ZimmComm Agri-Blogging Internship Application

ZimmComm New Media is now taking applications for students in the agricultural communications field to attend and learn how to “agri-blog” some of the most important industry events held every year.

The opportunities will include all-expense paid trips to one or more industry events where students will assist in the compiling of photos, audio and video and posting of activities on pertinent websites. Interns will learn and develop the use of tools, techniques and technology to gather and distribute information through various social media channels. Per-diem and college credits may also be available.

YES! I’m interested in learning how to do some agri-blogging. Apply Below.
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Social Media Business Summit & BlogWorld Expo

Registration is now open for this year’s BlogWorld and New Media Expo. I attended last year and am hoping to do so again this year schedule permitting. If you really want to hone your new media and social networking skills then this is the place to do it. It would be cool to have other ag folks there!

Join us at the World’s Largest New Media event and learn about Content Creation, Distribution and Monetization strategies, step-by-step techniques and bleeding-edge tools from the most successful Bloggers, Podcasters, Social Media Pro’s, Internet TV and Radio Broadcasters, and Podcasters! From the premier educational sessions at the Social Media Business Summit and BlogWorld Conference, to the resource-rich New Media Expo, to Amazing Networking events…it’s One economical trip, One weekend, One Big Show you can’t afford to miss!

Social Media Use in Business Growing Rapidly

center-marketing-researchFor the third year in a row the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has conducted an in-depth and statistically significant study on the usage of social media in fast-growing corporations. The study is titled, “Social Media in the 2009 Inc. 500: New Tools & New Trends.” I’m guessing agribusiness companies will follow this trend and it is a real trend since they now have good comparative data over several years. Here’s an excerpt from their report:

Social networking continues to lead the way. The technology that continues to be the most familiar to the Inc. 500 is social networking with 75% of respondents in 2009 claiming to be “very familiar with it” (compared to 57% in 2008). Another noteworthy statistic around familiarity is Twitter’s amazing “share of mind” with sixty-two percent of executives reported being familiar with the new microblogging and social networking platform.

The adoption curves for different social media technologies are not all the same.
Interestingly, while social networking and blogging have enjoyed growth in actual adoption, the use of message boards, online video, wikis and podcasting has leveled off or declined. The addition of Twitter (considered by respondents to be both a microblogging site and a social networking site) in the latest study shows that an amazing 52% of the Inc. 500 companies are already using this tool for their business.

Regardless of the particular technology, social media matters and is here to stay.
Forty-three percent of the 2009 Inc. 500 reported social media was “very important” to their business/marketing strategy. And an incredible 91% of the Inc. 500 is using at least one social media tool in 2009 (up from 77% in 2008). In addition, as they ramp up their usage, the Inc. 500 companies are also seeking to protect themselves legally, with 36% having implemented a formal policy concerning blogging by their employees.

Thanks to Podcasting News for the heads up.

Are You Afraid of Social Media

You know the world of communications has changed. You know it’s about more than having a static web page that you only update every six months. You know your customers, family and friends are all “on Facebook and Twitter.” You know your company should be engaged with people using these mechanisms. But you’re afraid. At least that’s what’s being reported on eMarketer.

But fears still abound. Online retailers remain worried about their own competence at using social media and losing control of their brand.

Their concerns also showed that retailers understand the importance of social media: One of their biggest fears was that customers would abandon their site in favor of one that was more socially engaging. Using social media might be scary, but avoiding it is becoming less of an option.

The primary social media goal of the retailers surveyed was to increase customer engagement, followed by boosting brand loyalty and spurring word-of-mouth among brand advocates.

But I say, “Be Not Afraid.” If you don’t have the expertise to utilize social media then look to your staff or a company like ours to outsource your “engagement practices.” I’m not sure how you would lose control of your brand. Are you sure you have control now? Your customers or members are going to talk about you (online and person to person) and say whatever they want. You don’t have control of that. That’s what social media is all about. People communicating with other people. You need to be there. So get with the program!

Measuring Web Analytics In The New/Social Media World

Does web analytics give you a headache? Do you have anyone on your staff who has training in how to understand web analytics? If you don’t then you’re not unusual. A story today on eMarketer provides some survey results about what marketers are thinking on this subject.

To prove the success of their campaigns, marketers need analytics. But many report frustration with understanding and using the Web analytics tools necessary to prove their success to management, according to “The Web Analytics War Reader Survey” by Unica.

The biggest challenge for marketers was integrating Web analytics with other marketing solutions, cited by 46% of respondents. Verifying the accuracy of data was a problem for 41% of marketers, while 32% reported trouble with analytics that were not comprehensive and 29% complained of budgets that were too small.

I take exception to the statement above about analytics proving success. If by analytics they mean just web analytics. By this I mean that just because I can deliver a ton of impressions (visits, visitors, clicks, click throughs, etc.) it doesn’t mean the company sold anything. But how often does an agency or marcomm staff member justify an investment by providing a report that says, “We spent X$’s and got a story that aired on 200 radio stations, a feature in a publication with 100,000 “subscribers” and a web banner or post that had 10,000 visitors.” Wow. Sounds good. But what was the result? Did they sell more? Did that story actually air on those stations? Who listened? Did every subscriber read the feature in that magazine? Did every web visitor see and/or click through on the banner or post? How often do you get that much detail? Ever?

I want to find out how you agrimarketers are tackling this issue. What metrics do you want from the web? What is meaningful? What form do you want it in? Are there certain services or software you prefer? If you place a banner ad, what do you want reported to you? How often do you need to see information? What do you consider reasonable?

This is a very important issue in today’s new media world and one that I have spent countless hours researching and discussing. As ZimmComm has developed online communities that revolve around a blog I don’t think reporting unique website visitors is very helpful for you in evaluating an investment in an advertising order. Why? Because there are over 12 other measurements that have nothing to do with website visitors that need to be considered. Here’s an example:

Let’s look at one day’s traffic on our AgWired site. It can be as high as 1,000 unique visitors. If I post your story does that mean that only 1,000 people saw it? No way!!!!! Consider that there are almost 1,000 subscribers to the AgWired RSS feed. They may not visit the site. That’s part of the value of the RSS feed. Consider that every post goes to my Twitter account with almost 1,600 followers and that every time one of my tweets is re-tweeted, it is seen by their followers. Consider that Twitter feeds my Facebook profile where I have 350 friends. Consider that this also updates my FriendFeed. Consider that the images or video I’m using in the story may be included in my Flickr or YouTube account. Consider that there are over 40 other websites that have installed the AgWired widget which displays homepage posts on their website. I’m not even counting the other less used social networking mechanisms I’m utilizing like Posterous, MySpace, etc.

But even beyond the above, what about the search engine aspect of all those places on the web that I have posted/distributed content that are now showing up in key word search results or key word news alerts? What about all the people who are re-publishing my information or sending it to their friends, neighbors and colleagues? Of course now you’ll ask the question, “Who are these visitors?” That’s a topic for another post.

Yeah. It adds up and all the sudden the total number of impressions for that one post could grow from the initial 1,000 unique visitor impressions to as many as 5,000 impressions. In fact, this number may only be good for just that one day or point in time. All our stories are archived. We never delete them. How much higher will that number grow within the next week, month and year?

This is what I’m talking about. This is what we do and excel at. This is what we preach and this is what can help grow your brand.

Don’t Depend on Your Website As A Destination

Several times in the last couple years I’ve written about the concept of “community” in online communications/marketing. By that I mean the fact that employing today’s new and social media tools allows us to connect and interact with our customers and members in ways we never could before. Using my AgWired as an example, I don’t just reach readers who think, “I’ll visit AgWired.com to see what’s new.” I reach them in Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, email and in all the ways those people re-post or pass along or tell their connections. So for you marketers who just look at website visitors, you’re missing a lot of the story.

I still find so many in corporate communications who can’t wrap their mind around this concept. Granted there are a lot of control freaks out there who fear loss of the control they’ve enjoyed for so many years. It’s a mentality that says “I’ll build what I want them to see and give them the choices I want them to make.” But those days are coming to an end.

Today’s consumer (any kind, farmers included) not only want and demand freedom of choice but they’re just creating their own destinations and touch points. They’re leaving the old destination websites behind. I was prompted to write this after reading Steve Rubel’s post on Micropersuasion, “The End of the Destination Web Era.”

After years of erosion it now it appears the destination web era is drawing to a close. This a trend that digital thinkers like Om Malik have long noted. In fact, the numbers prove it.

In March the average American visited a mere 111 domains and 2,500 web pages, according to Nielsen Online. What’s worse, our attention across these pages is highly fragmented. The average time spent per page is a mere 56 seconds. Portals and search engines dominate, capturing approximately 12 of the 75 hours spent online in March. However, people-powered sites like Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube are not far behind, snagging nearly 4.5 hours of our monthly attention.

He points to an article by ARAnet in conjunction with Opinion Research Corporation that talks about what you can do to break through the clutter. The answer doesn’t include fancy pop up ads.

Long-shunned pop-up ads remained the least favorable option for every audience segment, regardless of age, race, income, sex, region or size of household: 87% of respondents said they were not very likely or not at all likely to read and respond to them.

Their conclusion is that brand mentions in articles is one of the best ways to reach consumers. I would call that “meaningful content” that is posted into social networking locations and on highly search engine optimized websites (blogs). That’s why public relations folks are trying to figure out ways to present information to bloggers now. We’re not your ordinary msm journalists!

Do you get it? Are you willing to venture out into the online conversation or are you going to stay inside your “safe” online house and hope someone comes to visit?

Social Media Good Choice In Recession

According to Forrester via Podcasting News more marketers are looking online for investing dollars these days.

During a recession, marketers are often forced to reduce budgets, in fact, it’s often one of the first buckets to get trimmed. In our latest research: Social Media Playtime is Over, we found that 53% of marketers are determined to increase their social media budget during a recession, and 42% will keep it the same, a total of 95% of marketers bullish on social media marketing. Why? The reasons are obvious to some, it’s inexpensive and the opportunity to benefit from cost-effective word-of-mouth, are promising.

I’ll be presenting a breakout session at the upcoming National Agri-Marketing Conference titled, “Social Media DOES Fit in Your Marketing Decision – Moving Beyond This Decision.” Sounds like we’ll need to point to this article on Forrester.