Larry BraunerWhile building my online presence and working on small client projects over a three year period, I devised, tested and evaluated a wide variety of web-based marketing, branding and communication strategies and techniques, and discussed them on Online Social Networking.

In November 2010, I seized an opportunity that arose to join a major luxury goods company and test my strategies and techniques in a competitive real-world environment. The results were outstanding. Not only was enormous buzz created, the business was able to dramatically increase its authority and credibility within the trade and with the media.

I credit just five very simple ideas with our success:

  1. Building a core group of websites around which the company’s entire web presence was built.
  2. Fully aligning web content with the company’s mission and message.
  3. Creating a great quantity of top quality, expertly edited and search engine optimized content.
  4. Using plenty of images and videos to enhance our written content.
  5. Leveraging numerous online and offline sources, such as SEO, social networking sites, social bookmarking sites, email, print ads and word-of-mouth, to generate a flood of targeted traffic to the company’s web content.

Of course the details of implementation were far from trivial. They needed to be worked out along the way, and yours will too.

I shall elaborate on these five web strategies in future articles.

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Larry BraunerYour social media and web strategy necessarily starts from your website, the one place on the the web that you own and control.

Social networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are very useful and will likely figure in your online plans. However, the possibility that any given networking site will become unpopular, change its rules, cancel your membership, or even shut down entirely, renders such a website unsuitable as a hub and foundation for your web presence.

GevrilYour website doesn’t need to be intricate, although it can be. I tend to prefer simple websites. The Gevril Group website, for example, which I developed in concert with Ivo Jackson and John Sealander, uses the WordPress content management system, a very basic 3-column theme, an opt-in form and a Facebook widget.

Launched this past December, the Gevril Group website now receives in excess of 8,500 visits per month.

Purple UmpkinOur latest creation, the new Purple Umpkin children’s book website, is even simpler in design and implementation. You can compare it to the original Purple Umpkin website. In my opinion, the new version is easier to use, and it looks and feels more like a venue for a children’s book. What do you think?

Work on a Children’s Books umbrella website is underway employing equally simple design principles.

Every web presence needs a website that attracts and speaks to its visitors. Online, your website is your brand. That website must be secure, and the content on that website must be nothing less than superb.

Your thoughts are welcome.

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Larry BraunerAll media have the tendency to become over-saturated with intrusive commercial messages. There are too many television and radio ads, too much junk email and snail mail, too many billboards, and yes, too many Facebook notifications. When overload occurs, messages are perceived as noise, and people filter them or tune them out.

The most common reaction of marketers is to raise the volume in one way or another. Marketers send more messages or create snazzier headlines. Raising the volume can help, but only for a short time. On Facebook, when the noise gets too loud, the top social networking site acts to tone it down or turn it off. Behavior that was once unrestricted becomes restricted.

As examples, we used to blanket our friends with invitations to Facebook events, but now Facebook forces us to be selective. We used to add friends haphazardly if we wished, but now Facebook deters us from adding people we don’t know. Raising the volume on Facebook isn’t a satisfactory option.

Inviting to Facebook Events

FacebookIn response to Facebook Page Events Rock,  readers asked for a Facebook page event how-to. I’m not ready to write a comprehensive guide. However, I offer you here ten tips for successfully inviting people to your Facebook events:

  1. Create a Facebook event that people in your niche will naturally desire to attend. Provide a clear explanation and instructions.
  2. Line up influential supporters to help you promote the event.
  3. Give yourself enough lead time before the event to invite people and clear up unforeseen problems that arise in the process.
  4. If you plan to invite your Facebook friends, categorize your friends beforehand using Facebook friend lists.
  5. Only invite friends from relevant lists. Be prepared, in any case, for a disappointing number of responses. Not only are people overloaded with event and other types of notifications, many are also confused by Facebook and don’t get that they should read all the particulars and click on I’m Attending if they wish to RSVP.
  6. Post the event or an article that you write about it on your business page, your personal profile and in Facebook groups catering to your niche.
  7. Post your Facebook event related links several times during the period before your event and even during your event. Just don’t overdo it and become obnoxious.
  8. Promote your event on your blog and on social media sites such as Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  9. If you have an email list, send one or more messages to your list inviting contacts to join you at the event. I like to use Green Wave Email Marketing, because they allow me to directly upload my contacts without requiring them to re-opt in.
  10. Last, but not least, send individual messages personally inviting Facebook friends to attend. No only does this work if done right, it can help build relationships.

The key isn’t raising the volume. The key is better targeting and better diversifying your contact methods.

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Larry BraunerA Facebook friend recently asked about accepting friend requests on social networking sites, and I promised to discuss the matter. There is no single correct approach. However, by contrasting Facebook and LinkedIn, I hope to present and clarify a few of the issues.

Accepting Friends on Facebook

FacebookFacebook is a social website intended primarily for social networking. Regarding accepting friends on Facebook, whether using Facebook for business networking or social networking, the best approach is clearly to be selective,  because of both privacy concerns and the 5,000 Facebook friend limit.

Should you unwittingly accept a con artist as a friend on Facebook, you’ll give that person greater access to your personal information and the personal information of your friends. If somebody who invites you to become a friend appears suspicious, reject the offer and indicate to Facebook that you don’t know the person.

You also need to be selective, because Facebook friends are limited. I myself accept all requests that are plausible, but I continually unfriend people for one of the following reasons:

  • They spam me or annoy me.
  • Facebook tells me that it’s their birthday, and when I visit their profile pages, I have no idea who they are. In other words, I can’t remember them ever having any interaction with me.

In this manner, I fine tune my friend list, so that when I do reach 5,000 Facebook friends, most of those connections will have real social networking or business networking value to me.

Accepting Friends on LinkedIn

LinkedInLinkedIn is a social website intended exclusively for business networking. Regarding accepting friends on LinkedIn, there are two contrastingly different approaches that have gained acceptance within the LinkedIn community. You are free to choose either approach, but, once you do, you need to follow your chosen approach consistently.

  1. Closed Networking Approach - You connect on LinkedIn only with people you know or whom your respected contacts introduce to you. LinkedIn recommends and approves of this approach, as it allows you to build a trusted business network.
  2. Open Networking Approach - You connect on LinkedIn with as many people as possible, since your objective is maximize your reach and visibility on the business networking site. You may occasionally need to remove people who abuse the connection with you. This is the approach I myself have adopted, and you may feel free to invite me. My LinkedIn email is in my LinkedIn profile.

Comments and questions are welcome. Please subscribe and “like” my Facebook page.

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Larry BraunerYou’re creating content for your blog or website. You can create content haphazardly, or you can laser focus your web content to advance your site in the search engines.

A website consists of one or more web pages. Search engines index web pages individually.

For each keyword phrase that you care about, create a web page on your site dedicated to that keyword phrase alone.

Your Keywords Don’t All Need to be Popular

For example, your company name is probably a low volume search term, but it’s meaningful to you, all the same. It’s you who decides which keyword phrases deserve focus and assign each of those phrases its own page, either a static page or a blog post.

Real Time Web AnalyticsIf your website has been online for a while and you notice from your web analytics that certain pages are already receiving substantial traffic for certain keyword phrases, then those pages are evidently already focused on their associated keywords.

Throughout your site, link occurrences of your keyword phrases to their associated web pages, thereby helping those pages gain authority and climb the ranks of the search engines. When generating external links into your site, make a keyword phrase your anchor text and link to that keyword’s special page.

Edit Previously Published Blog Posts

Don’t hesitate to edit your previously published blog posts. If they’re your pivotal keyword pages, try hard to enhance them. However, review all your pages and update their links in order to sharpen your site’s keyword focus.

Stick with it, since search engine optimization takes time. However, with consistent effort, you’ll dominate the search engines one keyword phrase at a time.

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Larry BraunerI would love to spend my entire workday blogging, social bookmarking and business networking. However, long ago I discovered that combining these activities with other outreach is both more efficient and more far reaching than relying on social media alone to build a web presence.

Not only social media but search engine optimization, press releases, email marketing — and even advertising — all figure in my web strategy.

Salvatore Ferragamo WatchesOur company represents luxury watch brand Ferragamo Timepieces in the US and Caribbean markets. Industry leader Paul Ziff was appointed US and Caribbean Ferragamo President, and I was responsible as Social Media Director for spreading the word about the appointment and about Ferragamo.

I had about a week to implement a plan and capitalize on the news before it became stale and irrelevant. Our company was ready to host numerous sales meetings in Las Vegas, and I needed to create adequate buzz before the start of the meetings.

The effort consisted of writing and publishing web content related to Paul Ziff and Ferragamo, distributing press releases about Paul’s appointment, and emailing the news to a very large list. We were able to impact several thousand people, thanks to excellent resources and superb teamwork:

  • Marketing expert, blogger and watch enthusiast, John Sealander, did a marvelous job writing all the web content. I merely added a few links and images.
  • Paul Ziff wrote the press release, which was effectively distributed by eRealeases — via PR Newswire — and through their own channels. Our story was picked up by several hundred news websites.
  • Our huge quantity of email messages were delivered and tracked by Green Wave Email Marketing, under the direction of software guru, David Alexander, my good friend of more than 40 years. I use Aweber to manage my blog subscribers, but I prefer Green Wave for my email marketing because David’s service provides greater flexibility and more personalized attention. In my opinion, Green Wave is more geared to mainstream business than Aweber.
  • I leveraged search and social strategies and techniques to drive additional traffic to John’s content on our company website and blogs.

Please subscribe to my blog and share ways in which you’re going beyond social media. :-)

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Larry BraunerI recently revealed my top 10 Tips for LinkedIn Social Networking and 16 Tips for Ning Social Networking.

I’ve also written Top 16 Reasons I Like Facebook More Than Twitter and 10 Simple Ideas for Setting Up a New Twitter Business Account.

However, let’s not kid ourselves. You and I both know that there’s much more to business networking than engaging on business networking sites. Effective business networking calls for a wide range of skills and resources.

Business Networking Strategies

Business NetworkingI asked just last week, How Much Real Networking on Social Networking Sites?

Frankly, I believe that there’s too little real business networking either online or off.

For this reason, I present you with a long — although far from complete — list of business networking strategies, hoping that you’ll find an idea or two that you can implement to your advantage.

Here are 22 business networking strategies:

  1. Always Be Networking - Every person you meet has the potential to introduce you to others in his or her network. Try to meet people every day.
  2. Networking is not Prospecting - Don’t treat all people as prospects. Your job is to develop some degree of relationship with each person you meet. This aspect of networking is explained in depth in Tommy Spaulding’s It’s Not Just Who You Know, which characterizes five levels of relating and explains the hows and whys of each.
  3. Network with Networkers - Business networking enables you to meet people whom you don’t already know. The networking concept is very well explained in Jim Randel’s The Skinny on Networking. Many of the people you’ll meet won’t have the inclination to share their networks with you. Don’t sweat it. Simply move on.
  4. Cast a Wide Net - Try not to prejudge people. All people have merit, and you never know who’ll provide you with a valuable referral. Targeting is a useful marketing concept, but in business and social networking, it’s possible to carry the targeting concept too far.
  5. Determine What You Want - If you don’t know what you want, how will you be able to tell others what you want? Not only that, you’ll be like a Sunday driver going from here to there without an intended destination. Become clear about where you want to go but be prepared to adjust your business networking course as you go along.
  6. Know Whom You Want to Meet - You need to know whom you want to meet, so that the members of your business or social network can help you meet such people.
  7. Fish Where the Fish Are - Join business networking sites and attend business networking events where you can connect with potential prospects and plenty of serious networkers.
  8. Focus on Giving, not Taking - I recommend that you read Bob Burg and John David Mann’s The Go-Giver. The importance of giving and receiving, not taking, extends far beyond business networking. You can become a powerful resource for your network! This blog is one of my ways of giving and being a resource.
  9. Be a Perfectionist - With key contacts, you can’t afford to be even a little sloppy. Polish your personal appearance, refine your business networking profiles and craft your communications, so that you’ll always make a great impression. We can’t be perfect, but we must at least do our very best.
  10. Strive for Consistency - Don’t rely on short intermittent bursts of activity in business networking or in other areas of your life. It’s hard to cram for tests, but it’s even harder to cram for relationships.
  11. Diversify - Don’t put all your business networking eggs in too few baskets. Be on the lookout for new and creative ways to meet people.
  12. Go the Extra Distance - When you think you’ve done all you can, see if you can do a bit more.
  13. Use Your Time Effectively - You can’t hope do everything, so employ the 80/20 rule and prioritize your business networking initiatives.
  14. Stay Organized - Keep a record of your business contacts’ names and personal information, as well as a log of your interactions with them. Find an approach that’s feasible for you.
  15. Pick Up the Phone - Get more personal. Use the phone, Skype and face-to-face meetings to make a close connection with your contacts and business networking partners.
  16. Build Your Network Online and Off - Don’t network exclusively either online or offline. Read Ivan Misner, David Alexander and Brian Hillard’s Networking Like a Pro. Besides being a master networker, Ivan Misner is Founder and Chairman at BNI, a business networking organization that spans the globe. It’s critical to recognize the need for business networking both online and off.
  17. Do not Abuse or Spam a Your Contacts - Aggressive behavior online or off will kill your chances of building a network and earn you a bad reputation.
  18. Don’t Waste Time with Overly Skeptical People - Preach only to the choir. If someone doesn’t get it, don’t try make him or her get it. Talk to somebody else.
  19. Learn from the Experts - There are many excellent networking books, such as the ones I mention here. Books, seminars and the people we meet have much to teach us about business networking, our vocational fields — and life.
  20. Build Your Network before You Need It - Harvey Mackay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty is an oldie but a goodie. It takes a long time to grow a business or social network. If you wait until you need a business network before you start building it, you’ll regret your decision to delay.
  21. Be Authentic - Real people want to network and conduct business with those who are completely genuine and transparent.
  22. Follow Through - Follow up quickly and appropriately on business networking referrals. When people give you referrals, your actions reflect on them. Respect that and your referrals will grow.

Most people have business networks of manageable size. If you have an especially large network, you can hire a virtual assistant or an  outbound call center outsourcing to help you contact your network. Good outbound call centers have a wide breadth of relationship management experience and expertise that they can share.

Now it’s your turn. As I said earlier, this list is “far from complete.” What are some of your favorite business networking tips?

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Larry BraunerSearch engine optimization professionals usually have a few tricks up their sleeves. Of course, they want to generate lots of website traffic for their clients or employers.

Most so-called SEO tricks are actually legitimate techniques for tackling complex search problems, while some, like the recent JC Penney website traffic scheme — no, Penney didn’t purchase this link from me :-P — are totally reprehensible.

Every sordid detail of the JC Penney search scandal — and how JC Penny allegedly racked up much unjustified website traffic during the holiday shopping season — are spelled out in Dirty Little Secrets of Search on the NY Times website.

Every cloud has a silver lining. Google “changed its mathematical formula late Thursday in order to better weed out ‘low-quality’ sites that offer users little value,” said Amir Efrati in Google Revamps to Fight Cheaters on the Wall Street Journal website. Hopefully, Google’s new algorithm will improve its search performance and deliver traffic to deserving websites.

My Dirty Little Secrets of Search and Website Traffic

My Dirty Little Secrets of Search and Website TrafficLike other webmasters and website owners, I too want to generate truckloads of website traffic, and as you might guess, I have a bag of tricks at my disposal — my dirty little secrets of search.

I share with you four of my top secrets of search and website traffic:

  1. Help the Search Engines - Lay out your site, tag your images and your posts, and embed your internal and outbound links in ways that make it easy for search engines to determine the subject, thesis and nuances of each of your articles.
  2. Help Readers - Write articles that are easy to find and read. Doing so will help your readers and help you remain honest with your on- page search engine optimization.
  3. Don’t Cheat - As much as you’re anxious to get more website traffic, don’t do anything on-page or off-page that you wouldn’t be willing to shout out to Google, because the search engines are listening. All your tricks should be legit. If you buy links, buy relevant links from reputable sites and directories. Avoid any form of linking scheme.
  4. Keep it Simple - If you can’t explain your strategies and techniques to an intelligent layperson, they’re probably too complex. Seek ways to simplify your approach.

Honesty and transparency are at the core of my dirty little secrets of search and website traffic.

Search gurus will likely call my way simplistic, but it has permitted me — with plenty of hard work posting content, of course — to take a new watch company website from 0 to 75 search visits per day in only 12 weeks with more web site traffic on the way.

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Larry BraunerSadly, very many potentially useful web sites languish in obscurity like proverbial trees falling in forests with no one around to hear them. While these web sites have excellent content, they have few readers to use or enjoy that content.

Good content needs to be consumed. I would rather publish marginally good material that is highly consumed than top-notch content that merely gathers dust.

Generating Ample Website Traffic to Your Content

More Website TrafficIf you are a blogger or webmaster, what you do before and what you do after you publish to create website traffic to your content are no less important than the creativity and effort that shaped your content.

Yet, most of us do too little of the preparation and follow-through that our content requires to succeed, as I explained in How to Hit the Right Mix of Website Traffic Sources.

Preparation can include website infrastructure design, SEO and community building. Your follow-through might include email, social bookmarking sites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning and other social networking sites. These types of activities are mandatory, not optional.

Bad things happen to good content when preparation and follow-through are inadequate. However, the right steps taken both before and after publishing your content will enable your website traffic and content consumption to soar. I know this from personal experience.

We’ve now reached the place in the article where people usually subscribe and leave a comment. ;-)

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Larry BraunerAt times, Facebook users create multiple personal profiles for business purposes in violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service that clearly state:

“You will not create more than one personal profile.”

These Facebook users usually create one personal profile for family, friends and acquaintances, and another personal profile for business associates and prospects.

The word personal in “personal profile” is easily misunderstood and deserves clarification.

Personal Profile vs. Business Page

FacebookWith a Facebook “personal profile” you network and acquire friends. It doesn’t matter whether these friends are personal friends or business contacts.

A Facebook personal profile is a friend page, and Facebook prohibits creating more than one friend page for yourself.

With a Facebook business page you brand your business and attract people who “like” your page.

A Facebook business page is a fan page, and Facebook permits creating more than one fan page for your business, although that might not be practical.

If You Have More Than One Facebook Personal Profile

If you find yourself in the predicament of having more than one Facebook personal profile, my recommendation here in six steps is very similar to my advice in last week’s OMG! I Can’t Use My Facebook Personal Profile for Business:

  1. Create a Facebook business page as soon as possible. Either How to Create a Facebook Fan Page or How To Set Up a Facebook Fan Page can help you to get started. Let me know if you need my help.
  2. If you have no more than a few hundred business friends on the Facebook personal profile you’re using for business, send each of them a private message explaining your situation and inviting them to “like” your new Facebook page. If you have too many business friends for this to be feasible, limit the procedure to your most important business friends.
  3. To avoid raising red flags with Facebook, don’t send more than 20 to 30 messages per day, don’t fire off messages rapidly and don’t merely cut and paste an identical script.
  4. Don’t say or imply that you’ll be deleting friends or threaten to remove them if they don’t comply. Such an approach is likely to backfire. Be courteous and professional.
  5. Read Why Should I Like Your Facebook Page? and Top 10 Ways to Get Facebook Page Fans for ideas to market and grow your new Facebook page.
  6. When most of your business friends have migrated to your new fan page, delete the extra Facebook personal profile you were using for business and breathe a sigh of relief.

6/14/11 Update: Facebook now provides a tool to convert a Facebook profile to a Facebook business page.

Before you hurry off, please subscribe to my blog, “like” my Facebook page and leave me a comment.

Best of luck with your Facebook business page! :-)

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