Larry BraunerI’m writing from Baselworld 2011, the giant international watch and jewelry expo that takes place yearly in Basel, Switzerland. The watch show, with its grand and intricate exhibits, is very exciting.

I’m wondering how many people, like myself, are in Basel for social media or are even aware of the social web beyond Facebook or their favorite blog – probably no more than fraction of the 80K attendees.

Baselworld 2011

Baselworld 2011I came to  Basel to interview as many of the Baselworld 2011 exhibitors as I could, but I chose instead a more focused and practical mission: to visit the many watch brands our company represents and to discuss social media collaboration with them.

I’ve been asking each of our watch brands to supply me regularly with content for our company blogs that feature and promote them.

In other words, rather than source all content by myself, I’m building partnerships with our watch brands to share the effort. If even half follow through and send me the desired text, photos and videos, I’ll have ample content for our blogs and  web presence.

That’s the game plan. Your thoughts?

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Larry BraunerIt would be useful if you could know which social media sources, social networking sites and search terms were contributing to your newsletter and blog subscriptions.

You can track newsletter and blog subscriptions to a large extent, although not fully, using web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics or Clicky, my favorites, and a trick or two I’m going to share with you.

Accurate Subscription Tracking is Impossible

I asserted in Twitter Stats Defy Measurement that “everything defies measurement and tracking.” Why should subscriptions be exceptions? :)

I believe that some subscriptions methods, such as blog subscription via the RSS icon in the Firefox location bar, can not be tracked, since that icon is external to your site, and you can only track your site itself, since tracking relies on script placed internally within the site’s web pages.

Fortunately, the practical researchers that we are, we’ll draw conclusions about newsletter and blog subscription from whatever data we’re able to obtain. We can obtain tracking data for some RSS subscriptions and most web form email subscriptions.

How to Track RSS Subscriptions

The following four steps will help you track your RSS subscriptions:

  1. Use Feedburner to “burn” your blog’s RSS feed.
  2. Post Feedburner RSS icons prominently on your blog, so that visitors will find it easy click on those icons instead of their browser’s RSS icon. There’s no need to be subtle about your RSS icons.
  3. Use off-site link clicks to your Feedburner page to segment your subscribers within your web analytics program.
  4. Study the sources and behavior of that segment of subscribers.

It’s possible that some members of this RSS subscriber segment will not follow through with their subscription or that they were already your subscribers but didn’t remember. It’s not worth losing any sleep over it.

How to Track Web Form Email Subscriptions

59th Birthday Party and Promote-Yourself Event on FacebookThis one should be a piece of cake — speaking of which, Tuesday is my birthday and you’re invited to my social networking 59th birthday party on Facebook that runs from the 11th through the 20th.

The key to tracking web-form email subscriptions is to set the subscription thank-you page to a page on your blog that’s used only for this purpose and to segment your email subscribers as a result of their visiting the thank-you page. Some visitors who submit web form fail to confirm their subscriptions. Don’t let this issue ruffle your feathers either.

You can track visitors who do confirm by using a subscription confirmation welcome page on your blog. However, after their original tracking session has timed out, they can no longer be connected to their original tracking source, so you might not be any better off than simply tracking visits to your thank-you page.

I implement both thank-you and welcome pages as part of my sign-up process, not only so that I can keep my options open, but so that I can also bring the subscriber back to my blog twice instead of once.

Additional Remarks

I use Aweber for my email subscriptions, but you can use almost any good email contact service. I recommend that you not use Feedburner for your email subscribers, because Feedburner will not afford you sufficient control over your email list.

I sometimes use Google Analytics to merge the RSS and email subscribers into a single segment, but it can be interesting to study the two groups separately.

Now, one final question: How do you prefer to subscribe to this blog, by RSS or by email? ;-)

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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 BraunerSeven years ago in November 2003, I began my online networking exploration on Ryze, a new social web site which was, along with LinkedIn, one of the first social networking and business networking sites.

It wasn’t until 2006, after I’d already joined a number of additional social networking websites, that I learned that these sites were the precursors of a much larger social media phenomenon. I also learned about the importance of blogs, explained by Darren Rouse in his video which I embedded in Not Ready for Social Media Marketing.

Third BlogiversaryI launched this blog, Online Social Networking, in November 2007, and yes, I am celebrating my third blogiversary. :-D

In Social Media One Bite at a Time and 7 Tips for Winning the Social Media Marathon, I discuss the social media mindset and some of the social media strategies I’ve found very helpful.

Building My Social Media and Web Presence

Here is a list of my 10 top strategies for building my social media and web presence:

  1. Partnership - Building relationships though blogging, online social networking and social bookmarking sites.
  2. Content - Writing and publishing well thought-out and occasionally useful articles on my two blogs.
  3. Search Engine Optimization - Ongoing keyword research and SEO. 50% of all my web site traffic comes directly from search engines.
  4. Diversification - Creating a presence on diverse social media sites and cultivating diverse web site traffic sources.
  5. Innovation - Experimenting with many ideas, some work out and others flop, while resisting any urges to follow the crowd.
  6. Boldness - Haven’t been afraid to test the limits of social websites and social media strategies. Twitter removed @larrybrauner from their search results, Sphinn terminated my account, and Facebook sends me sweet little love messages when I become more ambitious than they like. All I can say is, “C’est la vie.” Meekness isn’t a good quality in a marketer.
  7. Planning - Always researching and frequently reevaluating and refining my web marketing and branding plan. Flexibility must accompany social media and web marketing planning.
  8. Attitude - Persevering, staying upbeat and focusing, even when I didn’t feel like it, such as when my Dad passed away last year, or when my search engine traffic dipped during this past summer.
  9. Tools - Taking advantage of a variety of social media, SEO and web analytics tools.
  10. Widgets - Integrating social media with my blogs through using website widgets.

Thank you for partnering with me and helping me all these years with my social media and web marketing efforts. :-D

Share Your Social Media Strategies

What are your most successful strategies for building your social media and web presence?

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Larry BraunerNetworkedBlogs is a Facebook application, which syndicates blog content and networks blogs to help them gain followers and readership on Facebook.

What blogger would not want to tap into Facebook, the networking giant, to grow his or her blog? That was the allure of NetworkedBlogs for me.

NetworkedBlogs Facebook ApplicationNetworkedBlogs has simplified my Facebook syndication to a small extent. However, despite building a large presence on NetworkedBlogs, integrating my blog with Facebook in this manner has resulted in few new readers.

Here are seven reasons for my disappointment with the NetworkedBlogs Facebook application:

  1. Many of my NetworkedBlogs followers are following my blog only because the NetworkedBlogs application asked them to do so at the time they followed another blogger’s blog covering the same topics. They have little interest in reading my blog.
  2. Only a small percentage of users visit the NetworkedBlogs Home Page regularly or at all to see their NetworkedBlogs News Feed. Many users don’t even realize the importance of the NetworkedBlogs Home Page. NetworkedBlogs needs better instruct users, so that users will get more out of this potentially useful Facebook application.
  3. I, like most bloggers, post at most a few articles per week. However, the top blogs on NetworkedBlogs are group blogs with many articles per day, thereby dominating the News Feed on the NetworkedBlogs Home Page. NetworkedBlogs needs to adjust its algorithm to compensate for the disproportionate number of articles generated by group blogs.
  4. Moreover, on the NetworkedBlogs Home Page, the News Feed is not sequential. Instead, it gives the highest-rated blogs priority, just as the Facebook News Feed gives priority to the most relevant posts, based upon each post’s Facebook EdgeRank. Because most people follow top blogs on NetworkedBlogs, they’ll infrequently be shown less popular blogs. Networked blogs needs to modify its algorithm to display a greater number of lower-rated blog posts.
  5. People tend to follow many blogs they have little interest in reading. This too diminishes the usefulness of the NetworkedBlogs News Feed and its perceived importance, as well.
  6. Facebook greatly limits that which the NetworkedBlogs application can do on our behalf. NetworkedBlogs cannot create user notifications as it had been able to in the past. Therefore, NetworkedBlogs needs to be extra creative in order to increase user engagement with the application and its content.
  7. NetworkedBlogs users, including myself, aren’t proactive enough to compensate for the shortcomings of the NetworkedBlogs Facebook application. How we can use NetworkedBlogs more proactively and productively will be the subject of a future article, which I plan to call The NetworkedBlogs Challenge.

Before you comment on this post, please “like” my Facebook page and follow me on NetworkedBlogs. ;-)

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Larry BraunerIn 8 Simple Ways to Penetrate Social Media Clutter, I recommended  that you leverage multiple traffic sources. In Looking for Traffic in All the Wrong Places, I gave you a partial list of the places I look to get more website traffic.

Based upon Google Analytics data pertaining to my recent blog visits, bounce rates and average time on site, I present my top 10 blog traffic sources along with some notes on each:

  1. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing - They account for 35% of my traffic. When my blog was new, I didn’t get any search engine traffic at all. Now, however, I get 5,000 visits from searches per month — including business people seeking precisely the types of services I offer. The credit goes to search engine optimization and to a growing reservoir of content.
  2. Entrecard, a traffic exchange for bloggers - Admittedly, Entrecard provides me with lots of worthless traffic. Fortunately, however, the site provides me with some great traffic too and an opportunity to build key relationships with other bloggers. One of my favorites at Entrecard is Gera from Uruguay, owner of the Sweets Foods blog. He and I are now also connected by email, Facebook and Twitter. As with all other traffic sources, to benefit from Entrecard you’ll need to make a long-term commitment to developing it.
  3. Twitter - I’ve written at length about Twitter. Read Twitter Stats Defy Measurement. I’m happy to have started with Twitter in 2008 when Twitter’s rules didn’t get in the way of building a large following. Today, different tactics are necessary to connect with your target audience. Start by encouraging your website visitors and friends on social networking sites to follow you on Twitter. Then gradually introduce new Twitter tools into your mix. My favorite tool, Tweet Adder, which I use daily, is worth the small investment.
  4. Facebook - I turned my attention to Facebook in June 2009 and experimented with the NetworkedBlogs application, which may have introduced new readers to my blog, but proved to be a poor source of ongoing traffic. On the other hand, profiles, fan pages and events showed themselves to be excellent traffic sources. It seems to me, so far, that Facebook fan pages are very effective as a form of web site subscription.
  5. Ning social network - I’m sorry to report that Ning has morphed into a host of unrelated niche sites. If you have your own Ning site, or a group or lots of friends on someone else’s Ning site, you can use that site to move traffic. As with Twitter, getting started with Ning is harder than it used to be, and the marketing benefits are fewer. I belong to many Ning sites and have several of my own. My primary Ning site is Small Business Network.
  6. Business Exchange - Discovered this social bookmarking site recently and wrote about it in 12 Tips for Using Business Week’s Social Bookmarking Site. I’m hoping that Business Exchange will help me generate a lot of high quality traffic in the year to come.
  7. Blog Catalog - If you have a blog and decide to use BlogCatalog, start your own group there; make many friends on the site and invite them to join your group. Those who join are interested in you and your group’s theme.
  8. StumbleUpon - Planning to learn much more about StumbleUpon and use it much more this year. I’ll keep you posted.
  9. LinkedIn - While well connected on LinkedIn, I’m not using it much at present. Most of my LinkedIn traffic is coming as a result of the Twitter LinkedIn integration.
  10. Ryze - Here I first encountered online social networking back in 2003. I  find Ryze very underwhelming in 2010. The traffic I get from Ryze comes from posting in groups, which are really forums.

I believe that Blogger is sending me websitetraffic because of Google Friend Connect. Also, I heard a rumor that Yahoo! is dumping MyBlogLog. Will let you know about both of them.

You made it all the way down here. Why not scroll down a drop more and leave a comment? ;-)

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Larry BraunerTo start off a year of greater collaboration and celebrate my 58th birthday, I’m hosting a unique four-day blog and web site promotion event and social media party on my Facebook fan page.

What’s truly unique about this event is that I plan to check out every link posted on my page and comment, share the link, and submit it to social bookmarking sites, as I deem appropriate.

Over a hundred people have registered so far, and many more are expected to sign up for this free event.

Everybody may participate. It’s not necessary to have a blog or other website.

If you’d like to donate a door prize such as an info product or a coaching session, please connect with me as quickly as possible.

Here are answers to 19 or 20 infrequently asked questions:

  1. How do I register for this event? Visit the event page and click on Attending. If you’re not a Facebook member, join Facebook first.
  2. When does this event take place? From January 11-14 according to the date wherever you are. EXTENDED UNTIL JANUARY 15, NOON EST. NO DEADLINE FOR NETWORKING AND COMMENTING ON POSTS.
  3. Do I have to be awake and online for 96 hours? Not unless you want to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.
  4. Can I click on Maybe? You can, but why would you? The party is four days long. Either you’re going to stop by or you’re not.
  5. In what ways can I participate? You can post a link to your blog or website on my Facebook page along with a brief non-hypey introduction. You can network (see below) with other people and check out their links. You can even be a fly on the wall (no pun intended) and just chill.
  6. What if I don’t have a blog or other website? Post a link to your Facebook page or profile, to your Twitter profile, LinkedIn profile, etc.
  7. What am I not permitted to promote? No porn or hate content. No predominantly religious content. (I was careful not to include them all in the same sentence.)
  8. How many links may I post during the event? One with an exception…
  9. What if you don’t get to me? If I don’t get to acknowledge your post within seven days, you may post a new link or re-post the old one.
  10. Can I network with other participants? You are encouraged to network, but please do so in a professional manner to avoid being cast into the snake and scorpion infested dungeon.
  11. When will you be hosting another event like this one? I don’t know. It depends on how this one goes. If I must hire bouncers, that won’t be a good sign.
  12. What happens if I don’t attend this one? You’ll have to live with a guilty conscience for all eternity.
  13. Will dessert be served? Yes. Chocolate cyber cake and virtual vanilla ice cream. Yum!
  14. This bullet point intentionally left blank.
  15. Do I need to bring a birthday present? No, but you can help promote this event.
  16. How can I help promote this event? You can link to this article, share it on FB, tweet it (using this handy link), Stumble it, Digg it, or print copies and mail them to all your friends, family and colleagues.
  17. Is this some kind of April Fools joke? Only if you’re reading this on April 1st.
  18. What if I think 58 is old? Keep your opinion to yourself.
  19. What if I don’t think any of this is very funny? Get a life.
  20. What if you haven’t answered my question? You can ask your question below in a comment. I’ll answer it, if it makes sense to me.

Note that I reserve the right to modify the rules and conditions of this event arbitrarily and capriciously with or without prior or subsequent notice.

Don’t hesitate to subscribe, leave a comment, or join my Facebook Fan page. ;-)

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Larry BraunerAs we begin 2010, I wish you real success, both online and off, in the year ahead.

In a video I’ve already already shown you, marketing expert Darren Rouse, author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, explains in detail his blog-centric approach to building a web presence, in which his blogs are his home base, and social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube are his outposts.

Some readers have questioned the necessity of starting a blog, since a blog can consume more time than a business might be prepared to invest in their social media initiative.

I agree that starting a blog is not absolutely necessary.

Businesses can choose among various alternatives when establishing their social media home bases. However, these alternatives are less ideal than a blog for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Inadequate Control - When a site is owned by someone else, they modify the terms or remove users arbitrarily, not caring at all that it’s your home base.
  • Inadequate Communication - The site’s features don’t sufficiently enable two-way communication between you and your community members.
  • Inadequate Flexibility - The structure, linking or other features of the site are too rigid.
  • Too Resource Intensive - The expense far exceeds the alternative cost of starting and maintaining a blog.

These are some major alternatives to the blog-centric approach and the reasons they are problematic:

  • Static Website -Inadequate communication and flexibility.
  • Your Own Ning Network or Facebook Page - Inadequate control and flexibility.
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Squidoo etc. - Inadequate control, communication and flexibility.
  • Self-Hosted Social Networking Site - Too resource intensive.

Note also that search engines are consistently receptive to blogs, and that some social media sites and Facebook apps cater to blogs and bloggers.

If I couldn’t use a blog for whatever reason, a static website (equipped for lead capture) coupled with a Facebook Page or perhaps my own Ning (or SocialGO) social networking sites might be workable, but…

There ain’t nothing like a blog!

Start 2010 off right: Subscribe and leave a comment. ;-)

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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 Brauner

I’ve written about the problem of spam both offline and online at social networking sites in How Do You Like Your SPAM? and Why Do People SPAM?

With this article, I’m delivering on the promise I made last week to discuss marketing channels you can use to promote yourself or your business — without ever resorting to spam.

Legitimate promotion alternatives fall primarily into these basic categories:

  1. Advertising - Expect to pay — unless you prefer getting marginal results, running around town, lurking in parking lots and posing for security cameras, all while schlepping around stacks of flyers and carefully avoiding people you know. Online, free advertising attracts people without money and spammers, although you may get good results with Craigslist. Offline advertising includes newspapers, magazines, direct mail, radio, television, offline directory listings and billboards. Online advertising includes Pay Per Click, e-zines and online directory listings. I do not recommend using banner ads. Advertising ROI will depend on the net lifetime value of each acquisition or conversion and the cost of each acquisition.
  2. Press Releases - If your business is newsworthy, or if you can create a newsworthy event, then you may be able to get some free exposure. Your press release needs to be well written in a suitable format and distributed either offline, online or both.
  3. Speaking and Contributing Articles - It is an accepted practice to establish your reputation and generate leads by speaking at meetings or contributing articles to journals. Don’t expect to get paid anything until you become a recognized expert in your field.
  4. Strategic Alliances and Joint Ventures - A business or list owner promotes your offer to his or her clients or e-mail list based on an agreement through which you both stand to gain. It’s not uncommon to give a joint venture partner all the profit from an initial product offering in exchange for helping you to add new contacts to your list.
  5. E-Mailing Your List - You can send relevant commercial messages to subscribers who previously opted into your database. Try to avoid using purchased lists. If you must, be sure you know with certainty that the subscribers agreed to receive offers from third parties. Be genuinely helpful and careful not to abuse your list.
  6. Search Engine Optimization - You’ll need a web site, and unless you’re an SEO maven, you’ll have to pay for SEO services. There’s more to doing effective search engine optimization than most people realize. However, SEO will be worth the trouble if it gets you ranked high up in the free organic search engine results that most searchers look at and care about.
  7. Social Media - Social marketing is similar in philosophy to speaking and article contribution mentioned above. You share online videos and articles to educate, inform and entertain people, and to build a relationship with them. If they want your product or service, they’ll be inclined to buy it from you, since they know you, and you’ve earned their respect. Your blog on a social networking site, a blogging community such as Blogger.com, or you own hosting, are good places to share your content. For ideal results, create and post new original content on a regular basis. If your content is geared toward your target market, then you’ll attract qualified customers to you and your site.
  8. Business and Social Networking - Networking is meeting new people and developing relationships with them. You can network at your local Small Business Association, Chamber of Commerce or BNI. I can go to Network Plus, a group in my area founded by Ted Fattoross. Online social networking is more convenient. You network from your computer at any of thousands of social networking sites. My favorites are Ning and Facebook. You build relationships by asking questions and getting to know people. Keep in mind that spamming doesn’t work at all, and exchanging business cards is no more than a cordial first step in starting a relationship.

I like the web marketing channels: my e-mail list, search engine optimization, social marketing and business networking. I coordinate them to benefit from the synergies between them.

Now it’s your turn.

Which methods do you use? Which ones are you hoping to use in the future? What challenges do you foresee?

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