Archive for November, 2008

Have You Ever Seen a Birthday Post With Legs?

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

We decided to skip the perfunctory  “Happy 1st Birthday, Collective Thoughts” year in review and turn it on its edge.  We were all talking and wondered the last time you saw a birthday post that you’d refer to later on.

Birthday post are formulaic and predictable.  You can usually expect:

  • contests and giveaways
  • highlights of best posts
  • goals for the future

With aggregation and bookmarking tools, it’s pretty easy to find out the best posts on your own.  This is web 2.0, so we need to give you more.  Let’s delve further into the social experiment.  What’s a birthday for? Aside from celebrating your first day out in the world in your birthday suit, it’s a day for people to focus on you.

We are nothing without you, our community.  You help make us great, spreading the word, retweeting, and the like.  We’re also aware of the uncertainty of the financial markets these days.  We’d like to use our birthday to cast some light on you, and develop community here.

We want our readers to “give” us their best posts of the last year, so we can publish them in the next post.

Readers should aim for the post they most want highlighted, the one that is aimed to show their expertise in the best possible light, possibly the one they wished had got more attention.

Looking at Social Trends for Recession Indicators

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

First let me apologize for muttering the R-word but it goes without saying, it’s currently an influencing social and economic trend. The recession indicators I’m going to talk about aren’t your typical indicators as seen through the eyes of economists like the stock price of Starbucks or lipstick sales. What I’m going to point out and touch on is obviously surmised from the current economic state of things but has yet to be specifically defined in terms of social trends right now. If we wander over to Google Zeitgeist (trends, trends for websites, insights, hot trends), Twitter Search, Addict-o-matic popular and others, we can pick up on signals that speak to how our world is functioning and reacting to a recession mentality. Through these indicators we can make decisions and predictions on how to act or even how to prepare ourselves.

Let’s take a look at some of these findings:

Trend: oDesk
Popularity: Google Trends # 1

oDesk is a site that allows you to “Hire, Manage, and Pay remote contractors as if they were in your office.” Although oDesk’s hot trend rank is more than economy based, with the current mass layoffs it’s easy assume how a site like this would become very popular during a recession. Virtual employees do not require commuting (gas and auto costs) and can operate anywhere. All while saving employers money on costs like health coverage, on utilities that a normal office would consume, and since it’s hourly based pay only, there’s no worry that employers may be paying for employee downtime which would normally be the case with salary-based pay.

Trend: Etsy art
Popularity: Google Trends # 11

Etsy is a popular craft site that allows artists to display and sell their wares. Most often you can find great deals on handmade jewelry, scarves, art, etc. Basically anything that could be handmade can be found here. With the holiday season right around the corner, I anticipate Etsy will be riding high.

Trend: waste management jobs
Popularity: Google Trends # 20

When Benjamin Franklin said “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes” he forgot to mention trash. Waste management is a high paying yet low demand job that doesn’t require a college degree. It’s also not a municipal service that would likely fall victim to budget cuts like police and fire departments.

Article: Wal-Mart posts higher 3Q profit
Popularity: Addict-o-matic > Yahoo News

Unfortunately many American’s love Wal-Mart and I’m not going to get into why Wal-Mart is bad for the U.S. economy but I will say the common perception of Wal-Mart is that it’s the cheapest and easiest place to get just about everything. Penny pinchers think shopping here will save them money when in actuality middle-America might still have some coin if Wal-Mart never existed.

Article: Apple may launch most aggressive Black Friday sale yet
Popularity: Addic-o-matic > Digg

Retailers are going to have a hell of a time selling much of anything in Q4. Luckily the consumer comes out on top when retailers compete. Even though the holiday season is near and consumers will benefit from heavily discounted sales, it still may be very difficult for retailers to make their investors happy.

So what can we piece together from the above? Well, besides needing a drink or anti-depressant (invest in pharma now), we know that hiring through oDesk may be a good option for small to medium-sized business owners, we know that Etsy may be a smart place to get some good deals on quality holiday gifts, we know that jobless claims are up and people are looking for work in not-so-desirable places, we know that people are in the money-saving mindset, and consumers are going to get some great deals this holiday season.

Buckle-up folks, we know it’s going to be a bumpy ride…oftentimes social media will tell us just HOW bumpy the ride will be.

Research your posts with Buzz Monitoring

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I was playing with some toys earlier and thought; why don’t we look a little deeper into the world of Buzz Monitoring. And I don’t mean for tracking buzz altogether either. What about utilizing it when crafting new content or blog posts? Buzz monitoring need not be a glorified vanity search endeavour when it can unlock a genie of information to bring life to your content generation efforts.

While you can certainly use a buzz monitoring program to track activity relating to ones blog or company metrics, it can be also used to track/research just about anything. You can use it to track news on markets for projects and can suggest the latest trends and/or buzz for content creation programs and general business intelligence.

Information is the currency of content

What is most certainly a great way to leverage them is when used for researching your next blog post. It is not only a good way to find nuggets of varied perspectives, but also shows you the latest discussions that are going on in a given topic area.

This can be important as you can continue existing discussions in either a supportive or converse perspective and hopefully catch any existing momentum that already exists in the marketplace. You may even find the research into the most recent activity begins to craft your post in directions you may not have started off on in the fist place.

 

Some tools to play with

As it has been said by the ever fascinating Johnny Long; Google is your friend – so let’s start there.

(Johnny Long… Not related.. but entertaining)

Anyway, let’s continue on… Often freshness matters as much as quality and other times aged, respected feed sources are the call of the day. In the former, where freshness plays a roll, try a quick run though various searches on Google;

Google Blog Search; which can be set to various time frames – you can also grab a widget for your iGoogle or set up alerts for desired topics.

Google Search (regular); using time delineated results (1 week here) – a variety of Google search hacks are always handy for researching anything. But that’s another story.

Other useful blog stops include;

Blog Catalog
Bloglines
TrendPedia Blog Search
Blog Runner
BlogMarks
Blog Pulse
Ice Rocket

Now this method works on a larger scale but also tend to have a higher noise-to signal ratio than one may want when creating content. Timely content isn’t always the best content. One of the next options is to do a little Google personalization in the form of known, respected sources….

PostRank (consolidate with Aiderss) – another handy buzz monitor tool is PostRank which will scan a feed and give you a 1-10 scale of each post. This can be handy when analyzing a given post or topic type to ensure you have the best possible chance of creating a popular post of your own.

Do-it-yourself

The Google Custom Search Engine; a service that allows you to search only the sites you wish and even segment them. I like creating GCSEs centric to areas of study. In my case that would be search engines, search marketing and social media marketing. To that end I created a couple engines to study what I felt were some of the more authoritative barometers of the genre

The SEO Search Engine – which we can search ‘buzz monitor’ to get results on the topic from top SEO blogs.

The SMM Search – which contains many of the top social media marketing blogs and we’d get this for ‘buzz monitor

What is advantageous to making a custom search engine is controlling the source material. Even if you are writing for a niche you’re not familiar with, once populating with known entities in the space it is your crystal ball to mining content ideas and opinions.

Should we be tasked with creating content for a fishing store/blog you would not only mine the client and his suppliers for leads (on influencer sites/blogs) but head off to locales such as Technorati , Alltop or MBL – to get a good cross section and identify influencers.

Add them into your custom search engine and away you go…

Google Custom search in action

Regardless of how you populate them, utilizing a Google Custom Search Engine can make for a great signal to noise tool for ongoing project needs. Segmentation helps to narrow the focus where that is often needed to catch the influencers in a market segment.

 

Segmenting the social world

Next we want to be able to JUST search the social world for activity. Once more utilizing the GCSE we can segment the various social sites not only choosing which to include, but also segment by basic type (social media, networking, bookmarking etc…). To that end;

Social Activity Search – which enables searching of the various major social sites like so..

Twitter/FriendFeed/Plurk Search – for watching the world of micro-bloggers – our search

The main point being to load them up with sites you feel you are targeting or interested in for a given campaign. It takes very little time but gives you a tool at your control that makes getting the feel for a buzz in a given niche easy and accessible.

If you’re looking for a good list of sites to mine for data, I just happen to keep a list here which might come in handy. You can even go old school and make one to search the forums in a given niche – you’re limited by your imagination and uses for qualitative as well as quantitative data.

Also, if you want to track buzz on Twitter, use the real-time search – which we can use with topic markers (#seo for example) or use the advanced search goodies which are here – of interest is the ‘sentiment’ search which can help if you’re after a positive or negative spin on your post.

 

What to make of it all?

Now that you have all this information it is a matter of mining it for data.

Start by making note of;

  1. Common topics; old staples that are the everyday
  2. Popular topics; ones that are hot on social sites
  3. Controversial Topics; those that raise the emotions
  4. Timely items; news that is bandwagon friendly
  5. Resource lists; topically relevant tools and resources.
  6. Popular sites; top influencers often cited (show some link love)
  7. Chronological anomalies (is more content published on a certain day?)

This can be a scientific excursion utilizing a spreadsheet or other application or a more informal process of making notes of the areas that stand out to you. What is more important is that you get a feel for the target audience and the market itself before even setting about the content creation itself. You may already have a topic in mind, you may not; the goal is to understand the space.

Then Target your approach; using traditional hooks;

  1. The News hook
  2. Resource angle
  3. Freebies and give-a-ways
  4. The passion poker
  5. The Ego baiter

Armed with your research it should be easy to find topics, resources and influencers to match up with more traditional link bait approaches to make a compelling page/blog post. Once more we are merely looking to get the creative juices flowing through this process. Beyond buzz monitoring there are other factors such as past analytics and openly available trend data from locales such as Google Trends and Compete from which we can draw from. Utilizing buzz monitoring is merely another tool in deciding on the ultimate direction of any content creation plan.

 
Just links in the chain

There are many other considerations to be had when putting together a content creation plan – but buzz monitoring is certainly a tool with many uses. Hopefully turning to these tools for more than mere engagement metrics and benchmarks will enhance your own imagination to how these tools can be used. If you approach them as a blank canvass awaiting the first stroke, you will find much value to be had beyond traditional uses. Next time your writing or seeking inspiration why not give it a try ;0)

And because we’ve merely opened a new door into Buzz Monitoring; What else can they do? Research and Development? Business intelligence? Qualitative data?

There is more here than a mere vanity search nor fickle engagement metrics – get creative

 

Here are some goodies that came out of this expedition for more of your creative endeavours;

Finding were your customers are talking about you. – Vanessa Fox
13 Tools for Tracking discussions in the Blog-o-sphere - Mashable
26 Free Social Media Tracking Tools – Marketing Pilgrim
Reputation Management made easy, and Free! – Search Engine Land
Tools to monitor your brand effectively – Social Media Trader
Top 10 reasons to monitor your brand online – TopRank Blog

Other toys for tracking

Megite – social news aggregrator for uncovering the most relevant items from auto-discovered news sites and weblogs. Here’s an example using Lee Odden’s Big list of marketing blogs.

Zemanta – Any user-created text (a blog post, article or web page) is directly “read” by Zemanta; it then combs the web for the most relevant images, smart links, keywords and text, instantly serving these results. Zemanta can be deployed on all major content publishing platforms and web browsers through a simple plug-in.

 

Paid Services – I haven’t had the opportunity to review these, use at own risk.

Trackur
SentiMetrics
CyberAlert - NetPinions
Umbria
Buzz Logic
Nielsen Buzz Metrics
ScoutLabs

2008 Mashable Open Web Awards

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Collective Thoughts has partnered up again with Mashable for the 2008 Open Web Awards! Nominate your favorites at the bottom of the page with their cool new widget! Nominations for the 2008 Open Web Awards begin Wednesday, November 5th, 9 am PST till Sunday, November 16th 11:59 pm PST. (THIS MEANS VOTE NOW!!!)

Open Web Awards is the only multilingual international online voting competition that covers major innovations in web technology. Nominate your favorites in a ton of categories ranging from Social News to Niche interests! The first Open Web Awards achieved over 250,000 votes combined between Mashable and 50 international blog partners including Collective Thoughts!


Rules for Voting and Nominations
Mashable and PollDaddy reserves the right to analyze any of the nominations or votes before determining an official nominee or winner. Due to the nature of online submissions, the following are the rules for voting and nominations:

Nominations:
1. Any site or application can be nominated in as many categories as seen fit
2. Nominations is one Site per Category per person (validated through PollDaddy)
3. Nominees with the most submissions and/or determined by Mashable will move to the voting round

Voting:
1. Voting is one vote per Category per person (validated through PollDaddy)
2. IP tracking and e-mail confirmation will remain in place
3. E-mails will only be used in regards to alerts about the Open Web Awards
4. Winners will be determined after voting round is closed and data is verified

Winners:
1. “People’s Choice” Winners will be validated by Mashable and PollDaddy before any announcements are made
2. “Blogger’s Choice will be validated by Mashable and compiled from our Blog Partners

Presented by:

Mashable

Mashable

What Are Your Creative Triggers?

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Refresh yourselfWhat triggers do you use to put yourself into a highly creative state of mind?

For this to have its greatest impact I would really like you to stop whatever mindless activity you are thinking of and follow a few simple steps. First stand up and take three deep breaths. Holding each breath for a few seconds will calm your mind. Go ahead and do it now! No one is watching! I would enjoy having your positive attention for a few minutes before you develop your own creative triggers.

Moving on, please start with a fresh beverage of choice. I often find a rich chocolate coffee helps to slow things down, other times cracking open an ice cold coke “in a can” grasps my full attention to the task I have before me. But we’re near the end of 2008, more than likely your beverage of choice happens to be a clear, but simple bottle of water. As long as you begin to relax and focus your mind, you will learn what triggers are best for you. Find your mental escape!

I also like to start my creative process with the use of a location trigger to place myself in to a specific state of mind. You may find that a location may offer you more of a targeted trigger, more so than an object trigger, depending on what you want to convey in your message. Parks are a great source of inspiration that creative people have used for ages. Close your eyes and think of sitting on a deadfall at the edge of a meadow.

What are the sounds you hear as birds sing, the leaves rustle as squirrels fight over the last of your popcorn? What smells trigger your senses? Is it autumn and you sense the first hint of someone’s fireplace? Or is it spring and the musky smell of fresh turned flower beds hover in the air? Do not limit yourself to one location.

Another place I like to go to is my “second office.” It is a picnic bench located at the top of a dune overlooking a public beach. In fact this post was first written on a notepad while the smell of suntan lotion drifts up off the beach below. Take another deep breath and you will also smell the soft smell of coconuts. How long will the smell of suntan lotion now linger in your mind? Use the location triggers as a starting place then let them take you forward.

How does this creative trigger post make sense on a social media blog? Collective-Thoughts have a very broad selection of readers. Many are seasoned content developers creating amazing content on their own, but some are just in the beginning stages of their careers. By looking into how you select your inspiration, it will help to heighten your senses to expand your talents over all of the various aspects of social media. Some triggers will help you to brainstorm for video; while others are better suited to help you facilitate your writing. Some make Stumbling more fun. Anyone play drinking games while Digging?

Now on to the question of the day. Do I add a shot of Patrón XO Cafe into my coffee before I start my next post?

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Welcome to the new wisdom of crowds. Each member of Collective Thoughts is here because not only are they a known or rising star in their own field, but they also have a passion and unique understanding on social media. Together, we make up Collective Thoughts. More

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