Larry BraunerAnother social media university, social media academy, guru or training program surfaces online nearly every day. Do we need these social media training programs? Are they worth our time and expense?

I’m old enough to remember the data processing boom of the seventies. There were more computer schools back then than social media gurus or social networking sites today.

Computers in those days weren’t as easy to use as they are today, and people were needed in companies that used them to program and operate them. Computer schools collected large sums to train people for potentially lucrative computer programming careers, but in the end, students were very lucky if they even got lower paying computer operator jobs.

Students weren’t aware that businesses much preferred college graduates with relevant degrees to fill programming positions over graduates of year- long programs. Computer schools were able to rake in large profits because they didn’t fully disclose the reality of the job market.

The same was true years later with medical billing. Schools and home study programs nurtured false expectations. The probability of finding assignments after completing a medical billing course was dismally low.

Making an Intelligent Choice

To determine whether a social media training program is worthwhile for you, answer the following questions as thoughtfully and honestly as you can.

  1. What are your needs and expectations? Stop and reflect. What are you looking for? To change careers? Broaden your marketing skills? Build your brand? Have fun? Earn extra money? Getting clear about what it is you’re looking for is a sensible place to start.
  2. Can you partially or fully meet your needs by completing the course? In other words, does the course match your needs?
  3. Do the benefits of the course justify your investment of time and money? Unless your goal is to turn social media into a hobby that pays off emotionally, not financially, your course needs to help you develop money making skills that justify the cost. Please be wary of courses or systems that promise quick or easy results.
  4. How qualified are you to pursue the path you wish to take? Do you have the prerequisites to complete the course and follow through on your plans?
  5. Are you motivated enough? I’ve stated before that the  social media learning curve is steep, and results aren’t quickly obtained. You need the mindset of a marathoner to succeed. Look at your track record. If you can persevere over a long period of time and follow through, you might succeed. Otherwise, resist committing to a long-term social marketing plan.
  6. How qualified and reliable are the instructors? Do they walk the talk? Have they demonstrated the ability to do what you yourself would like to do? Can they provide references?
  7. Can you afford to lose your investment? If the course costs more than you can afford to lose, discuss your options with friends and advisers before making a decision. Listen carefully to their recommendations.

You should be able to apply the same or similar criteria to evaluate affiliate marketing, network marketing, search engine marketing or SEO courses.

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Importance of List Building

Reach and frequency are basic advertising metrics. Reach refers to the quantity of people your message reaches, while frequency refers to the number of times on average each person is reached.

It is frequency that builds trust and drives your message home. Advertising without frequency is hardly ever effective. Marketers are relying more and more on list building to repeatedly reach people in their target market and achieve desired frequency levels in their marketing campaigns.

List building possibilities are endless. Last week we discussed list building using Ning social networks. Today we turn our attention to Twitter, possibly the fastest and simplest way to build a list.

Building Your Following on Twitter

As I stated in Brand Yourself and Market on Twitter:

Twitter may very well be the hottest online social media venue today. It’s a social network, micro-blog, instant messenger, mobile communications tool and giant party — all rolled into one site.

Creating a following on Twitter is easy, even for someone new to online social networking and social media sites. Here are three remarkably simple steps to get you started:

  1. Twitter Training - I used to recommend Bill Hibbler’s Affiliate University. Bill’s Affiliate University was dissolved, so I refer you to the Twitter articles and resources in Tons of Twitter Tools, Tips and Resources. If you’re looking for a complete step-by-step Twitter course, the Twitter Power System is your best choice. You can read about it in Twitter Power System Review.
  2. Build Your Reach Instantly - Here is a cool trick you can use to quickly get some very influential followers. Start with the top 50 Twitter users based on reach listed at twinfluence.com, one of my favorite Twitter tools. You will notice that the majority of those listed have as many “friends” as they have “followers”. They are the ones you should follow. They will almost certainly follow you back and increase your reach.
  3. Manage Your Connections - Once you have completed Step 2, many people you don’t know will start following you, and for the most part you’ll want to follow them all back. You can manage your Twitter connections using Twitter Karma, another of my favorite Twitter tools. After some time has passed, you’ll notice that many of the people you’ve been following become inactive — they haven’t “tweeted” in months. Stop following them in order to improve your ratio of followers to friends, a measure of your Twitter influence.

I applied this method myself about a month ago, and now about a hundred Twitter users begin following me each week.

When I “tweet” a link, roughly one to two percent of my followers click to see what the link is about. Isn’t that how any list is supposed to work?

This approach is easy, and it’s free.

Respect your followers and they’ll keep following you. Spam them, and they’ll stop following you in an instant.

That’s all there is to it. Please leave a comment. ;-)

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This is my final blog post for 2008. I have enjoyed our interaction this past year.

Thank you. I learned a lot.

I look forward to more give and take in 2009.

Thinking Outside the Box

In 10 Not Simple Success Strategies for 2009 I stated, “What worked in the past may no longer work in the present economy. You may have to make some tough personal or business choices going forward.”

Thinking Outside the BoxTo succeed in 2009 we need to be flexible and to think outside the box. According to Wikipedia, thinking outside the box is “to think differently, unconventionally, from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel, creative and smart thinking“.

I hope to help you think outside the box and navigate through some of the challenges and choices that lie ahead.

If you don’t yet subscribe to this blog, I ask you to subscribe now. Let’s stay “on the same page” as I continue to publish thought-provoking and hopefully outside-the-box articles on a broad range of topics.

Networking Outside the Box

If you are not yet a member of Critical Thinking Outside the Box, my no-spam online social network, please join now. This social networking site is a place where you and I can share ideas and network with each other.

Set up your profile there and add me as a friend. That way you can contact me whenever you wish.

By starting discussions and participating in existing discussions on the forum, you’ll brand yourself as a leader. If you’d like to become a featured leader on the site and have me promote you there, send me a message and we’ll discuss the details.

Marketing Outside the Box

Online social networking and social media marketing are still very much in their infancy. We’ll see plenty of growth and change in 2009 and beyond. To market outside the box you’ll need to keep abreast of online and social marketing changes, and you’ll need to keep learning new skills.

Affiliate University Marketing TrainingOne excellent training and support program that I highly recommend to learn and implement new marketing ideas is Affiliate University.

Founder Bill Hibbler is a successful Internet marketer and an excellent instructor. Bill along with Dr. Joe Vitale is co-author of Meet and Grow Rich: How to Easily Create and Operate Your Own “Mastermind” Group for Health, Wealth, and More.

The Affiliate University training program has ten modules, and more will be added in the future.

Additionally, I’m starting a marketing clinic to complement the Affiliate University curriculum and help you through the rough spots as you put what you learn to use.

Achieving Outside the Box

Setting and following through on goals require ongoing support from peers. Mastermind groups provide that support and have long been known to increase focus and speed movement towards achieving objectives.

Affiliate University will start you on the path to forming a mastermind group. After teaching you the basic concepts and mechanics of mastermind groups, their forum will help you connect with prospective members for your group. I will help too.

If you believe that you can benefit from one-on-one mentoring, I offer special consulting rates for my “inner circle”. See the bio and endorsements on my about page for information about my qualifications.

As usual, feel free to comment on this blog post or ask questions… And let’s have a great year!

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What is Twitter?

Twitter may very well be the hottest online social media venue today. It’s a social network, micro-blog, instant messenger, mobile communications tool and giant party — all rolled into one site.

Twitter is a great branding and marketing resource with the potential to reach thousands of people. I myself am a very enthusiastic Twitter user.

Originally Twitter entries were status updates that answered the simple question, “What are you doing?”

Twitter has evolved over time, and members now post all sorts of short messages which we affectionately refer to as “tweets”.

How short is short?

There is a strict 140 character limit so members can tweet via text messaging wherever they happen to be at the time.

If you’re on Twitter and want people to “follow you”, write a comment below explaining briefly why you like Twitter and including your Twitter link.

Twitter Training

I found a three-hour course that fully answers the question, “What is Twitter?” and goes step-by-step through complete Twitter setup and usage.

There are also extensive interviews with Warren Whitlock and Deborah Micek, authors of Twitter Revolution: How Social Media and Mobile Marketing is Changing the Way We Do Business & Market Online, who provide many useful Twitter tips.

Affiliate University

The Twitter course is being offered by Affiliate University as a free sample of their social and search engine marketing training which was designed primarily for novice Internet marketers and more seasoned marketers who want to increase their skill set.

Affiliate marketing, referring customers to others’ websites in order to earn commissions, is a great way to develop multiple income streams, create passive residual income, and generate leads for nearly any type of business from mortgages and real estate to network marketing.

It isn’t very difficult to get started in affiliate marketing. Having your own website isn’t required, but if you have a website or blog, that’s a big plus.

Affiliate University teaches the necessary concepts and techniques in a structured and easy to follow format.

Founder Bill Hibbler is a successful Internet marketer and an excellent instructor. Bill along with Joe Vitale is co-author of Meet and Grow Rich: How to Easily Create and Operate Your Own “Mastermind” Group for Health, Wealth, and More.

If you have experience with affiliate marketing, feel free to write a comment below and share your experiences.

In any case, enjoy the Twitter Course. It’s excellent, and there aren’t any strings attached.

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On a My Private Classroom private member conference call last week Diane Hochman reported a major downturn in the effectiveness of social media sites.

Diane pointed to social networking sites such as Facebook, micro-blogging sites such as Twitter and video sharing sites such as YouTube, but she inferred that all online social media were losing their edge.

Diane expressed concern that while top Web 2.0 and Internet marketing players like Mike Dillard and Frank Kern had successfully carved out huge niches and were earning millions, lower echelon marketers are hard pressed to compete with them, with the technical automate-everything gurus, and with the ever increasing online clutter of spammers and hackers.

Diane even went as far as to recommend that we focus on offline marketing.

I agree to some extent with Diane’s assessment. Certainly with most of the “low hanging fruit” gone and with the global recession in full force, a social marketing approach based on

  • free information and training
  • funded proposals
  • back end upsell
  • strong prospecting posture
  • amassing and leveraging a large quantity of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and YouTube videos

might not work as well as it did in the past and is probably not the best way to go. People are ultra-careful today about parting with money.

However, I do not believe than social media marketing is losing its edge.

Going forward social marketing will depend more upon investing long term in our relationships with the people we meet through online social networking and creative use of websites and a variety of social media.

We’ll adopt a go-giver posture, thinking about solving problems and giving more than we take, as much as we think about prospecting and the bottom line.

We’ll also rely on written content and SEO as much as we rely on social media and online social networking strategy.

And, just as Diane Hochman recommends, we’ll network and market offline too. We’ll get more personal with people.

We’ll be all around networkers and marketers… and fine compassionate human beings.

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