Are you as good at social media as Mack Collier? Probably not, as proven in this sweeping, live Twitter20 interview. Mack opines on how to write a good blog, how to help others in social media, and why you need to know where your traffic comes from.
Mack is a social media consultant and trainer, and author of the popular blog, The Viral Garden. He also writes for Marketing Profs, Marketing Profs Daily Fix, and Search Engine Guide. Although it doesn’t shine though here, Mack’s cool Alabama accent gives him a genteel air that all those Yankee social media types can’t touch.
1. @jaybaer: How did you get involved in social media?
- @mackcollier: I started writing for a group advertising blog called Beyond Madison Ave in 2005. That went well enough & I launched my own blog The Viral Garden in early 2006. I later started writing for Marketing Profs Daily Fix in 2006 and Search Engine Guide in early 2008.
2. @jaybaer: How do you balance or compare writing for aggregated blogs like Profs vs your own blog?
- @mackcollier: I try to segment the content. I view my blog’s readers as a bit more social media-savvy, while I view DF & SEG as being more SM 101. With DF’s audience being slanted more toward corporate marketers, and SEG more small business owners. But I will admit that I am now getting a LOT of readers from Twitter & many are new to SM, so that is causing me to rethink approach.
3. @jaybaer: Speaking of http://www.theviralgarden.com readers (RSS it people), who are they? Or is it hard to say?
- @mackcollier: I think they are a bit further up the SM learning curve than the DF/SEG audiences, but again, Twitter is now my top referring site. So I think that is changing the makeup of TVG’s readership a bit. So I tend to slip in more SM 101 type posts than I used to. BTW it never hurts to ASK your readers who they are. I ran a poll a few months ago specifically asking which type of posts they wanted to see. Social media case studies won out, I was assuming social media 101 type posts would.
4. @jaybaer: One of the signature post series on The Viral Garden is the Top 25 marketing and SM blogs. How did that start?
- @mackcollier: Have to remember the Top 25 started in early 2006. At that time, I saw the same 5-10 ‘A-List’ blogs on every blogroll & realized that there were a TON of great marketing blogs totally flying under the radar. And at that time there WERE no ‘best of’ lists so I started the Top 25 as a resource to help reader find the ‘best’ marketing blogs, but to also go past just the ‘A-List’ blogs. The idea behind The Top 25 has always been for it to be a resource for readers, it takes about 2 hours a week to do.
5. @jaybaer: I’m glad you mentioned time. How much time do you spend blogging vs. Tweeting vs. commenting, etc?
- @mackcollier: Right now Twitter is getting most of my time simply because my network here is growing faster than my blog readership is. And I wrestle with commenting because I want to leave more comments, but it’s so much faster to RT a link to their blog & I think that gives them more exposure. Whenever I share content, I’m wanting to do so because I think others will find value in it, and I want to use the channel that gives the person the most exposure. I used to run a regular series of posts called Viral Community News on my blog that highlighted interesting posts I had found written by my blog’s readers, but with Twitter it is now so much easier to share more links to more people.
6. @jaybaer: Interesting. As someone who really pushed commenting, for you to “switch” to RTing is big. How do you find blog posts to RT?
- @mackcollier: Well commenting is still very big, but now the conversations aren’t just happening on blogs, they happen here, Friendfeed, etc…and honestly, I think it has more value to others if I link to them here, as opposed to commenting on their blog. I might be wrong in thinking that, but I think others would rather see the extra exposure than my opinion in the comment section.
- As for RTing, every morning I go through my blog feeds, and at some point I realized that I am reading these feeds anyway, so I figured I might as well be sharing the interesting posts I found with my followers here. Everything I do here is about trying to find a way to create value for others & help them find interesting voices/perspectives. Because the more value I create for others, the more likely they will interact with me & I will learn from them.
7. @jaybaer: You do a lot of blog consulting. Are there circumstances where a company shouldn’t have one?
- @mackcollier: I don’t think a company should be blogging if they can’t commit to it long-term, can’t speak honestly and authentically, don’t have the resources to commit to it, and perhaps most importantly, if it’s not the best way for them to connect with their customers. We need to remember that if our customers aren’t using SM, then it might signal that we should be elsewhere.
8. @jaybaer: How do you combat the fear of many companies who don’t want to blog because of potentially negative comments?
- @mackcollier: You have to explain/show them how those negative comments are going to happen whether they blog or not. If they blog, then they can interact with the person leaving the negative comment & often convert that neg to a positive exchange, if handled properly.
- Companies need to understand that most neg comments happen because someone feels the company isn’t listening. If you can show a negative comment that you ARE listening & DO value their opinion, that will usually greatly improve their opinion of you. But negative conversations are going to happen around your company. Only question is whether your company wants to take a role in that conversation or not.
- Opting out of a conversation happening around your company is almost always worse than attempting to honestly interact with and LISTEN to negative commenters.
9. @jaybaer: If more brands start listening will negative comments online actually increase because consumers know they’ll be heard here?
- @mackcollier: I think they could at first, but how the company handles those negative comments will greatly determine the tone of future comments. I think it’s like opening the floodgates and customers want to ‘test’ thecompany to see how serious they are. But if they handle neg comments in the right way, many neg commenters will change their tone and possibly even begin to defend the company to other neg commenters.
10. @jaybaer: On company blogs, do you favor multiple authors in a single blog, or many people in a company having their own?
- @mackcollier: I lean toward a group blog. I think if you have several workers with separate blogs, it’s more difficult to build community & easier to confuse readers by possibly covering same issue multiple times in multiple ways. Tuff if you are repping company, but readers hear company reps give different takes on same issue.
11. @jaybaer: You do a lot of blog audits. What do you often find missing or inadequate?
- @mackcollier: The bloggers dont have pics or bios. That is a MUST. People connect with people, and esp on a company blog, you want your readers to connect with you, and trust you. That becomes MUCH harder if there’s no pics/bios of the writers, or worse, if posts are written by ‘the team’.
- Also, I don’t think many blogs do a very good job of responding to and encouraging readers that comment. The best ones make every effort to respond to comments, and even refer to their readers that comment by their first name. Simple touches like that show your readers that you care and VALUE their opinions. That’s a great way to create a sense of community on your blog.
- Also, most company blogs have content that is WAY too self-promotional. The content should be positioned from the readers’ point of view. You need to be creating content that they can find VALUE (there’s that word again) in. If you can create interesting and valuable content on your company blog then that actually becomes a promotional tool for your company. Remember, that blogging is a great way to make things happen indirectly (Hat-tip to @gapingvoid).
12. @jaybaer: You’ve written about studying your blog stats. http://is.gd/encD To what key metrics should bloggers pay attention?
- @mackcollier: I think they can learn a TON by studying traffic patterns and where traffic is coming from. For example, many bloggers have a certain day(s) where they get more traffic (for me it’s middle of the week). That’s when they should be running new posts. If you can only publish one post a week, it’s probably not going to get the best exposure at 2pm on Sunday and by studying where your traffic is coming from, that can help you decide where you should be spending your SM time.
- It’s no coincidence that Twitter is the top referrer to my blog, and I spend far more time here than I do on Plurk/FF/etc. I think you should also look at where your traffic is coming from because that alerts you to incoming links, and those are the people that you need to be going to their blog and thanking them for linking to you. Courtesy still goes a long way.
13. @jaybaer: You have a ton of RSS subscribers. Doesn’t your “direct” Web traffic exceed your Twitter referrals?
- @mackcollier: Yes, I am right now getting about 10-15% of my blog’s traffic from Twitter, and I think about 35% is direct.
14. @jaybaer: How much attention do you pay to SEO considerations on your blog technology or writing?
- @mackcollier: Not enough. I am woefully lacking in my knowledge of SEO. And honestly, I don’t want to focus too much on ‘keywords’ and such, because I fear it will change the way I write. My blog’s traffic is doing well the way it is now, the pagerank is high, so I don’t really want to change anything. But I definitely am lacking in SEO knowledge.
15. @jaybaer: How do you feel about the effectiveness of video blogging? Podcasts? You did a podcast for a while, didn’t you?
- @mackcollier: I think both are great if that’s the channel that the person is comfortable in using. I did about 5 episodes of a podcast called Mind the Gap early last year, and loved it, but the editting/production process was way too time-consuming.
16. @jaybaer: Do you think social media is easier to do right for small companies, or big companies?
- @mackcollier: I think that given equal resources, SM is prob easier for a small company to do right. Big companies often have more resources but also have more internal issues at work, and can move slower and be less responsive.
17. @jaybaer: You have a MBA. Do you feel official business training helps or hurts SM understanding?
- mackcollier: Well I think it helps make you a better marketer if you have a solid understanding of why traditional marketing works & why social media works. They work in very different ways & have very different dynamics. Both are VERY important.
18. @jaybaer: You encourage people to think conversation, not tools (bravo). That said what’s the most overrated social media tool today?
- @mackcollier: Oh man. From the company POV, it worries me that so many are wanting to ‘start a Facebook page’, and have no reason behind that thinking other than ‘everyone else is doing it’. If their customers are there & that’s a way to connect with them fine, but I think some companies are letting hype drive their SM decisions moreso than what makes good business sense.
- From the users POV, I have never understood the hype over Friendfeed, but I know plenty of people that swear by it.
19. @jaybaer: What’s your prediction for the #1 key social media development in 2009?
- @mackcollier: Consolidation & revenue-generation. Just in the microblogging space, we’ve already seen Pownce & Jaiku shut down & now Twitter is trying to monetize. Tough economic times are pushing VCs and companies to seek revenue from SM sites/tools in some cases a bit quicker than they would normally like to.
20. @jaybaer: What’s next for you? More consulting? Writing a book? Lion taming?
- @mackcollier: Really want to focus on social media teaching & training this year. I really am excited about this space & the potential that it holds for letting companies connect with their customers. So definitely DM me if your company needs help with that! As for a book, have had a couple of informal inquiries, but right now I am more interested in helping companies/organizations. In the future, who knows?
(photo courtesy of David Alston)