No to Carrots, Yes to Pomegranates

Shannon Paul, at her excellent and Very Official Blog, wrote earlier this week about a situation where a company tried to pitch her via a comment on one of her blog posts. The product had nothing to do with the topic she’d written about (using her grandma’s carrot cake recipe as a metaphor for sharing great content) and the pitch itself, for skincare products from a company called Yes-to-Carrots, came off as a “free billboard” advertisement. The story has somewhat of a happy ending, as the offending commenter later called Shannon to apologize. But trying to pitch via public comments shows a pretty incomplete understanding of effective blogger relations on the part of Yes-to-Carrots.

Pomegranates, however, are a different story. A few weeks ago, in my post about the changes to US Airway’s inflight magazine, I mentioned that part of the magazine included an excerpt from the new book Rubies in the Orchard, which is Lynda Resnick’s story of the founding and marketing of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. I said I had read the chapter excerpt in the magazine and was likely to read the whole book at some point. It was merely a mention in a post that wasn’t really about the book at all, but two days later I received the following e-mail:

Amy,

I enjoyed your post, Blogs on Paper at 35,000 feet. Did you pick up the Rubies in the Orchard book yet? I’d be happy to send you some POM juice to enjoy while you’re reading.

Send me your contact info and I’ll get you some juice within a week or so.

Cheers,
Jeff

I sent them my address, more to see what happened than anything else. Today, I received a package in the mail with a case of POM Wonderful juice, a personalized letter, and a fact sheet about pomegranates and their health benefits. I didn’t intend to blog about their outreach, as it’s really nothing new and bloggers are frequently targeted and pitched. But POM Wonderful’s efforts were in such stark contrast to what I read about on Shannon’s blog that in the end, I did end up writing about them again (although I’m sure they’re sad to learn that my blog’s audience is about 15 readers, including my dad). Perhaps most importantly for them, however, is that they’ve gained a customer: I really did like the juice and will probably buy it.

I’m sure Yes-to-Carrots and POM Wonderful both ended up at Shannon’s and my blogs, respectively, via a Google alert on a certain keyword (although Shannon’s follow-up post seems to indicate that her commenter may have been a regular reader). But what separates the carrots from the pomegranates was what they did with that info. POM Wonderful used it as an opportunity to send me a private e-mail. Yes-to-Carrots inappropriately posted a public comment to Shannon’s blog. As Shannon noted in her own comment, “I can’t think of an example where it would be a good idea to pitch someone in the comments.”

Even though Yes-to-Carrots did the right thing by calling Shannon to offer an apology and trying to start a dialogue with her, she stated that she might now be hesitant to buy a product that she already knew of and liked. Yes-to-Carrots potentially lost a customer because of botched blogger outreach. POM Wonderful gained a customer because they did a good job. Sometimes being a little seedy is a good thing.

Update: Jeremy Epstein, who posted the original Yes-to-Carrots pitch on Shannon’s blog, posted a “learn from my mistake” post at his own blog. Check it out - very impressive and goes a long way toward undoing the “damage” from the initial comment, in my opinion. Kudos to Jeremy!


Take control of your comment history with Backtype

In my 11th grade history classroom, a poster of a large Rooster hung on the wall with a caption that read, “What do you call someone who gets his girlfriend pregnant and then flies the coop?” I am not making this up. And it does have a point.

I often read blog posts, occasionally make comments, and then never return to the original post to see what conversation has transpired. I never subscribe to the RSS feed for a post’s comments and usually uncheck the box asking if I want to be notified of follow-up comments via e-mail. I cut and run. I wouldn’t call myself a chicken, as it’s more of a lack-of-time thing than an I’m-too-scared-to-see-what-other-people-said-after-me situation. But admittedly I’m not very good at staying engaged in conversation at a blog once I’ve made my initial comment. I don’t like having to bounce all over the Web to different sites, trying to remember where I’ve left comments. Enter BackType.

backtypelogoBackType is part comment aggregator, part monitoring tool, and part online community. You create an account (mine is here) and add your avatar, web address, and profile information. Then you enter all of the Web addresses you’ve ever listed when leaving comments on blogs. For me, this included my old and new blog sites, my Twitter address, and my Unhub address. BackType then crawls blog posts to find comments that you’ve made and allows you to “claim” them under your profile so that they are credited to you. You can also do a search on your name and claim other comments that you’ve made. It gathers all of your comments into your profile, where you can share, tweet, permalink to them, or click back to the original post. It gives you a fantastic line of sight to all of the comments you’ve made on blogs, all from one simple interface.

From a monitoring standpoint, BackType also allows you to search blog comments for terms and keywords, so you can monitor your brand, business, or personal reputation and see what’s being said about it in blog comments. I tested this out by typing, ahem, “Georgia Bulldogs” into the search box and BackType returned 93 blog comments from a variety of blogs. You can sign up to have an e-mail alert or RSS feed on your search terms delivered or just view them via the dashboard when you login to BackType.

BackType also includes a social networking aspect in that you can friend other BackType users and see what comments they’re making on blogs. The most followed people on BackType are who you’d expect: Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble, Jason Calacanis, Jeremiah Owyang, etc. It’s a great way to see what comments people are making throughout the blogosphere without actually having to run all around the blogosphere. Additional features include BackTweets, which allows you to search links on Twitter, and BackType Connect, which tracks links from other social services. The service launched last summer and announced these two new features earlier in March.

chickIt’s so easy to lose track of conversations on the Web, especially with the variety of channels for sharing and exchanging information and opinions. The comments section of a blog post is often an arena for heated discussions. If you leave a single comment and never return, you may not even realize that the seed you planted with your comment spurred follow-on comments or in-depth reflections. BackType allows you an easy way to check in with comments you’ve made and see what’s developed. It also creates yet another online presence for your “personal brand” and can show others who visit your BackType profile where and how you’re engaging and what contributions you’re making.

So don’t be a chicken. Don’t comment and run. Use BackType to stick around and see what’s born out of your ideas.

Hat tip to David Spinks. Image from Flickr user JOE M500

Google Reader makes me lazy

I read a lot of blogs and graphically, I have no idea what most of them look like. Like many people, I read blogs via RSS feeds dumped into my Google Reader. I love Google Reader because it aggregates and organizes all the information I want to read. I can usually save posts to del.ici.ous right from the reader or e-mail a post to someone if I think they’d be interested.

But in most cases, I can’t read comments or make a comment directly from Google Reader. I have to click on the article to be taken to the blog’s site and then make a comment. And I rarely do this. It’s not that I never have any opinions on what I read or anything further to share, it’s just that I’m usually blasting through posts at work and never take the time to visit and comment. If there was an “add comment” functionality in my Google Reader at the bottom of each post, I’d probably be all over it. Maybe there’s a better feed reader out there that has this type of functionality. If so, I’d love to hear about it!

Now, I know that you can often get RSS feeds of a blog’s comments, but I already feel overwhelmed just trying to make it through all the blog posts I subscribe to, let alone the comments! I understand that often some of the best gems come out of the comments, and I know I’m missing out by just passively observing the blogosphere and not actively participating.

So, I’m hoping the fact that I have my own blog now will push me to click-through and add my pair of pennies to posts I enjoy. It’s a month into 2009 and I haven’t made any resolutions yet, so here’s one: I resolve to click through and comment on at least three blog posts per week.

There. Let’s see how I do. I suppose it wouldn’t be half-bad to see what some of these blogs actually look like.