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Confessions of an Accidental Blogger

BloggingAs an early adopter, I have always been one of the first to jump aboard new technology and new ideas. I've been using PC's since the most basic units cost more than a used Toyota. I have been a High Definition TV zealot since I first saw it at a Las Vegas broadcaster convention 20 years ago and had one in my living when the only thing on TV in HD was the reel of 20 0r 30 nature videos played over and over on Public TV. I had one of the first devices that was called a Smart Phone so long ago that, when compared to today's Droids and iPhones was about as smart as a turtle on a fence post. I was introduced to the Web in 1994 and have been involved in Web development since the only Web creation tool was notepad and an FTP program.

Although Social Media is now a mainstream phenomenon, I've been participating in the "Social" Web since the days when online communities were nothing but DOS text on a black screen over a 14.4 modem. While the land rush is now on to sign up for MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Foursquare profiles, I was among the first to participate in all of them.

So, you're probably thinking if I'm such an early adopter, why did it take me so long to create my own blog?

I actually have been blogging since 1996. It just wasn't called that. My monthly email newsletter for my company was called Websight Insight, and every issue had two or three articles on Web marketing best practices. After it was sent to the mailing list, the articles became a part of our Web site. Those have continued all along, and eventually became a part of the WordPress installation for news and articles in a new site we developed a few years ago.

But I still never had my very own blog, at my very own domain name… until now. You'll find my new blog at triveraguy.com

Still not sure that floods of people will be here to read what I have to say. I have approximately 6,000 followers on Twitter who have clicked through 37,000 times on links I've promoted to other people's blogs. So maybe I can drive some folks to my own stuff. While all of my content between 1997 and 2001 got lost due to several site redesigns and migrations, I'm confident that what is here will be of value to people trying to figure out how digital media fits into their business strategy…matter of fact as I'm going through the archives to add all my content to this blog, I'm thinking much of it is actually pretty darn good if I say so myself. Even the really old stuff.

So do with this thing what people in the Social Media world do…Delicious it, Digg It, Reddit it, StumbleUpon it, Bookmark it, Tweet it, Wave it, Buzz it, Fark it, Fave it, comment on it, snag the RSS feed, but most important, I hope you do with the information what some "fans" have been doing for 14 years: read it and use it help your business.

And let me know what else I can do for you or a topic I can cover.

Dogs on Twitter? Really?

I spoke at the BizTimes BizTech Conference and Expo this week. With only 45 minutes to make the case for using Twitter for business and showing a large audience how to set up, configure, grow, and use Twitter.com and all the tools, I was glad I covered as much as I did.  As I was getting my slide show ready to post online after the event, I realized I was going to have to remove the slides I didn't get to in my presentation, because without the context and an explanation, I would look like a total nut case.

Like the slides that talk about my dogs on Twitter.

Yes, my two pups have a Twitter account. They are @kaleytzumuffet2. Even though they're both in the profile, only Kaley tweets. Miss Muffet is too dumb. They tweet about life in our house from a dog's perspective. They post photos of their adventures. As you'd expect, they're incredibly cute, even when they're being naughty. Sometimes they even Tweet about things I say and do, that I wouldn't post on my own Twitter account.  And while, like the writer of a recent AV Club article, you also may be asking: "C'mon! Dogs with their own Twitter page?" let me explain like I would have, had I not run out of time at my seminar.

The first slide in that section shows a photo of a dog. Relevant to a Twitter seminar because the dog is on Twitter. I know he's on Twitter, because MY dogs follow him. I point out the fact that they follow him because his owner runs a local pet treat business. I also point out the fact that among my dogs' follows/followers are the likes of Petco, Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer), Pet Airways, Paw Prints Magazine and dozens of other businesses that cater to pet owners. Also among their many follows/followers are hundreds of other dogs, along with cats, fish, hamsters at at least one turtle.

It all seems crazy until I disclose the secret: It's not really the animals who are Tweeting! It's really a bunch of humans who love their pets so much that they allow them to channel through Social Media. And so when Petco tweets a coupon, or Cesar Millan talks about what's going to be on the next episode of Dog Whisperer, or Doctors Foster and Smith report a missing dog in Rhinelander, it's a safe bet that a real human will see that Tweet, and not just act on the content, but also spread the word by Re-Tweeting to all their furry friends.

The goal of Social Media as a business tool is to put a face on your brand. Usually it's a human face. But creative businesses know that by thinking outside the box, they can often identify and engage specific target markets. In this case, it's pet owners.  They've figured out how to reach their market, and tap into its passion, and leverage its potential to create tremendous word of mouth.

What's your target market? Are members identifying themselves as communities in Social Media? Are you finding creative ways to reach out to that market? I always say that Social Media is all fun and games until it impacts your brand. And while so many brands spend a lot of time finding out where their brand is being eroded, opportunities like this offer marketers a chance to use Social Media  to proactively re-enforce their brand.

Tweeting dogs, Crazy? Crazy like a fox!

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Tom Snyder @triveraguy Tom Snyder is Founder, President and CEO of Trivera Interactive, a Midwest New Media firm. Tom is a Web guy, wine snob, music junkie, Ex-Milwaukee Radio Guy, HDTV expert, and political wonk.

Trivera Featured in JSOnline Article on Social Media

Trivera President/CEO Tom Snyder was quoted in an article on how the local TV stations are using Social Media. Journal Sentinel Columnist/blogger Duane Dudek interviewed Tom for his opinions on how Milwaukee's local TV stations are using Social Media, and he published those comments, along with a sidebar article about how businesses should use Social Media in the April 21st print edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as online on JSOnline.com.

A Few Thoughts on the JSOnline Article

It's always a mixed blessing to be quoted in a published news article. The attention is great, but quotes that may be misunderstood by the author, editor or audience are an unintended, but predictable consequence. Over the past 30 years, I've been covered,  quoted, and mis-quoted by the media dozens of times, and in the past I wasn't able to respond with clarification.

Thank goodness for Social Media and my blog!

I was contacted by Duane Dudek of JSOnline.com (@thedudekabides) for my opinions on how the local TV stations are using Social Media. The article and a blog sidebar were published on April 21, 2010

Duane did an excellent  job of capturing the essence of our discussion. Perhaps it was because of our mutual previous lives as Milwaukee radio guys. There were a few errors. One was my own typo, and the other was just a word I don't remember using, but it didn't change the meaning of what I said.

However, my quote about WISN12's Morning Show "not doing squat," raised a few eyebrows.  While perhaps a bit overstated, here's my rationale:

True Confession: I'm up every morning at 5:30 and I watch WISN's morning show for at least a half hour before moving on to cable news. While I watch, I'm already active on Twitter, and watching the fun little Twitter-party that's going on every day between TMJ4's morning show and their fans. Every member of their team is busy doing all the things we hope our clients will do when we recommend Twitter as a tool that's part of an overall Social Media strategy.

Susan Kim ( @SusanKim4 ), Vince Vitrano ( @vincevitrano ), Craig Koplien (@CraigKoplien ), and Caitlin Morrall ( @CaitlinMorrall ) - and Lisa Manna before her ( @LisaManna ) - along with several reporters keep up a lively round of Twitter chatter, both publicly, as well as via private DM's.

WISN's Morning Show folks remain noticeably detached in comparison.  Portia Young's Twitter Account has never tweeted to her 12 followers. Patrick Paolantonio is MIA. The WISN12 News twitter account (@WISN12news) just posts news blurbs, but doesn't engage anyone. Reporter Kyler Burgi (@WISN_KylerBurgi) maintains a Twitter presence, and while he's fairly active, and seems the most approachable, he seldom publicly engages with followers. And when Matt Salemme returned to the morning show, he announced that he could be Tweeted at "twitter.com/@wisn12news." Reporter/Weekend anchor Jason Newton(@jnnewt) is just starting to get going.

A new WISN12 TV ad is filled with Web and Social Media Icons, but a commercial does not a well executed Social Media Strategy make. You have to search for the WISN folks, while the TMJ4 folks are showing up regularly in the fabric of Milwaukee's Social Media conversations and are hard to miss.  WISN's Web site doesn't even have those icons on its home page, and the only mention of Social Media is a text link in a sitemap that you find only after considerable scrolling.

A little while back, the WISN morning show did a feature on Foursquare, and it was obvious that all they knew about it was what they were reading from copy.

In their defense, 12 does an OK job on Facebook.  And maybe their strategy is to focus more on that than Twitter.  Portia is active on Facebook.  And while their news presence there posts a lot of headlines, and people write comments on the wall, whoever it is who's posting (unlike Fox6 and TMJ4 where I know the people who are behind their posts) it's hard to find them ever engaging back. Their Weather presence on Facebook is the one area where they do seem to be doing a lot correctly. Their 6,400 fans (now likes) is a decent number (about the same number of followers as I and my dogs have together on Twitter), although fans and followers are the equivalent of  "hits" on Web site - a great bragging rights number, but one that is less important than the five or six more valuable success metrics that many don't even measure.

But here's the biggest difference... and an example of the power of Social Media. Several times I've been close enough to Patrick and Portia in public to say hello, but didn't feel comfortable enough to do so, knowing that to them I'd just be another viewer. I've met Susan and Vince at Tweetups, and they knew who I was. I...and more so my business partner/wife...have gotten to know Ted Perry (@TheTeditorial). My wife (@triveragirl) was his first follow.  And at a Tweetup last summer, Vince Condella (@fox6weather ) sought me out to congratulate me on the recent birth of my granddaughter... which he learned about on Twitter.

The biggest mistake brands make with Social Media is taking the traditional media model and using it to just blast information to the masses and believe that people actually care. Well, guess what: in the Social Media arena, unless people know YOU care about them, they don't really care about you. They might fan/follow, but those companies are probably better off just putting up a billboard. They'll accomplish the same thing with less effort, push their message out to more eyeballs and they won't be kidding themselves thinking that what they're doing is participating in Social Media.

My intention in offering my opinion for the article was not necessarily to call anyone out. But my job, after all, is to evaluate and recommend improvements in Social Media and Web practices.  And if I can ever help a business in that regard, I'm happy to do so. Even happier if they come to me and are willing to pay me to do it.

But my mission is to help raise the awareness and Social Media savvy of the market as a whole. And if my comments and observations help someone who needs the help, I've done my job.  I'm hopeful that WISN will appreciate the freebie.

UPDATE: Comments posted to that article inspired Vince Vitrano to write blog in response. You can read that blog here

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Tom Snyder @triveraguy Tom Snyder is Founder, President and CEO of Trivera Interactive, a Midwest New Media firm. Tom is a Web guy, wine snob, music junkie, Ex-Milwaukee Radio Guy, HDTV expert, and political wonk.

Trivera's Tom Snyder to Speak at BizTimes Tech Expo

The schedule for the 2010 Biz Tech Conference and Expo has been released, and among its speakers, presenters and facilitators is Trivera President and CEO Tom Snyder.  Tom will be presenting "Why NOW is the perfect time to jump on the Twitter Bandwagon" on Thursday, April 29th at 10:45 am.

So why IS it time for your business to start tweeting? With Foursquare still in its infancy, and Facebook only working for certain types of brands, Twitter provides any-sized businesses the best chance for demonstrable and quick ROI. If you haven't yet begun to utilize Twitter, or your existing Twitter effort is failing to realize its potential, this session is for you. Tom will show you why...and HOW...to use Twitter effectively and start growing your business.

Sponsored by BizTimes Media, the Biz Tech Conference and Expo is being held on April 28-29 at at Wisconsin Exposotion Center at State Fair Park in West Allis, Wisconsin. Seminar and Exhibition registration is complimentary till April 26th.

How I Make You Smarter...and Your Business More Successful...One Tweet at a Time.

People who follow me on Twitter know that a prominent component of the way I use that Social Networking tool is to post links to helpful articles. As the primary brand voice of  Trivera, my goal is to help people learn both about me and FROM me.  And so while just about any time of day, you'll see me using Twitter to opine, engage, interact, and sometimes just be goofy, every weekday during business hours my Tweet-stream contains posts like:  "5 reasons your Web site is losing money http://ow.ly/1wqy,"  "19 Tips for Driving Traffic to Your Blog http://ow.ly/1vZCT" and "10 signs your iPad has made you the most annoying person ever http://ow.ly/1vGUQ."

Those articles come from blogs, email newsletters and forums and are specifically chosen to help you become better at what you do, and show up about once an hour between 9am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. Whether you're a small business owner, Web developer, marketing professional, or just a student of the digital world, the articles I link to are specifically, and strategically selected to give you a few nuggets of helpful wisdom in a quick read (or scan).

Part of my daily regimen is an early morning check of my RSS feeds, industry newsletters and a few quirky and obscure Web sites to find informational resources for myself. Of the hundred or so articles I see, and the 20 or 30 I read, I pick the 7 or 8 that really represent the cream of the crop and share them with my Twitter followers. The common denominator is that they're short, well written, accurate, organized, timely and helpful. I often re-write the headline if I think I can better communicate the benefit of the information and improve the likelihood that people will go read them. And I use Hootsuite to shorten the URL and schedule them to trickle out during the day rather than deluge everyone with a flood of information all at once.

Some critics have questioned why I do it, pointing out that they can get all of this in their own RSS feed. But I know from my own daily exercise that, because anyone can blog, much of what fills the blogosphere is poorly written, filled with errors, or both. I've earned the trust of my followers to be the filter that only allows the best of the best.

The evidence shows that I must be doing something right.  In addition to shortening long URLS and allowing me to schedule my posts, Hootsuite allows me to measure metrics. Since I began doing this and keeping track a little over a year ago, over 31,000 people have clicked through to read what I've posted. And by even being able to see which articles are the most clicked on, it allows me to fine tune the choice of articles to make sure that I'm tweeting the types of content that people find most helpful.

The good news is that you don't even have to be on Twitter to benefit from the articles. Bookmark this link and just my tweets with shortened links will show up in your browser. If you have an RSS reader, add this feed to it, and the articles will show up there.

Since we've been in business, it's been my goal raise the level of the Web intelligence of the market. I don't have the time to blog as often as I'd like, and even when I do, someone else has probably already blogged about my topic before. But the combination of these articles and my blogs (which also end up in these Tweets and feeds), seem to be doing a great job of educating the market. In addition to making followers smarter, it also establishes me as an authority without having to spend hours a week writing my own blogs, which is a tactic we also recommend to some of our clients.

The world of the Web is changing rapidly. Web 1.0 is giving way to Web 2.0. While many of my tips are focused on Social Media, I still link to articles on Search Engine Optimization, Email Marketing and making your site successful. But there's no doubt where the market is headed, and by following my posts, you can be equipped with the information you need to ride the wave.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the most clicked through article ever is You're doing Social Media. That's good. But not Mobile? Uh-oh...

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Tom Snyder @triveraguy Tom Snyder is Founder, President and CEO of Trivera Interactive, a Midwest New Media firm. Tom is a Web guy, wine snob, music junkie, Ex-Milwaukee Radio Guy, HDTV expert, and political wonk.

Social Media - Emerging Power or Roaring Mouse?

In my last blog, I talked about the impact Social Media is having in our region, where a growing number of  people and companies are using Twitter, Foursquare and the other Social Media tools to build relationships and generate business.  Media attention is fascinated with the phenomenon, with local coverage of the success of several Social Media-savvy businesses catapulting them to the national spotlight.

Even Trivera's recent open house Tweetup confirmed the power of Social Media, drawing a much larger crowd than our client open house whcih took place two weeks earlier. Over the last 14 years, we have built a passionate and loyal client base, but our Tweetup had twice as many attendees even though many of them were people we didn't even know a year ago.

However, as many of us Social Media evangelists tout its power, influence and impact, some are questioning if the wave of euphoria and urgency is deserved.  A number of commenters on many blogs I follow are calling us Kool-Aid drinkers.  They point out that most Social Media events seem to bring out the same group of the usual suspects. It's the same small cadre of small business owners being profiled in the local media as examples of the successful use of Social Media. The argument is that if Social media is such a powerful tool, there should be so many businesses with demonstrable success that the media wouldn't have to keep using the same ones over and over.

Fans tout Dell's sales of over $9 million directly attributed to Twitter in 2009. Detractors point out that that represents a minuscule percentage of their $61 billion in total sales. Local restaurant-owner Joe Sorge attributes a significant amount of his revenue at AJ Bombers to Social Media. Skeptics say that if Social Media was the big deal we're making it out to be, there would be dozens of other examples from among the hundreds of other Milwaukee restaurants.

For those of us who have been in the Web "industry" since the beginning, the criticism is nothing new. Pioneering new tactics and tools in the Web space have always had their skeptics. Even the Web itself was once lambasted as an unsustainable fad. It was labeled the CB Radio of the 90's.

At the moment, at least here in Milwaukee, it has the feel of a subculture. And as someone who has been a part of several subcultures (including the CB radio subculture in the 70's), it does feel strangely similar.

As Social Media garners the same attention, and the same criticism, the question needs to be asked: Is it just a flash in the pan fueled by the media needing to create stories where there really are none, or is it a game changer that's still in its infancy?

What do you tell the critics?  Or are you one yourself?

Trivera Tweetup Brings Social Media Community to the Falls

Old met new as Trivera Interactive used Social Media to draw over 60 people from all over Southeastern Wisconsin to a Tweetup at their new office location in Menomonee Falls. Trivera is a  marketing firm that helps clients connect with their customers using Internet technology, including Web design, e-commerce, E-mail marketing, Search Engine Optimization and Social Media.  Tweetups and Foursquare check-ins  represent two of the newest tools in a company's internet marketing strategy.  So it seems ironic that the latest in cutting edge marketing and technology would bring so many people to their office in one of the oldest buildings in the area, the restored 119 year old Mill Building in Menomonee Falls Historic Village center.

Tweetups are a phenomenon where people who have used Twitter to get to know virtually everything about each others' interests, careers and personal lives online gather to meet face to face, some for the very first time. And when they get there, Foursquare allows them to "check in" at those locations and earn points, badges and other awards for doing so. The most checked in location on Foursquare in Milwaukee is Mitchell International Airport, averaging hundreds of check ins per month.

Trivera's event was publicized exclusively on Twitter, with Trivera using Twtvite.com to disseminate the details of the event, allow people to RSVP, and even print out name tags for the event. In turn, fans of  Trivera, and the event sponsor/caterer Street-za Pizza, spread the news through their own social networks. Over half the people who came to the Tweetup also checked in on Foursquare, making Trivera a "trending location"  on the Foursquare Web site.

While Trivera often recommends Tweetups to their clients as a business tool, and has participated in several others' Tweetups, this was the first time they held one for themselves.

Trivera's Web development client roster includes dozens of well-known names, including US Cellular, Strattec, Frabill Manufacturing, Regal Ware, Usinger's and Halquist Stone. Trivera also has done Social Media training and strategic planning and execution for Mitchell International Airport, Frank Mayer and Associates, the Metropolitan Builders Association and several political campaigns.

See a photo gallery of the event at http://www.trivera.com/tweetup

Trivera Becomes an Ingredient in Regal Ware's Recipe for Success

Regal Ware Worldwide™ is the leading United States manufacturer and marketer of high-quality stainless steel cookware.  Creating world-class multi-ply cookware, stainless steel cookware, gravity-cast aluminum cookware, and in-home water purification systems for nearly 100 years, with quality and consistency second to none.

An established Direct Sales brand, Regal Ware had decided to leverage its manufacturing expertise by re-entering the retail market and focusing on mid- to high-end retail cookware. With two major conventions on the horizon, and a Web site falling short on clearly and professionally communicating their branding message, they needed a polished team to rescue their Web site in short order.

Regal Ware turned to Trivera, another company with a long history of quality and consistency to help take their new message "bring people back to the family dinner table," to the public. Trivera was awarded the responsibility to develop a new site that would quickly and precisely convey the new brand, all in a matter of weeks for their first convention in Germany.

Tasked with creating that new Web presence, Trivera quickly became part of the Regal Ware  team, first understanding what their hosting, design and marketing needs were and then getting to work. Trivera's programming team implemented a powerful, open source content management system solution that would run on Regal Ware's servers and be feature-rich while still easy to use and manage. Trivera's strategy team reviewed the highlights of their new marketing and branding message and crafted a clean, intuitive site map to address it all. Using their expertise in best-practice, Trivera's design and development team built the new site. And finally Trivera's trainers made sure the Regal Ware internal Web team was fully instructed to take over the administration of the site. It was a total solution that not only addressed their needs but exceeded their expectations.

Trivera's ability to oversee details, work with Regal Ware's other outside vendors, understand and communicate clearly and efficiently the overall marketing message, all came together to produce a first rate, search engine friendly site, all in time for their first convention.

The momentum created by the initial engagement is continuing with ongoing strategic consultation, analysis of success metrics and discussion of new initiatives like Email marketing and Social Media as tools to help re-enforce this powerful brand to old and new markets alike.

Trivera Proves the Third Time is the Charm for Frabill

For 70 years, Frabill has been one of the most trusted names in the fishing industry. While Frabill is an industry leader in creating the world's best fresh and saltwater fishing products and accessories, their ability to find a Web services vendor wasn't as successful. A product of two different developers, the Frabill Web site was an underperforming, malfunctioning pain point. Needing a new developer and not having any room for error, Frabill made the decision to trust Trivera.

Following an analysis that identified deficiencies and uncovered new opportunities, the Trivera team embarked on a search and repair mission. The first phase of the project migrated the e-commerce portion of the site to Magento, currently the world's fastest growing e-commerce platform, and the rest of the site's content management to Wordpress. The selection of those tools, combined with Trivera's process, passion and proficiency quickly convinced Frabill's decision makers that they had made a wise choice.

While the site was still under construction, Frabill was already enthusiastically recommending Trivera to others.

"How refreshing it is to work with a design company that values communication," said Frabill's Jim Horvath. " Between the staging area, email updates, and 24/7 access to the project portal, the whole team has done a superb job to date in making sure we are apprised of improvements to the site...it is deeply appreciated."

Since the site has launched, they have become even more enthusiastic. Frabill immediately began experiencing the increased sales due to Magento's shopper-friendly features and improved performance. Their content developers are appreciating the ease with which they can maintain the site and keep it fresh and relevant.

Having earned their confidence, Trivera is now a true partner, with both companies working together to develop and execute a strategic plan over the next 12 months for further improvement of Frabill's online presence.

Frabill is happy to know they have found a partner that won't leave them flapping like a tip up on windy winter day.