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11 Content As an Essential Strategy

I’m pretty sure you’re sick of folks like me telling you that content is king and that you must produce reams of it in order to compete these days, so I won’t put you through any more of that kind of silly talk.

What I will say is that people today have come to expect to find information about any product, service, company, individual, cause or challenge they face by simply turning to the search engine of their choice. So, if they’re not finding content that you’ve produced that provides them that information, even if someone referred them directly to you, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be worthy of their trust.

I guess I am going to tell you that you’ve got to commit to content production, but you’ve got to make it a part of your overall strategy and you’ve got to produce content with an eye on doing two things – educating and building trust.

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8 Update of My Free Social Media Ebook

Social media and online marketing tools and tactics are an evolving lot. What was true last month may have a new twist this month.

social media for business

With that in mind I am happy to report that I’ve once again teamed up with the Microsoft Office Live Small Business team to bring you the revised and freshly updated – Let’s Talk: Social Media for Small Business.

While the reasons why a small business might jump into the social media fray have remained fundamentally the same, the how of it all has evolved substantially since version one. In this update, I’ve added a lot more information about Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and also included some thoughts on managing the social media beast, including my own social media system.

office live small businessThanks to Microsoft for making this free guide available again. You can grab a copy from the Office Live Small Business site or here.

13 Blog Post Optmization with SEO Blogger

keyword phrasesThe folks at Wordtracker, a paid service that is a great tool for discovering and choosing keyword phrases for your web site based on things such as search popularity and competition, pointed out a little Firefox add-on to me recently that some bloggers might find rather handy.

I’ve stated here often that one of the great benefits of blogging as a business tool is that search engines seem to rank blog content very highly. Given that fact, it’s also smart to write your blog content with both reader and spiders in mind. Using important keyword phases in things like your blog titles and blog text is a smart way to get the most bang for your blogging buck.

The Wordtracker Firefox add-on, called SEO Blogger, sits in the browser sidebar as you compose a blog post. Simply put in a keyword or phrase and the tool supplies you with related phrases and recent search volume so you can optimize your blog posts without ever leaving your posting screen. This can be a handy way to gain insight into the exact phrases people are using and even suggest new ways to say some of the things you write about often.

Here’s a quick four step tutorial on how SEO Blogger works.

Image credit: librarianishish

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17 How to Get Great Photos for Your Blog Posts

using flickr photosI like to use to use images to help illustrate the theme or point of a blog post. It’s a proven “best practice” in blogging and I highly recommend that every blogger do it.

One trick for easily finding and properly using images in your blog posts is to search the creative commons licensed photos on the photo sharing site Flickr.

So, what’s Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that has created a standardized set of tools for granting various levels of permission for people to use creative works freely. The author or in this case photographer of the works designates a type of license and then Flickr allows you to sort through and find only photos that are free to be used for blog posts. I choose to use photos that carry the attribution/share alike license. This means that I may use the image here as long as I attribute the image to the Flickr user’s account where I found it. Here’s Flickr’s description of CC licenses.

So, here’s how to find and grab great images.

  1. Surf to the Flickr Creative Commons Search Page – all images you search for here are free to use with proper attribution
  2. Search for a specific phrase or concept and choose the image that fits
  3. Click on “all sizes” and choose the size you wish to post on your blog – I use the “small” as 240 px wide fits my blog design
  4. Right click the image and choose “copy image location” – use this path to paste into your blog post where you want the image to appear
  5. Copy the link to the original image and link the photo in your blog post to it (this is a nice touch for the creator of the photo)
  6. Somewhere in your post add the words – Image credit and the link to the Flickr account where you found the image (see at the bottom of the post)

To be a good Flickr photo user make sure you:

  • Link back to the original photo
  • Credit the source of the photo
  • Thank the person who made it available by leaving a thank you note in the comments section of the photo on Flickr
  • Add your own images and make the available through the proper CC license – you can make this a default account setting

Image credit: likefunyouare22

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36 9 Hidden Benefits of Blogging

hidingI’ve been writing this blog for right at six years now and the benefits I’ve realized from doing so are very tangible. Without much hesitation I can say that it’s the single greatest business I asset I own. It’s led to countless interviews with national publications, my first book deal, and interaction with hundreds of thousands of small business owners. My blog is an incredible source of search engine traffic and exposure for my products and services, but even if none of that were true, knowing what I know now, I would still write a blog.

Some of the most profound benefits of the blog writing practice are available to anyone, with or without any substantial following. It’s not that we call it a blog or that the software used by bloggers possesses some magical power, it’s the act of writing something, something about my business and passion, something that I observe that touches me, something I learn and can’t wait to share, that activates the many benefits of blogging. I did not start blogging for these reasons, but they are some of the many reasons I continue to advocate blogging for everyone. So, these benefits aren’t really secrets I guess, but they are often overshadowed, powerfully under appreciated, and real.

  • Blogging makes me a better thinker – (understand that better is relative!) In an effort to create content for a blog that is succinct, reveals new ways to look at common things, or apply simple solutions to seemingly complex problems, I believe I now think about business much differently.
  • Blogging makes me a better listener – When I engage in conversation or listen to radio interviews, I listen with a writer’s ear and often find my head filling up with blog post ideas by simply listening to others discuss sometimes unrelated subjects.
  • Blogging makes me a better writer – The fact that I practice writing daily has made me a better writer. It doesn’t mean I’m the world’s greatest writer, but doing something makes you better at it – hard to deny that. Of course writing publicly like this also allows for community reaction to help you get better faster.
  • Blogging makes me a better salesperson – I write like I speak and often I write to sell an idea or even a very specific tactic. It’s amazing, but I find that clearly stating idea pitches in writing has improved my ability to quickly articulate them in selling or interview setting. It’s like you build up this reserve bank of preprogrammed discussion points.
  • Blogging makes me a better speaker – This one falls nicely from the previous point but I’ll also add that working through blog posts on meatier topics, those that readers weigh in on has produced some of my best presentation material to date.
  • Blogging keeps me focused on learning – The discipline required to create even somewhat interesting content in the manner I’ve chosen requires that I study lots of what’s hot, what’s new, what’s being said and what’s not being said in order to find ways to apply it to the world of small business.
  • Blogging allows me to test out ideas – I’ve made some incredible discoveries about some of my ideas (okay, and had a few flops too) based on the immediate and sometimes passionate response from readers. I’m currently writing a book that reveals a business principle tested out here.
  • Blogging makes me a better networker – I have developed hundreds of relationships with other writers that provide me with ideas, tips and resources to share and who willingly pass on my ideas, tips and resources. Some of these relationships remain professionally on the surface, but some have evolved into very strategic and fulfilling personal relationships as well. (Sharing a beer at a conference helps that along)
  • Blogging allows me to create bigger ideas – This one is related to testing out ideas, but the habit of producing content over time also affords you the opportunity to create larger editorial ideas that can be reshaped and repurposed for other settings. I’ve taken a collection of blog posts on a specific topic and turned them into an ebook more than once.

My hope is that, if you’re one of those business folks who has been blogging, but doesn’t know if it’s worth it, or you’ve held off because you don’t think anyone wants to read a blog written by you, this post will give you the leverage of long-term benefits sufficient to keep at it.

Image credit: Stuart Pillbrow

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86 My Social Media System


At a recent social media workshop a participant asked me to reveal my social media routine – how I track, converse, communicate and otherwise curate all my various social media activities. I paused to think about it for a while because I never really considered what I do a routine, but it occurred to me that, in fact, I do have a systematic approach to social media. (No surprise really, I’m a systems thinker and I just do it habitually – ask my wife, I have a system for making the bed and loading the dishwasher.)

I do think that participating fully in social media as a business and marketing strategy requires discipline, automation routines and a daily commitment. Now, you’ve got to balance that with the fact that much of your activity is about building long-term momentum and deeper networks and that doesn’t always make the cash register ring today. So, some of what I do won’t be right for all, but I thought I would share my systematic approach in the hopes this may reveal some tips that make your experience more fruitful. (I won’t take the space in this post to explain what all of the tools are that I mention, I’ve probably written about most, so try my search box above.)

    Twice-daily

  • Check twitter via Tweetdeck – preset searches for @ducttape, john jantsch, and duct tape marketing – respond as I see fit, follow some @replies that seem appropriate.
  • Scan mybloglog – I obsess over traffic, but this reveals trending links and stumble surges in real time so I can react if appropriate.
  • Respond to comments on my blog
    Daily

  • Write a blog post – RSS subs get it, twitter tools sends to twitter, Facebook gets it, FriendFeed updates
  • Scan twitter followers for relevant conversations to join
  • Scan Google Reader subscriptions to read and stimulate ideas
  • Share Google Reader favs – these publish to Facebook and you can subscribe
  • FleckTweet any blog pages from my subscriptions that I love – this goes to twitter
  • Bookmark any blog pages from my subscriptions that I love – delicious using Firefox plugin for right click posting – this goes to FriendFeed
  • Stumble any blog pages from my subscriptions that I love – this goes to Facebook and FriendFeed
  • Scan Google Alerts for my name, brand and products – in Google Reader as RSS feed – respond as appropriate
  • Add comments to blogs as appropriate – mostly response types – Google Reader and BackType
    Weekly (end)

  • Scan LinkedIn Questions from my network and respond when appropriate
  • Scan delicious, digg and mixx popular and select bookmarks for content ideas and trending topics
  • Consciously add comments to conversations I want to join – hot topic focused
  • Join one twitter hot trend conversation if appropriate – search.twitter.com shows these in real time
    Monthly

  • Check MrTweet for new twitter follow recommendations
  • Scan Amazon’s upcoming and new releases for authors to interview on podcast (the big names seem more accessible with a book release coming!)
  • Post a press release with social media links to PitchEngine or PRWeb (this changes depending on what’s going on, but at least monthly.)
  • Strategize on ways to repurpose and repackage any and all of this in ways that make it more accessible to another audience.

For some this just seems crazy – others will notice some obvious glaring holes in this system – the point though is the system approach. Set your system up and work it, day in and day out, whatever that means for you, and then you will start to understand the vital role that social media can come to play in your overall marketing strategy.

This is my way and one way only – please share your tips for managing the beast!

18 Are You Too Online?

Even a casual reader to this blog will know that I am a huge fan of the growing set of low-cost online tools available to the small business owner and marketer.

Blogging, RSS, podcasting, social and local SEO, online PR, social networks, video services, and other online branding tools have leveled the playing field for the entrepreneur wise enough to tap this awesome toy store.

But, the ease at which these tools can be accessed can lead some businesses away from proven offline marketing strategies and tactics at the expense of true marketing momentum.

The beauty of a solid Internet presence is what it can do to enhance your overall marketing footprint. Your overall marketing momentum and growth can lean heavily on new media, but should not do so at the expense of a fully rounded effort.

  • Direct mail can be enhanced with online offer fulfillment
  • Magazine ads can be enhanced with webinars
  • Blogs can help you build a local community of partners
  • Networking offline can help you move people to network online
  • Pay-per-click advertising can help refine offline headlines
  • Social networks are a great place to locate offline strategic partners

The trick is to leverage all the tools available to you (on and off) to meet the overall objectives of marketing – building know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer.

To neglect the awesome power, reach and control still available through many offline vehicles is a little like mimicking the dog with a bone who sees its shadow in a reflection of water and drops the bone it has to grab the bone it sees as somehow bigger and better.

Use online and offline tactics to support each other and watch your marketing results grow exponentially.

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