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March 2011

Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Taxes

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Today, I have something a little different for you for our Brilliant Blogger series. Usually, I post a little about the topic myself, link to three of the best posts I can find, and then give you a list of links to other posts about the topic. This week is a little different – the topic is taxes for bloggers (and the self-employed in general), and although I have several years of experience with it, I don’t feel qualified to talk about it myself. When it comes to taxes, I also don’t think I can choose just three brilliant posts you should read – you should read as much as you can about the topic…and get a professional to help you complete your return.

Instead, I just want to give you some resources to get you started. If you haven’t yet done your taxes, don’t wait – they’re due mid-April, but most accounting firms don’t have time for last-minute freelancers. So, check out the following links and then get them done ASAP:

Taxgirl – “Because paying taxes is painful… but reading about them shouldn’t be.” Taxgirl is by far my favorite site when it comes to learning about taxes. You can ask a question, but before you do, make sure to search through her site – there’s a ton of information on that site. Kelly Phillips Erb (taxgirl) has also done some posts for Problogger, which you can find at the following links:

About.com: Blogging – About.com’s blogging section is full of great information, and the tax tips page is especially helpful for bloggers. On this page, you’ll find information about how taxes work for someone self-employed, deductions bloggers can take, and more.

What Bloggers Should Know About Taxes from BlogHer – BlogHer’s blog has some of the best information out there, and this post on taxes is no different. What I love about it is that blogger Melanie Nelson links to a number of other great places to learn even more about taxes for bloggers, so it becomes a hub of information.

So, that’s the short list of resources I wanted to share. As always with Brilliant Bloggers, feel free to link to your own posts, but please make sure that they’re well-researched and clear – you don’t want to lead anyone down the wrong financial path.

On April 7, we’ll be back to regular Brilliant Blogger posts. It’s an awesome topic, so I hope you’ll all submit posts!

Next Week’s Topic: Product Launching

I’d love to include a link to your post next week – and if you head to the Brilliant Blogger Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

Keeping Track of What Others Say About Your Family Online

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We’ve discussed where to draw the line when choosing topics to write about your family, but what about information that others may post about you, your family or even your blog. How can you keep track of that information?

First, I need to point out that there is no system that is going to catch everything that is out there on the internet about your family. I have a few methods that I use to track what might be said about me and my family.

  1. Google Alerts. Setting up Google Alerts is quite easy and can be done for just about anything. I have Google Alerts set up for my name, my kid’s names, my husband’s name, each of my kid’s schools, my blogs and a few keywords I track. It was through those Google Alerts that I discovered my daughter had set up an email account she shouldn’t have created, my son’s play received awesome reviews from our local newspaper, an article was written about my husband and someone had stolen one of my blog posts. I have the alerts sent directly to my email and I quickly scan through them. It doesn’t take much effort and can find a lot (but not everything.)

  2. Social Mention Alerts. While this is similar to Google Alerts above, I find that they do overlap sometimes, but Social Mention often finds different things. You can set up alerts again for anything and have them emailed to you.
  3. Twitter Searches. I set up columns in my TweetDeck that searches for each of the names I want to find. This could be done in HootSuite or any other Twitter monitoring tool that has columns. This isn’t quite as accurate because people often shorten things, but once again, I’ve found a few things about my husband’s company.
  4. Tweet Beep. I just found Tweet Beep today, so I have not used it, but it looks like Google Alerts for Twitter. If anyone uses Tweet Beep, let me know how well it works.

The best defense is to be sure you teach your children how to sue the internet safely. But you can not always control the information that is released about you. This is another way for you to track what others might be saying.

What tools do you use to monitor your family’s name online?

Image from Microsoft Images

Businesses Play the Ultimate April Fools Jokes!

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google-topeka

April Fools Day is tomorrow, so get ready to be pranked by friends and brands alike! The Internet has made it all to easy to pull the ultimate April Fools Joke, and businesses have been jumping on the bandwagon each year. Here are some of the biggest April Fools Jokes played by companies:

Google in 2010: Renamed the website Topeka after Topeka, Kan because in March, Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten announced that he was informally changing the name of his town to “Google,” just for one month. So this was a tit-for-tat on Google’s part :)

CollegeHumor.com in 2010: Your IP has been recorded. Upon landing on the home page, visitors were presented with a warning from the “US Department of Information” when visiting the site – claiming that their IP address had been recorded because the site was currently under investigation.

Ben & Jerrys in 2010: Ben & Jerrys offered the taste of virtual ice cream, encouraging fans to lick their computer screen!

Starbucks in 2010: Starbucks announced the arrival of two new sizes, the Plenta (128 fl oz.) and Micra (2 fl oz.) They even gave ideas for how to recycle the Plenta cup – suggesting fans use it as a popcorn receptacle, rain hat or yoga block!

Funny or Die in 2010: Changed their site to Bieber or Die – with the entire site designed around the teen pop sensation Justin Bieber! As Bieber says in a video explaining the switch, “anything that’s not Bieber dies.”

Google in 2009: Announced CADIE “Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity” and claimed she was a 3D web browser. The site even provided a printable version of their own 3D glasses for those without :)

Expedia in 2009: Offered flights to Mars for $99.

Hotels.com in 2009: Offered rooms on the Moon!

Guardian in 2009: Announced they would become the first newspaper to publish exclusively on Twitter.

Burger King in 1998: Released the Left-Handed Whopper, a burger whose condiments were turned 180 degrees to benefit left-handed consumers.

Taco Bell in 1996: Announced that it was renaming the Liberty Bell to the Taco Liberty Bell.

National Public Radio in 1992: Announced Richard Nixon would be running again for president with the new slogan, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.”

Sweden’s Broadcast Channel in 1962: Told viewers that their black-and-white TV sets would display in full color if they pulled a nylon stocking over the front of their TVs.

BBC in 1957: A news show announced Swiss farmers had grown spaghetti, showing footage of peasants pulling spaghetti down from the trees.

The Bronx Zoo’s Cobra on Twitter: Marketing Gold in the Making

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As you’ve probably heard, one of the snakes at the Bronx Zoo disappeared earlier this week. It didn’t take long for the snake to start tweeting. The spoof account, which you can find at @BronxZoosCobra has over 184,000 followers as I’m writing this, with more followers jumping on board every minute.

While I’ll admit that his tweets are pretty hilarious, a friend of mine did make a good point that it won’t be so funny if the real-life snake actually kills someone before it’s captured.

Still, it’s pretty ingenious the way the snake is replying to people and promoting NYC locations – there’s definitely marketing potential there if whoever is running the account goes that route. Already, business twitter accounts like @HiltonNewYork and @sesamestreet have gotten some snake love, as have locations like Planet Rose in the East Village, where the snake was apparently doing karaoke (White Snake, of course) and Metropolitan Museum of Art, where “The Temple of Dendur really kicks some asp.”

People following the snake probably don’t even realize the advertising going on here. And, to be fair, the person running the twitter account may not realize the potential either. I think it’s really smart, though – and long after the snake is captured, this could continue to be a great way to promote NYC events. As long as the account continues to be funny, people will continue to follow it. As Super Bowl advertisers learned long ago, people respond will to humor.

In my opinion, if it isn’t already being run by someone at the Bronx Zoo, they should approach the person who so ingeniously jumped on the opportunity and work out a deal. This could be a great marketing tool for the zoo in the future – the cobra could even become a spokesperson…er, snake…for the zoo, announcing new exhibits and promoting zoo events. It could potentially mean a lot of new visitors to the zoo, and that means more profits. It’s a win-win situation.

Again, it’s important to note that the actual problem of the missing snake is serious. According to reports I’ve read, cobras make rattlesnakes look like kittens and a snake like this can stay hidden for a long time before traps can work. They can kill a human in 15 minutes. While the zoo asserts that the snake is somewhere in the building, there’s really no way to know for sure (though I will agree that it is highly unlikely the snake would venture out into the cold with all the nooks and crannies in a reptile house to explore instead). So, although talking about the marketing potential for a light-hearted Twitter account is fun, I do want to send my sincerest wishes for a speedy capture of the snake to avoid any injuries or worse.

Ask the Notables: Where Do You Blog From?

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It’s our last in this series of Ask the Notable questions!

Where do you blog from?

Don’t forget – we consider YOUR answers to be notable too – so jump on in and answer the question with a comment below!

Amy Lupold Bair
@resourcefulmom
Resourceful Mommy Media

We moved to a larger home last fall, and I am happy to say that I now have a room dedicated just to work. While I do, at times, still blog from other locations in my house, I most often write in my office.

C.C. Chapman
@cc_chapman
C.C. Chapman

Most times it is from my home office or the couch. Granted I travel a lot so I write posts on airplanes on my iPad and then do the actual posting when I get to a stable connection.

Chris Garrett
@chrisgarrett
chrisg.com

Anywhere :)

My wife has threatened to throw my iPhone away numerous times as I update from everywhere from Auckland to Vancouver Island. We went snow mobiling in the mountains the other weekend and the first thing I did when we got started was try to update my Posterous blog with a
photograph of the view. It’s an addiction!

Jason Falls
@JasonFalls
Social Media Explorer

My pants.

Jay Baer
@jaybaer
Convince & Convert

Mostly on airplanes. I typically write a batch of posts while flying, and then release them over the next week or two.

Jeremy Wright
@jeremywright
Ensight

These days I only blog if it makes its way onto my todo list, sadly, so I’m generally blogging from work!

Maggie Fox
@maggiefox
Social Media Group

You name it – trains, planes, automobiles, my desk – wherever I happen to be!

Zac Johnson
@moneyreign
ZacJohnson.com

My office, which is from home. There is no place I would rather work from… otherwise it would be like a real job!

Thanks to all of our notables for participating! If you’d like to be in the next round of oddball questions – shoot me an email :)

Self-Pub Author Tells Readers To “F*** Off!” (or, How NOT to Respond to Reviews)

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With the ease and relatively low cost of today’s self-publishing tools, many authors are going this route rather than going through the much longer process of finding an agent and traditional publisher. It can be extremely lucrative, and even if you don’t make tons of sales, at least you gave it a shot, right?

While lots of awesome authors choose to self-publish, it sometimes gets a bad rap because for every amazing find, there are dozens or maybe even hundreds of books that were…well…self-published for a reason. Sometimes, you can’t find a publisher to take you on because the market is flooded or they just aren’t willing to take a chance on you for whatever reason. But often, publishers turn down proposals because the writing is bad. So, if you’re going to take a chance and purchase a self-published book, it makes sense to read as many reviews as  possible.

A lot of self-published authors are finding success because they go on virtual book tours or offer up their books to be reviewed on book blogs. When you send out your book to reviewers, it’s nerve-wracking. I know; I’ve done it. Thankfully, I didn’t have any scathing reviews of my ebook, but I did get some criticism. No matter how awesome your book, few reviews are 100% sunshine and unicorns. The same is true of even a blog post – not everyone who reads is going to be a fan.

You deal with it. You cry, maybe, if you have to. You learn from it and move on.

What you don’t do is respond like Jacqueline Howett, author of The Greek Seaman. After getting a luke-warm review from BigAl’s Books and Pals, she freaked out. It wasn’t even a bad review – the writer had both good and bad things to say. The bad comments he had were mostly about the fact that he found several grammatical errors, along with a number of confusingly-structured sentences.

I invite you to click on that link now to read the comments. Seriously, I couldn’t believe them. It all starts with this gem:

“You obviously didn’t read the second clean copy I requested you download that was also reformatted, so this is a very unfair review. My Amazon readers/reviewers give it 5 stars and 4 stars and they say they really enjoyed The Greek Seaman and thought it was well written. Maybe its just my style and being English is what you don’t get. Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea, but I think I will stick to my five star and four star reviews thanks.”

Let’s not even talk about the grammatical errors in the comment itself. She then proceeds to copy and paste a few good reviews from Amazon as individual comments.

It gets better. In subsequent comments, she accuses the reviewer of not downloading the correct copy, being “discusting [sic] and unprofessional,” and leaving anonymous negative comments about the book. She goes on to tell other commenters “stay out of it” and then, my favorite part, she leaves a few comments that simply say, “F*** off!” (Without the stars, on Al’s site, it’s uncensored).

Woah.

The sad part is, without her rants, this review might very well disappeared into the chasm of the Internet. I checked a few of the other posts on this site at random, and it looks like he averages two or three comments per review. Maybe ten at most. On the review of Jacqueline Howett’s book? Over 300 (and counting). He actually gave the plot a good review, so without her crazy comments, some people might have actually bought it on his recommendation. After all, we all make errors when writing, and if you self-publish you might not be able to afford a good editor. To me, it’s more important that the plot is good, and I think a lot of other readers feel similarly. But Jacqueline’s response? No way will I ever read this book.

The reviewer, in my opinion, has handled this with grace. He responded to her accusations and then said that he would not be commenting on the matter any further. I found that overall, he was extremely fair in allowing people with a variety of opinions to post comments.

You’ll notice that I haven’t posted a link to Jacqueline’s website or book on Amazon in this post. That’s by design. While I do think that this is an interesting new media case study and we can all learn from it, I personally do not want to in any way support this author’s work. I’m sure that she is seeing some sales because people are curious as to just how bad her book is, but I don’t want to encourage that. Even if her book is amazing, there are a lot of great authors out there who treat their readers with respect. Use your buying power to support them instead.

Without the community’s support, a writer is nothing. Remember that. It’s something that I think all of us should keep in mind, whether we’re writing ebooks, traditional books, or even blog posts. Community is everything.

For the record, I checked out the reviews on Amazon as well, just because I was curious as to whether or not Al’s review really was unfair. Of the 92 reviews posted, 10 are 5-star…and 72 are one-star. Of the 5-star reviews, a number of them are making fun of the double entendre title and several comment on the fact that the grammar/spelling is bad even though the story is good.

Also, hat tip to my roommate, who told me this was going on.

Get Backing & Launch Creative Projects Through Kickstarter

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Do you have an idea for a new mobile app, website, or anything else technology driven? You may be able to gather funds at Kickstarter! Kickstarter is a website focused on bringing together creative projects and sponsors. While it seems to be heavy on the art side (artists, filmmakers, musicians, and authors all have posted ideas on the site) – there is also a section slated for technology.

The premise of Kickstarter is that it’s a new way to fund creative projects using a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands – allowing for less risk for everyone involved. Projects must also provide rewards for purchase levels. This can involve being mentioned in the project acknowledgements, receiving a sample of the completed item, and more!

Examples of recent funded projects include:

A History of the Future in 100 Objects:
Pitch: I want to write a weblog that will explore all of these ideas, with 100 posts for 100 objects. Along the way I’ll produce a newspaper and a podcast, and when it’s finished, I’ll publish it as a book. And while it’ll be fun and accessible, you can be sure it’ll all be rooted in science fact.
Pledges: Allowed supporters to be in the acknowledgments and receive free access to the podcast, ebook, and book.

Newsgrape:
Pitch: Newsgrape is a milestone in blogging and online-journalism and sets new standards in reach, revenue-possibilities, reading-experience, multilingualism, news-distribution and quality-assurance. Unlike link-directories, aggregators and feed-readers, Newsgrape operates on a user-friendly, clear and easy to use interface that combines all available features with new innovations and creates a superior news community.
Pledges: Allowed supporters to demo the product on completion, receive guest invites, and even get cool clothing :)

iPhone Walking Tour App for NYC’s Upper West Side:
Pitch: LANDMARK WEST! wants to take the amazing history surrounding us and put it all together into the first ever iPhone app tour of the Upper West Side. It’s an exciting new way to experience architecture and history! And with your help, we can do it!
Pledges: Allowed supporters to have their name on the donor list or even on the app itself.

New Media Elective Class:
Pitch: NEXMAP and June Jordan School for Equity have teamed up to offer a dynamic 14-week course as a 70-minute elective block during regular school hours.
Pledges: Allowed supporters to have their name on the donor list or join them for the final presentation.

Do you have a great idea, or do you want to support other creative types with great ideas? Hop on over to Kickstarter and browse through the projects or submit your own.

Radian6 Purchased by salesforce.com

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Just announced today – BlogWorld sponsor Radian6 has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by salesforce.com. The transaction is expected to be completed by July 31, 2011.

Salesforce.com is an enterprise cloud computing company, while Radian6 is the leader in Social Media monitoring and engagement. Together they believe social media will play a large part in how organizations listen to and engage with their customers – and they hope to provide tools to these organizations so they can manage these social interactions taking place both inside and outside their businesses.

With Radian6, salesforce.com is gaining the technology and market leader in social media monitoring,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO, salesforce.com. “We see this as a huge opportunity. Not only will this acquisition accelerate our growth, it will extend the value of all of our offerings.

With the combination of salesforce.com and Radian6, companies will be able to bring the heart of the public social web into salesforce.com’s applications. One example is the integration of public social networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and online communities) with the private, secure social network in their Salesforce Chatter tool. Chatter feeds will no longer just contain the activity happening within the walls of a company, but will be filled with real time insights from fans on Facebook pages, followers on Twitter, comments on blog posts and more.

Social media has made every business recognize the value of paying attention to the voice of the customer. Radian6’s technology is built for the new norm of customer engagement – real time, two way conversations that includes social channels,” said Marcel LeBrun, CEO of Radian6. “Joining the salesforce.com team will allow Radian6 to grow faster to meet the demands of our rapidly expanding customer base.

More details here,

We’re Looking For You! Guest Contributors & Featured Small Biz

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BlogWorld & New Media Expo wouldn’t exist without all of you – the readers, the attendees, the speakers, the exhibitors and sponsors. With that in mind, we’re always interested in having new talent on the blog! If you’d like to participate, we have a variety of ways and features we’re launching. Feel free to email me directly and pass this on to someone you know.

Guest Contributors:
We admit we’re not experts on every social media topic – but we know you might be! If you’re interested in writing for the BlogWorld blog, here’s a list of topics that we’re especially interested in at the moment (although we’re definitely open to other ideas):

  • Social Media Measurement (statistics, analysis, bounce rates, etc)
  • New Media in Education (grade school, high school, college)
  • Legal Issues & Concerns in New Media
  • Social Gaming
  • Social Q&A and collaborative reference sites (Quora, Ehow, Stack Exchange, WikiAnswers, Yahoo Answers, Wikipedia, etc)
  • Digital/Internet Film
  • Live Streaming/Livecasting (Justin.tv, Livestream, Skype, Stickam, Ustream, Blip.tv)

Small Business Using Social Media:
I’d like to start doing profiles on small business using social media effectively and in interesting formats. If you’d like to nominate a business (including your own), please contact me with details and I’m happy to explore it for a future feature!

Digital Photo & Video Challenge:
Get those digital photography and video ideas flowing – because we’re going to be launching some new challenges soon! Prizes will include passes to upcoming BlogWorld events.

Ten Tactics to Drive B2B Sales with Social Media

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Hello BlogWorld readers, and welcome to my new blog post series on how social media can drive your B2B sales. I’m pleased to be invited to contribute and look forward to interacting with all of you here.

I work with small and midsize B2B companies learning how to grow their business by making bigger sales to bigger customers. Most of my customers are new to the social media world and especially confused about how it can possibly relate to the B2B sales environment.

So thought I’d start by introducing the topic and giving you my list of the Top Ten tactics that will help you use social media to drive B2B sales. My Top Ten list also forms the topic list that I’ll be blogging about/hope you will add to it!

  1. Position your company as a thought leader/team of experts in your field. Invite several of your subject matter experts to create newsletters, blog posts, white papers, discussion board posts, slide decks and/or videos about their knowledge and expertise in your industry. Provide them with policy guidelines and training for creation and have a system for distribution.
  2. Develop a content strategy to add value to the customer experience. Learn how to leverage your website, blog, and social media sites to present content that your company produces and to share content from others that will be of interest to your customers.
  3. Learn how to use social media to generate high quality leads. For example, use social media tools to invite members of your target audience to attend a teleconference or webinar and give them high quality, relevant information. When they sign up and attend, you have a warm introduction and a reason to call them.
  4. Engage your prospects and customers in conversation about their needs and their desires. Social media platforms make it easy to conduct surveys, to ask simple questions, and to comment on your customers’ observations in real time.
  5. Request and publicize referrals and recommendations through social media. Ask your key employees to request Linked In recommendations from current and past customers, for example, and suddenly you’ll have 10 or 20 or 50 points of view about the quality and capabilities of your team.
  6. Conduct sales research about prospective companies and their key employees. The networking sites give you unprecedented access to information about people at work. Just keep in mind that your company will ‘get’ only as much as you ‘give,’ so encourage your team to be contributors.
  7. Build customer loyalty through multiple social media touch points. Wherever you find your customers on the Internet-and wherever they find you-be prepared to engage in a multi-channel conversation.
  8. Keep up with trends in social media and sales/understand sales 2.0. Lots of small business owners are still hoping it will all go away. But I believe we have hardly begun to tap the potential of the Internet and social media activity for B2B business engagement. The most successful companies will be those that intend to learn and grow with the phenomenon.
  9. Use your social media resource sites to find industry reports, data, and predictions that will interest your customers. Make great resources easy for them to find through you, and you’ll add great value to their experience.
  10. Connect with ravens and mavens. Ravens are guides and protectors of the whale hunters; they want you to win big sales. Mavens are passionate knowledge brokers who know what’s what and can advise you on the trends. Subscribe to their blogs, follow them, ‘friend’ them, ‘like’ them. Most of all, allow them to help guide you through the social media territory.

How are you using social media to support B2B sales? I look forward to your comments!

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