Monday, August 19, 2013

Real Estate Professionals Need a Solid Foundation Online

Real Estate And Marketing
Realtors and brokers have a long-standing relationship with brand marketing, both at the company and personal levels.  They were early adopters when things began to move online, and today's consumers know they can just as easily find realtors on Google or Yelp as they can by driving past park benches and for-sale signs.  However online, the velocity of change continues to increase, as new tools are being released that provide a richer and far more functional experience to the consumer; and those realtors who take advantage stand the best chance to thrive.

Let's look at 2 examples of realtors doing an excellent, and not so excellent, job of using online tools to build their reputation.  Think of as the scorecard by which to compare these examples, because it's a powerful place to store all the different pieces of your reputation puzzle.

A Great Example:   Danny Evatt

A quick glance around this page and it's clear that Danny knows what he's doing.  Consider the mix of tools he employs, ranging from familiar things like a website and linkedin page, to things like a trulia presence, a company blog, a facebook presence, and even an active twitter feed where he posts great pictures of his locality (nice!)  One of my favorites is a link to the Wikipedia history of his last name -- for the sheer creativity!

Danny's page is 80% complete which is quite good; though 
if we were to offer some advice, it would be (a) to include an already existing YouTube presence to the page, and (b) to take greater advantage of the 'Achievements and Recognition' section to post links to milestones and press mentions (maybe he sold a flagship property and could add a link to the successful listing; or perhaps he was mentioned in the paper, or won an award from his company or an association.)

A Not-So-Great Example:  Jesse Continental
Unfortunately, this is a much more common story.  An office or realtor will begin to work on their online reputation, but stop before they have a chance to realize the huge potential upside.  30 seconds on this page is illustrative that Jesse has lots of real-world experience and understands his market niche, but that's where it stops.  With only a 40% completion rating on Spoke--by posting a name, summary, industry, website and (discontinued) facebook link, Jesse is leaving real value on the table!  He could invest a very minimal amount of time to learn and deploy industry-specific tools lik, and even the more general  If you're in the real estate business, make sure you understand these at the very least.

Final Thoughts
There are two important takeaways from this analysis.  First, remember that each outside presence and link that you add to your Spoke page represents a unique channel to attract new clients, and impress existing ones.  For example, many realty offices are great sources of local market news and conditions.  Have you written articles or blog posts?  Add a quick link to the notable links section of your Spoke page.

And secondly, think about the broader implications of having a rich and varied reputation on the internet:  Danny is clearly a quick-study when it comes to learning and taking advantage of new tools and technology; and when you look at all of these on something like his Spoke page, it can send powerful subconcsious signals that he has the creativity and tenacity to represent a client extremely well.  So push yourself to new levels this year, because more and more people rely on these channels everyday for increasingly important information (like finding a real estate agent.)  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Verdict: Lawyers need help with Online Reputation

Legal Reputation Building 101

Let's jump right in and look at 2 examples of firms doing an excellent, and not so excellent, job of reputation building.  Think of as the scorecard by which to compare these examples, because it's simply a place to store all the different pieces of the reputation puzzle.

A Great Example:  Douglas J. Smith Law Office
30 seconds on this page is all it takes to see the variety of reputation tools at legal firms' disposal.  Mr. Smith's page has a 90% completion rating thanks to presence of a website, a blog, a facebook and twitter presence, and he has even produced a few YouTube videos.  Now, none of these is overly difficult to establish, and they all represent unique channels to attract new clients or impress existing ones.  He has also used the 'Notable Links' section to link to his other web-presences:  merchant circle, insiderpages, yahoo local, etc; though if we were to offer some advice, it would be to take advantage of the 'Achievements and Recognition' section to post links to major milestones or press mentions (maybe Mr. Smith won a major case, or won an award within his industry circle, or was mentioned in a local news outlet -- those kinds of things)

A Not-So-Great Example:  Offices of Johnny Law
Unfortunately, this is a much more common story.  A law office will begin to work on their online reputation, but stop before they have a chance to realize the huge potential upside.  30 seconds on this page is illustrative that Johnny Law has a great niche to share with the internet audience, however has only taken enough digital strides to reach a 15% completion rating on Spoke--by posting a name, summary, address, and phone number.  This may have been valuable information in 1995, but today it's not even enough to be taken seriously, we hope that they just haven't updated their Spoke page lately.

Now to clarify, we're not saying that everyone needs to have a universal internet presence.  Our view is simply that it's important to push yourself to new levels in the year 2013, because more and more people rely on these channels everyday for increasingly important information (like finding a lawyer.)  Even if you don't have a website, get creative!  I'd be willing to bet that clients have left reviews on Yelp about your office -- and you could post that link to your 'Notable Links,' or make it your 'website!'  You could even use your page.  (Oh, if you haven't heard of Yelp or Avvo, go check them out this second, they're critical to your firm.)

So go experiment with these important digital tools, and send us messages on twitter or facebook when you do!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Understanding Digital Reputation

Though people are spending more time on Social Networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn, the web is still the main place where people search for information.

Digital Reputation Management requires understanding what tools and services are available to monitor your personal online brand and promote the good content that shapes your identity.
What is Digital Reputation

Wikipedia describes Reputation as a commonly-held opinion, or a social evaluation based on a set of criteria. It is important in business, education, online communities and many other fields.  Online, information is being published all the time: by us on our social profiles, by others on blogs or their social profiles, and by professionals on news sites and across the internet as a whole. 

 Our digital reputation is being shaped as much by us as by other people; and as a result, checking frequently what is available online and making sure that the good content appears first is important for somebody conscious about their personal brand.

Simplified, Digital Reputation Management involves both a discovery element, and a curation element.

To learn more, check out the Reputation Management topic page on to dive in!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Reputation Management Lesson 1: The Professional Picture

When it comes to online reputation, no matter the medium, you'll often be leading with some kind of profile image or logo; yet this is often one of easiest aspects to overlook--to just grab something off of your desktop and think "I'll get a better one later."

No more! Spoke wants to put you on the offensive. Whether you already have Spoke pages built with images, or you haven't added your page yet (by using the big Orange "Add Page" button on

Selecting the right image (for a person or company page,) is all about 3 things:

1. What level of professionalism are you trying to convey?

This seems like a no-brainer, but in reality, people often don't take that extra minute to really question what their current image says about them as a professional. Are you an undefeated trial lawyer? A no-nonsense corporate accountant? Chances are you're professional persona will benefit greater from a serious portrait in a business suit, while someone in the marketing/creative or service industry will want to find ways to inject a bit of warmth or even quirkiness.

2. Is there a uniqueness or special sauce

Think about how you can personify your competitive advantage, as a person or as a company. One of the best examples of this is Apple. Their guiding principle in hardware and software design is simplicity--design so complex and so intuitive, that the end result is something simple and beautiful. And their entire corporate brand could not be better suited: a beautiful neutral-colored apple. No fireworks, no flashy colors, no crazy fonts, etc; just an elegant piece of fruit.

3. Technical attributes: dimensions, good focal point, and color contrast

Think of these as things to check off, once you've selected an image. Does your image fit the dimension requirements for the location you are posting it? Some websites will want your image to be a perfect square (such as Spoke,) while others allow for elongated images in either orientation. Next, is the most important part of your image the sole focus of it? Don't use a busy image for a professional application--either your logo or your face should be front and center. And finally, does that focul point blend into the background of the image or the webpage itself; or rather, do the colors pop out and draw the eye?

Give yourself and your company a quick visual audit. A great way to start is by visiting your Spoke pages and applying these criteria, or creating new ones.

And Look for more lessons in Reputation Management in the coming weeks!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spoke Users Take Advantage Of Big Offer

Two weeks ago, we presented our Spoke users with a special offer: to update or build their page for them, to tell their story and serve as the cornerstone of a rich online presence. And the response was impressive! Many asked us to update company and person pages that were already started; but some even had us create brand new pages!

Here are examples from some great new company pages:
Commonwealth Capital Advisors received a new company page that opens with a nice mix of profile data

We also pulled in their video presence

Himalayan Glacier Trekking has an extensive social media presence, which was well highlighted on their new company page

And Puritan Automation received a diverse set of links 
to display information about their company as well as 
technology they use to create a competitive advantage

And in taking advantage of this offer, not only did these users get a free content, but we provided custom advice to each on how they could take their digital reputation to the next level.

For a taste of that insight, see a guest blog post by Rebecca Haden (an expert in digital reputation, and prominent Spoke member.)

Look for similar promotions in the future, and in the meantime, start your own page on Spoke -- it's an opportunity to tell your unique story that only takes a few minutes.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Unlock The Power Of Lists

Ever get the feeling you spend far too much time reading news? Or even worse, that no matter how much reading you do, you'll never catch all of the important market intelligence happening every day. We know the feeling, and we built a solution!

We're flipping the flow of news on it's head, and in case you haven't had a chance to try it yet, go create a list on By following very specific companies, people, and topics, you can simply sit back and let us watch everything for you. And we'll simply deliver the important stuff to your inbox -- daily or weekly -- laser focused on just the information you really want!

How To Quickly Get Started
Visit, find the pages you are interested in, and click "Follow" on each. At this point you can create lists, and organize pages for more efficient news consumption. Perhaps you want to follow all of your competitors, clients, or sales leads -- you can do this in minutes and then sit back while we feed you all of the valuable information happening to those pages.

Want a visual example of how to do this? Here's a brief instructional video.

We want you to spend less time becoming more informed than ever!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Free Promotion For Spoke Users

The Spoke team couldn't be more excited!  We just released a major enhancement to our brand new 'Lists' feature-set (if you missed it, watch how to use Spoke to automatically stay informed) and to celebrate, we're throwing a special one-week promotion for all our users:  we'll build/update any page that is important to you.  Why?  Because 'Lists' rely so much on following great Spoke pages, and we want your experience to be invaluable.

So for one week, starting now, if there's any company or topic page that is important to you, tell us about it using the short form below and our dedicated team will work for you to make sure it is updated.


It's free, fast, and we'll tell you when it's complete so that you can follow the finished page and start getting all the intelligence you need, delivered right to your inbox or browser (just as our company video describes.)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

VIDEO: How To Create A Stream

Since we released it (two whole weeks ago,) many of you have asked for more information on how to best use our most powerful feature:  Activity Streams.  

So we created a short video to explain just that:

This 2-minute video can save you hours every day!  Let us know if you have any questions or comments here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What The Blue Angels Can Teach About Captivating An Audience

This guest post is by John Foley, former lead solo pilot of the US Navy's Blue Angels. He is the founder and CEO of John Foley Inc., which provides keynote speaking, coaching, and hands on training services for Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, healthcare service providers and beyond. The core of his teaching is The Diamond Performance Framework, which translates the Blue Angels’ culture of excellence and peak execution for the World of Business.

Social media and content marketing have changed the way that companies share themselves with the world. The speed of that interaction continues to increase, and new channels of communication are born every year. However, those advanced techniques are still grounded in basic principles that have been in use for at least a century. At the end of the day, people still like doing business with companies and individuals who are open, honest, and especially those who share.

Sharing Creates Goodwill

The Blue Angels are bound to their audience by a definitive congeniality.  It's part of their overarching mission to act as ambassadors of goodwill.  Even as my journey has carried me into the world of business, I still meet people on a daily basis who are eager to share their fond memories of Blue Angel air shows. From a business perspective, the Blue Angels mission to share that goodwill with the world solidifies a very effective campaign for public outreach and recruitment.  

Sharing ourselves with our audience is a great way to create that same sentiment. And creating that mutual feeling of goodwill opens up our environment.  On a fundamental level, people like doing business in an open environment; it creates a space in which they can learn, interact and contribute. Unlocking that feeling of 'open-ness' is a valuable tool on multiple levels.

Sharing Accelerates Learning

Let's look at a classic example from a familiar brand: Jell-o. In 1904, Orator F. Woodward led an initiative by The Genesee Pure Food Company that produced and distributed free promotional cookbooks featuring Jell-o themed recipes.  These books became incredibly popular, and by 1909, gross sales for Jell-o exceeded one million dollars.
By 1913, that number was doubled, and Jell-o was on the way to becoming a household name. Look at the success of that campaign, and just imagine the speed of that kind of success in today's world. In 1904 it took a long time and huge amount of effort to deliver those cookbooks. Today, using social media and aggregators like, we can complete that B2C circuit, almost overnight.

What It Means For Companies:

In the midst of the new media climate, our job is to find the most effective ways to exercise that fundamental idea. Lately, I've found that information hubs like offer some very effective opportunities for execution. The Spoke system allows you to follow, post, and collect stories from around the web in order to create an entry point that can allow your company to begin sharing in new ways. So use these strategies to inspire a unique approach to sharing within your own organization.

To learn more about John and his novel approaches to bringing excellence into the organization, visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

5 Easy Ways To Take Control of Your Online Reputation

Andrew Shotland is a search marketing consultant with a specialty in Enterprise and Local SEO. He writes about this and other strange topics at and

Last week I got a call from an old client I hadn’t heard from in years. He had been arrested for a DUI and now when you search his name in Google, the first result is the court report of his hearing. Oh yeah, and he was unemployed and looking for a job. Not good.

The future is guaranteed to be some mash-up of The Minority Report, The Matrix, Blade Runner, The Terminator, The Social Network and Looper (if you haven’t seen it yet, rent it now) where all information is available all of the time. In the always-on world, managing your “personal brand” – a fancy marketing term for “your good name” - is critical. There are all sorts of reasons to be aware of how your name appears throughout the Web, from protecting your privacy to improving your ability to make that sale or get that job. But the basic premise is that if you don’t control your personal brand online, someone else will.

So where do you start? Some basic tips:

1. Get Your Own DomainOwning a domain for your own name is one of the simplest ways to improve how you show up in search results and to control your online identity. Don’t be intimidated. A simple one page website with a photo and some text about yourself is all you need. The domain will cost you <$20 and there are plenty of instant website companies that have easy-to-use has a good service for this that starts at $8/month.

2. Claim Your General Social Media ProfilesIf you haven’t already created a page on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest, go ahead and do so. Each of these sites typically ranks well in Google for searches for user names. Fill out the profiles as much as you can and make sure each of these sites links to the others (e.g. link your Google+ page to your Facebook page) as well as to your website. Of course, these URLs are more likely to rank for searches for your name if you are active on them and connected to a lot of other users on each service, so it couldn’t hurt to put some time into them, but don’t feel like you need to be a social media butterfly. Even occasional use of any of these for most people will affect their ability to rank in Google.

3. Claim Your Industry Social Media ProfilesMany industries have directories and other types of sites that allow people in the industry to create and claim profiles. For example, allows lawyers to claim a free profile and get listed. Find the big sites in your niche and claim your profiles there. And don’t forget to link them up with your social media profiles and your domain.

4. Keep As Much As You Can PrivateWe online marketers are known for over-sharing on the Web. That’s part of our game, but there’s no reason why most people should feel the need to air all of their laundry (clean and dirty) in public. Once you put something on the Web, even if it’s a benign photo of your hamster, it’s hard to control what happens to it from there. As a rule, set your privacy controls on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to limit what you share and what can be shared. Here are the basics on the privacy settings for the main social networks:

-Facebook Privacy Settings
-Twitter Public and Protected Tweets
-Managing Your LinkedIn Privacy Settings
-Google+ Privacy Settings
-Pinterest Account Security

5. Create a Power Page on Spoke.comWhile creating your own site and using social networks can help a lot, most of those tools are fairly narrow in their ability to create customized pages to help with your online-reputation. That’s where taking advantage of your Spoke pages can come into play. Spoke allows you to basically create a Wikipedia for yourself. You can create pages for every job you’ve held, links to major accomplishments, links to mentions you’ve received in the media, if you’re an author you could create a bibliography page, etc. All of these pages can help you control how you appear in the search results and provide a professionally curated picture of yourself to those searching for you. And by linking your Spoke page with your other social media profiles, each site could influence the rankings of the others.

So don’t wait for a robot to travel back in time from the future to start helping you with your online reputation issues. With only a few hours of work, you can easily
take control of it yourself while still leaving plenty of time to watch Looper (Trust me, it’s awesome).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Major Release: Introducing Lists and Streams!

As we are moving the process forward to be the place where you find business information about your industry, companies and people, the Spoke team is thrilled to announce the release of our most important feature set of the year: Lists & Activity Streams.

Up until now you may have been using Spoke for a variety of purposes: to manage your online identity or your company's, to find business information, or to promote yourself as an expert.  However today we unveil a new -- and our most powerful -- use for the world of information consumption. You can now leverage Spoke to get real time updates in YOUR INBOX every day or every week on the companies, people and topics that you are interested in -- laser focused on only the information you really want!

How To Quickly Get Started

Simply visit, find the pages you are interested in, and click "Follow" on each. You can follow as many pages as you want, and organize them into lists for more efficient reading. Perhaps you want to follow all of your competitors, clients, or sales leads -- you can do this in minutes and then sit back while we feed you all of the valuable information happening to those pages.

Need a visual?  Here's a brief instructional video.

We want you to spend less time becoming more informed than ever! And we'll go one step further: if there's a company or person that you want to follow, but the page could use updating, just Use This Form and we'll update it for you! Or if we're missing something, click the big orange "Add Page" button, name the page, and then send it to us using the same form.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

7 Tips to Building a Brand for First-Time Small Business Owners

David Bakke is a small business owner based in Atlanta. He writes about his experiences and personal finance tips on the blog,

If you're a first-time small business owner, you may know how to use to track your industry, your competition, and your customers - but how much thought have you given to your brand? According to the website SmallBusinessDelivered, branding "is the process of creating a clear, consistent message about your company or product." Crafting an effective and unique brand has become an essential element of all successful companies in today's business landscape. Here are six ideas for building an effective brand for your small business:

1. Be the Face of Your Organization If you want to build an effective brand, you've got to give your business a face. As an entrepreneur with your nose buried in numbers 18 hours a day, it's easy to lose sight of the fundamental principles of a consumer economy. A buyer doesn't identify with a product or service itself, a buyer identifies with a person who creates, sells, or uses that product or service - much like you don't put your hope and faith in an ideology, you put your hope and faith in a politician to champion that ideology. As the owner of a small business, it's your responsibility to be that person. Post a welcoming picture of yourself on your company website, or go out and press palms, getting to know people near your place of business. When potential customers see an actual human being who cares about their needs running a business, they're much more likely to patronize it.

2. Strive for Superior Customer Service Once you've launched your business and established your brand, constantly keep it in a good light by accepting nothing less than stellar customer service. It's a lost art in many organizations, but good customer care can turn a one-time buyer into a lifelong devotee. It can spark a word-of-mouth campaign that can draw business your way and christen new customers at an exponential rate. If you ingrain this philosophy into your corporate culture and practice it diligently, customer service can in effect become your brand - and that's a powerful tool.

3. Choose the Right Logo Choosing the right logo to represent your business is critical, and the sheer number of studies about visual brand recognition are dizzying. Many businesses try to convey multiple layers of meaning in their logos, and to use them as sort of subconscious attractors, but the most essential elements of a good logo are simplicity, attractiveness, and cohesion with your business. Hiring a consultant or designer to create your logo can be a pricy endeavor, but if done well it can yield significant returns. Two good websites to get you started are Red Antler or 99Designs, and once you've got your logo nailed down, distribute it as much as you can both offline and online. There are dozens of great free destinations on the web, such as

4. Accentuate What Sets You Apart When creating your brand, it's important to understand and emphasize what it is that sets you apart from your competition. It can be as basic as specific services you may provide, or your pledge to offer lower prices than your competitors. If you offer free gutter cleaning as part of a roof inspection service, for example, emphasize that. If you offer "best-price matching," put that out there. In a competitive economic environment like this one, branding yourself as unique in a certain market can help your business break away from the pack.

5. Be Consistent With Your Message Once you establish the tone and message of your brand, never stray from it. Whether it's your social media posts, your email marketing strategy, or your in-person communication, being consistent is key. A business with an unclear or muddled brand is going struggle - no matter how intelligently conceived or positive its message is.

6. Make Sure Your Staff Fully Understands Your Brand If your entire staff doesn't understand the image you're trying to portray, all your efforts could be lost. The first thing to teach your incoming staff should always be your brand identity. For employees that have been with you from the start, constantly reinforce the importance of your message in staff meetings, memos, and in every task you assign. A company that lives and breathes its brand identity is a cohesive unit, and when every part functions to serve the machine, there's no stopping you. This will also help everyone involved to develop better communication skills in the workplace.

7. Centralize Your Brand is the only place on the internet where you can store all of your company's profile information and digital content from all over the web, whether links, videos, etc. And in doing so you can express the uniqueness of your brand in a much richer way and show your customers everything at once.

Final Thoughts If you're having trouble crafting an effective and unique brand for your small business, don't be afraid to ask for help. If you have the resources, bring in consultants or marketers to advise you. If not, ask your friends and family how they perceive your business. Sometimes it takes that perspective from a trusted person examining you from outside your bubble to help you really identify what it is that makes you so unique. Putting time, research, and effort into developing and projecting your brand is one of the early steps to creating a thriving business.

You can find more helpful advice on

Thursday, March 28, 2013

How to Leverage any Content to Market Yourself

Whether you're more interested in Managing your Reputation or displaying your Subject Matter Expertise, the way you leverage links and external content is paramount to your success. It seems like a simple concept, but it is an extremely powerful way to tell your story beyond your average profile website. If you don't take advantage, you're leaving money on the table!

This is where Spoke can be Extremely Valuable

Because Spoke pages allow you to Change the Title for any link/video you post, you can describe any piece of content out there on the web on your own terms. Just try it for yourself to understand its impact on your web presence.

Go Try it Now: Here's a video that shows you how.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Here is what we are working on

I am always very impressed by the level of engagement and determination of my engineering team. We have been working at this for two years now and they are working very hard to update our current features and developing new ones. Let me tell you about what they have been working on and as always do let us know if you feel that we are missing the marks in term of priorities or implementation. 

Right now, we have three short-term projects: increase the amount of updates so our datasets is more complete and fresher, open our data so you can consume our data in your own environment and lastly, refine our activity stream to make it more manageable and visible to yourself and your community.

 1) Increasing our amount of updates: Since December 2012, we have tripled the amount of updates on the site. We did so thanks to your contributions, which are at record high but also because we doubled the amount of content contributed automatically through our content partners and started to create our own content as well.

 If you have been on the site lately, you may have seen Spoke enabled accounts such as Spoke Research and Spoke Intelligence. Those are real people paid by Spoke and contributing content on a regular basis. The content created by Spoke is very targeted and mostly in support of our partner programs.

 As a result of those efforts, the proportion of contributions has evolved slightly from 50 content aggregated/50 content created in 2012 to 50 content aggregated/25 coming from community/25 created by Spoke in 2013.

 2) Making our dataset open: as you know, our strategy is to be the hub of Business Information. People should be able to access and consume our information wherever they want, within their own environment or when they are performing their usual daily tasks. For this, we have two sets of tools: Widgets and APIs.

 On the widget front, we have been releasing improvements to our existing widgets and will start to provide new targeted ones.

 For our APIs, we are already working with few select beta partners to understand the details and the process of how to integrate with other sites. The easy part is to enable people to access our information. The extreme complex part is to let our partners update our information. Each partner has its own set of issues and it is difficult to come up with a one size fits all approach but we are slowly getting there.

 We have extremely high hope for this program as partners should be contributing significantly to our datasets moving forward changing the total monthly amount of contributions as well as the mix of contributions.

 3) Implementing our activity stream roadmap: we have released our activity stream in January and since then have been receiving a lot of feedback on it. Based on that feedback, we are implementing a detailed roadmap of features to implement. Very short term, you are going to see major improvements in the ability to manage your activity stream.

 As always, do let us know if you want to see other approaches.

 Philippe Cases Spoke CEO

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Look Where You've Taken Us!

Having launched the new Spoke nearly 15 months ago, we wanted to share some exciting trends. is now performing at scale:  our database is edited constantly, having received more than 330,000 edits, and has been visited more than 35 million times.  Also our contribution community has grown to more than 40,000 users who have each contributed 5 edits on average.

And our user growth trend is accelerating:
-It took us 10 months to enroll our first 20,000 users
-It only took 5 months to gain our next 20,000 users

When our members are on the site, they view an average of 17 pages per visit, and stay on the site for about 20 minutes -- and our bounce rate is close to zero.  Our beta users spend even more time on the site:  30 pages and 45 minutes per visit.  In fact, Spokestaff members are only averaging 53 minutes per visit --  and I'm sure Philippe is going to point this out and encourage us to spend more time on Spoke so as not to be overtaken!

We are really excited by what we are seeing, and we hope you are too; because not only is this a signal of accelerating interest in the platform, it's a sign that more and more people are no longer satisfied with today's information inefficiencies.  High-performing people don't want to spend hours every day looking for information. They want it all in one place and organized in a way that is very easy to consume, so they can develop insights faster.  As a result, more and more people are learning to use Spoke to break the old news cycle -- by following the companies and people that are relevant to their work, and allowing us to track new information for you, and tell you when something happens that is important.  So ...

And if you want to contribute information to the system, feel free to do so. Each of us has already contributed more than 5 edits and if you do, we can increase our average contributions even further.

And watch close for more Spoke news.  We're getting ready to release a powerful new feature set that will make your information consumption even more streamlined.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

'Cold Calling' Shows Little Signs of Life

This is a guest-article by Dan Stepel, prominent Spoke member and expert in the areas of B2B Sales and International Business.  You can learn more by following him on Twitter.  

A few years ago, I noticed whispers beginning to surface among salespeople that “cold calling is dead”.  And while I am not prepared to claim that the value of cold calling has completely died off, I can assure you it's on life support.  And all but those true direct marketers will happily dance on its grave.
Cause of Death  

This day in age, blindly calling upon a prospect is unnecessary at best, and a sign of unpreparedness at worst.  

With the depths of the internet, we have more information at our disposal that we could ever want, even while sitting in the back of a cab or at 32,000 feet in the air.  You could land in a strange new country tomorrow morning, and with a quick post or tweet you could be blasted by friends and connections with insider tips.  And it doesn't take a very deep network to produce quality local information, insight, and even new local connections.  So what does this have to do with the death of cold calling?

Local knowledge and connections give you the edge.  The same is true in sales.

While I will rarely (or never) know the decision maker at a prospective company, there is a very good chance that with a small amount of tact, I can leverage my network to build a tunnel to someone within, or adjacent to that company.  It takes an understanding of my social networks, but more importantly, an ability to new and open information platforms on top of them -- this is the secret sauce, and exactly where a tool like comes in.  By following a strategic set of companies, people, and topics on Spoke, I can know--effortlessly--what is going on with and around a potential prospect.  This is automatically delivered through press releases, industry bloggers, financial publications, etc. and if I couple that intelligence with my own personal network, I find out how to reach the company directly, one of the company's partners/suppliers/etc, someone influential within the company's region, or within the company's primary industry verticals.  This tiny bit of Creativity is worth its weight in Sales gold. 

Welcome to the next generation of sales intelligence.  It's time to get creative, and piece new, advanced (and free) information tools into your arsenal. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Your Inbox is Getting a Lot More Powerful

Are you interested in being able to follow your partners, customers, and competitors in one concise information stream when it's new and relevant, instead of finding out after the fact? is here to help!

This morning, we've overhauled the content and look of the emails to bring you much deeper insight. Instead of merely telling you "hey, this company that you care about just issued a critical new press release," we now deliver the title and info straight to your inbox, and it links directly to the press release or article! And that's only one example.

Here's a visual of how these will now look:

If you want to start receiving these notices, simply Login to Spoke and Follow pages (companies, people, and topics) that are important to you. Read this short article for a quick overview on How to Follow.

Much more to come, and as always let us know if you have any questions!

Kindest Regards,

Matt Maurer
Community Manager
Matt's Spoke Page

Monday, February 4, 2013

The 7 Things You Really Need to Change with your Online Marketing in 2013

This is a guest-article series by Rebecca Haden, digital marketing guru and owner of Haden Interactive.

There are 7 Things You Need to Change in Online Marketing for 2013

There are plenty of articles out discussing how online marketing has changed, what you need to do differently this year, and so on. We think we can save you some time with our list of the seven things you really need to change (if you haven’t already).

1. Step out of your time machine. If you’re still worrying about keyword density, hits, and rank checks, you’re worrying about the wrong things. Today’s more sophisticated search engines put all their effort into providing the best experience they can to users. That means you should shift your efforts from tips and tricks to providing great content and a great experience for your visitors. If your website is already perfect, step outside it and create great content elsewhere, then use Spoke to aggregate that content where prospective partners and customers can see it.

2. Think inbound. Inbound marketing – making sure you have things that are entertaining and/or useful enough to draw people to you – is a lot more appealing to your potential customers now than outbound marketing. Your target market is willing to put a lot of energy into avoiding ads and commercials, and they also want to be able to find what they want as soon as they want it. SEO in 2013 is about being easily found when your prospect is ready, not about pushing yourself in front of lots of eyeballs.

3. Notice – don’t obsess over – algorithm changes. Search engines like Google and Bing change their algorithms frequently. The two big Google algorithm changes people have been talking about most are Panda, which cracked down on poor quality and duplicate content, and Penguin, which cracked down on poor quality link building. Notice the “cracked down” part. Poor content and sneaky link building were never a good idea-- they’re just much harder to get away with now. Use high quality sites like as part of your overall content marketing and linkbuilding strategy.

4. Keep up with the new tools. While algorithm changes can create problems, especially if you’ve been stuck in that time machine or sailing near the wind (to mix metaphors), missing new tools means missing opportunities. Social media tools that let you manage your various profiles more efficiently, reputation management tools like Spoke, and collaboration tools all can help you extend and strengthen your online presence.

5. Focus on conversion. In the early days of the internet, there was less competition and search engines were not as smart. Simply having a website gave you a great advantage over most physical-world competitors. Now, you probably have plenty of competition and your visitors have plenty of choices. Getting people to your website now requires a lot more effort, both on your site and in social media, than it used to. It makes more sense than ever to work on improving your conversion rates, not just your traffic.

6. Get mobile. The proportion of web visitors using mobile devices is increasing at a startling rate. Are you keeping up? Your website needs to look good on phones and tablets, but you should also check the user experience on mobile devices. Can your visitors easily accomplish their goals – and yours? Check things like your newsletter sign up form, your social media “Follow” and “Like” buttons, and any quote request or appointment setting tools.

7. Use your data. Big Data is big news, and you can get some of the benefits even if you’re a small company or private practice. Free services like Google Analytics let you capture an amazing amount of data about your website visitors. Facebook Insights is another valuable source of feedback on your online presence. This is also the perfect year to start A/B testing. Web content, email marketing, and SEO strategy should be based on data, not on gut feelings.

There are lots of frills and flourishes you can add if you are already doing all these things (microdata, anyone?), but these are the basics that will make the most difference for you in 2013.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Aligning Your Organization for Precision Execution

This guest post is by John Foley, former lead solo pilot of the US Navy's Blue Angels. He is the founder and CEO of John Foley Inc., which provides keynote speaking, coaching, and hands on training services for Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, healthcare service providers and beyond. The core of his teaching is The Diamond Performance Framework, which translates the Blue Angels’ culture of excellence and peak execution for the World of Business.

The flying that I did with the Blue Angels was not dangerous, but it was inherently unforgiving, and nowhere was there less margin for error than “The Knife Edge Pass” maneuver. Imagine two jets headed straight for one another on a near collision course, 100 feet off the ground, closing in at 1000mph! As a pilot, it's your job to rotate your jet at the last split second, brushing past the opposing plane by a mere wingspan! There is no room for improvisation, and Blue Angels master this routine by leveraging a very simple tool called CenterPoint Alignment. By briefing on a CenterPoint, the two opposing pilots know exactly where to be, and exactly when to be there, and it’s this precision alignment that transforms the improbable into the possible.

How many times in the Business world do we enter a meeting room with an investor, partner, or customer without being fully prepared and aligned with your team? In a Blue Angel environment, you would very quickly put yourself into a highly dangerous zone.  Having the right set of information and sharing it between pilots is the first step to getting aligned on a CenterPoint. When the two solo pilots attend a Blue Angel briefing, they're given all of the necessary information, given the chance to visualize their actions, and mentally carry out the task at hand. Today, that's were Spoke comes in to play. is a great tool to help anyone collect the business information they need and get their team aligned around an information set, just like CenterPoint Alignment. Users scour the web to gather business insights on industries, trends, partners, customers and competitors, and create action-worthy intelligence to share with their team members. With these detailed industry maps, business users and teams understand where their CenterPoint is, and can fully align themselves along what needs to get done.

When I speak about the Blue Angels, I'm speaking about the best of the best, about the top .01% of the top 1% of all pilots. Keeping your team aligned on various CentertPoints can be the difference between performing in the top 1%, and soaring with the top .01% in your industry.

To learn more about John and his cutting-edge business philosophies, visit his website, or find him on

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Happy New Year 2013

Dear Friends and Spoke Supporters,

As we are starting 2013, I wanted to share with you some of the achievements we have been able to reach in 2012 and thank you for all your help along the way. I also want to wish you a happy new year from all of us at, we are all looking forward to be of help to you in 2013.

2012 has been the year of our relaunch. We released our alpha platform in January, and our beta back in June. The goal of this launch was to encourage contribution, as well as to gauge potential business cases for the platform. We did better than we expected as we finished the year being named as a top business intelligence company, and attracting over 25,000 new registered users!

Back in November, we cleared 200,000 edits made to the site by more than 25,000 unique people. About half of the edits accepted in moderation were made anonymously, which tends to validate our initial choice to allow them.  We are seeing a fair amount of spam, but it is well taken care of by our moderation system.

The pace of contribution has increased by a factor of 2.5 between January and November.  Across the board, our contribution metrics are half of what Wikipedia’s were when Wikipedia had the same amount of monthly visits, but accelerating (see below graph)

Our goal for 2013 is to be even closer, and hopefully reach the same level of performance. We think we can achieve it as more media companies start to get involved with the site, either through direct contribution, or through our APIs.

Speaking of which, yes we have been actively building APIs in collaboration with a handful of new partners. We have two sets of API in the works, one for reading from our database (read only) and the other to allow contributions (read and write) from our partners directly into the database. Cloudbase3, started by former CNET and Yahoo! executive Patrick Houston is already live using our Read Only API.  Please let us know if you would like to participate in this program.

In 2012, from a business use standpoint, we saw three very distinct use cases.

Manage your digital presence: Right away, users started to leverage the platform to promote themselves. The majority of the usage has been in creating and updating the ‘general info’ and ‘people’ page sections while the most advanced users were taking advantage of links and videos to aggregate all of their available internet content. By doing so, they were able to create much richer and relevant pages and better understand their social media footprint. Between companies and people, we had more than 160,000 pages created on the platform in 2012.

Business Intelligence: In Q4, we launched a customized activity stream for our registered users so that they are alerted via email when one of the pages is updated with a newly issued press release, a newly hired executive, or when an interesting and relevant article has been written about their subjects of interest. Right now, we have more than 50,000 different companies, people and topics being followed at any given point, and are sending 30,000 emails on a monthly basis.

Subject Matter Expertise:  A few people have built more than a thousand topics to display their level of knowledge and share that knowledge with their network and new information seekers. It is very exciting to see those interesting topics being created on the platform, and adoption is growing.

For 2013, our plate is already full so stay tuned for more exciting news. We will advance all of our use cases one by one, and create mountains of interesting new content both from us and with our partners.

Again, we wish you all the best for 2013 and let us know if we can help you in any way.

Philippe Cases