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Pics from Blogworld

Blogworld was a great conference. I met some wonderful people. I reconnected with some people. I attended some great seminars workshops and of course parties. Here are some of my “reckless” photos from Blogworld LA 2011.

How to Give your Page an Edge on Google+

Now that Google+ Pages has launched you might be asking yourself, do you really need another page for your business?  The answer is yes.  Though there is a lot of debate on whether Google+ is going to be a truly competitive social network for Facebook, there is one area that Facebook cannot compete and that is SEO.

SEO (search engine optimization) is one of the most powerful tools that Google+ has to offer a business.

  1. When you create a page you are instantly indexed
  2. You are creating more backlinks to your website
  3. Direct Connect – Google’s new way to search online

Direct Connect is one of the more interesting elements of the SEO boost. It is trying to give pages more visibility in the search engines. Now if someone is searching for you page all they have to do is  add “+” before your business name, ie. “+Your Business “, and they will pull up your page.

Harnessing Pages for Your Business?

Lets walk through setting up a basic business page and then we will look at how to give your page an edge.

Google+ Pages Create a Page1 . Sign up: Go to: http://www.google.com/+/business/

  • Click “Create your Goolge+ Page”
Google+ Page Categories

Select your category

3. Category: Select the main category for your page.

  • Local Business or Place- this is for if you are primarily local or have a physical location.
  • Product or Brand- if you are creating a page for one specific product item or for a brand. Tip: Bloggers this is where you want to be!
  • Company, Institution or Organization- this is the general business category
  • Arts, Entertainment or Sports- anything having to do with these categories, though often these are people like artists and musician or groups of people like a sports team.
  • Other- If you just don’t quite fit anywhere, you can assign your own category. Tip: I don’t really recommend this unless you have to because you are missing out on the “category” search benefit of Google+.

4. Sub-Category: After you select a main category you will be able to select a sub category that best describes you.

5. Page Name: Enter in your page name. This is what everyone will see as your page name and how people will find you. Do not make it too complicated and keep it to something that is easy to remember.

  • Though vanity URLs are not currently available, they will not be long in coming and you would rather have plus.google.com/mywebsite than plus.google.com/dontyouwishyourwebsitewerecoollikethis as your URL. Keep it clean and keep it simple!

6. URL: Enter in the URL for your website.

7. Age Restriction:You can opt to have age restriction on your page. This is good if you talk about mature issues, alcohol or drugs. The ages restrictions available are 13+, 18+ and 21+.

Google+ Page Profile Photo

Your profile image has a square aspect ratio, pick a photo that looks good cropped to a square.

8. Profile Photo: Your profile photo is your face to the world. You may want to put your logo in here, or a picture of you. But whatever you decide make sure that the picture is square. Unlike Facebook, Google+ Pages give limited real estate to your pic.

9. Tag Line: This is where you get to put some quick little tid bit about your business. Think of this as your elevator pitch. You want something that describes your page and essentially draws someone into the page. Tip: Give yourself an SEO boost and use keywords in this tag line.

Once you are done you will be asked if you want to share your page on your Google+ profile. Go ahead and say yes. This is a great way to share your page with your various circles.

Give Your Page an Edge

You may be thinking that the set up process was really easy, and wondering why you did not have to fill out a ton of questionnaires about your business, information, description, contact information, etc.  That is because you don’t have to have any of that information on your page. But trust me, you want all that information on your page.

Once your page is set up, you will want to go view your page profile and start editing information.

When you click the edit button (a blue button on the top right of your page profile) it allows you to edit nearly all sections of your page.  All you need to do is click on a section to edit.

Google+ Page Description

  1. Introduction: Write something descriptive about your business. This is your space to make your first real introduction and tell people what you are all about. Make sure you use key words that are related to your brand to given an even bigger SEO boost.
  2. Contact Info: You can add an email address or phone number. To protect your privacy, I recommend just an email address. You don’t necessarily want anyone who can find your page able to call you.
  3. Website: This is where your website URL will be.

A note on Privacy: you can set the level of visibility as you set up these fields. You can control whether you only want your circles to be able to see this information or if you want it completely public. If you are worried about privacy you should restrict your visibility to “only circles” or even custom circles.  For your website, I recommend leaving this viewable by anyone.

Linking Relationship

Google+ offers another way to build good relations with other websites. Like a blog, where you can share your blogroll, you are able to share your recommended links. This is to the right column next to your information. If you have websites that you particularly like or support, this is a great way to share them with your followers. Plus this is a great way to breed good relationships with those websites. If you link someone, make sure you reach out to them and tell them.

Photo Strip

Google+ Page Photo Strip

The photo strip is one of the most powerful visual aids of your page. You can add any photo that you like on this strip, and unlike in Facebook, you can place them in any order you like. All you have to do is upload the photo directly into the Google+ Page Circlephotostip. Once they are loaded you can drag and drop them into any position you like.

With a little creative photography you can make your photostrip be an excellent brand ambassador for you page….or you can just have some fun with it and create a really interesting panoramic.

Get Social!

The number one power of any social network is the ability to be social. Pages is no different. Similar to Facebook, you can use Google+ as your page. You can go and add other pages to your circles. You can comment on their posts and interact them.  Though people can add your page to their circle, pages cannot add people to their circles.

On the left column of your page, you will see your profile pic, a button to share your page and then a section showing who is in your circles and who has added you to theirs.  By looking at this section on other pages you will be able to find a lot of relevant and interesting pages to network with.

The more you network with other pages the more they will network with you. Ultimately the more people who have circled you, the more people who are reading your posts. So get out there and network!

 

Google+ Pages for business is not hugely different than Facebook Pages. However, the SEO value they add is reason enough to get a page set up for your website. The pages are easy to set up and offer the opportunity for more exposure to your website. So go out there and set up a Page and make sure to tell everyone about it!

Syndicated on BlogHer.com

 

Million Dollar Failures: A Review of Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain by @RyanBlair

Ryan Blair Nothing to Lose

Are you afraid of failure? Blair shows us that failure is an integral step to success.

I am sad to say that I rarely read books anymore. I read blogs, magazines, articles, email, Facebook status updates, and tweets. Books seem to fall to the wayside, especially ones that are not on my iPad. Over this past weekend I decided to dig into a book I had received from Ryan Blair called “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain“. This book is a philosophical business autobiography that blends Blair’s life story with hard knox business lessons.

I have read a lot of business books. I have read books on theory, philosophy, data analysis, case studies, economic reports and wishy-washy fluff that seems to inspire people.  I am sure you have already guessed that the wishy-washy inspirational fluffy books are not my cup of tea. I don’t want to read a book and hear advice like:

Most people dive right into a new business. They jump in with both feet. But they are jumping without a parachute. They are starting in the middle.  Where should you start your new business?  At the BEGINNING!

Though I am a lover of the skillfully crafted mixed metaphor, or a good tongue-and-cheek cliche, I am not a fan of cliche being used for actual guidance mixed with metaphorical solutions. If you are wondering if I just randomly came up with that example, sadly no. I have actually heard that being given as “hand to God” business advice.

In a conference I was recently attending a speaker was talking about how people often forget to identify the basic steps needed when starting a project. He asked where you should start any project. Someone behind me actually answered “the beginning” and she was serious about it.  It drove in how conditioned we are to these non-answers when learning business strategy and philosophy.

In reading Blair’s book I was pleasantly surprised to not be handed a page full of ambiguous metaphoric dribble. He spoke about the rough time he had growing up, the inspirational and formative lessons he received from both his father and step-father, and the challenges of being an entrepreneur.

Right now you should be asking, how is that different from any of the other “my life as a struggling entrepreneur” books out there.  What differentiated this book for me was the fact that he spent a lot of time talking about his failure and breaking it down for the reader.  He explained why he pursued certain business deals and then the step-by-step break down of why they failed. He spent quality time examining his own role in the failure. He successfully conveyed the message of how failure is important to success and that many times our actions, or personality, can be a primary driver for our own failure. He writes about how his past failures were integral to his current success and how he was able to implement what he learned and harness it for positive results.

In outlining his success, Blair did not just write in autobiographical story telling or philosophy. He breaks down how he has handled getting venture capital, hiring (and firing) people, and selling your business. He gives real tips that how the progression on A+B=C, where as most people will talk about A then show you C and leave out the crucial middle step.  Of course the middle step, the one that says this is how you do it, is left out and leaving you with answers like “the beginning!”

Of course every person is different. Every business is different. Blair’s break downs give you lessons as he learned them and explains how he did them. But they are tools that can help you think critically about how you can work through your own business problems. For me, many times I find that a solution is easier to come by when the problem does not seem so enigmatic. By learning how someone else worked through theirs, I can see the light at the end of my own tunnel better.

Blair ends the book wishing you a life based on the philosophy of “nothing to lose” where you put it all on the line to fight for your success. What it left me with was his wish that we all have our own million dollar failures, because those are a stepping stone to a million dollar success.

 

Google+ for Business….well almost

Google Plus Business Pages

Goolgle+ announced today that they are offering pages for business. This is answering a long standing question, when with Google+ be business friendly.  Well, they had been promising the eventual advent of their business Pages, and the day has finally come!…well kind of.

The pages roll out is just that, a roll out. So not everyone can make a page yet. When will everyone be allowed? Good question. Unfortunately I don’t have the answer to that. So though they are not focusing on the exclusivity of the original “invite only” launch, they are likely only giving the “star players” the first shot at the new Page.

Google Plus for Business but not for you

As a user of Google+ you will be able to to add pages to you circles. It seems that the pages will be much like the Facebook Pages we are all accustomed to.  But one distinct edge the pages have will be the indexing. Google will be immediately indexing any business page. This means that when you create a page you are immediately getting an SEO boost to your page. Additionally when you type in a business name, if you add a + sign before the name it will pull of the Plus page for that business.  So type in + SM Cubed Consulting and you will find my business page.

Is the + search a step forward in the next generation of SEO? Maybe it is. It does make me wonder if this will be a change in the Boolean search that traditional search engine algorithm have been rooted in. (In my mind I see lovers of Library Science heads exploding)

The questions that arise are based in the experience from pages on Facebook.  Will you be able to pursue fans or are we reliant on fans finding pages, like in Facebook?  Will this essentially be simply duplicate content? Is there a point to have both?

What about building their brand? Comments from Blogworld LA

Be unique! Be original! Do that and you will sky rocket to success!

Like so many conference that was a theme in Blogworld after the first day. What a lot of people were wondering but not necessarily vocalizing was how can I do that for a client?

One problem with seminars and industry conferences is that a lot of it help you launch yourself into so called stardom. But what about the people who aren’t peddling their own brand or product. What about the consultants and the community managers? What is the new role for community managers.

The opening keynote with Chris Brogan and Guy Kawalski touted the benefits of Google Plus. They claimed that the people are there, that people are finding huge value and it is the next front. Well, maybe but I am not totally sold. If you are a community manager you still cannot offer it as a brand option for your clients. You still cannot use Google Plus as a business. Not to mention that the audience is mainly tech forward early adaptors. Bit is that your audience? I understand why Brogan is attracted to it because that is his audience. As a community manager, I have to go to where my clients audience is spending their social media time.

Sometimes I question if so many of our social media superheros are primarily teachers but not necessarily on the ground floor doing the work. We always address what you can do to boost your brand, but what about the conversation that discusses what you can do to boost your clients brand.

If we are not supposed to sell or market, and our clients are not devoted (or product able) to give away content, then how do you drive the numbers?

They say that a marketer touts the value of your brand but the CEO wants to see the ROI, as a manager how do you capture and harness that value?

Social Media Links

In today’s constantly-connected world, there’s no escaping social media. Companies are using social media to reach a new audience of consumers, schools are creating Twitter and Facebook accounts to connect with students and their families, and entertainment companies use social media to reward regular views of TV shows and movie fans. Social media is also being used by traditional media to enhance print publications and television shows.

But does all of this connectivity add up to any real benefit for the user? Does social media integration make a person more inclined to use online services—shopping, education and customer service— in place of more conventional options?  While people make decisions based on a whole host of factors, studies show that social media can influence more than just the way people communicate; social media can have a tangible impact on what people choose to buy, as well as levels of political and social engagement. Social media is affecting the way people communicate, but it’s also affecting the way people live their lives.

Education

Colleges and universities were among the first institutions to introduce online elements like e-mail and websites to their students, faculty and staff. But as social media becomes an important tool for students and teachers alike, Facebook and Twitter are enhancing or even replacing some of the messaging and online collaborative programs from just a few years ago. The rise of online education has been both encouraged and supported by social media: most major colleges and universities now offer courses online, and others offer entire programs online for returning adults or students who want to finish a degree without traveling to a campus.

And online education is also becoming a useful tool for K-12 teachers and students— programs like Skype that connect students from different areas of the country or the world, online apps like Google Earth that gives students tours of far-flung locations, and programs like Grockit that help kids study for tests are all changing the educational landscape.

Social awareness and consumers

You might not think that shopping is an important part of life, but social media is helping consumers make informed decisions about what they buy and why. Whether it’s learning about the latest smartphone or how buying local can affect your town’s economy, social media sites are encouraging people to learn more about what and how they consume products.

Of course, marketing firms and companies have recognized that social media can influence buying decisions, but activists and non-profit organizations have also realized that providing consumers with information can affect how people view their regular purchases. And sites like Facebook have made it possible for people to learn more about various causes, and how they can contribute to improving society. Organizations like Feeding America and the Red Cross are using social media to make it easy for people to donate and offer other types of support. By making it easy for regular people to contribute to charities and other causes, people are becoming more politically and socially active—and small actions by millions of people can combine to create a larger impact.

The links that social media have helped create go far beyond messages to friends, family and classmates. The benefits to users can range from the minor to the miraculous—and as social media becomes a part of everyday life, it will change the way we interact with the world.

More! More! More! Social Marketing Gets More Personal!

Customer Service TwitterEveryone wants to know how to get more clicks from their Facebook and Twiiter. How to get more followers. How to get more fans. How to get more more more! But many people are missing one of the biggest values of social marketing and that is the ability to get more personal.

If you go back to the small town store, the local banker or postman, the corner store, what made them so special was that they knew you. They cared about you. You could go to your banker and talk to him about your financial troubles and he actually wanted to help you find a solution. If something you bought wasn’t working right, you could go to the store you bought it from and they cared about your satisfaction. They cared to not only fix the problem but fix the relationship.

Justin Timberlake brought sexy back and social media is bringing personal business back.

Customer services is the hardest to quantify element of ROI in social marketing. Everyone knows it is valuable but what value does it truly have.  Well, to be blunt, HUGE! If a tweet that reaches 100 people is worth $0.10 and a tweet that reaches 1000 is worth $1.00 then what about a tweet that reaches 10,000? or 100,000? Hip Hop star 50 Cent has 5 million followers and one tweet from him would cost you $11,000. But what is the value of that tweet? Is it the click? Is it the reputation? Is it the virality? It is all of it!

If you help one person through social media, they will not question if you are a real person behind the account. They will feel like your twitter or fan page is actually listening to them. If you reach out to them, they will feel heard and therefore appreciated.

Social media gives you the opportunity to really reach out to your customers. On Twitter you can scan for your company or product and when you see a customer service issue, you can reach out.

Why this benefits?

Now not only does the customer feel heard. But they did not have to the be the one to make the first move. You are so invested in them that you are listening for problem and listening for ways you can help.

An Example

Quickbooks is an accounting software. They have an online accounting solution in addition to their software. I posted a login issue on Twitter. I tagged their customer service in the post, because I knew they had representation online. They got back to me within minutes to help resolve the issue.  Though I did seek them out, their customer service was quick, responsive and helpful.

I found them because I did a search on Twitter to see if other people were having the same problem as me. I saw that people were posting issues they were having with Quickbooks and their care team was searching them out and responding to them.

While they were helping me with my issue, one of my followers saw my tweet and reported having a similar problem. The care team then responded to both of us to resolve the issue….and the viral process begins!

Viral Customer Service

When you get an issues resolved through a channel like Twitter you increase the chance of engaging your viral marketing.

1. I have an issue and tweet about it.

2. The care team sees my tweet and helps resolve the issue

3. One of my followers sees my tweet and reports the same issue.

4. The care team is able to resolve both of our issues, and introduce themselves to yet another customer online who was otherwise being silent about the issue

5. I tweet positively about my experience with the company

6. The other person also tweets positively

You have now reached thousands of people with a a positive message about your company from the mouths of your customer.

 

That personal relationships have no dollar figure. You are saving money by resolving the issue quickly and with little man power. You are increasing your loyalty, reputation and customer satisfaction. You are increase your brand value by showing that you are a company that takes care of its clients.

Social media is the next level in customer satisfaction.

 

Blogworld LA

Today I am heading out to LA for Blogworld! This is one of the largest social media conferences of the year. Some of the featured speakers are Chris Brogan, Aliza Sherman, Amber Naslund, Guy Kawasaki, Michael Stelzner, Mari Smith and even some normal famous people like Kevin Pollack!

I am beyond excited to attend the presentations by these media giants.

This conference will be focusing a lot on what has already been accomplished in social media as well as what is coming up. I will be live blogging from the show to share with you some of the trends and tips that I learn.

If you are wondering, there is still time to register. You can also get the virtual ticket which will let you watch the sessions recorded.

So stay tuned!

Happy Halloween

I hope that everyone is having a great Halloween! To help celebrate and possibly inspire that day for you. I wanted to share some of the great social media pumpkin carving I have seen this year!

Manymoon vs. Basecamp vs. TeamworkPM: The Throwdown!

Heavy Weight Belt

Manymoon vs. Basecamp: do you know who will win as the better cloud-based team and project manager?

More and more people are cloud computing. I mostly use it for my business, since it is much more efficient for me to keep information on the cloud and be able to access it from anywhere.  Recently I was asked about cloud-based project management.  I was using Manymoon. Then I switched to TeamworkPM. Then someone else chimed in saying they use Basecamp.  When I actively use a tool for my business I will sing its praises. So with 3 project management tools going head to head, the gauntlet was thrown.

It was time for the Manymoon vs. Basecamp vs. TeamworkPM throwdown.

So, which one is better?

Manymoon

Basecamp

TeamworkPM

Calendar yes yes yes
Tasks yes yes yes
Milestones yes yes yes
Team members yes yes yes
Email Alerts yes yes yes
Document Sharing yes yes yes
Bulletin yes yes yes
Reports yes yes yes
Time Tracking yes yes yes
Mobile App NO yes yes
Free Plan yes yes yes
Google Apps Integration yes NO yes
Sales Force Integration yes NO NO
Templates yes yes yes
Website Integration NO NO yes

As you can see, there are more similarities than differences.  What is comes down to is functionality that meets your needs.  If you need to be able to access your task manager from your phone then you should go with Basecamp or TeamworkPM. If you need to integrate Google Docs then Manymoon or TeamworkPM. If Sales Force is your key, then you should go with Manymoon.

I was a big Manymoon user for a long time, but I have switched to TeamworkPM. I like that I was able to easily create a login on my website for the application. It just seemed easier for me to use. But really the differences were in the minute details. A big one for me was the ability to schedule daily recurring tasks that only occurred Monday through Friday. It seems like such a little thing, but not having weekend notifications that tasks were due was a bit deal to someone with a flooded email box.

Though all of them are great project management tools and will definitely help you get organized and focused, you need to find the one that matches your needs and work style the best.