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These days, with so many brands focused on developing content for shared properties like official company pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and more, it’s easy to marginalize corporate blogs. In my view,  blogging still matters. While I think lots of companies still agree with that thinking, I see a bigger problem that decreases the effectiveness of corporate blogs: a lack of content organization.

This problem tends to affect large companies that have been blogging for quite a while. Once a company has some level of success with a blog, there is a natural tendency to expand beyond a centralized single blog into additional blogs. In those cases, brands often segment those blogs by business unit, or some sort of structure that resembles how the company itself is organized. One problem with that strategy is that customers aren’t interested in a brand’s organizational structure. They tend to be interested in specific topics. The other problem is customers won’t waste time looking for content on your blog, especially if you make it a confusing mess. The end result is that companies spend time and resources producing content that not many customers never see.

So, what can brands do about this? Besides building an operational model for content marketing, I recommend a technical solution like a Content Hub. Our digital team can build a hub on a platform like WordPress or Drupal. Visually, the Content Hub can be made to look like your blog or you company’s website, or it can have a distinct look and feel. While I’m focusing mainly on blog posts, a Content Hub can also include other content items you would typically see in a news center section of a site, like press releases, white papers, reports or other articles. Think of Content Hub as a content front end or customized portal that pulls in content from a brand’s entire network of external blogs(or other sources) and displays that content based on which posts are getting the most engagement. In my mind, engagement is a mix of the following factors:

  1. The # of inbound links a piece of content gets
  2. The # of shares on social networks
  3. The # of comments
  4. The # of page views

Surfacing content on a landing page this way ensures that readers will see your brand’s most popular content regardless of how many different blogs are aggregated into it. This will eventually translate to a wider readership for blog authors who contribute to blogs with less visibility. The engagement factors I mention above can also be weighted more heavily to things like number of inbound links or number of shares as well. In the mockup below, we show content by most popular authors, but it could also be used to show content by topic (think of sites like GigaOM, The Verge or Buzzfeed.com). Here’s a wireframe of what a Content Hub could look like: LionelGeek Blog Hub wireframe

There’s additional benefits than broader visibility as well. From an editorial perspective, this data makes it easy to see what content resonates with your readers (and what doesn’t). Tracking inbound links gives you a way to see what external influencers your teams should be connecting with. Tracking the number of shares will give you solid insight into the kind of content your employees your customers and influencers like to share. All can be used to shape your subsequent content strategy.

There’s other work that would go into getting a Content Hub up and running (deciding which blogs or sites to pull content in from, defining the category taxonomy, deciding whether to display the full post or to redirect to the existing site where the content originated, determining a paid strategy to help get traction to the hub, etc). I’ll blog in more detail about those things in future posts.

Blogging does still matter, but these days it requires more than just producing solid content.

The web is a big, noisy place.  Lots of brands I talk to want to engage the right people with their social media efforts. In my view, that starts with finding the right people and media outlets to follow according to topic areas. If this was easy, more folks would do it. That said, there are some free tools to make this process easier. For me, that begins with search, Twitter lists and curated RSS feeds. In this post, I’ll talk a bit about how to find the right people to create Twitter lists and RSS feeds around.

Speaking of free tools, in the technology space, I’ve used Techmeme.com for years. Scanning the front page, you can easily see which articles and blog posts are driving news cycles, and the Discussion section highlights the main related stories and tweets. Mediagazer is a sister site that works like Techmeme, but it tends to be more focused on traditional media. Both sites are a great place to start.

Now onto searches. I start with Google for news searches and Google is also a good place to start to find top people to follow on Twitter. These days, because of its ubiquity, it’s easy to take Google for granted. But, if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll see that Google searches can help you uncover lots of sources that are worth reading on a regular basis.

Don’t overlook the depth of Google Search

If I do a Google search for Android, I can easily click on the News tab to see results listed that way. Also, finding Blogs is a couple of clicks away (you’ll see Blogs under the More section). Regardless of how you filter the Search results, clicking on the Search Tools button will let you easily look filter for the Last 24 Hours, or other time period see image below).

Android Search

But, even more interesting than that, Google Alerts now make it easy to make RSS feeds from Google searches. To get started, just go to Google.com/Alerts. The example below is my Android RSS feed. You can easily filter for News, blogs or other items before you create the alert itself, and it’s easy to edit your feed alerts after the fact.

Google Alert RSS feed for Android

Twitter Searches and Twitter Lists

While Google searches are great for finding news and media sources, I find that Twitter is great for finding individuals. Recent numbers show the service has over 200 million active users.  Sites like Twitter Counter make it easy to see the Top 100 Most Followed accounts both globally and in regions. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s often a good idea to start with a Google search to find top Twitter lists to look through. Doing a search for Top Twitter for Cloud Computing will give you a few different list of folks to sift through. Looking up individuals manually is time-consuming, but most bloggers will include their blog URLs in their Twitter bios.

There are a few Twitter list-related services out there. Listatlas is a site that aggregates and tracks Twitter lists in a few different ways. Years ago, I used Listorious, which ultimately became part of muckrack.com. Muckrack is a great service that makes it easy to follow journalists on Twitter. Little Bird is a paid service that I’ve been intrigued by… part of its usefulness lies in the ability to create both Twitter lists and RSS feeds of individual influencers by topic. Any other Twitter list-related services out there that any of you use on a regular basis? I’d love to know in the comments.

Since making lists on Twitter is a semi-tedious process, I recommend that you start by looking at profiles of folks who provide a lot of value to you on a given topic. Clicking on Lists from their profile page will let you see all Public lists they’ve created, as well as any lists they’ve subscribed to. You can subscribe to any of those lists by clicking on that list and clicking the Subscribe to this List button. You can also use Google searches to find useful Twitter lists… two that turn up pretty quickly are Mashable’s Social Media list and @Scobleizer’s Most Influential in Tech list.

If you do want to create your own list, it’s pretty easy to do. First, go to the Me tab on your Twitter profile. Then click the Lists link. From there, click the Create list button. You’ll see this dialog box:

Create a New Twitter List

From there, you can name the list, type a description, either make it Public so anyone can see it, or Private so that only you can access it. After you create the list, you can go to any Twitter member’s profile page, click on the drop down menu by the Follow button, choose Add or remove from lists, then choose the list you want to add them to. Below is a screenshot from @Scobleizer’s account as an example:

Add @Scobleizer to a Twitter list

Use an RSS client like Feedly to manage your RSS feeds

Feedly was probably the biggest beneficiary of the Google Reader shut down. Lots of users who were upset about Google Reader’s demise exported their RSS lists into Feedly for good reason in my opinion. Feedly has grown into a really flexible tool that I check several times a day to keep up with things. Feedly makes it easy to create sections and to add RSS feeds to a given section. It’s easy to navigate sources within sections and you can also easily search for items in Feedly overall or in sections. Feedly also makes it easy for me to mark any post to read later by automatically adding it to a Read Later section.

I also really like the Android and iOS mobile clients for Feedly. Besides making it easy to manage and group feeds, I love that it offers a Flipboard-like experience. That’s the main reason I use Feedly on my Nexus 7 tablet every day. I can quickly read through lots of feeds in a short time by flipping through my feeds on a daily basis.  It offers all kind of versatility in terms of how it displays those feeds. For example, here’s the List View of the Techmeme RSS feed:

Techmeme - Feedly List View

And here’s the Card View of the Techmeme RSS feed:

Techmeme - Feedly Card View

Though finding the right people to follow takes some work in the beginning, it’s well worth the effort in my opinion. Once you have appropriate Twitter lists and RSS feeds set up, you can spend a few minutes each day reading the articles and blog posts that matter to you and your area of expertise.

The first step to engaging influencers is knowing who they are and being familiar with the work they produce. If you don’t take this first step, building strategic media and blogger relationships will be much more difficult.

We all have to eat, however food consumption is far more socially significant than mere survival. Going out to eat is social, dining is an experience, and whether you’re grabbing a quick lunch or a 5-course meal, individual tastes and preferences are diverse. Those specific tastes have amassed a collection of people to whom blogging, pinning, posting, tweeting, checking in and reviewing cuisine in their cities is debatably more significant than the actual act of eating. It’s a part of who they are, a very public expression of their foodie tribe, and to some extent most of us participate.

Today’s food and beverage climate is much transformed, similar to big business, experiencing its own changes as strategy, culture and conduct are all vastly more transparent in the court of public opinion. This increasing demand for authenticity has become an expectation in most (if not all) industries.

Only a few years ago Zagat was known as the “burgundy bible” in New York. Gastronomic enthusiasts would pour over its reviews of restaurants and traditionally trained chefs. The Zagat of the recent past wasn’t the interactive website it is now.

The significance is more important than the transition from paper to computer screen for a number of reasons.

1. Platforms like Yelp and Foursquare put opinions shared by any motivated diner at the hungry masses’ fingertips.

Everyday foodies are the new experts and restaurants have taken note. In cities like Seattle, in 2009 only about 5% of local restaurants were listed in the Seattle Times.  Cut to 2012 and right around 70% of them were listed on Yelp. These channels aren’t just limited to dining either. Just two years ago Yelp’s biggest category was shopping. Friends check-in on Foursquare everywhere from hiking trails to their offices.

2. Organic social is trusted messaging and it’s becoming significant in business communications and reputation management.

Last year, Yelp.com was averaging 78 million visitors a month, with 40% accessing it from their mobile devices. Foursquare has a community of over 30 million users worldwide with over 3 billion check-ins. Over a million businesses use its merchant platform. A resentful employee, an ignored blogger or a disgruntled client now share power over your brand value with more traditional media. The numbers tell the story with Nielson reporting that 92% of consumers trust WOM (word of mouth) and 70% trust unsponsored organic online messaging.

3. The social landscape is changing influencers, but the ultimate goal is real-world action.

The shift in consumption of media has made diners savvier, utilizing user-curated reviews as resources that often impact their dining decisions.  Influence is transitioning from only traditional media food reviews to shared spaces with legitimized blogs like Eater or the New York Times’ Grub Street. Bloggers, traditional reviewers and diners alike have become trusted resources. If that isn’t enough reason for business owners to care about online review sites like Yelp, a recent Harvard Business study shows that a single star improvement in an independent restaurant’s ratings on Yelp translates into a 5-9% increase in revenue.

4. Influencers are democratizing food.

Foodie is a term that can be applied to culinary explorers in a much larger inclusion of ages, budgets and lifestyles. Only a short while ago, it was an elite term reserved for those who could afford fine cuisine. Now, food trucks serve up delicious morsels. Respect in the industry is now shared alike between Michelin Star restaurants and mobile eatery enterprises done well, both receiving equal attention.

What does it all mean for big business?

Big business can acknowledge the changes and adapt, or be sidelined by younger, more innovative companies that understand the new landscape and how to utilize it to their advantage. There are real, bottom-line results in identifying and measuring the activity of influencers who are just at the conception of utilizing WOM online. Businesses across industries need to assess their online presence to determine authenticity and real-world value. Reputation is now shaped, in large part, by shared and earned media and public perception effects revenue.  Cultural communities such as foodies demonstrate trends and evolutions that provide valuable insight. Big business should be asking how it can create its own tribe, and whether it’s fully leveraging WOM across channels, online and offline.

W2O Group recently introduced Okta as our Enterprise Identity management (EIM) system to enable Single Sign-on (SSO) via Microsoft Active Directory integration and license governance for our internal and SaaS delivered applications and services. Say what?!?

Cutting through the techno-speak, Okta makes it very easy, efficient, and cost-effective for I.T. to enable Single Sign-on for internal and SaaS applications. Okta also makes it very easy and efficient to track license utilization, ensuring we are using the licenses we have purchased and letting us know when we need to acquire more licenses. Most importantly, Okta helps increase our security profile:

  • With SSO enabled, you only need to remember one username and password to access your company applications and services
  • It’s easier for you to comply with a corporate password policy because the same password is used across all your applications
  • Any change you make to your password – typically required on a regular basis by a corporate password policy – is automatically synced to Okta and your applications
  • Okta is available on your mobile device for seamless access to all your applications
  • Helps I.T. ensure that people have access to the applications and services they should and none they should not

Okta’s features, efficiency, ease-of-use, security, and cost-effectiveness made the decision to purchase a no-brainer. Okta’s excellent customer service, a pleasant surprise, has made me a huge fan.

So…how did Okta get me to start promoting the product for them? Gamification.

Recently, I received an email from Okta inviting me to join an “exclusive new customer advocacy hub called the Okta O-zone.” Generally speaking, when I see the word “exclusive” in an email, I usually hit the delete button – if it’s exclusive why are you sending me the email equivalent of a form letter? Just before clicking the delete button, the word “game-ified” caught my attention and long story short, I ended up joining the Okta O-zone because:

  1. Clearly, I do think Okta is a great product and represents the future of Enterprise Identity management
  2. I really wanted to learn how they were gamifying influence

Once you complete the sign-up process, you’re taken to the O-zone portal (aptly named because an Okta is a unit of measurement used to describe cloud cover) where you are presented with a series of challenges, e.g., Tweeting Okta marketing messages, Facebook posts, conducting reference calls, etc., to complete. Each challenge you complete earns you points which can be redeemed for Okta gear (t-shirts, etc.) and progressively cooler rewards. You also have the opportunity to interact with other Okta influencers/evangelists and network.

Well, I’m hooked on the O-zone and here’s why:

  1. I know what the company gets from me when I promote on its behalf, now I know exactly what I get from the company and what I have to do for it
  2. I like the competition
  3. It’s dead easy – click a button and the tweet goes out, click a button and Facebook gets a post – and doesn’t require a lot of my time to participate

Over the past few days, I have completed challenges and earned points which I plan to spend on a great, big…charitable donation. Yep, a donation to the charity of my choice through Okta’s partnership with FirstGiving.com. I’m not looking for kudos here, I just thought it was cool that I could contribute $100 to a charity on a regular basis for what amounts to 30 mins. of my time a month. Kudos to Okta for making charitable contribution an option.

You know a company is doing something right when one of their customers – an I.T. decision maker – finds their product and gamification of influence exciting and innovative enough to write a blog post.

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Earlier this week, Yammer announced Klout would become one of its 60 integration Yammerpartners, allowing employees to publish public Klout scores and areas of expertise to their profiles, and admins to set up internal scores based on employee activity. This is arguably the most visible announcement connecting social media influence and organizational communications. As such, there’s been a lot of speculation and discussion (the Mashable article alone has almost 2,000 shares).

Personally, I am not the biggest fan of Klout’s methodology in determining influence, as complete automation has significant limitations (fair disclosure: digital analytics is a WCG core competency, particularly influencer identification). But if this new feature gains significant traction, organizations wKloutill have to turn their ambassador/influencer programs inward on themselves, and realize the true value of analytics for internal communications.

So as Yammer nears 8 million registered users, the WCG Corporate & Strategy team proposed a few benefits, limitations, possibilities, concerns and questions surrounding the partnership between Yammer and Klout:

  • Group Director Vicky Lewko – The benefits depend on how companies roll out this new functionality, and the context that they provide. We work with companies measuring their employees’ social footprint as part of job performance metrics. It isn’t that far of a leap to see internal functions doing that as well.
  • Manager Stephen Yoon – This kind of high-profile partnership could be useful in shifting opinions of communicators to look toward analytics in internal comms, realizing something like this can be useful when developing internal engagement programs. That being said, I feel Klout scores have gaps and lack perspective, particularly around connections, and have the ability to be gamed by sheer volume. But the identification of subject matter expertise could prove valuable.
  • Director Jack LeMenager – Will the presence of Klout and employee awareness of it encourage or discourage involvement in internal social media? In some minds, it can impart the feel of Big Brother.
  • Associate Blair Mikels – I’m playing the healthy skeptic. To me, tweaking motivation to align purely with some sort of “score” isn’t promoting the quality of engagement between teams and individuals, just the quantity. I fear employees may begin posting just to keep themselves on the organization’s radar.
  • Managing Director Nancy Fitzsimmons – I think corporations and employees may see this as a double-edged sword. On one hand, an organization now has a lens into often hidden workforce interests and expertise. More cynically, many corporations remain fearful of how employees use social networks, and this could result in a rash of new policies and guidelines intended to protect the corporation, but having the unintended consequence of limiting employee speech and privacy.
  • Director Molly Rabinovitz – At first, employees may think: Why should I care about my Klout score … what does this do for me if it rises? But that’s not the issue. It’s culture. Companies need to drive the use of any desired platform through cultural change, helping employees recognize its value for their daily lives and business.
  • Global Analytics Director Andrew Tucker – Diplomatically speaking, increasing organizational awareness for the benefits of internal analytics to achieve business goals is a good thing – Klout notwithstanding.
  • Finally, Practice Leader Gary Grates posed the underlying question being considered by communicators everywhere: Will this new functionality help unlock the restraints currently placed on employees participating in social spaces? Will it allow for a whole new level of engagement, recognition and contribution?

What are your thoughts about the Yammer/Klout partnership? What kind of impact do you think it could have – positive or negative? Let us know in the comments.

Now, to sign off in the Yammer tradition: “I’m Adam Pedowitz. Today my Klout Score is 51. I’m influential about Social Media, Public Relations, Analytics and Beer.”

We are excited to be partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to present a five part webinar series on social media and some of the key topics (blogging, mobile, content creation, influencer outreach) that support it. A recap, recording and slides from the first webinar on Getting Started with Social Media can be found here. You can also access the recording and slides from the second, Blogging 101 — Helping You Get Started, and third, Creating Content and Engagement for Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, webinars via the links to those posts.

Yesterday’s webinar on Managing and Connecting with your Influencers was an hour long with the first 50 minutes spent addressing key trends, best practices on techniques for identifying and engaging with a company’s influencers. The last ten minutes were spent answering questions. To that end, I’ve included answers to three more questions from the webinar at the bottom of this post.

During the presentation, I (Aaron Strout) was joined by influencer and Syracuse professor, Dr. William Ward. Dr. Ward is a professor of social media at the prestigious Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse.

As promised, the full recording of the webinar is embedded below. You can also click through to see the video on Youtube.

In addition, you can access slides from the webinar on Slideshare here.

We also mentioned that we would answer some of the questions that we didn’t have a chance to cover during the webinar here. Three more questions and answers from the webinar are here:

  1. Is there one application to help me manage al these tools for the sake of time management?
    Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet when it comes to identifying and managing your influencers. However, if you do test some of the light (and free) social influence tools like Kred and SocialMention to identify your influencers, tools like Hootsuite make it easy to follow and track interactions with your influencers across multiple social networks.
  2. Is networking a great way to build your brand?
    Yes, offline and online networking are closely related activities. And if you are doing a good job networking, you should have an easier time identifying and connecting with your influencers. Doing this well will inevitably lead to better brand building.
  3. Can you elaborate on how to identify your influencers?
    Identifying your influencers starts with creating a list of key words (the same words that you might use to optimize your website for search engine optimization or that you might be purchasing as part of a paid search campaign). Try searching on these keywords in places like Kred and even on social networks like Twitter to find people that seem to be relevant and possess some level of reach (reach isn’t synonymous with followers as some people can game the system but often influencers will have a decent number of followers AND a high level of engagement like retweets, comments, shares and likes).

All of us think about the health of ourselves and our families every day, whether it is to exercise more to lose a few pounds or to valiantly fight stage IV cancer.

It is part of life.

And it doesn’t need to be this hard.

In the past, technology wasn’t advanced enough for us to reach our families effectively, so we did big advertising campaigns to generate awareness or drove people in mass to 800 numbers or we sent out emails to millions of people, hoping that a portion of the people we would reach would benefit.

Wow, is that wasteful.  It’s the equivalent of being 100 pounds overweight.  You know what you are doing isn’t working, but you keep doing it.  You know there is a better way.

Well, technology is now allowing us to go on a diet, one that ensures that our future outreach efforts will be highly efficient and targeted to the right people at the right time with the right message.

As a firm, we have built a significant expertise in analytics with more than 50 people 100% focused on how to provide insights for our clients every day.  We have added in big data expertise with the acquisition of Ravel earlier this year, so there is no amount of data too large to analyze.  We’ll look at three years of data or an entire retail footprint or all of the physicians in the U.S.  to find our answers.

One thing we have noticed is that no one in the healthcare industry knows how to build disease pathway models that can show the exact online habits and influence of people at each stage of a disease or disorder.  After all, we know that as a disease progresses, so does our need for knowledge.  We search differently, look to different influencers, interact with different members of our family and much more.

This is why we are all excited at W2O Group to partner with LiquidGrids.

We are going to build the world’s first disease pathway models that show what is happening during each stage of disease.  We are going to make it easy for doctors, patients, families and industry to work on one outcome together – our health.

When we work late at night or on the weekends, our team doesn’t get too concerned.  We’re working to transform health for your family and ours.

We’ll go as fast as we can.

Bob Pearson & Jim Weiss

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_mJBOdllX8&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

In public relations, like just about every other field, we like sorting things into buckets, an exercise that is especially pronounced when we engage in media relations. There are all kinds of ways that we categorize the journalists and writers we deal with: by beat, by geography, by readership, but — most often — we sort by medium.

There are good reasons to view different media differently (and to treat them differently). Television relies on visuals; effective pitching requires b-roll or on-camera interview opportunities. Wire services rely on speed, meaning that the embargo system is hugely important. Magazines bank on design and depth. And so on.

But the revolution of publishing over the past 10 years is turning on its head the idea that format dictates content. While we still try to group writers in the online space — this one is a blogger, we’ll say; this one is active on YouTube; this one is a Wikipedian — those are increasingly meaningless distinctions. The New York Times“Prescriptions” blog is a totally different animal than Len Lichtenfeld’s blog at the American Cancer Society or Kerri Sparling’s “Six Until Me.” All have top-quality content, but each has a radically different approach to information. Lumping them all together as “blogs,” does a subtle disservice to all of them.

The future of media relations, then, needs to focused a lot less on the media, and a lot more on the personalities that use the media. It used to be, if you had a list of newspaper science writers, you didn’t have to do a ton a homework. You could pull a few clips and have a decent idea what they covered and what they needed. Now, if you get a list of bloggers or other “online influencers,” the work only begins. There is a tremendous amount of read and research needed to drill down and understand what makes each author click.

It’s an exhaustive process, and the inability to automate media relations — even in this era of automation — means that the practitioners of the future will have to be more broadly read and more nimble. Ignorance will be harder and harder to hide. Sorting writers in certain, predictive buckets will be less and less effective (and spamming huge groups of reporters with the same pitch, which was never a good idea, will become more of an evil). Putting Kerri Sparling in a “blogger” bucket is a lot less useful than putting her in the “Kerri” bucket.

* I realize that Marshall McLuhan’s concept of “the media is the message” is a good deal more subtle than I make it out to be in this post and that I may have bastardized the general concept. To McLuhan fans: I apologize.

Leonard Lichtenfeld

Analytics: The longer-than-four-letter word that is on the mind of most PR professionals, especially those in the online world, on a daily basis. Despite the progress that the industry has made in the past decade, the Internet in general and blogs specifically are still considered largely a wild frontier as we define and redefine a standard set of metrics which determine success.

As many reading this post know, various metrics such as unique monthly views, page views, Twitter followers and Klout scores have been used to show that social media campaigns are worth their budget in eyeballs. Among these measurement tools, one metric that is consistently overlooked is the measurement of community.

Why is community important? An online community is no different than an offline community. Members talk, share stories, support and advise each other. According to this study by Nielsen, 90% of online consumers relay on opinions posted online.

Let’s take a moment let that sink-in. A brand may think that Twitter, Facebook and blogs are silly and a waste of ad-dollars, but that’s mistaken. Ninety percent of online consumers rely on those outlets for reviews, tips and advice on what to buy.

These relationships, these bonds, have formed some extremely strong and influential communities for virtually every niche imaginable from the general (Mom bloggers, fashion bloggers, tech bloggers) to the specific (bicycle race enthusiasts and ferret lovers).

This past month, a prominent member of the food blogging community, Jennifer Perillo, of In Jennie’s Kitchen suffered a heartbreaking loss when her husband of nearly 20 years,  died very suddenly of a massive heart attack.

The food-blogger community response has been breathtaking. Condolence tweets, blog comments and Facebook posts aside, Jennie asked that her readers, followers, fans, family and friends alike make a Peanut Butter Cream Pie on Friday, August 12th in honor of her late husband – it was his favorite. The hashtag (#apieformikey) received over 1,500 mentions in a week. A Google search indicates that the hashtag has been mentioned nearly 25,000 times.

Even large outlets such as CNN and Food Network have mentioned the tribute. A local, NYC eatery has added it to their menu. Numerous prominent food, mom and other influencers have helped to drive the effort – an effort that crossed the barrier from the food blogger community to touch many other communities. As a result, what started as a tribute for a man who loved Peanut Butter Cream Pie, has turned into thousands of digital hugs so that Jennie feels a little less alone in her grief.

What does this mean for brands? It’s the community, silly!

Communities are the next frontier of influence for brands and bloggers alike. Remember that 90% of consumers who receive their product information online? There’s no doubt that they’re actively participating in communities and building relationships with other, equally influential community members. These communities are the sweet spot for brands, however, to properly tap into these communities it’s important for a brand to be genuinely interested and engaged in issues that are near and dear to the community.

Let’s talk about the what a genuine community interaction looks like: The NYC eatery who added Peanut Butter Cream Pie to their menu in honor of Jennie and her husband will definitely benefit from this in the form of good word-of-mouth, foot traffic and potentially, sales. At the very least, they will have the respect and admiration of a close-knit community that is their exact target.

However, there is no doubt that in offering to include the tribute on their menu that their interest was based in compassion and caring about something that is extremely important to a member of their community. So while their sales might not spike through the roof tomorrow, they have created a strong bond with a an important community, which is something that cannot be bought, paid for or otherwise gained by any means other than genuine community engagement.

 

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