Dec 302010
 

Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days – still trying to get everything configured on my WordPress.org site.  I’ll tell you about a few things that went smooth, and one horrible entire-day-wasted-resulting-in-me-getting-a-new-theme-activity (aka trying to add a favicon).

(image from Stockholm, Sweden – a restaurant on an organic farm.  It was freezing cold outside but the restaurant is actually inside the greenhouse, and is quite warm)

Addthis Is a website I came across which was interesting to me.  It allows you to offer a nice button on all of your posts to allow readers to share your blog entries to over 300 social media outlets.  This takes care of everything all with one nice compact button.  After installing the plug-in, I had to go under the WordPress Admin settings to edit where I want it to be displayed.  I opted to have it shown at the bottom of just about everything.  Here’s a picture of the button in it’s unexpanded form:

As you can see it’s very small and unobtrusive.  If you want to play around with it and see how it actually expands, you will find one at the bottom of this post.  You can even try out sharing if you feel like it!  I would like some feedback on if it actually works for people so if you do this, please drop me a comment or email.

What I also liked about AddThis is it has an analytics section.  If you sign-up through their website, you will get analytics reports on all sorts of things.  Since I just started using this service, I haven’t yet seen how they actually look, but basically I just wanted an idea of what people are most interested in on my blog.  You can see more about the features here: https://www.addthis.com/features

Next I turned to Facebook.  Even though you can share to Facebook with the AddThis button, I wanted people to actually be able to “Like” my Fan page as well.  I actually haven’t done too much yet with my Facebook Fan page, but I do want to make sure it is integrated with my Blog.  As you can see when reading this blog, to the right I added a “like me on Facebook button” – I have also put it below and ask you to please like me! I need 25 fans before I can get a custom URL so I would greatly appreciate it! I know sounds desperate – but I haven’t yet promoted it yet because as mentioned, it is far from finished.

Its quite easy to add this button.  First you need to get the code.  Go here: http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like-box All you have to do is enter your Facebook Fan Page URL, set the width, choose light or dark, and decide on the options.  For example you can show your stream, or peoples faces who like your page etc.  I made mine simple and got rid of all the extra stuff.  After that, I grabbed the code.  I went the WordPress widget section, dragged a text widget into my sidebar and copied in the code.

So having finished those two easy tasks, I’m feeling emboldened and ready to take on another small but important aspect of any website.  When you have a tab open (or if you’re like me and have lots and lots of tabs open) you will see a small little icon next to the name of the site.  They also show up in the bookmarks menu if you bookmark a page.   Here’s an actual screenshot from my Google Chrome:

As you can see, with a lot of Windows open, without that little picture it’s very hard to remember what sites you have open.  In this whole batch I have two blank favicon sites and I actually am not even sure right now what those sites are.  The other one’s however I can recognize right away.  A side note, I’ll challenge you to name as many of these sites as you can.  There’s no prize but you might be able to name some right off the bat just based on their favicon.  This reason alone is good enough for me to know I want my site to have one!

So first you have to create a Favicon.ico file.  You take you image and go to a site like this http://tools.dynamicdrive.com/favicon/ and it will create for you.  Next you save the file with the name Favicon.ico (this is important).  I was originally using the WordPress Twenty Ten theme and this is where all my problems started.  I followed instructions here: http://codex.wordpress.org/Creating_a_Favicon and it didn’t work!  I was unsure of myself about whether I uploaded it to the right folder and whether or not I entered the code they provided in the correct place.  I read many more forums and tried to move the code around (which for me was just a guessing game since I don’t really understand what the snippet of code is even for), tried putting the picture all over the place on my FTP, tried changing to a .PNG type file – nothing seemed to work.

After much trial, somehow I got the Favicon to show up on my back-end Admin page, but it wasn’t showing up on my Front-end http://www.eiconnectlink.com pages.  I was having a very odd situation where in Chrome the file wasn’t showing up at all.  In Firefox, it was showing up for a second, then going away.  I was so frustrated I was ready to pull out all my hair and quit blogging!

So, I decided to try switching my theme.  I ended up with the Suffusion theme and now everything works fine.  The instructions linked above actually work great so I won’t reiterate them.  I didn’t even have to add the code to my header.  It turns out the browsers automatically check whether or not you have a Favicon.ico file in your root directory and you don’t always need that code – I guess Internet Explorer is more picky (I actually don’t even know if my Favicon works on IE right now – maybe you can let me know?)

I used a site: http://www.seositecheckup.com/favicon.php To test if my Favicon was working.  It apparently works great now.

I’ll end with a funny story 我要疯了!! This means “I’m going crazy” in Chinese.  When I was trying to figure out how to upload to my FTP, I downloaded a program called FileZilla which is a free FTP software.   Well, because I was a student in China, and have some friends living there still, a long time ago I had installed the Chinese language tool on Windows Vista.  In the middle of all the other problems I was having, suddenly the Chinese starts to override everything and my FileZilla menu was in Chinese!  My Chinese is ok but definitely not good enough to figure out how to use an FTP program.  It was one of those days where I am so happy I’m not a programmer – it was like each step I took to try and fix my problem, 3 more sprang up.  OK, I guess this is enough for now, comment please!!

Dec 272010
 

Installing plugins on a WordPress.org blog is an important step to get your site up and running.  There are 4 essential Plugins I chose to start with.  They are all important for marketing your blog in regards to optimizing it for search engines.

(this image was taken in Calcutta, India – this man was selling a delicious street snack.  He requested I take a photo of him – which I think came out nice with the India flag in the background)

Google Analyticator

Tracking your site stats is important if you hope to monetize your site.  It is also important just to give you an idea of how successful your marketing efforts are.  First you will need a Google Analytics account: http://www.google.com/analytics/.   After installing Google Analyticator, you will need to wait a day or two for the statistics to show up.  Even though you can’t see them yet in Google Analytics, it is still keeping track (you will see the stats over the past few days once it starts working).  Once it’s up and running, the Google Analyticator widget displays these stats under your site’s dashboard with some useful information (visits, page views, time spent on site etc.)  You can also log in to your Google Analytics page to view a full stat summary.  You can learn more about this plugin here: http://ronaldheft.com/code/analyticator/

All in One SEO Pack

Next, I installed the All in One SEO Pack.  This is a very robust tool, suitable for beginners or experts.  It helps optimize your blog for search engines and will make it so search engines will actually look for information about your site.  It automatically generates META tags and optimizes your titles for search engines among many other features.  There is some configuration required.  In your plugin menu, there will be a red bar stating that All in One SEO Pack needs to be configured.  You click that, and then need to fill in some information.

First off, you must enable SEO Pack.  Next, there is a section asking for a Home title.  This is the title that will be shown at the top of your browser on your homepage and in the bright blue letters on the Google Search Engine Results Page.   Home description is the paragraph that gets shown under the bright blue letters in the Google search results.   Try to keep it descriptive and emphasize important keywords.  A better description can help get you more clicks even if you are ranked lower in the search results.  Last, fill in the Home keywords related to your site.  Try to include relevant phrases you know are being searched for in regards to your blog.

Google XML Sitemaps

This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Ask.com to better index your blog. With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently.  Just install and activate – there are no special setup requirements.

Easy Privacy Policy

Easy Privacy Policy is an all in one solution for making sure that your blog has an adsense compliant privacy policy.  Sites without a privacy policy get penalized by Google.  You need to go into the setting and change @blogname to your blog (i.e. for me I changed it to @EiConnectLink) and change your @email to your email address (for me, nick@eiconnectlink.com).  Next, you click create privacy page.

After this page is created, it will show up in your main blog navigation bar (with Home, About, etc.)  Because I didn’t want it featured so prominently there, I used another plugin called Exclude pages.  You have to navigate to the privacy page and uncheck “Include this page in lists of pages” – this will take it off the navigation bar.  Next, I just inserted an HTML link into the footer section of my blog to directly link the privacy policy page.

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With these 4 plugins your blog will be in a great position to begin marketing.  With analytics set up, you can track what is going on.  The other 3 plugins will set it up so search engines can start driving organic traffic to your site.  Leads generated organically will typically be highly targeted, thus bringing relevant visitors to your blog.  Thanks for reading!  Please comment if you have any other WordPress.org plugin tips for me!

Dec 222010
 

Step #1 (for me) Set-up new email account for nick@eiconnectlink.com

So to begin with I wanted to configure a domain name at my new site http://www.eiconnectlink.com/.  I went into Bluehost’s cPanel and clicked email accounts.  I set up the address nick@eiconnectlink.com (email me!!).  Next I wanted to set it up so I could access this account through Gmail.  This was done with relative east by following the steps in this video: http://tutorials.bluehost.com/gmailpop/ I configured it so it will label incoming messages.  Now I can look at my Gmail account and just filter for messages sent to my eiconnectlink.com account.  Since Bluehost allows unlimited email accounts this is a nice way to organize everything in one place.

(image of an interestingly lit underpass in Otaniemi, Finland)

Step #2 Install WordPress

This really couldn’t have been easier.  I’m very impressed.  I went into Bluehost’s cPanel and clicked WordPress under software/services. It’s really self explanatory but I watched the video tutorial (here http://tutorials.bluehost.com/wordpress/ ) anyways just to be sure.  Within a few minutes, my site was up, looking quite a bit like my WordPress.com site.

Step #3 Export my WordPress.com blog and import it to my new WordPress.org blog on http://www.eiconnectlink.com/

So this step was also easier than anticipated.  I first went to my WordPress.com site and under the dashboard went to Tools => export.  I downloaded the export file to my hard drive.  I then went to import on my WordPress.org site dashboard, clicked WordPress, then uploaded and imported the file.  I had to do a few easy tweaks, such as deleting the default “about” page set up by WordPress.org.  Once I imported my blog, my other about page was added so there were two.  Once deleted, my site looks pretty much like it did before minus some of the customization I did before.  All the content looks good and all my images and links were transfered along with the blog posts.

One odd thing seems to have happened to my images sizes however.  It appears that the images I resized previously within my blog posts, have exploded back to their original sizes. I went in and manually tried to resize everything back to how I intended it to appear.   That actually didn’t work and I couldn’t figure out why.  Then I realized my new blog is just linking to the images uploaded to my WordPress.com blog site media library.  Apparently during the export, none of the image files in the media library transferred.  I confirmed this by checking my WordPress.org media library and found it empty.  In order to rectify this situation, I am re-uploading the pictures to my WordPress.org blog and editing the entries.  Although this doesn’t seem to really make a difference in the look of the blog, I wanted everything to be hosted on my new site in case I decide to take down my original WordPress.com blog.

One other small glitch to note, was I had inserted a TED.com post in my first blog. WordPress.com has an easy way to insert TED videos.  They apparently have a deal where all you need to insert is a very short reference to the video (in my case “[ted id=319]” was all that was needed.  Using WordPress.org I had to grab the full code to embed the video, but that was quite easy. I just viewed the HTML of my post and copied it in.

Last, I also noticed my permalinks had changed.  I had to simple adjust the setting to the date/keyword formula I used before and this issue corrected itself.

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That’s all I have time for today, more posts to come on plug-ins and customization.

Dec 222010
 

So admittedly this rant has nothing to do with social media or blogging…or does it?  I’ll keep it short anyways.  Every Tuesday my girlfriend and I have a Sauna booking at the Sauna in our apartment complex (If you don’t know much about Finnish Sauna culture, they are quite ubiquitous – I read there are like 2.5 million Sauna’s in Finland and the population is only around 5.3 million).  Our complex has electronic key card locks (a la hotel room style) – this is important to note.  Well, our Sauna booking is from 7pm-10pm (this time frame is apparently quite strictly enforced).  So the convention is to make trips between the Sauna, comfortable for Finns at around 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit), and outside (which here in Otaniemi is currently -7.38 degrees Celsius or 18.71 degrees Fahrenheit).  
(me in central Helsinki at this art exhibition with many of these bear statues, each designed to represent a different country of the world – sadly I forget which country this bear was from.  Oh yeah, I’m wearing my glasses in this picture)

On a quick aside (this is a rant, I can do what I want!), if you’re American and you start to understand Celsius, you might have been living abroad for too long haha.  Well, we didn’t keep track of the time and made a trip outside after a particularly hard round of löyly (the act of throwing water on the heated rocks in the Sauna).   It felt so nice we stayed outside in the cold for quite awhile, literally steaming (quite funny to see).  Low and Behold, we then attempt to go back in using our electronic key card, only to find it’s now past 10pm and the key no longer works.  Inside were my glasses.  Shit.

I’m accustomed to staying up late, reading things online and working on blog stuff.  Quite coincidentally I had just been thinking I should get a back-up pair of specs.  I found a cool website (which is not paying me to promote them or anything but I liked the site so I’ll mention it) http://www.warbyparker.com where you can take a picture of yourself and fit the glasses to your face to complete a virtual “try-on.”  I had been having some fun playing around with the site and especially liked how they charge only $95.00 for the frames and lenses (plus apparently they give away a pair for each one sold to needy people worldwide).   Weird how coincidences like this sometimes happen – it’s like my subconscious was trying to warn me about the possibility I might lose my glasses and the internet randomly brought me a solution (which I of course failed to acknowledge at the time).

I guess my rant is this:  I put on my contacts and tried to stay up late as usual, but they’re just not the same.  My eyes started hurting and they kept blurring the screen a little, causing me to constantly rub them.  This caused me a horribly unproductive evening (where I couldn’t work on setting up my new WordPress.org blog as planned).   I dunno, funny how dependent some of us are on having an oddly shaped glass placed in front of our eyeballs.  I know I’m not the only one – so if you have any stories or comments please share!


Dec 212010
 

So after some research and careful consideration, I decided if I was going to do this right, I would have to self-host my blog.  There is a lot of information out there regarding the differences between a WordPress.com free site, vs. a self-hosted WordPress.org site (see these links for some info:  http://en.support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/ ,  http://www.clickonf5.org/wordpress/wordpress-vs-wordpress/3754 ,  http://www.suite101.com/content/wordpresscom-vs-wordpressorg-a99029 ).  Although I’m currently not making any money blogging and have only recently started, I’ll tell you why I decided on starting with a self-hosted site.

(Image taken in Tallinn, Estonia – busy, snowy, christmas decorated street view)

After a bit of research, I decided on using Bluehost ( http://www.bluehost.com/ ).  They are recommended by WordPress and also seem to offer an easy way to get started.  As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m not so technically inclined, so part of the reason I decided to do this myself, is I actually want to learn the process.  For $6.95/month I signed up for 1 year with Bluehost with the domain name http://www.eiconnectlink.com/ The total cost was $83.40 if you suck at multiplication or just don’t feel like opening up the calculator.  I figured for a year it would be a worthwhile investment, not only in my blog, but also in myself.  I want to learn what it takes to set up a self-hosted WordPress site as I feel the power to customize is more important than anything else.  Customization is what can make you really stand out and I don’t feel satisfied with what wordpress.com has to offer – I don’t know about anyone else, but I really feel like all the sites look the same, and it makes me less interested in following.

There seems to be a lot of benefits to self-hosting if you wish to eventually monetize your blog, but I also thought about a few other things.  Since I currently don’t have many followers, I won’t have to worry about what making a switch would entail in the future.  If I had a few hundred subscribers, then changed, I would have to figure out how to keep everyone informed.  All the people following my RSS feed, would suddenly not receive updates unless I kept both blogs running simultaneously.  Dealing with that seems like a huge technical headache (maybe I’m being a bit overly dramatic and there is a way to solve this issue, but I just don’t want to have to think about it!)  I would also have to worry about backlinks.  If anyone linked to my blog, all the SEO benefits with Google would be lost.  I also really wanted my own domain name without the .wordpress in the title.  Wordpress offers domain registration and mapping for $17.00 per year.  If I was going to spend that much, why not just spend a little more on getting my own domain, where I have complete control over the FTP.  Last, I feel like I am making a commitment to blogging.  Since I have agreed to this commitment with myself, it’s time to follow the cliche and put my money where my mouth is.  If in 1 year I am on to other pursuits, I will only have lost a little money.  If in 1 year I am up to my neck doing blogging as a business, I think I will be happy today that I made this decision.

Anyways, that’s just a little on my thought process.  If it seemed spastic or illogical or misinformed, let me know (hell, part of the reason I’m here is personal growth).  I plan to update this blog with the exact procedure I follow to document setting everything up with Bluehost for mine (and your) future reference.  If anyone already has experience with this, please comment and give me your insights.  I would really appreciate it!

Dec 202010
 

Here are 4 tips to gain more Facebook Fans and keep them active.  Fans can be a valuable asset as a way to connect to your customers and build your brand.  Engaging your existing Fans can be a great way to see what your customers want and what problems they are having with your products.  Fans are alway a great tool for Social web marketing, as if you can get yourself into their newsfeeds, you can reach out to all of their friends as well.  Promoting dialog and giving your fans incentive to participate can allow you to fully utilize this important new aspect of marketing.

(early winter frost forming on shaded leaves – Stockholm, Sweden)

Tip #1: Have a custom landing page

If a potential Fan lands on your page you want to make a good first impression.  Having them land on the page wall is not going to do anything to encourage them to Fan you, or even really give them an idea about what your business is all about.  With a custom page, you can make it clear how to become a Fan and offer a nice looking, branded message to give them incentive to Fan you.  Make it clean and concise as many people will immediately click off a page if they feel overwhelmed with information.  To set-up a custom Fan Page, you must add Static FBML to your page – then the programming works much like HTML.  I’m actually not a programmer so I won’t embarrass myself by trying to explain the specifics.  Check out this article: http://mashable.com/2010/02/22/build-facebook-landing-page/ It’s a pretty decent explanation.  Creating a static URL for your fan page is also key as it makes promoting the page easier – you do however need at least 25 fans to do this.  I am currently sitting at 0 Fans, trying to figure out step one of this post myself working with a template landing page I found.  If you feel like being nice Fan me – since I can’t make a static URL myself at this point.  Here’s what my big ugly broken link looks like – hopefully you can avoid this!  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Eiconnectlink/135490946508868?v=app_4949752878 – feel free to Fan me and make fun of my page! I’m working on it but I know it’s terrible right now.  If you read this soon enough you may get to see it before I have a chance to fix things.

Tip #2: Put links to your Facebook Page everywhere

Because of the vast marketing opportunity offered by Facebook, you may find you’ll have much more success promoting your company here, as opposed to promoting your own website.  Tapping into the social aspect of how Facebook works is an important element of this.  That being said, you should really want to get people to Fan you – as they are basically giving you consent to spam them (of course you don’t want to make it feel that way!)  Put links to your Facebook Fan page in all your email signature, link it at the bottom of all your blog posts, link to it on your website, tweet it regularly to reach your twitter followers, if you do video marketing, make sure to show the address at the end (or throughout) each video, and finally think about promoting it offline as well.  For example if you run an eCommerce business, with each product you ship you could write on the invoice your Facebook Fan Page URL and tell your customers if they sign up, they will get a special discount on their next purchase (or some other promotion idea you may have).

Tip #3: Targeted Facebook Ads

Facebook ads offer amazingly targeted advertisements at minimal cost.  You can target very specific demographics based on your target market.  You can target people who have specific interests listed on their page if you think your product and their interests might have some overlap.  When you set up the ad, make sure to change the ad text – I would not advocate using the default.  Also, after selecting your target audience, Facebook will give you a suggested range to bid for clicks.  I recommend you underbid the suggested price.  If it says $0.80, try bidding $0.50 per click.  You may find it still will end up showing up quite a lot.  This is something I did all the time using Google Adwords.  We were bidding on certain popular keywords that had a very high cost per click.  If your competitors daily budget runs out, you will start to show up at your preferred rate.

Tip #4: Engage your Fans

A great way to get more fans is to engage your Fans.  If you get them commenting you will show up in their newsfeed and be able to reach out to their network for free (that’s a good price!)  It’s a good idea to create a few discussion boards (3-5) with topics your Fans might find engaging.  It’s also a good idea to post questions in your status updates.  For example, recently Skype received 147 comments on a post asking “did you meet your partner over skype?”  Using the words, “you” and “your” (e.g. what are your thoughts) is another way to make people feel personally included.  If anyone does post a comment, make sure to respond, and reference that person by name.  Use @username in your response to make them feel personally included.  Make sure to thank your Fans often for merely existing as appreciation can go a long way.  Also, occasionally surprise your Fans with unrelated, but interesting content.  This will keep people interested in your page and give them a reason to check it often.  Remember, post quality is measured by Facebook insights based on a 7 day rolling average.  If your post attracts a lot of interest, it will rank higher.  This affects you, as a higher ranking post will stay in people’s newsfeeds for longer, hopefully netting you additional new Fans.

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That’s all I have for now, there’s so much more you can do – since I’m relatively new at this, I hope you will comment with additional tips/ideas I may have missed!  I plan to revisit this topic as I get my Facebook Fan page up and running and have some actual personal examples to post.  If you made it this far, thanks for reading! please subscribe, tweet, share, etc. etc. I will be humbly and wholeheartedly grateful!   …. Nick

Dec 152010
 

So after posting a few informational blogs, I figured I’d interrupt the normal flow and talk a little more personally so you can get to know me a little better.  As I mentioned in some of my other introductory posts, this blogging thing is really a learning process and a tool for me to compile everything I learn.  Now I want to try to give some insight as to why I am taking my life in this direction.

(me, all bundled up trying to stave off the cold – the background is Tallinn, Estonia – view of the old town)

First, a little history (everyone’s favorite subject, I know).  Through a tumultuous series of events, the company I used to work for disbanded.  It was quite dramatic, especially given the fact that it was a family business and my Father was the (co)owner.  He brought me on to start his online sales division fresh out of college.  I was in that typical catch 22 situation of having no real job experience and no one wanting to hire me – but to get that necessary experience, I would need a job.  I started off selling about 10 products per week on eBay and by the end we had a fully functional website, amazon store, and eBay store offering 2500+ products selling tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise weekly.  We were selling home improvement products such as faucets, light fixtures, ceiling fans, sinks, door hardware, cabinet hardware, and generally stuff most people don’t think twice about.  I learned all there was to know about the products and what customers required and put all that knowledge into practice online, working to make it easy to use out site and convert visitors to sales.  I’ll talk more about that in the future if anyone is interested (or even if you’re not!)

The year our company disbanded, internet sales were up 15% and I was becoming ever more confident in the future of eCommerce.  I was so swamped daily, bombarded with calls, making sales, dealing with angry people, talking with vendors, working with our team etc. that I never really adopted a real social networking or social marketing strategy to our site.  We primarily used Google Adwords and paid exorbitant amounts of money to eBay.  I am starting to learn about some of the potential I missed out on and that is kind of sad to think about.  I know one day I’ll be back in a position to take advantage of all the skills I’m learning through this blog so not all is lost.

So yeah, life is strange right? After the company disbanded I moved to China for a year to study Mandarin Chinese and travel the world – I’ve got tons of stories and photos from all over the place and I guess I’m not done yet – I’m not ready for a regular job.  Well so in China I met a Finnish girl and we started dating – not really assuming we had much of a future.  Given the flexibility of my employment status right now (aka unemployed haha), I decided to head over to Finland and see a bit of Europe while I was at it.  After arriving I decided maybe I would get a job in Finland for awhile since my girlfriend is finishing up a master’s degree and needs to be here right now.  I can tell you, it’s VERY hard to get a sales job in a country where you don’t speak the native language (even though just about everybody here speaks English).  The Finnish language believe it or not, is HARDER than Chinese – take it from someone who tried to learn both.  Anyways, I decided after a lot of searching, I would rather devote my time to working on myself and my skill sets.  I decided to stay here for awhile and start up a blog (see my posts on Starting a WordPress.org blog), aimed at learning everything I can about what’s going on in cyberspace or whatever term they use to describe it these days…web 2.0 blah blah.

I’ll stop this here – but I wanted to put this out there because since searching around online for information on Social Media Marketing, I’ve found so much that even though we’re talking about a Social topic, I don’t feel like the people I am reading seem like a real person (generally – there are many exceptions).  I want to dispel the mystery surrounding me, and say Hi! I’m Nick (yeah yeah professionally Nicholas but whatever), nice to meet you!   Please read my blog and please comment, subscribe, tweet, share whatever – I want to meet and talk with some other real people about my newfound obsession with Social Media!

P.S. each blog post I’ll share a new picture that I think looks cool – you may or may not, but let me know – I actually have a bit of a photography hobby but the only camera have is a shit point and shoot…oh well – at least it’s really small.

Dec 092010
 

Facebook users represents a huge opportunity to connect with your customers.  Effective Facebook marketing is key to success in Social Media Marketing.  Utilizing all the potential this platform has to offer is important as it offers you a very inexpensive way to promote to your customers and also build your brand.  There are some easy but highly effective steps you can take to get started.  This entry talks about some general topics which will be explored in more detail in future blogs.

(image of wild winter berries growing in Stockholm, Sweden)

Creating a vanity URL with your brand name is important, however you can only do this after you accrue 25 fans (otherwise it will look like this: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Eiconnectlink/135490946508868).  You should complete your profile with as much detail as possible and link to all your other social media accounts.  You should focus on making it appear as professional as possible to emphasize that you are indeed a legitimate business.  While working in e-Commerce we were always looking to use our web site to make us appear like a larger business.  Through professional design, we were able to give the impression we were a much bigger company.  It is useful to note, for a business, a Facebook “Fan Page” is much better than a group, if for no other reason than there is no message limit.  If you have more than 5000 fans in a group, you cannot message them all.

Something to consider is adding Static FBML (Facebook Markup Language).  You can find the link here: http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=4949752878 .  This is the language used to develop Facebook Apps.  The primary concern for you, is that it allows you to create a custom landing page for your Facebook Fan Page.  This insures when someone visits your page, you will be able to make the proper first impression.

Now that you have a Fan Page, how do you get Fans?  First off, you should consolidate all your mailing lists and send a concise email out with a link to the Facebook page.  This seems like a no-brainer, but you should make sure to start by using all the contacts you already have.  Another good way is to join related groups, such as industry and professional associations and join the conversation.  This is a good way to get your page noticed.  You can also consider buying Facebook ads which are relatively inexpensive.  You can narrowly target people based on location, age, likes, interests etc.  There are some guidelines regarding ads see here: http://www.facebook.com/ads/mistakes.php#faq_1 .  Facebook offers campaign reports where you can access information on the people who actually respond to your ads. Once you know who these people are, you can more directly target them in future campaigns.  Once you have people on your page, if you are selling a product or service, consider offering discounts for Fans.  This will encourage people to become a Fan (and maybe actually make a purchase).  This also helps retain Fans for future marketing campaigns you may wish to run.

The best thing about social networking sites is you can put your Fans to work for you.  If you offer rewards for referrals (such as discounts or gifts for a successful referral), you can give your Fans incentive to promote your company for you.  You can also run promotions such as Groupons, where you allow people to bunch together to make a bulk purchase at greater discounts.  A giveaway is another way to get a lot of attention since word spreads fast through Facebook when something is free.  Consider using apps such as Wildfire (see blog http://eiconnectlink.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/wildfire/ for more information) to promote sweepstakes and contests which can engage Fans and utilize the social network newsfeed to further promote your page.  You can also use trivia and quizzes to get Fans interested.  The quizzes should have some questions about your company (such as what is the CEO’s email?) which force Fans to visit your company website to find the answer.  You should mix in pop-culture questions to make the quizzes fun.

Engaging your Fans is very important.  Talking to them is a great way to build your brand and also learn about what they want.  You should quickly respond to comments and answer questions with helpful information like links to resources to further answer their inquiries.  You can also respond with information such as what number to call and who to talk to if they have a problem.  Having online help available is a great way to keep your customers happy and happy customers will gladly promote your brand for you.

As far as your posts go, keep the content fresh.  Try to encourage a conversation to keep Fans visiting your page often.  Building a sense of community among Fans is a great way to build your brand image.  Organizing group chats with audio and video can help you learn about your customers likes and dislikes about your product and further foster the sense of community.  Sometimes it is important to also share useful or interesting information posted by others.  This can keep Fans interested in your page and get them commenting (which means you will enter their newsfeeds and have access to the rest of their Facebook friends).  You should however avoid posting too much, as clutter can cause people to leave a page quickly.  Keeping your posts a little mysterious can be helpful as well.  You can tease big news – like a new product release or promotion.  Teasing customers can keep them checking back for updates.  Posting images and videos are great ways to encourage comments and likes, so make sure to use this to your advantage.

There are a few more tricks, such as reveal tabs and profile photo hacks that can be employed strategically to help gain attention.   Reveal tabs are where someone first arrives at your page, they are encouraged to immediately “Like” it before they actually get to see the page.  This will get you into their Facebook newsfeeds and gain you a Fan right away.  Without a reveal tab, they may look at your page but never actually “Like” it.  A profile photo hack is a great way to stand out.  It’s a topic in and of itself and I will discuss it further in a future blog.  Here’s a link to some more information http://www.allfacebook.com/facebook-profile-photo-hacks-2009-02 .

Facebook offers a unique way to interact with your customers.  It allows you to build your brand image.  A brand image is constructed one interaction at a time.  Each time you have a happy customer, your image will rise.  You should look at Facebook as a way not just to market to and get new customers, but as a way to actually help make their experience with your company better.  By listening to their feedback, it will also help you tailor your product offerings to what your customers want.  It will allow you to focus limited resources where they are best utilized.  The connections established by Facebook between people are a great way to spread information about your brand and promote your company in a cost effective way.

Dec 012010
 

Seeing as this is a new blog, and admittedly, it doesn’t have many readers, I figured I would do some research on blog marketing.  There is a HUGE amount of information on this topic available and it’s hard to know what to do first.  I decided to compile a checklist for myself (and you) with some of the most common tips and tactics I came across.  I personally plan to put this list into action and I think you should too!  If you have any feedback for a new blogger, please comment!

(image from Helsinki museum of modern art – this was a strange mirrored-on-all-sides room.  There were text projections swirling around reflecting off all surfaces)

Make it easy to follow your blog:

  • Don’t hide the RSS button.  This seems obvious but you want it to be as easy as possible to syndicate your blog.  Adding an RSS chicklet to your blog is helpful to make it easy for readers to load your feed into an RSS reader.
  • Make it easy for users to subscribe to your blog by email.
  • Add one click links to reader subscriptions like Google Reader, Pageflakes, and others.  Making it easy to find your blog over and over again is important.
  • Add links to Mobile feeds so people can view new content on their phones.

Use Social Media Marketing to promote your blog:

  • Make separate profiles for Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter etc.  Make sure to update your status not only with links to your new blog posts but also to links to articles on other sites your readers may find relevant.
  • Consider which tools might be relevant to help keep your blog up to date on all your social networking platforms.  Dlvr.it offers solutions to allow you to maximize Social Web Marketing – read this older blog post for more information:  Dlvr.it Blog post
  • Using the resources of others to your advantage is key.  Consider ways to motivate your social networks to promote for you.  Contests such as giveaways are a great way to get people to visit and continually check your blog.
  • When using social media to market your product, don’t act like an advertiser.  Post useful information to your niche, whether or not it’s content you created.  Linking to other’s applicable content is just as important as generating your own.  Think about ways you can offer your readers a benefit for following your blog.

Using Keywords for SEO:

  • Narrow the focus of a search engine search through the use of Long tail keywords.  Use both keyword terms and longer keyword phrases (Long tail keywords).  This will make you more likely to show up high in Google search results for those specific phrases.  This narrows the focus, but with a broad keyword, you have too much to compete with to gain search ranking on Google’s SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
  • Do your research with Google’s keyword generator.  Search keywords actually searched in the past 30 days and try to include them in your blog post – especially in your headlines and subheads.
  • is a great tool if you don’t know much about SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  Learn more about SEO and make sure to take advantage of the huge benefits it can offer your blog.
  • Make sure to optimize your blogs permalink (AKA: Slug).  You should add traffic generating buzz words and make sure to pick a search engine friendly slug.  For example, to get your blog onto Google’s news feed, you must have at least three numbers in your slug.  Separate keywords with hyphens e.g. keyword-keyword-keyword.  You should shorten your auto-generated slugs (if you use a blogging service like WordPress) to just the essential keywords.  Remove the descriptive “fluff” words.  Last, make sure not to change your slugs without a 301 redirect to instruct Google of your change.  Without 301 redirects you can damage your Google ranking.

Joining the Blog Community:

  • Updating your blog is important.  Adding interesting keyword-rich content 3-5 days per week is important to keep people and search engines engaged.  Check for grammatical and spelling errors before publishing your blog.  Add graphics to your post and use paragraphs with headers and bullet points to improve reader experience.  Good content is only important if presented clearly, in a way that is effective at communicating the information to your readers.
  • Engage in direct communication with your readers to encourage participation.  Make sure to be prompt when responding to questions, feedback, and suggestions from readers.
  • Comment on other blogs – don’t just promote your own blog, but actually engage in a conversation.  This will encourage people to read and comment on your blog, and at the same time you won’t come off like you are just an advertiser with an agenda.
  • Link to other’s blogs when they are relevant to your niche of readers.  They may eventually link back to you, but in the end giving your readers useful resources should be your number one concern if you hope to develop an actual following.  This further cuts down the appearance that you are merely an advertiser.
  • Join Blog communities, forums, discussions.  Show an interest in your audience so they notice you.  Set a target number of comments to make each day on top blogs in your niche to get your name out there.  To make effective use of forums you must be very active with your participation.  Here’s a link to a list of RSS blog directories Top Rank Blog:
  • Consider guest posting for bigger blogs.  Submit two of your best articles per week to article directories or other blogs.  This is a good way to gain exposure for yourself and your own blog.

See, it’s easy!  With all of this in place I should have a fully functioning blog with 1000s of participating readers!  The easy part is over, now it’s time for some implementation, hope this helps you too – give me some feedback with anything I left out or any other tips you wish to share.