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

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

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

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

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

Making an Intelligent Choice

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

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

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

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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

Surging Ahead in the Search Engines

Extensive keyword research and long-term persistence are starting to pay off in a very big way.

Last month, in Blogging and Search Engine Marketing, I patted myself on the back for my SEO progress during my first six months publishing this blog.

Blog Marketing and SEO TrainingI didn’t at all expect that in May I would receive more visitors from search engines than in all previous months since my introduction to the world of blogs.

These visits were above and beyond the 2,000+ visits that I received from my subscriber lists and from online social networking at Entrecard, MyBlogLog and social networking sites.

Furthermore, slightly more than 30% of those search engine visitors stayed on my site long enough to read something.

Of the 787 search engine visits to my blog in May, 239 “stuck”.

Why so much growth in one month?

My keyword research helped me choose search terms that were ambitious yet realistic. And my persistence helped me to establish PageRank and credibility with Google and the other search engines.

I continue to add lots of content to my blog and bookmark all my content on major social media sites.

Do you think I might top 1,000 visitors from SEO in June?

SEO Training

The good news is that what I’m doing here with search engine optimization is duplicable, and I hope to empower you through our Blog Marketing and SEO Training series to develop a massive web presence and achieve great success in your particular niche.

Whether you’re starting a small business, growing an established business, or building a network marketing business, I can’t think of a better way to increase website traffic.

Are you ready to receive thousands of search engine visitors to your site?

Don’t miss any posts. Register, it’s easy, or subscribe to my RSS feed! You can also subscribe by e-mail using the form at the top of the home page sidebar.

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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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The decisions you make and the actions you take before you set up your marketing blog are at least as important as the steps you take once your blog is up and running.

Proper planning can help you avoid many false starts and much backtracking.

Start by asking yourself basic marketing questions such as these:

  • How will you monetize your blog? For ideas refer to Blogs and Blogging for Fun and Profit.
  • What will you sell?
  • Which are your target markets?
  • Can you reach them through advertising? Offline business networking?
  • Can you connect with them at social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Direct Matches, Yuwie or Ryze? While you’re building credibility with the search engines, you can use online social networking and forums to enlist subscribers and readers for your blog.
  • What can you write about in your blog or what other content can you offer that will attract them?
  • Which keywords are they searching for that are relevant to your project?
  • Which keyword searches can you realistically compete for?
  • How will you position your products and brand yourself?

Asking these questions up front will make it possible to develop a coherent plan of action, and we will consider them in coming weeks.

You will need to choose a home for your blog, and that raises another key question.

Will you join a blogging community such as Blogger.com or Wordpress.com — or will you host your blog independently? I explain in Creating a Home for Your Blog why serious bloggers usually prefer to host their sites independently, and later we’ll look at what that entails.

And you will also need to evaluate your marketing and technical skills. Where are you on the learning curve? What will it take to get up to speed? Will you require some amount of personal guidance to get off to the right start?

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Larry Brauner

Blogging and Personal Branding

Personal blogs and business blogs often factor into the marketing mix of both large and small businesses.

Blogging is interactive and enables direct communication with the customer or end user, a subtle form of business networking.

Blogging as a form of networking is not as direct as attending a meeting of a chamber of commerce or a small business association — nor does it replace online social networking at social networking sites. However, it builds credibility while refining and reinforcing the blogger’s personal or corporate brand image.

Search Engine Optimization

As I stated in Top Reasons Why I Blog, “Blogging endears me to the search engines.”

Search engines love to deliver fresh content to their clientele, and that’s what blogs are all about. Each blog post creates new content for search engines such as Google to sink their teeth into.

Search engines send visitors. Some of those visitors become readers and bond with the blogger and his or her company or cause.

Make Money Blogging

This bond presents opportunities.

For example, when bloggers are looking directly to monetize their blogs, as is very often the case in the world of blogs, their readers are often redirected to another site or to a sales page to purchase an endorsed product or service.

This transition is easy once a trusting relationship has been created between blogger and reader.

To learn how to make money blogging, my previous post, Blogs and Blogging for Fun and Profit, is a good place to start.

We’ll continue to explore the relationship between blogging and search engine marketing.

Be sure to visit the Blog Marketing and SEO Training page.

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Online social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook have become considerably heterogeneous over time. They support diverse agendas and activities.

One the other hand, social networking sites such as myYearbook or Linked In have retained their strictly social or business networking character.

Social Sites for Every Business

Business is embracing social networking, and most new social networking websites seem to lean more towards doing business than towards socializing.

I came across an excellent list of business networking sites and social media sites that will help you create a strong web presence for yourself or for your organization.

Inside CRM published a collection of 50 Social Sites That Every Business Needs a Presence On. The entries are listed in five categories:

  1. Social Bookmarking Sites – such as reddit and Digg
  2. Business Networking Sites — like Ryze
  3. Niche Social Media Sites – including Sphinn and Tweako
  4. General Social Media Sites — such as Wikipedia
  5. Job Sites – like Yahoo! Hot Jobs

I don’t know whether their list will be updated periodically, but it is certainly an excellent jumping off point.

You can also consult Mashable’s Catalog of 350+ Social Networking SitesSeth Godin’s Web 2.0 Traffic Watch List and Ning Social Networking Sites for additional ideas.

You Need a Strong Web Presence

Are you an established entrepreneur or manager?

Are you opening a small business, a network marketing business or a consulting practice?

Even if you’re an employee in a corporation, you need a solid web presence to comptete in today’s Internet-based world.

When somebody Google’s YOU or your niche, what will the search engine return?

More on search engines and search engine optimization coming in future articles.

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At social networking sites we communicate and build relationships. We can also share websites and other content with each other.

At social bookmarking sites we primarily share websites and other content with each other and with search engines. However, we can also communicate and build relationships.

What is the difference between a social bookmarking site and a social networking site?

Our priorities. Online social bookmarking emphasizes content, while online social networking emphasizes relationships.

Benefits of Social Bookmarking Sites

If you publish a blog or own some other website, you probably want visitors, and backlinks too. Social bookmarking sites will help you in these ways.

  • You share your site with the community. They visit it and rate it. You can form relationships that lead to quality backlinks for your site.
  • Search engines take note that your site is bookmarked. Bookmarking is a form of recommendation. Search engines react favorably to your site’s presence in the community.

My Favorite Social Bookmarking Sites

The social bookmarking sites I use most often are StumbleUpon, Technorati, propeller, del.icio.us, Spicy Page and Digg. See the list on my sidebar and at Social Marker, a tool that streamlines the bookmark submission process.

I also use blog traffic sites, notably Entrecard and Link Referral. The latter can also be used to promote a static website. I’ve made valuable connections at Entrecard and have learned much from the blogs I visited there.

Regular participation at social networking sites will do wonders for your popularity. Reqular posting and participation at social bookmarking sites will do the same for your blogs and other websites.

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My First Effort

I launched my Online Social Networking blog on November 6, 2007 with my first post, Here We Are.

I was a blogging and search engine optimization newbie.

You might remember my earlier post, “You don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going!” I made a plan and got started.

My strategy was to attract readers at social networking sites such as MySpace and Yuwie, and at the same time build a strong presence in the search engines.

I chose to write about social networking because of the large amount of experience I had with online social networking and social networking sites, and I selected the name of this blog and its principal keywords accordingly.

My blog took form over a period of several months with a few false starts and reversals. I kept writing week after week and networking and strategizing while waiting for my search engine marketing to kick in.

I joined MyBloglog and Entrecard to connect with other bloggers and entice them to visit my site. At Entrecard I made new friends.

Marcus HochstadtOne, a gentleman named Marcus Hochstadt, has helped me enormously. Not only has Marcus given me lots of encouragement, but through a contest he organized and ran on his Internet Business Guide blog, he also helped me gain more than fifty good inbound links to my blog. This helped my Google Page Rank.

Moving Up in Google

Page rank is Google’s measure of a site’s authority. It’s a major factor in Google’s determination of a site’s position in search results.

Having your site shown by Google and other search engines on page one of the results when people search for your targeted keywords is highly desirable and is the primary goal of search engine optimization.

As my credibility increased, and my page rank went from zero to one and from one to two I moved up in the search engine results and saw large increments in the number of visitors Google was sending my way each day.

I started tracking my blog’s traffic late January using Google Analytics. At that time Google was already providing me with a couple of visitors per day. The following chart shows how my results improved over time. Click on the chart to view a larger much larger version.

Search Engine Visitors 

On a good day now I receive about 30 visitors. This will continue to grow over time, and I’ll keep you posted.

You Can Do It Too

I’m teaching a free course on blogging, search engine optimization and social media marketing. You’ll learn all the techniques I’ve discovered and how you can apply them yourself.

A wide range of social media marketing training courses is available at My Private Classroom for Marketers.

Subscribe to my newsletter at my free social media training site.

If you’re interesed in harnessing the synergy of blogging, social networking sites and search engine optimization, visit my Blog Marketing and SEO Training.

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

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Larry Brauner

Last November I examined the popularity of social networking sites.

In a series of four posts I examined the reasons I believed that online social networking was very relevant:

  • “High Tech/High Touch” - As sterile technology increasingly impacts our lives, we crave greater and greater intimacy to offset it.
  • Digital Age - Our technical capablity permits, even inspires us, to share multi-media digital files with our friends, family and colleagues that contain valuable information, memorable experiences and enjoyable entertainment.
  • Communication - Online social networking sites are capable of providing us with the functionality that e-mail did in the past plus a big additional benefit, file sharing.
  • Search Engine Optimization - More and more marketers are turning to social networking both to connect with users and to get free traffic. Traffic comes from within the community and, thanks to the search engines, from without as well.

On March 24th I looked at Social Networking vs. Advertising and how people tend to approach social networking with an advertising mindset. If you haven’t seen that post, I highly recommend it.

IC JacksonMy good friend Ivo Jackson, a very gifted writer, wrote a blog post April 8, the 7 Reasons Why You Should Do More Networking Than Selling that looked at networking from another angle.

Ivo provides an excellent rationale for social networking that applies to offline as well as online social networking. These are the points she makes:

  • People don’t like to be sold.
  • Selling only works when people are ready to buy, and most of your network is not ready.
  • People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Selling yourself or your brand is easier than selling your product or service.
  • The law of averages is real - long term success is relative to the size of your network.
  • If you help people get what they want, you will eventually get what you want.
  • If you expect a great harvest, you must first plant some seeds.

Visit Ivo’s blog and read the complete article.

I wish to add just one point that I made in my March 24th post. Networking allows you to determine what people really want so that you can customize your offer to them.

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