The Future of Online Marketing

Marketing Profs released today a “Top Ten” list of online marketing predictions for 2007. Points such as “Great content is king” and “Thoughtful, cause-related marketing is the biggest winner in 2007” suggest that the overwhelming influence of Web 2.0 marketing tools has attracted an informed and sophisticated audience that places a higher emphasis on quality. In other words, bells and whistles are fun, but it’s targeted marketing and substantive user-generated content that will have the strongest effect this year. With so many newsletters, blogs, social networking sites, and YouTube videos out there, it’s the organizations who take the time to create interesting and relevant content that ultimately reap the rewards.

As a clear example of this paradigm, the article contrasts the word-of-mouth influence of “Grey’s Anatomy” fans over those of the movie “Snakes on a Plane.” The former’s fanbase has grown exponentially since the first season “because the content of the show is good enough to keep [nonbelievers] coming back once they’ve heard about it.” On the other side of the spectrum is “Snakes on a Plane,” which had a remarkable “grassroots” following before it was even produced, only to bomb miserably at the box office due to lousy content.

It’s an important lesson to keep in mind when brainstorming and implementing your library’s next viral marketing campaign.


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What’s the buzz?

“Frank, maybe it’s the old-time salesman in me, but I’ve always had one conviction, and that’s this: when you’re trying to sell an idea, I don’t care how complicated or what it may be, you’ll never find a more effective instrument of persuasion than the living human voice.”

Richard Yates, “Revolutionary Road,” 1961

A few years ago, I was introduced to BzzAgent, an innovative Word-of-Mouth (WOM) marketing company that works to spread the word about new products by allowing users to try them.

As BzzAgents (My agent name is “Nandita”), we are essentially agents of “cool” within our various social networks. Using IM messages, e-mails, casual conversation, and other indirect and direct methods of communication, we are encouraged to “buzz” about the products that we try out. One of the cornerstones of the BzzAgent Code of Conduct is that they’ve always encouraged honesty and transparency among it’s users; that is, if it turns out that we don’t like a product or are not happy with aspects of it, we are encouraged to talk about that too. This level of honesty ultimately makes this type of marketing stronger, because it gives creedence to your word and allows others to trust your opinion.

BzzAgent was founded in 2001, and has since evolved into a powerful force in the marketing industry. In just 6 years, the company has recruited more than 250,000 “agents” (all volunteer), and worked on more than 250 WOM campaigns.

When I first joined, I was attracted by the idea of trying out free products. Over the years, however, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with the philosophy of WOM marketing, as well as the process itself. Their site is actually quite exciting, and I encourage you to check it out as a source of inspiration. It’s chock full of quotes, research, and case studies that demonstrate the power of marketing through conversation. It’s an interesting example of just what can happen when you harness the power of word of mouth.

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No benefits, but you can work in your pajamas

The Wall Street Journal turned its critical eye towards the blogosphere today with an analysis and breakdown of blogging as a career. It noted that some top bloggers can bring in “between $2,000 and $10,000 a month from ad sales.” Bloggers set their own hours and some of the top “breaking news” bloggers report working between 40 and 60 hours a week. It also identifies blogging as a bit more than just a career, quoting a media blogger who calls it “an obsession” and admits to the guilt he feels when he goes a few days without posting.

The WSJ also sheds light on how easy it is for anyone to become a blogger and points out that patience is key toward establishing any kind of an audience. It notes that “most bloggers start out using free Web sites such as and” and that it takes “at least six months to build readership and clout in the blogosphere.” They recommend picking a topic that you are passionate about (such as libraries!), because you will spend quite a bit of time writing about it. While the article acknowledges that “a background in journalism or communications helps,” it also states that it really isn’t required.

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Blogging on a Mac

I’ve recently switched to a Mac (a MacBook Pro), and in doing so I discovered a few things that I had never known before regarding the functionality of certain Google products and tools on a Mac. If you will be using a Mac–either at home or in your library–to create or update your blog, please note that not all programs will run on Safari. Most notably annoying is the absence of the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) functions on Blogger (such as the font tools and the image uploader), which was recently bought and revamped by Google. Google has noted that they are working on making Blogger software fully functional on the Safari browser, but until then, your best bet is Firefox, which can be downloaded for free here.

I’ve had no trouble using WordPress or Squarespace with Safari. I’ll be testing out the other blog clients this week and will keep you posted.

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Make your own rebus

This website features a cool rebus generator that turns the text of your choice into a fun little picture puzzle. This is a great idea for mass e-mails, fliers, or for posting on web pages. There are also other options, including a banner, a labyrinth, and a sweet little heart that is just perfect for Valentine’s Day!

To create the image, click on the link and enter your text into the box. Click on the “Shape” tab to choose a design, then set your text size in the layout section. You can then either print the image or take a screenshot of it and crop to create a jpeg. library rebus


Filed under Images, Resources

Image Generators

You don’t have to be a graphic artist or professional photographer to create great looking images for your blog, MySpace profile, or website. Image generators are websites that allow you to edit and customize premade photographs or graphics.

Emboss your name in the sand, announce a dinner in a bowl of alphabet soup, or write a fortune inside a cookie. The options are endless and you’re only limit is your imagination–and OK, there’s usually a word max. But remember: pithy is always better on the Web. Proust would not have cut in on the Internet.

Check these sites out:

Image Chef

Cool Text


Find any cool image generator sites out there? Post you links in the comments section.

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Selecting the right blogging software

So you’re ready to do it. You’ve checked out a few blogs online and you are excited about what this could mean for your library. But now what? There are dozens of blogging tools available, and picking the right one can seem like a bit of a daunting task. Fear not! In this post I’m going to lay out a few of the options that are available to you.

Ultimately, only you can choose the best software for you, but trust that the differences between the following options are minimal. It’s common to switch between a few programs until you find the one that works best for you and your library. Don’t get hung up on the details; it’s best to just jump right in and have fun with it.

Choosing the right program means deciding what kind of software your library needs. There are three different types available:

Managed: These types are free or low-cost services that provides you with blogging tools. In many cases, the server hosting can be provided for you as well, such as with Blogger, which also offers a range of pricing and features. Or, you have the option to place your blog on your own server, but manage it through the service’s interface. The benefits of these types of solutions are their low barriers to entry and their low (or free) cost. I recommend choosing a solution like this when you’re first starting out because you can quickly determine whether blogging is for you.

Community: Many online social networking communities offer blogging features, such as Vox, MySpace, Friendster, and others. Also an excellent option for those new to blogging, community solutions tend to be more restrictive in both the options offered and the terms of service allowed. These can also limit your blog to your social network (i.e. Only your MySpace friends will be able to view your MySpace blog.)

Server: This is perfect if you already have a strong, popular website and plenty of onsite technical guidance. Server solutions answer the need for strong yet modifiable software. Server-based solutions require more technical experience to install, customize, and extend. However, it’s the server-based solutions that are the most feature-rich. Due to the community nature of most blogging software, many plug-ins, add-ons, and modifications are developed by the community to be used freely. What’s more, server solutions offer better support. Movable Type is a good example of this—because of its licensing structure, technical support is part of the package. With WordPress, its open-source nature lends itself to many resources online where people with a passion for the product and for blogging help each other out with technical concerns.

Most of you will probably go with the first option, the free or low-cost blogging solution. This is idea for those of you who are starting out. Below are a few links to some of the top programs in each of these categories. I’ve said it before, but the best way to decide which is right for you is to just create an account and try it out. Most of these are free so you have nothing to lose!

Blogger, which is owned by Google, is (in my opinion) THE easiest and most popular blogging tool out there. The service is completely free and features a simple 1-2-3 step sign-up process. The program was recently completely revamped and is now easier than ever, with hundreds of customizable templates, instant publishing, and drag-and-drop editing. No HTML required! The Google advantage also makes it easy to get your link up high on the search rankings. The built-in “next blog” option, almost guarantees that strangers will find and be reading your blog the minute that you start posting, and the commenting community is set up so that new readers will be able to quickly link back to your site.

Typepad, which charges a nominal fee, is another very easy hosted blogging service. It’s quick to set up and features many professional looking and easily customizable blog templates. They offer a free 30-day trial.

WordPress, which is what I’m currently using for this blog, is one of the best services out there. The blog templates are clean, elegant, and very professional looking. Account set-up is free, and there are hundreds of templates out there to choose from. I think that in general, it’s a great option for small business or non-profit users.

I must admit that this is my current favorite right now. Squarespace was the brainchild of a University of Maryland student who wasn’t happy with the blogging tools out there so–as computer nerds are wont to do–he just wrote his own program. With a little help from his dad, he turned it into a very succesful business. It’s a paid service and depending on what features you choose, it could end up costing up to 25 dollars a month. I think it’s worth it, though, if you really want to be able to offer more than “just a blog.” You can add multiple pages, bios, photo albums, links, etc. The templates are easy to modify with just a few clicks and drags. They offer a free trial so definitely check it out–I’ll bet you find it just as exciting as I do!

LJ has been around forever, and could be a great option if you are really trying to reach a teen audience. It’s very popular with the younger crowd and has the advantage of built-in social networks that will help you grow your audience quickly. Ask around–if your teens are already using this program then this might definitely be the way to go…

I have accounts with several of these companies. I’ve kept a personal Blogger blog for over a year, and have been very happy with it. My professional website is set-up through Squarespace. I chose WordPress for this blog because I think the look works particularly well for a non-profit audience.

Play around with the different options, and let me know what you pick. I look forward to seeing your links!

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