Larry BraunerThe old media are languishing. Brick and mortar retail sales are disappointing. Consumers are looking increasingly to the web for news, information and the best deals.

While very many businesses have successfully embraced digital media, an even larger number of businesses are still figuring the Internet out and wondering how much is real and how much is hype.

Sadly, many businesses will disappear because they feared technological change or were unwilling to invest in projects that lacked a clear return on investment.

Blockbuster was outmaneuvered by competitor Netflix, because they did too little too late. Read the Forbes article, What Blockbuster Video Can Teach Us About Economics.

I worked several years ago for a free newspaper containing local ads that’s distributed in my area. The paper is feeling the squeeze of the Internet and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t found a satisfactory path forward. The staff finds it more and more difficult each week to meet their numbers. I believe I can help. I met resistance when I suggested it a year ago, but I’ll try again.

Expect me to be offline more than on the next week or so due to the Passover holiday. I hope each of you enjoys and finds fulfillment in whatever special days you might be observing.

Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I’ll reply as soon as I can. :-)

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Larry BraunerIn Social Marketing Leverage, I stated that the Internet gives us the ability to transfer information with relative ease and enables a great variety of online tools to provide us with a virtual type of leverage.

In this article, I discuss another physical phenomenon, that of momentum, as it applies to the non-physical social marketing process.

MomentumMomentum is the impetus of an object or a process, its tendency to remain in motion. If you’ve ever skated or cross-country skied, you’ve enjoyed momentum or gliding. :-)

When riding in a car or bus that stopped short, you were thwarted by momentum as the vehicle stopped, but you kept going. :-(

Most of the time, we don’t want to lose momentum. We’ve worked up some speed, or we’re highly productive — and we want it to continue.

Losing Physical Momentum

In the physical world, these factors can cause us to lose our momentum:

  • Collision - Its outcome is generally hard to predict and is often catastrophic.
  • Friction  - Air, water and even our own brakes slow us down or stop us completely.
  • Turning - To avoid collision, negotiate speed bumps or alter our final destination, we must brake partially or completely to change our direction.

Losing Social Media Momentum

In our non-physical social marketing work, the same factors contribute to our loss of momentum and productivity:

  • Collision - Hitting the proverbial brick wall. A major plan is flawed, we accidentally delete all of our Twitter followers, or our Facebook account is phished. My advice in Social Marketing Leverage to “develop good contingency plans for when Murphy’s Law does strike” applies here and to all aspects of our lives.
  • Friction - Indecision, multitasking, working at home while the kids are seeking attention, working at the office while a co-worker in the next cubicle is blabbing, slow social networking sites, associates who don’t keep their word, etc. These all tend to slow us down.
  • Turning - This is huge. Abandoning a blog, changing our branding strategy midstream and other false starts lead to directional changes that slow us down and cost both time and money.

Social Marketing Prescription

What is my prescription for preserving social marketing momentum?

Planning, focus and consistency.

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Larry BraunerA lever gives us the ability or leverage to move heavy objects with relative ease. Metaphorically speaking, the same is true of any tool that can empower us to perform a function more effectively.

The Internet gives us the ability to transfer information with relative ease, and it is also enables a great variety of online tools to provide us with virtual leverage.

Web-Based Tools

Here are six web-based tools that we’ve come to rely upon to save us time or money or to help us be more effective:

  1. Internet-based mail - e-mail, autoresponders and PDF Files
  2. Live communication - VOIP phone, chat and webinars
  3. Digital media - websites, blogs and micro-blogging sites such as Twitter
  4. Social networking sites - Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn, etc.
  5. Content sharing sites - YouTube, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious, etc.
  6. Search engines - Google, Bing, etc.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve had some experience with each of them, and this is a very partial list.

What Can Go Wrong

I probably don’t have to tell you that things don’t always go right. Here are the three obstacles that can most easily sidetrack you:

  1. Using the wrong tool - Download a large file using dial-up Internet, and by the time it finishes downloading, you’ll forget why to wanted it in the first place. Use a shabby autoresponder, and most of your e-mails will end up in recipients’ spam folders.
  2. Using the tool wrong - Social media tools and search engines have steep learning curves, and learning how to use them properly is typically a big undertaking. Misunderstand or misuse social media or SEO techniques, and your work can be set back by months.
  3. The tool breaks - Your Internet connection goes down for a week, your Facebook gets phished, or your blog gets corrupted. You’ll be pulling out your hair, unless of course you’re fortunate enough to be bald.

Many marketers contact me for help because they’ve been using the wrong tool or using the tool wrong.

An Ounce of Prevention

So — choose the right tools, learn to use your tools properly, and develop good contingency plans for when Murphy’s Law does strike — because it most certainly will, and at the worst possible moment.

What do you think?

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Mainstream radio stations such as WCBS Radio 880 and WQXR, the radio station of the New York Times, now air spots for money making schemes. I have heard them myself while driving down to my office.

This is a fairly new phenomenon.

Home businesses and money making schemes are very much more prevalent today than when I joined Excel Communications as a representative back in March 1997.

Why do I think?

For sure there is wider access to information today through the Internet than there was a decade ago.

There is also increased economic pressure due to offshoring, mergers, acquisitions and downsizing. More and more people turn to the Internet, often out of desperation, hoping to solve their financial problems.

I am bombarded by phone and mail solicitations for anything from illegal chain letters to gifting programs to legitimate direct sales opportunities.

This is not at all new.

What is new is that so-called “mainstream” media are looking to make a quick buck or two carrying some very questionable advertising.

I recall a time when these media wouldn’t accept ads from home businesses, even legitimate ones. They were unwilling to expose themselves to complaints and criticism.

Times however have changed. A decline in ad revenue has apparently led radio stations and other mass media to relax their standards and accept almost anything, even possible scams and rip-offs.

Here’s my advice to you:

  • Don’t believe any money making ads you hear on the radio.
  • Throw away the home biz junk mail you receive in your mail box.
  • Delete all spam from your e-mail or online social networking inboxes.

Don’t get ripped off. Only accept business advice from people you know, like and trust.

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The Case for Social Media Marketing

It is becoming increasingly more difficult and more expensive to reach potential customers using mass media. That’s one reason why so many marketers are turning to Web 2.0 social media marketing.

Not only do marketers want to reduce their advertising expense, they also want to connect more directly with people and learn how to better serve their target market.

Social media marketing is especially attractive to small business owners operating on modest budgets, since most social networking sites and other social media sites are generally free to use.

Steep Learning Curve

They read a story such as Beyond Blogs in the June 2nd issue of Business Week, and they rush off to embrace Web 2.0 social media unprepared for the steep learning curve that lies ahead.

The social media landscape is uncharted and sprawling. Social media sites are vying for your attention, and searching the Internet for advice turns up sharply conflicting recommendations.

Need for Mentor

Clearly you need a mentor, somebody smart and knowledgeable with especially strong communication skills. You should find somebody with whom you feel comfortable, because you’ll definitely be getting to know each other. Picking a mentor is difficult.

Effective Communication #1 Challenge

Once you find your mentor mastering essential social media marketing skills will be difficult. To get fully up to speed might take a year or even longer.

That is the bad news.

In my opinion, the hardest part of social media marketing training is learning effective communication, i.e., to write, speak, listen and persuade well and in a professional manner.

There are certainly plenty of technical challenges to overcome, but by far communication is the chief obstacle new social media marketers face. If you happen to have the right mix of communication skills, you’re way ahead of most newcomers.

Your mentor can teach you personal and business branding, online social networking, blogging, video marketingsocial bookmarking, SEO and other important skills. He or she can also critique your communication style, but it will be you who will connect directly with your target market and build vital business relationships.

Get Started Now and Learn as You Go

Now the good news.

You don’t have to master every skill, dot every “i” and cross every “t” before getting started.

Find a good mentor to guide you, jump in and get your feet wet. Learn by doing.

As Mike Litman always says: “You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going.”

Your results will serve as feedback to help you to make the necessary corrections along the way… and that is good news.

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

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

They are:

  1. Location
  2. Location
  3. Location

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

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

  1. Content
  2. Content
  3. Content

Or are they?

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

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

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

The main thing you give up is control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blog Monetization

Time for another article that has little to do with social networking sites.

In Top Reasons Why I Blog I listed my main reasons for blogging. Many of them relate in one way or another to making money.

Reason #15: “I can use it to promote people, products and services.”

In plain English I’m stating that I can make money with my blog by selling stuff.

Another great Inside CRM post begins:

“Blogging is big business these days, with some bloggers reporting six-figure or even million-dollar incomes. There are a number of ways that these bloggers earn such large paychecks, and the best know how to do it in a way that won’t scare off readers.”

Read 101 Ways to Monetize Your Blog Without Irritating Your Readers, and your eyes will open up to many exciting new money-making opportunities.

My personal favorite, one that suits my personality, is “If you’ve found success as a blogger, you probably have a lot of knowledge to share about mastering both the Internet and your field. Freelance as a consultant and get paid for sharing what you know.”

I’ll tell you about my new consulting practice once I finalize the details.

Considering too the many non-financial benefits of blogging outlined in my March 12th post, tell me, how can justify not blogging?

More on blogging, search engines and search engine optimization coming in future articles. So don’t miss any posts. Register, it’s easy, or subscribe to my RSS feed!

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Who says you can only do online social networking using social networking sites?

For quite a few years Max Steingart has been showing people how to use Instant Messenger to develop new friendships and business contacts online.

Today we have social networking sites available to us, however the real-time aspect of Instant Messaging makes IM a great social networking tool.

I recommend that you visit Max’s site, join his mailing list, and download a copy of his e-book, Make the Internet Your Warm Market.

Some of the key topics Max covers in his book are:

  • “What is your Warm Market and how can the Internet replace it?”
  • Why you want to use Instant Messaging
  • The Member Directory
  • The required steps to making a new friend or gaining a new client
  • Searching for the right people
  • How to start a conversation
  • Internet etiquette and safety

Not only will you learn another way to network, the training you will receive can help you network more effectively using any social networking site.

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Larry BraunerPeople have been communicating for thousands of years. There are two basic forms of communication, synchronous and asynchronous.

During synchronous communication all parties interact without any time lapse. Face-to-face speaking, telephone conversations and Instant Messaging are all synchronous. The word “Instant” just about sums it up.

During asynchronous communication parties interact at intervals, either because of convenience or out of necessity. Mail, messengers, fax mail, voice mail and e-mail are all asynchronous.

The accessibility and speed of fax mail, voice messaging and e-mail have revolutionized and popularized asynchronous communication. People appreciate the reply-when-you-want convenience of it as well as its ability to transcend time zones and facilitate global communication.

In major corporations e-mail has become the primary method of contact. Memos are passe and telephone calls are considered somewhat intrusive. But don’t expect phone calls and staff meetings to ever disappear, because, as I indicated in a previous post, people crave the High Touch intimacy that meetings afford them.

However, out in the world-at-large e-mail has taken a big hit recently. Spam filtering by Internet service providers and concerns about privacy have led the populace to seek something more reliable and secure. Enter social networking sites! These sites are capable of providing us with the functionality that e-mail did in the past plus a big additional benefit, file sharing.

The asynchronous nature of social networking sites, and the ability of these sites to replace e-mail, have contributed greatly to the popularity of this form of interaction.

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