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Tony Adam

Entrepreneur, Marketer, Aspiring Polymath

Online Marketing

Online Marketing
Quickbooks Connect: Growing Your Business Online Presentation
November 4, 2015 at 7:13 am 0
  
     
At Quickbooks Connect I presented on all the available methods to help small business owners grow their business online. I discussed SEO, SEM, Content Marketing, Facebook Ads, and Email Marketing.
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Online Marketing
Must have online marketing tools when starting your business
July 28, 2015 at 8:14 am 0
  
     
online-tools-opt Over the years I have used tons of tools for marketing programs and campaigns I’ve created. But, I get a lot of people that ask me “what do you use for email marketing?” or “what did you use for analytics?” I thought about companies I have started like Eventup and Visible Factors, among others, and every company I consulted for, these are the products/tools I set up or recommend consistently

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a no brainer, before you start promoting or doing anything, make sure you have Google Analytics set up correctly. I’ve walked into many engagements where this was not done correctly and the tracking and measurement was completely off. Also, if you are in E-Commerce or have some sort of conversion flow, make sure your funnels are set up correctly. There are a variety of ways to use google analytics for conversion tracking, using regular expressions, as well as email/reporting. Google Analytics can be as simple or as robust as you want it to be. Take the time to put all the right tracking in place so as you start creating campaigns, you know exactly what you are getting out of them.

Mailchimp

I love Mailchimp, just because it is easy to set up. You can use their APIs to tie it into your user sign up flow and add them to specific lists. You can manually create lists that are s of your full list fairly easily. Admittedly, there are other companies like sailThru doing way better at automating, but it is more expensive and not as easy to set up. Create customizable templates, design your own, use their HTML editor, etc. You can create campaigns and schedule them for later dates, integrate Google Analytics, you can test the look of the email on various clients like Outlook, Gmail, etc. And they have spam testing tools as well. You can get more advanced later, for now, start sending emails right away.

WordPress

WordPress is the most powerful blogging platform, hands down. The CheezBurger Network runs off wordpress and does millions of uniques monthly, so it is definitely able to handle the traffic. Personally the reason I love it is because of how extensible it is with tons of options for frameworks like Thesis or Genesis. Along with that there are tons of themes out there on sites like WooThemes orThemeForest. And, don’t get me started on the countless amounts of plugins there are to extend wordpress. For SEO, my buddy Joost De Valk has some amazing stuff on his site, including the best WordPress SEO Plugin. Also, for caching, to ensure your site can handle the traffic, use W3 Total Cache.

Crazy Egg

I love tools that give me insight into customer behavior, and Crazy Egg does just that. I love heatmapping and having the ability to see where users are clicking the most on pages. Also, it's fun to see large amounts of clicks on things that aren't clickable. (e.g. images) Really helps you understand how to cater to your customer and change your site to help this. I’ve been in situations just like this, where we had static images on pages users thought they could click on and there was no link. After changing this, click through rates and engagement on sites increased dramatically. After adding Crazy Egg, I was able to understand users/customers better and guide them to the content they were looking for.

Optimizely

Being able to make sense of your customer and user behavior is cool, but, when you can track and test variations of that, it is even cooler. Optimizely lets you create A/B and Multivariate test of all sorts, from Engagement to conversion events. You can use this for things as simple as button color and button text to placement and variations of content on pages to see what converts best. We’ve been able to nail down various landing pages using Optmizely to test out all of the above.

Moz

From an SEO standpoint, getting a Pro account on Moz is a no brainer. They offer a variety of pretty simple tools like rank checking (although, Bonus tool shoutout:Authority Labs is way better at Rank Checking), an On-Page Grader, and Open Site Explorer to check links. Along with all of that, they have a great amount of resources for paid pro members, like their Q&A section.

Google Webmaster Tools

I always set up Google Webmaster Tools once I set up Google Analytics because it allows me to track the “SEO Health” of the site. Understanding the pages crawled, crawl rates, indexing and time spent downloading a page. Also, they have tools that alert you if your site is not crawlable, there is malware, or any other sort of blocking and tackling issues.

Bonus: Google PageSpeed Insights Tool

The Page Speed Insights tool is good to understand site speed inefficiencies on your website. This is important because I’m a huge believer in quick page load times from a user experience standpoint. It’s proven to be part of Google’s Ranking Factors, but more importantly, user experience increases as page load times decrease. At the end of the day, these are all tools to help you with marketing campaigns. They won’t run the campaigns for you, there is no magic here. And, many people have different opinions on the tools to use. I can say that, in my opinion, these are the best bang for your buck products and tools to help get your company going in the right direction from an online marketing standpoint. Are there any must use online marketing tools in your toolkit? How do you use these tools when starting campaigns/websites/companies? I’d love to hear your feedback and follow me on twitter to keep the conversation going.
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Online Marketing
SEO as a core startup marketing strategy
July 20, 2015 at 9:15 am 0
  
     

If you’ve ever started a brand new site, you’ll know that getting organic traffic is extremely difficult. Sure you can buy traffic through Adwords or various other media buys and/or you can use PR to get you spikes. The question I like to ask people is, do you have longevity? Developing a holistic marketing strategy should be your first and foremost priority because it will help guide you every step of the way. It will help you drive the decisions you make about the paid traffic, publicity, and how you use social.

SEO is the “down in the trenches” traffic stronghold you can use as a baseline for traffic efforts.

For some reason, startups (and frankly, all businesses) don’t invest enough in organic search traffic from the beginning because it’s not a priority. I get it and understand it because when I started Eventup, it wasn’t a priority for me either. The most important thing at the time was shipping product, launching the company and iterating.

It doesn’t mean we forgot about it entirely, we still built in some core principles from the SEO strategy I put together. The way we did this was adapting tactics into the product as we built it. As you’re defining the core infrastructure of your site, can you define SEO alongside that? The answer is YES.

For example, let’s look at a case study where we didn’t have the time to think of all the URL variations for getting the site up and running pre-launch. We got it up so we could start signing up venues, start seeding it, and talking about it to friends.

In December 2011 we had 74 unique keywords driving traffic. In February 2012, we updated the URL structure and our long tail traffic went up an order of magnitude (10x) literally. The thing is, we know it was not just because of the launch buzz, because it wasn’t just traffic, it was number of unique keywords driving traffic. This

Putting SEO into Practice

For someone like me, it really isn’t that difficult to get the basic SEO best practices built into the site architecture. I’ve seen the variations for startups and small businesses to high volume sites like Yahoo! Sports to Myspace.

That said, not every startup or company has someone that has spent 10+ years doing various forms of Online Marketing. I figured I would put together some of the stuff that I put together for either businesses I create or clients that I’ve worked for.

Keyword Research (and Assessment)

This should be the first step of everything you do. I know it sucks, it’s tedious, it’s time consuming, but, if you have no idea what your audience, users, or customers will be looking for, you’ll be left in the dark. Developing a solid set of keyword research is essential. Start by thinking of your topic as a whole and asking yourself, what do users search for. My favorite example of this is the automotive space, because, let’s be honest, how many times have searched for “automotive” or “automobile” — that’s right, you haven’t — because people search for “cars”.

I wrote about SEO keyword research 5 years ago and to this day it’s a good starting point for how I do keyword analysis and breakdown what my audience is looking for. Putting this definition together is the core of everything I do going forward in my SEO requirements, definitions, and guidelines for content on the site.

Bonus: For clients, I like to put together an “Assessment” or analysis as well that gives them a breakdown of not only the keywords, but the competition they will face in search (and, only search) and what steps it will take to rank for those keywords. If you have the ability to do this, it can help you make decisions going forward.

On-Page SEO

On-Page SEO consists of a variety of things like your page structure, the keywords you use in the content of your site, the page meta data, etc. While a lot of these tactics are debated very widely amongst folks in the “SEO Industry” I believe there is one core tenant that will always remain true: relevancy. The pages you create should be relevant to anyone and everyone, and, when a new visitor comes to your site, they should understand EXACTLY what they are looking at. Search engines work in the same way, when they look at a page and see common themes, that page then becomes relevant for that theme, or in this case, keyword or key phrase.

I’ve written an article on Core On-Page SEO principles, but, at a high level, there are a few things that you’ll be building into your site anyway, that you can quick define (and if needed, iterate on) when launching your site.

  • Page Title:Arguably the most important of the on-page SEO elements this is important in defining the relevancy of your page, it’s generally one of the first pieces of content you see in your HTML documents markup and what a crawler will use to define that page. Here is a baseline template I’ve used for Football player names (variations depend on the content/industry):
<title>%Player Name% Stats, News, Highlihts | %Team Name% | %Brand Name%</title>
  • URL:Another element that you’re going to need to create a template for in some way, so, make sure this is very similar to your page title and H1 on the page to create consistent and relevant naming scheme. For URL templates, it really depends but, if we assume the above example:
http://domain.com/nfl/player/%playername-id%
  • Headings:Debated by many but still generally a good practice to have a very well structured set of headings from a semantic standpoint. I will usually have my main keyword in the H1 of the page and sub keywords in the subsequent H#’s on the page. Again, sticking with the same example in the URL and Page Title:
<h1>%Player Name%</h1>

At the end of the day if your Page Title, URL, and Headings are very relevant to one another, you have a good baseline for content. Yes, these are basic SEO principles, but, if you have a page about the “Chicago Bulls” and it is not mentioned in any of those elements, no matter how many links you get or tactics you try, you’re not going to see the traction needed because that page is not relevant.Relevancy is key.

Content Marketing

Start writing content. Seriously. I’m not kidding.

Get WordPress set up as your blog, preferably as a subfolder (e.g. tonyadam.com/blog) or as a subdomain (e.g. blog.eventup.com). Start by writing a blog post weekly. Increase it to a couple blog posts a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Before you know it, you’ll be up at writing multiple posts per week and hopefully daily.

The reason this is important is because you want to be domain relevant for the market you are working within. The more content you create, the more relevant you become for that topic. The more people read that content, the more relevant you become. The more people search for you and that topic, the more relevant you become. If you’ll notice, there is one consistent element here: Relevance. The key is becoming the most relevant around a given topic as a whole. When your domain becomes relevant around a given topic, it is that much easier to rank and drive traffic for keywords related to it.

What do you build into your marketing strategy? Is SEO at the core of it? If not, what is? Let me know on twitter
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Online Marketing
In The Last Year, I Built A Company Without Knowing It
June 10, 2015 at 8:42 am 1
  
     
A little over a year and a half ago I resigned as the CEO of Eventup, the company I founded and loved with all of my heart. I thought my career was over, and I tried to put aside my depression of not turning Eventup into an extremely successful company. I've never failed at what I do -- every situation I had gone into, I found a way to win (i.e. drive growth). This was new and it was hard to stomach for me. But the adversity I went through was a growth experience that I never realized could be so positive. Building Eventup from a concept to a reality in over 12 cities and booking hundreds of events built a lot of confidence. Leaving it was a character builder and humbling experience. I knew I would learn a lot, but, I learned way more than I could have imagined. Overall, you have to look at the positives or you could get caught dwelling in the negatives, so I fought through and remembered all of my favorite things. 1. I met a lot of amazing people. From the investors who were there for me in the process, I can’t thank them enough. Not only for the investment and taking a chance on me, knowing I would give it my all, but also for the advice throughout the process and helping me grow as an entrepreneur. 2. The Eventup team. I loved EVERY, SINGLE, PERSON, that worked at eventup. Through all the chaos in building the company, the trials and tribulations, arguments, and awkward moments, it felt like family and I am truly looking forward to the next time I am able to experience that same joy. I wish I could have done more for the team, but everyone should pat themselves on the back for all the hard work put in. 3. Learning from mistakes. Let me tell you, I made a lot of them. I tried to learn as quickly as possible, but frankly, shit happens. No matter what, know that you’re going to make mistakes and hopefully you can figure out how to correct them as quickly as possible. 4. Growing. I grew so much and learned a lot throughout the process. My ego was fairly big going into it, but I was humbled by all the people much smarter than me who I met along the way.

Moving Forward. Great Things To Come.

As I took my next step, I badly wanted to start building another product, because it’s what I love doing. But, I also wanted to figure out what would make me happy over the long run and how I could be the most successful. Taking time to reflect and think through things helped a lot. As I started to tinker with product concepts and ideas, I had a lot of support, but one after another, people kept asking me to help grow their startups or work with their companies. While doing this, I realized I was founding my next company, a consulting collective called Visible Factors. And, in a little over a year our team has worked with 20+ companies. We’ve helped some amazing companies achieve some great successes. Some examples include helping Luxe launch and increase reservation volumes by over 600% and Grokker has increased their SEO traffic by 500%. Recently it’s been a new experience and total inspiration working with Children’s Hospital LA. (Take a peak at more of our clients and case studies) We started with just SEO Consulting and our team now has the capabilities to fill the top of the funnel with a variety of channels like SEM/PPC, Facebook (web and mobile installs), and content marketing. We’ve also started helping companies re-tool their on-boarding and increase conversion rates, retention rates, and returning customers with conversion optimization. I bring this all up because, just like Eventup, I never imagined how much I would learn and how quickly we could grow. And, again, thanks to an amazing team of people that works together so well, we are doing impactful work with tangible results for our clients. But, nothing clarified it more for me than a quote I saw at a charity event I attended last week: “Alone we can go fast … together we can go farther.” Those words spoke to me because it encapsulated everything I have been thinking and what I had learned over the last few years. I believe the team is the most important thing to building. I’m thankful and humbled by how smart the team at Visible Factors is because we’ve been able to do so much in such a short period of time.

Where do we go from here?

Honestly, I still yearn to build product. I want to reach more people and grow further so I’ve started tinkering again. I know there are two things I love Marketing and Marketplaces. The next logical step for me is something we have already started - building automation into our services. I believe strongly in what we are doing.  Right now, the team, the partners/clients, and everyone I work with at Visible Factors has my mind, my heart, and I could not be happier. Growing traffic, revenue, and ultimately companies, is something I love more than anything and I am having the most fun I’ve had in my life. We are all excited about the company as we move deeper into 2015 and beyond. p.s. If you have a minute, check out our new site to learn more about what we do, who the team is, and who we have helped grow. And, you can get in touch to find out how we can help your company grow too!  
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Online Marketing
Business Development Opportunities: Find and Close Them
March 17, 2010 at 10:10 am 4
  
     

Having spent a lot of my career doing a lot more than just SEO, I've had to wear many different hats. One of my favorite hats to wear is actually the Business Development one. I'm total people person and I love the sales process. The feeling of closing a deal to me is almost as good as sex. (Sorry, I had to set the bar high).

So, rather than actually sitting here and writing another useless "SEO Tips" type post, I wanted to give to put together something a little more business focused, so I came up with the idea that I would write about how I find and close biz dev opportunities.

Business Development

(more…)

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Online Marketing
Why being a strategic marketer is so important
January 4, 2010 at 9:45 am 14
  
     
I've spent the last week at my parents house in a little town in Los Angeles called LaCrescenta. It's been the first time I haven't been in an office for over 1 week in 10 years (side note: this is the first time I've been at my parents for this long for almost 5 years). It has been good to take some time and reflect on things and do a little bit of looking at things from that 10 thousand foot view. Which has led me to thinking about why it is ever so important to take time, take a step back, and think more strategically.

Looking at things strategically

As it turns out, having your head down and not taking the time to create a strategic approach to things isn't always the best...well...STRATEGY. I've learned a lot about how to think more holistically and strategically over the past 4-5 years. This has created opportunities for me to truly be strategic, innovate, and lead teams, while also delivering value tactically on a daily basis. As we all know, much of marketing and creating great products is really understanding an industry, verticals within it, the overall market, and/or a customer and their needs. The creation of the new types of media, such as social media sites like Twitter, has truly shined light on how important a customer is. You can find many posts around the web talking about engaging customers, honesty, and being transparent (funny thing is, thats all some social media people talk about, but I digress). The point is, the days of shouting at people via television ads isn't really "moving the needle" the way it use to, and, as consumers really look to at different forms of consuming media, we have to understand the people we are looking to reach even more.

Being strategic provides opportunities to see what you might have missed.

We are all in "go mode" and trying to make things happen daily, trying to "provide value." There are so many days that I sit there and engage in social media, work on editorial calendars, and put together plans, etc. for the companies I am working for that I don't have the time to think strategically. This becomes a problem because a lot of things that are glaring situations or opportunities tend to pass you by. But, the question is, when you are spinning your wheels just trying to get stuff done, are you really providing value to your organization? Your Client? and even more so, the consumer? In my opinion, you are not. That is why being more strategic provides opportunities and more value in the long run. Being strategic means stopping what you are doing, analyzing a consumer, and finding out what they are actually looking for. Analyzing a journalist and finding out what they would write about, what they would link to, who they would reach out to. Even better, looking at data to understand patterns, user behavior, etc. that will truthfully provide value to a consumer. Which means you, as a strategic thinker is providing more value by obtaining more customers or actively engaging, re-engaging, and retaining more customers.

Set aside time to think strategically

Taking the time out daily or weekly, gives you an opportunity to think more holistically as a marketer. Take time to think about what people want. Marketing is not about pushing a message or advertising your product. Marketing is truly understand what is important in any given marketplace. Marketing is the process of creating value in an industry that will ultimately lead to obtaining customers and retaining customers. An example of this can be a product you offer or a template that you develop for your website. Some time ago, I was putting together specifications for pages that should be built on a site. I threw them together from an SEO perspective. Title Tags, alt tags, URLs, etc...you name the technical requirement, and I had it spec'd out. The problem I didn't think through was, am I really creating value? Am I really understanding what people want out of those pages? Would customers be happy? Would the Media? Would Social Media Users? Overall, that was the problem I was not thinking through and that is an order of magnitude greater than any title tag or url in the long run. I hit this realization that I should not just try to get stuff done and should actually take some time to think through a problem. Now that I have, I have made sure that I dedicate time to actually blocking out periods of time to think more strategically on a weekly basis. During that time, I switch my surroundings and either go to a coffee shop, lock myself in a conference room at the office, or something of that sort.

Consultants can help with Strategy

There are three ways that bringing in consultants can help with the problem of thinking strategically as an organization: Consultants can provide a fresh set of eyes that are not tightly integrated with your business, along with being able to be objective about features, content, etc. because they are not vested in the design, for example. Hiring a strategic consultant also means they will not be inundated with trying to deliver on daily traffic goals, daily product meetings, etc. They will be able to work externally, analyze a business, an industry, and the consumer and make recommendations that you can implement. Hire consultants that are tacticians to help alleviate your daily support needs. Whether you are managing communities, doing something tied to SEO, managing PPC campaigns, etc. All that matters is that you are bringing someone in to alleviate the fact that you need free time to think more strategically. Many times, a business has learned so much about their industry that they have all the research necessary to think strategically and just needs to time and ability to step away from day to day processes to actually do just that, think strategically. Being a consultant now at days is no longer about specialization and more about strategy. Todd Malicoat just recently wrote about being a Business Management Consultant and I think its so important to think that way now. Just being a PPC consultant, SEO or Social Media Marketer isn't going to cut it going forward. It is the exact reason that I am happy that I have prided myself in becoming a generalist in technology and the Internet. Understanding all facets of project management, product development, ideation, marketing, etc. is so important. But, be careful, because, just like the ever so popular "Social Media Experts" that can talk about being one, but, don't really understand it. The same goes here, being a business consultant and advising businesses isn't just knowing a few things, it's being a generalist that understands all aspects deeply enough to truly provide holistic feedback to an organization about their market, their product, etc.

Overall Web Strategy is crucial

Overall, it is important to start thinking more strategically as businesses start to evolve online. Being strategic, being a leader, and understanding a market is more important now than it ever was. Being a true marketer involves understanding an industry and providing value. We should all be striving to provide more value to organizations going forward. Have you spend enough time on web strategy? Are you hoping to spend more time on it? I want to hear what people are thinking about thinking strategically overall!
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Online Marketing
Building Traction with Search and Social Media Visibility
July 15, 2009 at 12:49 am 11
  
     
Over the last few months I’ve seen an interesting cross section of startups to large brands and marketers to developers that are all running businesses. There has been one thing that ties all of these people together, and that is gaining traction and visibility to your website or business online.

If you are a large brand, you already have that visibility, but it is hard to continue to be nimble and build quickly, therefore, you are typically left behind. While startups run into a different kind of problem, they are able to create cool cutting edge products, but, does anyone see these products? Many times, they are not visible and have no traction. I’ve talked to a number of developers, product guys, and “startup dudes” that all run into that problem. The reason being:

People don’t realize that just building a great product is not going to bring you buzz, traffic, or growth, it doesn’t work without visibility.

So, what do you do to solve this problem? There are a few things that you can do if you are a startup or your just a humble guy trying to make a living off a website that you own.

Search Visibility

SEO seemed like such a 4 letter word a few years ago. And, lately I’ve had interesting conversations around getting traffic in general, where I’ve been the SEO Evangelist, talking about how targeted and the high ROI of Search Traffic. It’s been exciting talking people and businesses that understand or are beginning to understand the importance for Search Visibility.

Creating Search Visibility is created by building Search Friendly websites that are authoritative to a given Search Engine.

How do I know what people are looking for?

A lot of people jump into SEO and try to build sites and throw popular phrases into h1’s, titles, etc. It’s important to understand the industry you are in and do the research that is required to know what it is people are searching for, this is called keyword research. For example, the knowing that people search for “cars” rather than “automobile.” (yes, I know that’s a crude example, but, you get the point!). SEOBook has a Free Keyword Research Tool to do this for you.

What is a Search Friendly Website?

A search friendly website is a website that is built so that a Search Engine will index and crawl their content, while adding importance, relevance, and authority to that sites content. Many times organizations will make mistakes by building a flash site or an Ajax site that is entirely unable to be indexed or crawled by a “search engine spider.” There are tips and tricks on on how to build Ajax SEO Friendly websites out there.

Creating authority is the key to visibility!

At the end of the day, no matter how much you’ve researched the keywords and how great you’ve built out your site so it is search friendly, you need external links. Without links to your site from external resources, you will not rank nor get search traffic, bottom line. Getting links isn’t an easy job either, it is the crux of the SEO problem. (i.e. It’s why we get paid the big bucks!)

Building links is an interesting mix of many different cross-functional skills. Whether it is the sales pitch to websites asking for links, the biz dev angle of partnering with other sites or buying links (while, I would NEVER condone that, wink wink!), or the art of building buzz around your content, product, or service through the Social Web.

Social Media Visibility

Ah, Social Media, the buzzword amongst all buzzwords across the web now at days, it’s amazing how much it is talked about. Amazingly enough, Social Media has become a part of the general web presence and we are moving away from it being a piece of the business, so to speak, but rather, the a fully conversational and connected Social Web.

Okay okay, I’ll get to the point: Getting visibility via the Social Web is done by being conversational, engaging, and invoking emotions.

Social Media news sites like Digg

Creating content that creates a conversation around a particular topic, whether it is hilarious, sad, resourceful, etc. Creating content like this is all about invoking the emotions. You want to create content that a user is going to want to Digg. You want to have a page that is going to make someone stop while “stumbling” through your site. But, it doesn’t stop there is still another really important factor of gaining visibility:

If influencers within the Social Media space do not know about your content, then guess what, it is not going to be made visible. People and the masses follow the influencers (and I’m not just talking about twitter) by watching them and seeing what they are talking about, they create the “water cooler conversations.” It is similar to Search in that you need to build a site that the search engines can not only see, but is authoritative.

Create conversations and engagement about your brand

Remember those conversations that I talked about, well, pay attention, because the conversations are happening all across the Social Web. But, you can do things to create those conversations and create engagement that is tied to your brand or your site.

Be insightful, engaging, and provocative when creating a conversation

Don’t be a feed, creating a twitter account and throwing your RSS feed is not participating in the Social Web, it’s a feed and nothing else. You want to create a conversation, think of ways that you can create conversations about your brand. If you are a sports site, talk about upcoming events, like the NBA Draft. If you are a political opinions site, then you might want to ask questions on the Social Web about legislation and elections.

When you create conversations and people are engaging with you and your brand, then you are essentially creating visibility.

The Visibility of Trends

Since moving more into the Publishing and Media side of the business from E-Commerce and Product Centric websites, I’ve learned a ton around insights around trends. Understanding trends gives you insight into the topics that are “buzzing” around a certain category or vertical. You can use a tool like Google Insights to give you that knowledge.

So, you’re sitting there going, “great, who cares what is buzzing!?”...fine , you probably aren’t. That said, this is extremely important to understand, because, creating content around these trends can create the Search and Social Media Visibility needed to grow your business.

Don’t be good, be GREAT!

Remember, your product or content will not survive on it’s sheer awesomeness (even though I’m sure it is!). Make sure that you are considering the visibility of your product and content: ONLY THEN, can your Product and Content be truly considered GREAT!

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Online Marketing
Tips for Building Communities, Online and Offline
May 15, 2008 at 2:08 am 7
  
     
I have been inundated with communities over the last couple years and recently it has been almost the only thing I am working on lately. I have learned so much about managing volunteer groups, creating an offline community of web geeks called "San Francisco Geek Dinners," and in consulting roles. There are many methodologies that I have learned over the past couple years and I am even learning all different forms daily by being thrown into it. What I find extremely intriguing is how there is no two communities or groups that function in the exact same way. This can take form in the shape of an online community that deals with technology or even travel, a group of people to manage within an organization, or a community of individuals in the offline sense, like a meetup. So, the question remains, how do you deal with this? I truly don't have the smoking gun nor will this article answer this all for you. Rather, I think this will get you on the path of thinking about how your unique community needs to be managed and/or gain traction. All communities have a set of common practices that are apparent within them.

Define a purpose and show you care about the community

Define the reason that the community exists and show that you really care about the community. Put some effort into this by putting a lot of grass roots effort into the planning and growth of the community. This gives the members and users of the community the sense that you are vested in the welfare of the community, which you truly are. Moving forward, the next steps are to engage community members and start having conversations with them, once again, both online and offline. Make members or volunteers feel like they have an opportunity to be involved in the overall success of an online community or organization. An example of this is as simple as providing a feedback link on your website that allows members/users to provide feedback on features, updates, or bugs that they run into. Other things that you can do is send out polls or surveys on user experience or features. Things that I have done in the past is create user polls about new interfaces or more recent internal teams for naming conventions. Within the SEO community I have seen a number of people sending out polls/surveys about details for events as well.

Building momentum and keeping it going

Momentum is also a huge factor and keeping that momentum going is very hard to do, but once you have it, do not lose it! If you get some steam behind the community or group members, there is a great chance they will ride that momentum and want to get more involved. This is easier said than done though, as I am sure you can attest to if you have run or built a community. Creating events and meetups for your online community is a great way to get the members or users together and even invite others to the event, thus creating Customer Evangelists for your community. Something else that you can do to create momentum is to create participation and conversations, which I will get to in a second. On the offline community side, I have to admit, I had some great momentum with the first two dinners for San Francisco Geek Dinners. But, because I have not been able to stick with it but hope I can re-energize the momentum with the group. Granted, this is not an online community that I am working on, but, it shows that if you miss a beat with a community, you can instantly lose momentum and traction.

Creating Participation and Conversations

Just like I mentioned above throwing events is a great way to build momentum, but also a great way to start getting people involved in becoming an Evangelist for you. Members, will typically bring others along and hopefully get them involved in the community as well. Also, give people the opportunity to volunteer and get their hands on something that they will make them feel like they are contributing. This can be as small as making recommendations or bring community involvement into the overall decision making process. Create a location for users to get together and discuss issues they are facing, let them talk it out, moderate it a bit, and you have create a think tank of your own for your community. While building an online community, you want to ensure that the participation is staying put on your domain. Polls, survey's, events, etc. are a great way of getting the community together. Ensure that your online community has a lot of sticky features that make it easy for people to be a Customer Evangelist of your online community. Do this by giving users all the "social/viral" features that they can use to pass things on to friends, collegues and family. Many community members want to be the first in on the news, to report it, get in touch with people, etc. From an Online Reputation Management standpoint, if you give users the opportunity to talk to you or provide feedback, it will prevent them from creating flame posts or sites about your community or brand. Bottom line, Encourage the online community to be just that, an online community that allows people to participate and have conversations with each other.

Incentivise the community

Finally, you can create participation channels, but sometimes we all need or want an incentive to make things happen. They also give people the feeling of being rewarded, and we all enjoy knowing that we are appreciated for the hard work that we do. In an offline community, ask the members if someone wants to run the event/meetup and I can guarantee you that there will be someone that is interested in stepping up. Empowering someone to step up and leave his/her mark on the group can be priceless. Create contests that give users/members a chance to win prizes. An example of this can be creating a twitter account for your community and asking everyone to follow you and that the 100th, 200th, etc. will win a free iPod Touch, or something along those lines.

Where do we go from here?

I think it is very apparent and we all know that we have already moved into an era of the online culture. But, that does not mean that we cannot build or leverage an offline community to help the online community or vice versa. Yes, that sounds a bit confusing, but there are commonalities between the two that can be important in building your online community like creating conversation, participation, etc. Overall, you want the community to be sticky and get members and users to become Customer Evangelists for your community.
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Online Marketing
Being an Industry Thought Leader Through Your Corporate Blog
December 21, 2007 at 9:48 am 1
  
     
This is a continuation post as a follow up to Blogging for Customers, not Dollars. I felt this was important for corporations and in-house talent to look at when writing a blog. Sometimes we tend to think about a blog as a way to push products, which is what I talked about previously. The truth is, this is o.k. to do, but ONLY as part of your blog content. Being at a large organization, you are already at the advantage of having a following, your blog will benefit from this. You want to make sure that you are keeping your readers interested. Continuously blogging to your users only about changes to the company or new products, etc. are a way of losing readers and interest. Swinging to a more positive note, you need to start thinking of your blog as the "Thought Leader" for an industry. There are many ways to do so and it will dramatically improve readership and reach. People expect this out of a large company that is an industry leader already, so, being that thought leader that I speak of, will really set you at the top. Pay attention to the industry: Listen for what people are looking for. If identity theft and security on the web is a big part of your industry, then use that to your advantage. Write an article about how it applies to your company and how to prevent it, or something along those lines. Don't spam: As I mentioned above, do not...and I'll say this again...DO NOT write solely on new products or what your company id doing. This is boring, tends to decrease interest, and looks to much like an advertising tool. Write great content: By paying attention to the industry, you know what your readers are looking for. This is crucial info, now go out and apply it. Write articles about the industry, keep people informed of the industry news, etc. Then, every so often, you can write an article that is great and increase visibility. Linkbaiticize: As apposed to publicizing, you want to write great content that leads to great link bait. Also, get to know the top evangelists, sites, etc. around your industry in the blogosphere. Hopefully they will pick up your article and maybe even submit it to digg/reddit/etc. user that could submit your story is another way to increase readership. Doing this and getting this kind of traffic is of course, one of the best ways to increase your blogs overall ROI. The amount of in-links and subscribers alone is worth the time and money invested, then you have the users that actually follow through on product specific blogs and convert into real $$. Keep it Fresh: Don't stop there, continue to fire away and keep content fresh. Stagnant content will lose readers...so keeping it up to date will keep people interested and looking for more. I can't stress enough how important it is to follow the 5 rules above about being an industry thought leader. There is definitive ROI through the amount of link popularity, subscriber-ship, and readership that is gained through Social Media. All that, plus, conversion and click-throughs to product subscriptions, etc. that could quite possibly lead real dollars. Here are some good resources to check out for an understanding of the power of social media are: A Visual Tour Through the Basics of Social Media Marketing by SEOMoz SEO Book Bloggers Guide to SEO
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Online Marketing
Blogging for Customers, not Dollars
March 20, 2007 at 11:17 pm 1
  
     

I really want to focus right now on how to focus blogging on not dollars, but your customers. So, to start, I want to tell you what this WILL NOT be about: Blogging to Make Money, Blogging to be an expert and Blogging for leads. The reason I am putting this out there is to really focus on how to blog to interact with customers/end users.

In the interest of who does a good job of this, we can look at a couple companies that do a great job of doing this. Microsoft does this with channel 9 and Google does this constantly with their plethora of product blogs.

Really customers need to be kept in the loop of what products and services you are offering and how to make your customer feel like you care (granted, you truly should care, but thats a whole other post!). By doing this, you are connecting with those out there and giving them value.

Another real major item of interest is allowing users/customers to really take part in the planning and discovery of great product features. Keep your users/customers really involved in your planning, product and company or organization. This will leave them feeling like they have some sort of stake in the company and feel as if they are truly apart of the company.

Finally, in closing, make sure that you are ensuring involvement from the community. Your users, your customers, and even complainers will give you a ton of feedback through through blog comments or emails after blogs are posted. Allowing them to get involved will definitely resonate well with them and you will have REAL hard data from customers that now feel like they have a PERSONAL stake in the organization.

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