Larry BraunerIn case you haven’t heard, “Friend Connect will be retired March 1, 2012,” says Google. This is not pleasant news for those websites that have sizable Google Friend Connect communities and whose community members have opted to receive newsletters from the site.

Google recommends that you join Google+ and invite your community to join with you in order to keep in touch. Compared to Google Friend Connect, Google+ is a rather lame tool for staying in touch. Google Friend Connect newsletters permitted direct community contact.

Google Ploy

Google+Google+ got off to a great start but seems to have lost much of its original momentum and engagement. Google probably hopes to give Google+ a shot in the arm by terminating Google Friend Connect and redirecting members.

If you have a community and wish to stay in touch, here are two approaches for creating email lists, are better than merely joining Google+ as Google advises.

If you have a small budget for an email contact list, I can use Aweber or Green Wave Email Marketing. I’m using both of them. Once you’re set up, ask your community to subscribe to your newsletter.

For a free email list, you can create your own group on a Ning social networking site, such as my Small Business Network. You will be able to email group members and to network with each other.

Invitation

I invite you to subscribe to this Online Social Networking blog and to join Small Business Network, so that we can stay in touch with each other. I’m also on Google+, Facebook , LinkedIn and Twitter.

I love to network, and I’m very accessible. :-)

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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.

Please subscribe and join me on my Facebook page.

You may also leave me a comment. :-)

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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 BraunerPlease prepare yourself for a small dose of cynicism. Last week, a Facebook sales rep tried to persuade me to buy ads to drive traffic to the Gevril page, in order to increase its number of fans. Neither the rep’s rational nor the outcome of our talk are important for now. However, I do wish to look at the implications of this one aspect of the Facebook business.

The Dark Side of Facebook Ads

FacebookYou pay Facebook to drive people from unspecified Facebook pages to your fan page, hoping that once there, they’ll “like” your Facebook page. You also hope that you’ll benefit from building a Facebook fan base.

When a member clicks on your ad link and then clicks your “like” button, that activity is called engagement. Naturally, the more Facebook engagement, the more lively and profitable the Facebook site is for its owner.

Consider this: When you advertise your fan page using Facebook ads, you’re paying for the privilege of increasing Facebook activity. You’ll even bid against other advertisers for that privilege. Is that totally ingenious or what?

Is it any wonder that Facebook makes it so challenging for us to use our personal profiles to conduct business or to organically grow our business pages?

What do you think?

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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.

Please subscribe and like my Facebook page.

Comments are welcome. :-)

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Larry BraunerThe four-day International Watch Fair on Facebook, which begins Tuesday,  is a free Facebook page event that’s open to the watch industry, the media and the public. Several hundred will attend this unique event at which luxury, fashion and sporty watchmakers will display a wide variety of timepiece collections. You’re welcome to join me there.

The objective of this Facebook watch fair is to increase Gevril Group page membership and member engagement. Importantly, however, the fair is just one of many web-based strategies and techniques I’m using to build the company’s brand. My strategies include search engine optimization, social bookmarking, business networking and email campaigns, as well. It’s the synthesis and synergy of all these strategies that create an ever-growing buzz around the brand.

Since launching the Gevril Group website this past December, the company’s online presence has grown considerably. During the nine-month period since the launch, there were 53,128 visitors to the site and a healthy number of inquiries from consumers, job applicants, the trade and the media. At the same time, I’ve drawn conclusions I shall share with you.

Overall monthly visits grew from 2,221 in December to 8,572 in August as illustrated below:

Gevril Group Website Visits Months 1-9 - All Traffic
Gevril Group<br /> Website Visits Months 1-9 - All Traffic
Click to Enlarge


Initially, there was substantial traffic from social media, particularly StumbleUpon. However, during the nine month period, social media traffic failed to increase:

Gevril Group Months 1-9 - Social Media vs. Non-Social Media Traffic
Gevril Group Months 1-9 - Social Media vs. Non-Social Media Traffic
Click to Enlarge


Facebook traffic grew from 113 to 338 monthly, but while a remarkably useful networking tool, Facebook hasn’t yet become an important traffic source for Gevril Group:

Gevril Group Months 1-9 - Facebook vs. Search StumbleUpon Traffic
Gevril Group Months 1-9 - Facebook vs. Search StumbleUpon Traffic
Click to Enlarge


Unlike social media traffic, SEO traffic grew exponentially from 119 to 4,979 monthly and now accounts for 58% of all monthly visits:

Gevril Group Months 1-9 - Search vs. Non-Search Traffic
Gevril Group Months 1-9 - Search vs. Non-Search Traffic
Click to Enlarge


Search traffic for Gevril Group related keywords grew from 51 to 343 monthly as the company became better known. However, search traffic for other keywords grew much faster from 68 to 4,636 thanks to the ongoing addition of rich content to the website:

Gevril Group Months 1-9 - Gevril Group vs. Non-Gevril Group Search Traffic
Gevril Group Months 1-9 - Gevril Group vs. Non-Gevril Group Search Traffic
Click to Enlarge


Since the inception of the Gevril Group website, 19,591 visits were from SEO; 16,894 from social media; 8,548 from browser bookmarks, links in emails, typed in URLs and untraceable social media; 8,095 from referrals from other non-social websites:

Gevril Group Months 1-9 - Traffic Types
Gevril Group Months 1-9 - Traffic Types
Click to Enlarge


These data are consistent with something I’ve known for a long time. The greatest source of website traffic is search engines, and if a site’s pages are optimized for relevant keywords, search visitors will find those pages’ content relevant. Social media helps to build and solidify relationships, but SEO will attract more traffic in the long run.

Hope you’ll join me at the International Watch Fair on Facebook this week. :)

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Larry BraunerI love to experiment with SEO and social media strategies for small businesses. I’m ready to admit that many of my experiments are flops, but there’s no need to discuss those right now. ;-)

One of my successes, however, is with Facebook page events. These aren’t merely events created by Facebook pages, as you might think. Rather, they’re virtual events that take place entirely on the walls and in the discussion areas of Facebook pages. The objective of Facebook page events is to increase page membership and engagement.

My First Facebook Page Event

FacebookMy first such event, the 4+ Day Blog and Website Promotion Event and Social Media Party, took place January 2010 on my Facebook page in celebration of my 58th birthday. This Facebook event went viral and attracted well over 300 participants. As a result, I added many new fans and generated a momentum for my Facebook page that has continued even until today.

I have since organized other networking events on Facebook pages, including Books I’m Reading on the Purple Umpkin page and What I’m Grateful For on my Facebook page, that were modestly successful.

International Watch Fair on Facebook

POLICE Most Arresting Exhibit at BaselworldYou may recall that I wrote in My Social Media Mission Abroad about attending Baselworld 2011 in Switzerland earlier in the year. The Baselworld Watch and Jewelry Fair was the most marvelous business experience I have ever had, and I dare say for most other people in the trade, as well.

My Baselworld experience is the inspiration for my latest Facebook page event, the 4-Day International Watch Fair, taking place next week on the Gevril Group page. 76 people have already RSVP-ed “I’m Attending” as of this writing, and I wouldn’t be at all  surprised if attendance at this first of its kind event reached several hundred Facebook members.

You can create Facebook page events too but to achieve favorable results, I recommend that you or your client build a solid web presence — on and off Facebook — before giving this approach a try. Your web presence will help to fuel your Facebook page event.

Please subscribe and like my Facebook page.

Comments are welcome. :-)

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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.

Please subscribe and like my Facebook page.

Comments are welcome — of course. :-)

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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 work at a watch company for which social media and web marketing are key tools for accelerating its business expansion.

As Social Media Director, I flew with our team to Basel, Switzerland in March to attend Baselworld, the grandest and most important watch and jewelry event of the  year.

Social Media Help Wanted

Haurex 1K374UNN INK Collections Featuring Aluminum and Rubber as Announced at Baselworld 2011I explained in My Social Media Mission Abroad that I was visiting at Baselworld 2011 with the dozens of watch brands we represent to discuss social media collaboration and ideas for future projects.

I realized, of course, that I’d need substantial help to carry out the social media plans made in Basel.

Besides freelance writers who can appreciate and blog about luxury, fashion and watches, I’m also looking locally in the Greater New York area for an art director, PR expert and advertising specialist.

New Social Media Profit Centers

For decades, I’ve been intrapreneurial. Now, in addition to leveraging our Internet properties to promote our firm and its many watch brands, it’s my intention, as well, to turn these websites into profit centers and totally new income streams.

So far we have several work-at-home bloggers and a few candidates for the in-house positions. To recommend someone or apply yourself for any of these opportunities, check out my Connect page.

Social Media Watch

I’ll keep you informed about our social media moves and their effectiveness. Please subscribe and join me on Facebook — and don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. ;-)

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