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43 How and Why I Still Devour Blogs

2011 marks my eighth year of blogging. In that time I’ve logged over 2500 blog posts, acquired around 143,000 subscribers and had this blog named by the likes of Forbes magazine as their favorite for both marketing and small business.

reading blogs

Image alui0000 via flickr

If this asset has delivered any measure of success I can tell you that the primary reason is that in that same time I’ve also read some or all of approximately 120,000 blog posts written by others.

I’ve stated repeatedly that anyone that wants to start a blog, get better at blogging or make their blog a serious marketing tool for their business must first and foremost get very good at reading blogs.

Why I devour blogs

Learn how to blog – Any writing course you’ll ever take will tell you that great writers read a ton. Reading how others blog, what they blog about and even how they interact with their community is an essential step for anyone that is serious about using this tool. I get countless ideas for ways to say things and cover ideas that might never bubble up without reading other blogs. I get ideas for what software to use, what plugins work well and how to promote and display content in ways that make it more valuable to readers.

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45 Profiting From Other People's Content

newsDon’t be alarmed by that title – I’m not talking about stealing content for gain, I’m talking about adding the filtering and aggregating of content to your content consumption, creation and sharing routine.

Pretty much everyone has bought into the idea that they need to produce lots of valuable content in order to build the trust and search engine eyes of today’s online prospect. One way to supplement your content strategy while still providing lots of value, is to get good at finding and filtering other people’s content that your prospects and customers will find useful as well. (Done right, the “other people” will thank you for giving a wider audience to their content)

It should go without saying that giving credit to the original source and full attribution to the author when appropriate is a must.

There are a number of ways to think about this idea

Make yourself a better resource

Creating a habit of filtering content related to your industry, products, competitors and customers will make you better at what you do, allow you to keep up with trends and give you data to help you build deeper relationships with customers.

Share content to draw attention

Pointing out useful resources and good finds is a great way to build your social media and blog followings. Consistently sharing relevant links and sharing them on Twitter is a strategy that many find helps them be seen as follow worthy. Creating a once a week blog post roundup of good stuff is a great way to add content and keep readers engaged.

Filter personalized content

A more advanced strategy is to use your filter skills to create your own industry research briefs. If you specialize in several market niches you can create laser specific new pages and email newsletter roundups that feature the best of what you find each week. You can even use RSS technology to deliver dynamically changing web content password protected for your best clients.

Some of my favorite tools for finding other people’s content

AllTop – This site collects what it believes is the all the top blog content on a large number of topics and displays the last posts from each of these sources. This should be a daily stop for most. You can also build your own custom page here and use this as your RSS reader.

Delicious – This is my favorite bookmarking site. As I surf the web I mark sites here with tags that I define. It’s a place to categorize content, find new content and create custom RSS feeds of the content you find. If you are trying to create pages for customers you simply define a tag for the customer and then set-up an RSS feed that streams your hand picked content.

StumbleUpon – A service that helps you stumble upon content related to topics of interest that you define. Browser toolbar makes it very easy for you to go looking. I’ve used this technique on numerous occasions to find unique content to share on Twitter.

Business Exchange – Business Week’s community platform allows users to submit content related to specific topics.

Kurrently – Once of the first search engines that allows you to find what’s being said on Facebook

Twitter Advanced Search – Using the Twitter advanced search function you can set up a search like this: “small business” OR entrepreneur OR “start up” filter:links to bring you tweets for a specific topic that contain links. This is a great way to keep up with what’s being shared on a specific topic and since the search produces an RSS feed you can send it to your Google Reader or even publish it to an HTML page.

Google Reader – Subscribe to relevant industry blogs and have a library to read any time you have some down time. You can also set up a custom TwitterFeed to tweet your shared Google Reader items adding a hand selected way to share more content as you read.

Google Alerts – Create custom searches for things like brands, people and products and have any mentions delivered to your inbox or reader.

Google Insights for Search – With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties

Instapaper– A simple tool for saving web pages to read later but in a nice custom newspaper kind of format. Phone, Kindle and iPad apps available.

Feedburner – This is Google’s tool that allows you to enhance your RSS feeds. For purpose of this post I point to the Feed feature that makes it very easy for your to take and RSS feed and publish to a web page. Here’s an example where I’ve take hand selected delicious feed mention of my book, The Referral Engine, and streamed them on a web page. Bonus: Notice the RSS feed of Twitter mentions doing the same thing.

14 Word of Mouth Versus Key Influencers

This post is a special Make a Referral Week guest post featuring education on the subject of referrals and word of mouth marketing and making 1000 referrals to 1000 small businesses – check it out at Make a Referral Week 2010

This summary of an article from the December issue of the Journal of Advertising Research (good luck finding the issue online because I couldn’t) says that common word-of-mouth advertising by regular folks is more powerful than “key influencers.” Which is to say that sucking up to A-list bloggers may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. It seems like it’s bad day for celebrity endorsements.

James Coyle, assistant professor of marketing at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business, Elizabeth Lightfoot of CNET Networks, and Ted Smith and Amy Scott of MedTrackAlert conducted the study by surveying website visitors, conducting in-depth reviews, and analyzing website usage patterns. Said Coyle:

“We find that trying to track down key influencers, people who have extremely large social networks, is typically unnecessary and, more importantly, can actually limit a campaign or advertisement’s viral potential. Instead, marketers need to realize that the majority of their audience, not just the well-connected few, is eager and willing to pass along well-designed and relevant messages.”

I agree. I think that most key influencers are pompous, insecure jerks who take themselves way too seriously. And I say this knowing that you can rightfully accuse me of being one of them. The marketing lesson is this: Create something great, sow fields (not window boxes), “let a hundred flowers blossom,” and pray that “regular folks” will spread the word.

Guy Kawasaki is a managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm. Previously, he was an Apple Fellow at Apple Computer, Inc. Guy is the author of nine books including Reality Check, The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Selling the Dream, and The Macintosh Way.

71 What Small Business Needs to Do to Get Ready for Mobile Marketing Now

We’ve been talking about the coming of mobile marketing for a long time now. I remember talking about it when I was doing work for one of first PCS carriers, Aerial Communications (now owned by T-Mobile), back in 1995 of so.mobile version of blog

Mobile marketing has taken far longer to evolve than people imagined, but I believe we are on the doorstep of an evolution in marketing that will rival social media in terms of impact.

First off, what is mobile marketing really? To me it’s not a hot trend driven by some new killer technology so much as a realization of the fact that more people have mobile devices than land lines and those devices have evolved to contain the power of usability of multiple devices, including desktop computers. According to industry source dotMobi four mobile devices are purchased today for every personal computer purchased.

My current mobile device is a phone, email client, web browser, digital camera, video camera, digital recorder, music player, alarm clock, navigation system, compass, calendar, to-do list, flashlight, book reader, hard drive, guitar tuner, and four-track recorder.

People are using mobile devices for everything, including surfing and shopping for local businesses, products, and services. Marketers must now come to grips with the inclusion of this device as one of the considerations whether it’s to broadcast or be found.

In this coming year the buzz around mobile marketing will get very strong as big brands rush to create text coupons, iPhone apps, and offerings based on your phone’s current location, but most small businesses can play in the mobile game by simply making these subtle changes.

Read and learn

The first step to getting involved in mobile marketing is getting educated. These sites are a great place to start.

Search Engines

Bookmark the mobile versions of the major search engines and start learning how differently they return and display search results. This is an important area as mobile SEO will differ for now from traditional SEO and understanding the differences is a part of the game.

Analytics

Mobile marketing may be more important to some industries or target market demographics initially than others. Restaurants and anyone trying to attract customers under 30, for example, have better jump in with both feet, but eventually the local accounting firm will need to master mobile marketing as well.

One of the first steps is to get a sense of how many people today are visiting and viewing your web sites using a mobile device. There are many things that can be done to address the needs of this audience once you start to learn about them.

Mobile web analytics packages have become popular in recent years.

  • Google Analytics – This free tool does the job to some degree if you set-up a customer segment for a list of mobile browsers or screen resolutions associated with mobile devices
  • Mobilytics is a free tool that can track mobile site traffic and web application usage.
  • Bango – a paid tool that boasts the best accuracy and is a leader in this rather new field

Mobile Friendly Sites

While mobile coupons and location based offers may seem far off for your local small business, the fact that a growing percentage of web surfers use their mobile devices to view your web site is here today. Creating a mobile version of your web site must become a priority.

There are a number of ways to address this task. You can work with a designer to create a smaller, simpler site that involves mobile standards or you can employ one of the growing number of bridge tools that can convert your site. For now, the mobile site converter tools look very promising as a way to get a mobile version of your site immediately and also include some of the necessary SEO, sitemaps and analytics at the same time.

  • MoFuse – this paid service can convert your entire site and put it on a custom domain such as m.ducttapemarketing.com. The good news is that you can get your blog converted for free.
  • MOBIFY – Another converter that offers a nice list of features for a monthly fee
  • EverywhereIGo – Nice set of features including form building and SMS functionality
  • WordPress Mobile Pack – Plugin that offers mobile functions for WordPress blogs

Tools like the ones listed above are a great solution right now, but I suspect, as mobile sites become the norm, web design firms and open source plugins will create mobile versions of sites as part of a standard package.

Auto detection – A word about mobile domains. Once you create a mobile site with its own URL you will want to make sure your server determines when a mobile browser in visiting your primary site URL and automatically redirects it to your mobile site. This way you won’t need to promote two separate URLs. This is standard in most mobile site converters, but you may need to add some code to the head of your main site to facilitate this step. Here’s some bonus reading on Mobile Site Detection.

Text Message Campaigns and Ads

Text messages get read – depending on the source, research suggests it’s over 90%. So, at some point, small businesses will need to embrace text message (also called SMS) campaigns. This new frontier will eventually suffer fatigue in ways the email enjoys currently, but done right, it is a powerful new tool. One very simple principle to get started – this is not another broadcast channel, it’s a way to offer useful information to people who want to receive it.

Choosing the right vendor and strategy is key to your success. Offering coupons, Text2Win, and SMS auto responder campaigns are a few simple ways to start building a Text Message database for future use.

  • Clickatell – whole business communications solutions using SMS
  • Mobivity – focuses on use of short code messaging – ie: Text DuctTape to win
  • Mobireply – very simple text message auto-responder
  • AdMob – offers mobile advertising opportunities for small businesses and web publishers

Mobile Apps for Smallest Business

Eventually you may feel the overwhelming need to create your very own mobile applications like those you see in the iTunes app store. You can hire a programmer to create a custom app or check out one of these low-cost simply builders. As users choose mobile apps over web based sites this is a tool that many businesses must consider even for content that is available on their main site.

Local Directories

One final thought and plea for you to get your company listed with the local search directories. A great deal of local search on the mobile device (ie: people looking for a local business to buy from) will happen around the local search directories that are powered with click to call, maps, directions, and coupons. This may be the highest priority if you haven’t yet claimed this real estate.

9 Alltop is Great Listening Device

AlltopBefore you blog, before you create a social media strategy of any sort, you need to listen. By listen I mean tune into the truckloads of relevant industry content that’s being put out there, filtered and aggregated for your review. If you’re going to do that you want to start by following some of the top blogs that pertain to your industry.

Alltop is a site that aggregates only the top (I know, that’s a bit subjective) blog posts from around the Internet and puts them in one place for you. They started out with some of the most natural categories such as marketing and small business but recently grew to add just about any category you might want to research – adoption to yoga.

This is a great pit stop on your way to tuning in, networking, getting smarter and discovering your own social media play.