7 Useful Social Media Sites for Marketing Your Business Online

The explosion of social media sites in the last few years has changed the way consumers learn about businesses. Let’s face it – today if your business is not a member of Facebook or Yelp, it is likely to be overlooked by many potential consumers. And if your business is without a website, you might as well be non-existent.

Fortunately, most of these popular social media websites are free to use and are a sure way to help you increase your traffic, get a better search engine ranking, build a name for yourself, and promote interactivity while maintaining customer relations.

I compiled a list of 7 popular social media sites that I suggest you look into if you want to market your business on the web more effectively. I have used these to market my own law practice, and the benefits are hard to ignore.

1) Facebook – Facebook is the world’s biggest social networking site. The best way to market your business on Facebook is to create a “Fan Page” and encourage your customers to join. This way you can easily notify them when you have updates to share such as specials or important news about your business.

2) Yelp – Yelp is one of the most popular review sites for local businesses written by customers. It is important to have your local business reviewed on Yelp, as these reviews are used by customers to make decisions on what businesses are the best for them.

3) Twitter – Twitter is a “micro-blogging” social networking site where members send each other short messages and status updates. It is gaining popularity by the minute. Members can see what other members are “tweeting about,” follow these other members if they find their “tweets” interesting, and share their own messages on this micro-blogging platform.

4) YouTube – YouTube is the number one video-sharing website where members can share and comment on each other’s videos. You Tube can be used to establish yourself as an expert in your industry by creating “how-to” videos that show your specialization. To direct traffic to your website, you can even link the videos you upload to your website.

5) LinkedIn – LinkedIn is the most popular business-oriented social networking site with over 400,000 registered users. This is a great website to find potential business partners as well as customers who may be interested in what your business has to offer.

6) Digg – Digg is a popular news-sharing website where members post links to their favorite news article and make comments. If you receive a good rating on an article that includes a link to your site, it will result in a large increase in your traffic.

7) Delicious – Delicious is a popular bookmarking site in which members save links to their favorite websites or articles and share them with other people. When members write comments, it links to their personal profile where they can include a link to their website. The more comments you write, the more you promote your site, resulting in increased traffic.

By joining these sites, you will be able to introduce yourself to new customers and learn more about what consumers are looking for. You can also potentially build a network of loyal customers who may be likely spread the word about your business in various locations all over the Internet. As you may know, word-of-mouth advertising from a trusted source is the most effective type of advertising.

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Is Your Blog Post Tweet-Worthy?

*The following is a guest post by Stacey Cavanagh, an online marketer with Tecmark SEO Manchester.

Whatever our reasons for blogging – whether it be for hobby, to give advice, or a way of earning an income – we all need one core thing in order for our blogs to succeed: readers. Without them, what’s the point? Twitter is a potential source of massive numbers of new readers, based on them seeing links to your blog from other members. But how can you get people to Tweet links to your blog? Quite simply, it all comes down to whether or not your readers feel that your content is worth passing on to people they know. Creating a Tweet-worthy post means you essentially have to give something to your readers, whether this is new information, a good old fashioned laugh, or a talking point. Here are a few hints on creating a blog post that’s worth Tweeting.

Give it a Good Title

The title is the first thing your regular readers will see. If your article is a witty one, make your title witty. If it’s going to tell your readers something new, make sure they know through the title that by reading it they’ll get some information. Include a word or two that gives a clear indication of what it’s all about. Take this post’s title, for example. The post is about writing blog posts that people will want to share on Twitter. The title gives an indication of this. However, an overly long title can be off-putting. Keep it snappy.

When Blogging the News, Have Something Special to Say

Plenty of us blog on the news or current events. Or we may blog on issues being covered on a good number of other blogs and sites. That in itself is fine, providing you add a new dimension to it. If you just post a link to another news article on some other site and say “Here, read this,” why would your readers then link to your site? Why would they not just link directly to the original site from which you sourced the story? You need to add a new spin to material like this. Add your own opinion or commentary. Make it more valuable to the reader. There should be something they can gain or find out from your site, whether it’s an opinion or analysis, that they could not gain just from reading the original story.

Unique Content

Whether you’re discussing a news article that’s doing the rounds on millions of sites or you’re writing your own piece completely from your own head, your content should be unique. Having word-for-word copies of something else online will do you no SEO favors and will do your readers no favors. It comes back down to the big, “Why would I share this?” question. Why, if ten sites are showing exactly the same piece, would people share yours? Keeping it unique means that your blog is the only place your regular readers can send new readers to to access that very article.

Be Human

Let your personality shine through in your blog posts. More personable posts are generally more reader friendly, and it’s the more reader friendly of your posts that will receive the most benefit from people passing on your link through Twitter. Being human in your blog lets your readers feel as though they know you to an extent. If they know you and like you, they are more likely to want to share your content with their own contacts. While business blogs obviously require a level of professionalism, you can easily maintain this without being almost sterile about your posts.

Keep to your Niche

It’s something of a pet peeve of mine to go onto blogs I follow almost religiously and find frequent off topic posts. We all wander from topic from time to time. But as an example, I used to follow a blog about personal finance. And then over the course of a week the blog author had made 4 separate posts about entirely unrelated items, such as gadget related posts. I wasn’t following his blog for gadget information, and so after the 4th post, I un-followed and was done with it. The people who are most likely to Tweet your posts are your regular readers. They’re regular readers because they’re interested in your subject matter. If you go off topic, you risk losing their interest altogether.

Read Before You Post

Once you’ve completed an article it, read it. And then reread it. Ask yourself, ‘what do my readers gain by reading this?’ Do you give them hints? Do you make them laugh? Do you cause them to stop and think? If you can’t identify anything your readers gain, consider rewriting before posting. There has to be a reason for someone to Tweet your blog post.

As I’ve mentioned already, Twitter is a phenomenal way in which you can reach out and attract new readers. While your own Twitter account is good means of publicizing your posts, you ideally want your readers to feel compelled to share it too, thus extending your network of readers. Taking a bit of time to perfect your posts can grant massive reward in this way.

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WordPress vs. Local Website Authoring Tool – Which Makes More Sense

Just the other day, I was in attendance at a meeting with one of my consulting clients, his paid advertising rep, and a rep from his web design vendor.   I was there as the content consultant and provider – when I came on board, my client already had established relationships with a web design company and other vendors.

My client (who is the owner of a thriving personal services law firm) expressed his frustration at the lengthy delays in getting sites created and online – he noted that the production of his most recent site has taken almost 6 months.   It seems that every revision takes at least a week to get implemented.  In fact, I suspect that it was this delay that prompted him to call me – as an attorney I can prepare content about legal topics.  By contrast, his web design company was using writers who were not lawyers, nor were they knowledgeable about the legal issues addressed by the web site.   As such, they would produce content that contained factual errors, someone from my client’s office would review and point out the mistakes, then it would go back to a writer for revision, more mistakes would be made and the process would repeat itself over and over.  Because our client’s web site was being developed in a proprietary development environment, the web site designer was the only person who could make any updates.

Just a note, by the way, for those of you who want to outsource content about a technical topic or one where unique knowledge is necessary, you will need to be involved in the content creation process – otherwise you will face ongoing frustrations.

During this conversation, the paid advertising rep and I looked at each other and almost simultaneously asked “why are you not using WordPress to produce this site?

WordPresslogoWordPress, as you may know, is an “open source” blogging platform that is widely used and very flexible.  Open source means that there is no cost whatsoever to download the software and there are a plethora of “plug-ins” that add flexibility to the base software’s functionality.  The site you are now reading is a WordPress site.

Because it is open source software that has reached critical mass in terms of its use and popularity, the software is regularly updated and upgraded.  Anyone is free to suggest proposed changes to the software – the supervising engineers review these suggestions and incorporate the best of them into the production updates.   I suspect that for many of the volunteer programmers, a development credit on the WordPress site would be valuable resume fodder as well as positive publicity within that developer community.

I first started using WordPress around 2 years ago.  At that time, WordPress was primarily a blogging platform.  Since that time, the software has been significantly upgraded to the point where it can function as the backbone to a more traditional looking web site.  In fact, I have seen WordPress used as the structure for a multi-user membership site, a storefront site for selling multiple items and just about any other application you could imagine.

More recently, I have been using WordPress to create web sites, rather than my previous site authoring tool – a program called NetObjects Fusion.  Other common web authoring tools include FrontPage (a Microsoft product that has now been discontinued), and Dreamweaver. [click to continue…]

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What Name Should You Choose for Your New Website or Blog?

choosing a good domain nameWhen you decide to publish a new website or blog, one of your first decisions will have to do with the domain name or URL of the site.  If I am not involved from the outset, there may not be much I can do about this decision, although I certainly wish that I could change many of the URL’s I see.

In my consulting practice I regularly work with lawyers, although I see the same issues in many businesses.  Law firms usually contain the name of the partners, i.e. Engulf, Devour, Cheatham & Howe.  A firm like this is likely to choose a URL that reads something like this:  www.edch-law.com.

In my view, a URL like edch-law.com is a poor choice.  Firstly, it is not something that most people will remember and given the many images and impressions foisted upon each of us every day, it is certainly better to choose an easy to remember name.   I have a bankruptcy domain name called “moneylawyer.com” – wouldn’t you agree that moneylawyer is much easier to remember and spell than some random series of letters with a dash. [click to continue…]

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Beware of Malicious Twitter Invitation

Peter Cashmore of Mashable.com reports that a spoof email is circulating around the Internet inviting users to connect via Twitter.  Instead of containing a link, the spoof asks users to download a zip file which contains a nasty email harvesting worm.

Here is a photo of the fake email:

Twitter Worm

As Peter notes, this spoof capitalizes on the fact that Twitter has become very well known, meaning that people who don’t know much about it might still be inclined to download a file.  A legitimate Twitter invite, of course, contains a link to the inviter’s Twitter page where you can click to follow or block.

I suspect that some hacker will soon corrupt this process, meaning that like PayPal, you will want to avoid directly clicking a link in an email – instead you will want to head directly to your Twitter account and deal with followers directly from your home base.

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Personal Family Photos Uploaded to Photo Sharing Site End Up On Czech Billboard

Those vacation or other personal photos that you upload to Flickr, SmugMug, Picasa or other picture repository sites may not remain private.  England’s Guardian newspaper reports on its web site that a Missouri family’s Christmas card photo ended up in a grocery store ad for a company in Prague, Czech Republic.   A family friend of Jeff and Danielle Smith spotted the photo on a billboard advertising the grocery store’s home delivery service.

Smith Family Photo

The Smiths, to their credit, have leveraged the free exposure.  Danielle Smith’s blog, ExtraordinaryMommy.com has received thousands of visitors and hundreds of incoming links (like this one) as this story circulates around the web.

The lesson: do not post any photo onto a photo sharing site that you do not want appearing on a billboard in an eastern European country, and leverage web traffic any way you can!

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Never Publish a “Clickable” Email Address on Your Website or Blog

Often, you will want to include your contact information – including your email – in articles or blog posts that you write.  Many programs automatically convert email addresses in to clickable links that open your pre-set email client.

For example, if I am reading an article on a blog about a doctor or lawyer and that professional’s email address is hyperlinked, all I need to is click on the link to open my email program (in my case Gmail, but it could be Outlook or Yahoo Mail or any one of several).

By contrast, if the email address is not a link, I will have to manually open my email program, past the address and then send the email.

In my first web sites, I intentionally made my contact email addresses hyperlinks so colleagues and potential clients could easily contact me.

Big mistake.

Spammers use programs called “bots” to troll the web and harvest these clickable email addresses. Within a few months, my firm email address was (and is) essentially useless because of all the junk that arrives daily. I still keep it active because a lot of people over the years use that email address and I am reluctant to close it.

For years I have recommended to my clients that they use email forms (like the one on this site) rather than live, clickable email addresses. If you do not want to devote the real estate to a form on your site, you can put the form on a separate page, then use a link shortening service like tinyurl.com or cli.gs and post that address.

I recently learned about another solution called HideText.net. This free service takes any line of text, such as emails and converts it into a graphic.   Here is an example:

Jonathan email address

This email address a graphic and thus not currently readable by spambots. A nice and elegant tool.

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WordPress Users – Check Your Feedburner Links

If you use WordPress (like I do), you may direct your RSS feeds through Feedburner.  When you run your feeds through Feedburner, you gain access to a variety of free analytical tools that can help you better understand and count your audience.  In addition, Feedburner allows you to monetize your content by adding services like AdSense to your feeds.  Feedburner is now owned by Google, which means that you can expect even more capacity for analytics and statistics.

For whatever reason, Feedburner has decided to change the syntax of the feed link.  Until recently, a Feedburner feed looked like this:

feeds.feedburner.com/yourblogname

Now, the syntax includes the number “2″ as follows:

feeds2.feedburner.com/yourblogname

When you install the Feedburner plug-in on your blog, you will see an entry screen at “Settings” to type in your Feedburner feed address.  If, like me, you set up your Feedburner plug-in several months ago without the “feeds2″ syntax, your RSS link will go to a dead link.

You can fix this problem easily by logging in to your WordPress blog and changing the Feedburner address to show feeds2.feedburner.com instead of feeds.feedburner.com.

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Useful Tool – Atomic Clock Sync

What time is it?  Not “approximately” but down to the nano-second.  Check out the Atomic Clock Sync utility from WorldTimeServer.com.  Now in Version 3.0, Atomic Clock Sync automatically synchronizes your computer’s clock to National Institute of Standards and Technology.

I also use a utility called “L-Clock” which puts a configurable clock on my System Tray.  Now I will always know what time it is, despite my wife’s insistence that time has no meaning for me!

There are, of course, many reasons to have an accurate clock.  If you use an online backup program, for example, you will want to schedule your backups for 3AM when you are most likely not online.  An accurate system clock insures that your scheduling does not cause a utility to run when you need full processing power.

Atomic Clock Sync can be run manually, or set for automatic updates.  Highly recommended.

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Useful Tool – FriendFeed

If you use the Internet for business, you have no doubt come across numerous social networking sites.  There are a mind numbing number of these sites, all of which help you share what you are doing with the world, and to establish relationships with others who share common interests.   Examples of these social networking sites include:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • digg
  • flickr
  • yelp
  • Mixx
  • Reddit

These social networking sites can be useful if you want to learn what industry leaders are doing and thinking.  I frequently learn about new tools, websites and tactics from some of the people I follow.

The problem, of course, is time.  How do you follow a couple dozen thought leaders on multiple networking sites?  One elegant solution is called FriendFeed.  FriendFeed is basically a social networking site aggregator.  Once you sign up as a user, you enter all of your social networking feeds into a simple form, then save.  Next, you allow FriendFeed access to your email account to search for other FriendFeed users.

You can then “subscribe” to other FriendFeed users and other users can “subscribe” to you.  Every day thereafter, FriendFeed will send you an email digest of posts and activity by those in your subscription list.  This email digest is a fast and convenient way to keep up with any social networking activity by those on your list, all in one place.

Obviously the big drawback is that you can only subscribe to your target if that person has a FriendFeed account.  Still, for those who do participate in this service, it is a breeze to quickly track what they are up to.

If you are interested and want to subscribe to me, the link is http://friendfeed.com/jginsberg.

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