Larry BraunerAnother social media university, social media academy, guru or training program surfaces online nearly every day. Do we need these social media training programs? Are they worth our time and expense?

I’m old enough to remember the data processing boom of the seventies. There were more computer schools back then than social media gurus or social networking sites today.

Computers in those days weren’t as easy to use as they are today, and people were needed in companies that used them to program and operate them. Computer schools collected large sums to train people for potentially lucrative computer programming careers, but in the end, students were very lucky if they even got lower paying computer operator jobs.

Students weren’t aware that businesses much preferred college graduates with relevant degrees to fill programming positions over graduates of year- long programs. Computer schools were able to rake in large profits because they didn’t fully disclose the reality of the job market.

The same was true years later with medical billing. Schools and home study programs nurtured false expectations. The probability of finding assignments after completing a medical billing course was dismally low.

Making an Intelligent Choice

To determine whether a social media training program is worthwhile for you, answer the following questions as thoughtfully and honestly as you can.

  1. What are your needs and expectations? Stop and reflect. What are you looking for? To change careers? Broaden your marketing skills? Build your brand? Have fun? Earn extra money? Getting clear about what it is you’re looking for is a sensible place to start.
  2. Can you partially or fully meet your needs by completing the course? In other words, does the course match your needs?
  3. Do the benefits of the course justify your investment of time and money? Unless your goal is to turn social media into a hobby that pays off emotionally, not financially, your course needs to help you develop money making skills that justify the cost. Please be wary of courses or systems that promise quick or easy results.
  4. How qualified are you to pursue the path you wish to take? Do you have the prerequisites to complete the course and follow through on your plans?
  5. Are you motivated enough? I’ve stated before that the  social media learning curve is steep, and results aren’t quickly obtained. You need the mindset of a marathoner to succeed. Look at your track record. If you can persevere over a long period of time and follow through, you might succeed. Otherwise, resist committing to a long-term social marketing plan.
  6. How qualified and reliable are the instructors? Do they walk the talk? Have they demonstrated the ability to do what you yourself would like to do? Can they provide references?
  7. Can you afford to lose your investment? If the course costs more than you can afford to lose, discuss your options with friends and advisers before making a decision. Listen carefully to their recommendations.

You should be able to apply the same or similar criteria to evaluate affiliate marketing, network marketing, search engine marketing or SEO courses.

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Larry BraunerA lever gives us the ability or leverage to move heavy objects with relative ease. Metaphorically speaking, the same is true of any tool that can empower us to perform a function more effectively.

The Internet gives us the ability to transfer information with relative ease, and it is also enables a great variety of online tools to provide us with virtual leverage.

Web-Based Tools

Here are six web-based tools that we’ve come to rely upon to save us time or money or to help us be more effective:

  1. Internet-based mail - e-mail, autoresponders and PDF Files
  2. Live communication - VOIP phone, chat and webinars
  3. Digital media - websites, blogs and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter
  4. Social networking sites - Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn, etc.
  5. Content sharing sites - YouTube, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious, etc.
  6. Search engines - Google, Bing, etc.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve had some experience with each of them, and this is a very partial list.

What Can Go Wrong

I probably don’t have to tell you that things don’t always go right. Here are the three obstacles that can most easily sidetrack you:

  1. Using the wrong tool - Download a large file using dial-up Internet, and by the time it finishes downloading, you’ll forget why to wanted it in the first place. Use a shabby autoresponder, and most of your e-mails will end up in recipients’ spam folders.
  2. Using the tool wrong - Social media tools and search engines have steep learning curves, and learning how to use them properly is typically a big undertaking. Misunderstand or misuse social media or SEO techniques, and your work can be set back by months.
  3. The tool breaks - Your Internet connection goes down for a week, your Facebook gets phished, or your blog gets corrupted. You’ll be pulling out your hair, unless of course you’re fortunate enough to be bald.

Many marketers contact me for help because they’ve been using the wrong tool or using the tool wrong.

An Ounce of Prevention

So — choose the right tools, learn to use your tools properly, and develop good contingency plans for when Murphy’s Law does strike — because it most certainly will, and at the worst possible moment.

What do you think?

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Larry Brauner

Chris Patterson, President & CEO of Interchanges.com and founder of inSocialMedia, is one of the busy people with whom I strive to keep in touch. He’s very enthusiastic about social media and a great people person as well.

When speaking with Chris last week about inSocialMedia, the 3,200 member Ning network he started to enable practitioners to discuss social media strategies, I agreed to join his site’s team. An avid social media strategist myself, to work on inSocialMedia is very exciting.

I’ll continue to moderate and develop several of my own Ning sites, Beyond Business Coaching, Let’s Follow Each Other and Online Kosher Networking.

Reasons You Must Use Ning

Knowing my passion for Twitter and Facebook, you might think I’d lose interest in Ning. I’ll explain now why this isn’t at all the case. These reasons (not in order of importance) are based upon my own personal experience and feedback I’ve received from other Ning users:

  1. Create a Community - Ning enables you to create your own social network, and Ning is free. There are also premium features which site owners can purchase if and when they want them.
  2. Use Ning with Ease - Ning is fairly intuitive and easy to use. Ning collects your basic personal information such as name, location, e-mail, password, and photo one time, and that information is used automatically at each Ning site you join.
  3. Customize Your Ning - Ning sites, and to a lesser extent members’ profile pages, can be easily customized without any programming. However, the Ning program code is open, so that site owners can achieve even greater customization with the help of a programmer or by installing plug-ins.
  4. Build a Niche - Ning sites are built around niches. Site members tend to share a common interest or characteristic. As the site grows, it retains its niche orientation.
  5. Publish a Blog -  Ning lets you post and syndicate internal blog entries, and lets you import external RSS feeds as well.
  6. Form a Group - Groups within Ning can serve as forums or as mini-blogs. They can also help segment a site and bring together members according to various interests or characteristics.
  7. Share Content - You can make friends across Ning sites and share content with them across sites. This happens to be my favorite feature, since it ties in with my macro approach to online social networking. UPDATE: NING HAS DROPPED THIS IMPORTANT FEATURE, however, you can still share content with all friends at the site on which the content is posted.
  8. Link Out - As far as I can tell, all Ning links are “do follow” and your SEO can benefit from pointing them back to your website or blog.
  9. Communicate - Ning offers a variety of communication modes such as profile comments, forum and group discussions, blog and blog comments, photos, videos, events, status updates and private messages. Site creators also have the option to enable chatting.
  10. Control Your Ning - Ning site administrators can choose which members and content to feature or to ban.

Since you’re reading this article, you must be interested in social media, so click here to join us at inSocialMedia. See you there.

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Larry BraunerWe discussed in Why Doesn’t My Website Generate Sales? four different aspects of poor website performance: too little website traffic, the wrong website traffic, insufficient stickiness and poor conversion.

Today we shall examine the all too common problem of too little website traffic and answer three important questions:

  1. Doesn’t my website deserve to get traffic?
  2. Why doesn’t my website get traffic?
  3. How can I create traffic to my website?

Doesn’t My Website Deserve to Get Traffic?

If your website offers useful information or creates value for visitors in some way, it deserves traffic.

It’s really that simple.

Why Doesn’t My Website Get Traffic?

Deserving web traffic is one thing, and getting it is another. I believe that most websites deserve traffic. They were put on the web to present information or create value for visitors in some other fashion. Nevertheless, most websites sit and collect dust to the disappointment of their owners.

Here are a few reasons for the lack of traffic to deserving websites:

  • Lacking web marketing savvy - Most website owners do not know how to market their websites and generate traffic to them. This is alright as long this shortcoming is adequately compensated for which is usually not the case.
  • Assuming that web developers know marketing - Many website owners hold the mistaken belief that web developers will optimize their websites to attract traffic from the search engines. When the site is finished, there is often a keyword expression such as the company’s name that shows up on the first page of the search engines, but that keyword expression is trivial and doesn’t bring much traffic if any. This mistake is pretty common and very sad. It’s a major cause of the following problem.
  • Negativity - Too many website owners don’t appreciate the great marketing potential of the web or don’t believe that the web’s suitable for their business. This is a good example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How Can I Create Traffic to My Website?

Here are four ways to generate website traffic:

  1. Buy advertising - Your best options are print, radio and Internet. You may need a copywriter to develop an effective ad for the media you choose. Before you spend much on advertising, satisfy yourself with an experiment that your ad works and that your site can convert visitors into buyers. If you don’t take this precaution, you may end up throwing away money on advertising that doesn’t produce results.
  2. Connect with your target audience on the web- Online social networking is a path to free website traffic. Building your audience and your brand online is the main focus of this blog. Find the time to explore my site map and read a whole bunch of my articles. Use comments to ask questions. Social networking sites can be very useful, or they can be a very big waste of time. Knowing how to use networking sites effectively makes all the difference.
  3. Learn search engine optimization - You can read some books and optimize your website by yourself, just as I have done. There is an SEO learning curve, but in my opinion, it’s not as steep as the social media learning curve. Good website content and good SEO can attract thousands of free search engine visitors to your website.
  4. Get marketing help - find a web marketing consultant to guide you or do everything for you. That person could be me, or it could be somebody else who’s knowledgeable.

This is your website traffic road map. It’s up to you to choose the route and destination that are best for you.

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Larry BraunerI have already written List Building Using Ning Social Networks and List Building Using Twitter. I will want to revisit Ning and Twitter in the future. However, in this article I discuss the use of Facebook for building your list.

As explained in List Building Paradigm Shift, list building in today’s social media world is the process of acquiring and nurturing a rich and heterogeneous following across diverse platforms which include Rolodex, autoresponders, social networking sites and RSS feeds.

On Facebook, friends, page fans and NetworkedBlogs followers, all belong to your list, and all receive communications from you in one form or another.

If Facebook would enable you to have an unlimited number of friends, you could probably get along without fans and NetworkedBlogs followers. However, Facebook models itself after the real world and therefore limits you to 5,000 friends, presumably the exact size of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Rolodex.

Facebook does enable you to have any number of fans and followers. List building  on Facebook consists of acquiring and nurturing friends, fans and NetworkedBlogs followers belonging to your target audience.

Acquiring Friends

I covered a technique for targeting and connecting with friends on Facebook in Targeting and Connecting on the Top Business Networking Sites.

You find members of groups, fans of Facebook pages, and blog followers on NetworkedBlogs, all of which you consider relevant to your target audience, and you invite those members people — in a congenial manner, of course — to connect with you.

The more friends you have, the more your content is displayed to their visitors helping you get even more friends and followers.

Acquiring Fans

These are a few of the many ways to acquire fans for your Facebook page:

  • Place a Fan Box widget on your website or blog, so that your visitors can become fans with one click.
  • Post a message on your website or blog requesting that your visitors become fans.
  • Ask your Facebook friends to become fans. There is a “Suggest to Friends” link on your Facebook page.
  • Place advertisements, but take care to adhere to the Facebook guidelines for advertising fan pages.
  • Post outstanding content on your Facebook page that will spread virally on Facebook and attract new fans.

Acquiring NetworkedBlogs Followers

NetworkedBlogs is a Facebook application to promote your blog and acquire Facebook followers and blog subscribers.

Here are some ways in which I acquire NetworkedBlogs followers for my Online Social Networking blog:

  • I have a NetworkedBlogs widget on my blog’s sidebar.
  • I ask people on my blog, Facebook and other social networking sites to follow me.
  • I try to write useful articles so that friends of my Facebook friends and followers will start following me.

A Special Request

Please subscribe to my blog and follow it on NetworkedBlogs. I’ll do my best to write useful articles that you’ll enjoy, and to reply to your comments promptly and helpfully. :-)

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