Blogs Worth Reading

If you are in marketing, there are literally hundreds of blogs out there that you can read and learn from. The same goes is you are a small business owner. If you run your own blog, the situation gets worse because if you genuinely want to write well and build your own community around your blog, you need to be engaging others via their blogs and social media. It can become a full-time endeavor if you are not careful.

As a marketer that also loves blogging, I’ve found that reading the big blogs isn’t as useful as it once was. Sure, I will read Seth Godin’s blog every once in a while, but not like I once did. Wanna know why? Seth has a massive audience and he doesn’t have to respond to comments I write. It’s just not efficient for him to do so. There are a whole bunch of blogs like Seth’s that read for educational purposes. But when it comes to who I read and interact with online, I have an entirely different approach.

I look for people like myself, people that are interested in building great conversations around topics we love and that want to help others by sharing their ideas, comments and links. Today, I thought I would share a few links to the people and blogs I really love.

Andy G. Cook – I ran into Andy totally by accident. One night I was trying to figure out how to best redesign my Twitter page to fit the new Twitter layout. It started searching around the web for some layout dimensions when I discovered Andy’s site. He had a great post on the issue and I decided to leave him a couple questions on his post.

The next day, Andy emails me three time with links, photoshop templates, etc. Andy came through for me in ways I had never imagined. The amazing thing is that he took a simple question and turned it into a wow for me. I can’t tell you how impressed I was. I have since subscribed to his blog and look forward to reading more of his great ideas.

Suzanne Vara – Suzanne is amazing. I first heard about her from one of Chris Brogan’s posts. Since then I have been reading her posts almost religiously. Suzanne offers something unique to the whole marketing blogosphere – her voice. She always seems to find a unique way to look at the marketing and brings a fresh perspective to all of her writing.

Suzanne is an active blogger. She posts almost every day and comments like crazy. She is genuinely interested in building community and conversations about communications, marketing, and public relations. You might also want to check her out on Twitter.

Jack Macholl – You are going to love Jack’s blog. He is an amazing marker. With over 28 year’s experience, he knows his stuff. Jack is active in the blogging community. He is out there reading and commenting. If you love marketing or run a small business, you need to subscribe to his blog and listen to what he has to say. Thanks for all the comments Jack!

Oh and by the way, if you are interested in e-mail marketing, Jack’s recent post might bolster your reasons for why this is still such a powerful tool.

Josh Chandler – Josh is another one of those bloggers that I found by accident. If I remember right, I ran into a guest post he had written somewhere. I love it and followed it on over to his blog. You have to check out Josh’s site and blog. He has a rather unusual business model, one that I really need to learn more about. He is a great blogger, writer and commenter.

Marjorie Clayman – Marjorie is another blogging genius that I found from a Chris Brogan post. She is an active blogger (with a new site) and active commenter. She is hilarious and has one of the funnest writing styles around. She is also interested in helping others. Make sure you check out her site and start commenting on her posts.

Alex Whalley – I have no idea where I found Alex’s site, but I am glad I did. Alex is a brilliant guy and he is actively working to build a great community. His focus is on keyword and blog optimization, as well as helping others with tips on how to drive traffic to their sites. If you are a blogger or webmaster, Alex is sharing a variety of info that you probably need.

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Halloween Week Countdown Spooktacular: #3 Werewolves

werewolfWe are half way through our Halloween Week Countdown Spooktacular and my #3 monster is the werewolf.

These big, bad beasts roam the night during a full moon. Much like vampires, these villainous creatures suffer from a curse – they walk the earth as humans until a full moon hits whereupon they transform into a half-wolf, half-human beast that hunts other humans. If you are lucky enough to survive one of their attacks, yet were bitten, you can now count yourself among the damned.

Werewolves, Your Business and Social Media

The big difference between a vampire and werewolf is the ability to choose. Vampires can choose – though driven by an insatiable thirst for blood, a well-disciplined vampire can resist and find other ways to survive. Werewolves have no choice – once the full moon rises, the human host’s mind disappears and the beast takes over.

Now ask yourself this – when it comes to social media, is your business a vampire or a werewolf? Let me put this another way – do you have a choice between using social media? Can you compete in today’s marketplace without a presence on the Web? Have you been able to resist the urge to jump on board the Facebook or Twitter trends?

Yes, I’ve Resisted (Good Vampire!)

It is perfectly possible to thrive in today’s world without a presence on the web. Thousands of small businesses do it everyday. Let’s say you’ve developed an amazing business that people love. Your customers are taking about you. They love your products and/or services. But…

Every time they try to contact you, they can’t find you on the Web. Here’s the problem you face. That big yellow book that shows up on your doorstep every 6 months or so and quickly lands in your recycling bin (or trash), isn’t getting used like it once did. More and more people are jumping online expecting to find your website or blog. Desktops, laptops and increasingly mobile phones are becoming the de facto way people find you business. If you aren’t there, they will find one of your competitors.

I’m a Werewolf

The truth of the matter is that if you want every advantage possible, using the Web and social media really isn’t a choice any more. You have to let go and become a werewolf. But that doesn’t mean you should run off, spend tons of money on a website, set up a blog, facebook fan page and a twitter account. Unlike the crazed werewolves you see in movies, you have to a smart werewolf.

How to be a Smart Werewolf

Web marketing is far from a perfect science, but there are some things you can do to help you be successful:

  1. Talk to your customers and find out what services they are using. Share your ideas about developing a website or blog and find out what online tools and information they would like to see you offer. Ask them what social networks they currently use.
  2. Talk to your team. Find out what they use and what expertise they might have. Get their feedback on what information they would like to see offered on a site.
  3. Think very carefully about the site you might develop. One problem that I have seen small businesses make over and over again is that they build gigantic websites and then leave them sitting there unchanged. Here’s a tip, unless having a big website and spending a lot of money on development is key to your business, you might be better off thinking small. Build a single page website that offers your basic info (contacts, addresses, etc.) and support it with more substantial social media tools like a blog, facebook and Twitter.
  4. Let me repeat point 3 again. Think small. Build a simple site. Support it with social media
  5. Before you build a site or start any social media efforts, sit down with an old fashioned pencil and paper and write down 1) your vision for what you hope to accomplish with your Web efforts, 2) your business objectives, 3) how you will measure your successes and failure, and 4) how you will used each tool to communicate with and engage your customers.
  6. Take your time. Build each tool properly, make sure it works to your specifications, and then move onto the next tool.
  7. Think about integration. Decide how your web-efforts will look from one tool to the next. If you run a promotion on your blog, how will it show up on your facebook page or on twitter? Does a promotion have to show up on all of your sites or just one? If you are using multiple tools, will they all have the same content? Ultimately, you want to do one of two things – either drive you customers to your retail location or to your online “homebase” (site or blog) where you can provide them with valuable information about ongoing/upcoming promotions, events, and other content.
  8. Thing about value – why should your customer visit your site? Are you offering them something they really need or want? If not, you might want to step back and figure this one out. If you don’t, your Web efforts might end up stalling out before you ever get any real momentum.
  9. Measure results. Look back at your business objectives and constantly measure your online efforts against them. If they are not helping you get results, make adjustments and try again.

Are you ready to become a small business marketing werewolf? Ouch! You’ve just been bitten. Resist all you want. The moon is full.

What Makes Chris Brogan Great? (and what you can do to be just like him)

photo of chris brogan - black and whiteI can remember the first time I heard about Chris Brogan. He had made a comment on a blog post or in an interview where he revealed his consulting fee. I can remember chatting about it with a few buddies at work. I think everyone of us were thinking that finding a consulting gig might not be a bad idea. Shortly after, we decided to read Chris and Julien Smith’s book, “Trust Agents” (amazon affiliate link).

Chris and Julien’s book is great and they share a number of ideas that you can use to make a major impact in your life. Ever since then, I have been a big fan of Chris’ but there were parts to him that have remained a mystery until recently.

While on a long drive from Salt Lake City to St. George, I decided to listen to an audio book by Dave Logan and  called “Tribal Leadership” (amazon affiliate link). Several of us from work had read the book a couple years ago and it made a major impact on how we operated, but as listened to the book this time around, I picked up on a variety of insights that I had missed the first time around and this is where I finally figured out why Chris Brogan is such an amazing business leader.

If you are interested in evolving your career, “Tribal Leadership” (amazon affiliate link) is, by far, one of the most insightful books you will ever have the opportunity to read. Let’s face it, leadership is not a natural process for all of us and even if you have some leadership abilities, aren’t we all capable of getting better? This book breaks down leadership levels into five basic groups and then walks you through the characteristics of each and what you must do to progress and ultimately help others progress.

Without revealing too much about the book, Chris Brogan definitely falls between the 4th and 5th stages that are described in the book. What do these stages look like? Think about Chris for a minute. He is about bringing people together and helping businesses form thriving communities. He is genuinely interested in helping others succeed and find meaning in their lives.

If you want to learn to be more like Chris, you don’t need to:

  • Grow a big scruffy beard.
  • Buy a gorgeous Camero.
  • Make videos for your blog late into the night.

What you should do is:

  1. Stop reading this post.
  2. Head on over to Amazon and order a copy of “Tribal Leadership” (amazon affiliate link) and “Trust Agents.”
  3. Read “Tribal Leadership” first.
  4. Evaluate where you fall in the different stages listed in the book and start making the changes you need to in order to become a great leader.
  5. Read “Trust Agents” second and look for ways to accentuate the skills and ideas you learned in “Tribal Leadership.”
  6. Start building your tribe.

Good luck. God Speed. Go get ‘em.

Jason's Signature

The Two Biggest Business Blogging Challenges (Blogging for Business)

blogging keys, blogging for businessI was working with a local businessman and we were discussing his online platform. He had a good set of tools developed for his business, including a nice website, a facebook page and he was starting to get into Twitter. As we looked at each of his efforts, we discovered a few things:

  1. He has a website with some decent content, but the site had not changed at all since he first had it built.
  2. His facebook fan page was growing steadily and he had a direction for what he was doing with it.
  3. Twitter was still largely a mystery, but he was working hard to figure it out.
  4. These were the only platforms he was currently using and he didn’t see a reason to expand from here.
  5. His entire online communication effort was one direction. He was talking to customers, not with them.
  6. No where in this mix was he telling his business’ story.
  7. He had no real strategy behind his online effort.

We then set out to address some of these issues and made some decent progress, but one major challenge remained – he had a website that contained static content and he didn’t understand how to update it. So we then began a discussion about blogs.

“A blog? Their kinda for geeky guys who sit at home and never get out into the world,” he said. “Just kiddin’. But don’t they take a ton of work? What in the world would I write about anyway?”

He had nailed the two biggest challenges that businesses face when considering whether or not to start a blog.

Fact: Running a Blog Takes a Lot of Work

As we discussed, his efforts, one thing became clear. He was time crunched and he had chosen social media tools that would allow him to spend as little time as possible online. But with some discussing, he started to open up and realize that he was missing a huge opportunity to engage his consumers with some deep, meaningful content.

There is no doubt that running a blog can be painful. Depending on how often you blog, you can easily end up spending several hours or more a week writing. That doesn’t include time for research, brainstorm (or mindmapping) future subjects to write about, managing blog comments, etc. Then there is the issue of setting up the blog, designing it, and all the fun of worrying about backups, updates, new widgets, and the like. Blogging is a lot of work.

So our next step was trying to figure out how to take away some of the “work” and free him up so he could manage a blog. We wanted him to be able to focus on making this a success and I would be helping him with the basic development and maintenance of his blog.

With limited time, he wasn’t sure how often he could blog, so we set a basic goal – one new post per week. This goal would allow him to still maintain his other online efforts without adding too much weight to his current load. We had also decided to integrate his blog with his other three tools so that when he updated his blog, his posts would feed out to his site, facebook page and be tweeted out to his followers.

Myth: No One Wants to Read About My Business

We then dived into his site content. After some more convincing and a look around a bunch of other blogs, things sunk in. Consumers care and they will engage with a business online in some pretty fantastic ways when a business opens up to them. Without much effort, we then nailed down a variety of topics he could write posts about:

  • Company history
  • Vision of the future
  • Community outreach efforts
  • Team member stories
  • Upcoming promotions
  • Secret promotions and deals
  • Customer service stories
  • Contests

With this many topics in mind, he actually considered bumping up his number of posts per week, but we kept the goal at one per week for the first six months. We would reevaluate at that time.

Going through this process helped him realize that he had plenty of interesting topics to share with his customers. Most of the content would provide more interesting and deeper ways to engage with his customers than he currently is with his site, facebook fan page and Tweets.

His situation is probably not unlike yours. He is busy but he also wants to do the right thing for his business. Using a blog was something he needed to explore. If you are interested in using a blog here are several things you can do today to get started:

  • Determine what you will use the blog for. Ask yourself, in a year from now, what do I hope to have accomplished with this tool?
  • Find a friend or hire someone that can help you overcome the technical side of blogging. For the most part, if you can email a friend photos from your computer, you have the skills you need to run a blog.
  • Identify a platform to run your blog on (your techie friend can help with this). If you want simple, consider going with Blogger or Posterous. If you want more control and flexibility, think WordPress.
  • Write down all of the potential topics you could write about. Don’t worry about specific posts, just start with the broad categories. Ask yourself, what are all of the fascinating things we do as a business to deliver a great experience for our team, customers and the larger community? If you get stuck, talk to a few of your regular customers and find out what they would like to learn about.
  • Think through your current schedule and find a regular time to write your posts. Having a routine time to write is absolutely critical. Set a time. Stick to it.

Running a blog can be challenging, but you will find that it will allow you to share your story in more depth than almost any other advertising medium available.

Now get out there and start building your business blog today!

UPDATED: Real-Time Marketing and PR – #Vocus and @DMScott Webcast: A Recap

Update: If you are interested in listening to David’s webinar, please follow this link. You must register before you can watch the webinar and it will only be available for a limited time. Thanks to Vocus for allow me to share this. An even bigger thanks to David for his thoughts and leadership on these important issues.

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Last week, I had the honor of listening to one of my personal social media heros, David Meerman Scott, live on a webcast that Vocus produced. It was a great experience and I must say that David lived up to everything I expected him to be.

The focus of the webinar was on real-time marketing and pr. David shared a number of valuable insights about how and why you should be doing real-time marketing and pr for your business. He also shared a number of test cases where companies have succeeded and failed in this effort.

What is real-time marketing and pr? Before I can answer that, you have to look at this from David’s perspective. He has been arguing for years that the Web has empowered consumers and they now have the ability to make or break your business in real-time on blogs, twitter, facebook and all sorts of other online media. He’s absolutely right. Real-time marketing and pr then becomes your tool to turn these situations into opportunities for your business.

There are a ton of ways to do this. First, you must be listening. Have your “social-ears” open and hear what consumers are saying about your business online. Second, talk to them. When you find customers that care enough to talk about you, don’t ignore them. Foster a relationship by telling them what you are up to. Third, engage them. Go beyond the “talking to” stage by developing a deeper dialogue. Ask them for their advice and ideas about your business. Find out what their needs are. Look for things you could be doing better that would turn them into insanely loyal customers. Fourth, do what you can to get them to act. This is a tough one, but it should also be you ultimate goal when it comes to social media.

It was a one of the most helpful and content-rich webinars I have ever participated in. You can find some of the key tweets from the seminar by searching for the #vocus tag on Twitter.

For those of you that are struggling with how to develop a social media policy for your business, David addresses this with a simple rule:

If you use “I” you are fine. If you use “we” that is when your communications team should be involved.

Developing A Social Media Plan

The other day I set up a facebook fan page for a project I have been working on. It is a nice feeling when you step back and realize that you joined the ranks of tens of thousands of other businesses that are also on facebook. Have you ever looked closely at what some of your competitors are up to? If you have, you might have noticed something interesting.

Take a look around facebook, twitter, myspace, etc. and see what your competition is up to. You’ll probably discover some that I did as well – social media is full of businesses who have fallen into the “me too” trap. They are there simply because their competitor is there and because of this most business social efforts are completely lame.

There’s no doubt that most businesses can benefit from social media in some way. But you should think carefully about how it will benefit you and in what ways you are willing to truly engage your customers.

Weekly Gems and Recap

View along the trail to the Timpanogos peakWeekly Gems

Cup of Joe: I Hate Good Ideas – Having good ideas is a good thing. Doing something with them is what matters.

Dark Forces Are Gathering – Eric Karjaluoto pulls no punches in this look at our changing capitalist system.

Our Future Depends Upon a Culture of Entrepreneurship – In this post, Jay Ehret lays out the case that many Americans have allowed themselves to become dependent upon the system instead of relying on their ingenuity, ability to innovate and create an amazing world. It is a great argument and something worth thinking about.

Building a Great Team – What is one of the biggest reasons businesses are successful? Quite often, assembling a remarkable team to support and help you business thrive is something that is ignored or set aside because of the difficulties that come in finding them.

Weekly Recap

Monday: Understanding and Delivering On Customer Wants

Bonus: Pilot Gives Email a Personality

Tuesday: What Politicians Can Teach You About Understanding Customers

Wednesday: Social Marketing Lessons – I Care About Your Success

Thursday: Do Fans Matter?

Friday: Moving From Fans to Loyalists