Marketing With RSS – This Week’s Notables

Two items of note this week, both looking at how RSS is more than just blogging, and how it fits into marketing your business.

MarketingProfs is offering a 90-minute webinar entitled “Better Than Email Marketing? Rss Demystified

RSS is a simple to use tool that allows marketers to easily, inexpensively and quickly get their content delivered to their customers, prospects, business partners, the media, employees and practically everyone else you can imagine. And without fear of your content being stopped by content and spam filters on the way.

With failing e-mail delivery rates and changing online consumer behavior, RSS is becoming an increasingly important online content delivery tool and has already been established as the key supplement to e-mail marketing. And with Microsoft’s recent announcement of full RSS integration in their next operating system — including full Internet Explorer, Outlook and Outlook Express support — RSS will find its way in to mainstream publishing.

The cost is $99, and the seminar will be recorded.  There’s a full rundown at

The same group also has a new free article named “Your 7-Step RSS Marketing Plan

As an alternative to email, RSS is becoming an increasingly important content delivery channel that allows marketers to deliver all of their content, fully upgrade all of their marketing initiatives and establish lasting client relationships.

Whether direct marketing, PR, e-commerce, internal communications, online publishing, SEO, traffic generation or customer relationship management, RSS brings the power of delivery back to the hands of marketers.

But most marketers still do not know how to actually get started with RSS, especially when trying to take its power beyond basic blogging.


VistaDB Takes A Page From Naked Conversations

Vista DB 2.1 has been released, so says the press release.  I missed that one, but I didn’t miss what I saw on another blog:

VistaDB 2.1 database for .NET has been released
This 2.1
update includes over 60 improvements, including new support for .NET
2.0 and Visual Studio .NET 2005. VistaDB is a small-footprint, embedded
SQL database alternative to Jet/Access, MSDE and SQL Server Express
2005 that enables developers to build .NET 1.1 and .NET 2.0
applications. Features SQL-92 support, small 500KB embedded footprint,
free 2-User VistaDB Server for remote TCP/IP data access, royalty free
distribution for both embedded and server, Copy ‘n Go! deployment,
managed ADO.NET Provider, data management and data migration tools.
Free trial is available for download.
– Learn more about VistaDB
– Repost this to your blog and receive a FREE copy of VistaDB 2.1!

Right out of Chapter 3, “Word of Mouth on Steroids”, this is feeding the network.  Seth Godin is quoted

If you’ve invested the time and the energy and the guts to make something remarkable, this audience can’t wait to hear about it.

Seed the conversation with some freebies, let your audience work
with it, and let us talk about how great it is (QED).  I’ll be one
to let you know after I’ve toyed around with it.

So far, Vista Software hasn’t joined the conversation by starting a
blog.  There are 50 improvements and fixes in this release, some
of which could warrant examination in blog posts.  Since the
company’s lasted a year, someone’s buying the database–who else is
using it, and in what applications?  Another press release touts
the DB as filling a void in the MS product line.  That’s a pretty
good press release, and it answers some of my questions, but I’ll bet
there are other questions that could be raised as well.

A good place to start might be to modify a blog app (such as
dasBlog) to use Vista DB as its data source.  Dogfood, and a
complete app example.  The press releases are RSS enabled, which I
guess is a start, but doesn’t quite meet the standard Shel and Scoble
lay down in their book.

The Value of Ego Feeds

“Ego feeds” are essentially searches via a blog search engine (such as Technorati or Feedster) for your name, or the name of a product, etc. top see what’s being said about it.  You can subscribe to these feeds using your RSS aggregator, so you have a very near real-time update of who is saying what about you–new and updated results show up as such in your reader as teh search results change, which is frequently in some cases.  At the very worst, hope your ego feed is quiet.

In the continuing saga of Sony’s DRM, E-commerce Times has this nugget in an article today (

Gilliat-Smith and Sony BMG spokesman John McKay said the technology had been on the market for about eight months and there had been no major complaints prior to Russinovich’s blog post.

“No major complaints”??  Baloney!  Doing a quick search in Feedster and sorting it by date shows this has been going on for over 5 months!  Here’s a page from my search:  When I ran this search, this results page had Mike Righi’s post, and a few comments left by him on some other posts, as well as one entitled “Der horror von Sony DRM“.  I don’t speak German, but that’s not a necessary skill to interpret that title.

Had Sony or First 4 Internet had an ego feed for themselves, they might have seen this storm coming and been able to head it off long ago.  Instead, they’re dealing with a pretty serious PR crisis.  My first point here is that an ego feed is probably a pretty good idea to watch if you’re in business.

This story has been festering for a while, but is a good example of just how fast a story can grow when a significant voice starts to speak.  We biologists refer to “explosive amplification” to describe the dramatic growth period of a virus after it infects a host.  This story has certainly gone through a period of explosive amplification this week, with Mark’s post seemingly being the point of infection into the mainstream.

Bottom line: use an ego feed, because it’s easier to head a problem off at the pass than fight the fever.

(Yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors today–deal with it.)

Naked Conversations Comes To Life

It’s interesting when a book you read influences how you see events after you’ve finished it.  Two examples today are sticking out to me.  The first is all the flap over Sony’s DRM Rootkit.  A recent post on the Sysinternals blog titled Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far seems to have really set the ball rolling, and posts are springing up all over the place.  This has been around for a while–my buddy Mike Righi (rhymes with ‘jiggy’) covered this way back in June with his Use Sony DRM, Format Your Hard Drive post (sidenote: Mike’s a Java guy, so it figures he’d still be buying CDs–real developers have iPods).  This story has gained a lot of traction in big media outlets today, and all of this amounts to bad press for Sony.  But where’s there response?  This seems like a perfect time for anyone at Sony to read Chapter 13, “Blogging in a Crisis” (Maybe Shel or Scoble will e-mail them a PDF of the chapter).  I’m not exactly sure what can be said for installing something rather evil on someone’s machine, but “we’re sorry and here’s an easy fix you can download” would be a big start.  If Engadget’s post is correct, and Sony is distributing cracking instructions via e-mail, they’d probably get more traction out of a blog post with the same information.  We’ll see how this plays out, but there are already a lot of people claiming lifelong boycotts of Sony music.

Second item come to life is the little guy vs. big guy story.  The big guy in this case is Leed’s, a huge producer of promotional materials, and based in nearby New Kensington, PA; the little guy is 4Imprint Group.  I’m measuring big and little based on the swag I have from each company.  ASP Alliance sent their authors nice notepads from Leed’s last year, and the totebags and other materials from SAF 2005 were also from Leed’s (yes, I do look at the tags inside the totes, I’m curious like that).  I can’t seem to find any swag in my collection from 4Imprint.  Based on my exposure to them, I would have looked at Leed’s if I were ever in the market for promotional products.  But, 4Imprint has started a blog called 4Imprint Chatter, on what appears to be a dressed up version of .Text (their main site is .NET also).  The posts are pretty interesting to read, and you get a real feel for the people you’ll be dealing with.  It’s endearing, which is probably exactly what they were hoping for.  Leed’s, well, not so endearing (although their site is ASP).  Despite the fact Leed’s is local, and I have some of their stuff, I’d be more inclined to go with 4Imprint.  I feel like I know them, and that’s because of their blog.

Somedays You Just Feel Prescient

In my review of “Naked Conversations” posted yesterday, I made the point that

The strength of the developer ecosystem will be as much a part of Microsoft’s future success as its image.

Lo and behold, The Register runs this article today:

Developers become advertisers with Microsoft

Google has given Microsoft something to think about with a seemingly successful advertising-based business model, but Microsoft can “out Google” Google with developers.

That’s the enthusiastic view of Microsoft’s recently appointed chief technology officer (CTO) Ray Ozzie, who believes Redmond can utilize MSN to beat Google and become the industry’s largest beneficiary of online advertising-based services.

If you’ve asked yourself why MS is giving away Standard editions of VS 2005 and SQL 2005 at its launch events, this is probably Reason #1.  Ditto with why MS employees are encouraged to blog–the technical information they share is in many ways akin to Amazon or Google providing well-documented APIs.

I’m not planning to be part of the gang that tries to out-Google Google.  It has been said that when elephants dance, it’s the grass that gets trampled.  In this case, I think the grass is getting aerated.  I plan to be part of the gang that helps small businesses benefit from the coming interest in them as search providers such as MSN or Google put a more local face on their results.  Half the country lives in small towns, and half the economy is in small businesses.  Here we go, just watch out for the elephant with the two left feet.

Review of “Naked Conversations”

The title of Chapter 1, “Souls of the Borg”, sets the mood for the authors’ approach to their content–casual, sometimes pointed, and a little tongue-in-cheek in places.  This chapter is focused on how Microsoft has improved its corporate image by having so many of its employees blogging.  MS’s only official site is Channel 9 (, but there are a number of other sites as well (such as  It’s great that Microsoft has helped its image, but that’s only part of the story of what Microsoft’s blogs bring to their ecosystem.  As a full time developer using Microsoft technologies, the various MS blogs have improved my development skills.  Sometimes it’s little tips and tricks posted by members of the product team, or sometimes it a longer post waxing philosphic about design patterns and programming techniques.  In at least two cases, information I’ve found in the blogs regarding products in beta or release dates has directly influenced purchasing decisions and development plans.  There’s a story to be told here, but not one I can tell just yet.  I have a brand new Dell 1850 in my living room, and a new 2850 on the way, as part of that story.  This is an important idea, that a company’s blog is more than just a brand or image enhancer.  A good company can actually build a better ecosystem around itself with its open sharing of information.  The strength of the developer ecosystem will be as much a part of Microsoft’s future success as its image.

The praise for Microsoft gets heaped on a little heavy in some places, and several pages circle around co-author Scoble’s ascention to the Channel 9 team, but there are enough other stories in this chapter to make it very interesting.  Small businesses probably won’t find too much to relate to in this chapter, but outfits like Enron, Worldcom and Tyco might want to take notice.  Pennies on the seafloor are less tarnished than those reputations, and a more human face might help those reputation and financial turnarounds.

Chapter 2, “Everything never changes”, is really more of a history and a “what is blogging” overview.  Some of the data from a cited Pew study will be a year old by the time the book comes to press; at various points throughout the book, the authors cite how fast blogs are being created and being noticed, and Technorati is now tracking about 18 million blogs.  Hopefully there’s time for a quick numbers update just before the book hits the presses.  I liked this chapter because it provides enough of answer to the question “What is a blog”, which is the first question asked by anyone who needs to read this book.

Chapter 3, “Word of Mouth on Steroids”, provides us with my favorite quote of the book (and is the title of this chapter).  The authors compare the cost effectiveness of blogging, and the phenominal rate of adoption of several Internet technologies (such as ICQ and Firefox) to bring home how powerful word of mouth can be, and how blogs play such a pivotal role in spreading the word.  We won’t all rake in $287 MM from an initial $10,000, but the point should be taken by businesses large and small.  The quote comes from Yossi Vardi, the parental supervision of the ICQ creators.  In small businesses in small towns (which comprise a huge portion of the nation’s economy), word of mouth makes or breaks you.  I’m looking forward the day we can start buzz about the flower shop on our blog; until then, we’ll be slicing postcards apart.

Chapter 4 delves into how blogs allow normally isolated executives, such as GM’s Bob Lutz or Marc Cuban, directly access their customer/fan base, and how the customer/fan base can access them right back.  The authors repeatedly state that one essential component of a blog is the ability to leave comments, and this emphasized in the two-way interactions covered in this chapter.  The CEO’s voice can really soften the image of even the largest automaker in the world; in small businesses, so much of the business is built on the reputation of the owner.  A blog in this case serves as a great way for people who don’t know you to rapidly get a feel for who you are, what you’re about, and that that want to do business with you.

Chapter 5 gets into territory I find very interesting, and that’s how small businesses (“Little Companies”, as the chaper’s title states) benefit from blogging.  A tailor, a church, a restaurant, a dairy and a gadget geek are some of the businesses profiled here (although the dairy has grown to become a very large business).  Some very useful tips for the small business blogger are presented at the end.  Sadly, this is really it for the discussion on how small businesses can benefit from blogging–I was personally hoping for more because I want my fellow small business owners to be as jazzed about blogs as I am.  Parts of the following chapters (except Chapter 6) focus on blogging in the context of large businesses such as Microsoft or GM.  Some of the subsequent information is useful for small businesses, but it’s never put into the context of a small business, and may be overlooked or lost.  I’ll have to put some of that content on this site so I don’t have to explain it a thousand times.

Consultant blogging is the topic of Chapter 6.  It’s here we meet Ernie the Attorney, whose fate after Hurricane Katrina was unknown for a short time, and was covered on the author’s blog during the crisis.  For consultants (and I’ve been in this position), blogs serve as a very cost effective way to market oneself and display your knowledge.  Sometimes, as is the case with several patent/IP lawyers who started blogging at nearly the same time, and began collaborating.  Today, the three are trusted colleagues, and the whole of their blog is greater than the sum of the parts.  It’s important that you as a consultant can be contacted via your blog, and that you follow up with those who contact you (more foreshadowing of the server story).  If you’re a consultant, you’re usually advised to get to networking events, sponsor user group meetings, etc.  Add Chapter 6 to that list, and be sure to pass it along if you ever repeat the list.  I think this chapter is important enough that it could be offered as a stand-alone ebook for “consultants who don’t get it”, because it’s all about the consultants who do get it, and the success “getting it” brings.

The obituary for the PR professional is premature at this time; however, the one can almost hear the bell tolling for the ones who don’t take notice of, and embrace, blogs.  Much as Scoble lays out the criticism of Microsoft on his blog and in this book, Shel (I think Shel wrote this one) uses Chapter 7 to take his profession to task.  Interviews with PR mucky-mucks such as Richard Edelman (one who “gets it”) provide a very interesting look at how the PR business will (or should) change in the next few years.  This has the same feel to me as when I was a research scientist in a lab in 1997, and someone figured you could make money selling stuff on the Internet (“our Internet” as we scientists thought in those days).  On the one hand, it was kind of exciting; on the other hand, many of us thought “well crap, there goes the purity of the thing”.  And this is the message to the PR people from Shel–don’t treat the blogosphere like it’s simply another way to spew forth the same old press releases, because your obit is on the city editor’s desk, just waiting…

“Blogs and National Cultures” is Chapter 8.  Interesting…very interesting.  We start out with what I thought is a “no duh” moment–the authors were surprised to find more blogs in Japan than China.  Well, China ain’t exactly a free country; ask Google (or visit elgoog, which was originally one way to get around state censorship), or Yahoo or MSN.  The authors pick back up on this a little later in the chapter, but are careful not to ruffle any feathers.  We also meet prominant bloggers from France, Germany, Spain and Japan, and see how national culture has affected the adoption of blogging.  That’s one reason why I love America so much–there’s such a diversity of people here that practically anything will become at least somewhat popular here, and this chapter reminds me just how special our culture really is.

Chapter 9–“Thorns in the Roses”.  No, not about the flower business–it’s about the pitfalls of blogging, and there are some.  We look at how Howard Dean’s campaign was more of an echo chamber than actual phenomenon, and why Saddam Hussein should not blog.  My second favorite quote of the book is the section title, “The Dull Should Not Blog”.  This is one of the chapters that focuses on larger businesses, and gives the short shrift to “Little Companies”, but if small biz owners can reflect on what’s presented and apply it to their own situations, there is some useful information in this chapter.

Even though there are no official blogging rules, it is possible to blog incorrectly, and Chapter 10 shows us some examples.  If you like those “World’s Dumbest Criminals” stories, you’ll enjoy this chapter.  Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void fame makes an appearance with his Lame Blog awards, and advice on what not to do.  There are stories of blog salvation in this chapter as well, which mean that even if you are lame in the beginning, you can overcome that.  Kind of like how after gradutaion that acne cleared up and you got your braces off and showed up at college really hot, and no one knew you were a total geek in high school.  Not that I have any experience in that (and no, I did not go to grad school for a second chance of overcoming lameness, thanks for asking).  Point is, it’s possible to overcome initial lame-ness, and Chapter 11 (“Doing it Right”) is all the stuff you should’ve done at the beginning, presented in a numbered list with commentary.  You will see changes to this blog as a direct result of the information in Chapter 11, starting with the title.  I’ll explain the title and retire it as soon as I think of a better one.  I think some of the content focuses a little too much on Google results–again, I admit they’re important, but they aren’t the end all and be all of what will comprise your success as a business.

By now, we’ve all heard the stories of that guy who got canned from Google for blogging, or that girl who got canned from Yahoo for the same thing.  Turns out, the girl (Heather Armstrong) is the one who coined the term “dooced” for being fired for blogging.  Content she posted on her blog,, is what got her canned.  Chapter 11 looks at “How Not to Get Dooced”.  This is another one of those chapters that puts its content in the context of big business.  To be sure, there are liabilities on bith sides when employees blog and post something they shouldn’t.  Although small businesses can’t get fired per se, they can get themselves ostracized from their communities.  I referred to Butler as a “rusted out steel town” in an earlier post, and I was a little worried about doing so.  A lot of people will agree with me (I personally think Butler has a bright future, and that’s why we own a business here), but some will take offense.  There is a lot of pride in this town–the Jeep was invented here, Pullman cars were made here, George Washington fought here, and the original “Night of the Living Dead” was filmed here (OK, actually 10 min south in Evans City, but if you don’t know where Butler is, Evans City is probably just as meaningless).  Being too flippant can be bad for business.  Honesty is good, but even that should be metered out in small doses at times.  Your blog is not a private conversation among a few close friends, so be careful what you say–your company or your community could dooce you.

We saw more terror and natural disaster this past summer than I really wanted to in my entire life.  Much of the most poignant coverage of these events came from people actually there, experiencing them, and posting to their blogs.  We experienced these events through their eyes, rather than from a safe camera distance, and that’s a huge change in how we’ll perceive future events of the same ilk.  Even with smaller crises, blogs play an important role because of the speed at which information can be disseminated, and Chapter 13, “Blogging in a Crisis”, has examples of how blogging did change the crisis, or how a crisis could have been avoided.  NASA, Kryponite, Intel and Six Apart are case studies.

What’s coming down the road for us?  Chapter 14 has some ideas.  It’s no understatement when I say my iPod is the device I waited my whole life for.  What’s next is anyone’s guess, but I bet I’ll like some of it.  This chapter looks at RSS, podcasts, vcasts and tagging, and how the blogosphere is likely to be influenced by them all.

We wrap up with Chapter 15.  It’s your typical feel-good-by-tying-it-all-together-in-6-pages chapter, but it still feels good to read it.  The authors feel we’ve moved into a “Conversational Era” of marketing because of blogging.  Marketing is no longer blasting images or sounds at you a zillion times a day, but may be moving toward more of a soft-sell approach, providing information you want, when you want it, and letting you make an informed decision.  Those who inform stand to gain, while those who don’t, won’t.

And now for my feel good wrap-up:  I’m still jazzed.  Blogs have great potential for small businesses, and I’m appointing myself as a blogging evangelist to the small business community.  I will be recommending this book to quite a few people, and providing follow-up commentary here to relate some of the big business leanings to small businesses.  I’ll try not to be lame, but no guarantee about geeky.

Why “Naked Conversations” Has Me Jazzed

I’m part owner of a flower shop in Butler, PA (The Bloomery, thanks for asking).  Butler is a rusted out steel town about 35 miles north of Pittsburgh, and about 15 miles north of the suburban sprawl.  We’re having a holiday open house on November 6, and to promote the event, we’re doing a postcard mailing.  We had 700 sheets of cardstock printed with postcards 4/page.  We then spent several hours cutting the cards apart.  We pared our mailing list down to about 2600 people based on proximity and purchases.  Mailing labels and return address labels had to be printed and applied, and stamps purchased and applied.  We’re in for close to $1000 just in copies, stamps and labels, plus the hours and hours of our time.

By contrast, it would take me about 10 minutes to put the same information on our blog (at, or about half an hour to get really artistic in the blog post.  Now, we’re a long way away from 2600 people in this town reading blogs on a regular basis, let alone our shop’s blog, but the time will come when we can really scale back the expense and effort it takes us to reach our customer base.  Cindy Closkey, one of the founders of Pittsburgh Bloggers, lives here in Butler and is doing her darndest to spread the word.

I hope the time is soon.  I want this week’s evenings and 1 grand back.

Five Chapters Into “Naked Conversations”

I’m going to have to read this book twice.  “Naked Conversations” has me jazzed.  I’m probably supposed to be reading this book with a critical eye, but I find myself so interested in the content that I lose myself in it.  The writing style is casual and informative, and solid tips are worked in between the vignettes of bloggers.  So far, it’s been part history lesson, part glimpse of the future, with a focus on the end result: relating to customers.  One aspect I really like about the book so far is the wide variety of people who are included.  Favorite quote so far: “Blogging is word of mouth on steroids.”

One annoyance: page numbering restarts with every chapter.  I prefer not to have to refer to “page 10 of chapter 4”, but rather “page 142”.

I will definately be recommending several people add preorders of this book to their Christmas lists (consider this a personal recommendation for anyone reading this; there’s a handy link below for your use).  And hey, my uncle’s a master plumber in NH, so y’all may have your blogging plumber soon.