Toby Bloomberg’s, begun in 2004, is among the oldest sustained business blogs. An experienced marketer for businesses and nonprofits, Toby has an active consulting practice and is a frequent speaker on social marketing and other marketing topics.
The interview was conducted by Don Akchin, a principal ofand a frequent contributor to the .
MKC: How did the concept for Diva Marketing originate?
Toby: Let me tell you my back story. It’s a little odd. I was working with small businesses and some nonprofits back in the late ‘90s, early 2000s. Those little businesses and tiny nonprofits couldn’t afford a web presence, because at that point it was still pretty expensive, but I came across something called a blog and it was free from Blogger. I started incorporating that into my materials. A friend said, ‘You can’t talk about blogs, Toby, until you’re actually in the space doing it,’ and I thought he was absolutely nuts. At the same time I’d been writing this column called “Diva Marketing” for an online publication, where the voice was sort of funky and took information about marketing and put it in a fun, playful way. I was looking for a home for that column because the online pub had closed, so I thought, well, I’ll build my blog on that concept because maybe my friend had a point. I thought that I was never going to run Diva Marketing more than a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months, and then I’d kill it because I had a website, I didn’t need a blog. So that’s how it came about.
MKC: So where does the voice come from? Are you channeling Fran Drescher? Bette Midler?
Toby: (chuckles) I think we’re just channeling fun. To make it a little modern, I throw in the word “girlfriends” a lot, or I talk shoes as an analogy, or I talk about appletinis. The funny thing is, it resonates with women of all ages, and men like it because the content is valid. It’s getting picked up by a lot of young women, and women who are in MBA classes or PR classes. But even my business-to-business clients tend to enjoy it – I think maybe because I step outside the box and do things they can’t do in their own corporate blogs.
MKC: I noticed you are also into blog talk radio. How did that happen, and how has that worked?
Toby: Blog Talk Radio has been great. It’s given me another piece of content. It’s given me a way to meet people and engage with thought leaders that I might not have otherwise come in contact with. Not only do I conduct the show, but I ask the guests if they would provide tips on what we’re talking about. I always include at least two people. The show becomes a conversation among at least three people, it’s not a straight interview. Then I have audio content and I have additional links and content included on Diva Marketing. Podcast guests usually post and tweet out. It’s a nice way to extend the visibility.
MKC: Do you find people are checking that out on your site?
Toby: Yes, they do. And because there is text, the post is picked up by the search engines, whereas if it was just a link to an audio it wouldn’t.
MKC: Something in one of your blog posts that I wanted to follow up on is what you call “corner grocery store relationships.” Can you tell me what that’s about?
Toby: It means building relationships between the brand, the people behind the brand, and your customers – which is what social media is all about – but then going a step further, it’s being involved in the community of your customers. I call it a corner grocery store relationship because when I was a little girl, my grandmother used to take me shopping to all the little bakeries and green grocers. That’s the way it was back in the day. Everybody knew everybody else. Not only did the baker know who my grandmother was, her children attended the same school as my mom and her siblings. My grandmother and the baker probably went to PTA meetings together, they probably attended shul [synagogue] together. They were part of the same community. My grandmother knew the baker and the baker knew her beyond just a purchase.
MKC: How does that apply to your clients or to social media?
Toby: One way to step into social media is to provide content – a blog post, a tweet, a podcast – and send it outbound. But if you’re only sending out content, and you’re only engaging with the people who comment back to you, you’re still living isolated from the larger community. You have to step into the space and engage with your customers, with your peers. You might be posting comments on somebody else’s blog, you might be retweeting somebody else’s tweet that isn’t part of your stream necessarily, you may be reading somebody else’s LinkedIn profile page. You’re stepping out and you’re engaged in a larger community beyond your customers.
MKC: It sounds very difficult.
Toby: No! It’s the easiest part of it. In social media it’s really easy to drop in on conversations. The rules of networking are different in social media than offline. As long as you understand what the conversation is about, and understand the culture of that genre, you can just jump right in. You don’t need a visual cue, you don’t need an invitation.
MKC: What are your nonprofit clients’ and readers’ most pressing issues today?
Toby: It’s funny, it’s the same issues that are across the board in every single business, and that’s time and resources. Small businesses and nonprofits run on such tight budgets that sometimes staffing is very dear, so it’s having time to actually put social marketing in place. And then there’s a fear factor involved: ‘What if somebody says something bad about us? How do we control that? How do we join back in that conversation?’
MKC: Are there other issues you think they should be concerned about?
Toby: Yes. First, the people within nonprofits are usually fabulous and passionate and they so believe in what they’re doing. Passion is one of the things that make social media tick. If you don’t have passion for what you’re doing, you’re not going to sustain it over the long term. Social Media is not a one-shot deal like an ad or a PR release. For the most part, social media is a long-term commitment. So nonprofits usually have that passion, and it drives their outbound content. But more and more I see nonprofits talking about themselves. Often their streams are about me me me me me. It’s not about you. And that’s the difference again between social media and traditional marketing: The customer is always at the center. So I encourage nonprofits to step out of the ‘me’ box, and to look for other organizations, their donors, their volunteers, or even their staff members, who can provide content and information that’s not directly related to the organization but does fit the organization’s mission. For instance, there might be somebody writing an article about what organizations like yours do. Link to that article. That does a couple things: it goes back to the corner grocery store relationship concept, gives you a bigger audience, brings you into a larger community. It’s refreshing for your community to be exposed to other like-minded people in addition to the brand’s point of view.
MKC: Are divas born or are they made?
Toby: I think every woman has a little bit of diva in her. So I think you’re born with it. How you project it and how you bring it out and make it shine is something you learn your whole life long. Every single little girl is a diva.
Guest blogger Don Akchin writes frequently about marketing and philanthropy at donakchin.com.
This interview series is produced with the generous support of the Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Zone.