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Social Media Lessons From National Signing Day

Social Media Lessons From National Signing Day. Never mind that I graduated from the University of Houston with a B.A. in Political Science or that my graduate alma mater (The George Washington University) does not play football. There is a lot those of us in private business can learn from recruiting high school football players. Here are a few brief lessons.

Whether recruiting football players or bank customers, let them know you appreciate them with every opportunity.
Whether recruiting football players or bank customers, let them know you appreciate them with every opportunity.
  1. Have fun. If you look at what the people at Houston did on Twitter the morning of signing day, it was clear they were having a good time.
  2. Ask your famous friends for favors. If you are lucky enough to have famous friends, and they really are your friends, they will not mind.
  3. Win. If you have won industry awards show them on line. People like to be associated with winners.
  4. Publicize testimonials. If you have customers who like and appreciate what you do for them, ask them to go on the record with their recommendations.
  5. Relate to the audience. In the case of head coach Tom Herman it was betting the team that if they won their conference championship he would get and wear a gold and diamond ‘grill’, a piece of jewelry popular with the young people.
  6. Think big and act big. Houston is not in a Power 5 conference and should not get the attention it does. But by ignoring the old stereotypes about the school they have completely repositioned themselves as the place to be.
  7. Ignore haters and trolls. We live in the age of the so called internet thought leader. One persons’ leader is the other persons’ troll.

To read the entire article, go here:

Houston Brought In Everyone From Paul Wall To J.J. Watt To Help With Signing Day

 

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Video For In Store Marketing Intelligence

In store video can provide a lot of intelligence.
In store video can provide a lot of intelligence.

Today’s retailers operate in global economy that affords little room for error.  Retailers must combat harsh challenges that include consolidation within the industry, price competition, and increasingly low profit margins.  As such, it is mission-critical for forward-thinking retail organizations to adopt technologies that help capture and analyze store activity patterns to increase conversion rates, improve operational efficiency and maximize customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Traditionally, retailers gained insight on customer shopping behaviors through loyalty cards and overall trends in POS transactions even tracking inventory. Although this information did provide insight about limited shopper demographics (cards) and buying habits, it did not provide much insight into the customer’s in-store behavior.

Understanding where customers spend most of their time in the store, what time of day they shop, how long they wait in lines and where they dwell (aisles within the store, promotion displays, service counters, etc.) can increase a retailer’s success.  Leveraging a video business intelligence solution helps retailers dramatically reduce their reliance on softer types of data, replacing it with real-world information. Using this data appropriately will help increase sales, improve the customer experience, and add to the benefits of shopping with you; people find what they want there.

Store Performance Management

Leveraging a business intelligence platform can help retailers make informed decisions with accurate people counts. In combination with POS data, in-store department managers, store managers, regional managers, and corporate management can use reliable metrics to benchmark store performance and identify trends early enough to capitalize on them. Retail organizations can also use shopper conversion rates to help compensate and incentivize their sales staff, hence cultivating a customer-centric culture.

Optimize Workforce

Without sufficient staff, retailers face dissatisfied customers and lost sales. At the same time, overstaffing increases operational costs. By capturing the full range of shopper traffic monitoring and customer behavior patterns, retailers can make better operational decisions for sales, marketing, staffing and scheduling. These robust applications can include analytics that analyze traffic flows and shopper movement, measure and predict queue lengths and wait times, monitor zone activity, and provide real-time reporting to ultimately help optimize workforce.

Improve Marketing and Merchandising Effectiveness

Retailers can use video business intelligence to measure the success rate of marketing and advertising promotions. You can use these insights to improve store layout, product placement and promotional displays with actual customer behavior; put the merchandise where the customers are and improve the bottom-line.

Designing Optimal Store Layouts

With a comprehensive data set around shopper traffic, directional analysis, in-store movement patterns, hot spots and dwell times, retailers are able to improve store layout and overall design. If a certain department is rarely visited, the retailers can modify the store layout in order to help drive shoppers to the area where they would not have otherwise visited. Retailers can also alter in-store orientation systems in order to make it easier for shoppers to find the department or the products they are looking for.

For piloting new promotions, store designs or additional product categories, retailers are utilizing video business intelligence data. By reviewing people count, in-store traffic patterns and dwell times around specific areas and products, retailers can take this knowledge and modify their promotion, design or product placement accordingly.

 

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Landing Pages Help Convert Prospects

Landing Pages Help Convert Prospects. 85639a_92fb3a3f32074e52a022bbed5df76e32

Landing pages.
Landing pages are a way for prospects to find and contact you, instead of the other way around.

This topic is a little involved, so please be patient. All of my readers are not seasoned marketers or public relations people. Many are just starting out and this, like most of my blog posts are written with them in mind.

The reason for a business of any type or size to be active on the web is to recruit more customers. If you run a political campaign, more donors and ultimately voters are the goal. For a non-profit charity, you want to recruit more contributors. Regardless of the enterprise, you need customers.

Awareness or Action

I get amused at marketers and promoters who say the goal of their campaign is to “raise awareness”. Let’s say that I am the chief marketer for the local Burger King franchise and my goal is to raise awareness of my restaurant. People driving past the Burger King and having seen my ads will be aware of the fact that we sell hamburgers.

By the measure of my stated goal, I’ve succeeded. But unless those same passersby come in and buy something, my employees and me will be in search of a new situation because we failed to ask for the order, literally. Awareness of our product is not enough, someone will have to take action, come inside and buy something. Awareness is only part of the challenge for marketers, getting someone to take action is the next and most important and that is where the “landing page” comes in. A landing page requires the one who lands to do something.

The Landing Page Simply Defined

Simply stated, a landing page is a web page that stands alone as it is made for a single purpose. A landing page is the first step for self-qualification of new customers as the person who comes to the landing page, wants to learn more about how you can help them accomplish their goals. For you, that purpose is to expand your mailing list and further introduce yourself and your capabilities to a prospect. You can also connect with them later with more promotional opportunities. For the moment, just collect some very basic information from them. Ask for a name and e-mail address. In exchange, the visitor will receive a free brochure, white paper, coupon, e-book or something else of value. For

There are several different types of landing pages. My personal favorite are the ones like the ones described above, that allow the visitor who lands there the opportunity to download a brochure, position paper, newsletter or some other data at no charge. E-books are also good. But like I said, the only thing to ask for in exchange is the name and e-mail address of the person who wants to download, possibly the company name but no more. The more personal data required, the more likely your prospect is to bail. So ask for the minimum. In exchange, the prospect receives something free, but also valuable.

What To Offer

You now have something of value, a lead. Not only a lead, but one where the individual freely self-nominated himself. Better still, you attract a certain type of prospective customer based on what you offer. To stay with our Burger King example, you could offer a percent off coupon, or buy one get one free, introduce a new type of burger, remind prospects that Chicken Fries are back, etc.

The downloaded item in this instance compels the prospect to go inside the restaurant and buy something. So more than aware, he/she is now a customer. You can use this concept for any type of business. If you are a hair stylist, offer free coloring, if you own a driving range, offer a free bucket of balls. If you are in the chemical manufacturing industry, offer a sample of your new product or free consultation. The landing page is your catalyst for a longer conversation with a prospective customer.

Of course not all landing pages were created equal. And that leads (no pun intended) to the next thing for you to learn, testing.

Test Your Landing Pages

Use two different pages to see which one draws the best results. Known as A/B testing, the value proposition and free download typically remains the same. The layout and design of the landing page(s) is what differs. Try out different colors, photos, headlines, amount of text, and whatever else you can think of to test. I know there is a temptation to always use the color schemes and design that you like. That is not wrong all by itself, but remember that you are not a prospect. Be as dispassionate as you are able to be. The goal is to attract new prospects, not be “right”. Here is an example or two.

Not The Power Of Rational Decision Making

I quoted a job for redoing a series of brochures and signage for a company. The owner really liked purple and so everything was purple. The type and print, was all done in purple. The frames around photos were purple and he used gradients of, you guessed it, purple, on his brochures and other materials. It was like a purple nightmare.

I suggested he make his materials more reader friendly by using black type on white backgrounds and reserve purple as a highlight and way to add contrast. I further suggested A/B testing, just to make sure that we were on the right track and he would see that the more professionally designed materials would lead to more customers over the power of all that purple. After all, the numbers never lie. Just follow the data and he would of course make a rational choice, right? Not right. My suggestions were ignored and I did not get the job. I feel badly for the poor guy though, somewhere sobbing into a big purple pillow, on the road to ruin. Here is another example.

I was working in a very challenging place where one of the marketing staff members had worked there for 16 years. Let’s call her “Stacie”. She had no marketing education or experience other than what she had always done at this place and was left to pretty much whatever she wanted. Getting a new boss (me) was not welcomed. Neither was the idea of doing anything differently.

I thought that a way to persuade her to a different point of view was to test her ideas against some others. Stacie would then see that there was a different and even better way to do things and rationally decide to change. You can guess the end. Instead of embracing the better way of doing things, all she did was get mad and cling to her ideas with more fervor. Don’t be like Stacie or purple man. Be open to new ideas and test them to see if in addition to being different they might also be better.

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Nine Ways Media Monitoring Gets Better

Nine Ways Media Monitoring Gets Better.

Be aware of the ways to track mentions of you and your organization on line. It matters.
Be aware of the ways to track mentions of you and your organization on line. It matters.

There’s this joke that says what other people say about you is none of your business. It’s not terribly funny nor is it true by any stretch. You are a brand. That’s right, you. Whether you are an employee, business owner, wannabe business owner, or fledgling blogger, your reputation on-line will help to make or break your brand. Worse, employers are monitoring what you say or said on line. I am not aware of anyone ever being rewarded for a positive post about an employer. They are not watching to catch you doing something nice.

Similarly, most customers who post reviews on line are not inspired to do so because of overwhelmingly wonderful treatment or service. Our species is wired to focus on the negatives, the failures, goofs and stumbles that should not characterize any of us but will unless we pay attention. If you want the web to paint an accurate portrait of who you really are, it is important that you be aware of what’s out there.

Articles written by or about you, blog posts, social media or on line reviews all combine together and spill out onto the screen as a reputation. Your reputation! And since you cannot control much of what gets said about you online it’s a good idea to monitor and respond to things that are said about you, your products and/or services.

  1. Brand Yourself. I like Brand Yourself (http://brandyourself.com/) and I use it myself. They give me the option of doing things with the tool myself or paying for expertise when needed. It’s easy to use and if nothing else shows what’s out there whether good or bad.
  2. Google Alerts. Enter your name, your company name into Google Alerts (https://www.google.com/alerts) and it will sort, sift, collate and send you what you want and need to know. Just put the name of the company and any other key words and receive e-mail alerts. The best part is that there is no charge for this.
  3. Social Mention. A very cool way to see what’s on line and in social media. Social Mention (http://www.socialmention.com) is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user-generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc.
  4. Hootesuite (https://hootsuite.com) offers business a way to track mentions on social media in places like Face Book, Twitter, Google Plus, Linked In and others. To leverage all of the tools on here there is a fee, but it is very reasonable.
  5. A more expensive tool, but Trackur (http://www.trackur.com) offers a lot more in terms of value and capability. In addition to monitoring mentions, it has a social analytics dashboard that provides knowing about trends and sentiments as expressed on line.
  6. As the name implies, Reputology (https://www.reputology.com) the study of your reputation. This tool is directed at customer reviews. It monitors and manages online reviews by providing alerts, dashboards, and analytics. In addition, the tool includes a summary report to help you make decisions based on consumer feedback. It integrates with Hootsuite and other social media management tools. It is not free, but certainly valuable.
  7. Do you own a franchise business or work in marketing or management for one? Consider Chatmeter (http://www.chatmeter.com). It provides reviews, social media, listing accuracy and search rankings for multiple stores. Pricing varies for and gets steep for chains with over 20 outlets.
  8. Review Concierge. Are you a medical doctor or do you run a medical practice? With Review Concierge (https://reviewconcierge.com), you can monitor 75 web sites where patients can read reviews by other patients. Doctors go to school a lot, so Review Concierge gives a weekly report card. I think the people who work in a doctors office are the ones who will create the most trouble for a physician. This is a good tool for you, doctor.
  9. Want to know every time someone says something about you? Sure there’s a fee, but Socialdraft (http://socialdraft.com) sends real-time notifications when a business is mentioned on the web or in social media. Monitoring the general social media sites, it also scans niche sites that specialize in restaurants, travel, medical, legal, and real estate industries.

Do you need more to do? Probably not, but this is important. What other people say about you is your business.

 

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Easy WordPress SEO For Non Computer People

If you are like me you want to be able to use your blog and/or web presence to promote yourself, your products and services. The only challenge is that you do not have any background or experience with computers, writing code or anything technical to accomplish this. Yes, you can type and send e-mail and post on Face Book but that’s pretty much it. You can spell “SEO” which is short for Search Engine Optimization, and you know that whatever it is you need some. Welcome to my world.

SEO tactics even people who are not computer programmers can do.
SEO tactics even people who are not computer programmers can do.

The goal for optimizing your blog is to make it stand out or at least easy to find. That is what SEO does and why it is important.

Since I use WordPress like over 50 million other people, this article is directed for us. I have read that WordPress is reasonably well optimized but there are still some things that a novice can do.

  1. Keep posting. Writing and posting something interesting and unique as often as you are able to is the best way to get noticed.
  2. Use more images. I am not very good at this, particularly since there are so few images that help communicate “blogging” or “marketing”. But if your blog is about horses, plumbing or go-carts you have a better or at least more reasonable chance of taking or finding good photos.
  3. Give your photos a good name. And by photos I mean image files. Google uses images to calculate relevance. So if your photo is of a red go-cart, name the file “red go cart”.
  4. Exchange backlinks. Backlinks are also known as incoming links, inlinks or inward links. The number of inbound links is significant as it signals how important or popular your site it. Avoid the temptation to use “linkspam”, just putting links to your site everywhere regardless of the context. It’s not the way to attract the right audience. Link farms are another scheme for artificially boosting SEO and page ranks. As programmers become better at seeing which links are the most relevant, the likelihood that you will be punished or even banned by the search engines increases. Honesty is the best policy and hard work is its own reward. You will be rewarded by working hard to write and post something new every day or more if you are able.
  5. Use short permalinks and keywords. A permalink is the URL address for individual posts in your blog. The first 4 words in a link are the ones that are most important. So if your website address is http://wordpress.yourname/websitename/host/112, etc. shorten it. The address for this blog is mediandpublicrelations.com. Simple is good.
  6. Highlight important words, titles and subtitles of an article or important sentences. Use the <strong> command too, but don’t overdue it.
  7. Avoid the use of Flash. It is like invisible ink to search engines.
  8. Plug Ins. Say hello to easy. Use one of the dozens that WordPress makes available like Yoast. There are others you can buy. I’m going to try out 1clickwpseo and see what it does. I will let you know.

Content is king and queen. There are over 200 search criteria for Google alone including things like how old your site it, meta description and use of tags, how active your blog or site is, etc. Follow the instructions o WordPress and get the most out of what is already available and don’t sweat it too much or grow impatient and try “black hat” shortcuts. Keep writing, podcasting and posting. The audience will find you and so will all the Googlebots

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Five Ideas: Get Paid Writing Blogs/Podcasts

Podcasts create another opportunity to reach the audience and inform them about your expertise.
Five Ideas: Get Paid Writing Blogs/Podcasts. Podcasts create another opportunity to reach the audience and inform them about your expertise.

Five Ideas: Get Paid Writing Blogs/Podcasts. At some point whether blogging, podcasting, or posting videos on You Tube you will want to get paid. Sure there are people who will do these things simply for the love of it and we love them for being so generous. But most folks can ill-afford to make a commitment like this. The rest of us need to get paid.

Will you start your blog or podcast and have people lined up to sponsor you? No. If you work diligently for 6 months to a year, posting new, original material 5 days a week do you have a chance? Yes. Or maybe.

Advertisers want the same thing you do, page views or downloads from people who are involved with you. You could have guessed that, but what else? What about conversations about you on your social media pages? Could a sponsor benefit from being a topic of a post on your Face Book page? Assuming that the comments were positive, sure. But in any event, you have to bring the numbers.

Whether Twitter followers or downloads, advertisers want entrée to your audience. If your audience numbers in the dozens it is unlikely to attract a sponsor. So spend your time building an audience. The best way to do that is to be consistent with original content that is new or at least a new twist on something.

Traffic And How Much Is Enough?

So how do you know that you have “enough” of an audience to merit ads? Go to one of several ranking systems. The best ones are Google Page Rank (http://google.about.com/od/searchengineoptimization/a/pagerankexplain.htm) and Alexa (http://www.alexa.com).

Of course, raw numbers do not always tell the whole story. If you work in a niche that is very specialized you are not going to have millions of followers. My page on called www.collectorsshow.net attracts a lot of views from people who collect napkins. That is because I did a show earlier this year about that topic and they come to the site to listen to and read about napkin collecting. This fits that “small niche” category. While the number of these people ranks in the hundreds, most of them visited my site. Which brings me to the stat or measure that matters the most and that is engagement.

Engagement is the Best stat for a Blog or Podcast Sponsor

The most important stat to a potential podcast or blog sponsor is your influence. How engaged is your audience? Do they take action on your recommendations? This matters more to an advertiser than impression numbers, because they’ll not renew an advertising contract, even to a big audience, if the audience isn’t taking action (converting). The more likely your audience is to take action, the more valuable they are to a sponsor.

I was listening to Michael Berry on KTRH-AM in Houston. He mentioned that he liked a hat from a feed store called A & P Feed and talked about it on the air. Later in the broadcast, and probably not coincidentally, he received an e-mail from the owner who thanked him for the mention and told him about a big order he received as a result. If the people you attract are more followers than casual listeners, you can attract advertisers.

A good way to measure this for a podcast is by recommending relevant free or premium resources (maybe even an affiliate) with a trackable link, like from Pretty Link Pro or Better Links Pro. An affiliate will allow you to track both how many people visited through your link and—more importantly—how many people purchased.

Recruiting Advertisers

So assuming you have the numbers to attract advertisers, here are some suggestions to actually attract them.

  1. Figure out ways to get potential advertisers involved. Of course there are banner ads and payment for click-throughs. But what about polls? A sponsored poll or quiz will engage the sponsor and the people who participate. The results of the poll create a posting opportunity and even a news release possibility. You can offer all of these as a package to a potential advertiser as a value added benefit of working with you.
  2. Give something away. A giveaway of a sponsors’ product will also involve the audience and give you the chance to talk/write about the product in your blog or podcast. Once you determine the winner, interview him/her about the product and how cool it was to win. Beyond the obvious, you also just provided your potential sponsor with a testimonial. If you gave something away from them once a week you deliver 52 testimonials. For merchants of any type, there are few things better than unscripted praise from an end-user.
  3. Guest posts and interviews. Inviting the potential sponsor to be on the program or blog is a good idea because it will show them how professional you are and what is possible through further, albeit paid, involvement.
  4. Adsense and Amazon Affiliate programs. These two companies specialize in blog advertising and are 2 of the leaders. But there are others and you will want to research the ones that are the best fit for you.
  5. Podcast networks such as Mevio, Podtrac, and Wizzard Media welcome any podcaster that has an audience, because that means they can sell advertising against it. The networks collect shows, categorize them, and sell advertising on a CPM (cost per thousand) or CPA (cost per action) basis. Adam Curry, former MTV VJ, podcasting pioneer, and President of Mevio (interview), is looking for podcast producers that know their audience and can motivate them. Using either their show programming or social media, podcast producers promote show-specific coupon codes for their sponsors. Every time one is used, the podcaster gets paid. Of their network of 15,000 podcasters, Curry said he has three podcasters that will make between $500,000 to $1,000,000 this year.

Let me say, that this is not easy. It is anything but easy. As I have written before, you need to approach this like a job, you show up every day and post. You have to commit. I spend 2-3 hours a day researching and writing each one of the se posts. So on top of a 40-hour work week and everything else that is involved, add another 2 days to the week. Without a commitment, you have no chance. Even with a solid commitment, it will be incredibly challenging. I wish you well in your pursuit.

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Ten Reasons/Ways Using The Web For Business Promotion

Ten Reasons/Ways Using The Web For Business Promotion. Content Marketing and Public Relations are complimentary parts of your overall marketing efforts.
Content Marketing and Public Relations are complimentary parts of your overall marketing efforts.

Ten Reasons/Ways Using The Web For Business Promotion. I recently had a conversation with a local merchant who did not believe that his business would benefit from a web site. He did not have one and had no plans to start. According to him, his was a local concern and “everyone knows about us.” He was not interested in selling to people outside of his local area. He did not have the skills to set up a web site, and was not keen to hire anyone to do it for him. Granted, he did have an established trade and an excellent location. He also had a good reputation and made a good living. Of course it was his choice to have a web site or not, and who am I to insist that he get one?

What might I say to him that would be helpful?

  1. Would you like to have more money? There is only one right answer. Of course you would. And if you have a good bit of money already, couldn’t you use more?
  2. Everyone does not know you. And even if at some point “everyone” had passed by or even went inside the building, they need reminding about who you are and what you do and how “everyone” could benefit from doing business with you. Smart promoters promote all the time. The reason I can sing the “Classic Chevrolet” radio jingle is because I hear it all the time. Frequency of exposure to your business, cause or candidacy is a key to success. There was a kind of smugness associated with the remark about how “everyone” knew him that put me off. It reminded me of my time in the specialty chemical manufacturing business when I heard the same thing from a product manager. He did not see any benefit to running advertisements in trade magazines and insisted that “everyone knows who we are”. After the first ad ran and there were over 1,100 inquiries, the discussion about how everyone knew us ceased.
  3. The web is a reference tool. In the old days, people went to the Yellow Pages or the local newspaper to do research on local products and services. Now, they go to Google. A local merchant or professional can go to Google Maps, click the link that says, “put your business on Google Maps” and be a couple of clicks away from literally putting your business on the map. Yahoo and Bing also have similar capability. Don’t ignore them. Now that you have established a web presence, you can do a few other things.
  4. Claim credit for the good you do. Plenty of local merchants perform acts of charity. They do not do it for reputation building or credit, but simply because they are generous people who want to give back. Commendable! But there is nothing wrong with asking the local charity, which mentioned you on their web site, and asking for a link back to your site. It does not cost anything. And if you feel embarrassed about taking credit, get over it. Your competitors are doing it and they are taking money away from you and your family and your employees. It’s marketing for goodness sakes.
  5. Ask for reviews. You have regular customers who come inside and buy things all the time. Ask them to go on line and write a review. This is much like “word of mouth” but the reach goes far beyond the circle of acquaintance your customer has.
  6. List your memberships. If you are a member of the local chamber of commerce, say so and list a link back to their web page. And while you are at it, make sure they have a link to your new web site on their page!
  7. Put your web address on your business card. Some people might think this goes without saying. Does it? Can I see your card? Just checking.
  8. Start a social network for your business. What is it about local merchants who are reluctant to post on Twitter or have a Face Book page for a business? I marvel at the reticence of so many people to tell others about what they do, never mind how much their neighbors will benefit. I patronize locally owned businesses because these folks are my neighbors. I often pay more because I prefer to support local merchants. I’ve got nothing against national chains, but there is something about the small businessman or woman that makes this country great. Give others like me the chance to hand over our money by promoting yourself via social media.
  9. Share your expertise. Another reason to spend time with local business owners is their expertise. I knew a couple of guys who owned a small fishing equipment shop. They were avid anglers and knew everything there was to know about fishing inside and out. People who had bought their equipment somewhere else would come to them for advise. Eventually, they went out of business. Not because of a lack of know how, but because they did not promote their know-how as part of their unique abilities. The web is the place to do this.
  10. Write and post a short story about how you helped someone. You do not have to name anyone by name, just describe the circumstances and how you were able to lend assistance. Write and post enough of these and pretty soon you have a blog.

So if you are a local merchant in a traditional “brick and mortar” building don’t dismiss the web as a place to be seen. Like I said earlier, your competitors are all on line and they are taking money away from you and your children.

 

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Start A Blog To Share Information Freely And Often

Start A Blog To Share Information Freely And Often.

Start A Blog To Share Information Freely And Often
Start A Blog To Share Information Freely And Often. Like owning your own media outlet because you do.

Why should you start a blog? Easy. The more information you can share about you, your company and what it can offer, the more you are seen as an expert. Expertise will command share of mind. And when your blog readers need some of what you have to offer, they will call you. A blog is a way to gain trust and trust is a sure pathway to more customers.

In the not too distant past, blogs and bloggers were granted the same credibility as talk radio callers. No more. Blogs provide information and news to professionals, entrepreneurs, devotees and hobbyists of the even the most narrow interests. You can even get paid to write a blog! Did anyone ever get paid to call a talk show? Doubtful.

Beyond mere opinion and blather, the blog is now an important communications tool. Blogs contribute to public relations, SEO and content marketing efforts. A blog is a way for individuals with expertise to communicate directly to others who are interested and can benefit from their knowledge. Reading a blog is free. There may be blogs that require a subscription, sure. But for me, the best bloggers are the ones who share information with their followers freely and often. The more expertise you can share freely the more credibility you will have. And there is the rub.

Not everyone will share the view that information and know-how need to be shared at no cost. After all, what if the competition reads this? Our competitors will know what we know, won’t they?

Relax. Your competitors already know what you know. They have and have always had a folder marked “competitive information” and no doubt you have one with the same exact title. You cannot deprive your competitors of knowledge about you, your business, products or services. They have a friend who works for your customer who gave them your letter, brochure, presentation, or offer letter. One of the office staff went to your web site and requested a sample, called your help line, and read every word of the FAQ. They went to your presentation at the tradeshow and sat at the table where all your employees were clustered and listened to every word. Keep a secret? Not likely.

When you try and keep your secrets, the people you deprive of your knowledge are those who could potentially become customers. This will seem counterintuitive to some. After all, if we build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to our door, right? Maybe and I don’t know but probably not.

I really dislike the “better mousetrap” analogy. If you build a better mousetrap and refuse to promote it, the only beings that learn about it are the mice that live(d) near where you live. Lacking promotion in the form of a blog about better ways to eliminate them, other luckier mice will continue to live free, tease cats, and snack on cheese. One might even develop super powers.

When I started writing this blog and posting it in places where it would get noticed, I made a commitment. I decided to treat blogging like I would any commitment. I was going to devote time and effort to it. I was going to treat my blog like a job and was going to share everything I knew about promoting businesses, causes and candidates as often as I was able. The returns to me are remarkable. Every bit of effort contributed to this blog is returned 10 times over.

So have no fear of blogging or giving freely. The returns are amazing.

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Seven Ways To Leverage News For Blogs

Blogs are the basis of many content marketing strategies.
Blogs are the basis of many content marketing strategies.

Seven Ways To Leverage News For Blogs. One of the reasons people feel intimidated by blogging is because they’re afraid of running out of new topics to write about. Even if you only planned to post once a week, you’d still have to come up with fifty-two ideas. Intimidating? Probably, at least it is for me. And do not think that you can take a bunch of news articles, plunk them on your site and call it a blog. But there is plenty you can do with that news to populate your blog.

Yes, there is likely news about your area of interest that others will be interested in seeing. News is good. I’m not talking about scooping the wire services or breaking a story. More like taking news from the world of whatever you write about and injecting your insight. The first blog to register about an issue will get linked, bring traffic, and get you labeled a “thought leader” along with recognition for how good your site it.

I wrote a post on my blog The Collectors Show (www.collectorsshow.net) about how a well known actor had lost a fortune collecting Beany Babies. There was an 8 minute video about him and I included a link to that in my post. My site traffic exploded one day and I could not figure out why. I found that my blog about Beanies had been posted on a Reddit site about Beanies and the world was making its way to my blog. Cool!

But why should they read wire copy on your blog? The reason for people to come to your blog is to read what you have to say. Because what really matters about your blog is you. With that in mind, here are a few tips:

  1. Be original. Instead of reposting news, add your opinion about it. No one is interested in “reconstituted” news but will be interested in seeing what you think, questions you have and what the moral of the story is as told through your eyes.
  2. Don’t just copy. Similar to being original, but with a few more specifics. It makes me mad to see when someone lifts my copy, puts it on their site and calls it their own. You would be similarly annoyed. But, if you want to use someone else’s material, use quotes and attribution. Instead of ripping someone off and making them mad, they will feel flattered that you thought enough of them to use and cite them.
  3. Find a news story about your area and blog about it. Tell the readers why you chose this topic, why it is important, a point of view or opinion from you that others could potentially benefit from or even disagree with. Advancing discourse and exchanging ideas are a big reason to blog. If you do not know enough about something to have opinions that draw attention, you should reconsider the idea of blogging.
  4. Be timely. According to my hero, David Meerman Scott, reacting quickly to breaking news in your blog or twitter may earn you the rewards of “a bonanza of media attention” which will also make you more credible, attract more readers etc.
  5. Be a news junkie. Listen to news stations and channels, interviews, podcasts and NPR. Read a daily newspaper. And get into feeds. Lots and lots of feeds. RSS feeds enable you to scan headlines from sources you would likely not come across in the course of a regular day.
  6. “Dig” a little deeper. To find the hidden, unique, cool, hip and trending use social bookmark sites like Digg. Social bookmarking is a service which allows individuals to share sites that they’ve bookmarked. Similar to services like Google Alerts, the key here is the keyword list you generate, as the right list will generate the right kind of news and sites that people are tagging and bookmarking. While many social bookmarking sites double as “news” sites, given how they popularize and list the top sites that have been bookmarked, just like Technorati, you can search for keywords, and follow the result in your feed reader. Unlike Technorati, however, it tracks more than blogs. And unlike Google Alerts, however, it tracks more than just the news. People will bookmark anything. Pictures, video, articles, corporate websites, frequently asked questions, and much more besides. Using a social bookmarking tool to help you discover “stuff” really broadens your search, but you’ll also be able to find a great many hidden gems, particularly if use your keywords intelligently.
  7. Don’t give up. Some days after I have read and listened to a whole lot of stuff with nothing obvious for me to write about something will come to mind. I think that is the definition of creativity. Your brain is working on sifting, collating, editing and reformatting information even when you are not aware of it. Trust your brain. It knows more than it’s saying. At least at the moment.

After all of this remember that the most important part of your blog is you.

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Six Things To Know About Adding A Podcast To Your Blog

Podcasts create another opportunity to reach the audience and inform them about your expertise.
Podcasts create another opportunity to reach the audience and inform them about your expertise.

Six Things To Know About Adding A Podcast To Your Blog. As part of the series on filling out the list of blog content techniques we come to podcasting. Hosting a podcast is like owning your radio station or at least having your own show. In my opinion podcasting opens up another channel of communications for you to reach people in your audience. And after all, sharing knowledge and expertise is the best reason to blog. Podcasts are for people who would rather listen in the car, while they are flying across the country, riding a bike or walking the dog. The podcast is perfect for people who are in a place where they are unable to read, or who simply prefer not to.

Match the audience and what they want. If they would rather listen than read, provide that opportunity.

More To It Than Most Will Tell You

Podcasting is not easy from a technical point of view, and if you do not have any experience with it, but want to do it anyway, it can be learned. I learned how in the days when podcasts were first becoming popular. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not technical. Putting together microphones, downloading recording software, recording phone calls, and getting it all synced together etc. were not easy. I say this because you should know what you are getting into. So many blogs and articles will tell you that things like this are easy. More often than not, they are selling you something and do not want you to know that it is more involved and will take time to set up and then learn. I’ve done hundreds of podcasts and can tell you from experience that it is challenging. Forewarned is forearmed. Here are other details to consider when contemplating a podcast.

  1. If you are serious about starting a podcast do not rely on the built in microphone that came with your computer. The sound quality is not on a par with anything that will make you proud. Buy the best microphone you can afford. If it is priced under $100.00 then it is probably not the quality you need. As with everything you will get what you pay for, microphones are no different. Other podcasters will have high production values. You are competing with them for listeners. If the quality of your sound is not any good, you will have a difficult time attracting and retaining audience members.
  2. Phone or Skype? I have a separate phone line for making calls to interview people for my podcasts. It requires special phone connections, a USB audio interface and a digital PBX along with the microphone, headphones and recording software. In the early days of podcasting this was the only option. It worked, but was a pain. Even with a land line the sound quality was not always broadcast quality. Thank goodness for Skype. I do not remember how I learned that I could record phone conversations over Skype, but it was a real blessing. The sound is always excellent and the recording feature comes with it. Skype is not free, but it is priced very reasonably. After I started recording interviews with Skype, I spent almost no time editing or making changes to sound quality with my editing software. The main thing I have to monitor are the sound levels, is it too loud or too soft, and that is relatively easy to manage.
  3. Monologue or Interview? Some podcasters are very good at presenting information without anyone else around but most are not. So I recommend getting someone else to talk to while recording, especially if you are new to the practice. There are lots of reasons, but the main one is that you will be tempted to read a script. Bad idea. Reading sounds terrible over the radio or a podcast. You want your content to sound conversational, so to have that tone you may need to get someone to have that conversation with. Ask a friend or even your spouse or significant other to partner with you. If that is not doable for you, book guests to interview. Find experts in the field and invite them to participate in a friendly interview. Take lots of time to practice. Listen to radio talk shows and other podcasts to get a feel for how to do this. Broadcasting is a profession that requires training and practice. No one just sits down in front of a microphone for the first time and spins audio gold.
  4. You will need software to edit and convert your recordings. I use Wavepad. It is relatively simple to use, compared to other software that is really meant for studio professionals. Garage Band, the Apple users will at least have seen on the toolbar, is also a possibility but you cannot save files in MP3 format very easily. The same is true for a software called Audacity. To be honest, I find Wavepad easier to use than Garage Band. Garage Band is really for recording music and different instruments on separate tracks. At most, you will have 2 tracks to edit, you and the person you interview. I’ve tried several and recommend Wavepad. As mentioned above, save your files as MP3’s as that is the format most use to podcasting.
  5. Add the final MP3 to your website. Here is where it gets trickier. For this blog and others I manage, we use WordPress. If you do not use WordPress, then I am not sure what to tell you. But if you are using WordPress, go to your dashboard, and click “Categories” and then add one called “Podcast”. Alternatively, you can wait until you write your first post containing a podcast file and then add it by clicking “Add New Category” on the right of the post area.
  6. Adding your Podcast to iTunes. Once you have created and posted you podcast to your site and published it, you are ready to put it on iTunes. I found this very difficult, though like I said earlier I am not technical. You need your podcast to be on a RSS Feed. “RSS” stands for “really simple syndication” and unless you have this capability, you will not be able to send it to iTunes. I use Feedburner, from Google but there are bound to be other, better platforms. Here is a link to the support in WordPress for podcasting: https://en.support.wordpress.com/audio/podcasting/

If you have the savvy and patience to get through the technical parts or the resources to hire someone to do it for you, the podcast is an excellent communications tool that will compliment your blog content and attract more people to you. To hear a podcast I do, go to iTunes and listen to The Collectors Show. I learned all this the hard way. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.