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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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 BraunerWCBS Radio 880 reported, based upon a source I have not been able to find, that personal blogs had peaked, and that people find the time commitment necessary for blogging to be excessive.

In other words, bloggers are experiencing burn-out, because they have difficulty justifying the investment of time and energy in their personal blogs.

Perhaps you’ve heard this story too. In any case, I’m asking, what will you do with this information? Will it will be a justification for quitting blogging? Will it be an excuse for not starting? I’ll share with you my perspective.

How Often Must You Blog?

Many believe that you must blog daily to grow an audience. I do not. While blogging daily might be optimal, less frequent but consistent blogging can lead to success. My personal strategy is to post here at least once per week, usually Sunday evening. I post a second time if a need arises. Applying the 80/20 rule, I’ve achieved a substantial result from ongoing moderate effort.

Craft a blogging plan based on your own situation and objectives. Blogging isn’t one size fits all.

Can Less Competition for Blog Readers Hurt?

Readers' EyeballsSuppose that personal blogs really are waning. Why should you become just another statistic? Less competition for readers’ eyeballs will help, not hurt. Some people want to quit blogging or not start, but you and I don’t have to follow their lead. People who blog intelligently will thrive. I prefer to be one of those people. How about you? :-)

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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 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 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 BraunerHow well is your blog or website performing?

This past November, I wrote, “Some web sites clearly have it together. They have lots of traffic and appeal to visitors.

“Other sites aren’t bad. They have good potential. With a few tweaks here and there, they could enjoy much more traffic and appeal much more to their audience.”

Blog or WebsiteI listed 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Blog or Website and indicated that there might be more suggestions to follow.

Here then are ten more tweaks (presented as problems and fixes), bringing the total to twenty. Hope they’ll keep you busy for a while. ;-)

  1. Key Content Hidden “Below the Fold” - You have seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. 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.
  2. Long Flash Intro - I hate sitting through flash intros designed to impress. Don’t you? Why would you want to subject your visitors to long (or even short) flash intros? Flash intros are dead time. Why not instead impress visitors with your knowledge and the relevance of your content?
  3. Clutter - Some websites have too much going on; they look like patch quilts.  Others have ads that fill every nook and cranny. What can I say? Such sites are overwhelming.
  4. No Call to Action - What do you want your visitors to do when they visit your site? To buy? To subscribe? To leave a blog comment? Let them know what you expect, and if your request is reasonable, they may very well comply. If you don’t ask, they may not know what to do, and they’ll leave, perhaps forever, without taking action.
  5. Distracting Ads - Pop-up ads, blinking ads, glaring banners, sexy ads, scripts that forward to advertisers’ sites after a few seconds, inappropriate auto-playing audio, etc. I dare say, these are “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” Make sure your ads don’t interfere with your content. If your ads are your content, then please disregard everything you’ve ever read on this blog.
  6. Images Not Labeled - Make your visitors and the search engines happy. Whenever possible, describe your images using alt and title parameters in your img tags. If all this is gibberish to you, worry not. Your web development or HTML guru will know what to do.
  7. Hard to Navigate Site - Don’t confuse your visitors. Keep your website simple and provide a site map if you can.
  8. Difficult to Understand - Write for your audience. Not everyone will have an advanced degree, some could have nothing or as little as a certificate from an online school – unless of course such people are your target audience.
  9. Spelling and Grammar Mistakes - There ain’t no excuse for bad spellin and grammar.
  10. Stale Content - Fresh content is good for SEO and for attracting repeat visitors.

Implement as many of these ten website improvements (and the ones listed 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Blog or Website) as you’re able to.

How time flies! Already, we’ve come to the part of the blog post where people usually leave a well thought-out comment. :-D

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Larry BraunerI’ve written about list building extensively in connection with social media.

It’s time to revisit social media list building once again. In this article, however, I focus more on where to build lists than how to build them. In other words, I focus on social media list building destinations.

A few remarks are in order before I address the where-to of list building.

Importance of List Building

In List Building Using Twitter, I discuss the importance of list building in marketing. List building is equally important in PR, CRM and other types of communication.

Reach is the quantity of people your message reaches, while frequency is the average number of times each person is reached.

Frequency builds trust and drives your message home. Advertising without frequency is rarely effective. Marketers rely on list building to repeatedly reach their audience and achieve their target frequency levels.

New List Building Paradigm

List Building DestinationsIn List Building Paradigm Shift, I discard the stereotype of list building as “a well-written lead capture page linked by a web form to an auto- responder” and redefine it as the process of acquiring and nurturing followers.

More precisely:

List building is the process of subscribing members of your target audience, in order to engage and nurture them and brand yourself and that which you represent.

This definition leaves plenty of room for creativity and customization of the list building process, yet it defines our objectives: engaging, nurturing and branding. Prescribing our objectives enables you to gauge the relative merits of each list building venue at your disposal.

List Building Destinations

These are my five favorite venues for list building. They are just as useful to owners of static websites as they are to bloggers.

I use all of them and let people choose for themselves which they prefer.

  1. Autoresponders - Reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated. Everybody receives email and knows how email works. Every website should provide email subscription. Emails sent to opt-in subscribers will have an open rate of about 30% and a click through rate of approximately 10%, which is excellent. The downside of email subscription in general is anonymity, lack of interactivity and changes of address. I use an autoresponder service to maintain my database and deliver my email. My service has a high delivery rate, many important features, good customer service, and it integrates with Google’s FeedBurner RSS if you have a blog.
  2. Ning Social Networks - You can connect with members of a Ning network, interact with them and broadcast messages to them as the site creator, as an administrator, as a group creator and as a friend. They all work. However, only as the site creator do you actually own their data. My primary Ning site is Small Business Network. Subscription through Ning can be powerful, but it takes much more work to join a Ning site than to opt into an email list. A big problem with Ning is that if somebody joins more than one site or group of yours, they can receive duplicate mail from you. If you’re already established on Ning, incorporate it in your list building strategy. If not, to Ning or not to Ning will not be an easy question to answer.
  3. Facebook - A Facebook fan page widget lets Facebook members register for your page with one click. Based on my experience, response to posts runs at around 5%, about half the rate of email, which is good. The quality of traffic is superb with high average time spent on site. Your posts on Facebook can promote interaction and draw comments themselves from the members of your page, which helps you brand yourself. The potential also exists with Facebook pages to benefit from viral effects.
  4. Twitter - Posts on Twitter, or tweets as they’re called, can easily be retweeted and spread virally throughout the site. In a future post, I might list the reasons why, not withstanding the viral effect, I like Twitter much less than I like Facebook for list building. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to make Twitter subscription available, and I love all the traffic it brings me. (I’m @larrybrauner.)
  5. Google Friend Connect - This is Google’s attempt to add a social element to every website.  I doubt that it’s very successful from a social perspective, but it’s from Google, so I’m in. If Google uses or will use GFC membership to assess the relevance of websites, I’m covered. One nice feature of GFC is its newsletters. Make sure you enable them and use them to email your GFC subscribers.

I also use RSS subscription for my blog, but it doesn’t support interaction, and I believe that the response rate from RSS is very low.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, please choose a destination and subscribe.

Your comments about list building or social media list building destinations are welcome. :-)

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