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Who Reads Blogs?

Eunice Park
Who Reads Blogs? Eunice Park
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While it's easy to imagine a typical blog reader as hip, youthful and borderline penniless, a survey has found that most readers are older, have bucks and are professionals -- making them a distinct, desirable and significant demographic.


Blogads surveyed 17,159 blog site visitors during a two-day period in May, inquiring about their age, income, media consumption, online spending habits and political affiliations. The survey learned that 61 percent of blog readers were more than 30 years old and nearly 40 percent of those surveyed have a household income of $90,000 or more.


Though one would think the younger generation would be perusing blogs day and night, 30 percent are between 31 and 40, while more than 37 percent are 41 to 60. Only 17 percent of blog readers fall between 25 and 30 years, while a mere 10.3 percent are 19 to 24-years old. The study found that nearly 80 percent of readers are male.



Charts courtesy of Blogads.com



"What conclusion do I draw from this week's effort to articulate the demographics of blog readers... as women or men, lawyers or programmers, Californians or Floridians, Republicans or Democrats?" writes Henry Copeland, CEO of Blogads, on the blog survey. "I conclude that blog readers are, themselves, a distinct and important new demographic cohort: blog readers."


What’s the allure of the blog? Of those surveyed, nearly 80 percent read blogs because they offer news they can't find elsewhere. About 78 percent say blogs give them a better perspective, and about 66 percent say blogs provide them with news faster than other sites or media. The study found that blog readers are media hungry: 21 percent subscribe to the New Yorker magazine, 15 percent to the Economist, 15 percent to Newsweek and 14percent to the Atlantic Monthly.



A tumultuous year in the realm of politics and current events has prompted more traffic to political blogs, even convincing these readers to donate money to causes. The survey found that about 40 percent of respondents were Democrats, nearly 23 percent Republican, and 20.2 percent Independent. They are also enticed by blog ads. Out of 66.7 percent of respondents who clicked on a blog ad, nearly 40 percent contributed money to a campaign or cause. About 63 percent contributed money online to campaign in the last six months. While 50 percent contributed more than $50, 27 percent gave between $100 and $499.



 


While these blog readers are spending money on political causes, they also are making purchases online. In the last six months, 50 percent have spent more than $50 online for books, 47 percent have spent more than $500 for plane tickets, and 25 percent bought between $100 to $499 worth of electronics on the Internet.

Step 2.5: What do you do if you are not currently using an ESP or in-house solution?
There are so many ESPs and email solution providers out there that each marketer should be able to find one that fits their needs. Are you sending to a smaller list? If so, you probably want to look at an ESP that focuses on these types of clients, such as Constant Contact or Vertical Response. If you are sending larger numbers, then you will want to look at more enterprise-level email solution providers and ESPs.


Once you determine the type of provider, you should then investigate if they offer any additional services that you might need, such as deliverability services, strategic services, even creative and production services. If you do not have these capabilities internally, you will definitely need to find a provider that does. You shouldn't overlook the value in having the proper resources to troubleshoot a deliverability problem with a major ISP, or a creative expert to help improve the effectiveness of your campaign template.


Step 3: Understand the end-user and how you obtained their information
One of the most important factors in any form of marketing is understanding your audience. If you don't know who they are, or where they came from, you can run into a lot of problems. This is no more evident than in email marketing. I have seen a number of marketers who either buy or rent lists, use co-registration, or gather names from any of a hundred different ways. Participating in these practices means you do not fully understand where these names and email addresses came from, and therefore you don't know the quality of the list. 


I am not saying that you should always avoid these options, but depending on the type of email you are planning to send, I would be cautious when using addresses that are not currently in your "master" list. Again, this really depends on your goals for the campaign; if it is acquisition, then it might make sense for your business to look into one of these options. No matter what you decide, if you use a partner to acquire some, or all, of your list, make sure that you know who the partner is, their reputation within the industry, and the quality of the data that they are providing.


Step 4: Create a comprehensive strategy for your campaign
Without a full understanding of the strategy behind your campaign, the less likely it will be successful. If you do not have an internal resource to help determine the strategy, I suggest reaching out either to your current email marketing partner or an outside strategy agency, such as Smith-Harmon. These strategy experts can help you answer various questions that will be important to the success of the campaign. Some of these questions might include:



  • What other campaigns are you sending to your users and at what frequency? 

  • How will this new campaign be different from existing campaigns?

  • Would you be better served by simply combining a current campaign with some updated content rather than creating an entirely new set of templates and campaigns?

  • What kind of demographic or behavioral data do you have to key off for more relevant communications?

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Step 5: Design the campaign
A good design will help communicate your message to your customers in a way they want to hear it. It is important to keep in mind best practices and possible implications with regards to image suppression, broken links, and other possible ISP factors that may affect how your design is seen by your end users. You want to make sure that your design doesn't get in the way of your message. Testing is key, which just happens to be the next step.


Step 6: Test, test, and test again
If there's one piece of advice that I have told clients more times than I could ever count, it's how important testing is when you are sending email campaigns. There are many types of tools you can use to test your campaigns; some of the best include those from Return Path and Pivotal Veracity. These companies offer various tools that allow senders to test a number of different aspects of their marketing initiatives. One handy tool is the ability to view your email in a large number of email clients, both software and web-based, as well as to test against the top anti-spam filtering software. Other tools allow you to test the likelihood of your campaign landing in the inbox. Finally, you can set up alerts to notify you of inclusions on blacklists or other factors that affect your reputation.


Your email marketing solutions should also allow you to do multivariate A/B testing so you identify the components of you campaigns that work and optimize your campaigns accordingly. Some marketers are afraid of A/B testing because they think it's too complex or time consuming; however, you can always start out slow with simple subject line testing and then move on from there. You never know what's going to work until you test it, and the ability to conduct tests on a portion of your list before you launch the whole campaign is invaluable.


After you initially test your campaign, make sure that you are prepared to continue testing once the campaign goes live so that you can keep track of the effectiveness of the campaign and make any adjustments to help improve results.


Step 7: Send
Once you have completed steps one through six, it is time for that most important moment in email marketing: hitting the "send" button. This is when you will be able to tell if all the groundwork and time you have spent preparing this campaign will actually pay off. However, before this last act, there are a few final things left to do. If you are using a new IP address, make sure to start by sending slowly. Remember the ISPs believe a new IP is guilty until proven innocent, so if you have a list of 1 million or more customers, do not try to send to the entire list the first day on a new IP. Work with your technical team or your email marketing partner to make sure that you don't send too much email right away.


For most clients, I suggest sending around 25,000 messages the first couple of days and continuing to increase volume from there until you get to your full production levels. Make sure to monitor your sends, using the tools mentioned above to track deliverability and performance, and make adjustments as needed.


Follow these seven simple steps, and you should be on your way to a successful marketing campaign. Good luck and good sending.


Spencer Kollas is director of delivery services for StrongMail Systems.


On Twitter? Follow Kollas at @SpencerKollas. Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.



Mark J. Landay, managing director of Dynamic Synergy: I look for career progression, increased responsibilities, growth, and overall consistency and success. In a resume, as is written in every career book, I like to see personal results and no lies or embellishments. It's a big mistake to misrepresent education. It is one of the easiest things to check, and if someone is willing to do this, they are likely to have less desirable scruples in other areas. Other examples of distortion are: the individual contributor who makes it sound as though he ran or managed a team; the "western regional sales manager" whose actual title was "account management;" the person who says she was promoted three times in four years but just put that last job on her resume (implying that they have been in a senior-level job for four years).


Allan Brown, resume writer and LinkedIn expert: Although digital is an industry of serial entrepreneurs, hiring managers are looking for someone who will stick around. Stressing entrepreneurial spirit is a negative -- it implies that the candidate may leave for the next great opportunity.


Matt LeBlanc, regional manager of Filter LLC: First of all, I'm not a big fan of objective and goal statements on resumes. Be as detailed as possible about your skills, and, ideally, the resume should help tell the story about where you've been and what you've done in the digital game. If you are a project manager, talk about the tools you've used and the efforts you've led, and include detail about technologies, platforms, and success stories. Drop names (people and companies) and evangelize your passions. This is your chance to tell everyone why you love digital. Two more quick tips: Unless you got a 4.0, don't put your GPA on your resume, and don't overly design your resume even if you're a designer.


Ingham: While years of experience can often be greatly desired, there is something scary about phrases like "more than 20 years or experience" when someone is applying for a current position in the digital industry. Since our industry changes so quickly (and is, indeed, in the midst of another significant cycle of growth and development as segments like mobile and video reach maturity), hiring managers are looking for candidates who are current with the latest technology and sales and marketing trends. So if you started in the print world many years ago, that part of your experience may be helpful in some ways, but it isn't your lead attribute for a digital position. It is much smarter to lead with information that reflects a current understanding of the uniquely complex digital world (whether it be a sales, marketing, technology, creative, or operations position that you seek). Be careful how you handle a long tenure in our industry. Positioned correctly, it is a strength. Positioned incorrectly, it can indicate you are mired in traditional experience and may not be as nimble in the digital environment as our industry requires.

Words to use -- and avoid -- on your resume


LeBlanc: Assuming these are applicable to your direct experience, the following words show you're knowledgeable: emerging media, emerging technology, open source, Agile/SCRUM, presentation layer, mobile, content management systems, middleware, back-end technologies, VR, and AI. Of course, anything that's going to tip off a recruiter, headhunter, or hiring manager as to what specialties you have or have been exposed to is recommended.


Brown: These words and phrases are typically what I look for in a good resume: collaboration, facilitated, trained and developed, dynamic, forward-thinking, and embraces changes. Words I recommend avoiding are: innovative, dynamic, motivated, extensive experience, results-oriented, proven track record, team player, fast-paced, problem solver, and entrepreneurial.


The role of LinkedIn


Greenwald: If there are discrepancies, even the slightest, between the candidate's resume and their LinkedIn or other social media information, it can be the kiss of death. The applicant will generally never know what happened (unless they are smart enough to do a comparison of this info and correct it to the point of complete and total accuracy across all formats).


Ingham: Candidates should be sure that their LinkedIn profiles are a match with their resumes -- dates, positions, associations, etc. The resume should include a link to the candidate's profile, and it is important to note, in this social networking era, many hiring managers use the size of a candidate's LinkedIn connections to gauge how well-connected they are in the industry. Gone are the days when 100 LinkedIn connections looked impressive. A minimal starting place to demonstrate industry connectedness is achieving that golden, shining 500+ status.


I also look for recommendations on a candidate's LinkedIn profile, and I do follow the recommendation to learn more about the person writing it. Recommendations are like "customer comments" and can say a lot about who the candidate is and how they approach their work that a straight resume or profile cannot. Good candidates tap their extended professional networks and ask for this kind of support, and it makes a difference.

Qualities of an ideal job candidate


Ingham: More and more, my hiring managers are looking for certain types of degrees or continuing education. In the creative world, candidates need to continue to learn new technologies (such as anything having to do with mobile) to stay on the cutting edge of digital design. In the sales world, candidates need to have some understanding of ad serving, analytics, data, video/rich media, and mobile opportunities, even if they don't have sales experience in all of those areas. Just as the sales process has grown more complex, so have the associated technologies, and strong candidates have kept current with industry changes. Candidates should demonstrate initiative and willingness to stay current by attending industry events, conferences, seminars, and e-learning, as well as staying abreast of industry publications, blogs, newsletters, and participating (at committee or board level wherever possible) in relevant professional organizations.


LeBlanc: We want to see a nice thread between the jobs and roles that they've held. We get very surgical when we do searches for qualified candidates. We want to find someone who looks just like what our client is looking for.


Currently, UX and mobile are the hottest jobs on the market. Any developers and engineers are regularly getting contract work and job offers. If you're a designer, you must understand and have experience working with UX and technology folks. Everyone is working so much closer together now -- no one can work in a silo anymore.


Landay: I look for career progression, increased responsibilities, growth, and overall consistency and success. Changes in jobs must make sense. Early career work in "academy companies" -- companies that provide good training and are known for retaining the best -- is also a plus.


We need candidates and will market them to the client because we are their advocates. But in order to accomplish this, they need to meet 90 percent or better of the requirements of the specific role we are looking to fill.


Ingham: Candidates who have graduated through one or more titles at the same company are often the kinds of employees that my hiring managers seek. When a company has elected to invest time and training into "grooming" or "growing" an employee, it indicates that they've placed a high value on retaining that person. My hiring managers are always looking for high-value employees who will commit to the current job, but they are also often looking for future leaders as well. When candidates have demonstrated peak performance (with promotions, awards, significant achievements) in one company, it is likely to assume that "code of excellence" will continue in a new firm.

Red flags, bad examples, and why dishonesty never works


Landay: I had a candidate who'd listed undergraduate work in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Berkeley and an MBA from Stanford. Both schools checked their records and told me they'd never heard of the person. When I called to ask the candidate about this, the applicant just hung up the phone. When I discover this kind of dishonesty, I drop the candidate before the client drops me and my reputation as a high-quality recruiter becomes tainted.


Ingham: Hyperbole is a red flag. I spend half my days reading resumes and LinkedIn profiles and while I applaud that rare candidate who can find a way to stand out in a crowd without sounding like an egotistical maniac, be sure that any accomplishments you have on your resume or LinkedIn profile can be defended and confirmed. Typically, when something sounds too good to be true, it is exactly that. If you weren't the top salesperson for 15 years in a row, don't say that you were. Even the smallest hint of an exaggeration of talents or experience can quickly move a candidate out of contention.


Brown: When I see resumes from candidates in the digital space that have had five or six jobs in 10 years, it reflects bad judgment and a lack of commitment.


Ingham: While the digital world has more of a tolerance for shorter stints at companies (given the dynamic nature of our industry), especially when those companies are early stage, candidates with many jobs in a few years will find a job search more challenging than those who have more tenure at fewer employers. There are exceptions to every rule, but the cost of hiring, training, and mentoring employees continues to rise -- and the cost of replacing someone sooner than planned is a painful price for our lean, streamlined companies to pay. The biggest red flag to overcome is explaining short stints at too many companies in too short a timeframe.

The direction of the hiring process and general tips


Greenwald: A trend I'm starting to see, that I think will become more and more important to candidates and companies as technology makes advances in the hiring process, is the use and inclusion of video interviewing. Done both live and prerecorded, it's being used to determine candidate credibility and skills, as well as how they answer specific questions regarding their backgrounds, abilities toward the specific role they are interviewing for, and how they present themselves to the hiring manager, HR person, or company.


Companies and services like Skype (most widely used), VidCruiter, Take the Interview, Wowzer, GreenJobInterview, and even Google+ Hangouts are enabling candidates to bundle their resume, profile, and presentations together. It's relatively easy and a huge advantage to the vetting, interview, and hiring process to submit your info this way.


Landay: If you're just starting to look, or think you have a strong success story to tell that you want us to market (in confidence) to companies that you're interested in, by all means, reach out. We [headhunters] are your trusted advisor and will "market" you to appropriate opportunities we're working on.


Greenwald: All digital job applicants should be familiar with the Lumascape Slides, created and published by Terence Kawaja at Luma Partners. At a high level, these slides show how much opportunity there is in the digital media business across the various ecosystems. It illustrates the complexity of our industry, explaining why having, meeting, and matching the specific requirements of a potential job with at least 90 percent or better skills and experience. I can't emphasis this enough: Digital is expanding at the rate of the universe, and these slides demonstrate the story better than any conversation or tool I've used in the past.


Ingham: There is a lot of professional opportunity in our digital world for smart, committed candidates, and there are ways to prepare for or to ensure longevity in our industry. This requires making thoughtful choices about job changes, and as you look for new employment, there are four things you should keep in mind. 


First, develop a capacity to think globally. Having a better understanding of the wider global economy and of cultural nuances make you a stronger candidate. Then, commit to lifelong learning, whether it be formal schooling or informal training: To stay relevant, strong candidates embrace continuing education. Third, develop a meaningful professional social network that you can turn to with questions and get (and give) good career guidance. Finally, embrace innovation and change. Do not be afraid. The digital world is in constant change, and the right mindset will ensure that you enjoy the journey as much as you enjoy the destination.


Lucia Davis is a freelance writer.


On Twitter?Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


"Business man relaxing and flying on balloons to the sky" image via Shutterstock.

Inviting too many people


A conference call isn't a kindergarten birthday party. You don't have to invite everyone in the class just so no one's feelings get hurt. A lot of marketers make the mistake of thinking that a conference call will be more productive if every last soul involved in a project is on it. The rationale is often that people don't want to have to go retrieve information after a call when they could have just asked for it while on the call itself. Or, they don't want to have to reiterate the decisions made during the call to others. But that reasoning leads to cluttered, unproductive calls -- and a hell of a lot of wasted time.


Invite only essential parties to conference calls -- the people who need to be present in order for things to move forward. Everyone should plan to walk away from a conference call with marching orders, and part of that will be assigning tasks to people who weren't on the call. If people are regularly leaving your call with no direct action items, you know too many people are on the calls.


Are you stuck with a boss or colleague who insists on inviting too many people to every call? Try this: Come up with a gross estimate of the median salary of the people who are on any given call. Break that down to an hourly wage. Multiply that wage by the length of the conference call and the number of the people on the call. Show that figure to your boss or colleague and note that it's a rough estimate of what that call just cost in man hours alone. They might start thinking differently about how they send meeting invites.


Another tip: If you're worried that you've invited too many people to a call, don't hesitate to kick off the call by admitting so and giving people the option to bow out of the call if it becomes apparent that they're not essential to the issue at hand.

Inviting the wrong people


Right in line with the sin of inviting too many people to a call is the sin of inviting the wrong people. It's a bit of a delicate balance, to be sure. People often invite too many people because they're afraid of not inviting the right people. Conversely, when you try to pare down an invitee list, you risk accidentally cutting out a key decision maker or someone vital to moving a project forward. And just inviting the head honchos isn't a way to play it safe -- sometimes they're the most clueless when it comes to a given project.


The problem seems to stem from a lack of understanding the team members' individual responsibilities. And that's nothing to be ashamed of -- there are plenty of situations where it's impossible to know the exact roles of everyone on a project, especially if you're working with a client. But do your research in advance. Send around a fast email to gain clarity on everyone's role and what the chain of command looks like. Then use those insights to refine your conference call invite list. And, come on -- if you're deep into a project and still don't know what everybody does, you need to start paying attention more.


Not sending an agenda


If you ever set up a conference call and an invitee hops on the line without knowing why he or she is there, you've failed. Conference call invites shouldn't just include a subject line, time, and dial-in number. They should include a detailed description of the topics that will be discussed and in what order. If key questions need to be answered before the call is over, those should be included.


Will everyone read your description in advance? No. They won't. But some will, and those are the super-prepared people who tend to push things forward on conference calls. And even those who don't read in advance will ideally have your notes in front of them when the call starts. This will allow them to skip ahead and gain a better understanding of where the call should be going. Oftentimes, seeing how much ground needs to be covered on a call will deter people from derailing the topic at hand. After all, everyone wants calls to end on time. Which leads us to...

Not enforcing a time limit


In my experience, all conference calls run too long. You must set time limits for conference calls. But more importantly, you must respect them. For one, it's simply rude to expect people to stay on the line for longer than planned. But in addition, knowing that a call as a "hard stop" is really the only way to ensure the conversation keeps moving along.


This ties closely to the previous point of setting an agenda in advance. In this process, it's useful to also assign time limits to each topic of discussion so you can gauge whether you're staying on schedule. Also, setting time limits on topics enables you, as the call leader, to act like the music that comes on during an overly long Oscar speech -- a polite but firm reminder that there are other people who still need to be recognized.


Setting up a call for something better resolved via email


This one is pretty simple. Any time you're about to set up a conference call, pause for a second. Does this need to be a conference call? Could it just as easily be replaced by an email chain or Google doc? Granted, sometimes it's nice -- and even essential -- that people connect in real time and hear each others' voices. But remember that we now live in a time-shifting world where people prefer to work and play according to their own schedules. Increasingly, asking people to make themselves available at a precise moment is seen as an imposition. So only do it when it's truly essential.

Establishing a regular mass conference call


I'm going to get some objections on this one. "But Drew, it's vital to have an all-hands check-in each week." Is it? Is it really?


In my experience, such regular all-hands calls start with the best of intentions. The idea is that if everyone goes around the virtual room and says what they're working on, one big call will eliminate the need for many smaller calls throughout the week. And that might be the case initially -- maybe (but probably not). Over time, these sorts of mass check-ins wane in their usefulness because everyone starts to view them as a weekly burden and stops preparing anything useful to say. Likewise, because everybody is on the call, people hesitate to ask necessary questions of specific individuals because they don't want to waste everyone else's time or put someone on the spot. All useful conversations are reserved as follow-up one-on-one conversations. No time is saved. Time is wasted. And everyone on the line doesn't want to be there.


Scheduling them on Mondays or Fridays


I know some people are really going to take issue with this one. After all, I'm suggesting that two-fifths of every work week be off-limits for conference calls. But hear me out.


Mondays and Fridays play unique and vital roles in the work week. Monday is when you line up your ducks for the week and hopefully kick things off right. Friday is when you scurry to complete tasks that might have been dropped throughout the week and tie the week up with a nice bow so you can hopefully actually enjoy your weekend.


Conference calls, for the reasons discussed in this article and many others, tend to be windows of time in which no "real work" is accomplished. Thus, if you schedule them on Mondays, you're more likely to find that by Tuesday, you're already behind schedule. And that's a stressful way to kick off the week. If you schedule them on Friday, everyone involved is missing out on vital hours required to wrap up their work week. So please, for the sake of everyone's sanity and workflows, try to keep the conference calls in the Tuesday through Thursday slots.


Drew Hubbard is a social media strategist and owner of LA Foodie.


On Twitter? Follow Hubbard at @LAFoodie. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


"Black phone closeup," "Fire flame isolated," and "3d shiny red number," images via Shutterstock.

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