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Ann Handley – The Twitter 20 Interview about Social Media, Content and Journalism

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Social Media
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Ann Handley is kinda busy. She’s the Chief Content Officer of Marketing Profs, crack editorial overlord of Marketing Profs’ Daily Fix blog, contributor to the Huffington Post, author of the Annarchy blog, and a mother. She also co-founded the digital marketing portal ClickZ.

In addition to her lengthy resume, she’s truly one of the best people in the digital marketing business. Like Brogan with cool librarian glasses, I’ve never heard or read a single negative word about her. You’ll see why below, as her wit and insight shine in this Twitter 20 interview. (thanks as always for the great comments and questions from those of you who watched it live)

1. @jaybaer: Did you always want to be a writer? Was it something you started very early in life?

  • @marketingprofs: Yes. I always wanted to be a writer, even before I could spell it. I wrote in my diary when I was 7, “I want to be a writter.”
  • My idea of a good time at that age was spending an afternoon in my room penning the family “newsletter.” (Early geek).

2. @jaybaer: How was it making the move from traditional writing to the Web (at ClickZ, circa 1997)? Weird? Scary?

  • @marketingprofs: The web was a different place in 1997. Online pubs didn’t look that much different than print docs. So it wasn’t a huge leap.
  • At the same time, there was a sense that the web was something big. So that was definitely cool. Not weird. But different.

3. @jaybaer: ClickZ was ++ influential in those days (and still good). With content explosion, can anyone have that kind of impact?

  • @marketingprofs: It’s definitely harder to have that kind of impact, because blogs & other social platforms make ANYONE a publisher. Which I like. 
  • And the universe online is bigger, too. When we sold ClickZ, we had just over 50,000 subscribers. (& that was impressive!)

4. @jaybaer: Why did you name ClickZ like Boyz 2 Men, and does that still haunt you? Or was kewl misspelling de rigueur in 1997?

  • @marketingprofs: “Z” was a cool letter in those days. Along with anything starting with “e” or “i” or cyber. Now it’s cool NOT to have an “e.” 😉

5. @jaybaer: You like that anyone is a publisher. How has that changed the game for Marketing Profs and other professional publishers?

  • @marketingprofs: It challenges MP to consistently produce good content & always be innovating. There’s a lot more competition, for sure!

6. @jaybaer: (via @djwaldow) Lots of talk about Twitter and micro-blogging killing blogs and long-form online content. Your thoughts?

  • @marketingprofs: Twitter is just another platform, suited to certain kinds of content & communication. Quick stuff, comm interaction & goofiness.
  • I don’t see Twitter & blogs and longer forms of content as either-or. I see it as “in addition to.”

7. @jaybaer: What about video content? Do you see it really taking off? Plans for Marketing Profs to do more of it?

  • @marketingprofs: Absolutely to both. When you can buy a Flip for $119, it’s kind of hard to ignore video as a growing force.
  • You couldn’t swing a cat at our Digital Marketing Mixer w/o bumping someone with a video camera & we’ll be doing more in 2009.

8. @jaybaer: You’ve been online long enough to have seen other epochs. Is social media the next fad, or something bigger?

  • @marketingprofs: Social media is a game-changer. Even after the excitement/hype about it dies, it still has changed behavior/expectations.
  • SM generally is a lot like the early dot-com days sometimes, because of the polarizing way people feel about it (love/hate)…
  • …as well as how its fans are so excited about it. 

9. @jaybaer: Companies are sometimes fearful of creating SM content because of possible criticism. Easier to be quiet. Thoughts?

  • @marketingprofs: Well, I’ll validate that. It’s scary to put yourself out there. But SM doesn’t grow critics-the critics are already there.
  • It’s better to hear the complaints or critics and be able to respond to them, isn’t it? To fix problems, rather than let fester.
  • And really, if you are a good company & the critics are just unfair, your community will defend you.

10. @jaybaer: Some people (like you with have multiple blogs or profiles. Best practice, or hard to maintain?

  • @marketingprofs: It’s a little tricky, sometimes. On Twitter, for example, is it ok for me to talk about a new post on
  • But having two blogs ( and actually works easily, becuz the content/focus are really different. 
  • But in the end I balance it by respecting the audience of each, becuz I am grateful for anyone who reads or interacts with me.
  • Which maybe sounds like Bull-Oney, but I really mean it.

11. @jaybaer: Speaking of multiple personalities, is it true that you were back-up plan to play Palin on SNL, if Tina Fey bailed out?

  • @marketingprofs: I wish you could hear me say, “You betcha!!…” in my folksy, hockey-mom kinda way there, droppin’ my g’s! Twitter needs audio.

12. @jaybaer (via @lorenmcdonald):How do you feel about companies paying for posts, sponsoring bloggers. Death of “real” journalism?

  • @marketingprofs: I don’t have a problem with the notion of companies paying bloggers, providing there’s full disclosure. That said…
  • I’d rather see companies doing more interesting things, rather than paying bloggers and calling it their “social media program.”

13. @jaybaer: Absolutely. What about agencies? Do they pitch you differently these days?

  • @marketingprofs: Yes, they do pitch differently. And actually, I’ve appreciated getting to know a number of PR people here & elsewhere, via SM.
  • So I’d also say that I receive them differently. At least, in my B2B world. 

14. @jaybaer: As everyone’s favorite digital marketing editor, what do you think is most lacking in the writing/content you see?

  • @marketingprofs: Hmmm…”most lacking…” Well, I still get stuff from execs who talk about themselves/their products.
  • There’s still a tendency to not consider the audience/customers you want to attract.
  • To talk about solutions for THEM, rather than yourself and what you company does.
  • In marketing & in good content, it’s always better to talk less about yourself than it is to talk about your customer. Less is more. 

15. @jaybaer: If journalism survives, who pays the journalists? Profs, Huff, etc. work because you eliminate content creation expense.

  • @marketingprofs: Well, we actually do pay for some content, although Arianna doesn’t pay me. True.
  • I’m not sure what the new model will be in journalism. Advertising? Sponsored content? Paid content? Both?
  • That’s the very thing folks smarter than I am are wresting with now…Who sustains journalism? Like NPR & audience funding…?
  • All I can say is, I would pay a lot more than 50 bucks a year to keep The New Yorker coming. 

16. @jaybaer: Social media encourages (requires?) always-on in ways prior eras didn’t. How do you balance it all? Job, SM, family?

  • @marketingprofs: Sorry – I just had to tell my kid to go away. (KIDDING!) I seriously sleep less & watch less TV. I work a lot, but it’s okay.
  • And I try to keep weekends pretty normal. I’m online, but not constantly like I am during the week.
  • And can I just say, I love my iPhone? I don’t feel chained to my desk any more. Chained to a device, yes. But it fits in my pocket. 
  • Crazily – I hate the iPhone phone part. I carry two devices – cell + iPhone (Which is a little nutty.)

17. @jaybaer: What Profs initiatives have most surprised you with their success? iphone app? conferences? Daily Fix?

  • @marketingprofs: The iPhone app has been a pleasant surprise. Obviously it’s not a money maker, but it’s a cool service.
  • Personally, conferences have surprised me the most. I resisted us going into them, but wow am I glad I was out-voted there!

18. @jaybaer: Other new plan for Profs you’d like to let us in on, live on Twitter?

  • @marketingprofs: New Profs plans ’09 include a virtual event in April with 2 tracks (b2b, b2c) – free. I’m kinda excited about that. 

19. @jaybaer: That sounds nifty. You’re writing a new book. What’s it about? (please not another teen vampire story…)

  • @marketingprofs: LOL. I am putting together a book proposal, that’s true. Not about marketing, but based more around my essays. 

20. @jaybaer: What do you read or listen to for fun? You’re a David Sedaris fan, right? Who else?


Thanks again to Ann for a great job. Who would you like to see on Twitter 20 in 2009?



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