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 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 Brauner
What’s the big deal about WordPress?

In Website vs. Web Presence, I emphasize the role of social media in web marketing.

Darren Rouse, the author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, shares in a video his blog-centric approach to web marketing in which social media sites (which aren’t under our complete control) serve as outposts for our blogs and web sites (which we do control).

For further discussion about the control issue and the trade-offs, read How to Start a Blog Made Easy and Creating a Home for Your Blog.

Choosing WordPress for Blogs

Blogs and Web Sites Which We Own and Can ControlWordPress is popular software for setting up and managing our own blogs and web sites which we are able to control.

Using popular software is like buying a popular car. It’s easy to locate parts and easy to locate mechanics. With WordPress it’s easy to customize using add-on modules and easy to locate technical help when we need it.

Bloggers who use WordPress appreciate the way its functionality can be expanded or customized using plugins, which are add-on software modules (that are easy to append from within a blog’s control panel and often about as easy to use).

Choosing Plugins for WordPress

WordPress PluginThe best way to choose plugins is through word of mouth recommendation. Most WordPress plugins are free. However, if we don’t choose the plugins that are correct for us, our blogs will not perform the way we wish.

I’m sharing my top dozen WordPress plugins. I use more than twelve, and I’ve tried many others. These are the twelve WordPress plugins which I find the most handy for social marketing:

  1. AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget - One of many widgets available which enables readers to easily share and bookmark blog content. There’s an option to register with AddThis and track the widget’s usage.
  2. Akismet - A must have! Without this SPAM filter, life can be quite unpleasant. :-(
  3. All in One SEO Pack - Has had competition, but apparently, this plugin has proven to be reliable and well maintained. It provides control over meta tags and other aspects of SEO.
  4. Easy Icon - Helps set and determine the blog’s icon so the visitor can see the logo on browser title bar. Really is easy!
  5. Google XML Sitemaps - Another must have. Helps Google find all the blog’s content. Works quietly behind the scenes.
  6. Link to Me Textbox - Not a must have at all, but this plugin makes it easier for readers to link-in from their own blog and gives them a not too subtle hint. Cough. Cough. ;-)
  7. Nofollow Case by Case - This is the plugin which I referenced in The Blogger’s Guide to Links and Comments. I love it, but not everybody wants a dofollow blog.
  8. Really Simple Sitemap - Strongly recommended! Helps create a site map like mine that’s helpful for both readers and search engines.
  9. Simple Tags - Has many features. My favorite is the auto-complete feature.
  10. Tag Managing Thing - Offers basic tag management. I like the combination of this plugin and the previous plugin.
  11. Ultimate Google Analytics - In my opinion, the easiest way to incorporate Google Analytics in one’s blog.
  12. WordPress Mobile Edition - Creates an interface enabling mobile users to access the blog. Why not?

Your choice of plugins depends upon your needs and objectives.

Be Careful About User Registration

I have a suggestion that has nothing to do with plugins but is important to mention. Disable blog registrations! Do not let blog visitors set up accounts. Letting in strangers creates an unnecessary security risk.

Instead, set up a subscription system that enables readers to subscribe by RSS feed or email. I’ve found that FeedBurner and Aweber work very well together.

What Are Your Favorite WordPress Plugins?

It’s your turn to share some of your favorite WordPress plugins. You can share as many as you like, but please, explain what each does.

Do not list any plugins which have already been listed. However, if you’ve had a bad experience with a plugin that has been listed, feel free to explain.

I’m especially interested in hearing from other social marketers.

Here ya go. Comment away! :-D

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Larry Brauner

It’s simpler to start a blog than most people think. You do not need to pay for a fancy course nor buy some hyped-up e-book, so put away that credit card.

If I were to say that getting to the top of Technorati or Alexa is difficult, that would possibly be the understatement of 2009. However, believe-it-or-not, jumping in and getting your feet wet blogging will be easier than you imagine once you’ve completed this little article.

A new blogger faces two main types of challenges:

  1. Technical - how to start a blog
  2. Content - what to put on a blog

How to Start a Blog

There are three basic ways to start a blog:

  1. Start a customized stand-alone blog on web hosting that you lease from a provider such as Go Daddy or 1&1 Internet using software from Wordpress.org - most effective but the most difficult to implement
  2. Join a blogging community, e.g. Blogger.com or Wordpress.com - most popular and moderately easy to implement
  3. Join an online social networking community on Ning such as these two of mine, Beyond Business Coaching and Let’s Follow Each Other, and begin blogging immediately - least effective but adequate for beginners and very easy to implement

There are clearly trade-offs, but choose an option that enables you to start your blog right away. Remember what I learned from Mike Litman, “You don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going.

If you strongly desire a customized stand-alone blog but don’t have the technical skills to set it up and maintain it yourself, help is always available.

Content Development

Developing good content isn’t easy. I suggested in Social Marketing for Non-Gurus that you could create videos instead of writing text, but perhaps creating a video isn’t a viable solution for you.

Here’s an idea: Why not use somebody else’s video?

Not only is it totally legit, it helps the video’s creator to promote it — a win for both of you.

Find a video in YouTube that interests you and copy and paste the cryptic piece of code that YouTube provides directly into your blog. Give your blog post a title. Write a very short explanation. Add a few tags to classify your post and publish it.

You’re finished! Wasn’t that easy?

Here’s another idea.

One of my favorite blogs is Who’s Blogging What, “a newsletter that keeps thousands of web marketing professionals informed, connected and productive.”

What do they do?

They digest and summarize other people’s posts.

What if you find one article at a time and critique that article on your blog? It’s done all the time, and you’ve probably seen it done more than once.

You Are a Blogger

I’ve removed the obstacles. You’re ready. You now have choices how to start a blog, so one way or another you’re going to start a blog. Right?

Learn and improve as you go, just as I have. And please… Have a blast!

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Larry BraunerYour web presence is an asset not unlike real estate.

You’ve probably heard about the three most important factors in real estate.

They are:

  1. Location
  2. Location
  3. Location

Real Estate: All About LocationA little exaggerated, perhaps, but not much. Properties can always be fixed up, but they can never be moved. If you buy a lovely house in a bad location, you’re stuck in that location.

What are the three most important factors in a creating a web presence?

  1. Content
  2. Content
  3. Content

Or are they?

Location is an important factor in the value of an Internet property too.

When you set up your blog in a blogging community such as Blogger.com or Wordpress.com, you benefit in several ways:

  • You get free rent; you don’t have to pay for hosting
  • You’re up and running very quickly; no WordPress.org set up and no upgrades to struggle with
  • You might get indexed right away — no big deal — but you might also get page ranked quickly, and in the short run perhaps that helps you
  • Your community might work a like a social networking site and give you extra exposure
  • You could be safer from hackers, but sill shouldn’t be complacent

The main thing you give up is control.

If you accidentally — or intentionally — violate the community’s terms of service, they may very well terminate your blog. It happens, and it’s painful.

After all your hard work, you discover that you built your house on a mushy landfill.

Certain widgets or other site customizations may not be as straightforward either compared to marking up a Wordpress.org blog.

Look at it this way. You’re building a site for long term use. Do you really want to be under the thumb of a capricious landlord who can put you and your belongings out into the street on a cold winter night?

Having said all this, it’s still your personal call. The advantages of a Blogger.com site may outweigh the disadvantages as far as you are concerned, especially if you’re funds are tight right now.

And that’s fine. As long as you’re making a well thought out determination for yourself.

My personal choice was and still is WordPress.org. I use a variety of Wordpress plug-ins which I list and discuss separately in Why WordPress? Plus List of My Top Dozen WordPress Plugins.

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