Larry BraunerThe social media and web marketing space is evolving, and we must therefore continually revise our social media and web marketing strategies and techniques.

Here are several cases in point that affect social media and web marketing practice, especially for small business.

Good-Bye Facebook Open Networking

FacebookFor years, Facebook was an open social networking site that permitted members to befriend people whom they didn’t know despite mounting privacy concerns.

However, in 2010, Facebook tightened its friending policies in order to combat phishing and spamming practices.

It appears that Facebook now evaluates friend requests based on degrees of separation and profiles users who repeatedly go out-of-bounds, restricting their friending capabilities.

Consequently, we must regard Facebook as a closed networking site going forward, despite the Facebook Freedom to Share and Connect principle, and find approaches to building our Facebook networks that don’t raise red flags.

Hello Ning Open Networking

Ning Social NetworksSince the Ning shift earlier this year from free or paid networks to paid-only networks, protest from disgruntled free-site creators has subsided and, as promised, Ning has come through with improved functionality upgraded periodically.

While Ning cannot compete with Facebook based neither on popularity nor functionality, Ning is nevertheless a great platform for creating niche social networking sites and for open networking.

I’ve dedicated the Small Business Network, my own Ning networking site, to the pursuit of open social and business networking, and I would be delighted if you would join me there.

You can still share via broadcast any of your Ning content, like blog posts or pictures, with all your Ning friends, a feature not found on the Facebook or LinkedIn social networks.

Search Engine Optimization Still Pays Big

GoogleNotwithstanding my remarks in The NEW Search Engine Optimization, search engines are still the mightiest source of website traffic, and SEO is still the most vital web marketing activity.

Social media sites send thousands of visitors per month to Online Social Networking. However, Google and other search engines send much more. Having a website or blog site and optimizing it for search engines and humans is of paramount importance if you want to market successfully on the web.

Put website development and optimization at the very top of your to-do list for 2011.

Please accept my sincere wishes for a healthy, fulfilling and peaceful New Year. I look forward to growing and sharing with you in the years to come.

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Larry BraunerAre you using website widgets effectively?

I listed 10 Types of Widgets for Your Blog or Website. Now, I discuss strategies for employing widgets on your site.

While using website widgets is not rocket science, here are some important concepts worth keeping in mind:

  1. Widgets Are Content - Recently, a Twitter connection told me he liked my content and use of widgets. I thanked him, but the truth is that website widgets are content, as is each other aspect of your web site’s design. When you select widgets for your site, realize that they are just as much a part of your site as the copy you write. When you select a widget, customize it to the extent possible to appear as you wish, including both its size and color scheme.
  2. Widget Privacy Issues - In Website Widgets and Ads Raise Security and Privacy Issues (recommended reading), I discussed security and privacy issues and concluded that, “You are responsible as a blogger or web site owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use web widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too.”
  3. Space Considerations - One way you pay for the use of a widget is by giving it valuable space on your website. There are only a modest number of widgets you can reasonably host on your website without it becoming cluttered. Choose carefully and don’t clutter your web site with widgets (or anything else).
  4. Website Widget Placement - As I stated in 10 More Easy Ways to Improve Your Website, “If visitors need to scroll down to view vital content, you’ll most likely lose them. Similarly, if you have an important widget, such as a Facebook fan page widget, place it where it will be visible without scrolling down.” Place key widgets near the top of each page and prioritize the rest.
  5. Most Useful Website Widgets - Community building, subscription, tracking, and social networking widgets (see 10 Types of Widgets for Your Blog or Website mentioned above), can add important functionality to almost any website.
  6. Monitor Your Widgets - Periodically, monitor and reevaluate your website widgets. Don’t set them and forget them or fall in love with them. Your needs and priorities can change, and widgets can also stop working or become obsolete.
  7. Your Website Layout- If you plan on using many website widgets, I suggest picking a theme with two sidebars, rather than one, to better accommodate all your widgets.

When you surf the ‘Net and find sites you like, look to see which widgets they use and how they use them. That’s a good way to come up with new ideas.

Here we are, coming to an end of our time together. Don’t go yet. Please subscribe first and leave a comment. :-)

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Larry BraunerWebsite widgets are commonplace in the world of social media. They tend to make interacting, marketing and web site tracking easier and more fun. Many types of website widgets are currently used on this blog.

However, don’t you ever question how safe website widgets really are? The use of website widgets and banner ads raises online safety and privacy issues for you and your website visitors that are worthy of consideration.

Marketing Experiment Gone Wrong

Marketing Experiment Gone WrongI was experimenting with my website tracking software. I wanted to determine whether it would work on websites not belonging to me. I installed the required tracking code in a blog post on a Ning site and on my Ryze profile.

I very quickly uncovered a major obstacle. The JavaScript, a key element in the tracking code, had been stripped off by each of the social networking sites. All that remained was a link to a very tiny and invisible image hosted by my tracking service.

I decided to continue the test in order to see the outcome. I invited friends to visit the test pages and inspected the resulting traffic data. I saw the IP address, ISP, location, operating system and web browser for each person who had visited the test pages — and all it took was embedding an invisible one pixel by one pixel image on those pages.

Privacy and Security Implications

When you install a banner ad on your blog or other website, and that banner ad is hosted on the advertiser’s server, not yours, you give that advertiser identical information about your visitors as I was able to obtain about mine; your visitors don’t even need to click on the banner ad to make that happen.

Once an advertiser obtains an IP address, they may obtain more sensitive information as well. Some offline merchants sell data about their customers. Why not assume that some online merchants and social networking sites do the same?

They have some amount of personal information matched to an IP address, and may decide to monetize that private data. They might even state that in their privacy policy.

When you install a widget or ad on your site that contains script, the effects are more far reaching. The company that provided you with the widget code can obtain information about the source and actions of each visitor. Scripts can even be malicious, as in the case of poisoned banners. :-(

Your Due Diligence Can Help

You are responsible as a blogger or web site owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use web widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too. If practical, host the image on your own server, as I myself generally do.

Hopefully, data that reputable third parties obtain from you and your visitors will be used for reasonable purposes, and their widget code will perform as specified. You need to take care that all third party widget code you embed in your site is from a reputable source.

Your turn for questions or comments. ;-)

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