Larry Brauner

This is my final blog post for 2008. I have enjoyed our interaction this past year.

Thank you. I learned a lot.

I look forward to more give and take in 2009.

Thinking Outside the Box

In 10 Not Simple Success Strategies for 2009 I stated, “What worked in the past may no longer work in the present economy. You may have to make some tough personal or business choices going forward.”

Thinking Outside the BoxTo succeed in 2009 we need to be flexible and to think outside the box. According to Wikipedia, thinking outside the box is “to think differently, unconventionally, from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel, creative and smart thinking“.

I hope to help you think outside the box and navigate through some of the challenges and choices that lie ahead.

If you don’t yet subscribe to this blog, I ask you to subscribe now. Let’s stay “on the same page” as I continue to publish thought-provoking and hopefully outside-the-box articles on a broad range of topics.

Networking Outside the Box

If you are not yet a member of Critical Thinking Outside the Box, my no-spam online social network, please join now. This social networking site is a place where you and I can share ideas and network with each other.

Set up your profile there and add me as a friend. That way you can contact me whenever you wish.

By starting discussions and participating in existing discussions on the forum, you’ll brand yourself as a leader. If you’d like to become a featured leader on the site and have me promote you there, send me a message and we’ll discuss the details.

Marketing Outside the Box

Online social networking and social media marketing are still very much in their infancy. We’ll see plenty of growth and change in 2009 and beyond. To market outside the box you’ll need to keep abreast of online and social marketing changes, and you’ll need to keep learning new skills.

Affiliate University Marketing TrainingOne excellent training and support program that I highly recommend to learn and implement new marketing ideas is Affiliate University.

Founder Bill Hibbler is a successful Internet marketer and an excellent instructor. Bill along with Dr. Joe Vitale is co-author of Meet and Grow Rich: How to Easily Create and Operate Your Own “Mastermind” Group for Health, Wealth, and More.

The Affiliate University training program has ten modules, and more will be added in the future.

Additionally, I’m starting a marketing clinic to complement the Affiliate University curriculum and help you through the rough spots as you put what you learn to use.

Achieving Outside the Box

Setting and following through on goals require ongoing support from peers. Mastermind groups provide that support and have long been known to increase focus and speed movement towards achieving objectives.

Affiliate University will start you on the path to forming a mastermind group. After teaching you the basic concepts and mechanics of mastermind groups, their forum will help you connect with prospective members for your group. I will help too.

If you believe that you can benefit from one-on-one mentoring, I offer special consulting rates for my “inner circle”. See the bio and endorsements on my about page for information about my qualifications.

As usual, feel free to comment on this blog post or ask questions… And let’s have a great year!

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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More Critical Success Factors

This time last year I posted on my blog 10 Simple Success Strategies for 2008. My strategies for 2009 are net very simple, or in any case, they’re not easy.

We were already aware that the mortgage crisis would badly hurt American home owners and the real estate industry, but few people realized that the crisis would quickly snowball into a major global recession.

While I stand by last years recommendations and believe that they are valid today, I feel that I need to add new critical success factors to the mix for 2009.

  1. Be flexible. What worked in the past may no longer work in the present economy. You may have to make some tough personal or business choices going forward.
  2. Focus on your finances. Spend less. Earn more, even if it’s difficult, and even if you have to compromise and do something that’s less than perfect for you. Pay down your credit cards, even if you have to sell some belongings. That’s the advice Dave Ramsey gives in his excellent book, The Total Money Makeover.
  3. Be cautious and use common sense. I hate to sound like a broken phonograph record, but while it is important to earn more, don’t fall prey to someone else’s hedge against recession. Before you invest substantial time or money, read Home Based Businesses Don’t Work and The Darker Side of Funded Proposals.
  4. Persevere. I noticed this year how many people failed to follow through on important plans and prematurely abandoned their blogs and social media projects they had started. Perhaps in some of the cases they should have done more soul searching beforehand, but on the whole I think people get frustrated and quit before their work has a chance to bear fruit. If you think you might lack motivation or need encouragement, create a support system for yourself or work closely with a mentor to whom you can be accountable.
  5. Reach out multiple ways. Network with people online and offline using online business and social networking sites and your local Small Business Association, Chamber of Commerce or BNI. Besides my new social networking site and other Ning social networking sites, I strongly recommend Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. Connect to me at all these sites and let me know how I might be able to help you. It might be useful to you to visit Social Networking vs. Advertising, especially if you have never before seen that post.
  6. Develop expertise that will serve you now and in the future. In The 80/20 Rule I wrote, “Expertise is a valuable asset when it comes to personal branding. As an expert you can teach and mentor others and differentiate yourself from your competition.” I went on to explain that with a medium amount of reading, studying and experimentation, you can learn more about a subject than 80% of other people.
  7. Smile and laugh as much as you can. Laughter is good for you and for the people around you.
  8. Prepare not only for the recession, but also for afterward. These tough economic times won’t last forever. Think how you might be able to position yourself down the road to profit from the many new possibilities which will emerge in a couple of years.
  9. Keep the faith. No matter how hard life gets, don’t give up hope. Persist as best you can and be ready to start over. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities.
  10. Subscribe to my blog if you’re not yet a subscriber. I have a lot planned, and we can face 2009 together.

Now it’s your turn to share your ideas. Please feel free to comment.

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A Brief Historical Note

I’m old enough to remember when the norm in the America was to work 40 years for a corporation and retire at age 65 with Social Security benefits and a company pension. I grew up with such an expectation.

Technology and economics reshaped the workplace during the last part of the 20th century, and nowadays people will necessarily change jobs a number of times during their careers and receive little or no employer help along the way meeting their long term financial objectives.

Employment relationships are severed with little reluctance by either party. Employees have become a commodity. Both job security and employee loyalty are very much relics of the past.

It is certainly difficult to assert that business is risky but that jobs are risk free, especially during troubled financial times like these. People in all sectors of the economy are losing their jobs, and unemployment will get much worse before it gets any better.

Robert Kiyosaki Revisited

Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Cashflow Quadrant, compares four different ways to generate income:

  1. Job - You work for an employer. You earn income by selling your limited time. You’re overtaxed by the government. You may however acquire valuable skills and receive access to affordable health insurance.
  2. Self-Employment - You own your job and must work very hard. You receive tax breaks but still earn your income by selling your limited time. You pay in full for your health insurance. You have some autonomy but must nevertheless satisfy your clients’ demands.
  3. Business - You own a system, and you leverage other people’s time and various resources at your disposal such as the Internet. You work hard, but you essentially earn your income by selling other people’s time. Since you’re not selling your limited time, your income potential is unlimited. Many types of business are very risky, but there are others that are not very risky at all. Businesses have many tax advantages.
  4. Investing - You own assets that are called investments. You earn income from these investments. Knowledgeable investors use insurance such as stock options to manage and eliminate the risk of investing. They also achieve the most favorable tax treatment for their income.

Where Theory and Practice Intersect

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that business and investing income are much superior to job and self-employment income — all other things being equal — and having a business and investing mindset is a wonderful personal asset.

Yet there’s a catch.

Most people are not in a position initially to rely either on business or investing to provide the income that they need for life’s basics. Some people may not have the wherewithal now or ever to make a business or investing work for them.

Jobs or self-employment provide immediate income for food, clothing and shelter. In that sense they can be a good thing.

If you have a job and the right mindset, you can use the base of income afforded by your job as a springboard to future business and investing. You’ll seek ways to develop new business, and you’ll use part of your paycheck and business proceeds to buy income producing assets.

Your progress might be slow at first, but it will accelerate over time as your results are compounded.

My Change of Heart

I used to put down jobs saying that J.O.B. stood for “just over broke”. While there’s much truth in that, I believe today that I was stuck in all-or-nothing thinking.

So don’t you think job or business. Think job and business, or whatever makes sense.

Your comments and input are invited.

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Defining Google Bounce Rate

Web metrics help bloggers and other website owners to analyze and track their site visitors. One of the most popular web metrics is bounce rate.

Google bounce rate is the percentage of visitors viewing only a single page before leaving your site or closing their browser window.

Bounce is thought to be bad and to indicate low interest on the part of your visitors.

According to Google, “a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors.”

Using Bounce Rate

Bounce rate can measure a site’s relevance, the desire of your visitors to place an order or to obtain additional information.

If you buy Pay Per Click advertising, your bounce rate may be one of the factors that determines the position of your ad relative to other ads.

Bloggers Baffled

Common wisdom dictates that bounce rate should be no more than 40 to 60 percent. Most blogs miss this range.

70 to 85 percent is typical, and bloggers are baffled.

Experts would probably agree that either the blog or the traffic was too unfocused. You will probably not be surprised to learn that I do not concur with the experts.

Blogs Are Different

Blog posts aren’t merely landing pages. Each and every one is a main attraction.

The following examples demonstrate that bounce rate cannot effectively measure your blog’s relevance to visitors.

Consider first your blog’s most loyal subscribers. They come and read your every post.

Let’s suppose that:

  • 10% leave a comment
  • A different 10% click through to a related post

This appears quite healthy to me, yet your bounce rate is 80%.

Now consider your blog’s best search engine visitors. They land on your post and read it with interest.

Let’s suppose that:

  • 5% leave a comment
  • A different 5% subscribe
  • A completely different 10% visit a related post

This seems quite good to me, yet your bounce rate is again 80%.

Visiting a single page, i.e. your post, reading it and moving on is reasonable behavior for a blog visitor. How can we expect the bounce rate to be much lower?

Bounce rate is clearly not as useful a metric for blogs as it is for landing pages.

Gauging Blog Readership

If we cannot adequately assess our readership using bounce rate, what are alternative metrics?

We might instead look at our trend in:

  • Quantity of good comments
  • Size of our subscriber base
  • Amount of direct traffic
  • Number of quality backlinks
  • Google PageRank
  • Yes, even our bounce rate (smile)

Incidentally, the Google Analytics metric “Avg. Time on Site” is equally problematic, since it doesn’t factor into the average visitors who view only a single page.

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Larry BraunerWhen I set up my Online Social Networking blog in November 2007, I had essentially neither blogging nor search engine optimization experience.

I did have excellent reasons for starting a blog, and I was very determined to succeed. I was ready to learn and prepared to overcome any obstacles that might come my way.

Not wanting to write without readers, I reached out to my e-mail list and to my friends at social networking sites promoting my blog.

As time went on, the quality of my articles improved, I found new ways to connect with potential readers, and I received more and more visitors from search engines.

I must admit to you I’m not a natural writer. Each post to my blog takes hours of writing and editing. Nevertheless, I reached a point this summer when I felt ready to go in a new direction.

Syndicated by BlogBurst

I submitted my blog to BlogBurst and they accepted it for national syndication once they confirmed that it conformed to their editorial standards. The whole application process was really very simple.

BlogBurst refers member articles to top news agencies including Reuters and to a variety of other online publications.

When BlogBurst accepted me for membership they advised me to post at least one well written and carefully edited article of medium-length per week, something that I was already doing as part of my blogging strategy.

Picked Up by Reuters

Reuters has picked up four of my articles so far:

  • Ning Social Networking Sites
  • Ning Social Networking Sites Update
  • Home Based Businesses Don’t Work
  • How to Get Featured on Top News Sites (this post!)

I encourage you to read them on the Reuters site and then to click through to my blog in order to view the original posts and their comments. You can also subscribe to my RSS Feed or e-mail blogcast if you haven’t already done so.

I’m hoping that my recent post, Google Reverses Recent PageRank Update, will also make its way onto Reuters.

Also Featured by Chicago Sun Times

The Chicago Sun Times has picked up three of my articles so far:

Strategic Implication

What I’m looking for more than anything else through syndication is third party validation of my work. This validation enhances my credibility with my readers, i.e. you.

Since the Internet, especially the blogosphere, is cluttered with conflicting information and advice, you need to decide for yourself what you want to believe. Hence I appreciate this opportunity to enhance my credibility with you.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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Larry BraunerAccording to Wikipedia, the 80/20 Rule or Pareto principle “states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”.

The 80 and the 20 are not exact. The 80/20 Rule is what’s commonly known as a rule of thumb.

The 80 20 Rule is an abstract concept, but it’s important to understand it, so let me provide you with some concrete examples that I believe will help.

The 80/20 Rule and You

Approximately 80% of all income is paid to 20% of all people.

The highest paid people earn substantially more than the lowest paid ones. This is a phenomenon of which nearly all of us are acutely aware, and it often seems unfair.

However, 80% of all productivity comes from the efforts of 20% of all people. These 20% of people are the ones who:

  • have a good measure of internal motivation
  • have a high level of personal productivity
  • consistently invest in personal development
  • commit to their goals and focus their efforts
  • leverage their money and their time

Needless to say 80% of all people follow the 20% of all people who lead them.

While 80% of people spend their disposable income on what Robert Kiyosaki points to as worthless items which they think are assets, the 20% live frugally and spend as much as possible on income producing investments that pay them over and over again.

While 80% of people trade their time for money, the 20% use their time to develop businesses that leverage the time of the 80% employees — and also outsource and sub-contract to other businesses in order to gain even more leverage.

The 80% of people tend to take it easy or look for get rich schemes and shortcuts to success. They follow the path of least resistance, and they settle for much less than they really want.

Are you in the 80% or the 20%?

If you’re in the 80%, ask yourself what shift in thinking could transform you into one of the 20%.

The 80/20 Rule and Other People

If you’re in the 20%, then you need to apply the 80-20 Rule to the people around you:

  • 80% of your work is done by 20% or your workers. Spend 80% of your time developing your most productive workers.
  • So too in a direct or networking sales business: 80% of your results will come from 20% of your team. Spend 80% of your time developing your most productive team members.
  • 80% of your business comes from 20% of your clients or customers. Your time should be spent conducting business with your best clients. There are some business experts who would go as far as firing the 80% of unprofitable clients. That may not always be feasible. In many industries such as health care or telecom firing costly customers could result in a public relations nightmare.

The 80/20 Rule and Social Marketing

Here are some Internet and social media applications of the 80-20 principle:

  • 80% of all blogging is done by 20% of all bloggers
  • 80% of all blog comments are made by 20% of all blog readers
  • 80% of all online social networking is done by 20% of all online networkers
  • 80% of all networkers flock to 20% of all social networking sites
  • 80% of all traffic goes to 20% of all websites
  • 80% of all spam is generated by 20% of all spammers

You can add to the list when you comment on this post — assuming of course that you’re one of the 20% of all readers. :)

You Can’t Know Everything

Expertise is a valuable asset when it comes to personal branding. As an expert you can teach and mentor others and differentiate yourself from your competition.

To become a top expert in any field requires years of dedication. You still won’t know everything there is to know.

You can generally acquire more knowledge than 80% of all people with 20% of the effort it takes to become a top expert. This feat often takes much less than a year. To overtake and pass the remaining 20% of all people might take many years or even a lifetime.

I like to call this particular aspect of the Pareto principle The Law of Diminishing Returns. Beyond a certain point each successive increment of result will require more effort than the previous increment. It becomes harder and harder to justify additional time investments.

In this era of specialization you can read a few books on a subject and know more about a subject than nearly everybody else. That’s the kind of expertise I’m recommending — coupled of course with some practical hands-on experience.

Invest your time to acquire knowledge that your prospective clients or customers will appreciate.

When I was a teen I worked and struggled obsessively to become a top chess player, and I succeeded.

Nowadays I prefer to grasp multiple subjects and to seek synergies among them: many types of data analysis, search engine optimization, marketing, social networking, blogging, etc.

My broad base of knowledge — fused with solid logic, trusted intuition and other abilities and skills — fuels my overall critical thinking outside the box strategy.

You Can’t Do Everything

Like it or not we can’t follow up on every idea or opportunity that presents itself. The Law of Diminishing Returns guarantees that. Therefore we must make value judgments and set priorities every day.

Fortunately the 80/20 Rule is on our side.

80% of all benefit accrues to us by accomplishing 20% of everything on our plate. Each day we ought to focus on a half dozen high priority agenda items that will move our businesses and our lives forward.

If only we did that consistently each and every day our lives would be filled with accomplishments and satisfaction.

Nobody however is perfect. We all have bad days. Yet, the 20% group prioritizes and moves forward with much greater focus and consistency than the 80% group.

Please don’t underestimate the power of the 80/20 Rule and the enormous potential of a modest 20 percent.

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What is Spam?

Wikipedia defines spam as “the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages”.

While most people think of spam as junk e-mail, Wikipedia points out that the term applies equally to the abuse of other electronic media:

  • Instant messaging
  • Usenet newsgroups
  • Search engines - This includes creating spam websites, keyword stuffing and social media abuse.
  • Blogs - Besides the computer generated spam a blog receives every day, there are people who believe that a blog’s comment space is some kind of billboard. The same people like to advertise on social networking sites in their and other people’s comment spaces.
  • Wikis - Wikipedia itself is a target of spam content.
  • Online classified ads
  • Mobile phone messaging
  • Internet forums - This is a first cousin of blog and social networking comment spam.
  • Fax transmissions

Spam is Offline Too

It is easy to extend the definition to include non-electronic media and communication:

  • Three foot rule - Anybody unfortunate enough to be standing next to the spammer gets an earful.
  • Car windows - This includes flyers on the windshield and sizzle cards between the rubber and the glass of the driver’s window.
  • Telemarketing and automated dialers - They really sound pretty much the same. It’s hard to tell which is real.
  • Rest room graffiti - Okay, maybe I am taking this a bit too far. However, I couldn’t resist. I’m sure by now you get the general idea.

Spam is Bad Business

Spam is anti-social, alienating and unprofitable, unless as Diane Hochman says, you’re going to do it right and set up an offshore server to blast spam messages to millions of inboxes.

Spam is highly inefficient and ineffective. Nearly everyone is turned off by spam or chooses to ignore it. Some forms of spam are illegal in many jurisdictions.

Forty-four years later, spam is a perfect example of Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message”. The spammer’s methodology becomes the focus of attention rather than the message’s intended content.

Why Do People Spam?

Spammers mistakenly believe that spam is marketing. Spam seems like a good simple marketing shortcut.

Spammers are taught to play the numbers game. Somebody out there is going to fall for it. When spammers fail, they rarely consider that their spam “strategy” was flawed.

The Law of Attraction

Learning to market correctly takes time and effort, but it’s worth the investment. You will attract success. Spam only attracts failure.

Read my articles on online social networking, blogging and personal branding, and come join me to learn more at My Private Classroom.

Real marketing and personal branding shall prevail.

Please share your spam stories. Post a comment. But please, no you know what.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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Home Business Survival Crash Course

People launch all types of businesses every day.

Despite enormous investment and months or years of preparation most new businesses fail. Their once well lit storefronts and offices are now dark, and their employees are searching for new jobs.

I don’t have precise statistics for a home based business. I estimate that perhaps 98% of new home businesses never earn a dime. If my estimate is too high, it can’t be too high by much. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

My first home business with Excel Communications lost money for five years before finally turning a profit. I have since embarked on other ventures. Some have worked out well, and others not.

Let’s discuss why home based businesses usually fail and what you might be able to do to succeed. First I’ll share my thoughts about this, and then you’ll have a turn to express your point of view.

Reasons for Failure

The following list of causes for failure is arranged with readability in mind, rather than the relative importance of the contributing factors:

  1. YOURSELF - You have an uphill battle if you lack internal motivation, commitment, relevant skills (such as organization, communication, sales, marketing, online social networking or prospecting), proper training, posture, preparation, productivity, or some combination of these.
  2. Others - Other people can lack all of the above. Sadly, they can also lack integrity. I believe that people not doing as they say they will is very disappointing and the greatest business obstacle. Read the story of Orovo and Network Success Builders for a good example of this.
  3. Hype - Exaggeration and misrepresentation of products, services and business opportunities are all too common today as people try desperately to differentiate themselves from their competition in an over-crowded marketplace.
  4. Company Affiliations - Your success is likely to be tied to the success of a parent company. New companies are unstable and inherently risky to do business with. However, old companies tend to have insufficient momentum.
  5. Wrong Side of the Marketing Equation - Your cost per acquisition or sale exceeds the value of the sale. The more you sell, the more money you lose. Every business, even a major corporation, can find itself on the wrong side of the marketing equation.
  6. Over-Reliance on Systems - Your business depends on a system, and when that system stops working, just as systems usually do, your business also stops working. People who preach that people don’t duplicate but systems do are lying big time. Do not fall for this one! What is the truth? Please read on.

Work on Number One

You are #1. Your long term business success hinges upon your mastery of life and business skills and upon your growth as a person. Read books such as biographies, business books and books on personal development. Read blogs, watch videos and associate with successful people. You will improve your chances of succeeding in your personal life and your business endeavors.

Check Out People and Companies

Do the best you can to check people’s backgrounds. Request references.

Look up companies at the Better Business Bureau, and see if they belong to the Direct Selling Association — even though neither guarantees a company’s legitimacy!

Google people and companies alike, and don’t stop after page one or two. Keep going. Try adding in keywords such as scam, rip-off, accused, alleged, cheated, lied, stole, swindled, cheated, convicted, etc.

Limit the extent to which your success depends on people and organizations doing exactly as they say they will. Try to diversify your business so that it doesn’t collapse if a single person or company flakes or rips you off.

If you’re honest like I am, you’ll tend to place too much trust in others. Trusting people is good, but be sure to limit that trust and the damage that any single person or business can inflict on you.

Don’t Fall for Hype

Do you believe everything you hear? Then I know somebody who will sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. Old New York joke, but I can assure you that the joke doesn’t date back to before 1883.

All kidding aside, there are people out there who will say just about anything to get you to buy from them or to recruit you into something.

Do your homework. Use common sense. If something sounds not quite right or too good to be true, assume that it is until you believe that you’re proven wrong.

Consider getting a second opinion from a highly knowledgeable independent third party. Don’t ask Uncle Harry, your neighbor or your accountant. Ask an expert. You will probably have to pay for the advice you get, but the time and money you can save by avoiding a scam or jumping into a business with the wrong expectations may far exceed the cost of a qualified consultant.

Old vs. New Companies

Mange your risk.

Younger people can assume more risk than older people, because they have more time to recover from setbacks. A startup business will best suit a young person. High risks, high rewards.

Older people ought to be more conservative and choose a business with a proven track record.

If you are middle aged or older, here’s another option for you. Spend part of your time and energy on a new business that’s just launching and the rest of your time and energy building something safer.

Even a young entrepreneur can use this strategy, but it does have a drawback. It’s harder to focus on two ventures than on one.

Business Analysis 101

If you’re math phobic, this one is going to be difficult, but help is available.

Your cost per acquisition should be less than the net present value of your expected future profits from the acquisition, also called the customer lifetime value.

CPA < NPV

In plain English, don’t let your cost per sale (in both time and out-of-pocket dollars) wipe out your profit. You can never make it up in volume.

If you cannot figure this one out, get help from a business analyst or a qualified accountant. You’ll have to do your part. You will need to track your sales and your expenses very carefully in order to reach a correct conclusion.

If the basic marketing equation (CPA < NPV) doesn’t balance in your favor, consider using an ethical funded proposal to fix the problem.

Sell another more profitable product or service to “get the customer in the door”. Then sell your main product, service or business opportunity to the customer on the back end.

Systems Don’t Work

Last but not least, despite all the hype about the SpiderWeb System and the Reverse Funnel, systems don’t duplicate. They don’t work for long. In the home business world these systems produce a bunch of clones that run around competing with each other. Believe me, that’s not a pretty sight.

Unfortunately people don’t duplicate either. We know this from the childhood game of Telephone. The message always gets distorted. Any person can become a weak link in the duplication process.

Now, the one thing that does duplicate…

Leadership

Leadership does duplicate. Leaders will get the job done. If more leaders are needed, they will find them.

How do you find leaders?

Be one! Leaders attract leaders.

Now It’s Your Turn

Be a leader. Write a comment.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

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Larry BraunerWhen Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini started their work on the Ning social network back in 2004, online social networking was still pretty much a teen thing. True there were marketers like yours truly making a home on Ryze and other business networking sites, but we were the exception rather than the rule.

Ning once completed would allow people to create and manage their own miniature MySpace-like social networking sites.

Ning’s founders probably envisioned a platform on which families and circles of friends would stay in close contact through their very own private social networking site. However, since launching 18 months ago, Ning has found its way into the business world as well as many other sectors of society.

You can start your own plain vanilla Ning social network for free, or for a fee you can exercise greater control over your site and add lots of bells and whistles.

Examples of Ning Social Networking Sites

In Web lifeline for the troops, the Naperville Sun writes that two local men, Ed Domain and Josh Lowe, launched Troop Space, a Ning-based networking site for the brave men and women of the United States Military. Troop Space “is geared toward US troops, their families and anyone who wants to become more personally connected to the military”.

Jim at medXcentral started his Ning community to network “the medical and health care universe” and to “stimulate great achievements and forward motion towards resolving many issues faced by the medical industry today”.

Diane Hochman built the online headquarters for My Private Classroom on the Ning foundation. I joined My Private Classroom several months ago to learn more about social media and to introduce free and low-cost marketing methods to network and direct marketers.

You can now participate in Diane’s social marketing training program for free. Read My Private Classroom Opens to Public for details.

I created the Ning social network Critical Thinking Outside the Box as a companion to this blog, and you are welcome to join me there.

What I Like About Ning Sites

From a user’s point of view here are some of my favorite Ning features:

  1. When you make a friend at one Ning site and you each belong to another Ning site, you’re connected at the other site too.
  2. You can browse friends and friends-of-friends and so forth to see what other Ning networks people belong to. In this way you can discover new and relevant places to network. While many Ning sites are private, there seem to be just as many sites that are open to the public. You can also browse Ning’s list of popular social networks.
  3. You can broadcast a message to all of your friends at any given Ning site. Be careful not to abuse this privelege. Spamming is not effective, and network administrators will typically not tolerate it. This broadcasting feature has allowed me to attract readers to my blog and gain new subscribers.
  4. In some Ning social networks you can also broadcast messages to fellow members of groups you join. This feature encourages spam and is therefore disabled on many Ning sites.
  5. You can customize your page’s theme and embed videos and widgets just as you might on MySpace and many other social networking sites.
  6. Much of your profile content can be taken from an existing site and easily reused when joining a new site.

And What I Don’t Like

Here are some of my least favorite Ning features:

  1. Most Ning sites have very small memberships that are just a little too cozy for marketers like me building their lists.
  2. A very high percentage of profiles are abandoned, so you can end up with lots of unaccepted friend requests. At some point you may need to delete some friend requests in order to remain eligible to make new requests.
  3. Very many Ning sites are not much more than recruiting pipelines and sales funnels for the sites’ owners. I find this aspect of Ning annoying, but I tolerate it. For this reason I’m slow to invite friends and business connections to join me on new Ning sites. I want to wait and see if the site is a safe enough place to bring them.

Show and Tell Opportuinity

You can find some of the many social networking sites to which I belong featured on my blog’s sidebar.

Do you have favorite Ning social networking sites? Have you started your own Ning social network? Do you have an interesting story to tell?

Feel free to comment and share with us.

Keep in mind that I’m responsible for the quality of my blog and legally responsible for its content. I therefore reserve the right to edit any comment as I see fit.

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Larry BraunerNearly every day I hear from people who want to know how to start a blog or how to have a more successful blog.

I admit that I’m still learning myself, but I’ve made great progress in the nine months since I started blogging.

This past month alone my Online Social Networking blog received 5,202 visits including 1,993 visits from search engines.

My Google PageRank is up to 3, and my Alexa traffic rank is 181,032. These stats put my blog in the top 1% of all websites.

What are the critical success factors contributing to my rapid progress?

My Personal Blog Philosophy

There are ten success strategies that shape my blog philosophy.

  1. Blogging Mindset - Writing and publishing a successful blog is a major project that requires very big commitment. Blogging requires that you move forward at all times. So often people start blogging and give up. They didn’t have the blogging mindset, and they weren’t willing to do what successful bloggers do.
  2. Research and Planning - Before I wrote one word on my blog, before I decided what to call my blog, before I purchased a domain name for my blog, I did plenty of research. Where should my blog be hosted? What platform should it run on? What will I write about, and which keywords will I optimize for? These questions and more were addressed up front and their answers formed my initial plan of action.
  3. Bias for Action - Getting started and keeping your momentum going is essential if you want to have a successful blog. While adequate preparation is important, a time comes when you must “draw a line in the sand”, stop preparing and begin writing. Your ongoing research and writing need to become routine. Don’t worry if your articles aren’t perfect. You can edit your posts after publishing them, and it could even help with the search engines to do so.
  4. Experimentation and Tracking - Every blogging enterprise is different, and you’ll need to find the mix of strategies and tactics that are right for your blog. If you install Google Analytics, you’ll be able to track your blog’s traffic. You’ll know what is working and what’s not. Materminding with friends and mentors is another way to gain valuable insights.
  5. Correction as Needed - When you discover something that’s not working, you’ll look to refine it or replace it. Ongoing tracking will provide you with the feedback you need to make the necessary correction in your direction to stay on course.
  6. High Quality Content - Quality content to me means writing with both the reader and the search engines in mind. It means writing well, revising the text many times, proofreading, etc. It also means choosing topics that will make readers want to return to your blog. Please don’t write long run-on paragraphs. Make it easy for your reader to go through your article on the screen without having to print it out… Because they won’t. And one more thing, until you have tons of visitors reading your blog every day, don’t even consider cluttering it up with cheesy ads.
  7. Online Social Networking - The best way to find readers and subscribers for your blog is at social networking sites. For this purpose you can use most business networking sites or networking sites that cater to bloggers such as Entrecard and MyBlogLog. I happen to prefer Twitter and the Ning family of social networking sites. Carefully inviting site members to visit your blog is a nice way to reach out to them — not at all spammy. Make it easy for your readers to subscribe. My readers have two ways to opt in RSS Feed and autoresponder.
  8. Search Engine Optimization - Treat every blog post as a website that will one day stand on its own, because it will. It will eventually works it’s way down and off your blog’s cover page. Use keyword research to find the best words and phrases to use in your articles. Make sure that your main search terms are neither too general nor too competitive to earn you good placement in the search engines. Don’t limit yourself to using only your primary keywords in your text. Using all relevant search terms, even the ones that are hard to compete for, will turn you article into a search engine magnet.
  9. Social Bookmarking - Using social media sites such as Digg and del.icio.us to anchor and promote your blog posts is very important. Social Marker will help you find more bookmarking sites and facilitate the bookmarking process. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the terms of service of each of the social media sites you use, so that you don’t get banned. Bookmark articles using their individual URL, not your blog’s URL, since each article is its own website, not just a part of the blog.
  10. Patience and Time - Over time your traffic will increase, so will your credibility, and you’ll gain subscribers. Don’t expect much before three months, and give yourself a full year to become a blogging superstar.

For more articles on blogging, blog marketing and SEO see Blog Marketing and SEO Training.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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