Are They Qualified to be Social Media Marketing Experts?

A lesson in corporate blogging
I wrestled with whether I should blog about this – but I think it is worthwhile to write this up to show you a great example of what not to do on a corporate blog.

This is of course, my personal blog, and I have a clear disclaimer right at the top. I make zero claim to tie anything on this site to the firm I work with – these are entirely my own thoughts.

A corporate blog is a far different animal. Depending on what your corporation is, you may be able to venture into some debate, but at least do your research first, and be open to fixing something if you post the wrong facts.

I’ll get more into corporate blogging in a minute, but it should be plain as day already what the lesson is: if you have a personal blog, by all means criticize, critique, and be snarky. That’s half the fun sometimes. But, a corporate blog you have to have some respect, and you also need to actively listen, especially if you post something that clearly upsets someone.

So, I’m about to pull a Streisand effect and draw attention to something you, my readers here never would have seen otherwise to prove a point – which will soon become clear.

I present to you the social media marketing experts:
The Digital Influence Group claims to be social media experts. Taken from their “about us” page:

“Digital Influence Group is a social media marketing services agency that helps clients use social media to build communities with their key constituencies. We have developed a unique methodology for identifying, education and influencing the blogosphere, reputation aggregators, e-communities and social networks. Our approach, a true innovation in marketing services, blends the expertise of public relations and interactive marketing to achieve new levels of engagement and influence with targeted audiences.”

The Digital Influence Group also has a blog entitled DIGtrends. Here’s where things get interesting.

Kevin over at DIGtrends and the Digital Influence Group wrote the following post on their corporate blog about one of my web marketing campaigns. You can take a minute and read the whole thing, but I’d like to go through part of it:

Now, take a look at this recent campaign called Java Beta Test. It’s getting some pretty good buzz from Mashable and CNET, but when I signed up; I wasn’t thrilled with the response I received:
Hi Kevin,

You have successfully submitted (email address) for inclusion in the Java beta test invite list.

If your blog is chosen to participate, we will send you an invitation!

Thank you,

What exactly do they mean by “chosen?” What are the criteria for being chosen? If you’re wondering what my first reaction was, refer to paragraphs one and two.

Paragraphs one and two:

“Submit the URL of your blog and we’ll let you know whether or not you qualify to blog about our products and receive a free sample!”

Huh? Is this some sort of joke?

“We won’t send just anyone a sample of our product. If you have a significant audience that will help generate awareness of our brand while limiting the loss we would experience by allowing just ANY blogger to participate, then submit your URL and we’ll let you know whether you’re worthy.”

Click the image icon below to view the full post in case they edit or delete it:

Fair play to Kevin, that he might not have liked the language I used in the email to him – however, consider the following:

  • All bloggers were approved as long as their blog was not porn or spam – that was the entire rationale for why we wrote “If your blog is chosen to participate, we will send you an invitation!” If you’ve ever actually ran a social network, blog or online promotion involving a sign up form, you know that approving things is a highly necessary step.
  • In fact, part of the “play on words” for using this verbiage was that this was a beta test! I’ll let that one go though, even though all the rest of the 1,200+ bloggers participating got the joke (beta testers always are approved prior to getting an invite).
  • Nowhere on the beta site does it make any claim that you must have a certain audience size to become a tester – in fact, all bloggers large and small were approved, given a link and given a sample, all free. It’s unfortunate that Kevin infers that we had to make sure sites were “worthy” – this was never stated and is untrue.
  • At no point did we ask anyone to write about the product, any mentions happened organically.
  • In fact, there were hundreds of positive posts about the test in the blogosphere and all around the social web – every single other person enjoyed what we were doing and thought it positive. Check out a wrap-up.
  • Not a single other blogger complained about the language, only Kevin at the Digital Influence Group.
  • Kevin reads far too into this to pad his blog entry, throwing in a quote (from himself), bolding words without rationale, and unfortunately getting this altogether wrong. On a corporate blog.

I think I’ve proved my point here. But why even create this post? Well, to show you how not to run a corporate blog. Let’s go further.

I posted a response to the thread, very kindly explaining my rationale:

Hi Kevin,

To answer your question, beta test is in fact open to everyone. Everyone who has a legitimate blog is accepted to participate.

Due to the huge amount of spam blogs and spam bots around the web and blogosphere, sending you an email and checking out your blog first is a necessary step. But I assure you, everyone who filled out the entry form and has a blog was accepted and sent free coffee.

There is also absolutely no requirement you blog about us, link to us, write about the test, etc.

Cheers,
Adam

Now keep in mind, this blog post is from back in February. Kevin could have easily seen my comment and taken a quick second to update his post reflecting that I took notice that he was upset and took the time to explain that his words about us were false.

Unfortunately (and here comes the lesson for if you’re considering starting a corporate blog) – I don’t even think Kevin, or the Digital Influence Group, even read their own blog!

If you didn’t notice when I first linked you to their site, check out the comments section for this post:


Did you notice the online casino, progressive insurance, and multiplayer game spam links? No serious blogger – corporate or personal, would keep obvious spam comments or trackbacks on their site. It’s unprofessional, puts off readers and makes it seem like you aren’t even paying attention.

It’s also noteworthy that more than one of their blog entries have spam. I’m not linking to any more pages on their blog because I don’t think their posts are great. Neither does the web – their blog has a traffic rank of: 2,548,834 and they have been blogging since 2006. It’s pretty clear they are keeping this blog purely for SEO purposes. Unfortunately, the traffic numbers clearly tell you that optimization does not necessarily equal traffic.

You can argue with me on that one if you like, however they have been blogging since November, 2006. They claim to be the “Digital Influence Group,” but they can’t advance their own blog more than this in more than a year (that Alexa rank over 2 million is dismal).

Prior to writing this post, I attempted to address my concern privately
I also don’t think they are paying attention. I submitted a kindly written email to them twice asking politely to consider adding an update to their post about the test, with how their writer unfortunately got this one wrong – I even pointed out their spam problem on their blog. They didn’t even offer me a reply, thus the inspiration for this post.

That’s the next lesson for corporate blogging – always be responsive to your audience. We all have a voice, and especially bloggers are unafraid to use it. It’s 100% part of blogging. To have a corporate blog and not be 100% engaged in the conversation is a huge mistake. To keep a corporate blog purely for the SEO is another huge mistake.

The blogosphere is really one giant conversation. No matter if your blog is read by 10 or 1,000 people, when you write about specific things; the people behind those things are in fact watching you. Calling out another agency for a promotion you may not agree with, a product you don’t like, or something extremely opinionated is something for a personal blog, not a corporate blog.

Especially ironic in all of this is their Rules of Engagement Page:

Rules of Engagement.
So what happens, for example, when employees start blogging? Are there rules? Is profanity or character defamation (which may appear in some blogs) going to be permitted? How openly can employees discuss product development? What is considered Company confidential information and what is open to the public? There needs to be rules that guide people and help them use social media tools safely and with confidence.

There are rules. Maybe it’s time their staff re-read their own materials?

I never would have written this post if this was coming from a personal blogger – there would be no lesson to be learned. But this is coming from a corporate blog, clearly one which isn’t even listening and doesn’t fully embrace something they preach on their site.

If I was a bit snarky in this post – it was to prove one final point. Upset a blogger – even a little bit – and you will certainly hear about it. I could have let this go, but they provided me something easy and controversial to write on tonight that would give my readers something compelling on the topic I’m passionate about. That is a top reason I keep a blog, and a top reason many others blog as well.

Summary:

So what do you think? Is it right for a company (a communications company no less) to blog negatively about a competitor on a corporate blog, receive three communications – (2 of them private through email), and not even bother to at least give a reply?

update: please read the comments for a response from the Digital Influence Group

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