Humble Thoughts On Blogs, Social Networks, and other New Media Stuff

Last week Geoff Livingston and I participated in Smart Business Ideas(TM) Magazine’s Ready, Set, Grow event where the topic focused around blogs. Since our presentation I’ve been receiving e-mails from those in attendance regarding my opinion on social media. So here it is – humbly submitted, of course.

Who should blog?
Blogging is not for everyone. Keep in mind that although the operating costs are minimal, you still have to invest a significant amount of time to research, write and promote a blog. In my opinion, here are the three things you must have to start a blog:

1. Passion for a subject – I’m passionate about marketing. I could talk about this stuff all day long. To me, it’s easy to find stuff to write about because marketing is a topic to which I naturally gravitate. And you can tell just from reading my blog that this is really my life. My personality comes through because I’m passionate. Now, if I were to write a blog about, say, accounting (not a subject where I naturally gravitate) because someone said I “should” it wouldn’t have nearly the same effect because every time I would sit down to write a post I would hate it. Inevitably (if I had a blog about a subject I wasn’t passionate about) I would try to take shortcuts by reading and repeating what everyone else is saying without interjecting my own thoughts. At that point I would simply be regurgitating instead of contributing positively to a conversation.

2. Time – While the actual overhead expenses of maintaining a blog are (generally) low or no cost, you can’t forget about the time it takes to maintain a blog. Keep in mind there is more to blogging than simply sitting down to write.

A. Research – Reading related blogs so you know what’s going on around you takes time.

B. Writing – Hashing out your idea into a cohesive thought takes time.

C. Editing – Revising your cohesive thought so you don’t sound like a bumbling idiot takes time.

D. Analyzing – Checking your stats, referrals, and understanding what your readers like takes time.

E. Promoting – Registering at Technorati, putting widgets, continually adding to your blogroll, responding to comments and the thousands of other ways you can promote your blog takes time.

If you blog once a week, plan on investing at least 5 hours a week (especially in the beginning when you are getting everything set up) to produce a quality blog. For each additional post per week – add 2 hours. (Oh, and for those people who tell you they crank out a post in 10 minutes – I don’t buy it. Quality writing takes quality time.)

3. Dedication – I really liked how Geoff put it in his presentation last week – “Bloggers must be sharks. Not in the sense that they are aggressive – but in the sense that if they stop swimming, they die. Blogs where the author stops posting die.” With that in mind, you must commit to posting on a regular schedule. Yes, it’s tough – but it’s the way it is.

Facebook vs. Myspace vs. LinkedIn
Social networks are popping up everywhere. Yes, they can be amazing business tools. But they’re kind of like address books – they’re only as useful as the information in it. My advice? Don’t spread yourself too thin. Pick one and go deep. Don’t bother with other ones until you’ve mastered the first. If you’re new at all this, I personally think LinkedIn is designed to be the most effective in a business setting (and is the most intuitive to set up in my opinion). Myspace is more personal. Facebook is a little bit of both.

Widgets, Twitter, Second Life & Other Randoms
This July at the New Media Nouveaux Conference, speaker Brian Williams mentioned how learning about all this new Web 2.0 stuff is like “drinking from a fire hose.” And it’s an accurate description. It can be overwhelming, especially when you feel pressured to participate in every single type of tool available. Here’s how I see it – there are enough new tools out there to keep you busy for 27 lifetimes. So, if the premise of the strategy doesn’t feel right, you shouldn’t feel like you “have to” participate. I don’t use Twitter or Second Life because at this point in time, it isn’t a good return on my time investment. As I said before – it’s more effective to go deep into one tool instead of spreading yourself thinly across many.

I know my opinions are more down-to-earth than most – but hey, it’s what I think. What about you?

Which New Media Tools are Worth Your Time?

newmediaimages1.jpg

I don’t know about you – but I feel like I’m a pretty savvy person, yet my capacity for online gadgets and social media tools is starting to reach the breaking point. I think Steve Rubel says it best.

So with all of the tools out there, which ones are worth your valuable time and attention?

Well here’s my brash, unbridled, no-holds-barred opinion on some of the popular sites you may run across:

MySpace.com
I use myspace to keep in touch with all of my friends and family. That’s it – very little business (although I do have a link to my business website). I like myspace because I can send out event invitiations to everyone at once. For example – my birthday is coming up (June 28th in case you’re feeling generous) and I wanted to get a bunch of my friends together. Instead of calling each friend individually, I sent an event invitiaton through myspace (similar to evite.com if you’re familiar with that). Myspace then emailed all of my friends and showed them the invitation. My friends can RSVP and leave comments.

Which businesses can profit from a campaign on myspace? Well, most of what I’ve seen that has worked is restaurants and nightclubs. Check out my friend Dougie at the Element Lounge in Richmond, VA. He posts which bands are going to be on which night – so patrons can properly plan their partying. The other use I’ve seen for myspace is entertainment – book authors/publishers, bands, comedians, etc. So if you’re an accountant do you need a myspace page? Not really, unless you’re going to keep in touch with your friends and family. (P.S. – If you don’t have either – you may want to start at Facebook.com – they’re poised to become the #1 social networking site)

Linked Innewmediaimages2.jpg
This is the one site that I can absolutely say did make me money this year. I’ll get to how in a minute. Let’s first talk about what Linked In is.

The main complaint I hear about Linked In is how it doesn’t DO anything. People say they have a profile and contacts just sit there. Well, it’s kind of like potential vs. kinetic energy. Linked In is a database of your networking contacts and their history. I use LinkedIn as a followup to networking events. Instead of sending an e-mail I send a LinkedIn invitation. It’s all about building the database (potential energy) and using it strategically (kinetic energy).

Here are three ways I use LinkedIn. First, if I have two contacts who need to meet eachother and they’re both in my Linked In network, I forward the LinkedIn profile instead of an e-mail. This way the person who’s receiving the referral can check out the other person’s history & recommendations. They can also e-mail them directly.

Secondly, If I have a question I can send it out to my contacts. For example, I was doing research for an article about websites that make businesses productive. I sent out the question to my contacts and got some great responses. I only had to post once, and the information was sent out to everyone – great time saver.

Finally, the way I made money – when I left corporate and started my own business I updated my LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn automatically sent an e-mail to all of my professional contacts letting them know that I had changed my profile and was now self-employed. Within 24 hours I received 15 phone calls, set 8 appointments and landed my first 3 clients. Granted, this is a one time event – but again – it’s the kinetic energy.

***Update***

If you used Linked In in the past where you had to pay to send e-mails (which was a big fat pain and kickout for many people) check it out again. Linked In changed their business model to generate more users by allowing anyone to e-mail without charge (smart move, I think).

newmediaimages3.jpgMeetup.com
I started using meetup for personal use, but have to say that I have made some amazing professional contacts through this site, so it’s high up there on my value scale. Basically, meetup is an online tool to help you meet people in real life. You may want to check out my previous post where I discuss in detail how to use meetup for business.

Twitter
I’ve tried it and think that this site is a complete waste of my time. Why do I need to post what I’m doing all the time? Who gives a rip? Plus, I can’t even search to see if my friends are already on the site, which gives twitter a real big thumbs down for me. I know some people swear by it – I just can’t figure out why I should bother.

SpinThicket
A listing of PR/Marketing/Advertising news stories. Thanks to Geoff for turning me on to this great site.

MyRagan
Kind of like Myspace.com but for MarCom professionals. I like it because it’s easy to use and has a lot of rich content. Granted, if you’re not in the marketing/advertising/PR field, you probably won’t find it as interesting as I do. I wrote a longer review that you can check out.

Squidoo
Ok, I kind of get the concept and I started my own lens. It’s kind of like a website meets a blog and you get paid based on the number of visitors who come to your page. Frankly, the cutesy names are a little much – it’s not as intuitive as I’d like. Looking at the top lenses (my favorite one is about tofu) I noticed that the content isn’t really all that rich – I mean, I could definitely post a bunch of stuff there. I just feel overwhelmed and don’t have the time. I guess one bonus is that once your page is created you don’t have to bother with it too much after that. Unlike a blog, the work is definitely on the front end – which is why I just haven’t taken the time.

Blogsnewmediaimages4.jpg
The biggest mistake I made when I started my blog was going to wordpress.com (they host and it’s free) and not wordpress.org (I host, it’s still free but I can use a blog promote my links). About 2 months ago I got a slap on the wrist because I was including a link to my website at the bottom of each post. Now it’s difficult to switch because I have dedicated readers and I’m not sure if they would follow me to a different site. I tried downloading the software and uploading my previous posts, but it came out all wrong. The frustrating part is that WordPress.org has importing shortcuts for a Typepad or Blogger blog – but not a wordpress.com blog. Argh.

But enough about wordpress (who I really do like – it’s open source). Who should use a blog and how often should you post? Well, it’s kind of like a gym membership. Any business can benefit from a blog – but if you’re not using it it’s pointless. Keeping with the metaphor, I advise my clients to start slow when beginning their blogs. Have you ever joined a gym January 2nd, told yourself you were going to go 4 times a week and then that eventually turned into basically twice a year because you burnt yourself out? Same thing with blogging. Start slow – once a week. Once you have that under your belt go to twice a week. Then you’ll eventually become addicted and be posting all the time. It’s better to be consistent than to push yourself towards unrealistic expectations.

newmediaimages4.jpgDel.icio.us, Reddit & Stumble Upon
All these sites basically do the same thing – they allow you to bookmark your favorite webpages so you can refer back to them later. It’s good to include links at the bottom of each blog post so your readers can easily “tag” your posts and improve readership. It’s a habit I’m trying to get into – the blog I’ve set up is a template and I can’t seem to do it automatically. Argh again.

My favorite of these is Stumble Upon because it allows you to “channel surf” the web. I highly recommend downloading the toolbar – it makes surfing & tagging ridiculously easy. Basically, you enter the categories you are interested and every time you press the “stumble” button on the toolbar a new page will come up. You can also rate sites to refer to them later. The more people that positively rate the site, the more often the page comes up. I found how useful this is first-hand when stumble upon readers sent over 800 visitors to my post Put Your Mind In the Gutter in just hours of posting.

Bloglines, Google Reader, My Yahoo! & Newsgator
All RSS (Really Simple Syndication) readers so you can read all your favorite blogs in one place – BIG time saver! If you don’t know what RSS is, click here for a brilliant video – RSS in Plain English. I switched from My Yahoo! to Bloglines and I’ve been really happy.

I know there’s a bunch of new sites up too – so if there’s one that you love (or hate) post it in the comments section below. I’d love to check it out.

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Andrea Morris is the Chief Idea Officer of Write Ideas Marketing and specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com

Effective Marketing with Myspace.com

myspace-log.gifToday while checking my myspace.com account I found the following message from author Paco Ahlgren. On my profile, I list my interest in Taoism and quantum physics – so when I received this message I was glad because his book pertains to my interests.

The message is easy to read. It’s not salesy. It’s conversational style lets me make up my own mind.

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My first novel, Discipline, will be published July 2, 2007 by Greenleaf Book Group Press — a small independent house in Austin, Texas.

The book is a philosophical, psychological thriller exploring the connections between eastern philosophies and modern philosophies of science — focusing on Taoism and quantum physics.


“For two nights in a row, I stayed up past 3AM reading Discipline… In the hands of a lesser talent, the treatment of so many deep topics could easily turn superficial or stupefyingly dull. But throughout this exciting white-knuckle metaphysical adventure story, Ahlgren maintains a surprisingly light touch…expect to learn some edge physics, to peek into the details of exotic financial transactions, and perhaps to gain new insight about what it might really feel like to be an enlightened being.”– Nick Herbert, Ph.D., author of Quantum Reality, Faster Than Light, and Elemental Mind


Please add me to your friends list with the button below. I’m always looking for comments and criticism for all my work, and I would love to have your thoughts.


Pre-order your copy of the Discipline hardcover at Amazon.com now for $16.47 — 34% off the regular cover price.Pre-order your copy of the Discipline hardcover at Amazon.com now for $16.47 -- 34% off the regular cover price.
You can read the Discipline sample chapters at http://www.pacoahlgren.com.


“Science, politics, economics and spirituality fuse explosively in this visionary thriller. In some far future–or is it past?–Philip K. Dick nods with satisfaction.”–Jeffrey Satinover, physicist and psychiatrist, author of The Quantum Brain.


DISCIPLINE
Douglas Cole is being hunted—and protected—but he doesn’t know it. His life has been shattered by inexplicable tragedy, his mind haunted by ominous visions, and yet the more he questions the horrifying events plaguing him, the more elusive the answers become. Pushed to the brink of insanity, Douglas begins a desperate psychological battle with an enemy he can’t see and doesn’t understand, the outcome of which will determine the fate of humanity.Discipline dissects our assumptions about the limits of perception in a way that will terrify you as much as it enlightens you, weaving blunt, gritty realism with spectacular scope into an intricate thrill-ride that will drive you to turn each page as quickly as possible, while at once demanding that you slow down enough to absorb every critical detail.No matter how much you prepare yourself, the revelation at the end is going to blindside you, leaving you questioning reality in a way you never would have believed possible. And yet, once you recover, you’ll find yourself back on page one right away—looking for answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask the first time around.


“Ahlgren deftly melds the intimacy of one man’s personal journey of self-discovery with cosmic, mind-expanding concepts of quantum physics, time travel, and multiple universes. This stunning and skillfully constructed story is a page-turner that haunts you long after you’ve closed the book. Discipline is a masterful first novel that rivals the works of many more mature authors with dozens of books to their credit. I look forward with delicious anticipation to everything Ahlgren writes in the future.”– Marie D. Jones, author of PSIence: How New Discoveries in Quantum Physics and New Science May Explain the Existence of Paranormal Phenomena.