Larry Brauner

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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Larry Brauner

What is Spam?

Wikipedia defines spam as “the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages”.

While most people think of spam as junk e-mail, Wikipedia points out that the term applies equally to the abuse of other electronic media:

  • Instant messaging
  • Usenet newsgroups
  • Search engines - This includes creating spam websites, keyword stuffing and social media abuse.
  • Blogs - Besides the computer generated spam a blog receives every day, there are people who believe that a blog’s comment space is some kind of billboard. The same people like to advertise on social networking sites in their and other people’s comment spaces.
  • Wikis - Wikipedia itself is a target of spam content.
  • Online classified ads
  • Mobile phone messaging
  • Internet forums - This is a first cousin of blog and social networking comment spam.
  • Fax transmissions

Spam is Offline Too

It is easy to extend the definition to include non-electronic media and communication:

  • Three foot rule - Anybody unfortunate enough to be standing next to the spammer gets an earful.
  • Car windows - This includes flyers on the windshield and sizzle cards between the rubber and the glass of the driver’s window.
  • Telemarketing and automated dialers - They really sound pretty much the same. It’s hard to tell which is real.
  • Rest room graffiti - Okay, maybe I am taking this a bit too far. However, I couldn’t resist. I’m sure by now you get the general idea.

Spam is Bad Business

Spam is anti-social, alienating and unprofitable, unless as Diane Hochman says, you’re going to do it right and set up an offshore server to blast spam messages to millions of inboxes.

Spam is highly inefficient and ineffective. Nearly everyone is turned off by spam or chooses to ignore it. Some forms of spam are illegal in many jurisdictions.

Forty-four years later, spam is a perfect example of Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message”. The spammer’s methodology becomes the focus of attention rather than the message’s intended content.

Why Do People Spam?

Spammers mistakenly believe that spam is marketing. Spam seems like a good simple marketing shortcut.

Spammers are taught to play the numbers game. Somebody out there is going to fall for it. When spammers fail, they rarely consider that their spam “strategy” was flawed.

The Law of Attraction

Learning to market correctly takes time and effort, but it’s worth the investment. You will attract success. Spam only attracts failure.

Read my articles on online social networking, blogging and personal branding, and come join me to learn more at My Private Classroom.

Real marketing and personal branding shall prevail.

Please share your spam stories. Post a comment. But please, no you know what.

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Larry BraunerDiane Hochman spoke recently in My Private Classroom about moving the free line, a concept that every marketer engaged in list building these days ought to understand.

Internet marketing expert Brad Fallon explains the “free line” concept in this YouTube video:

Sales FunnelWiden your sales funnel at the top to let more people in, but don’t widen it so much that you have nothing left to sell. You have to find the right balance.

You can give away free information, training or product samples, even free trials of services. However, choose carefully where to move the free line, and once you’ve made that choice, stick with it.

Don’t let the customer move the free line. You do have a right to get paid.

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Larry BraunerWhen Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini started their work on the Ning social network back in 2004, online social networking was still pretty much a teen thing. True there were marketers like yours truly making a home on Ryze and other business networking sites, but we were the exception rather than the rule.

Ning once completed would allow people to create and manage their own miniature MySpace-like social networking sites.

Ning’s founders probably envisioned a platform on which families and circles of friends would stay in close contact through their very own private social networking site. However, since launching 18 months ago, Ning has found its way into the business world as well as many other sectors of society.

You can start your own plain vanilla Ning social network for free, or for a fee you can exercise greater control over your site and add lots of bells and whistles.

Examples of Ning Social Networking Sites

In Web lifeline for the troops, the Naperville Sun writes that two local men, Ed Domain and Josh Lowe, launched Troop Space, a Ning-based networking site for the brave men and women of the United States Military. Troop Space “is geared toward US troops, their families and anyone who wants to become more personally connected to the military”.

Jim at medXcentral started his Ning community to network “the medical and health care universe” and to “stimulate great achievements and forward motion towards resolving many issues faced by the medical industry today”.

Diane Hochman built the online headquarters for My Private Classroom on the Ning foundation. I joined My Private Classroom several months ago to learn more about social media and to introduce free and low-cost marketing methods to network and direct marketers.

You can now participate in Diane’s social marketing training program for free. Read My Private Classroom Opens to Public for details.

I created the Ning social network Critical Thinking Outside the Box as a companion to this blog, and you are welcome to join me there.

What I Like About Ning Sites

From a user’s point of view here are some of my favorite Ning features:

  1. When you make a friend at one Ning site and you each belong to another Ning site, you’re connected at the other site too.
  2. You can browse friends and friends-of-friends and so forth to see what other Ning networks people belong to. In this way you can discover new and relevant places to network. While many Ning sites are private, there seem to be just as many sites that are open to the public. You can also browse Ning’s list of popular social networks.
  3. You can broadcast a message to all of your friends at any given Ning site. Be careful not to abuse this privelege. Spamming is not effective, and network administrators will typically not tolerate it. This broadcasting feature has allowed me to attract readers to my blog and gain new subscribers.
  4. In some Ning social networks you can also broadcast messages to fellow members of groups you join. This feature encourages spam and is therefore disabled on many Ning sites.
  5. You can customize your page’s theme and embed videos and widgets just as you might on MySpace and many other social networking sites.
  6. Much of your profile content can be taken from an existing site and easily reused when joining a new site.

And What I Don’t Like

Here are some of my least favorite Ning features:

  1. Most Ning sites have very small memberships that are just a little too cozy for marketers like me building their lists.
  2. A very high percentage of profiles are abandoned, so you can end up with lots of unaccepted friend requests. At some point you may need to delete some friend requests in order to remain eligible to make new requests.
  3. Very many Ning sites are not much more than recruiting pipelines and sales funnels for the sites’ owners. I find this aspect of Ning annoying, but I tolerate it. For this reason I’m slow to invite friends and business connections to join me on new Ning sites. I want to wait and see if the site is a safe enough place to bring them.

Show and Tell Opportuinity

You can find some of the many social networking sites to which I belong featured on my blog’s sidebar.

Do you have favorite Ning social networking sites? Have you started your own Ning social network? Do you have an interesting story to tell?

Feel free to comment and share with us.

Keep in mind that I’m responsible for the quality of my blog and legally responsible for its content. I therefore reserve the right to edit any comment as I see fit.

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Larry BraunerEven people who don’t go online and don’t understand social networking have heard of MySpace or Facebook, names that might conjure up fears of predators or identity theft.

However, that’s not my point.

My point is that MySpace and Facebook are so much talked about that they have pretty much become household names, and serious business networkers have or ought to have a presence at MySpace, Facebook and Linked In — and at other major social networking sites.

Many of the important online networking sites are listed for your convenience:

There are also industry specific sites. For example if your business is real estate related, consider joining ActiveRain Real Estate Network and Wanna Network, if you don’t already belong.

To find business networking sites specific to any industry, try plugging the industry name and the words “networking sites” into your favorite search engine.

But wait, the story doesn’t end here.

Smaller and newer business networking sites also deserve to be included in your online portfolio. After all, less can be more.

When Diane Hochman Zigs, I Zag

My Private ClassroomDiane Hochman, the founder and director of My Private Classroom for Marketers, often instructs, “Don’t Follow the Flock”. When others are zigging, you zag.

Diane is a Web 2.0 social media rock star. Many people follow her every move. They go where she goes. They do what she does. They zig when she zigs, and they zag when she zags.

People like Diane Hochman and Mike Dillard have their own flocks. Since I don’t want to follow the flock, nor live in somebody’s shadow, when Diane and Mike zig, I zag.

When they’re hanging at Facebook and Twitter, I’m chillin’ at one of the newer smaller sites such as Sta.rtUp.biz, a site that caters to small business entrepreneurs, or Natural Networkers, a social networking site for proponents of attraction marketing.

I might also be list building at Direct Matches or schmoozing at Yuwie, since they are not.

I think you get the general idea. It fits in with my online social networking strategy and my personal branding strategy. It’s common sense. I have plenty of room to maneuver.

You too might be best off charting a different course than your competition or industry leaders.

Choosing Business Networking Sites

There are many possible criteria for choosing business sites. However, at the end of the day it’s largely a matter of trial and error.

Nevertheless, let me share a few of my considerations with you. Perhaps I’ll share more in a future blog post.

Some social networking sites are funded by membership fees, some by advertising, and some by a combination of the two. I mainly prefer advertising supported sites. I’m not typically reaching out to a very elite crowd.

I do admit, I was a paid Executive Member at Direct Matches for three years. I highly valued the package of services they provided, and I appreciated Bill Weber’s personal touch. You can join Direct Matches for free.

I don’t pay to use any social networking sites at the present time. All the networking sites I use are either ad supported or offer free memberships that I find suitable.

Some networking sites make it easier to connect than others. I like to reach out to a large audience and prefer sites that make it easy for me to do that.

I like to be able to browse and add friends or contacts by demographic characteristics or by geographic location. When sites offer that option, it’s great. When they don’t, I look to a site’s groups or clubs to find people in my target market.

I recommend that you explore Ning social networking sites. While they do not support demographic browsing, but they are nevetheless very useful for business networking.

Short Lived Networking Feature

Some new social networking sites let me send mail to all my contacts or to all members of groups to which I belong. I love this capability and use it effectively without abusing or spamming.

I like to let lots of people know about my new blog posts. If I didn’t have a blog, I’d send links to useful information and thereby build my relationship with fellow members.

Unfortunately, as a networking site grows, spammers inevitably move in and ruin it for everybody. It’s impossible to keep a step ahead of them, so all sites eventually limit or eliminate this wonderful feature.

Don’t Let Spammers Ruin Your Day

I don’t like spammers and wish they’d stick with safelists or classified ads, but I don’t let them ruin my day, nor do I let them dissuade me from using any particular social networking site.

If I can cope with tailgaters and drivers who cut me off on the highway, I can surely cope with spammers.

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Larry Brauner

Yesterday I was asked how it is that I’ve learned so much so quickly about social media marketing and search engine optimization.

My response was simple.

I learn from reading many books, e-books and blogs, and from speaking frequently with friends and mentors. Having mentors has greatly shortened my learning curve.

I do admit that I am a much more focused learner than the average person. I was able to finish high school math at 15 and by 19 I was one of the top chess players in New York.

As an adult I’ve gone on to acquire skills and expertise in many areas including business analysis, social media marketing, search engine marketing, and online social networking at social networking sites, the original motivation for this site.

One of my greatest teachers and mentors was Eric Marder, founder of Eric Marder Associates and my employer for 23 years. One fundamental thing he taught me about business was that I should always seek the truth.

At 56, I still place a very high priority on continuing education, personal development and masterminding with my mentors and peers. You can ask any of the friends with whom I consult most often, David Alexander, Ivo Jackson, and Tom Long.

Other friends and mentors whom I wish to acknowledge:

My Private ClassroomDiane Hochman of My Private Classroom, like myself, offers free tele-seminars and webinars. To receive announcements and invitations to these classes, join my e-mail list at my free social media training site.

I used to recommend the training Bill Arnold offers through Network Success Builders, but came to realize, as I wrote in Orovo and Network Success Builders, that Network Success Builder’s training was mediocre and that Bill Arnold lacked personal and business integrity.

Make a commitment to read at least one business or marketing book each month. Choose mentors to guide you and then set aside time each week to learn something from them.

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Larry Brauner

History Repeating Itself
Reading Down to the End of the Comments is a MUST !

Pay It Forward for Profits, a quasi downline club pretending to be a funded proposal, collapsed last year. I hoped people would learn a lesson from it.

Members were funneled into marginal programs such as GDI and Empowerism for the sake of the income streams they provided — and perhaps too because the Pay It Forward founders had a prior interest in those programs. Members had sought to promote their primary businesses when joining PIF4P, but that idea typically got lost in the shuffle.

My Private ClassroomAs Diane Hochman used to teach in My Private Classroom webinars, marketing systems are simply not sustainable. They implode once a large enough number of users adopt or tout the system.

Rather than develop or teach systems and shortcuts, Diane Hochman and I teach key leadership skills and offer excellent social media marketing training.

After all, isn’t it better to invest a few months to develop strong marketing and communication skills that will serve us a lifetime than to invest the same effort in a system that might make us a few fast bucks if we’re lucky?

It’s not good to rely solely on a marketing system to build a business, but when the system itself is the product, as was the case with Pay It Forward for Profits, then the ultimate end comes quickly, usually within a year or two, and the program is completely wiped out.

Unfortunately most people don’t learn. They blame their result on bad luck or external circumstances and jump on one of the next bandwagons to come along.

As Alexander Pope said, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” and new marketing schemes appear every week.

Caution Recommended

What’s astonishing about The Spiderweb Marketing System is how closely it resembles Pay It Forward. When I signed up and looked inside, I could hardly believe my eyes. There was GDI front and center, just as it was in PIF4P.

That’s where the automated blogs are set up. Global Domains is the first paid component of this free system.

Hmm. Did I just say that?

I guess the system isn’t free. Users buy overpriced web services for $10 per month from GDI in order to use The SpiderWeb Marketing System.

When you get to the Direct Matches* sign up, you really can sign up for free. However, if you do, you won’t be able to implement the Direct Matches piece of the traffic system — better pay another $10 per month for that. I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

Ever hear of bait-and-switch?

Sorry. Let’s call it upsell.

There are multiple income streams — some pretty good. And there’s no made-up story about funded proposals like with Pay It Forward for Profits — also good. However, I wish they were up front about the cost. Spider Web is not a free system.

Many people will join Spider looking for multiple streams of income, but instead they’ll find themselves saddled down with multiple streams of outgo.

Oh, there is one other thing. In addition to clogging the Direct Matches MyMail system with spammy messages, The SpiderWeb Marketing System is a proponent and proliferator of automated blogs.

An automated blog is a system generated blog. The system creates the blog and pumps posts into the blogosphere faster than you can say “global warming”.

I just though of a name for this new phenomenon, it’s a blog infestation.

Okay. Needs some work. Give me some time. I’ll think of a better one.

All kidding aside, I can’t understand why somebody would want to spend hours spamming members at Direct Matches and Yuwie while polluting the blogosphere on auto-pilot.

There’s a moral issue too which I hope to discuss in detail in a future post. For now, consider this. When somebody visits a blog, they assume that it’s the journal of a real live person — not the fiction of a computer program. How can this type of impersonation be right?

Kimball Roundy, creator of the Spider System, has given us something interesting to watch. We’ll get to see how Google and the other search engines cope with his quasi-blogs and how visitors react to them as well. We’ll also get to see if automated blogs are really scalable and if a substantial numbers of people actually make money with them.

Meanwhile please be careful. If you see a low hanging spider web, duck!

Speaking of ducks, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck. I wish we could still say that about a blog. ;-)

*Direct Matches happens to be one of my favorite social networking sites. Too bad it’s going to be overrun yet again with spammers. I was so relieved when Pay It Forward fell by the wayside. Now I’ll have to put up with another wave of spamming for a year or so until The Spider Web Marketing System runs its course.

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Larry Brauner

Seth Godin’s Web 2.0 Traffic Watch List

My interest in social media has evolved substantially over the past year.

My love for social networking sites is not something new, but my appreciation for blogging and social bookmarking sites certainly are.

As I mentioned in my recent post, Social Networking Site Catalog, “I launched this blog to share my passion for online social networking and my experiences at social networking sites. I never intended to assemble a catalog. There are already too many good ones out there.”

One of the world’s top marketers and author of marketing books, Seth Godin, provides a catalog of 952 top social media sites, Seth Godin’s Web 2.0 Traffic Watch List. It can help you know what’s hot and what’s not.

Here are the top ten from Seth’s list as I write this:

  1. youtube.com
  2. myspace.com
  3. orkut.com
  4. en.wikipedia.org
  5. ebay.com
  6. facebook.com
  7. fotolog.com
  8. flickr.com
  9. friendster.com
  10. photobucket.com

Put content in the right places, and you will attract other users and search engines like a magnet. If you’re into marketing, that’s exactly what you want.

How do you use social media?

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Larry Brauner

Tonight Diane Hochman speaking on a free My Private Classroom webinar revealed the top seven Internet screw-ups of the average marketer.

My favorite was following the flock.

Facebook is hot. Very hot. There are scores of top networkers on the Facebook scene.

Is that where you want to be? Do you want to follow the flock to Facebook in the hope of successfully competing with some of the world’s greatest networkers?

You might be successful. But instead, why not carve out a niche for yourself somewhere else? There are hundreds of social networking sites. Why not lead the flock instead of following?

Whenever everybody zigs, be a leader and zag. If they zag, you zig.

Diane made a number of other excellent points. Then she summed up her insightful and inspiring talk with the following advice. Above all, you should use common sense and be yourself.

For an invitation to the next free My Private Classroom webinar, complete the subscription form on my Social Networking Project site devoted to online social networking and social media marketing training.

Don’t miss any posts. Register, it’s easy, or subscribe to my RSS feed!

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