email dances around answering my unanswered question about quality standards, by saying they have a “free tool for advertisers to make paid links look natural for Google.” Dishonesty is not a good sign.

Basically, the email says:

  • Please register with our system as an advertiser. It is up to ten times more profitable than selling sitewide links
  • We sell links at a very low price.
  • Our free tool makes paid links look natural to Google
  • Do not use “nofollow” when you review us
  • Don’t pay that it is a paid review.

I reply:

  1. In the interest of respect I do not, ever, write a paid review without disclosing that it is a paid review.
  2. I would not add something to my site without background information, such as comparing paid and unpaid feedback. Since you ask that reviewers hide that reviews are paid, I can conclude that accurate information will be hard to find.
  3. If I were to review you, anyone who knows you have this policy of hiding if a review is paid would have a big signal that I will be dishonest with my readers for the payment of $30.

Please do not contact me again.

No Respect, No Sale, Then or Now

Later that day I hear back from them:

Thanks for your reply. You can write that it’s a paid review but please at the end of the post.

Waiting for your reply.

They write back again, two weeks later:

Hello. How are you? So what about the review? I think that $30 is a fair price for the review at your blog. Please provide us with your paypal email.

Waiting for your reply.

Thank you

Way to listen, guys.

So, What’s the Big Deal?

Spammy, sloppy marketing techniques. To get my trust, an organization needs to be clear and direct. Are they buying advertising or a paid review, or are they primarily a paid link exchange? And, if I have questions, that’s a good thing. My questions are an opener. Dodge them and lose my sale.

More than that, I think online marketers need to be careful not to get desensitized to spammy advertising techniques. We see so much blatant spam! It’s an easy slide to think that if it’s not porn or pharma spam – or an obvious bank scam – it’s more trustworthy. That level of trust is a long way from the kind of trust that makes loyalty. You don’t get loyalty from $30 paid reviews. You get loyalty from something more like real word of mouth marketing based on the honest opinions of real humans – not gossip. I’m talking reputation.

I guess if you want to see the online branch of your life as a disposable numbers game, reputation is also disposable. Take while you can, then move onto the next thing, right? Use the “free tool for advertisers to make paid links look natural for Google,” and move on when the house of cards comes tumbling down.

The problem with that kind of logic is that it stinks up the neighborhood. Yes, there is a “neighborhood,” and just like in real life the kids next door are going to be playing on the same street, learning your lessons. Let’s keep it clean, don’t think for a minute that your Internet life is a flash in the pan that won’t matter in real life — but, treat it that way, and that’s what you have.

A Preface to my Bouncing Baby Benchmarks

Question: What did I want from my 101 days?
Answer: A sense of direction. An orientation beyond web design.
Question: Why couldn’t I just pick some keywords to write about? Use that to form a bridge between my beloved web stuff and a prospective audience?
Answer: Because keywords are only a part of the picture. Very often, the target audience is no longer a passive receiver. The Internet is in the midst of a paradigm shift that won’t be mastered by tactical logic… and, you know, maybe I am, too.
Question: Paradigm shift?

Answer: The one-to-many mass marketing that works so well via old school SEO is increasingly intermixed with not-so-little blips and sparks of one-to-one communication, and we natives are restless. Sometimes we don’t like being at the other end of one-to-many. Badly done online one-to-many is spam – the kind of thing that gives marketing a bad name.

With the explosion of social media, one-to-one is intermixed with one-to-many. People “talk.” Sometimes online one-to-one WOM is not marketing or gossip; sometimes it’s a real someone, or a someone we really know, who talks to someone else we know about the specific features and benefits of something that makes a difference in our not-so-unimportant, everyday, face-to-face lives.

Did Google see it coming? Was anticipating user’s hunger for one-to-one and social media part of why Google devalued potentially spam-like strategies? Did they read the writing on the wall, see that people wanted people, and there would be a backlash against being marketed at? Maybe it’s a chicken or egg situation. Some of the famous algorithm updates of the last few years were crushing to sites optimized for old school SEO, or Text Link Ads, or even sites optimized for Google’s own Adsense.

What’s a little guy to do, after Google rolls over? Erm… blog and network, perhaps? Try sharing, face-to-face-ish style, clumsily or slickly market-spammer-like, whatever you have at first, using whatever tool bypasses the search engines?

Those tools look a lot like social media, and…

Question: Excuse me?
Answer: …huh? Oh. Yes?
Question: Could we get back to the part about tactical logic and keywords, please?

Answer: Well, by tactical logic I mean strategies that give results that can be measured and anticipated in a quantitative way. If 100 people searching for brand x see a page about brand x’s product named keyword y, how many are likely to buy, move on, or ask for the product named keyword z? These things can be projected with statistical guestimates.

Social media and word of mouth traffic is more of a qualitative thing, more emotional logic than tactical logic. With social media you may get 1,000 people on the keyword y page, but if they’re not there for a reason targeted to looking for keyword y, the old quantitative projections are out the window.

Question: Why else would someone go to the keyword y page, if not looking for keyword y?

Answer: I believe that often those reasons are going to be less directly connected to wanting to acquire a product or service. There will be more dreamers, readers and self-educators, and fewer buyers. Want specific reasons? You name it, it’s possible.

  • Browsing favorite topics, for entertainment
  • Interest in a cause
  • Very early stages of research
  • Compelling title
  • Compelling image
  • Curious about what someone from some country across the world would bookmark
  • Curiosity about why someone notable liked it
  • Wanting to be seen bookmarking the same things as a rock star
  • Trusting the taste of someone you’ve “friended”
  • Building a social media profile
  • Promoting one’s own site
  • Curious about a friend’s site, or a friend of a friend’s site
  • Checking out a big brand’s really dumb typo
  • Looking for beautiful pictures of far away places, or of cats
  • Hunger for information and ideas
  • Browsing for recipe blogs
  • 101 things I haven’t thought of yet
Question: Remind me of what this philosophizing and social media speculation has to do with a business blog, or a business blog strategy?

Answer: OK. It’s like this. There are about a gazillion small brick and mortars out there who lack a good web presence. A majority of their keywords are not intensely competitive when combined with local search, especially if there is some existing brand recognition from existing face-to-face marketing.

They’re out there among social media users who are not Internet marketers or make-money-online bloggers. And they’re watching. And when they feel ready they’re going to want a site that gets votes on Yelp or reviews on Stumble, or whatever. They won’t have a corporate budget. They’ll want a lower cost site that still has web 2.0 perks – perhaps a customized WordPress theme, and they may need a coach and a writer or ghost writer to help them get started. That’s probably where I’ll come in…

Question: Erm…

Answer: I know, I know. What does all this have to do with my 101 days?

OK. It’s like this. For me, at least, emotional logic – empathetic, qualitative judgment – requires getting in there and stretching but good, with an open mind. Change and growth must be both learned and felt, and I need a sort of an emotional and informational immersion boot camp to get there. Eventually, I start to surface with a strong philosophical frame of reference that helps to give me an anchor.

Besides, this web thing is not natural for a lot of the people I’ll be focusing on working with. If I stretch my own comfort zone I’ll have more clues and cues for how to help them through stretching theirs. That’s the theory anyway.

Question: Noooo, I was going to ask myself if I knew, when I started blogging here in November, that I’d be having these thoughts about this target market.
Answer: LOL. Well… Not really. There is so.much.change in our world today. Sometimes I really need to shed my skin to find out what’s underneath, and what shape and size I am. IMHO everyone should try it.
Question: And why is this post called “A Preface to my Bouncing Baby Benchmarks”?

Answer: Because statistics are meaningless without a frame of reference, there’s no way I’m talking benchmarks before making you read this other stuff. It’s all about the brand, baby.

It’s not about the traffic. It’s about the relationships.

My Blogging Benchmarks Post

Tomorrow I’ll bring out some observations about my traffic and content. I’ll be chatting about my own ideals, plus some of the benchmarks Jenn blogged about over at Search Engine People a week ago.

Today, me, myself and I are closing by asking if any of you reading this have ever wanted to interview yourself? This is new for me! I started off by asking myself a few questions to write about, and the Q & A format started to flow.

Questions for Readers, and a 101 Day Round-Up

I’m here with you and the spirit of WordPress, writing away on a gorgeous Spring weekend, to sum up a little of what’s gone on here over the last 101 days, and get reader feedback for some plans I’m cooking up for this site’s theme.

My hope is to arrive at how the thing called Internet bisects my values and things I enjoy that I’d like to do more of in everyday life. If I don’t find a destination, per se, that’s OK. The goal is to explore, joyfully and with dedication.

Ritual, Manners, Branding, Identity

100 days ago I committed to making 100 meaning-of life posts, and 101 days later I’ve added 60 posts to my tally. That comes out to anywhere from 1 to 7 posts a week, an average of about 4 a week. There were times when once a week was hard, moreso a few weeks ago than now. Four posts a week is a respectable clip for a one-person blog. Two or three is more reachable in the long run; at the same time, a little pressure is good for creativity.

I have projects coming up that may require me to cut back somewhat, but because my original commitment was to give it my all for 101 days of posts, I’ll do whatever I can to make the next 40 posts at the 4 post a week rate. One of my missions for the next 40 posts is to widen and deepen the blogging topic list I started the end of March.

This coming week I’m going to write about web strategy and content development for small brick and mortar businesses – it’s been an interest of mine just about forever. If I’ve worked on a site for you and in the next few articles you think I’m talking about you, it ain’t necessarily so. You are not the only one. Consider yourself to be an archetype, a sign of the times.

Another topic I’ve enjoyed a lot of late is social media, though I’m a little less settled about how I feel about the web’s current state of social media development. Community is good. Marketing is… sometimes tricky. Respect is almost everything.

This brings my joy of the Elizabeth-brand list of topics up to five. Pardon me while I give myself a big w00t and vava voom for adding to my me-brand.

  1. Identity – Branding beyond logo and colors
  2. Community – What sparks it and keeps it energized, online and locally, through social media and other kinds of venues, and any supportive roles that marketing can play
  3. Culture – Specifically how the Internet can be a positive force of understanding and respect in this era of terrorism and military activism
  4. Web content – strategies for small businesses, especially those that are new to the web or dissatisfied with their current site

But wait! There’s more! Read on, and please tell me what you think!

AbleReach will get a custom WordPress theme

If there is interest, I’m up for starting with the WP default and documenting what I change, tutorial-style, one step at a time. This is not something I’d normally advise for a blog with a large following, because ongoing change can confuse readers, and doing it this way will take longer, prolonging the metamorphosis. It might not be too terrible – after coming to my site, the most common next clicks are from Recent Posts or Top Ten Posts. If those two are both in an anticipated place we may not be too lost. Are you game?

Sometime soon I’ll decide if I’m going to make a new logo, maybe without the “Arts & Web Development” or “AbleReach helps you get online” lines. I have held onto this logo graphic for sentimental reasons, and I could easily keep holding on and layering on bylines. I like the bold, fat, scripty typeface, and all three taglines are a part of me, but so much has changed in a few short years! It may be time for a logo change, too.

Some day I’ll have to share the story of how that logo and my domain name came to be. :-)

I Want More Feed Functionality

Is it my imagination, or are feeds getting cooler?

I like Ruud Hein’s use of shared items in his sidebar. Very sweet, and interesting brain food, too. I am feeling all hero-worshipy and am seriously considering following his lead by replacing part of my blogroll area with a feed of recent post titles from some of my favorite places.

I spend a LOT of time on StumbleUpon. I like the idea of shared favorite things, and somewhere in my travels I’m sure I’ve seen a feed of recent SU reviews in a blog sidebar. Would adding that be interesting, or overkill? And, is there a way to pull in only reviews from relevant tags?

And, I haven’t added a FeedBurner link for blog comments. If I added one, would you use it?

Blog Comments Will Soon Be Dofollow

I’ll be installing Lucia’s Linky Love, a nice little configurable dofollow plugin that I learned about from Donne Fontenot. Thanks, Donna!

No way am I going dofollow without a comments policy, but what do I want to say? I’m a hard case about some kinds of sites that are in reality perfectly legit. In all semi-snobby honesty, if a link leads to a blog where posts start off with several inches of ads, I’m likely to edit out the link entirely. Is that being a hard case? Would it get me hate mail? Hmmm…

Heidi-ho, SEO-ing Neighbors

Until now I haven’t made a strong effort towards optimized Hx, or added any keyword or description metas, or even customized any titles. True, metas don’t push up serps, but the description meta at least can help serps show a nicer snippet.

As for the titles, mia culpa, my mind was elsewhere. I was operating on the theory that nothing with power happens without a personal center. The moment I start adding SEO-ified bits I’ll start spending more time watching my stats and less with that groovy got-to-be-me centering thang. LOL. I’m feeling… erm… riper now, in a good way, and may start to add a few SEO-ish bits here and there.

General Pandering

Do you want to see my Amazon wish list? I promise to choose only cool stuff, like solar powered jet cars, bunny slippers, nerd books, etc. Did I mention solar powered cars?

I also need to promote and custom-design the My Top Spots widget, and add an advertising policy. Pandering is nicer with ethics and personalization, eh?

Got opinions? Please comment and share.

Personal Branding, Personal Connection

All branding that works is personal, because it makes some sort of personal connection.

Sometimes personal is manufactured. Betty Crocker was a creation that represented a corporate brand.

Sometimes, “personal” seems to spontaneously ooze from the people behind the brand. Joe and Mark, the two enterprising yard care teens who used to take care of my lawn are their own spontaneous brand.

Spontaneous Branding

Joe and Mark had a little time, access to a lawn mower, and the good fortune to live in a neighborhood where some of the population preferred to pay someone else to do the yard care. It also helped that the sidewalks were paved and level, as they didn’t have a car.

Joe and Mark were their own brand, spontaneously. They were everything you’d want from a pair of enterprising yard care teens: hard-working; charming; clean; dependable; provided a needed service at a reasonable rate, and they were reasonably happy and everyone wanted to give them cookies.

Their brand development and brand identity was pretty much to show up and be themselves while getting the job done. We should all be so lucky. On the other hand, as a business gets larger and more complex, there are more layers of everything. Showing up and being yourself while getting the job done requires certain accessories in order to grow. In Joe and Mark’s case, a truck would have been a deal-maker, a cornerstone. Even if they wanted to, their target market and business model didn’t allow for such a major expense. They could work, and work, and work and still not have enough saved up for a vehicle.

A Home Trench Advantage

One advantage of a small business person who lives in the trenches with their “target market” is that they aren’t insulated by whoever designs the focus groups. They truly know the target market. They may be the target market.

I used to know a small business developer who liked to buy struggling restaurants, one at a time. He’d work a place until it was in shape to sell, collect his profits, and move on to the next project. He had a policy of working every job in his current project for a few months, from polished meet and greet at the front of the house, to the back-back where he made a rather imposing dishwasher’s helper.

At it’s best, working and knowing every job in a restaurant helped him find potentials and fix problems, while making some sweat equity. At it’s worst, he could find himself with Joe and Mark’s problem: too close to the problem, too many jobs to do and no way to work hard enough to make a silk purse out of a diamond in the rough.

He had a feast or famine life.

Blog question: how many bloggers are too close to the problem, with too many jobs to do and no way to work hard enough to make a silk purse out of a diamond in the rough?

Responding, With a Face and a Name

There was a progression to the development of Betty Crocker that went something like this:

In 1921 a milling company created a name, “Betty Crocker,” to personalize responses to letters in which customers asked questions about baking. “Betty” was chosen for a friendly feel, and “Crocker” was the last name of a recently retired company director. For further personalization and authority, Betty Crocker’s signature was created from the most distinctive female employee’s signature.

The mood of the times was positive, with reservations, and women were busy.

  • 675,000 Americans had died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918.
  • The American troops of World War I returned home in 1919.
  • In 1920, The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the legal right to vote.
  • The average work week was 47 hours in 1920.
  • Between 1900 and 1930, American women went from being 20% of the labor force, to about 25%.
  • A revolutionary product named Bisquick was invented in 1930.

Personal to Brand and Back Again

Now, I don’t know if the idea of user personas was used much in the 1920’s but it seems to me that Betty Crocker was an idealized version of a consumer persona. “Betty” was how the consumer of the time might want to see themselves.

The woman of the 20’s/50’s had a kitchen with new fangled electric mixers and other time savers, and could be in the market for time-saving food preparation mixes that would still preserve that touch of home-made goodness. The world was changing in a big way, at breakneck speed, and though anything seemed possible, sometimes a woman just wants to write to Mom for a recipe.

“Betty Crocker,” a name symbolic of the friendly and authoritative woman’s values of a busy home maker, is developed as a bridge between home-made goodness, Gold Medal Flour, and other General Mills products. General Mills refines and markets Betty Crocker as the name behind a line of cake mixes, cook books, and more. It works.

Today, “Betty Crocker” could almost be a blogger. She might need a serious makeover. Women in media haven’t been the same since I Love Lucy. Maybe a better “Betty” would be a Crocker grand-niece, a web developer who can whip up a mean organic falafel.


I think that branding success is a circle, or many parts of a circle. At any point between product development and consumer purchase there can be an opportunity, a creative breakthrough, a logical conclusion, a paradigm possible when those involved see with more than one set of needs – some snag or smooth place that gives someone an idea – a willingness to get very, very close, paired with a long view. Betty had a very nice long view in 1921; today, not so much.

A figurehead persona for today might need to be a real person, or better yet a group of people with different backgrounds and perspectives… and I think it’d be cool if they blogged together, and indulged in a little social media. :-)

Kitty Kitty?

It’s been in the 20’s here lately. Our January average low is 32. My usual practice is to turn off the heat at night and pile on the blankets. Environmental awareness meets necessity: I’m both cheap and good. Sometimes mornings are very cold – under 50 degrees indoors. The colder it gets, the more likely it is that my cat Otter will burrow under the covers and sleep with me.

Otter is a small, rounded kitty, more like a hoagie roll than a heat vent mogul. With proper motivation he rises to the occasion. On cold mornings when the heat goes on he morphs from baby baguette into super-sized artisan loaf – or perhaps I should say he morphs from witty kitty into loafing artisan.

He knows to nudge aside the little hood thingy that normally directs heat into the room. Then, he can somehow spread his little body to approximate the rectangular shape of a heat vent and then some. And he lounges there, completely covering the heat vent, taking up the Really Important Space as a matter of course, not unlike sites made to take up as much surface area as possible on search result page #1.

See? You knew there was going to be a Search related reference in there somewhere. You were right, but let’s get back to Cat for a moment.

Despite the fact that I am the adult human with the hand that controls the thermostat and the keys to his kingdom, Otter rules one of two heat vents in the room where I spend most of my time.

Upon discovering what he was doing, my first reaction was frustration. My home was not warming up because the heat was not getting through. I like results and I don’t like being cold.

After Otter looked up at me with love on his face I decided that he can get away with heat-hogging, more or less. He has redeeming qualities and I already know that I like him quite a bit.

Also, it helps that I know he likes me for more than my heat vent.

Can the same be said for those made-for-clickthrough pages that loaf about at the top of search results? They sure look like they’re in it to monopolize as much Really Important heat map space as possible. Are they also prepared to love me back? Before I click on them, is it possible to have a sign?

Searchers want love, too. They want results.

Lots of exposure in the top spots increases click-throughs for advertisers, but if the destinations are sites that are trying to make themselves bigger in order to soak up as much click action as possible, might users want to have the same reaction to those sites that I did to my cat? Will they? Can they?

Kitty kitty?

Lessons From Otter the Cat

  • I make my own decisions for my own reasons. Your I-don’t-know-why-you-care is my Chosen Perch.
  • Though I can entertain myself, not everything makes good Kitty TV.
  • Ignore me and nothing else matters.
  • Prosperity consciousness uber alles. A full food bowl frees me to fall in love with other things.
  • I may not want your lap at this moment, but I do need to know it’s there for me.

Hat tip to Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing

Identity Groundwork

Today I am making a commitment to 100 posts in 100 days. I’ll be using those 100 posts to explore how my personality and my values can be a foundation for my “brand,” as reflected in my blog and what I do on the Internet.


For the journey. To backtrack, here’s a quote from yesterday’s post:

Symbolic expressions of values: what are they and where do they come from?

Here, I could postulate. I could make knowledgeable-sounding lists and generalizations. I’m not going to do that because what I really want to know is what the process of exploring meaning is like, for me, blogging and in my flesh and blood life. After exploring I’d feel more genuine about defining, though getting to finite definitions wouldn’t be the point: I want the broadening experience of a journey.

I have a slightly crazy idea.

What if I committed to making 100 meaning-of life posts?

Ritual, Manners, Branding, Identity

Ok, Ok, there are also practical applications to consider.

Here’s my acid test for if a dream (or a slightly crazy idea) should become a goal, or be backed by a specific plan.

The dream is:

  1. Reachable – logistically possible.
  2. Peaceable – a purely subjective gut level judgment.
  3. Wise – practical, productive and in line with my other goals.

Let’s start with Wise

Branding is a good thing. Under the skin, branding is more than colors and shapes for a logo or a business card. Branding is all about values. Branding is how a company communicates their personality. Branding is like body language in that it demonstrates what can be expected. Trust and engagement are more possible if the personality of the entity and that of the target market are in sync.

If I were developing this site for a client, I would start with a study of the brand (personality, culture) of the client’s business and how that can connect with the client’s goals and target audience.

Since this is my site, I am free to choose to develop it for myself. As a business, starting with the me-me-me isn’t a hot idea. There has to be a connection to a purpose, a way to demonstrate understanding and fulfillment of brand promise. There again, I am at an advantage: putting my “me” where my mouth is can become part of my brand.

One of my pet peeves is sites that try to look like somebody, in order to fit in or impress somebody else. The result is superficial, untrustworthy and disappointing. By starting out this way I’m doing the opposite. I am choosing to share how I’d encourage any small business to develop their brand identity: focus on what a target audience cares about is more effective while also knowing your own “wow” values, your identity. This can lead to the most productive and genuine ways to connect with a target audience.

Moving on to Housekeeping

Part of turning a dream into a goal, and a goal into a plan, is taking it seriously, and part of that is doing the housekeeping. Cleanup time.

The seasonal icons are now gone. I chose not to update them because I don’t want to be limited to one image per category. I want more art in my everyday life, and making images for that space could be part of that, if I leave that space open.

This blog is now my home page. There are three reasons why that makes sense.

First, the blog is where the action is. The home page should be a focus of action, not a place to get through on one’s way to the action.

Second, there is no compelling reason to separate the blog from the home page. Because I am self-hosted and have design skills, I can tweak the home page to make a space for more than one kind of action, when I want this site to do more in the future.

Third, Technorati has me listed under both ablereach.com and ablereach.com/blog, and those two are reacting to each other. Googling around revealed multiple tales of woe from others dealing with the same situation. Technorati can combine accounts, but that’s no guarantee of a long term fix. The same general issues apply to link juice. By combining “home” and “blog,” I take control of my own solution.

Until Tomorrow!

There is more I could write about tonight, but it’s after midnight here and I have arrived at my personal “enough.”

Ritual, Manners, Branding, Identity

As I cast around for how I want this blog to develop, I’m constantly revisiting what impresses me about other individual blogger’s values. “Values” is not exactly the right term. What I’m talking about is more of an atmosphere that says “this is who I am.”

Even people who don’t talk about their private lives will behave in a way that reflects personal values. This builds an expectation of the personal version of what we’ve come to call corporate culture.

The scent trail of culture can incorporate signals of any number of qualities. Spam has a scent. So do creativity, integrity, really good sales, loves, hates, competitiveness, ruthlessness, generosity, reverence, obsession — you name it.

If all self promotion was as self centered as spam, the Internet would be one stinky place. Fortunately, a marketing promotion, with the right atmosphere, can be both magnanimous and encouraging.

Here’s one, simple example of how promotion can ripple.

Last month, I posted excerpts from my new book. I also wrote a glowing post about Garr’s new book on presentations. Guess what? My stats show that I sold more copies of Garr’s book than mine.

The truism of the web: people talking about you is far more effective than talking about yourself.

Seth Godin – That doesn’t make sense

I have a strong suspicion that self promotion on the web is more like self promotion in face to face relationships. Think about it. You’re at a dinner party and the person next door leans in and begins discussing their magnificence. Not cool. No matter how magnificent they are, not cool at all. In my mind’s eye I can already “see” bad breath end ego oozing from their vicinity like viagra stanking up a spam filter.

Getting in someone’s face about how great you are is ugly in any interaction. In print media the recipient can put the leaflet down or throw it away. On TV a really bad commercial means the channel gets changed. In forums and blogs, spammers get banned.

Really good forum-style netiquette plays pretty well in person.

To skip straight to the point, ya make like a friendly resource, behave like a trusted (bathed, fact-checked and spell checked) resource and show who you are, patiently, reliably and prolifically. And you follow through like you care about who is listening more than you care about your own “rank.”

Self promotion on the web has a scent of social ritual.

Ritual is one aspect of culture that I hadn’t considered in relationship to marketing until after reading about beer, ritual and branding in posts inspired by a Wall Street Journal article. They were writing about an un-promoted, un-labeled beer produced by Belgian monks. Though the beer articles passed my eyes before Thanksgiving, they haunted my Christmas and were still in the back of my mind when considering New Year’s resolutions. Ritual is a big deal this time of the year.

Besides being what people describe as an excellent beer, Westvleteren has developed into a cult brand based on its rituals. All of the items mentioned above are ritualistic. Make an appointment. Call the Beer Phone. Two-case limit. No label. A regular release schedule. A unifying belief system. However they’re defined and practiced, rituals embody culture. They are symbolic expressions of a company’s values.

Ben McConnell – A religious donation to an unlabeled beer

Symbolic expressions of values: what are they and where do they come from?

Here, I could postulate. I could make knowledgeable-sounding lists and generalizations. I’m not going to do that because what I really want to know is what the process of exploring meaning is like, for me, blogging and in my flesh and blood life. After exploring I’d feel more genuine about defining, though getting to finite definitions wouldn’t be the point: I want the broadening experience of a journey.

Anything less than that kind of intimate depth would, well, bore me. It would feel too plastic, not meaningful enough to mean I’ve really really done good. And because I haven’t dug in and explored meaning for myself, as a blogger, I don’t really know what it would look like as I evolve, I dig in, stretch out and take a look.

I have a slightly crazy idea.

What if I committed to making 100 meaning-of life posts?

I’d base it loosely around how Elizabeth stuff bisects Internet, to keep some semblance of relevance and because the Internet is mucho hot stuff.

The Internet is the hottest thing to happen to communication since movable type – the printing press, not the blogging software. The way it connects us across cultures and experiences is nothing short of revolutionary. Seven generations ago my ancestors were getting out of Virginia after the Civil War. Seven generations from now our descendants will be learning about the communication revolution of the early days of the Internet. The world will be a different place for them because of what we figure out today about the power of the link.

My hope is to arrive at how the thing called Internet bisects my values and things I enjoy that I’d like to do more of in everyday life. If I don’t find a destination, per se, that’s OK. The goal is to explore, joyfully and with dedication.

Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.

Mark Twain

Powerful Taglines

Why are you and why should I care?
Will I remember you tomorrow?

Strong branding can help on both counts, and brand is all about identity. Business name and tagline are a powerful pair that can help to plant an entity’s identity into the memories and imaginations of readers.

From Nancy Schwartz’s Getting Attention blog:

Does your organization’s tagline complement your org’s name, convey the unique value you deliver your community, and differentiate you from the competition?

Some Favorite Blog Taglines

Getting Attention
Helping nonprofits succeed through effective marketing

Getting Attention’s tagline says in a very straight forward way what the blog aims to do.

Google Blogoscoped
Contains 80% Google

The tagline says what the blog is about, conveying focus, while adding 20% wiggle room for the rumors and hints that abound in our industry. The “scope” in “Blogoscoped” is an inspired play on words: to scope out, put under a microscope, to examine trends on the horizon with a telescope…

Making sense of contextual advertising

This one just makes sense, pun intended. It says what the blog is about, while repeating Jennifer Slegg’s personal name and the blog title.

putting the rarin back in librarian since 1999

Librarian.net’s tagline tells you that the author’s personality is wrapped up in how she lives her librarianship. Plus, you know there’s commitment behind the rarin: 1999 is an eon in Internet years. For more on Jessamyn West, check out her Wired profile: Don’t Mess With Librarians.

A new chapter every day

“A new chapter every day” infers that there is a book, while telling you it is constantly updated, growing, and current. Notice how he doesn’t say “there will be” a new chapter, use or any sort of fuzzy future promise words. The SEObook tagline is a statement of fact.


Never Mess With a Woman Who Can Pull Rank
I like Sugarrae’s tagline because it uses spice and humor to flaunt a little girl power.

Hat tip to Nancy Schwartz. If you are a nonprofit you may participate in her Nonprofit Tagline Survey. She’ll share guidance on best practices, and tips for improving your tagline when the Getting Attention Tagline Report is published in early 2008.