Flickr strategy 101

Another web 2.0 application generating a good deal of buzz is Flickr.com. Flickr (pronounced flicker...it's just cooler without that needless little "e") is a photo sharing website that allows anyone to post their own pictures to the site and "tag" their images with words that apply to the image.

This is how Flickr works in a nutshell...let's say I had a picnic for the people who read MicroExplosion and put the pictures on Flickr (which I would certainly do) and tagged them with the following: MicroExplosion, Bill Seaver, Nashville, Tennessee, picnic, food, friends, blogs, Christians, marketing, web 2.0, and technology. Anyone searching or browsing Flickr on any one of these tags will come across our picnic pictures.

Here's where the strategy comes into play: at first glance these tags are seemingly unrelated unless you happen to know we had a MicroExplosion picnic in Nashville, in which case these all make sense. The catch here is that once your pictures are on Flickr someone who is looking through, say, the images with technology tags, would come across our picnic pictures (because one of our tags is technology). Once they see a picnic picture they would see some of our other tags. So, let's say this person sees the "Christians" and "marketing" tags and this piques his or her interest. The person then clicks on the image and can see all of our picnic pictures and also read any information that I might have included with the images (which I would have certainly done). In that information I would write about this blog (with a link to the blog of course) and with just a click of the mouse the person (if he or she is still interested in what they see and read) is on my blog...and maybe joining us for a future picnic.

The point here is that Flickr allows you to visually represent yourself on a platform where people might not otherwise expect to find you. What happens if you search for your church, ministry, or business name or even your city in Flickr? I searched my hometown and actually found a church that appears to be using Flickr quite extensively. Good for them. I wonder how many people will do the same thing and discover a little about a church they would not otherwise not know about and think, "You know I need to get in church somewhere, these people seem normal...let me check out their website." Boom! Their presence on Flickr with someone browsing images on the community may have just turned into a visitor this Sunday. Not too bad for something that won't cost you any money.


One week later - AOL microexplosion

Last week I had a post about the AOL cancellation phone call that has been making the rounds online. I made a few predictions and although I came up short in predicting how quickly this would take off (I said by today it would be in the upper hundred thousand views) it's now close to 200,000. Ok, so I was a little over anxious and maybe it's going to take longer to spread than I thought but the fact of the matter is this: it IS spreading...and quite well.

A few days ago I came across a similar video...this time it's about Comcast. This video really has spread like wildfire. It's gotten over 550,000 views in less than 10 days!!

So, what does all of this mean? For me it continuously reinforces the viral power of the Internet. When there's compelling content people will spread it and you just sit back and watch...whether you like it or not.


So that's what www stands for

In case you need a little reminder (I know I did) the Internet is global. No kidding. Ok, I know you already knew that...I already knew that too, but we really don't think about that much when we consider the vast opportunities available with these wires and networks and satellites. We know that back in the day (the 90s) the global connection message was one of the big conversation points about the Internet. It's world wide...it's the world wide web...you remember all that. But as the Internet has taken a more personal and functional turn over the last decade a few of us have probably lost sight of this most obvious fact. I was reminded about all of this today on Steve Rubel's blog. Turns out YouTube is huge in Germany, Italians are increasingly looking to blogs to communicate despite the government, and Poland's citizens are gaining ground online as broadband increases. As Christians with an message to spread and a means to get it there...the mission field is right quite literally right in front of your face from the very chair you're sitting in right now.


Critical comments are great!

My friend Bobby plays guitar in a band called Salient. I subscribe to the Salient email newsletter and received one today. The email directed me to an independent band website called GarageBand.com. Turns out Salient has generated some buzz on this site in the pop rock category over the last several months. Besides enjoying the music what most interested me was that this site shows the full listing of comments for every song the band has...and Salient has a bunch of comments for each of their four available songs.

Comments are certainly nothing new but this just affirmed something for me tonight: critical comments are great! Not all of Salient's comments were positive and that was a good thing because there's something genuine about this process and seeing it play out right in front of you. In fact, most of the comments are overwhelmingly positive but the fact that there are some bad ones legitimizes all of the good ones because you know that it's not rigged or biased...it's music fans voting and commenting on music. There's purity in that. Afterall, we always listen to a recommedation from another person more that an ad we know was produced by some marketing department. This is the same thing...just different.

If don't have a feedback area on your website do it now and don't delete a critical comment (assuming it's critical and not profane). People are smart enough to figure out if some jerk has an axe to grind with you. If you're doing what you do with quality and are above reproach you don't have anything to worry about. If not, maybe you need to pay attention. Either way the critical feedback is a good thing. You don't have to like it but you should keep it there for all the world to see.

YouTube gets legit

YouTube.com has had a lot of good things going for it since last fall. Now, they have secured a deal with NBC to begin running ads. This will be good for NBC and YouTube. NBC looks good because they have just hopped aboard the cool bus by embracing some new and successful (although very different from what they're used to) technology. YouTube will receive additional exposure, legitimacy, and most importantly revenue since it's yet to turn a profit. If you had any doubts about the rise and influence of online video this give you a little insight as to what the big boys are thinking and where they're beginning to spend some money.


Can you Digg it?

One of the websites at the forefront of the web 2.0 revolution is Digg.com. Digg is leading the trend toward "news" sites that don't employ a news staff. Think of Digg like this: it's a fully democratic news system that allows anyone to post news items and site visitors "digg" the story...meaning they vote on the fact that the story was interesting, helpful, entertaining, etc. The popular stories rise to the top and the others just sink to the bottom. You can learn more about it here.

A little background
Digg has been a tech news website since its launch in 2004 until today when they launched a new Digg.com that covers world news, entertainment, science, and gaming. It will be interesting to see how they do with this jump outside the geek news world but here's why Digg is important to you: if you can get a story in the Digg headlines you have just bypassed the hidden barrier that every living marketer faces...the advertising defense.

Ad defense and the beauty of Digg.com
The advertising defense is what all of us have to some degree or another. It's the filter that allows us to skip right over magazine ads, flip past TV commercials, ignore billboards, and file direct mail in our trash can. We filter most of these message because we know we're being marketed to and there's so much of it around us we're very selective with the things we give our attention to. Here's where Digg (or a site like it) comes in. When you go to one of these sites you're not looking to be marketed to in the stories themselves because if you're looking at the top headlines then you're reviewing what thousands of other people have already qualified as newsworthy...meaning you trust that they aren't going to pay attention to something that just an ad so the people give the story credibility which in turn means you're advertising defense is not up. It's the PR professional's dream. The only little hitch in this plan is that your story has to actually be good...and other people have to agree with you. It will take the right story to be well dug, but when it happens you'll know you're really onto something.

Who cares?
If you're a with a church, this probably isn't something you're going to use because your comunication focus is going to be predominatly local. However, if you're involved with a nationwide ministry or business, consider releasing your news in a diggable fashion. Digg's traffic is going to climb over the next several months since they've opened their site for more topics. It will be a great place to be seen and reach people you would never reach through other means.


Two weeks of blogging

I'm now about two weeks into this blog and in some ways it's been everything I thought it would be and in others it's been quite different. The feedback I've received has been mixed...which in not surprising given the subject matter is not interesting or applicable to most people. The good news is that the people I really want to like it (church staff, ministry, and Christian business folks) have given me great feedback and I'm encouraged by their responses. Below are five things I've learned over the last two weeks...

  • Blogging is fun - I expected I was going to enjoy it but I'm surprised that it's become a mild obsession. My wife will attest to all of this.
  • Blogging is work - The first few days I was pushing stuff out pretty quickly. After a little over a week I was torn between things I wanted to write about and deciding how to collect my thoughts enough to make a coherent (and hopefully enjoyable/informative) blog post. The writing is easy, it's the thinking that preceeds the writing that's hard.
  • There's a gap - I first heard about blogs almost seven years ago but I've been reminded numerous times in the last two weeks that a lot of people don't know what they are or don't give a rip about them. The dividing line almost every time has been generational. I'm not exactly sure where the cutoff is but it seems like in general anyone above the age of 40 has had less awareness, understanding, or interest in this sort of thing.
  • Blogging takes time - I've seen this happen on two fronts...first it takes time to write a post most of the time. The average post takes me 45 minutes to an hour from start to finish. Secondly, I've seen that it's going to take time before many people will read it. So far the largest number of people who have read my blog in a day is only 16 according to my stats. In time I hope it will be 1000 times that many...but it will take a little while...and this is my own little microexplosion experiment.
  • This blog is needed - I've continued to look at blogs and websites that talk about church outreach, church marketing, Christian marketing, new ways to reach the world, new ways to reach your community, etc. and I still haven't found anything that combines the web 2.0 trends with a Christian worldview like this. I will, therefore, press on.


AOL microexplosion - UPDATE

Well my prediction for the AOL microexplosion stats last night were a little high...as of 10pm (exactly 24 hours later from when I wrapped up last night's post) the views are up to almost 104,000. Not quite the 150,000 I thought it would get, but a significant jump from the 67,000 viewers from last night nevertheless.


An AOL microexplosion (in a bad way)

My friend Chris has a post on his blog relev8 about an AOL cancellation phone call gone wrong. You can see the video here. Despite the obvious conversation about poor customer service, what I love about this is that it is an opportunity for us to watch the beginning of a true microexplosion.

Less than 48 hours ago this video was posted on YouTube and in true microexlosion fashion it is taking off at a rapid pace. As of a 9:30 PM CST there are just over 66,000 views. I expect that by this time tomorrow there will be well over 150,000 and by this time next week might be in the upper hundred thousands.

So what does this mean for you? Well, besides the entertainment value of the video (in a slow down and see the wreck sort of way), it serves as another reminder of the power of a single flammable issue, in this case a phone call to cancel AOL service, and the power of web 2.0 tools. It also shows the wildfire effect as it gets posted to blogs (I can already see about 100 blogs talking about this), websites, and emails. Let's watch this one and see how far it goes. By the way...it's now 10:00...and up to 67,000 views...


RSS feeds me

One of the most useful web 2.0 tools I use is RSS. If you've been even a little observant over the last year you've seen the icon here on about every website and blog you come across. RSS essentially turns access to online content on its head by bringing information you subscribe to directly to your web browser. Previously I had a series of bookmarks I checked regularly and accessed the information that way. With RSS, a single click of a button in my Sage feed reader brings me the latest content from about 20 different sites I like.

If you have ever felt like there are too many good websites out there that you wish you could keep up with, then get an RSS reader and bring that content to you all at once rather than fetching it a site at a time. It will let you sift through a much larger amount of content very quickly.

The flip side of this is that you want to get RSS on your website if you don't have it already. As more indivduals become personal news aggregators they will rely more on RSS and visit websites less often. As of last fall the number of people using RSS was still low according to this article, but RSS is growing and there's really no good reason for you not to incorporate it. If, however, your target is highly wired...get RSS ASAP.


mySpace or not?

I had a great conversation last week with a client from a church here in Nashville. Our conversation about promoting an upcoming project turned into a discussion about mySpace.com. He told me that the youth pastor at his church has his own page on mySpace so he can "be where his kids are."

Turns out it's been a really good way to stay in touch with his students and more interestingly, it's created an opportunity for this pastor to see who and what his kids are into. It's even spurred some conversations both individually and in the group setting. The youth pastor has discovered topics he needed to address that he wouldn't have known about without spending some time on mySpace.

My brief history with mySpace
I first heard about mySpace a year ago (Spring 2005) as something that a lot of bands were getting into to promote their music. Over the next few months the national media seemed to really catch wind with the massive numbers of teenagers and young adults on mySpace. mySpace made news again last summer when Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. bought them out. Sometime last fall I began to read stories about the "evils" of mySpace and finally this spring it seems like that sentiment has really taken root. It's almost as if it's become a very simple equation in people's minds: mySpace = bad.

The fact of the matter is that mySpace is neither bad nor good just like the Internet is neither bad nor good. mySpace is, however, new, very popular, and has been adopted by millions of teens.

What concerns me is that it has become easier for people to simply think "mySpace = bad" rather than spend some time like the youth pastor I described above did and go where the kids are. In fact, a large Christian publisher here in Nashville just recently decided not to promote a national youth outreach event on mySpace for this very reason. The option was discussed but quickly decided that going where the kids are wasn't worth the potential uproar they might encounter by creating an event promotion page on mySpace.

I can't help but wonder what kind of opportunity was lost here. The very kids this publisher would say they hope to reach are the ones on mySpace 10 times a day...and now they may never even find out about it. mySpace is a perfectly viral medium, but it won't be for this publisher. They blew a business opportunity and a ministry opportunity. Perhaps after this they will reconsider for the future and change the equation to "mySpace = neutral" and then possibly one day, "mySpace = good outreach opportunity."


A blog question

I just had a great lunch at Moe's today with a friend. The Billy Barou (pictured above) with steak has become my favorite menu item. We were talking about blogs and I posed the quetion, "is it better to have really good content but post less frequently than it is to have decent content but post new information all the time?" My friend didn't know the answer and we thought it would be great if there were a study about this sort of thing. My hunch is that the sheer volume of a blogger can outshine a highly informative source that's not updated with any frequency. Perhaps this is a case of quantity being better than quality. If that is true, then how much more of an impact could a blog with great insight that also posts regularly make?


Banner ad = Bad idea

Sometimes knowing what not to do is more important than figuring out what you should do. I suggest you place banner ads in the "things I shouldn't do" category of your brain. Banner ads were a great way for websites to make money several years ago...meaning that both the website hosting the banner ad and the advertiser saw a benefit. In recent years, however, banner ads are generally disregared at best and just plain old annoying at worst. In fact banner ads were a motivating factor for me to drop my long-held Hotmail email account. I was getting sick and tired of flashing mortgage ads everytime I checked my email. Now I use Gmail, but I digress...

In Seth Godin's book, Purple Cow, he discusses the ineffectiveness of banner ads. He was even blogging about this back in 2003...which should tell you how much further out of date and ineffective banner ads are today. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people still spending money on these, but if you are a church or ministry you undoubtedly have a measure of stewardship for which you are held accountable. If that is the case and you're currently spending money on banner ads take a hard look at their effectiveness. If you have no doubt that it's driving people to your site then stick with it...you're one of the lucky ones. If your tests show that the banner ads really aren't working then drop them immediately and take the money to pay someone overtime to jumpstart your web 2.0 strategy.


Microexplosion: Case Study

My friends over at realVerse.com have just gotten their vlog (video blog) off the ground in the last few weeks after several months of planning. They serve as a perfect microexplosion case study. When realVerse got started it established itself as a conservative video blog commenting on news, entertainment, religion, and culture. About the same time they were launching a FoxNews commentator, Michelle Malkin, started her own vlog called Hot Air. Seeing the target audience overlap realVerse sprang to action and contacted the producer of Hot Air...and as you'll see here, it paid off.

Although realVerse hasn't gotten an on air mention yet, this is a great first step to getting the word out with a little research and determiniation. This is a great example of something that doesn't cost realVerse anything yet can be an invaluable source of recognition. Seth Godin talked about this in a blog post a few weeks ago. More specifically, the explanation of the long tail will give you insight into a true microexplosion.


Wiki what?

In a recent conversation with some friends I mentioned Wikipedia and one of them said, "wiki what?" If you find yourself in the same category as my friend let me introduce you to Wikipedia. It is self described encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Once again, a web 2.0 application that is used by millions every day will allow you to create a space for your own organization. There's no reason why your church, business, or ministry couldn't have a wikipedia article online 30 minutes from right now. Be sure to review their suggestions before jumping in...but check out a church and business already on board.


Online video - part 2

The other thing that happend during the fall of 2005 was the introduction of the video iPod. This single device launched a new era of video. For consumers, this is the next step in progamming that fits our schedules. For corporate broadcasters and microbroadcasters (podcasts) alike this new wave of pocket-programming is yet another opportunity to impact people where right where they are.

Online video - part 1

With all the new web 2.0 tools out there one that has particularly captured my interest is video blogging. Last fall seemed to be a tipping point in video blogging. One of the big reasons for that was the launch of YouTube.com, a video site that instantly allowed every person with a video camera to post video online for free. Since then there have been a number of other compaines like YouTube launch but this is yet another opportunity for communicating in a medium most people are used to...video.


Start from the very beginning

So what the heck is web 2.0? Well, there are a lot of different phrases being used to describe it. Some people are calling it "social media" or "new media" but you can boil it all down to this: the next wave of technology that incorporates the interactions of individuals. For a more in-depth perspective check out Wikipedia's definition. If you're more visually oriented check out this web 2.0 overview.

So why do we need to consider this from a Christian perspective? Well, my hope is that this blog will answer that question in the long term, but for now I can't help but think about how Christian organizations are notoriously behind the curve technologically. Whether you're part of a church, ministry or Christian business there are a host of new tools available to you to communicate with people and the best part is that most of them will hardly cost you any money. Ready to see what a few people are doing? Here are a few churches testing the waters.


It only takes a spark

Have you ever considered that a spark is really a small explosion? We generally don't regard a spark that way because there's no flying debris or plume of smoke yet given the right conditions and time a spark can have the same impact as a large explosion. In the same way, the new array of web 2.0 communication tools that seem to be coming out daily are spark creators. They may not make an immediate impact on the group you're trying to reach like a more traditional means, but in time they can become highly effective for you. This blog is dedicated to people who want to use the tools of web 2.0 to make an impact on the world.

Something to consider: Everything available to you through web 2.0 takes time to get off the ground. Some people will be fine with that, but for those of you with mandates and timelines you're going to come to a fork in the road of whether you want to do something that people can see soon (old marketing methods) with something that will have an enduring impact (web 2.0 methods). Consider it you own little blue pill vs red pill. One will take you to a world you couldn't imagine and the other...will keep you right where you are.