Archive for the ‘Company’ Category

New Release! Support for agencies and enterprises with projects

Hi all!  This is going to be a long post, but we had a big release last week and there’s a lot to cover.  We’ve added features that touch just about every part of the product and,  on top of that, we finished a major infrastructure upgrade to improve performance.  Here’s what’s new:

Projects:

Support for projects has been a long time in the making and of all the things we added last week, this is the big one (with all due respect to Fred Sanford).  So what is a project?  A project provides a workspace where a designated group can work on a set of contacts, article, links, monitors, etc.  An agency might designate a project for each of its clients.  An in-house marketing group might set up a project for each product that they’re working on or for each agency that they’re working with.   Access to a project is limited to the people who are assigned to it (unless you’re an admin).  Here are some of the things that you can do when you’ve enabled projects that we’re excited about:

  • Share contacts between projects. You can have a single contact assigned to multiple projects, with different information in each of them.  For example, you might have a Person contact named “Walt Mossberg” and a Link Partner contact named “dmoz” that’s assigned to two different projects – one called “Apple iPhone” and the other called “Google Wave.”  The contact info and metrics will be carried with these two contacts in all projects, but all of the other information could be different.  They can be assigned to different people and you can have different values for Relationship Stage and Rating.  Walt Mossberg in Apple might have a set of articles attached that are about mobile wireless services, while the version in Google Wave might have e-mail and collaboration articles in it.  Similarly, the dmoz Link Partner might have different links for each project and the backlink checker might find links in one of the projects but not in the other.
  • Copy contacts to new projects. For agencies, when they add a new client, they can easily filter their contacts to find the right influencers and link opportunities for them.  Copying these contacts to a new project can be done in two clicks.
  • Copy to multiple projects from the buzzmarker. The buzzmarker also includes the ability to copy contacts to multiple projects.  Quite valuable if you come across an influencer or link opportunity that’s well suited for multiple clients.
  • History filtering by projects: For each contact, you can filter the communication history in two ways: 1) view all communications, and 2) view communications only for this project.  This gives you the info about the project that you need in order to communicate effectively with the contact while still giving you the big picture view that you need in order to prevent communication snafus.

Here are two videos that provide an overview of projects…the first shows them being used for BuzzStream for PR and Social Media and the second show them for BuzzStream for Link Management.

Overview of Projects – BuzzStream for PR and Social Media

Overview of Projects – BuzzStream for Link Management

New Filters

We invest a lot of time on our filtering capabilities because, once you have a large number of contacts in BuzzStream, the ability to slice and dice your contacts, monitors, links, article, etc for segmented outreach becomes really valuable.  We added two new filters in the latest release:

  • Filter people and media outlets by metrics: on the People tab, you can filter by PageRank, unique visitors, etc. and it will find all people associated with media outlets that match the filter.  You can also filter people by their twitter metrics.  This is useful for segmenting outreach based on level of influence or reach.

filter by metrics

  • Filter monitoring results by publication date: you can now sort your monitoring results by influence rating and then filter by publication date to quickly find content by the most influential people within a certain time period.

filter by pub date

Usability and performance improvements to monitoring

Since we launched it into beta two months ago, the monitoring module has undergone a ton of work to make it more usable and to make it perform better.  Some of the things that we’ve done:

  • Monitoring performance and reliability. We felt the bite of the TechCrunch effect after they posted about us and monitoring performance was just plain poor for the first two weeks.  We’ve spent a significant amount of time squashing bugs, adding database indexes, improving our threading, etc., all to improve this.  All of this has made a huge difference on performance.  If you haven’t used the monitoring in a while, you’ll notice a big difference next time you log in.
  • Usability enhancements. We haven’t added any specific usability enhancement that’s a “wow” type of feature, but lots of little enhancements that should add up to a much better experience.  Some of the changes:
    • Changed pagination to make it easier to navigate through results
    • Fixed a scrolling bug that would cause the screen to constantly scroll to the top as results were retrieved or whenever you clicked “Block.”
    • Header now shows the number of results for the search that’s selected.
    • Added mozRank and juice passing links to “Export Results” for a monitor
    • Added a “Name” field for RSS searches (so you know what the RSS feed is for when you view it in Results).
    • Cleaner navigation in the Results.

Infrastructure Improvements

To improve performance, we also undertook a major upgrade of our server environment.  The database is now running on it’s own server, we’ve improved our monitoring tools and we’re operating on much bigger servers.  It was a hard-core upgrade, but it’s made a big difference.

What’s Coming Next

After two very big releases, we’re now going to focus on some bite-sized features.  Some of the things we’re working on now:

  • Filter by communication history – i.e., show me all people who I’ve e-mailed with, tweeted, called, etc.
  • Adding article statistics to Export in monitoring: In the Monitoring module, we integrate with Backtype to provide article statistics like Number of tweets, Number of Comments, and Number of Digg Comments.  We’re adding these to the Export file, which will make it easier for people to add this information to coverage reports that they provide to clients, management, etc.
  • “Quick add” for People/Media: When we first launched BuzzStream for PR and Social Media, we focused virtually all of our effort on making it easy to add contacts through the Buzzmarker.  What suffered was the usability of adding people from within the app…right now, when you’re in the app and you’re trying to add a person and associate them with a media outlet, it’s approximately a 746 step process that would make Rube Goldberg proud.  Spectacularly bad interaction design on my part, which we’re going to fix.
  • Adding mozRank and Juice Passing Links to the Buzzmarkers: we currently collect these SEOmoz stats in the Monitoring module, but we don’t include them in the Buzzmarker. This is being fixed.
  • Projects clean-up: there are still some bugs we need to clean up…things like drop-downs where the values in them aren’t sorted alphabetically, bugs in certain headers, etc.

Once we’re done with these, we’re going to tackle our next set of big features…we’ll start delivering these features in iterations over the next four to eight weeks.

If you have feedback, need help with bugs or just want help understanding how to use BuzzStream, don’t hesitate to contact me at paul (at symbol) buzzstream (d-o-t) com!

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BuzzStream's Social Media Monitoring Goes Live!

We’re happy to announce that we’ve added social media monitoring to BuzzStream for PR and Social Media.  If you haven’t signed up for the free beta yet, now is a great time to join.  We’ve made 200 beta invites available to TechCrunch which you can access from their review of the product.

This is our biggest upgrade to the product since our launch and I’m really excited to share it with you.  BuzzStream co-founder, Jeremy, has talked in a previous post about how the process for PR and social media marketing needs to change.  Specifically, the process needs to change from “SEARCH DATABASE>SPAM THE **** OUT OF PEOPLE” to “LISTEN>RESEARCH>ENGAGE>PITCH.”  SocialSteve has a good post on his variation– Listen, Conversations, Relationships. With the addition of monitoring capabilities, BuzzStream now provides a single solution to streamline this process.

While we’re still in beta, we’ll be rolling out the capabilities with some limitations (you’ll have a limited number of searches and results won’t be retrieved in real-time).  We’ll start removing these limitations over the next few weeks.

Some of the new features of the monitoring include:

  • Track conversations that are occurring across millions of social media sites to find influencers for PR, blogger relations and link building campaigns. Searches across blogs, news, twitter, video sites, images, Q&A sites and bookmarks. If you want to add your own source, you can also add an RSS feed.
  • Tight integration between monitoring and contact management. All information is integrated into BuzzStream’s contact management tools, making outreach activities more effective – if the monitoring tool finds content written by one of your existing BuzzStream contacts, you’re provided with the complete “dossier” for that contact
  • Detailed influencer profiles, including automated research of contact info. When you find an article written by someone who you want to build a relationship with, you can add them as a contact and BuzzStream will look for contact info and social profiles they’ve provided on their site. Additionally, for each piece of content, BuzzStream queries the Google Social Graph API to try to find other sites that this person might be associated with.
  • Grades articles/content by influence to help you filter out the noise. We’ve partnered with HubSpot to include their TwitterGrader tool to power our rating of Twitter influencers and SEOmoz to include their mozRank tool (similar to Google PageRank) to provide an influence rating for other websites. These are really powerful starting points for getting a quick sense of the influence of someone online…excellent tools for filtering out the noise, so we’re very excited to be including them in the product.
  • Collects detailed traffic and engagement metrics. In addition to the high-level influence metrics, BuzzStream can collect detailed traffic and engagement metrics for each piece of content. This includes information like Compete traffic, Technorati Rank, # of tweets, # of comments, etc.
  • Automated brand tracking. Automatically tracks brand mentions across the social media landscape and compares them to your competitors
  • Workflow capabilities for managing engagement across a team. You can assign content to someone on your team, set the “Engagement Stage” (e.g., “needs a comment”), add notes, etc.

We’d also love to hear your feedback!  Feel free to contact me directly at paul (at symbol) buzzstream (d-o-t) com.

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Measuring Inbound Marketing

I just spoke to the Austin Web Analytics Wednesday on the topic of PR, Social Media, and SEO measurement. Great group with really thoughtful questions and good conversations. I discussed my view of Inbound Marketing as a funnel: Listening > Engagement > Relationship > Coverage > Links > Search Rankings > Traffic > Leads > Sales. Would love to hear feedback. What did I miss?

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CapitalFactory Announces Its First Crop of Companies

CapitalFactory, Austin’s own startup incubator/accelerator program announced its first crop of companies today:

  • Cubit Planning – Environmental impact reports at the click of a button
  • Famigo – Mobile games that bring the family together
  • Homstie – Person-to-person marketplace for storage space
  • Hourville – A marketplace for services by the hour
  • PetzMD – Website for Pet Health, from A to Z

BuzzStream is looking forward to helping the companies with SEO and PR strategy through my relationship as a Mentor.  We’ll be using the BuzzStream app to build and manage relationships with bloggers and operationalize on-going link building campaigns.  As AskShane points out (and we agree)– the most valuable skill for building a successful online business is link building.

We’re really excited about the opportunity to help every CapitalFactory company become wildly successful.

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IMSpringBreakers Get BuzzStream T-Shirts

Attending IMSpringBreak?  Need a t-shirt?  BuzzStream’s got your free t-shirt right here (well, technically at conference registration).  We’re giving out free shirts to all IMSB attendees with the phrase, “I build links, therefore I am,” in Latin on the back.  We figured it was just obscure enough without crossing over the dork line. Enjoy!

BuzzStream t-shirts for IMSpringBreak

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BuzzStream at SXSW

BuzzStream is excited to participate in a couple of SXSW events this year:

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BuzzStream – the First Day

So we’ve been grinding pretty hard here at BuzzStream for quite a while…long, long hours spent talking to customers, following the market and, most of all, building the product.  We’ve had a relatively small group of people using the product over the last couple of months, and the response has been very positive, but you never totally know how it’s going to go until you open it up to a larger group.  So leading up to our launch, we’ve been excited, but also a bit nervous.  Well today is the day where we start seeing how people respond…this morning we opened up the beta (still private, but much larger), launched our website and started showing the product to a set of bloggers.  This morning felt a little like the first day at a new school, but so far, so good.  Here’s a sample of some of the responses we’ve seen on twitter so far:

From Eric Ward,who Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land described as “THE authority on links”…

eric-ward-tweet2

From Robert Scoble

scobleizer-tweet1

and from Virginia Nussey at Bruce Clay, Inc and Kate Morris at New Edge Media

virginia-nussey-tweet

nussey-morris-tweet

Virginia also wrote a post on the Bruce Clay blog titled, “BuzzStream – Link Building at its Best.”

To get this kind of an initial response from people who are as highly thought of is very gratifying.  These are people that we have a ton of respect for and who we’ve learned a lot from.  If we can build a product that they’re excited about, we think we’ll be in very good shape.  But there’s still a lot of work to do, so we’ll enjoy it for a day and then get back to work tomorrow. :-)

Kate”s tweet alluded to the fact that we’ve got a number of additional capabilities coming in short order in the product.  I’ll follow-up later this week with more information about our plans.

If you’re interested in joining the private beta, you can request an invite from our website.  If you’ve already requested one and you haven’t received an invite code yet, please bear with us…we received many more requests than we expected. You should get it soon.

One last thing.  If you’re in Austin for PubCon, don’t forget to stop by the BuzzStream party at Molotov.

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BuzzStream Party for PubCon South

We’re very excited to announce that BuzzStream will be hosting a party for PubCon South on Wednesday night at Molotov.  Welcome to Austin, y’all!

Wednesday March 11, 2009
8pm
Molotov Lounge
719 W. Sixth Street, Austin, TX

Event registration at http://buzzstream.eventbrite.com

We’re launching BuzzStream for Link Building in conjunction with this event, and everyone who attends will receive an invite for our private beta.

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Revisiting Viral Marketing: 20 Ways to Trigger a Groundswell for Your Viral Marketing Content

If you believe the blog posts of many Marketing bloggers today, you may get the feeling that Viral marketing has hit the Trough of Disillusionment in the hype cycle. I personally think it is more important than ever, especially for SEO and social marketing. It remains the most cost effective way to spread the word to a broad audience, a powerful tool for link building and a nice way to attract prospects to your blog or community. Just ask the marketers over at HubSpot about their creative Link Love viral video.

My blogging has been pretty sporadic lately as I’ve been traveling quite a bit for speaking engagements. Turns out this has been a good thing. It has been a valuable reality check to get out and share ideas with Marketers in the trenches. It was a handy reminder that most B2B Marketers have not embraced social media widely. There is, however, still a very strong interest in both social media and the viral marketing techniques that can drive a strong social media program,build links and drive traffic.

At one such event last night, I was asked once again about the timeline and tools used for triggering a viral campaign so I thought it was a good time to revisit the successful NetQoS viral campaign where I developed my playbook working with Porter Novelli in Austin.

For those readers who are unfamiliar with the project, NetQoS executed a viral campaign in 2007 that used content that was compelling to our target audience, played down production value and branding, and then got the word out to the people who cared – technology professionals. The NetQoS viral video project cost only $6,500 to produce and generated a 6,000+% ROI. An old video case study is posted at: B2B viral video campaign.

For those of you who don’t want to sit through a full 30 minute video, here are the top 20 ways we packaged and promoted our viral video for maximum impact.

1: Set clear objectives for your campaign. Do you want to increase brand awareness, improve search rankings, break into the blogosphere in a big way and increase web traffic and leads? Whatever the goal, set specific objectives and measure your success. Nothing brings out the skeptics like viral marketing and social media, so show them it really pays.

2: Be relevant. Make sure your message and content are relevant both to your company and to your target audience and make it memorable. Because without relevant content, you may hit a home run but effectively strike out.

3: It doesn’t have to be video. Most Marketers think only in terms of viral video. Most any digital content has the possibility of going viral including images, widgets, free tools, discounts/offers, or podcasts. Why not use two formats?

4. Know your audience. And, I’m not talking about their pain points and job roles. I’m talking more about psychographics and behavioral characteristics. Understand what interests them, where they live and work, how they get their information. For NetQoS, we knew that our audience would be a great viral target—they were comfortable online, 80% read blogs or are active in blogging, 84% start their search on a search engine. Most are smart and cynical audience—marketing averse.

5: Be opportunistic. Have your FlipVideo on you at all times to capture a great idea or moment. I heard a story about one of the leading open source database providers recently. Apparently, a Marketer for that company had a great idea for a video. He Twittered his circle of contacts to round up a video camera and by the time he was ready to shoot, his competitor had already heard about the idea and beat him to the punch.

6: Have fun. As I wrote in this blog post from The B2B Lead, you should make fun of yourself before someone else does. We were extremely kitschy because we knew the quality of the graphics was not up to the realistic standards of today’s CGI. It had a very 80’s Tron like feel so we made the most of that. We didn’t just post the clip. We named it, packaged it and added humor at every turn.

7: Develop a seeding and conversion strategy prior to posting your video. In 30 days with less than $7,000, we developed the strategy and materials for a complete viral video experience including seeding the campaign, welcoming viewers and offering additional content as well as a program for building a following after the campaign. Map out the sequence of events to trigger the groundswell and then have a defined course of action for prospects to take through your website. If you are using viral to develop a social media following, make sure you think about all the ways your prospects would like to engage with you and make it easy for them to establish a permanent connection to your community.

8: In the world of viral video, production value isn’t important. In fact I would discourage it. Ours looked like some techies had cooked it up in their spare time. In fact, that’s how it started. But we did put a great deal of thought into the packaging, promotion and conversion strategy for the campaign. It is important to always provide a thumbnail image of what the viewer is getting.

9: Capture the link love. Have a clear cut SEO strategy in mind prior to launching so that you can capture the value of inbound links to your content. There’s nothing like a viral campaign to entice bloggers to link to your site and that drives up your search engine rankings. Make link building a key objective of your campaign.

10. Protect your brand. You can make fun of yourself but don’t do anything that will embarrass you or the company. Don’t take chances with controversial content or release anything of such poor quality that you create a negative brand image. Don’t use dubious tactics to get noticed or bait and switch techniques. We explained very clearly what Netcosm was (a data visualization) and was NOT (a product for sale). We also made it clear that the work was done through NetQoS Performance Labs and not beta tested.

11: Keep it short. YouTube reports that the average viewing time for videos is 15 to 30 seconds. You have a very short runway to take off. Get to the point fast, entertain and leave them wanting more. We added captions based on the old “This is brain, this is your brain on drugs” campaign. We selected clips that showed the most action and had some fun with the content. Then we offered a longer video if people were interested in seeing more.

12: Help people find your video by optimizing it for search engines. Tag it, name it appropriately, describe it, add links and compelling copy and optimize using the right keywords. If it takes off in a big way, you want as many links to your content as possible using your top keywords.

13: Use your corporate blog to trigger the viral distribution and keep the story alive. You’ve got to get the word out and a press release is simply not appropriate for viral marketing. What’s more, blogging with the full story behind the campaign helps to give your program and your company a face and a personality. Make sure that personality is one that will garner respect by being completely open and honest on your blog.

14: Build a community of interest. Don’t use trickery or bait and switch to get people to your video because you will be forgoing one of the most valuable benefits of the viral approach – the ability to quickly and inexpensively build a community of interest. The Word of Mouth aspect of viral marketing gives Marketers a powerful way to attract a following. Do this by explaining each step of the program using your blog. Tell your audience what you were thinking when you produced it. Report on the results. Give followers a way to track the momentum and keep it alive. Make it easy for them to join your community and have a strategy for future communications.

15: Seed the story with the bloggers, key influencers, your customers and friends, your social network. Want to double the effect? Include those key influencers in your content somehow. Give them a vested interest in helping you spread the word. Also – don’t forget to post it to Digg and Reddit or whatever social media site is appropriate for the topic. Twitter your followers. Leverage Social media like Facebook, MySpace, and other groups to spread the word. Of course timing is everything. Here’s a high level snapshot of our timeline:

ViralMarketingTimeline

16: Track and monitor religiously. Keep track of the results every step of the way and keep your followers and the blogging community posted on the momentum building behind your viral video. This helps build excitement and credibility around how your video is resonating with the audience. It might just convince an influential blogger that he/she should write a story about you.

17: Automate and expedite lead processing. When viral goes big, it goes really big. And, studies show that B2B Marketers and Sales reps need to follow-up on Web-generated leads within 30 minutes of a registration or the chances for conversion are poor. If you don’t have a great program for automatically scoring and qualifying leads so that you can route quality leads to your sales force instantly, you could be asking for big trouble using viral. First of all your Inside Sales team is likely to be swamped with a larger percentage of irrelevant leads. Secondly, you will miss out on a number of great sales opportunities by taking weeks to respond. We were actually given the Marketer’s Choice award by Eloqua for our Lead Scoring and Automation program that enabled us to process the leads generated by our viral campaign within 24 hours. Eloqua’s Marketing Automation was critical to this process.

18:Measure ROI. Viral video, like any other Marketing campaign, should always demonstrate a positive return. Show your campaign delivered value to the business. You most certainly will have to do a lot of convincing to get sponsorship for your viral campaign, so don’t miss your chance to prove to all of the skeptics that the idea was worth the investment. Show that the spike in traffic and coverage hit the right audience and generated brand awareness or demand. Track leads through the entire lifecycle and demonstrate a return on investment. If that doesn’t make sense, pick the KPI that do and measure and report on them.

19: Brand it, but be subtle. Don’t be afraid to brand your content with your company name, but don’t hit ‘em with a sledgehammer either. The point is to entertain and encourage people to spread the word while subtly associating your company with the content.

20: It’s not over when it’s over. If your campaign has legs, extend the life of it by repackaging content and sharing it on other social networks. You’ve done the hard work to build a community of interest, so keep them interested and the lines of communication open. Evolve your story, and continue to post updates.

Would love to hear your ideas on how to improve on this viral video playbook. Best of luck with your next viral campaign.

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Weaving the Social Business Fabric

In her post yesterday, Amber Naslund talked about the need for a shift in the way that we think about how social technologies fits within companies — instead of thinking in terms of tools or specific functional areas where social media will be used, we need to be looking at it as underlying infrastructure for communications and information sharing.  Amber says:

“What if you could redefine the departments in your organization not in terms of their function but in terms of creating a more uninhibited flow of information and results from company to customer?…What social media is changing is the foundation of all that communication.  It’s very fabric.  We’re engineering new bedrock for how communication works, whether we realize it or not.”

Fabric is the exact right term, in my view.  Companies that  leverage social media across their organizations as “communications fabric” will be provided with a competitive advantage that’s both significant and sustainable.  The mainstream market will then follow.  It may take a while for this to happen en masse, but given the potential value, I just don’t see how it can’t happen.  As Peter Kim said in a recent post, “social business is simply how work needs to be done.”

So if that’s where we’re headed, who should we be looking at to see what it’s actually going to look like?  What types of companies will lead the way?

Well in the past, if you wanted to see how technology was going to change the way we work, you looked to see what the very biggest, most IT-centric companies were doing with new technologies.  New technologies typically started in the enterprise and flowed down.

In the ERP world, SAP permeated the enterprise, which eventually led to products like Great Plains for the SMB market.  In the systems management world, products like IBM Tivoli and HP OpenView led to departmental and SMB solutions like SolarWinds and Freshwater.  For CRM, Siebel led to Salesforce.com (which eventually led to BatchBook, Highrise, etc.).  Typically the big financial services and manufacturing firms would implement the technologies, their best practices would then flow to the rest of the Fortune 500, and eventually a simplified, packaged version would make it’s way to smaller companies.

So should we look to these same companies to see how social media will get implemented as communications fabric in companies?  Not a chance.  It’s just not going to work that way for social media because of a fundamental difference in the value that it provides.  For these other technologies, “command and control” is a defining part of their value proposition.  I.e., help me centralize things so I can control the complexity across my organization – control over my supply chain, control over my IT infrastructure, control over my sales and marketing processes, etc.

Social media is exactly the opposite.  To truly unleash the value, you have to put power in the hands of the individual and give up control.  Want to know exactly what your customers want in your product?  Set up a GetSatisfaction account, show them exactly what you’re thinking of building and let your customers design it with you.  Sounds great…but pretty hard to do when product ownership goes through five layers of management and when “guarding the roadmap” is ingrained in the corporate culture.  Want to get the word out about a new product?   Let employees build relationships on blogs and twitter with influencers and potential customers…but realize that you’re not going to be able to control the conversation.

At it’s heart, social media is a bottom-up phenomenon.  So if you want to see what the “social media fabric” is going to look like, don’t look to big companies.  Look at the way that small and mid-size businesses are innovating right now.  Look at how Peldi is defining requirements for a killer feature in Balsamiq.  Or how Pam leveraged a viral campaign to build links and create buzz at NetQoS.  Or how Kyle is engaging with people to understand customer needs and drive leads at BreakingPoint.  Or, my new latest favorite, check out how boxee is using their blog to get market feedback, humanize their business and build their brand.  These are companies that are building on top of that fabric as we speak.

Which companies do you think will be the trailblazers?  Who should we be watching as best practices examples of how social technologies should be relied upon as foundational infrastructure?

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