When I first started establishing my identity on the Internet, nearly thirty years ago, managing personal and corporate brands wasn’t an issue. The only people on the Internet were from universities and research institutions. There was supposed to be no personal or corporate use of the Internet. My identification was my initials and the host machine I was using, which was a weird amalgam of the location, operating system and on information about the machine.
Things have changed a bit in the past thirty years, and I’ve been thinking a bit about this as I read reports about Keith Olbermann leaving MSNBC and Geoff Fox leaving WTNH. Both of these people have very well developed personal brands, probably more developed as a result of their on air personalities as opposed to their online personalities, but the online persona plays an important part. Online communities have sprung up criticizing MSNBC and WTNH for letting go of these popular personalities.
Most of my work is online. Some people have faces made for radio. Others have voices made for writing online. I have focused on my online personal brand. ahynes1, Aldon Hynes, and Orient Lodge are the three primary aspects of my brand, and I try to tie all of them together, as much as possible using similar avatars, color schemes, and anything else that can make my personal brand consistent.
Now that I’ve taken a position with Community Health Center, Inc. in Connecticut, I need to manage both my personal brand, and what my contributions or to CHC’s brand. What I write here on Orient Lodge is promoting my personal brand. It is expressing my own opinions. What I write on the CHC Facebook page, is intended to promote the organization’s brand.
Different organizations have different relationships between the personal brands of employees and the brand of the organization. For media where an individual’s personality is important, the individuals brand get a lot of focus. For consumer goods, there is less likely to be a personal brand associated, unless there is some sort of celebrity endorsement. For realtor’s the individual’s brand is often more important than the agency they are working for.
The medical field seems a bit more complicated, in that both the brands of the providers and the brands of the organizations are important.
So, as I work on establishing the best relationships between personal brands and corporate brands where I work, I would encourage all my readers to think about their personal brands, the brands of the organizations they work at, and how they relate.
Back in August, I wrote a blog piece about Playing with Google Friend Connect Newsletters and other stuff. It turns out that if you have Google Friend Connect set up on your blog, you can use it to send newsletters to people who have opted in. At the time, there were 49 people that had opted-in and I sent them an email.
I haven’t sent another email blast using Google Friend Connect since then. Email blasts just really aren’t a high priority for my blog. Since then, the number of newsletter subscribers has grown to 80 out of the 289 people that have joined Orient Lodge on Google Friend Connect. I’ll probably send them an email about this blog post and random other updates.
At my new job, we’ve been talking about improving our email marketing, so I’ve been spending a bit of time looking at different email marketing systems. I’ve asked a bunch of friends, done a bit of testing and have some initial thoughts and a further request.
The email marketing system that has the greatest mindshare is Constant Contact. If you ask people about email marketing systems, just about everyone will mention them. They are very good. People also mention that they are the strictest. If you want to do anything more than very straight forward opt-in email marketing, they are probably not the folks to use.
The other email marketing system that got a lot of comments was Vertical Response. The comments I received were unanimous. Avoid them. Most of the complaints were about usability. It is just too hard a system to work with.
GetResponse got some good reviews, but I haven’t really spent time exploring them. There was one other system that was recommended called Emma. However, they seemed awfully pricy and I decided not to use them.
The two systems that got the best response and seemed to fit best with what I’m looking at are MailChimp and Mad Mimi. Mad Mimi seems to be better oriented towards building up new lists. They are pretty straight forward about who you can contact:
To add audience, each person must either:
Be a customer, member or subscriber of your organization.
Have asked to get your emails by signing up in some way.
Have bought something from you in the past 18 months.
No 3rd party lists, no prospects, no lists that you scraped from websites, no chambers of commerce lists, etc
The two statements are perhaps not all that different, other than the tone, but for someone interested in building their lists, they should look at these policies to see which system feel more comfortable.
One other system I started looking at was CoreMotives running as part of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. There are some really interesting aspects of embedding an email marketing system within a CRM, but it probably doesn’t work well for smaller bloggers.
In terms of ease of use, I found Mailchimp pretty nice in terms of constructing nice emails. On a first pass, Mad Mimi doesn’t seem as strong in this area. I also like Mailchimp’s SocialPro. It pulls data from different sites, including Rapleaf and Gravatar so that you can better segment your lists. SocialPro is free until March, but still needs some work. They have some other nice integration with social media, Google Analytics and other tools for tracking and interacting with the system.
Mad Mimi does some really nice social media integration, and may be easier for some sorts of email blasts once you get everything configured just right. I’m told they have some other interesting features that are worth exploring.
So, that’s where I’m at right now with testing these systems. I’ve added sections in the lower left hand part of my blog where you can subscribe via MailChimp and Mad Mimi. If you’re interested in participating in my testing, please consider signing up. Also, if you use any email marketing system to promote your blog, share your thoughts.
I don’t normally do promotions, contests, paid content or stuff like that, but recently I’ve received a few emails from the folks promoting Buckyballs and they are exactly the sort of product that I would be interested in promoting.
So, here’s the deal. Promote my online presence, my blog, my twitter account, this blog post, stuff like that, and tell me about it in the comments. The more you promote, the more chances you have to win. I will select three winners who will receive their own Buckyballs. Winners will need to provide me with a mailing address in the United States where the Buckyballs can be shipped. For more details, check below the fold.
Often, I've been asked how I make money blogging. My typical response is that I don't, directly. I blog because I feel I have something important to say. Yet there is an indirect component. Blogging boosts my profile. People can learn more about what and how I think and hopefully, decide to retain me for various contracts.
Yet part of what I'm interested in is how people make money online. It seems like a lot of it is selling snake oil, and there are probably hundreds of new scams created each day. Other parts are just over hyped. So, let's take a serious look at the sort of revenues that can be made on a blog.
First, there is Cost per Thousand Impression, or CPM advertising. This is advertising where you get paid by the number of times an ad is seen on your website. CPM rates can be all over the place, from much less than $1 per thousand impressions to more than $10 per thousand impressions. These rates will depend on whether you can target advertisements, the size of the advertisements and other factors. So lets take a blog with 10,000 impressions a month. Let's assume a better than average CPM of $4 per thousand impressions. If you don't have a great way of selling your ads, you might end up only getting $.25 per thousand impressions. If you can get ten such ads, you could be making about $400 per month, or only $25 per month. That said, I suspect many bloggers are getting closer to $25 per month.
Next there is Cost Per Click, or CPC advertising. The percentage of ads displayed that actually get clicked on varies considerably. Some people claim that rate is as high as 2% to 4%. Others report an average about a quarter of a percent of advertisements actually getting clicked on. This means that if you have 10,000 impressions a month, between 25 and 400 ads will actually get clicked on. Like with CPM advertising, the CPC rates vary considerably. For some ads, they might be as high as $10. For others, they can be less than $1. So, if you are getting 4% of your ads clicked on, that is 400 ads. If you get $1 per click, that is $400, about the same as more profitable CPM advertising. On the other hand, if you are getting a dollar per click on about .25% of advertisements, you're back at the $25/month range.
Let me pause for a moment to talk about the quality of traffic you receive, and how to increase traffic, and/or quality of traffic. One measure is the demographics. If I get a lot of really rich folks that like to buy things online, my traffic is really valuable to advertisers. If I get some traffic from moms trying to save a buck, that is still somewhat valuable. If most of my traffic is from people trying to find where to download free nude pictures of the latest celebrity, that traffic probably isn't worth a lot.
There are several networks that I belong to that bring in additional traffic to my site. EntreCard is a site where bloggers advertise their blogs on other participating blogs. People hop from one EntreCard site to the next 'dropping their cards' to gain credits that can be used to buy more advertising. This network drives a fair amount of traffic to me, but it is mostly, 'drop and run' traffic, that in most cases barely even reads my blog posts.
Adgitize works in a similar manner. It seems to be a smaller, more dedicated group of bloggers. With Adgitize, you buy and advertisement using real money, as opposed to the EntreCard Credits that EntreCard uses. Then, you receive credits for the number of other participating blogs you visit, for the number of ad impressions served, and for keeping your content current. For me, this site is generating about 60% of the traffic that EntreCard produces, but the participants spend more time on my site. In addition, each month, I receive more money from Adgitize than I spend on my advertisements. If you are an active blogger interested in low level monitization of your website, as well as building up a stronger community of readers, I recommend Adgitize.
Third in this group is CMF Ads. They have different advertising options, including a CPC and a CPM model. I've experimented with different options. As a general rule, the money that I make from CMF Ads gets reinvested into advertisements. It doesn't generate as much traffic as EntreCard or Adgitize, but can be a nice complement to the other networks. I use all three as you will see on the right side of this blog. I should note that both Adgitize and CMF Ads has an affiliate program so if you consider using them, please click on my links so I get credit.
Another form of advertising is paid posts. I haven't really done any paid posts, so I can't comment on them. I do participate in Business2Blogger which sends out an email of different opportunities to review products and get free samples. So far, most of the opportunities haven't been very interesting to me, and those that are, get filled up by other bloggers quickly.
I have just received an email from Chris Kensworthy asking me to take down my links to the Escalate Network promotions because I have listed what the payout is. Because of my commitment to transparency, I seriously question the online advertising ethics of Escalate Network, Chili's and Vital Juice.
I am complying with their request and modifying the section below. I also strongly encourage people not to join Escalate Network, purchase chips from Chile's or sign up for Vital Juice.
Today, Business2blogger announced a special deal for its members to join Escalate Media Affiliate Network. As an affiliate network, I do get money for people signing up, so please consider it. Escalate Media is running on a third type of online advertising called Cost Per Action, or CPA advertising. One particular type of CPA advertising is Cost Per Lead, or CPL advertising. For simplicity, I just lump them all together as CPA.
What this means is that even if you click on an advertisement, the blogger doesn't get any money, unless you complete a specific action. This action could be something as simple as signing up for a mailing list, completing a survey, or filling out a form to request free samples.
As an illustration, if you click on:
(Ad for Chile's removed)
to can sign up for Chili's Free chips and queso coupons. You probably get added to a mailing list, and I get an amount I am not allowed to disclose.
Or, you can sign up for a nutrition mailing list from Vital Juice.
(Ad for Vital Juice removed)
I get an amount Vital Juice does not want disclosed from Vital Juice for each signup. People who like chips and are concerned about their health might want to try both.
As a different example, if you order a 'Free' Tote bag from VistaPrint, I get an amount that it might be okay with VistaPrint if I disclose, but I believe that Escalate Network would have a fit. I believe that only happens if you go all the way through and actually get one of the tote bags. Of course the way VistaPrint does this is that they offer a free totebag, but then try to get you to buy more things while you are there. Why not get a dozen tote bags instead? Maybe you can carry your chips in your tote bags.
Since this is my first day with Escalate Network, I'll experiment a little bit with it to see how it goes. If it seems productive, I may take some space on the right of my blog to further promote them.
The advertising on this blog isn't likely to replace the consulting that I do, but it gives me good information about various programs that are out there.
How about you? Are you making money off of your blog? How important is that to you? Are you getting the traffic you want? Are there other sites that you recommend?
One of the panels at Digiday Social was "Is The App The Future of Social? . Perhaps it would have been better named, "What is the future of apps?"
Adam Broitman, Founder and Ringleader of Circ.us said that 80% of free apps that get downloaded do not get used on the second day, and only 5% are still in use 30 days later. He compared apps to the early days of AOL. Apps are convenient, but eventually, people want more open systems.
As an innovator/early adopter with a Nokia N900, a cellphone that is great for application developers that want to work with open source software, I am an outlier. I have a little over 100 apps loaded on my phone. They are all free apps and I use many of them very frequently.
On the other hand, every day I get several pitches for the latest new iPhone app. With over 250,000 application in the app store, it is hard to get noticed, and I suspect there are a lot of apps that are either duplicates or simply wastes of time.
I regularly respond to these pitches asking if there are plans to make the apps available on Android, Blackberry, Maemo/Meego, or as HTML5. Typically, the response is that something like that is in the works.
This illustrates two issues that apps developers need to face: cross platform development and apps discovery.
Right now, there are two major apps stores, one for the iPhone and one for Android. There are plenty of other apps stores around. An article in Rethink Wireless about HTC's latest move mentions
Verizon Wireless... is divorcing its Android V Cast Apps storefront from the generic Android Market and preloading its own apps storefront.
Another Rethink Wireless article talks about Nokia and Intel showing off updated app stores.
Purnima Kochikar, VP for Forum Nokia, the developer community, was pushing the line that she was "empowering developers, not chasing app store numbers".
The article talks a little bit about the Intel AppUp Center and mentions Meego in passing. It doesn't get into the issue of repositories that Maemo and Meego developers argue about. Yet the architecture of Maemo and Meego facilitate anyone to set up their own repository or app store.
The Nokia and Intel strategy is focused on Qt, a cross-platform application and user interface framework. The idea is that you can build an application in Qt and then compile it to run on any device that supports Qt. This is a great idea and if Broitman is right might be some of the direction that apps development is heading, except that iPhone and Android are not set up well for Qt applications yet.
There is one project that looks really interesting. It is Android Lighthouse which allows you to compile and package Qt applications for Android. I don't have an Android phone to play with right now, so I haven't tried it out, but it looks really promising.
There is also the Nitdroid project to run Android on the Nokia tablets, like the N900. I may install that at some point, but it repartitions the whole microSD card, so I'm waiting for a chance to explore this in more detail. When I have time to really explore it, I just might build some Qt apps to run on my N900 and see if I can get them to run under Maemo, Mer, Meego, and Nitdroid.
One application that I use quite a bit is Dorian, an eBook reader for the N900. I am reading eBooks that are stored on the N900. It is true that using lighttpd, or the file: protocol, I could make the books available online to an HTML5 application, but that seems like overkill. Things like books, music, pictures and video may be best accessed directly from the device.
Back to the issue of discovery, this is a key issue, not only for apps, but for many things people search for on the Internet. I hope to write more about the broader discovery issue soon. One panelist suggested that if discovery of apps is an issue, you need better control over the app stores. Yet Apple's control over its app store does not seem to have helped. Instead, it seems like you need better discovery mechanisms.
This takes us back to Broitman's comment about Apps being like AOL. As Google and Yahoo made it easier for people to discover the content they wanted online, they left the walled gardens of AOL and more people started creating webpages outside of AOL. It is reasonable to expect something similar will happen as it becomes easier to create new apps and search more locations for apps.
Apps should be an important part of marketers' strategies. For the time being, they might be able to get away with staying in the wall gardens of Apple. However, the smart players will explore cross platform apps and always fall back to an HTML5 page for mobile devices that don't support their apps.
So, if you are pitching a cool new app to me, be prepared for my question about cross platform capabilities, and know that I'm unlikely to write about it unless it runs on the N900 or has an HTML5 page.