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June 2011

5 Tips I Learned From a Security Breach on My Blog

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I’m writing this post from an offline blog writer because my blog is being restored back to it’s most recent backup by my hosting company. My FTP password was compromised and someone went in and deleted my entire blog. Everything that they could delete, they did. Fortunately, my hosting company has a backup from 3 days before so I won’t lose everything.

Please learn from my experience and take a few precautions.

1. Backup many times. Don’t rely solely on your hosting company, although do check with them to be sure they do backup and how often. I also did a daily backup through WordPress, but I made one mistake. I have the backups saved in a folder in WordPress. That is gone now too. Have the backups emailed to you. Set up a separate email account just for your backups.

2. Change your FTP password often. I have never changed mine because if I did, I’d forget it. I will be changing mine more often now.

3. Delete FTP accounts you don’t need. I’m not sure how they got into my FTP. My main account that I use has a very secure password, although I never change it. But I didn’t realize that I had 15 other FTP accounts set up. Each time I set up a new email, a new FTP was created. I never thought to do anything with those. They were very old and probably didn’t have secure passwords. I deleted all of them.

4. Use an offline blog writer as another backup. I use Quamana on my Mac and Windows Live Writer on my PC. I don’t always write offline, but I go in weekly and sync the blog posts so I have another backup of my work. This is also helpful if you do not have Internet access and you want to work.

5. Use very secure passwords. Use a password that looks more like this, iue*#3]2Eki6 than like this, momblogger26. I know that the first password is harder to remember, but the second one is way too easy to figure out. You need to use a combination of letter, symbols, numbers and both small and capital letters. I do have mine all written down in a notebook and I also use Last Pass to store passwords online so I only have to remember one secure password to get into Last Pass.

These are 5 things I learned in the last few days after going through a security breach on my blog. What other tips do you have for making your blog secure?

American Political Leaders Are Clueless About New Media

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Yes that is a generalization, but I would argue it is generally true. Presidential advisors Karen Hughes and Mark Penn demonstrated it in their keynote talk at BlogWorld last year. Congressman Weiner is learning about the true meaning of transparency right now. Former GOP Congressman Chris Lee learned that photos on Craigslist are not private. The latest evidence is this interview with leading Democrat Congressman Barney Frank in the Atlantic.

In the interview Congressman Frank says he likes to read The Economist, The New York Times, The Hill, Roll Call and Politico as well as books on British history. Then he says this:

I don’t get news on my phone. I don’t use Facebook or Twitter. I want substance. I’m not betting on stocks. I don’t deal in emergencies and I don’t know CPR. There’s enough possibility of misunderstanding as it is without 140 character tweets. Of course, when you’re talking about somebody getting shot, tweets have been good. But generally, I want more than you can get on a phone.

Apparently Congressman Frank is unaware that he can read all of his favorite newspapers, magazines and books on his phone or that he is missing quite a bit of “substance” by limiting himself to outdated forms of media distribution.

Then he says this:

The trouble with new media is the fact that there’s no screen. Anyone can publish anything. We still have the notion that if it’s printed it has some validity.  Previously, you had to convince at least one other person that it was worth printing. Now, anyone can print anything in this medium. In general, there’s a lot more gossip and fragmentation.

Apparently Congressman Frank has never heard of The National Enquirer, The Sun and scores of other gossip oriented newspapers, magazines, TV shows etc. I assume he has forgotten about Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jack Anderson; whose political gossip segment was a feature on Good Morning America for nine years.

There is no arguing with Congressman Frank’s point that there is more gossip and fragmentation. What Congressman Frank fails to realize is that there is more of every kind of media available. In the same way cable and satelite opened up new distribution channels for radio and TV, New Media has democratized all media.

New Media has given us the most free, open and democratic media in all of human history. That is in direct keeping with American ideals. Our political leaders should be doing everything they can to educate themselves about it, embracing it and advocating for it.

***Update 6.6.11*** Weinergate is getting bigger. And with BlogWorld NYC keynote speaker Andrew Breitbart’ latest post you have to ask is the Blogosphere about to notch another politician resignation in its belt?

 

Your Secret Blog Decision-Making Weapon

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When you own your own blog, lots of decisions have to be made. What color should you make the background? Is the font too small? How often is too often when you’re posting content? Which logo looks best? And on and on and on…even after you launch the blog, there are decisions to be made. It doesn’t ever end.

Hopefully, you have enough vision for your blog that you can make most choices rather easily. Well, perhaps easily isn’t the word, but hopefully you can make a choice and feel confident that it’s the right one.

But what about the times when you can’t? What if you feel like there are two or more choices that could be equally “right”? What if the decision you are making isn’t something that can easily be changed if you choose incorrectly? Decisions like that can keep you up at night. They certainly have caused a number of sleepless nights for me, and when it comes to business decisions, I’m usually pretty confident.

I’ve found the perfect way to make decisions, though. Over the years of blogging that I’ve done, there’s one weapon, one secret weapon, that I return to again and again and again…and it’s a weapon that every blogger had in their arsenal. In fact, even if you don’t yet have a blog, even if you only have a Twitter account or Facebook page, this secret weapon is something you possess.

What exactly is the weapon I’m talking about? Your audience.

I’m not suggesting that you should crowd-source every decision you make, but when you truly don’t know the right way to turn, your audience – the people who are your readers or who will become your readers – can help point you in the perfect direction. What they reveal could be extremely helpful – often their answers are skewed one way or another, not split 50-50 like the choices might be in your own mind.

The easiest way to ask your audience what they think, in my opinion, is to set up a poll. You can do so for free at Survey Monkey*, which is my personal favorite poll tool, though there are other options as well, some of which you can even embed in a blog post or on your sidebar (Survey Monkey allows this, but it can also be hosted on their site). Once you have your poll set up, blast it to everyone – your email list, your social profiles, even your friends and family if you think their input will help. If you don’t have a huge fanbase yet, you might not get much of a response – but even ten people weighing in can give you some insight, especially if all ten people feel strongly one way or the other.

Seeing responses might also give you a reflection of your own opinions. If you see everyone voting one way and find yourself feeling upset that they’re not picking the other choice, it’s a good indication that you didn’t feel 50-50 about the choices anyway. Remember, you don’t always have to listen to your readers. One of the things I like about Survey Monkey rather than on-site poll options is that they’re blind – people make their choices, but they can’t view the results. This discourages bandwagoning, as well as gives you more freedom to choose what you want, not the popular vote, when the poll closes.

As a mini case-study, let me show you what I’m doing right now. My next blogging project, which is zombie-themed, doesn’t yet have a URL, and after thinking about it, I just couldn’t decide on my own. So I came up with my top picks, based on what was available, an created a poll, which you can see here. A few things to note:

  • It’s super simple, with only one question.
  • There’s an optional comment box where users who are so inclined can explain their answer. This really helps me out, but it doesn’t pressure people to leave a comment if their choice was just a gut reaction.
  • I gave people a way to sign up for my mailing list at the end. Most of the people responding are already on my mailing list, but I’ve put out a net to catch people who aren’t, but who want to be.

I hope that some of you will head over there and vote – and for the reason I’m not going to tell you my results so far, but I will say this: there are two strong front runners. I didn’t really expect that, but now that I’m thinking about it, it makes sense – they really are the two best URLs on the list. Chances are that you’ll vote for one of them if you do vote.

Asking my audience has time and time again helped me make decisions about my blog. As an added bonus, making my readers part of a decision helps build buzz about my projects and makes the community strong – people like to be a part of your choices when they feel connected to your site. Even if you ultimately don’t go with the popular vote, polling your readers can really help you make blog decisions. Have you tried it before? What have your experiences been?

*FYI, the link to Survey Monkey is not an affiliate link or anything. My post sounds a little gushy about them, so I wanted to make that clear. I don’t know if there’s even an affiliate program associated with Survey Monkey. I legitimately just love their service!

Do You Have Klout? Now, Your Friends Can Weigh In

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The more I learn about Klout, the more I like it as an influence measuring tool. Here are BlogWorld, Klout is something I’ve talked about in the past, and we even devoted a week of Brilliant Bloggers to Klout. Since then, Klout has made some changes in both their interface and their algorithm, both of which I thin has made the service even better. Plus, I love the new Klout badges you can earn. Today’s introduction of the +K button takes the cake, though, at least in my opinion.

I first read about the +K button on Mashale, and headed over to Klout’s site to check it out for myself. It’s an interesting concept, and they thought out the functionality well. Here’s how it works:

  • Klout generates a list of topics that it thinks you’re influential about. Basically, it’s what you’re tweeting/mentioning on Facebook that gets noticed. They’ve been doing this for a long time, but before now it was nothing more than a weekly-updated list.
  • You now get 5 +Ks to give out each day. They’re basically points or likes.
  • You give a +K when one of the topics on someone’s profile matches how they really do influence you. Essentially, you’re saying, “Yes, Klout, you’re right. Allison really did influence my thoughts about blogging.” (or whatever the person/topic might be)
  • Your +K rating lasts 36 hours.
  • You can give another Klout user as many +Ks as you want, as long as they are for different topics.
  • You can give another Klout user a +K in the same topic once a week.
  • In the future, they’re going to introduce a function where you can submit your own topics.

There are some things I like about this right off the bat. First, I think it will help Klout’s algorithm choose your topics better. My list includes things that I definitely do tweet about, like writing and social media, but other topics on my list right now include hacking and Samsung. Ermm…what? Not sure I’ve tweeted about either of those topcis ever in my life. Luckily, Klout gives you the ability to opt out of any topic they’ve chosen for you that you think is a bad fit, so I was able to hide hacking, for example, from public view. I don’t want people to think I’m a hacker.

One of the downfalls that commenters on other sites have already noticed is that this definitely makes Klout more of a popularity contest. You can campaign to get people to give you their +Ks for the day in specific topics, making your Klout rise artificially.

Or…will it?

Here’s how I see it: Yes, you can “scam” the Klout algorithm that way, but it really isn’t scamming because popularity is what Klout is all about. If you can influence people to give you their +Ks for the day, your Klout score should rise. That’s the point. Klout measure how well you can influence people.

I like that you’re limited to giving people a +K in a certain topic only once a week. I also like how Klout comes up with the topics, since that means the topics you see really should be topics that the person talks about. If you could give a person Klout in whatever topic you wanted, people would definitely try to scam the system to rank high for certain topics.I’m not sure I’ll like it as much when you can submit your own topics.

Something that users have also already noted is that a +K from someone with a higher Klout number should mean more than a +K from someone with a lower number. I’m not sure I agree. I can see the logic, but I also think that if you’ve influenced someone, it shouldn’t matter who that person is. If I influence my mom to buy a purse and Paris Hilton to buy a purse, the overall affect is that they both buy purses. I should get the same amount of credit for that.In fact, even though my mom wouldn’t have as much Klout as Paris Hilton, it would probably be harder to influence her to buy a purse, since she doesn’t buy things for herself often. So, I like it that everyone is “worth” the same.

I definitely think it needs to be easier to see who is ranking for certain topics. I couldn’t find a way to search topics within Klout, just see them from people’s profiles. If I’m interested in a specific topic, like social media, I want to see who is ranking high for those topics because those are people I probably want to follow. Likewise, if I’m that purse company, I want to see who is ranking high for the topic “purses” because those are people I probably want to follow. Without this functionality, the +K ability seems kind of moot. What’s the point?

Overall, I’m excited to see the ways in which Klout is going to continue to improve. This move, to me, makes a lot of sense for their Klout perks program, since companies can now target people who have +Ks in a certain area, not just users who have an overall high Klout score. I don’t know if that’s something they’ll do, but it certainly makes sense to me!

I highly recommend that you check out Klout’s very own post about their +K update to learn more – and the commends on this post are extremely valuable. It looks like Klout employees are also jumping in there to answer questions, so it’s a good place to ask them.

What do you think of Klout in general and their new +K function?

(Hat tip to @jaybaer, who originally tweeted the post on Mashable where I first read about +Ks.)

The Art of Volume

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My favorite scene in The Bucket List is when Jack Nicholson makes a crucial decision:

He’s going to kiss the most beautiful girl in the world.

Confused, Morgan Freeman asks him how specifically he plans to accomplish that.

And in one word, Jack says it all:

“Volume.”

If you want your voice to matter.

If you want people to following your thinking.

If you want to build a value-forward digital platform.

If you want to out-write, out-publish and out-position the competition.

If you want to make a name for yourself and a bank account for yourself.

Volume is the vehicle.

That’s the one-word marketing strategy that I used to make all my money.

AND KEEP IN MIND: Volume is not the only vehicle.

But in my experience, it’s the vehicle that trumps all others:

  • Volume trumps accuracy. It doesn’t matter if you’re right – it matters if you’re everywhere. Are you perfect or prolific?

  • Volume trumps knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you know what you’re doing – it matters if you’re doing a ton of it. Are you stopped by not knowing how?

  • Volume trumps winning. It doesn’t matter if you come in first – it matters if you come to play everyday. Are you keeping the game going?

  • Volume trumps talent. It doesn’t matter if you’re good – it matters if you’re visible. Are you winking in the dark?

  • Volume trumps popularity. It doesn’t matter if everybody likes you – it matters if everybody remembers you. Are you

  • Volume trumps rationality. It doesn’t matter if you’re logical – it matters if you’re liberal. Are you giving gifts worth telling people about?

  • Volume trumps order. It doesn’t matter if you’re put together – it matters if you’re putting something down. Are you afraid of spilling your head out?

  • Volume trumps influence. It doesn’t matter if you’re persuasive – it matters if you’re pervasive. Are you trying to change people or trying to surround them?

  • Volume trumps placement. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the right place at the right time – it matters if you’re in a lot of places. Are you in enough?

REMEMBER: Volume is the vehicle for being heard.

Go publish something.

Image Source: SXC

Erica Douglass’ Seven Steps to Passionate Pitches

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I’ve been a bit of an Erica Douglass fangirl since I first read her Failure Manifesto back in August 2010. So, when I heard that she would be speaking at BlogWorld New York 2011, I made sure to put her session on my “absolutely cannot miss” schedule. I even wrote it in pen. Pen!

I wasn’t disappointed. If you missed Erica speak (or missed BlogWorld New York 2011 completely), I highly recommend keeping your eyes peeled for the forthcoming virtual tickets that will be available at the BlogWorld Expo site so you can listen to a recording of her session and see her slides.

Erica’s session was called “How to Passionately Pitch without PO’ing Your People” – and like many others at BlogWorld, she spoke about how we need to remember that email marketing can work. Erica gave us seven great steps to creating the best pitch emails possible:

  1. Have a clear, concise call to action. What do you want your readers to do? Don’t make them try to figure it out. Tell them exactly what they should do!
  2. Include at least three links to buy – and one within the first 200 words. Don’t make them read a huge email if you hooked them in the first paragraph.
  3. Never apologize for pitching a product. Whether its yours or an affiliate product, you’re recommending something of value. Don’t apologize for the price because it makes it sound overpriced. If it’s worth the cost, stand behind it.
  4. Set a price anchor. When you start talking about a product, your reader will automatically start comparing it to things they already know. You want to do that first so that when you tell them the price it is much lower than the thing already in their head.
  5. Make readers feel like they are getting a special deal. Why should they buy from you, especially if others are selling the same products? Many people are happy to give you a special discount code for their readers, or you can throw in some of your own giveaways for people who buy from you.
  6. Give readers a sense of urgency. If not, they’ll put it off until “someday” and someday will never come. Make your offer only available for a limited time before the product is no longer available or the price goes up.
  7. Follow up with at least one additional email – preferably two. Erica’s formula is a post and email on the first day, a second email about two days later, and a third email (plus additional post) three to four days after that. You don’t have to be annoying, but if people are responding well, sending follow-ups allows you to earn even more.

Of course, this is just the bare bones information from Erica’s awesome presentation. Again, if you want to listen to the whole thing, stay tuned so you can pick up a virtual ticket, which will give you access to recordings from BlogWorld New York 2011.

Thanks, Erica, for a great session – easily one of my favorites of the show! Readers, check out her story and more great advice at Erica.biz and follow her on Twitter @ericabiz.

Four Power Tips for List Building

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“Email is the most effective form of subscriber attention today.”

One of the sessions I had the pleasure of attending at BlogWorld New York 2011 Phil Hollows’ talk on list building. Phil is the CEO and founder of FeedBlitz, an alternative to FeedBurner, so I was really excited to hear his opinions on list building and email marking. He started by talking about how this is still one of the best ways to reach your audience, something that was echoed by other speakers, like Nath Lussier and Erica Douglass. During his session, Phil gave us a number of what he called “power tips” for building your list so you can start sending emails that really convert, whatever your goals may be. Here are four of them:

  • Make your subscription form visible.

Is your subscription form on every single page? Do you have to click around to find it? Do you have to scroll? There are some things that you should ask yourself. Phil also made a really good point – you know how a lot of sites have little icons for RSS, email, Twitter, and Facebook, all in a row? Why do we so often put RSS first? Even though we’re a really tech-friendly crowd, chances are that many of your readers don’t use RSS readers or even know what the RSS symbol means. Instead, put the email icon first – give them something friendly and familiar to click.

  • Enable social media cross promotion.

You want your list-building efforts to be retweetable and otherwise sharable. Ask for subscriptions on your Facebook page and make your emails easy to email to your friends.

  • Add incentives.

This is of course a tried and true method of getting people to sign up for your list, but it is one that deserves repeating. What do your readers get for signing up? Common giveaways include an email course, a weekly newsletter, or a short ebook, but you can get creative. The more incentives you can give your readers, the more likely they are to sign up. Make sure you publicize the incentives so people are enticed to sign up.

  • Make the most of offline events.

Conferences like BlogWorld are great places to get people to sign up for your mailing list, believe it or not. If you’re speaking, bring up a sign-up sheet. Create business cards that mention your mailing list and direct people to the right page. QR codes are also all the rage – Phil actually mentioned that he walks around with one on his t-shirt and people can scan him!

While I was able to stick around for a few more tips from Phil, all of which were as good as the ones listed above, I ultimately had to skip out a bit early to help the BlogWorld team with another task…so like you, I’m really looking forward to making use of my virtual ticket in a few weeks to learn the rest of Phil’s tips for building a list. Stay tuned for information on picking up your virtual ticket to listen to the recorded sessions!

Thanks, Phil, for a great session. Readers, make sure you read more about Phil and his company, FeedBlitz, on his website and follow him on Twitter @phollows.

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