Stupid Strategic Commenting v. Smart Engagement

Maggiejumps, via Flickr (CC license)
Clumsiness makes for cute fountains, but horrid blog comments.

One of my most popular posts is: Stategic commenting: No blog is an island. It’s popular for a reason. Lots of people want to learn how to attractive more positive attention through conversational media (including, but not limited to, weblogs). That’s fine. Some of those people are marketers, PR professionals, or business owners. That’s fine, too.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed a disappointing tendency for marketers, PR people, and business people to attempt strategic commenting in a hamhanded and rather thoughtless fashion that’s bound to backfire.

Basically, these people search for blog posts that mention their company, industry, competitors, client, or employer and comment on those posts saying little more than “And speaking of X, we’re great, check us out!”

I hate to break it to those folks, but almost always this commenting approach does NOT constitute a constructive addition to a public conversation. It’s borderline spam, and therefore it reflects poorly on anyone who practices this approach.

Strategic commenting is primarily about contributing value to conversations; not blindly trying to co-opt conversations for your own benefit. If you don’t really know how to comment constructively, then it’s best not to try to use blog commenting to build your business.

Need an example? Here’s a bit of the bad, and the good…

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If you want me to buy, DON’T make me hunt or call!

So close… and yet so far…

Continuing on my curmudgeonly kick today… I’m trying to improve my ergonomics for working at home, so I’m seeking a small adjustable-height working surface. Sounds simple, right? Right….

Mostly I want to be able to work with my laptop (my main — and only — computer) at an ergonomically correct height and angle, regardless of whether I’m perched on my balance ball, my kneeling chair, my regular chair, or standing. It’s healthier to not be in the same position all day. (Yes, I do take breaks, stretch, and exercise, but being able to vary working position would make my spine and shoulders much happier.)

I’d be happy with a manually adjustable (hand-crank) work surface. I don’t want an elaborate workstation with a hydraulic lift system and self-adjusting seat. Just a small work surface that I can adjust up or down — and ideally set the angle back to front, too. I don’t want to spend a fortune on this, but I’m willing to spend a reasonable amount.

The hard part is finding out what these puppies actually cost… Continue reading

Social Media Spam: Ick!

(NOTE: I originally wrote this for Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog. Since it’s also relevant here, I’m cross-posting it.)

What does "Digg bait" look like? These screen grabs from a site that sells dental insurance via an affiliate program show how out-of-place the article "Geek’s Guide to Getting in Shape" is. (Click to enlarge)

Well, I knew it would happen. Spammers have figured out how to game social media news aggregation sites like Digg, Reddit, and Newsvine.

On Nov. 21, blogger Niall Kennedy examined one example of this kind of spamming in detail, explaining how it happened and why it’s a problem.

Here’s his explanation of how this particular instance of social media spam worked:

"Last weekend I noticed a Digg submission about weight loss tips had climbed the site’s front page, earning a covetous position in the top 5 technology stories of the moment. The 13 sure-fire tips were authored by ‘Dental Geek’ and posted to the ‘Discount Dental Plan’ category on his WordPress blog. Scanning the sidebar links and adjacent content it was obvious this content was out of place on a page optimized for dental insurance. The Webmaster of had inserted some Digg bait, seeded a few social bookmarking services, and waited for links and page views to roll in, creating a new node in a spam farm fueled by high-paying affiliate programs and identity collection for resale."

Ick! Now, I’m all for posting valuable content as a way to engage communities and attract audiences. But this really crosses a line, I think…

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Blogs: Popularity Doesn\’t Equal Influence

Technorati’s latest snapshot of blog influence (click to enlarge). Consider what this data really shows.

(NOTE: I originally posted this item on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog. I’m cross-posting it here because I think it’s also relevant to Contentious readers.)

On Nov. 6, Technorati published its latest quarterly state of the blogosphere report. Currently, this search service tracks 57 million feeds, mostly from blogs — with a strong focus on English-language blogs, especially from North America.

One of the most controversial sections of this report discusses a key concern for any media: influence or perceived authority. Personally, I think Technorati’s interpretation is rather awry…

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10 Ideas: What To Post to a Conference Blog

I’ve been working hard lately to get the unofficial conference blog up and running for the 2006 conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Now that it’s up and the crew of volunteer bloggers is mostly trained in how to use our blogging tool, Typepad, they’re starting to request more guidance on content. Most of these contributing bloggers come from print media. They know how to write, but they’ve never blogged before — and most of them also have little or no experience in creating any content specifically for online media.

Consequently, they aren’t familiar with conference blogs. That’s fine — many people aren’t, although that’s starting to change. I’ve worked on some conference blogging efforts, so I’ve pulled together a list of 10 kinds of posts that work well on conference blogs.

As with any conversational-media effort, it helps to know your audience, as well as your community of contributors (both bloggers and commenters). What skills and expertise do they bring to the table? What do they want? Ultimately, that should be your guide.

Here’s my list…

(READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE at my other weblog, The Right Conversation. You can also leave comments there if you wish.)

Blogging Gets Bumpy, and that\’s OK

Recently, PR blogger Kami Huyse published an interesting article: 5 Tips to Avoid Comment Hell: Dealing with Trolls. There, she posed a crucial question for new bloggers who are nervous about allowing comments on their blogs:

"I have had many clients ask me about the risks of blogging. How do you keep competitors and arch enemies from taking over the conversation and dissolving the ‘conversation’ into a shouting match?"

Her answers:

  1. Moderate comments.
  2. Have a written comment policy to manage expectations.
  3. Be in it for the long haul.
  4. Ban grossly abusive comments, but let most negative comments ride.
  5. Turn comments off if necessary, preferably temporarily.

A few quibbles notwithstanding, I mostly agree with Kami’s advice.

That said, I also believe it’s important for everyone who chooses to participate in conversational media to learn how to handle the inevitable unpleasant bumps of conflict and even flames.That’s not something you can learn theoretically. Personally I think you need to live through it. Only then can you put Kami’s advice into balanced practice. Otherwise, you might be tempted to protect yourself into total vulnerability.

Of course, surviving public conversational conflicts is not fun — but it’s crucial. If there’s one thing you learn fast in conversational media, it’s that you can never really control the conversation. Most of it happens in venues that are beyond your control, anyway The best you can do is influence it.

I raised that issue in this comment to Kami’s post…

READ THE REST of this article over at my other blog, The Right Conversation

Apologizing: Good for Your Reputation

Often I’m amazed at how the universe conspires to hit me over the head with a theme, yelling “You MUST blog this!” That’s just happened this morning on the theme of apologies. Particularly, how crucial apologies are to public discourse — and to re-establishing broken trust with your core community and the general public.

Everyone messes up sometime. However, acknowledging your role in a problem, apologizing for it, and making amends is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s often the bravest, strongest, smartest, and most constructive thing an individual, publisher, or organization can do. Especially because conversational media has a way of amplifying any failure to apologize, thus making the consequences of your original screw-up much worse in the long run.

Here are all the hints on this theme that fate has handed me in the last 24 hours…

READ MORE at my other blog, The Right Conversation…

Shutting Down Sploggers via Google Adsense

As I mentioned earlier, as far as I’m concerned, hunting down and shutting down individual splogs is a waste of energy — because a splogger can set up another (or dozens) of new sites quickly and easily for each one that gets shut down.

Many bloggers
have been discussing this issue, with a deluge of often-heated comments in the wake of these posts.

Somewhere in that multilayered discussion, I saw someone mention what seems like a way to take constructive action against sploggers that’s more meaningful than shutting down a single splog. My apologies, I can’t recall who offered this suggestion.

Anyway, Google Adsense is the most common financial incentive program used by sploggers. I can’t remember seeing a single splog that didn’t carry Google ads. One Adsense account can support a multitude of splogs. Google ostensibly doesn’t approve of splogs, and apparently will cancel Adsense accounts for sploggers who abuse the program.

Therefore, when you find a splog, you can report it to Google and ask them to close the associated Adsense account.

Back on July 10, Quick Online Tips explained how to do that…
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Why Most CEOs Shouldn\’t Blog

A couple of days ago, my friend and colleague Dave Taylor wrote a sure-to-be-provocative blog post, Why Jonathan Schwartz Should NOT Be Blogging. He also was quoted on this topic in a Sept. 16 AP article, and his posting explores his thoughts in more depth — a great strategy for getting more mileage out of mainstream media play, by the way.

Dave lists several reasons why CEOs of major companies are probably not the best people to blog for a company — at least in public, external blogs. (Intranets might be another matter.) One reason that I think is particularly compelling is this:

"Quick, how many CEOs can you name? How many from companies with more than $10 million in sales or more than 500 employees? I thought so.

…In my experience, people outside the company actually don’t care much whether the CEO blogs. While company blogs can be popular, I think that mainly depends on the quality of the conversation that happens there.

A quality corporate blog requires putting someone on the job with these qualifications…

READ THE FULL ARTICLE at my other blog, The Right Conversation