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Archives for May 2008

Understanding New Media Tactics and Interactions

Reading a lot of advice and ebook sales letters, you could be forgiven for thinking all you need is one good tactic and you will be a mega success online. In fact what you need is a planned mixture of approaches. Understanding where certain tactics fit can be the difference between going nowhere and going viral.

Understanding New Media Tactics and Interactions

Before anyone points out, yes this is not a complete list, and yes some tactics fit into more than one area, but I think as an illustration of a point my mad doodling skills explain what I am trying to say :)

Rather than attempting to make one tactic do all the work, think of your approach as a system. Each element is intended to do one job then hand off to the next. Get all your tactics working together and you will make the whole much more attractive and sticky.

Ethics in Social Media and Online Marketing

Recently I have been asked by a few people my opinion on a certain “link bait” event that happened. To save myself repeating the same answer, here it is.

The story goes something like this. Writer creates fictitious story, gets it to the front page of Digg, which leads to mentions in tabloid newspapers and Fox News.

Apart from the “fictitious” aspect, this would be considered by anyone a major victory. One count puts it at 1500 fresh inbound links. Unfortunately it is the truth/fiction aspect that has people up in arms. Variously the story is being called “fraud”, “hoax” and “satire”. People are getting emotive which is often dangerous.

I am not going to pass judgment because I do not know the intentions or brief behind the campaign and I do not want to know. The writer still has my respect, after all these are the sorts of link bait results we dream of if you ignore the story itself and the backlash for a moment!

Would I create a false story to gain attention? No. Do I think it is wrong to plant a false story? Yes and no. Yes because as I said, I wouldn’t do it myself, and no because, well, tabloids and Fox News are also partly to blame (hello, fact-check anyone?) and are not exactly well known for being pristine purveyors of the absolute truth are they?

Clients should have been fully aware of what was planned and they ought to be thrilled at the links they have garnered, which in many cases will have lasting benefits (regardless of what Google are saying right now), much longer than the fallout will last.

If this had been put out by a PR company nobody would bat an eyelid. Stunts, fakes and spoofs are seeded into the media all the time. Richard Branson is a master, he once landed a fake UFO to media acclaim. April 1st sees the news made useless as you do not know what to believe. As on April 2nd, this story now has a message saying the story was made up.

I have watched and read highly serious and untrue things said with a straight face by politicians that were far more damaging and longer lasting. I’m sure you can think of a few. Who cares really in the scheme of things about this, really?

So to answer the questions, I would not have played it the same way but at the same time I don’t think there has been any real harm done. If people are questioning what they read a little more now, then good I say.

That’s my opinion, what is yours?

Blogging Survey: Half Way Report

Last week I mentioned my Global Blogging Survey and your chance to win one of 10 ProBlogger books. Well we are just over half way to the magic 1000 submissions mark, can we get some more?

If the total can get to 1000 or more then the results will be more reliable and statistically “ok”. It’s always better to draw conclusions from a good base rather than infer something that might not be based on anything real.

As well as 10 books I am going to sweeten the pot. One lucky submitter will receive a blog critique right here on this blog outlining all the advice you need to take your blogging to the next level.

So if you haven’t filled in the survey, please do it now. It takes mere minutes. Tell your fellow bloggers. Bring friends!

The Productivity Secret of Positivity and Gratitude

Lately I have been finding inspiration in some unusual places. One thought that has stuck in my head was inspired by Stephen Hopson and his Gratitude Theme Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can […]

Attracting Customers Without Selling

I just realized that even though I have made my living from customers buying my services for a while, I have never actually had to sell. This seems to me quite an achievement.

What got me thinking about this was I was just interviewed for an article for WordTracker by Rachelle Money. She asked how I got into this blogging lark, and during me waffling on I told her about how customers would come to me with their problems.

Back when I started out, the problems people would come to me with were programming related, now they are more likely to be online marketing or blogging issues, but still people come to me rather than me calling them. I think this is a nice place to be!

Cold calling has never been something I even wanted to try. Some people can do it very well, but all through my career I have avoided it. I am not the most forward person, especially on the telephone with someone who doesn’t want to hear from me. For me making a cold-call would be more a punishment than a useful sales tactic.

How to Attract Customers

The secret to attracting customers so you don’t need to approach them is based on the following factors:

  1. Awareness – People need to know you exist, and remember you in the correct context as someone who might be useful
  2. Belief, Credibility and Trust – You might be the best expert in the world but people need to know they can rely on you
  3. Evidence – Why should someone believe that you can do the things you say you can?
  4. Solutions – Have you got appropriate services and answers for their problems?
  5. Approachability/Personality – Very often the sale comes down to you being the right person as much on personality as skills. We want to work with people we like and feel we can talk to.

Of course now I call the solution Authority Blogging and I teach people how to grow their profile and engage audiences, but these factors worked in my favor long before I had a name for it or was even doing this consciously.

Creating the Opportunity for Opportunities

What I started out doing was answering programming questions on email discussion lists. People got to know me through my answers and discussions. To avoid repeating myself, and so I could write more in detail, I would write articles. After a while I wrote for the top ASP site, ASPAlliance, which made me more visible, brought me programming contracts, and eventually led to me doing speaking, teaching .NET programming, which led to me being awarded Microsoft’s “MVP” award, and book deals.

This same pattern has repeated in all the phases of my career, from programmer to project management, to webmaster, SEO, online marketing to blogging. Each stage I joined the niche community and got stuck in which led to opportunities.

It comes down to making yourself useful, creating the environment for opportunities and taking the opportunities that further your cause.

Making Sales

Many times I would go pitch some work with the marketing agencies I worked for and I would get a sense the winner had already been all but selected, the customer just wanted reassurance they had made the right choice.  The same happens now, I talk through what I can help with, the options, and I leave it to the customer to decide to go with me.

When people do approach you with work, you could say that you have to “close” the sale, but personally I see it more as answering any questions and explaining how you can help. If you have done your content  right then the customer will already be “sold”, you just have to clear up any missing information and take the order.

Improve Your Process

Every time you get approached, ask

  • where the customer heard about you,
  • what attracted them,
  • do they have any preconceptions
  • if they have any questions that are not answered in the content,
  • and if anything worries them or puts them off.

… then next time your job will be even easier. Knowing why you don’t get this sale and fixing your approach will make it more likely you get the next one.
In fact, being aware and listening really is half the battle. For example, for ages I didn’t have my service for creating flagship content as I assumed my ebook would tell people what they needed to know.  Then I found out companies were hiring others to do the writing but using my ebook as part of the spec. By accident I had been creating work for others that I could do myself!

Summary

I hope that I have shown that you do not need to be a pushy sales type to get work, your blog can do most of the work for you. If you get out, get known and show your expertise through helping people, then customers will be more inclined to approach you. Most of the effort is in showing you are the right person for the job, this means writing content that solves problems and having your services on display.

Is this something you do? Have you got any tips? Are you planning to take this approach or one like it? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments …

When to Answer Critics

Statler and waldorf - Muppet CriticsWriters get a lot of criticism so tend to have to grow a thick skin, especially when working online. The internet tends to bring the inner critic out of people.

This week while I have been out of the loop due to a family emergency it seems from heads-up emails I have received that I have caught a lot of flack. Some criticism has been level-headed and reasoned, some bizarre, some offensive and some just idiotic. I wasn’t around to respond even if I wanted to, which in some cases seems to have emboldened the more, um, challenged individuals.  What would I have done had I been around?

Critics Are Not Always Trying to Help

The first thing to determine is what the intentions of the criticism is. Some criticism is meant to help, some to just to vent, other times criticism is more about the critic than the criticized. It’s impossible to mind read but you can try to work out where the critic is coming from. The more crazy the attack the less likely you are to find any logic but it is worth trying.

Any Feedback is Useful

Any feedback is useful, even the (worryingly common) “YoU sUck!!!111″ type. I encourage feedback, bloggers need it.  Of course though we benefit most when there are some details to work on, plus details help us work out if we need to respond and if there is anything to actually learn from.

If someone just says “I don’t like this”, whatever language they use, then you have little to work with. All you can do is listen to quantity really. Lots of people saying they don’t like something, vocally or in analytics, is a sure sign you have done something wrong for a portion of your audience. Doesn’t mean you are wrong, just there are people in your group who you are not connecting with. The bigger your audience the more likely this is to happen. I don’t often respond to generic “don’t like” unless I get a sense they want to talk, you can’t please everyone and shouldn’t even try.

“Don’t like” with details is constructive. If the person is being nice and helpful then you should try to engage the person in conversation.  You can learn a lot from complaints as much or maybe more than compliments.

Fact is if someone has taken the effort to contact you in private then their intentions are more about letting you know than about gaining anything for their selfish goals.

Do You Criticize or Do You Create?

Bloggers often fall into this “criticism as content” trap. It’s all too easy, you need content, popular blogger does something you can criticize, can’t fail. Of course it does fail, and drags your reputation down with it. At the time you might get praise from your own group but the silent majority who look on just see right through what you are up to.

As the recipient of the attack you need to decide how and if to respond. Blatant link bait attacks should never be rewarded with a link. Responses are best in comments over at the attackers blog. Keep level headed and stick to the points, don’t get defensive of be dragged down to retaliation. Never repeat yourself more than once, and do not divulge details just because someone demands it.

Sometimes commenting defuses the personal nature, sometimes it inflames them, all you can do is try to maintain a measured tone.

What I try to remember is it is far easier to be a critic than create something. Critics are often people with chips on their shoulders, for whatever reason. They attack you because of something in them, not something about you.

When to Answer Critics

  • Can any useful feedback be gained?
  • Is there actual detail to address or are they just projecting insults and displeasure?
  • Are the critics factually inaccurate or voicing opinions?
  • Will joining in just perpetuate something that will blow over anyway?
  • Have the critics hallucinated something they imagine you might say or is the criticism based in any reality?
  • Has someone already stepped in to defend you?

I will only step in to correct something that might not be self evident. After all, anyone interested in the truth will follow links or search to find the source, anyone loyal to the critic or interested in the theater of it all will not want facts to get in the way anyway.

Remember, silence does not mean guilt and does not mean you agree. Sometimes silence is a better response than actually opening your mouth and continuing the debate.

Do you have any thoughts on when to answer critics? Please share in the comments …

Global Blogger and Blogging Survey

How would you like the chance to win one of 10 copies of the ProBlogger Book AND get lots of interesting stats and facts about bloggers worldwide?

If this sounds good, take the survey! :)

Every 100 survey entries up to 1,000 I will pull an email address out at random to win a copy of the book, so all you have to do is enter the survey to be in with a chance of winning.

All the details are optional, including the email address which is purely for the prize draw. I have tried to make the answers as easy to complete as possible, using free text fields rather than strict categories. While it does make it harder for me to compile the results, the whole point is to find out as much as I can.

I hope to get 1,000 completed surveys so please do spread the word. The more entries received the more reliable the results will be and therefore more useful to draw conclusions from.

Take the survey now then tell your friends :)

Join the Blogging Pack

Sled TeamMichael had the idea and I ran with it, now we have at last count 11 pages of bloggers who have joined in. What am I talking about? The Authority Blogger Blog Pack :)

The idea is simple, a group of bloggers who want to help you get noticed and help each other out.

  1. Add your feed and Twitter details to the thread
  2. Download the OPML file and import it into your feed reader (preferably to a folder, the file is already organized this way but relies on your software to notice). This will add all the participants feeds to your reader
  3. Follow as many of the Twitter accounts as you can manage, or choose people who seem interesting.
  4. Mark all the new feeds as read – nobody expects you to read all the archived posts!
  5. When you have 5 minutes, dip into the folder and comment, stumble or link anything that you enjoy
  6. Blogs and Twitterers that are a good match, put into your regular rotation.
  7. Please keep up to date with the OPML – It is useful for finding blogs you might have missed, I already have found quite a few gems that I will be following regularly

If this seems like something you might want to try, go add your details to the thread :)

Get a Gravatar

GravatarsYou might have noticed in my comments some of the commenters have their smiling faces grinning out at you while others have a drab gray blob.

This my friends, is the Gravatar!

A gravatar, or globally recognized avatar, is quite simply an avatar image that follows you from weblog to weblog appearing beside your name when you comment on gravatar enabled sites. Avatars help identify your posts on web forums, so why not on weblogs?

Essentially they help you be more recognized. As we discussed in the social media branding article, this kind of consistency can be very useful for making yourself known in communities. Use the same avatar on Twitter, forums, flickr and blog comments and people are sure to recognize you.

You can have your own Gravatar in minutes, just provide the email address you usually comment with.

Gravatar.com is now owned by the same people who build and run WordPress, and unlike some other avatar services, it is easy to integrate into your blog AND keep away the saucier images. The new version of WordPress has capability built it, though you might need to tweak your template, and for the rest of us there is a simple plugin. Other platforms support them too. See how to add Gravatars to your blog here.

What are you waiting for? Smiley faces make your comments more welcoming :)

Building Your Online Brand With Social Media Tools

Social Media tools have an enormous power to put you in contact with thousands of people. As I have said on numerous occasions though, attention on its own is useless, what are you going to do with that attention?

If you want to build your online brand you have to know how all your activities work together. You need a consistency and congruency. Each part of the social media puzzle builds into a picture people have of you, how they imagine you to be relates to how you really are to the degree you get this stuff right.

If you are approaching social media in a haphazard way, do not be surprised if things do not work out exactly as you hoped or imagined they would.

You Choose Who You Are

We are judged by what we say, how we say it and who we associate with. All choices we make, not things that happen to us by chance.

If you are constantly being seen with the snarky, attacking, abusive people on Twitter, then you will be seen as in their gang. When your pictures often appear in the saucier flickr groups then that is the impression people will have of you, regardless of your PHD in nuclear physics.  We do not get the whole picture online, we see what is right in front of us, and that means we will jump to conclusions and you will be guilty until proven innocent.

Since Michael wrote about what your social media activities say about you I have been thinking about this a lot. Having been online for a long time, there is not much I can do to claw back what is out there. I haven’t exactly played fast and loose with my online reputation, but then I have not been too sophisticated with it either.

I have clients from all sorts of industries and walks of life. Who my clients are have been used to attack me in the past. Should I with this in mind be revealing my clients through StumbleUpon votes?

Best to choose now who you are, what your values are, and where you draw the line between openness and TMI (too much information). Thankfully I clued up about 10 years ago some things I would never write about, but still there are aspects of my life I think really ought to have been kept private.

Joining the Social Media Dots

The best way to approach social media is to choose your venues and connect them in some way to your blog. Keep your blog as the main representation of “you” online. That is where you best stuff is going to be, your archive, portfolio or resume. If someone Googles you, this is what you want to appear, not your virtual facebook sheep or your drunken accidental flickr pics.

Building your brand with social meda

With a good core blog, you can further reinforce this positive brand. Have conversations on Twitter, share your pictures, guest post and comment. Participate in forums that relate to what you do and your audience. Above all where you want connections to be made, use a consistent avatar, nickname and style. Connect all the profiles back to your blog, and where appropriate link out to the social media sites.

As you can see, I link to my Twitter account from here and occasionally will link to my Flickr through my pictures. While this helps grow my connections on those services it does mean that I have to use privacy settings on Flickr and on Twitter I need to be aware of what I am saying!

Are you conscious about the brand you are building in social media sites or do you just try to be yourself and let people take away what they will? Do you connect your online activities or are they in silos? Please share your thoughts in the comments …