Personal Branding Opinion: You Are a Brand

Personal Branding, Are You An Advocate?

A recent tweet from @KeithBDixon noted that the contents of Chapter 2 of my book was in direct conflict with Sheryl Sandberg’s opinion. This post explains why we have differing opinions on personal branding. (Thank you Keith for posting and responding to my question about your post.)

Like, Follow, Share tweet about personal branding

In Brian Clark’s article on, he reports that Sheryl Sandberg does not think she has a brand, and that she believes she is only using her voice.  I beg to differ. I believe that the fact that she is a household name, whether Sheryl Sanberg article on personal brandingshe likes it or not, means she has a brand.

And here’s why: Personal branding is about reputation. Your personal brand is a way for us to determine whether or not you are someone we can trust.

Your customers define your brand.

A brand is something bestowed on a product, idea or person by the audience bestowing it. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so brand recall, brand loyalty and brand trust comes from the customers of the brand. Nike isn’t Nike because of the marketing it does or how it is packaged. It is a brand because over time it has become something people understand to have a specific meaning and with that meaning comes a level of trust.


Building a brand comes from providing something that the audience can feel, align with and rally around. The fact that Nike is much more famous than Inov-8 doesn’t mean that Inov-8 is not a brand. All other things being equal, Nike has just been around for longer and has earned more money to promote itself (aka brand) with, but customers still give the brand it’s voice.


Think about this statement for a minute:

You are who you are in the listening.


You are no-one if all you do is sit in your living room never communicating with anyone. Do you want to be known or unknown? Do you want to be famous or infamous? When you start talking to people, sharing yourself via social channels, traditional media outlets, writing books, speaking publicly, you are building a reputation and a brand around who you are so that people can figure out if you are the right person for them to hire, friend, partner with, marry, look up to, date, and refer to others. Whenever you are in the media whether it is social or traditional, you are building your personal brand.


We buy or don’t buy from Patagonia because we believe in the quality of the product and the ideals and philosophies upon which the company stands. We support the company and give money in exchange for goods because we believe we are getting something we want from a brand we trust. And just as brands are built by customers, voices are built by listeners. If no-one is listening, you have no voice. If everyone is listening, you have a voice and you become a spokesperson for whatever venture you are currently on whether it is Facebook, feminism or your own personal story.


It’s about building trust.


Building a personal brand may not be something that Sheryl feels she is doing, but it’s something she has been doing all her life. By telling her story in Lean In, by sharing the loss of her husband so openly on Facebook, she opened her heart to the public and let us know more about her. That is trust building. That’s what she means when she talks about being authentic and sharing her voice. She absolutely has a voice and moreover, she has a brand. She just doesn’t know it, because she doesn’t feel like she has put in any effort, i.e. money to build it, but oh she so has. The more famous you become, the bigger your voice is. That’s because people recognize you as a brand.


We consumers form ideas about who you are, when we hear or read your name.


We listen to Sheryl Sandberg because she has built our trust through the number of people she has been able to acquire as followers and fans. Unfortunately those who have the biggest voices are also those who have the biggest reputations. And just like product brands who we associate thoughts with before hearing any more than their brand name, so personal brands have the same effect.

So, whether you read Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Ben Parr, Sophie-Charlotte Moatti, Neil Patel, Danny Sullivan, Rand Fishkin, Avinash Kaushik, Seth Godin or your own name here, [insert name here], each of us known by our history, what we have contributed, said, posted, experienced and accomplished. Your personal branding is about how many people have seen or heard about those accomplishments and experiences.


Today more than ever, in a world of countless opportunities to have a voice, and how you shape your personal brand matters. Your reputation precedes you. You are a brand.

What is WeChat?

WeChat, We-what?

How to WeChatMany of you many already feel very comfortable using the big social networks that dominate the U.S. market, but have you ever thought about social networking in other countries? You may have heard of a WeChat? It’s a social network dominant in China. Have you ever wondered how it works? One of my very smart and talented students, Fann Liu, has created a quick little video to explain it.

There are many cool features which our trusty Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Google+ (ahem), and YouTube should consider to enhance the user experience on each of these platforms. Let me tell you about some of them here:

WeChat Features You Might Enjoy

  1. Message Recall – On WeChat, you can recall a message you’ve sent within 2 minutes. This could be very useful if you send something by mistake. Remember that text you sent to our Mom which was actually meant for your new love? That could have been saved with a recall button.
  2. Sending Money – We have this on Facebook and Snapchat, yet very few people are using it yet. Do you use it? And, what do you use it for?
  3. QR Code Connecting – It’s on Snapchat, but it seems easier to use on WeChat.
  4. Chat Groups – You can chat with up to 500 people at the same time. Yes, 500! That’s a lot! This may be similar to a live video on Facebook, Instagram or Periscope. Furthermore, it could also be reminiscent of the days of listservs and forums, but it seems like an excellent way to communicate with large groups of people. Think about inviting people to events and forming social movements.
  5. Easy Privacy Settings – Moments, like stories on Snapchat, and now Instagram and Facebook, don’t have to be shared with everyone. You can easily block and allow any selection of friends to view your content.
  6. English Version – There is an English version of WeChat, but it only includes about one fifth of the features available on the Chinese version. Wow! Are you experiencing any FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) yet? Download the iPhone app here.
  7. Payment Features – WeChat enables multiple forms of payment and many businesses in East Asia are connected to WeChat. This allows you to pay via the app and QR codes. I’m betting Facebook and Snapchat would love for people to start using their apps for payments. Afterall, when something helps me with my money, it is extremely valuable to me.

Where do we go from here?

As with many technologies, we in the U.S.A. may not be at the forefront of all advancements. I believe it’s crucial to stay informed about what people in other countries are doing especially on their mobile devices, because we’re in a time of prolific innovation in the mobile space. If we remain open-minded to cultural differences and technological progress in other countries, we can push the bounds of our own apps, websites, and businesses processes.

3 Ways to Guarantee Getting a Link Request

Link Requests Are Not Always This Easy

I recently received the email below from a student who took my Maximizing Your Visibility: Search and Social Media Marketing courses at SF State College of Extended Learning last year.

Andy was an absolute gem to work with and I’m very excited that his business MealPro has finally launched. I’ve also become a customer and can testify that the meals are delicious, but that’s not what this post is about.

The email below is an example of a perfect link request. As you may know, having more inbound links, or links pointing to your website is important in terms of search engine optimization, because the engines see sites with more (and high quality) inbound links as more valuable when ranking them in search engine results.

Link building is one of the most time consuming and challenging areas of SEO, so its important to be strategic and understand the nuances of link requests.

When requesting a link, it helps to be personal and say something nice to the recipient of your message. Now I know Andy learned a lot in my class, but he didn’t have to say those nice things to ask for a link. In his email, he did three things correctly:

  1. Capture the recipients attention with a personal touch.

    The fact that he reached out though, remembered that I had asked him to keep in touch and went to my website to look around, makes me really want to add a link to his business on my site.

  2. Provide an easy way for the recipient to look at the site you are requesting a link for.

    Andy provided a quick and easy link with a picture and I was very impressed to see the latest version of his site with new logo and fully functioning order processing.

  3. Ask for a link in an unassuming way and show gratitude

    Andy says, “I noticed you have a section on your website for clients you have helped. Please feel free to add MealPro to the list.”
    Not only does he not assume that he will get the link, but he is also saying thank you for my help which makes me feel good and when I feel good it makes me want to help him more.

MealPro Email Screenshot

Well done Andy, you made me proud and I wish you every success with your new business and career!

Your Turn:

What are your favorite ways to ask for links back to your website?

The Power of Help in Marketing

The Power of Help in Marketing

In his book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is about Help Not Hype, Jay Baer extolls the value of smart marketing by providing self-serve information, radical transparency and real-time relevancy. I love this philosophy and look for it in my own interactions with businesses. Here are three recent experiences about the power of help for marketing your business.

1. Women’s Plumbing Repair

I had a leaking shower-tub faucet, so I searched for a “plumber near 94612” and found “Women’s Plumbing Repair” on Yelp. The reviews looked excellent so I called. Instead of getting a receptionist though, I got an answering machine message saying, “Please do not leave a message here as I have hundreds of messages that I’m unable to check. If you need help, please call or text my cellphone number at …” I was surprised by this message, but also impressed, because if they had so many messages on their voicemail. To me, that meant they must be busy and therefore good at what they do. So I called and left a message on the cell number. Jac called me back and left me a message this time. She said to send her a text with the details of when we could meet etc, so I did and we scheduled something. Since I figured she would likely need a part for the faucet, I asked her if she wanted a photo and here’s what ensued.

1 Power of Help 1 SMS conversation 2 Power of Help 2 SMS conversation

3 Power of Help 3 SMS conversation 4 Power of Help 4 SMS conversation

Not only did she tell me how to get the part, but she also referred me to a supplier who could help me source the part, and she told me that I could do the work myself. Wow! She didn’t want to charge me. Yes, my job was small, but I was quite willing to pay to get it done. Instead of her taking every project, Jac is building up goodwill by being super helpful. As the Yelp reviews and her full voicemail box attest, the power of help is definitely working.

I got the diverter part from the manufacturer and another one from the supplier and both were free. I did need some help installing it, but I was able to get that from Jason, my handy HOA maintenance person who I’ll talk about next. Oh and one more thing, since this post is about marketing and social media, my neighbor Philip offered to help anyone having a similar problem on Facebook through our private neighborhood group, so all in all it was very much a community project. Philip showed me how to remove the faucet, Jason helped me drill away some of the travertine (marble) to allow for the new diverter to be installed and Jac helped me find the part.

I am extremely grateful to all three people here and was particularly impressed by Jac’s helpfulness. I definitely know who to call if I have a bigger plumbing issue or need to refer a plumber to someone. In fact if you’re ever in need of a plumber in the Oakland area, I recommend you call Women’s Plumbing.

2. Jason Parker HOA Maintenance

The Power of Help for Marketing on Facebook, an example of a post from Jason Parker, HOA Maintenance manJason Parker is a handyman who helped our HOA on various small projects in the building. He has built a reputation for being helpful not just by fixing things and helping people install new lights, TV mounts and electrical wiring, but also because of the tips he offers on Facebook from time to time, just for the good of the community. Every few weeks, Jason posts a tip to our private group page which is very helpful. He doesn’t ask if anyone needs help or offer his services. He simply provides useful information out of the blue. This is usually information which someone might need and use at some point, but it is unsolicited and just plain helpful. What this does is keep Jason top of mind for building residents and homeowners. It also makes people feel like they know and understand Jason and that he can be trusted. Then the next time someone needs some done work in the building, who do you think they think of first? That’s right Jason Parker HOA Maintenance man is who. He’s also available via text and phone and is just a really good guy. He has used power of help to build strong relationships with residents of our building and in so doing, we trust him and think of him first for any odd jobs that we need to get done.

3. Smog Fail Repair

I recently needed to get my smog check certificate for renewing my registration and took my car to the nearest Smog Test station. To my surprise, the car failed. How horrifying! The tester told me that I could get the car repaired by my mechanic or any smog repair shop and also that I could apply for financial assistance from the State of California to offset some of the expenses. I asked if the failure could be due to the cooler weather or the car being cold and the tester said no. The tester also indicated that the car had failed quite substantially, so I was very concerned.

I have a 1998 BMW 323is and have been taking it to Bavarian Professionals for years. (I was referred to them by a friend I trust.) I drove home from the Smog test station and called Bavarian Professionals. I told them that my car had failed the smog test and they said they would be happy to schedule an appointment, but I might want to try driving the car for a bit longer before getting a smog retest. They recommended driving the car for at least 15 minutes on the freeway before getting the car tested again, apparently because the catalytic converter takes a while to warm up. They could easily have taken my car in and charged me for a diagnostic and any repair they felt like doing, but instead they told me the truth about the car and offered a free solution. I said I would try that first before scheduling an appointment, so a couple of weeks later, I did just that. I drove the car on the freeway for about 30 minutes and then took into into the same smog test station as I had been to before. The car passed the test easily and there were no questions asked. What a relief! If I had spoken to a mechanic who was just trying to get money out of me, I probably could have spent a few hundred dollars on needless repair. I am extremely grateful for the honesty of Bavarian Professionals who once again rose to the occasion to earn my trust. Their power of help leads to happy and loyal customers like me. I will always take my car to them for service.

Lessons from these examples:

  1. While it may be tempting to take any job that comes your way, think about it from a longer view perspective. How many people would have heard about the service provider if each of the above people had just taken the job instead of being helpful? And how many people will hear about them since they were helpful? That’s right, a lot more.
  2. Doing the right thing earns trust and trust is crucial to staying in business and earning more work than you can handle.
  3. Make sure your car’s engine is nice and warmed up before you get a smog check.
  4. Always offer value and treat your customers like you would treat your friends.
  5. As Jay Baer says: “Smart marketing is about help, not hype.” Helping earns trust. Being helpful can be a powerful marketing tool.

Your turn:

Have you had any experiences in which you were particularly wowed by the customer service or “un-marketing” of a business or service professional? What does the power of help mean to you? Please share your experience in the comments below. Thank you!

5 Steps to Viral Video

One of my students recently shared a video with me that I hadn’t seen before in true word of mouth marketing style. The video is about a boy who held on to his dream and a filmmaker who was inspired the kid’s imagination and tenacity. Of course it helped that the filmmaker stumbled upon Caine, our protagonist, but even so, here are the 5 reasons why this video went viral.

If you haven’t seen the video yet, it’s a great story, have a watch:

What constitutes a viral video, you ask? Any video that has millions of views in a relatively short period of time. The viral nature of the video comes from it being shared or spread so much that it receives all those views. Everyone is talking about it and sharing it both online via email and social networks, as well as offline in person via word of mouth.

5 Reasons the Why Caine’s Arcade Video Went Viral:

  1. WIIFT: What’s In It For Them?
  2. It’s a story about a kid who had a dream. We’ve all had dreams like this and can empathize with Caine. For you, the viewer, the story gives you a feeling of empowerment. This makes you feel like you can do this too. We are inspired by stories of others’ dreams becoming reality, because we want that same experience for ourselves.

  3. Inspire and Entertain
  4. The video is inspirational because Caine obviously has a great imagination and innate talent. These are things we all want and admire in others. We are inspired by Caine’s courage and entertained by his story. Of course the videographer has edited the video to make us feel this way. Remember that this is your challenge when you’re making your viral video. Always keep your viewer in mind. Think about how they will feel. What will make them share your video?

  5. Celebrity Endorsement
  6. The protagonist is cute and likable. We want him to succeed. Since Caine seems like the underdog, we have more affinity for him. We like to see surprise and we delight in unexpected success. The celebrity here though isn’t necessarily Caine himself. The endorsing party is the videographer who was inspired by Caine’s story to make the video about him. The videographer was able to gather enough people to make Caine have such a successful day at his arcade.

  7. Have a Heart
  8. The story is entertaining and pulls on your heart strings. The joy on Caine’s face as he realizes what is happening is priceless. We share in both his ambition and his achievement. A happy ending is always a good way to encourage sharing. When people feel good, they want their friends to feel the same way, so they share what is making them feel good.

  9. To Be Continued
  10. The story is… To Be Continued…
    Just like any good TV series, there is another episode after this one. This makes us feel like we want to know more and encourages us to share the video with friends and family. Viral video requires this kind of sharing.

Your turn: What’s your favorite viral video? Do you know why it went viral? What did you learn from how it was made and what made it a viral video?

External Linking: 6 Reasons Why Linking Out is a Good Idea

External Linking: To Link Out or Not to Link Out, Is That the Question?

Many clients ask me why I recommend linking to content that is not on their own site. Why do I encourage external linking? To many business managers and chief marketing officers, linking external seems counter productive. The thinking is that linking to another site is encouraging a visitor to leave your own site and why would anyone want to do that? You want to keep people on your site for as long as possible and have them learn as much about your company and product or service offerings as possible, correct? Well, actually, the answer is No. Incorrect. Nada. Niente. Wrong.

Why bother external linking?

Let me explain: It looks like this. Wanting to keep people on your site as long as possible so that they will stay and learn everything you have to offer, is like inviting friends to dinner and then requiring that the conversation be only about you and your house. Or worse, you welcome your guests into your home, and then do not allow them to look at the beautiful view you have outside and you dominate the conversation without letting them share anything.

Remember that the web is a communications tool and your website exists in a medium that is constantly dynamic, fluid and open. With a print brochure you may have developed for your company, your audience members, i.e. the people looking at your brochure, are not expecting to be able to click on a link and learn more or be referred to another interesting article. They are familiar with the brochure format and read a bit, look at the pictures and then likely visit your website for more information.

When a visitor is on your website, a search engine is a click away and people can quickly lose focus on your site and go and look for other information via their own search methods. If you provide them with other interesting content, however, (content that is not just your own,) they actually have more respect for you, not less interest. They intrinsically appreciate that you are referring them to information that you have curated and deemed important. And by sending people off your site to another site, you seem less desperate to keep their visit. They will therefore likely come back again, because of the value you offered them.

Another external linking perspective: Think of it like a department store. If Target offered only target brand products, then shoppers might want to look at other stores for non-Target brands. Instead, Target offers both Target branded products as well as other brands, providing a lot of variety, freedom of choice for the customer and ultimately more reasons to shop at target.

Your website is the same. If all the content you offer is only that which you have created and you are not linking to the sites where you may have found the information, then people will feel like you don’t really care what else is out there. You will be perceived as not providing a good overall perspective on your industry and that you are desperate for your visitors to stay on your site. To encourage repeat visitors, the key is to provide value and value comes in offering the most complete and useful information available. Value can come in the form of education, inspiration or entertainment and it doesn’t have to be your own creation. We are now in a sharing economy, and the web is a platform that thrives on linking. External linking is a way to show your visitors you want them to succeed. External linking is a way for your to add value.

Think of what the Internet is. It’s a web of links really. One link leads to another and each link is a node on a vast web of information. If you believe in the power of connections, think about your LinkedIn profile and embrace community, you’ll want to nurture your relationships. That means connecting with people, and building your community.

Why Is External Linking Good?

1. Link Juice is Tasty

As mentioned above the web is all about linking. Search engines actually look at the number of inbound links, i.e. external links pointing back to your site, as a reference for how important your site is. This has a direct impact on your search engine ranking. The more inbound links you have, the higher your ranking opportunity. In order to be linkable, your site must offer great content and be considered an authority on the subject matter. In order to for that to happen, external linking is a best practice. Linking to other sites that offer more valuable information to your visitors and potential customers is a good.

External Linking will help you grow your business. Glass of juice making a chart.

External linking will help you grow your business

2. Always Add Value

Links to other sites show that you care about your visitor. Being willing to share a link that you think is valuable will earn you credibility with your visitors, customers and potential customers and also provide information about the relevance of your site to searchers. External linking allows you to add value. When you refer a friend to a vendor or product that you think is good, you are adding value to your friendship with that person. In the same way, external linking to great content is adding value to your relationship with your visitor and also adding value to your website.

3. Reciprocating

If you know a little about search engine optimization, you may have heard that reciprocal linking is no longer a valid strategy, because the engines can tell when two sites are linking to each other and may therefore negate any value. Link Building Jeddi Master, Eric Ward, says:

“You simply cannot make any sort of absolute statement as to what constitutes reciprocal link spam. Nor can you say that reciprocal links are always good, always bad, always suspicious, always helpful. They are never any of these and tey are always all of these. What you have to do is look at each case, at each site, and recognize the logical, natural linking potential and reciprocity tendencies.”

– Ultimate Guide to Link Building p 154.

It’s not a good idea to go out and ask every website owner you know to link to you regardless of the content they offer. However, if there is a site in your industry that adds value to your audience, then a reciprocal link is fine. The trick is to always be thinking of your audience and solving for “What’s In It For Them” – WIIFT.

4. Preciprocating

Instead of waiting for others to link to your site, consider preciprocating, i.e. performing a simple act of kindness before you need to ask for a favor later on. This works in social media as well as link building. If you comment on a blog and/or share a post, people feel like you have been kind to them. With this feeling they are much more likely to help you out in the future. There’s a great book by Gary Vaynerchuck called “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.” The concept here is to give, give, give, and then ask for something. Because you’ve given so much already, you’ll much more likely to get what you want when you finally ask for it. I talk about it in my classes and in my book as the L-O-V-E strategy: Listen-Offer-Visit-Engage. Give first and ask for what you want later. External linking is a L-O-V-E strategy.

5. Relevancy

Links to other sites show search engines and people more about the relevancy of your content. Just like citations in research papers indicate how much research has been done and the work that is behind the content of the article, external linking shows that you’ve done your homework and are citing your sources. Not only that, but you’re generously giving credit where credit is due and sharing even more valuable content with your audience.

6. Authority

Search engines place high value on the number of external links, also known as inbound links, that point to your site, so you want other sites to link to you. Like votes in politics or if you’re ever running for office, the more votes (think links) you have, the more respect and power you have in the search engine algorithm. Also, ponder this: Why would other sites link to your site, if you are not linking to any other site? Play by the rules. Sharing is caring. External linking should be part of your linking strategy.

Your turn: What do you think about external linking? Do you encourage it? Are you convinced you should do it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Repurposing Content Across Different Platforms

An Excerpt from: Like Follow Share: Awesome Actionable Social Media Marketing to Maximize Your Online Potential

11.4 Repurposing Content and Material Across Platforms

Like Follow Share: Awesome Actionable Social Media Marketing to Maximize Your Online PotentialSocial media has brought about truly significant changes in the way we produce and receive information. A piece of news that in the past might have been distributed as one unit, in one specific way, can now be posted as four or five separate bits of content. For example, 25 years ago, a company might have written a single press release to announce the launch of a new product. Today you could write a detailed blog post about your new product, or even several posts if you wanted to provide the story of its development, list its technical features, interview the designer, and explain how to use it. Then you could tweet brief announcements about the launch party the day before, and the day of.

Post photos of the new product on Instagram, along with a link back to your blog or webpage. Make a behind-the-scenes video before the product’s launch, and afterwards make a video demonstrating how to use it. Post that video on YouTube and on your company’s Facebook page. Make a cool infographic with some details about the item or your company, or even about similar products and post it on Pinterest. Update your company’s LinkedIn profile or add a Spotlight page to provide more information to your professional network, or even post it on LinkedIn from your personal profile since LinkedIn now offers longer posting capabilities.

While this might seem like overkill, remember that all of your customers or potential customers will not be following you on every form of social media. Even if they were, people generally only see a fraction of all the content that is posted because of the way their news feeds are structured. For example, an individual person might follow your company on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but they haven’t logged in to Instagram since last July and they have 750 friends on Facebook so your post got lost in the noise. That means that they only actually saw your tweet!

Furthermore, you will not be posting exactly the same content on each page – Instagram has a photo, while your blog has an article. The content will be adjusted, customized to reflect the culture of different social media sites. Producing different content is not only a cheap way to extend your marketing; it’s an essential tool for reaching your audience. Remember that people have different learning styles as well as different levels of interest and understanding about your product. While some people would prefer to read, others like videos. For someone who is only tangentially interested in your product, a tweet might be all they need or want to know, but an industry insider will be eager to read all of the in-depth details. You can actually help the public and the media understand your product better by providing materials and information in a variety of formats to meet their needs.

Blog as Social Media Marketing Hub - Repurposing Content

For repurposing content: your blog is the center, or hub and all other networks can be used to share content from the blog and also point back to the blog. © 2015 Suse Barnes

Another way to create fresh content is to ‘spin’ popular or detailed topics into multiple posts. Take one key concept or piece of information and write about it from a variety of different perspectives, or as a series. For example, I could take one topic, vegetarian cooking, and write “Vegetarian Cooking for Beginners,” “Top 5 Tips for Vegetarian Meals” “Video: How to Make Vegetarian Lasagna” and “The Vegetarian Revolution”…and so on. This level of detail can be attractive to people who are hunting for quite specific advice.

If you are short on time and resources, you will definitely need to make the most of the content you have created. Here are just a few of many repurposing content shortcuts that anyone can use. Start by choosing a solid piece of content, perhaps your “evergreen” content, or just one that got a lot of likes or has really great information. Then, create an outline or list of the main points and share it on social media. Or, find a great one-line quote from the text or an interview and use it to create a word-image to post on Instagram. Alternately, you could tweet a great quote from the article, with a link back to the original post. Combine some statistics or data from a blog post with an image and post it on Facebook, or create an infographic to post on Pinterest.

Your turn: What have you found to be most beneficial when sharing content on social networks? Do you share the same content on all networks? Or do you repurpose or spin the content to best meet the needs of each visitor on each different social platform?

Periscoping the Periscope App

What is Periscope and Why Should I Care?

The live streaming app Periscope was recently acquired by Twitter. In this post, we’ll look at why Periscope and competitor live streaming app, Meerkat as well as other similar mobile broadcasting solutions. We’ll also describe why these live streaming apps will be game changers in social media marketing as well as citizen journalism.


Periscope is a brand new live streaming app. What does that mean? It means it’s mobile, i.e. it’s on your phone, with you all the time, so you as a Periscope app owner/user can live stream video of anything anywhere as long as you have a connection to the Internet. It’s difficult to grasp the nature of the app until you actually use it. Because it is video, it requires real-time immersion to actually see first hand how it works. Without this real life experience, it would be similar to you trying to understand Facebook without having any friends on it.

Periscope App icon

We Are the Media 

If you understand that Twitter connects people all around the world, enabling conversations around niche interests, then you’ll start to be able to imagine a world where those conversations are not just text and tweets. Now they can be based on the viewing of a live event, whether that be a protest like the #Egypt revolution, sports event like the USA basketball #marchMadness or #FIFA, the world cup soccer, or even less newsy, but still interesting adventures like your personal commute to work in London, or how to make a cesar salad at a steakhouse in New York as Dave Kerpen showed a few days ago.

Alerts on iPhone from Periscope

When someone starts streaming you get alerts on your phone. @Amandaoleander is a prolific broadcaster and has already achieved a million hearts. Hearts on Periscope are like favorites in Twitter.

Meerkat alert
The above screenshot shows an example of a Meerkat alert when you are following a broadcaster.
Periscope stream of videos

Upon entering Periscope you see a list of videos that are currently live.


There is also a list of recently aired videos.


Meerkat having been around about a month longer than Periscope uses the “Write what’s happening…” prompt to encourage you to title your live video or schedule one for posting later.


Videos in Meerkat show in a still in preview mode.


When Meerkat videos are running, you see the avatars of everyone who is watching, you have the ability to comment, heart (favorite or like) and retweet or share the video.


On Periscope, there is just the ability to comment and touching the screen produces a heart which floats above the video and fades out.


If you understand the benefits and ubiquity of YouTube, combine that will no need to edit your video and the ability to stream live conversations in an instant from your mobile device, and you start to be able to imagine how this may change the way we consume all broadcast media. No longer are just the big Television stations able to broadcast, but you can now too!

Connecting People

Right now you can tweet to your favorite celebrity and they may indeed reply to your tweet. You can also have conversations with your fellow fans of TV shows, sports team and rock stars. How much more connected would you feel and fun would it be to have one of these celebrities live streaming a Q&A and/or showing a behind the scenes view of the locker room before a game, green room before a concert and/or just someone getting ready to watch the TV show they created with the fans that love it? Imagine Shonda Rhymes broadcasting a Q&A session during the most recent episode of Scandal. Right now the conversation happens on Twitter, but it could just as easily happen on Periscope helping fans feel more personally connected to Shonda.

Periscope is currently in an experimentation mode, since it was just launched about a week ago (and launched between Alpha and Beta phases). This means that most people and companies using it are still trying to figure best practices and original ideas. There are going to be a lot of people that don’t understand the potential impact live streaming will have, because of all the early experimentation (and pardon my bluntness, crap) that’s being posted. Just like people poo-poohed Twitter saying that it was just a bunch of people talking about what they had for lunch, Periscope and Meerkat will have and are having a similar pushback right now.

But from what I can see after just a few days of the launch of Periscope, the adoption among tech and digital marketing industry zealots and professionals means it is a phenomenon to be monitored. Early adopters are always first to play and experiment with new technology. Yes, most of what we see being shared on Periscope could be construed as meaningless, but remember, especially in the social media marketing and app industries, playing is learning.

Just as Facebook and Twitter introduced us to social media and changed the way we think about marketing, connecting and buzz, Periscope and Meerkat will provide a whole new lens into how we communicate. As Brian Solis said: “Participation is marketing.” Periscope is a new channel upon which we now have the ability to share real-time events and life happenings in an instant, easily enabling people to connect and share feedback as well. Live streaming is the next big thing in social.

An Arrangement of Lenses

The definition of periscope describes a periscope as an “optical instrument…with an arrangement of lenses”:


an optical instrument for viewing objects that are above the level of
direct sight or in an otherwise obstructed field of vision, consisting
essentially of a tube with an arrangement of prisms or mirrors
and, usually, lenses: used especially in submarines.”

 I like to think of the lenses (like Squidoo) in the Periscope app as opinions coming from viewers and also the broadcaster. Never before has broadcasting been so easy! If we think back to before point and shoot film cameras and then digital photography, there were only a select few who could capture a still image. Today everyone can capture any image and distribute it worldwide within seconds. Not only that, but now the ability to share your own opinion, an event, tips and anything you might find interesting via live streaming video from your phone to a network of friends and strangers.

Which one is better, Periscope or Meerkat? 

Both platforms are still in their infancy and there are lots of wish list features for each. I see huge potential for live streaming to be a game changer in social media marketing as well as general peer communications. What Periscope lacks in search and distribution on the Twitter platform, it makes up for with constant alerts of live broadcasts being made available, and ease of use.

The fact that you can’t search on Periscope for a certain topic, means you are at the mercy of everyone on the platform and who you’ve chosen to follow. Since the first set of people you’re following is pulled from Twitter though, it’s likely you’ll find a few interesting people broadcasting on topics that are engaging.

Since Meerkat allows share of the Meerkat broadcast on Twitter, people are more apt to view it after the fact, but hopefully Periscope will figure out how to show broadcasts on Twitter in the Twitter stream like it does with Vine for example.

It may be called a fad for a while, but this is the kind of new technology that people doubt before it becomes the norm. Facebook and Twitter were frowned upon for years before they became mainstream social networks. I predict Periscope and Meerkat will have similar growth.

The technology has been around for a while says Mashable’s Ben Parr on an interview with NBC news via Periscope today. Justin.TV was purchased by Twitch. We had Ustream and others several years ago, but never before has it been so easy to live stream. This is the result of increased bandwidth and enhanced video capabilities in smart phones. “It’s not a replacement for the traditional media model,” say Parr, but it does facilitate more people being able to share what is going on in the world around them at any given moment. This has implications for citizen journalism and with the likes of companies like OnPublico who facilitate people sharing local news as well as personal expertise and just plain fun.


Ben Parr live streaming on Periscope in an interview about Periscope with NBC today.

What About Those Trolls? 

Yes, there are a lot of trolls on both Meerkat and Periscope, but since Periscope is the newer platform and seemingly easier to use, there seem to be more on Periscope. The platform is still working out the kinks, but we already see ways to block spammers and trolls.


Finally as with anything Internet, there is likely to be a lot of unsavory content (think porn) on the platform since that’s what being able to both hide behind the screen and flaunt your wears facilitates.

Be careful who or what you’re watching and be aware of trolls, but my advice to anyone wanting to share a story, breaking news, event or skill in real time is definitely to try a live streaming and/or citizen journalism app. And definitely have them available to you incase you find yourself being the first to report a story.

We used to say “News doesn’t break, it tweets.” Will we soon be saying “News doesn’t break, it’s live streaming now”?

Best Practices for live streaming:

  1. Acknowledge and thank people who have joined your live feed to watch. Actually say thank you while you are recording your video. People love to hear the sound of their own name and when it is being broadcast live, it sounds even better.
  2. Ask questions of your audience and respond to them. Remember that this is another opportunity to build a community around your specific topic of interest. Start a conversation.
  3. Be useful and helpful. Remember Jay Baer‘s “Help Not Hype” mantra.
  4. Offer ways for people to share and participate in the conversation. Ask people to share and tweet the video either during (easiest on Meerkat) or after the broadcast is complete.
  5. Keep your content tasteful and valuable. Remember that content is always going to be king, frequency is queen and entertainment is the jack of all parades!
  6. Make sure you have something worth watching. A little planning before you start broadcasting could go a long way. Think about how you are going to appear, where the camera will be and what you are going to say.
  7. Have a catchy headline/title for your video. Headlines still rule and your hook must still hook.

What kinds of things are working for you on Periscope or Meerkat? What are your favorite things to watch? Who are your top broadcasters? Do you think live streaming will change the way we interact with the world? Please include your thoughts in the comments below.

5 Tips for Writing Killer Email Subject Lines

We recently discussed best practices for developing an email-timing strategy. Of course, it doesn’t matter what time you send your e-blast if no one opens it! Today we discuss the top factor between you and your readers’ eyes–the email subject line. Here are 5 tips for writing killer email subject lines:

1. It’s Personal
Despite popular belief, personalizing you email’s greeting does not improve your open rate. MailChimp instead reports that personalizing the “from” field of your email and adding localization–including a city or neighborhood in the subject line–will increase email open rates.

2. Spamalot
It’s general knowledge that using the word “free” in your subject line will send you straight to the spam folder. But according to MailChimp, there are three other must-avoid words for your subject line: “reminder,” “percent off,” and “help.”

3. Short is Sweet
Many in the web marketing industry acknowledge that an email subject line must be under 50 characters. And many e-newsletters have had excellent success with a simple one-word subject line! During his last presidential campaign, Barack Obama had striking success with with this subject line: Hey.

4. Keep it Fresh
MailChimp also warns against repeating subject lines: a stale subject line is a great way to decrease your open rate fast. If you are running an ongoing campaign, be sure to change up your subject lines for each mailing.

5. On Target
We can’t emphasize the importance of a well thought out, non-spammy subject line enough. But it’s also really important to send your email to a relevant list of people! Are you segmenting prior to your mailing? Be sure to consider who will be reading your email before you write and send it. offers an excellent subject line infographic:

subject line infographic


We’d love to hear about your success with email marketing! Join the conversation in the comments section below.

2015 SEO and PPC Trends

I recently attended an excellent 2015 SEO and PPC Trends webinar by Krista LaRiviere of gShift and Chris Doran of Acquisio. Their presentation was packed with useful information and engaging graph-filled slides. Big thanks to both of them for such a well-planned and informative session! What follows is a summary of what Krista and Chris covered during the webinar.

5 SEO and PPC Trends to Watch in 2015:

1. Increase in Voice Search
Most consumers have smart phones these days, and in October 2014 the number of devices surpassed the number of people in the world. With that, more and more people are using voice-based search. When we use voice search, we tend to speak in full sentences. As search marketers, we need to account for the difference between conversational voice search and pared-down keyword phrases typically used in searches via desktop browsers.

We’ll also likely begin seeing a change in ad formats as voice search continues to become more common. It will be interesting to see how digital marketing grows alongside user behavior!

2. Mobile Growth for Paid Search
Mobile paid search on Google properties is up 14%. And the amount of online purchasing occurring via mobile is huge: 79% of users make purchasing decisions via their phones and 50% make purchases on mobile devices with an hour of their search. As a comparison, the average delay between search and purchase on desktop is one month.

Why is purchasing behavior so different for mobile users? Customers conducting searches on mobile devices are looking to meet an immediate need, are doing price comparisons or looking for local products, and are looking for a streamlined experience. This means optimizing websites for mobile use is more important than ever.

3. Video Ads and Vlogs
You like watching videos on YouTube or Vimeo, right? Most of us do. And with that, more and more content marketing strategies contain a video component these days. Does your business offer a vlog? You will benefit from vlogging in the following ways: you’ll be offering your audience an alternate way to consume content; you’ll be expanding your digital footprint; your video can be indexed and discoverable within 15 minutes of uploading to YouTube. Your vlog does not have to be fancy, so why not get started today?

4. Native Ads
Native ads are becoming more and more popular because they look so natural. A lot of times, we don’t even realize we are looking at an advertisement when we see a native ad! LaRiviere projects that we’ll soon see a pivot point in which there will be more and more ads and therefore less integration.

Native advertising is growing quickly and will reach $5.7 billion this year. Yahoo, in particular, is investing in this trend. So how do we use it? Your SEO and content strategy can inform and drive your native advertising campaign. Consider boosting your owned and earned content with native ads. Why not?

5. Continued Growth in Digital Marketing Technology
There has been a 100% growth in digital vendors this year. Look at‘s 2015 Digital Marketing Landscape. Incredible!

When asked what marketers thought the year’s most exciting opportunity would be in 2014, here is what they predicted compared to what actually happened:

2014 digital marketing survey

What aspect of the digital marketing world are you most excited about this year?

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