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Are Reader Comments Dead?

The tech news site Re/code stirred conversation today when its editors announced they turned off reader comments.

“In effect, we believe that social media is the new arena for commenting, replacing the old onsite approach that dates back many years,” they wrote.

Re/code joins news outlets and blogs like Popular Science, which have removed comments within the last year or so.

So, is commenting on websites dead? This is a question I’ve grappled with at my own job. The blog I supervise has grown its traffic substantially during the past two years. I’m happy with the content mix and quality. Yet, our comment volume is negligible. It’s led me to wonder – if we don’t get many comments, is it even worth having them?

In the end, I support reader comments. Here are a few reasons why:

  • As a marketer, I don’t want to willingly give up traffic that might come to and stay on my website. Vibrant conversations lure repeat visitors. I won’t stick my head in the sand and try and discourage social conversation (because that’d be dumb) but I don’t want give up and hand my traffic to social networks to monetize.
  • Reader comments are an opportunity to create an engaged community. Sites like Reddit, The Verge and any of the Gawker sites thrive on comments – that’s part of the value they bring beyond the content. The challenge is cultivating a commenting community. It is certainly harder now than years ago, but it’s definitely a worthy goal – one I can admit we have not achieved yet in my own world.
  • When conversations around content happen in social media, it disconnects from the source. Random visitors to your site have no idea where to go to discuss it if there are no comments. Sure, they could tweet it, but that’s often like talking to yourself at a public park. Also, consider Facebook. You can probably remember a story someone posted recently that created a huge conversation. You can bet a bunch of those people didn’t even bother going to the article before joining in.

It’s undeniable that social media has taken a lot of the wind out of comments’ sails. A solution for now may be a hybrid approach. Rather than deleting comments completely, find a way to incorporate social discussion into your website – like how Buzzfeed uses Facebook comments. This might be an opportunity for a company like Disqus to build a commenting feature that pulls in related social conversations, which you can join right from a page.

I want to know what you think. Here’s the truly ironic thing – you can’t leave comments here. I use Rebelmouse as my CMS and can’t turn on comments using the free version. Tweet me at @jamieca.

4 Tips for Agency Pros: You Need to Respond to Email

At work, I jokingly say that I should be a consultant for agencies types. Believe it or not, providing good client service is not always a given when spending thousands of dollars. It was a shocking revelation for me after spending more than seven years working in agencies before jumping to the “client side” two years ago.

Honestly, “client service” to me is just good customer service. Even if you bill at $170 an hour, a lot of what you may have learned bagging groceries or waiting tables years ago still applies.

Rather than spill all the beans at once, I thought I’d create a blog series to share what I’ve learned and observed. So, class, let’s begin with lesson #1:

  1. Respond to emails promptly. Even if you don’t have an answer, let your client know you got their message and are working on a response. Yes, believe it or not, some people don’t answer email.
  2. Always take the high road, even when you’re tempted to fire back. Sometimes clients are a pain in the butt. Sometimes they are mean. The thing is, nothing good ever comes from getting down in the dirt when working with a customer. At that point, you’re risking your firm’s and your own reputation.
  3. Provide constructive criticism. It’s frustrating when a consultant says you’re doing everything right. Clients may not know what they’re doing wrong, but they normally know they’re not doing things right. That’s why we value an outsider’s perspective – someone who can help us improve. Don’t be “yes” men and women (unless that’s what your client truly wants – and if it is, I’m sorry, that’s the worst).
  4. Please pay attention to details. When a client provides you with feedback or edits, incorporate those requests in the next version of your deliverable. It is incredibly annoying as a client going over a list of requested changes like an accountant to be sure the firm you’re paying did everything you asked. 

So, that's my first batch of tips. Are you seeing a theme? Do just a few simple things, like respond to email and pay attention to details, and your clients will put you at the top of their list. That means new business for you.

What do you think? Connect with me on Twitter (@jamieca) and let me know.

Photo via Bruno Girin

Jeff Tweedy: "Art is not a loaf of bread"

I was recently reading interviews by Jeff Tweedy, one of my favorite musicians. He offered a really interesting take on music file-sharing... 

A piece of art is not a loaf of bread. When someone steals a loaf of bread from the store, that's it. The loaf of bread is gone. When someone downloads a piece of music, it's just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive your work changes your work. Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator. People who look at music as commerce don't understand that. They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property. I'm not interested in selling pieces of plastic.

Tweedy, who fronts the band Wilco, speaks from a unique place. His band, which boasts fervent fans like me, is not a huge band. In fact, at a recent concert I attended, he introduced one of the band's classic songs by saying: "Remember that one summer when Heavy Metal Drummer was all over the radio? You couldn't go anywhere without hearing it? Yeah, me either."

Wilco, while not famously popular like Taylor Swift or U2, has found a way to prosper in the digital age.

Tweedy "Low Key" (Official video)

(video)

In Loving Memory of Molly Glynn 1968-2014 Tweedy is a collaboration between Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and his son, Spencer Tweedy. Their debut album Sukierae is av...

Hello World. My name is Jamie Carracher.

A proud resident of Washington, D.C. and an ex-patriot of Cleveland, Ohio, I am passionate about technology, art, culture, fly fishing, music and bicycles.

I am a digital and social media marketer in the technology industry. During my 10-year career, I have developed and executed countless digital communications and marketing campaigns for some of the most influential brands and organizations in the technology, telecommunications and health industries. I have broad experience in digital marketing and digital communications, including social media marketing, content marketing, online influencer engagement, mobile marketing, digital crisis communications, digital project management and digital analytics and measurement. 

Today I manage a team that oversees owned digital properties, including websites, a blog and a mobile application, serving more than five million users a year.

I have authored articles for websites like Mashable, The Content Strategist and American Express OPEN Forum. I also have spoken about digital media at a number of regional and national conferences.

Want to connect with me? 

Twitter

LinkedIn

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​Here's Why a Good Website Isn't Enough [Content Marketing]

Kristina Halvorson, an influential content strategist, recently expressed skepticism about the growing buzz around “content marketing.”

In an interview, she argued that most people do not want to consume content from brands…

Nobody wants that. Or if they do it’s a very limited niche. And that’s where content marketers say that you really need to find and focus on that niche, but ultimately what that niche wants to do is go to the help section on your website and find what they’re looking for and leave, and that’s what’s going to define their relationship with your brand. Not your video channel on YouTube.

I feel like I must be misinterpreting something because I can’t disagree more.

Of course it is important that every organization have a website with rock-solid content. And, I actually agree that trying to become a “publisher” like The New York Times is not going to work for most brands. But Halvorson’s comments make it sound like focusing on anything but your website is a waste of time.


Two years ago, I would have placed a company website at the center of a digital marketing plan. But that reflects an old reality. Today we are driven around the Internet by social networks, mobile apps, email, text messages, in addition to Web search. A company website is just another stop in a complicated journey.

As someone who is responsible for the content on several large websites, I believe the influence of websites is shrinking. Don’t get me wrong, websites are still important and necessary – but they are not the end-all, be-all authority on your brand anymore.

Here’s an example from my life. I’m a guitar player and last year I was looking for a new amplifier. Before going to stores, I wanted to narrow down my options, so I read product reviews on guitar messages boards. Then I went to YouTube to hear the amps on my short list in a realistic setting. One of the videos I watched featured the Peavey Delta Blues – and the tone killed me (still does. I’ve watched this video at least 20 times). After more research, which included going to retailers’ websites for pricing and specs, watching Peavey’s official videos on YouTube, as well as other amateur videos, I ended up buying a Peavey Classic 30 (a different but similar model). I’m not sure if I ever went to Peavey’s actual website.

Organizations need to be present and active in the digital channels that are relevant to their customers. Having a good website is just the first step.

Content marketing to me is not about your brand becoming Conde Nast. If it was, I’d agree with Halvorson that it’s a waste of time and money. I believe good content marketing is about looking at the whole digital marketing picture –websites, social media, mobile apps, email, etc. – and strategically determining where you need to be and what you need to do there to achieve your business goals. Most importantly, all your digital channels must be aligned.

So, please do make your website is awesome, just know that’s not enough.

Image via Jamie Carracher (that's me!)

​What I’m Focusing on in My Career Next Year

My career has always been about diversity. From its start 10 years ago to today, I’ve dabbled in a wide range of jobs and skills – journalism, public relations, advertising, social media marketing, Web development, building apps…

Today I shared a post outlining the major trends that I think all digital marketers need to embrace in our careers next year. I thought I’d share a few specific places where I’d like to improve and grow my own career next year.

Showing ROI

Organizations invest a lot in marketing, and I believe that business leaders are going to increasingly ask to see more hard returns on investment. I’m dedicating more of my time to building ways to measure the success of my efforts. I’m planning to experiment more with A/B testing, click-through rates and ultimately conversions. I already know that the projects I lead are creating growth in audience and engagement… but I can’t honestly say I know exactly what that means for the bottom-line. Finding out is my next big challenge.

Globalization

We all know the next big growth of digital will come outside the borders of the United States. Twitter, which is blocked in China, is opening an office in Hong Kong, for example.

I am fortunate in my current position to be helping launch a new technology trade show in Shanghai. I get to see first-hand how different the digital landscape is outside of the U.S., especially in China, a country that is incredibly unique. I believe understanding digital on a global scale is an awesome opportunity for career growth.

Public speaking

This has been on my list for years. When I set a goal ordinarily, I work my butt off to achieve it. Public speaking, however, has always been pushed to the back burner. I know I can do better – I just need to make it a priority. I will devote time to improving as a public speaker in 2015. Now that I’ve written it here, I have to do it, right?

What are you focusing on in your career? Connect with me on Twitter @jamieca.

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