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 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 BraunerI assert in Why Should I Like Your Facebook Page? that until you determine “what’s in it” for your Facebook page’s fans, you’re not ready to launch your Facebook page. You’ll only succeed by accident, if at all.

I’m ready to assume that your Facebook page already offers a lot of useful information, a way to subscribe to your web content, online customer service, news about events, contests, juicy gossip, entertainment or other perceived benefits that make it worthwhile for people to follow.

How Do I Get Fans for My Facebook Page?

FacebookNow, you’re looking to get fans for your Facebook page.

Perhaps you don’t yet have a strong web presence, and you’re trying to grow your Facebook fan base from scratch.  Your Facebook page deserves fans, and you’re asking yourself, “How can I attract people who’ll ‘like’ my page and become my page’s fans?”

There are lots of ways to get Facebook page fans, including Facebook ads, which I do not like. I’m sharing with you methods that can help you easily grow your small business or solo entrepreneur Facebook page fan base, in the hope that you can succeed without making the Facebook page building process more difficult or complex than it needs to be.

My Top Ways to Get Facebook Page Fans

These are the top ten ways that I’ve grown my Facebook page fans:

  1. Feather Your Nest - Ask 25 close friends or family members to help you reach the 25 Facebook page fans you need to obtain your custom Facebook page name, helping your page appeal to prospective fans.
  2. Your Facebook Friends - If you have few Facebook friends, ask each individually to “like” your Facebook fan page. Tell them that you’d love for them to join you there. If you have hundreds or thousands of friends, you can use the “Suggest to Friends” option to invite them. Be sure to add a personal message in the invite. Many people ignore Facebook page invites, so don’t expect more than 5% to 10% rate of acceptance.
  3. Your Email Lists - If you have email lists, invite contacts to visit and “like” your Facebook fan page. Be personal and friendly in your message. Use Edit Page >> Marketing >> Tell Your Fans. Don’t spam.
  4. Everyone You Meet - Tell everybody. Put your Facebook page link and Twitter handle on your business cards and in the signature of your emails.
  5. Link to Your Page - Link to your Facebook page rather than your Facebook profile from all the social networking sites you join and from your blog site or other website.
  6. Blogging About Your Page - Use your Facebook fan page to promote your blog, but make sure that you also use your blog to promote your Facebook page. At the end of posts, ask readers to subscribe to your blog and to “like” your Facebook page.
  7. Ask Your Friends to Help - I’ve asked some of my Facebook friends to suggest my Facebook page to their Facebook friends along with a message of recommendation. If you try this approach, you may find it to be highly effective, just as I have.
  8. Fan Page Events - I’ve added hundreds of Facebook page fans by holding events on my Facebook page. 4+ Day Blog and Website Promotion Event and Social Media Party and Facebook Fan Page Event Going Viral and Attracting Hundreds Already describe my most successful Facebook event.
  9. Facebook Widgets - I have a Facebook fan page widget on each of my websites, making it easy for site visitors to “like” my Facebook page and stay in touch.
  10. Engage Your Facebook Fans - Your posts must be made visible to your Facebook page fans. Read How Facebook EdgeRank Affects Your Visibility. Engage your fans, primarily by asking questions. When your fans comment on your status or “like” it, they’re sharing it with their Facebook friends.

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, Nor Was My Facebook Page

Accept reality. It will take time to get a large number of Facebook page fans, but if you add just three new Facebook page fans per day, you’ll have 1,000 fans in less than a year. By adding five to six Facebook page fans per day on average, I was able to add 2,000 new fans in the past year. You can do it too!

New blog subscribers and Facebook fans are welcome — and if you think that others might benefit from advice for getting Facebook page fans, please share this article with them. ;-)

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Larry BraunerYou’ve created Ning networks or belong to Ning networks started by others. What next?

In 10 Ways to Brand and Market on Ning Networks, I examine a variety of Ning network features that are useful for promoting yourself or your business.

Ning Social NetworksHowever, what if you’re interested in promoting a Ning social network itself?

Here are 10 ideas for promoting the Ning networks to which you belong:

  1. Your Contacts - Send personalized emails to people you know. (Ning’s invite feature is not effective, since the emails Ning sends are impersonal and will be treated by many as spam.)
  2. Network Content - Share your Ning network, your network’s groups and all your network’s content on social networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon. This approach is my personal favorite, since it promotes the Ning network and the network’s content at the same time.
  3. Articles and Blog Posts - Discuss your Ning network and your network’s content in blog posts and articles you write.
  4. Badges or Widgets - Place your Ning network badge on blogs and other websites. Even if badges attract few new members, they’ll help with SEO efforts by providing inbound links. A badge on the sidebar of a blog is in effect a link from every page and blog post on that blog.
  5. Links - Build inbound dofollow links to your Ning network and your network’s content.  Links, like Ning network badges, help with SEO, even if they don’t send much direct traffic. Use relevant anchor text in your links.
  6. SEO - Optimized keyword-rich blog posts on your Ning network will attract visitors who are looking for your content. Building links as previously mentioned will improve SEO results.
  7. Connectors and Influencers - Ask networking connectors and social media influencers to help by referring new members to your Ning network. These types of people love to help others.
  8. Comment on Blogs and Forums - Use insightful comments to pique interest and drive traffic to your Ning network. Avoid spamming!
  9. Classified Ads - Craigslist and other advertising sites can drive traffic to your Ning network. Experiment to learn what works best.
  10. Business Cards and Fliers - Experiment with offline marketing, as well. I suggest you keep it simple.

I encourage you to add your own ideas to this list.

Join my Small Business Network (promoting my Ning network ;-) ), and if you’re new to this blog, please subscribe.

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Larry BraunerIn his video, Darren Rouse, author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog,  discusses his blog-centric approach to web marketing.

The idea is that social media sites — since they are controlled by their owners, not us — can serve only as outposts, while blogs and websites — since they are owned by us — are secure enough to serve as our permanent home bases.

I cannot stress enough the importance of starting a blog: I’ve listed many reasons for blogging in the Top Reasons Why I Blog and discussed why “there ain’t nothing like a blog” in Why Blogs Make More Sense.

However, despite all the great reasons to have a blog, you might feel that investing in a blog isn’t right for you and your situation.

Going BloglessIn that case, I want to assure you that going blogless is an option. You can accomplish with a standard website most of what you’d hope to accomplish with a blog.

Fortunately, like bathing suits, web marketing isn’t “one size fits all.” You may, however, need to be a bit more creative.

You’ll add content to your website when convenient, link to your new content on social sites, and engage your online community in discussion via those social websites.

You’ll also place website widgets on your website and use those widgets to connect your site to the social web.

Note that much of your website, especially sales pages, can be unsuitable for social media consumption. Do not be too concerned. People will reach those pages through links elsewhere on your site, search engines and whatever advertising you do.

Your site needs to be well optimized for both search engines and humans, i.e., relevant to your target audience and designed with them in mind.

OK. Gotta run. See you at the beach. :-P

Don’t forget to comment, subscribe and join my Facebook page.

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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 BraunerHow much do you know about website widgets?

Last week, in Website Widgets and Ads Raise Security and Privacy Issues, I shared my concerns about security and privacy issues connected with the use of widgets on a blog or other website.

I concluded, “You are responsible as a blogger or website owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too.”

Today, I list 10 types of website widgets that can enhance your site:

  1. Community Building Widgets - I use both Google Friend Connect and Facebook fan page widgets here on Online Social Networking. They work on blogs, as well as other websites, and I like them very much. Make sure you enable and use the Google Friend Connect newsletter feature.
  2. Subscription Widgets - I use RSS and NetworkedBlogs widgets, which are suitable for blogs, and I also use an email subscription widget that works with any website.
  3. Tracking Widgets - In addition to embedding Google Analytics internally on every page of this blog, I use Get Clicky, Alexa, Page Rank Checker, Website Grader and Flag Counter widgets to acquire a broad range of additional statistics.
  4. Social Networking Widgets - Social network widgets encourage visitors to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook, BlogCatalog, MyBlogLog and other key social bookmarking and social networking sites. An Entrecard widget enables me to network and expose my blog to thousands of bloggers.
  5. Polls and Survey Widgets - I use the interests and comments features of Google Friend Connect to obtain feedback and preferences from my GFC community.
  6. Content Sharing Widgets - The Add This widget at the end of each article makes it very easy (hint, hint) for you to share content with friends in your networks.
  7. Advertising Widgets - Ad widgets from Google Adwords, ad networks and retailers such as Amazon help you generate income from your blog or other website.
  8. Syndication Widgets - Display news, other information, YouTube videos and Flickr pics on your site.
  9. Widget Bars - Here’s an example of a page with a Digg toolbar widget (hint, hint again). Widget bars are becoming more and more common.
  10. Widget Gadgets - See Google Gadgets for everything else under the sun.

My favorite website widgets are community building widgets, subscription widgets, tracking widgets and social networking widgets. In a subsequent article, I’ll provide useful tips for using widgets. :-)

However, one more thing before you leave. What types of widgets do you use? What are examples of each?

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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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