Have You Hugged Your Local Blogger Today?

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As our PR strategies constantly change, we wonder what to do with the pesky blogger. On one hand, targeting well-read local blogs for coverage is a direct hit. Local bloggers speak daily to shoppers, diners and businesses right in your backyard, making the need to blanket all kinds of unreliable city publications with press releases a thing of the past.

On the other hand, bloggers can be so, well, blogger-ish. Self-important, fiercely loyal to advertisers and exhausting to get a hold of, bloggers have earned their reputation for being difficult. This alone discourages many PR professionals from pursuing them. However, we think including the appropriate bloggers for your online PR campaigns can be infinitely beneficial – and is worth the effort.

Local and neighborhood-specific bloggers yield a lot of power. In large cities, blogs that are burg-centric rope in readers by letting locals know what’s new, what’s happening and what’s over in their corner of the world. Researching and befriending local authorities is a great way to wind up on the lips of the folks who live nearby your business. Here in Los Angeles, nearly every ‘hood has one or two blogs which cover the goings-on. The Eastsider LA, for example, is a neighborhood blog devoted to the hip east end of Sunset Blvd. and surrounding neighborhoods. Little businesses get magazine type of profiles on sites like the Eastsider, a thing that rarely happens for businesses that size in traditional media. Most neighborhood bloggers try to support the businesses in their beloved area, so a well-written and carefully-tailored press release can inspire the writer in question to throw some coverage your way.

But don’t forget your manners: Repay the favor by linking said press coverage on your website, bringing your new blog BFF much-coveted links and clicks. Think of reaching out to local bloggers as a friendly act which could be mutually beneficial. Local blogs also are great targets for fundraising event invites, community partnership releases and new merchandise photos.

In the end, whether it’s The New York Times or The Main Street News, online PR campaigns are a more approachable beast in 2010. So you tell us: What are some blogs in your ‘hood that pack real readership power? Any blogger nightmares you’d like to share? Won’t you be our neighbor in the comments section below?

Our Five Things You Might Have Missed List

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Oops, we did it again. We’ve hit you (baby, one more time) with our list of five things you might have missed.

1.) Abe’s Market Humanizes Vendors: This inspiring tale of small business empowerment ran earlier this week in The New York Times. The Chicago-based Abe’s Market is an online general store that sells organic and planet-loving products. Abe’s Market turns the spotlight on its vendors by offering compelling back stories and profiles of each of the small businesses whose products it carries. If you missed the article, it is worth a read to remind marketers that consumers love a good story.

2.) Chevy Volt Charges Ahead with New Smartphone App: Here’s an app from a company that people might actually use: Chevy has partnered with OnStar to create a free application which checks battery life of the almost-totally-electric driving dynamo, the Chevy Volt. While checking the charge status and battery level, the Volt app also tells drivers how many miles are left on electric only before it switches to gas. Plus the app even can unlock your doors and start your car!

3.) Jimmy Kimmel’s Fantasy Football League: Kimmel long has been a viral video all-star (at least, ever since that Matt Damon video) so it makes sense the NFL would turn to Kimmel to help promote Fantasy Football. Throw in a partnership with GMC trucks and you’ve got the ultimate in guy-tacular branding and cross-promotion. Currently dominating YouTube’s advertising, the funny clip featuring the ever-charming Kristen Bell is one sponsored video actually worth clicking.

4.) HER-NAN is Master of Our Universe: We love wacky foreign commercials and we adore He-Man, so when we stumbled upon HER-NAN, we were in heaven. The TV spot for Visa’s Orange Card was meant for Argentinean shoppers but anybody can enjoy nerdy Hernan who is transformed into shopping god HER-NAN. It’s global 80s synergy about to become viral gold. Visa needs to bring a HER-NAN-like campaign to the states STAT.

5.) Levi’s Uses Facebook for Social Change: The American classic has undergone a bit of a branding change lately and we have to say, we like it! Levi’s Facebook page is a great example of how the brand has turned its focus on the acts of good. Sure, the stuff of advertising geniuses is here on the page, too – but most of the content is geared to how the company gives back, sponsors cool events and supports artists.

Of Blimps & Badges: Foursquare Marketing Goes Sky High

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About a year ago, everyone from Mashable’s Pete Cashmore to The New York Times declared Foursquare the next big thing in social media. Keyboards clacked around the globe dishing the possibilities of how Foursquare’s location-based network could potentially promote the heck out of small businesses and struggling non-profits. Still, we had our doubts about Foursquare. Really, how powerful could a site possibly be that hands out imaginary badges and awards users with goofy titles?

Turns out, pretty darn powerful. A year later, companies big and small have joined the Foursquare game – and we’ve only seen the beginning of how strong Foursquare promotion can be. For further evidence of big-time Foursquare promotions, just look up in the sky.

Conan O’Brien and his team know his fan base consists of heavy users of social media. They’ve marketed his new TBS show shamelessly using every social media outlet available. So when news of a giant orange Conan blimp that awards Foursquare users with special badges hit this week, we weren’t surprised that fans of the big redhead started buzzing at a deafening volume. How the promotion works is pretty standard Foursquare stuff: spot the Conan blimp, which currently is travelling along the East Coast for an entire month, check in with Foursquare and unlock a special Conan badge. Team Coco has a live cam that tracks the blimp’s whereabouts on a continuously-updated map.

The Foursquare promo has crossed over into other social media, too. O’Brien’s Twitter account is tweeting special clues where to spot the blimp next. So far, the giant blimp has earned its keep. News of the Conan blimp has hit local TV stations and newspapers as well as message boards since taking off at the beginning of the month.

While the giant orange blimp isn’t exactly everybody’s cup of tea (and could be Exhibit A in the trial of whether social media marketing is out of control), it cannot be denied that O’Brien & Co. is employing Foursquare promotion in a totally original way.

Proper Twitterquette for Marketers

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Something must be said. We’ve noticed some unruly Twitter behavior from marketers – some of which is equivalent to a belch at the dinner table without so much as an “excuse me.” Now, we understand getting carried away with the benefits of marketing on Twitter, as the possibilities are endless and exciting. But getting caught up in Twitterpation is no reason to behave like a wild boar with a MacBook. Therefore, we’ve come up with a list of essential Twitterquette practices for online marketers.

1.) Personalize Direct Messages: Robo-churned direct messages that spew “Thanks for following me. I’ll show you how to be a zillionaire” are spam of the tackiest nature. Direct messages either should be personalized or not be sent at all. Period. We take a hard line on this rule due to the uncouth and rude nature of the act. Receiving garbage DMs are grounds for an immediate “unfollow.”

2.) “Thank You” Still Goes a Long Way: Whether you’ve received a shout out from a follower, a Follow Friday mention or an RT, a publicly tweeted “thank you” is the expected response and can be carried out within moments. It’s simply good form and it would make your mom proud.

3.) Plug Thoughtfully: The reason we’re all on Twitter is to get the word out about our products services and blogs, so of course we should use it to the fullest of its capacity. Yet we can do this intelligently and with humor instead of blathering on and on with desperate Twitter commercials. Remember: The cool girl always get asked out by the popular guy while the attention-seeking freak doesn’t get a date to homecoming. Link back to your site and blog by engaging in conversation and you’re guaranteed to get noticed by the cool kids.

4.) Save the Rant for the Message Boards: We get it – you’re passionate about politics, the climate, sports, what-have-you. But using your 140 characters to ramble in all caps about whatever is pissing you off at the moment is beyond rude. Twitter is not the place for such conversations and marketers should always stay out of controversy.

5.) Test Links Before You Tweet Them: Giving your followers a little something extra like a video or blog or article is Twitter thoughtfulness at its best. But linking to sites that don’t work is sort of like giving someone a Christmas sweater in July. Test your links before sending and send links that your followers will find interesting.

6.) Tweeting In Advance: We all use tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite to make our Twitter lives easier. There’s no secret that many tweets are composed long before they ever are read by our followers. Still, as responsible tweeps, we should still chat with our followers throughout the day and get involved in the discussion.

Now it’s your turn, kind and gentle tweeters. What Twitter behavior makes you batty? Tell us all about it in the comments section below – and we’ll send you a hand-embossed thank you note.

Word Up! Changing Our Blog Vocabulary

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We recently had a laugh regarding the hubbub made over Flocabulary, the language program that uses hip-hop to teach students new words and grammar. The program came under fire when it was proposed for use in Oklahoma classrooms. Folks from the Panhandle State were concerned about the lyrics of Flocabulary, which referred to some of our country’s founders as old white men – gasp!

So in lieu of helping Oklahoma teens who desperately need assistance with grammar and pronunciation, the state decided this week to hold off on using Flocabulary. The fuss strikes us as silly, not because there is anything particularly funny about a nation of teenagers who can’t read or write, but because of the utter ridiculousness of attacking anything that can possibly expand a young person’s vocabulary. After all, as marketers and small business owners, we can appreciate assistance with helping pick the right words for our blogs.

When we talk blog vocab, keywords are the first thing to come to mind. Keywords as important as they are can also be creatively and cleverly used. We’ve heard from SEO gurus over and over again that using keywords in our titles and opening sentences is a great strategy to help in the search engine treasure hunt. We agree – and we also think it doesn’t hurt to place our keywords into an intelligent conversation or even use them to dish about a related news story. Also, our blogs don’t have to be dumbed down for our readers and clients. In fact, challenging our readers with some well-placed words and fun facts can surprise our audience rather than bore them. It is a new day in Blogland, where smartly-written pieces can actually end up in newsfeeds and in linkable heaven. Forcing ourselves to up the ante with great content pays off time and again.

When all else fails, we can always look for help beefing up our blog language. While there is no old skool rap program for adults who need vocabulary assistance, there are great resources online to help inspire better word use. We’re big fans of the Ultimate Vocabulary blog, which not only discusses new words but also blogs on smarty-pants topics like the latest words added to the Oxford English Dictionary. They also sell a fancy software package for wordsmiths who may need additional help. Throw Grammar From the Train is another informative word blog that ponders punctuation, etymology and grammar with humor and good-natured snobbery. If more structure is what you’re seeking, the AP Style Book is now available for iPhone and iPad.

Unlike the kids from Oklahoma, we have the choice to change and improve our blogging language for the better. The blogosphere can be a richer and more intelligent place when content is used that respects our readers and clients. Word!

Our 5 Things You Might Have Missed List

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Step right up and witness the wisest, weirdest and most wondrous web findings around, all nicely crammed into one place. (We know, it boggles the mind!) Without any further ado, we present our weekly list of 5 things you might have missed.

1.) Spaghetti Tacos: This food oddity was featured as the top trending topic on Yahoo, received a full write-up in The New York Times and wound up in thousands of Twitter feeds. It makes our list for its sheer “ewww!” factor and because spaghetti tacos demonstrate the strength of branding to children. Turns out the meal that only a kid could love is actually a byproduct of Nickelodeon’s hit tween show iCarly. A character mentioned it was his favorite meal – and low and behold, a national food phenom took root. If there was any doubt how powerful the tween influence is on everything from what we buy to what we eat, spaghetti tacos and Nickelodeon, by proxy, has erased it for good.

2.) PSAs Gone Viral: This week saw a surge in Public Service Announcements chatted about in blogs and posted on Facebook. The rash of teen suicides from gay youth prompted everyone from Sarah Silverman to Project Runway’s Tim Gunn to post web videos conveying messages of hope and outrage. Also, other PSAs like this one from England about climate change ended up on everyone’s lips simply because they were so bizarre. This week proved web PSAs are more effective today because they can be shared around the globe at lightening speed.

3.) That Doggone Lottery Ad: This one, which we tweeted and retweeted, is simply an ad that tugs at the old heartstrings. Plugging the New Zealand Lotteries, the spot features a pooch named Wilson who viewers instantly fall in love with. In our age of snark, it’s refreshing to find a commercial that genuinely makes us smile.

4.) The Thin Line Between Children’s TV & One Giant Commercial: Media watchdogs and marketers alike pondered the merits of Hub network, the Discovery Channel and Hasbro partnership that has folks in an uproar even though the darn thing hasn’t premiered yet. Why the fuss? Some are concerned the programs, many of which are set to feature Hasbro’s popular toys as stars, are not of any real value other than to sell dolls and toys. It’s a new media branding conundrum and a story that poses all kinds of ethical questions. Confession: We’re just happy the channel will be showing Fraggle Rock reruns.

5.) We Survived a FourSquare Outage: Our addiction to FourSquare was put to the ultimate test on Monday when the geolocation site was on the fritz for several hours. Despite the initial panic, we lived (!) and the planet continued to turn. Which is fabulous, since cool FourSquare collaborations with the NHL and Pee Wee Herman just launched this week.