Larry BraunerThe old media are languishing. Brick and mortar retail sales are disappointing. Consumers are looking increasingly to the web for news, information and the best deals.

While very many businesses have successfully embraced digital media, an even larger number of businesses are still figuring the Internet out and wondering how much is real and how much is hype.

Sadly, many businesses will disappear because they feared technological change or were unwilling to invest in projects that lacked a clear return on investment.

Blockbuster was outmaneuvered by competitor Netflix, because they did too little too late. Read the Forbes article, What Blockbuster Video Can Teach Us About Economics.

I worked several years ago for a free newspaper containing local ads that’s distributed in my area. The paper is feeling the squeeze of the Internet and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t found a satisfactory path forward. The staff finds it more and more difficult each week to meet their numbers. I believe I can help. I met resistance when I suggested it a year ago, but I’ll try again.

Expect me to be offline more than on the next week or so due to the Passover holiday. I hope each of you enjoys and finds fulfillment in whatever special days you might be observing.

Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I’ll reply as soon as I can. :-)

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Larry BraunerCan social aggregation and syndication websites make life online easier?

I wrote in Hubze is a New Business Site for Personal Branding and Social Media Aggregation that “the aggregation of social websites will be a major focus of 2010, as enabling technologies like semantic web come to the forefront.”

Social Networking SitesSocial media enthusiasts who regularly cross post on multiple social platforms use aggregation and syndication sites and tools to simplify simultaneous cross posting across those platforms.

For example, I often want to share a link, an idea or content on all of the most popular social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ning sites, such as inSocialMedia).

Since I don’t want to work through a complicated or tedious process each time I do that, I rely on syndication sites such as Amplify, Ping.fm and Posterous to help, depending upon the type of information I’m sharing.

Posterous vs. Amplify vs. Ping.fm

I prefer syndication sites over desktop tools, since I can access those sites from any computer wherever I happen to be, and they also help build my web presence. These are my current favorites:

  • Amplify - A social bookmarking site . You add links (along with article snippets if you like) using a browser bookmarklet, and your entries are posted to all the social networks you’ve specified. Amplify also has a strong social element and is a useful online social networking resource.
  • Ping.fm - A micro blogging site (a little like Twitter). Your posts can have pics attached, and can be distributed to a large variety of pre-specified social websites. You can conveniently submit your posts to Ping.fm by email.
  • Posterous - A blogging community to which you can post pics, video and text. Your Posterous posts are shared on a variety of pre-specified social websites. Posterous, like Amplify, has a strong social element. As with Ping.fm, you can submit your posts to Posterous by email, and as with Amplify you can create posts using a browser bookmarklet.

Hubze, now in testing, may be another important aggregation and syndication site in the future.

However, there are many syndication sites and tools that are already being used successfully. Which social aggregation and syndication websites and tools do you like to use — and why?

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Larry BraunerIt isn’t too late for entrepreneurs to become early adopters of social media. Use of the social web is still trying to find its way into mainstream business culture.

I first learned about Web 2.0 from Time Magazine’s historic December 2006 cover story, Time’s Person of the Year: You. Then, after much preparation, I launched Online Social Networking in November 2007.

Social Media One Bite at a TimeLooking back and recounting my earlier discovery, I wrote in a March 2009 article, Social Media One Bite at a Time, that “I saw that while I could no longer be one of the earliest adopters of social media, it wasn’t at all too late to position myself at the forefront of an enormous trend.”

I now realize that I was one of the earliest social media adopters, especially within business circles. Entrepreneurs have been very slow to embrace the new media.

Consider two stories both appearing this week in established publications. Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media appeared in the Wall Street Journal, and Is Social Media Worth Your Time? appeared in Inc.

These articles are indications that skepticism and misunderstanding remain pervasive, particularly among small business owners. The key concerns seem to be ROI and the time burden imposed by social media.

I’m not going to confront those issues in this blog post. Instead, I’m helping you see an opportunity. If you’re already sold on the long-term potential of branding yourself and your business using social media, you can get a good head start on most of your competition.

If you’re not already sold, read the two books I mentioned in Are You Building Your Personal Brand and Future Around Your Passion?Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk and Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel. Before you finish both books, I predict you’ll be a firm believer.

If you’re on your way, or if something is holding you back, in either case, I’d love to hear about it.

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Larry BraunerI’ll share one of my idiosyncrasies with you, but promise you won’t laugh: Most people go to the library to find books — not me. When I accompany my kids to the library, I take my own books with me to read while waiting for them to finish.

Think that’s peculiar? I can assure you that there’s a totally rational explanation: It’s rare to find the trendy business books I like to read at a library. I’m much more likely to find them at a bookstore.

Still, my kids like to tease me about this seemingly odd behavior.

Looking for Trendy Business Books at the LibraryImagine my surprise when on a recent library visit, I found both Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk and Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel in the new arrivals section. Finding these books was a fluke, but nevertheless, I do plan to check back in that section in the future. ;-)

I read and thoroughly enjoyed Crush It!. The words of @garyvee helped to reinforce and refine my personal approach to business and social media branding. (I’m still in the middle of Six Pixels of Separation and liking it so far.)

Business developers are starting to approach me to explore joint ventures. They tell me how successful they are and then talk to me about changing my path, building a giant email list and making videos.

Gary, on the other hand, talks about building your personal brand through social media by being authentic and “delivering your content by video, podcast, or blog.” Being authentic guarantees to “differentiate you from everybody else, including those who share your niche or business model.”

Gary’s whole book resonated with me. However, his emphasis on building a personal brand around one’s passion got me to stop and reflect for several days about my own passion.

I realized that while I love social media, the web, and data crunching, I have a greater passion for helping people solve difficult problems. Throughout my career, I’ve been happiest when solving business problems has been at the core of my work.

Gary Vaynerchuk writes that loving your family, working super hard and living your passion are the keys to success. What’s your passion, and are you building your personal brand and future around that passion?

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Read down to the end of the comments for the latest Hubze news!

Larry BraunerPeople often ask me to have a look at brand new social networking sites. I typically decline, as I prefer to invest my time checking out social sites that have already gained acceptance.

However, this week, when my blogging friend John from EZGreatLife.com sent me to Hubze, a social media site that might help me brand myself and tie together Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites, I decided to investigate.

Social Networking SitesAccounting for my motivation was an expectation that the aggregation of social websites will be a major focus of 2010, as enabling technologies like semantic web come to the forefront. Don’t we all wish it would be easier to organize and streamline our many social networking sites?

The landing page provided little information. It did however indicate that I could become a beta tester if I joined by noon my time on the 13th, and I joined. John had told me that there would be gifts for the beta testers, but I’d have signed up right away in any case.

Hubze, Pronounced Hub-Zee, Formerly Moneza

Last night I attended a webinar to learn some details. I’m far from an expert, but this is what I learned:

  • Hubze (formerly Moneza) is the name of the website, and it’s free to join.
  • In my opinion Hubze and the Hubze Card are useful and timely ideas in their early stages of implementation, and I do not believe that Hubze is a scam.
  • Membership includes your Hubze Card (which resembles Card.ly but is substantially more powerful). Your Hubze online business card provides your contact information, links to your active social sites and displays your live update feed (pretty much like Friend Feed does). The Hubze Card also displays how many people you are tracking (following) and how many you are tracked by (followed by), an indication of your social influence and clout.
  • The Hubze Card is viral, as viewers are encouraged to get their own. When they do, they become part of your growing network, which expands outward from you at its center. This helps to grow your brand virally, but exactly how that works, I don’t yet understand.
  • There will be a back office from which you’ll manage your Hubze Card and from which you’ll post updates to all your social sites at once (much as if you were using Friend Feed or ping.fm).

This is the Hubze Registration Page. Please join me at Hubze and we’ll build our networks there. Watch for the next Hubze webinar which will provide us with more details.

Coming in on the ground floor (as I did with both Twitter and Ning) will facilitate your community building process. :)

Read the comments below and leave one of your own if you like.

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Larry BraunerI obsess over my website search engine ranking and check my keyword search engine rankings more often than once a week. After all, who doesn’t want to achieve higher search engine rankings and get more web site traffic?

However, top search engine ranking isn’t everything. There is much more to search engine optimization than merely increasing a website’s search engine ranking.

Get More Web Site TrafficYour website can have a top Google search engine ranking yet not receive its fair share of traffic or receive insufficiently targeted traffic, which is also bad.

As I pointed out in a comment on 5 Steps to Make Wordpress an SEO Beast, an excellent article on the StylyzedWeb blog, you can be at the top of the search engines, but if too few people click through to your website or the wrong people click through, you can’t say that your site is search engine optimized.

A page’s title and description in its header often determine exactly how that page will appear in the search engine results and how likely searchers will be to click through to it. Header tags need to be optimized not only with search engines in mind but with people in mind too.

Search engine marketers are keenly aware of this issue, and search engine optimizers need to be equally aware.

Furthermore, if ample targeted visitors do come to your website, but your site is ineffective because of its content or design, then all your efforts to attract search engine traffic or any other traffic have been for naught.

Optimizing your website’s keywords to obtain a top search engine ranking is important, but the appeal of both your search engine listing and your actual website to your target audience are at least as important and should not be neglected.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated as usual. :-)

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