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November 2011

Aaron Sorkin is Strongly Considering Steve Jobs Movie

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The Steve Jobs book is still on Amazon’s best-selling list in the number 2 spot and has been in the top since the day it came out.

Since the book is doing so well, how do you think a Steve Jobs movie will do? And what about The Social Network’s Aaron Sorkin doing the screenplay?

Sorkin won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Social Network, so it would seem obvious he’s the right man for the job.

At a recent event Sorkin said, “Sony has asked me to write the movie and it’s something I’m strongly considering.”

Sony has acquired the rights to Walter Isaacson‘s authorized biography of Jobs and Aaron Sorkin is their first choice to pen the film. Sorkin shared that he is still in the “thinking about it stage” and says a Steve Jobs Movie will be huge and great no matter who writes it.

Steve Jobs passed away in October of pancreatic cancer at the age of 56.

Now the question is, who should play Steve Jobs? I’ve heard George Clooney’s name thrown out there.

Facebook is the Social Media Tool of Choice for Small Businesses

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According to a November report from Constant Contact, small businesses are finding that using social media is getting easier, is less time consuming and is working well with their customer base.

You can see in the chart below that in just 6 months, small businesses have embraced social media use  much more. They are finding the low cost and ease of use well worth it.

Here are some statistics from their survey:

  • 83% of respondents use social media because of its low cost
  • 67% of respondents use social media for its ease of use
  • 45% of respondents use social media because it doesn’t take up a lot of time
  • 51% of respondents use social media because it works for their customers

Out of all the social networks, Facebook came out on top as the most popular for small business to use. Twitter, LinkedIn and Video Sharing followed.

How is engagement between small businesses and their customers? Sixty percent of participants said they respond to all comments on their social media platforms, whether the comments are good or bad.

Did anything surprise you about this data? You can see more of their key findings here.

About the Survey

This Constant Contact-sponsored survey was administered during October 2011 to small business owners and employees. Results include responses from 1,972 organizations across a range of business-to-business and business-to-consumer industries. Ninety-five percent are Constant Contact customers, 87% are located in the US, and 81% have 25 or less employees

Expanding Your Reach and Influence

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I would like to put a few ideas in your head, and I’m going to ask for your feedback at the end of it. Ready?

You’re a podcaster. By definition, that means you record a show (statistically, it’s probably audio) and post it to your website. That’s the bottom-line definition. How can you expand on that?

Publish your audio to iTunes. Publish it to the Zune directory. Grow your audience by putting your show where people gather to find new shows. Google “podcast directory” and go down the list, submitting your RSS feed to as many as you like. They may not have millions of users each, but why ignore them altogether?

You work with audio. Do you incorporate music? In a scientific study that I just made up for this article, 87.45% of podcast listners prefer audio podcasts with opening and closing music because it makes the shows sound more professional. The less you sound like you can’t be bothered to care about your production values, the more people will respect your show. More respect means a greater chance that your audience will share your show with their friends, post your content to social media sites and do much of your marketing for you.

Speaking of social media sites, are you on Twitter? You probably should be. You don’t need to spend a ton of time on it. Just tweet once or twice a day. More importantly, set up a system for automatically tweeting new episodes of your show(s). WordPress plugins make that dead simple. How about Facebook? Did you know you can use a tool to pipe your episodes to Facebook? Your audience can listen to your show right within Facebook. They can listen, Like and share your show with all of their connections. Now that’s what I call expanding your reach.

You work with audio. You upload your episodes to your website and your feed goes out to iTunes and all the rest. What about YouTube? Ever thought about that? I have, and I’m going to start posting shows to YouTube in November. But you work with audio? So do I. What kind of video could you submit to YouTube? How about a video that YouTube was invented for? No, YouTube was not invented so that people could illegally upload pieces of their favorite TV shows and movies 10 minutes at a time. Turn on your webcam. Record yourself doing your show. Now you’ve got audio and video.

If your first instinct is to scroll down to the comments and say “who would want to sit and watch you sitting and talking”, don’t waste your time. I don’t buy it.

I’ve talked before about doing your shows live. You work with audio, have you considered Mixlr.com? What about taking the video suggestion I just made and expanding on it by broadcasting to UStream? Do you think you could incorporate Google+ Hangouts somehow?

Well?

Podcasting can be so much more than simply sitting down at your computer, talking into a microphone for 20 minutes then uploading an mp3. Have any of these ideas sparked anything in you? Would you consider expanding your reach in any of these ways? I’d love to hear your take on them.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging Basics

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I’ve already written beginner’s guides to Twitter, WordPress, SEO, and Blog Monetization, and the BlogWorld Blog also had a 101-level guide to Podcasting. Today, though, I wanted to back up even farther and write a mini guide for brand new bloggers. I can’t tell you how many people I met at BlogWorld LA 2011 who are new and totally overwhelmed. We were all new bloggers once, and it’s tough. This is the guide I wish someone had written for me when I started blogging.

What is Blogging?

First, let’s start by defining what blogging really is. Easier said than done. In my opinion, a blog has two components:

  1. The content is regularly updated, rather than being static, with content arranged chronologically.
  2. Readers can interact with the content through comments, voting, social sharing, etc.

Not all blogs are updated daily or even weekly. Not all blogs have posts that are structured in a traditional format. Not all blogs have comments open. Not all blogs feature Twitter/Facebook/etc. share buttons. Some blogs feature the author’s opinions very prominently. Others are more objective news sources.

There’s a really great post by Darren Rowse on Problogger about what a blog really is. It’s pretty old, but still helpful. I recommend you reading this post to learn more if you don’t understand the different between a blog and another kind of website. Remember, the definition of a blog isn’t set in stone.

Your Blog Content

Despite the inability to firmly describe what defines a blog, one thing is certain: you can’t have a blog without content. Individual pieces of content are called “blog posts.” You can also record video posts or podcasts.

A mistake that I commonly see: people confuse the words “blog” and “blog post.” If you write one post per day, don’t say that you are writing one blog per day. Someone can hire you to “write ten blog posts” but they likely wouldn’t hire you to “write ten blogs” (if they do, that means you’re going to be VERY busy, since that means you’re writing for ten individual websites). Basically, “blog” is the website and “blog posts” or just “posts” are the articles.

Many bloggers choose to blog in a specific niche. A niche is a specific topic, so all of your blog posts will revolve around this topic. It does go a little farther, though – your niche also includes a specific target market. Essentially, you want to ask, “who will be my reader?” and write posts for that group of people. David Risley wrote a great post about how to evaluate the viability of a niche (if you want to monetize your blog) that I recommend checking out.

You can also blog in a more journal style. Online diaries are extremely difficult to monetize unless you’re a celebrity or well-known personality, but there are no rules to blogger. You can write about whatever you want.

Your Blog’s Sidebar

Most blogs have a sidebar, and some have two (one on either side). You can put whatever you you want on your sidebar, but here are a few things that bloggers typically include:

  • A way to subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed
  • A way to subscribe to the blog’s mailing list
  • A search bar
  • A list of the most recent posts
  • A list of the most popular posts
  • The categories
  • A list of the most recent comments
  • Social profile buttons
  • Advertisements
  • Links to niche resources
  • Photos
  • Videos

This is not by far an exhaustive list. You can include anything on the sidebar that you want! Keep in mind that the sidebar real estate “above the fold” (i.e., viewable before a reader has to start strolling) is more valuable, so put your most important stuff at the top or sell ads placed in these spots for more money.

Blogging Platforms

A blogging “platform” is the program you’ll use to update your blog. I mean, you can do it manually by updating the code of your website every day, but this is super inefficient, even if you are awesome at coding. You want to choose a blogging platform.

The two most common platforms are WordPress and Blogger. Both have free versions so you can start a blog without paying for your own domain name and hosting, but your URL will be blogname.wordpress.com or blogname.blogspot.com. I highly recommend that you pay for your own domain name and hosting (there are options available for less than $5 per month) if you want anything more than an online diary. It’s hard to monetize if your blog doesn’t look professional.

WordPress and Blogger are both easy to use and have great service, so check them both out before making your decision. They’re also not your only options if you want to blog on your own domain name, but they are pretty widely used because they’re free to download and put on your own domain. Here are some other options:

  • Typepad is an easy-to-use option, though this is not a free content management system  for bloggers (though your monthly fee also include a domain name/hosting, so it isn’t a bad deal)
  • Moveable Type is free for bloggers
  • Tumblr is an option, with a great built-in community, but you don’t have the option to use your own domain (all blogs are blogname.tumblr.com)
  • Squarespace is an option that’s super easy to use, but with customization limitations
  • Drupal is a traditional content management system that can be used for blogging and is loved by coders

There’s a really great post about blogging platforms on Practical Ecommerce that I recommend you read. My heart lies with WordPress!

Your Blogging Goals

I always recommend that brand new bloggers start by defining your blogging goals, since that will dictate the type of content you write, your monetization efforts, etc. Here are some goals you might have:

  • Teach others something you know
  • Inspire readers in a certain area
  • Provide entertainment
  • Promote a business, product ,or service
  • Establish yourself as an expert in your field
  • Make money online
  • Vent your feelings and voice your opinions
  • Network with other people in a specific niche

Many blogs do more than one things on the above list, but it helps to establish your main goal so you can ensure that every single blog post you write helps you achieve that main goal. A good way of figuring out what you goal is to ask yourself this: When my readers think of me and my blog, what impression do I want in their minds?

Do you want to be the opinionated girl who teaches others about gardening? Do you want to be the blog that has the awesome country music community? Do you want to be the go-to source for information about new ice cream products?

Some Final Tips for Blogging Beginners

If you have more questions, I’d love to answer them for you – just ask in the comments section below. Here are a few more tips for beginning bloggers:

  • Be consistent. You don’t have to blog once a day, but it helps to establish how often you’re going to blog not only to help you maintain a schedule, but also to help your readers know when to expect new content.
  • Give your readers a way to sign up for a mailing list. Even if you don’t email them right now, collecting those emails one by one is going to help you in the future.
  • Have pages that talk about who your are, what your blog is about, and how to contact you. Make sure they’ll all linked clearly in your navigation menu.
  • Use 5-10 tags with every post to help readers find more posts on your blog relating to the same subject (and to help with SEO).
  • When designing your blog, make sure that it looks good in every browser, especially Internet Explore, which has a tendency to break websites that look awesome in other browsers.
  • Make sure you have a mobile version of your website. It’s really easy to use a plugin to create an automatic mobile version if you use WordPress.
  • Don’t overwhelm with categories. You want your options to be clear, but if you have 50 categories, it’s hard to keep them all updated. Instead, go for main categories that are broader and subcategories to help further organize content.
  • Use pictures to help make your blog more personal (if that makes sense for your niche and writing style).
  • Make sure your blog is search-engine friendly. Our SEO guide can help you with that.

What tips have I missed? Experienced bloggers, help me out!

How to Enable YouTube’s New Design Now

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Most likely you’ve heard about YouTube‘s new design that is coming soon. (Reportedly, some already have it.) Now you can have the chance to give it a test drive.

Thanks to the people over at The Verge, we have the super secret (okay, it’s totally not a secret anymore) formula:

In Firefox: Ctrl + Shift + K (Win) | Cmd + Shift + K (Mac)

In Chrome: Ctrl + Shift + J (Win) | or Cmd + Alt + J (Mac)

Now punch in the following string of code:

document.cookie=”VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE=ST1Ti53r4fU”;

Now, close the console and re-load the site. Easy as pie. I tried it and it worked beautifully. Here’s a screen capture I took.

After you sign in, you’ll notice on the left hand side a button for Google+. One click and it loads all of the videos from your Google+ Circles. Overall it’s a very clean and well-organized design.

If you try switching to the new YouTube, let me know what you think about it. No word on when YouTube will switch everyone over themselves.

7 Secrets About Using Blogs to Promote Services

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I get asked to write blog posts for a lot of clients, particularly service providers who want to attract new clients of their own. Over the years, I’ve noticed a few things that can make a world of difference in how well a blog can promote a service — secrets that aren’t immediately obvious but that are pretty easy to implement once you think about them.

  1. Blogs make readers feel like they know you: When we read blogs, we’re reading about someone very real to us, even if we’ve never met that person and never will. Make yourself as real as possible to your readers and they’ll feel much more comfortable hiring you, despite the fact that you might really just be another stranger on the internet.
  2. You have tons of ready made content, in the form of case studies: A blog promoting a service is one of the easiest to write because you know exactly what you’ve done for individual clients in the past and how they’ve benefited. So write up a case study of every past client you can and get it up on your blog. And, by the way, prospective clients love case studies.
  3. As a service provider, you have to be an expert: It’s your blog and you’re the expert, so write like it. Don’t hedge your bets with ‘I think’ or ‘I expect.’ It’s tempting to run a blog as a newbie exploring a topic, but that doesn’t help you make sales. Focus on the expertise you already have.
  4. You can’t compete on search engine traffic, and that’s okay: It’s particularly hard to rank for keywords like ‘freelancer’ or ‘consultant,’ because there are so many service providers with websites already. But you can be very competitive for prominence within a niche — you can get plenty of traffic from other sites promoting you, especially if you write posts that everyone wants to link to. That can be a benefit, letting you specialize within that niche.
  5. You have to write in advance for your blog: Every service provider I know has hills and valleys, in terms of their work loads. When you’ve got plenty of client work, you don’t want to take any time away from it to write for your blog. You shouldn’t force it, considering that your client work needs to be top-notch. But you should make the effort to stockpile posts during the slow times in your business.
  6. The threshold is low, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to wow readers. There are some incredibly bad blogs out there, ran by freelancers and other service providers. It’s like there’s a checklist somewhere telling people that they have to have a blog, so they throw some site together that has lots of broken pieces, typos and the like. That can make you think that as long as you avoid being that bad, you’re doing good. But you really need to wow your readers, not just beat the particularly bad blogs.
  7. Don’t track subscribers on your blog, if your goal is to get clients. First of all, it’s the wrong metric to determine success for your blog — you want to track conversions to tell how you’re actually doing. Second, odds are good that you’re dealing with an audience who won’t subscribe that often. Instead, they’ll find you through a link or a search, read a whole bunch of posts in one day and either contact you immediately or bookmark you as someone to work with at a later date.

There are differences between every type of blog. If you’re using your blog to promote your services, you need to know those differences and act on them.

Google Announces New Chromebook Price – $299

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Google says “‘Tis the season for Chromebooks!”. Just in time for the upcoming Holiday season, Google announced a new lower price on their Chromebook, as well as a new streamlined interface.

First, let’s start with the Chromebooks from both Acer and Samsung that will be available starting at $299.

Wi-Fi only Samsung Chromebook Series 5 in Black

Google says, “We’ve also been working closely with our partners to continually improve the overall Chromebook experience while making them even more affordable. So, we’re excited to share that beginning this week Acer and Samsung Chromebooks will be available starting at $299. The updated prices will be available through our online retail partners.”

Here’s a video clip (don’t blink) about how to set up your Chromebook.

In order to simplify things, Google has created a super clean login experience.

The tabs page was also revamped and sports the apps, bookmarks and most visited sites center stage. They also added some shortcuts to the File Manager and Music Apps and Games in the Chrome Web Store.

Will you be adding a Chromebook to your Holiday wish list?

New Google+ Feature – Chat with People in Your Circles

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If you’ve logged onto your Google+ account today, you may have noticed a little pop-up on the bottom right announcing a new feature.

The message reads “New! Chat with the people in your circles. You can now chat with the people in your circles (who also have you in their circles). Change which circles you can chat with by choosing Privacy Settings from the chat menu.”

This change means you no longer need a person’s email address to chat. You just need to have each other in your Circles.

Another significant change this brings, is the ability to chat even when you’re not using Google+. You can chat using Gmail, the Google Talk client, iGoogle, Orkut and 3rd party apps.

A Google spokesperson commented on the change saying, “We’re making it easier to chat with the people you care about.” They also said this is not a form of group chat and you can not start group chats from Circles.

So, what do you think about the Google+ chat change? Are you ready to start chatting with everyone in your Circles?

BlogWorld NY 2012 Call for Speakers Announced

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As announced during our regular #BWEChat last Wednesday night,  BlogWorld New York 2012 is taking place at the Jacob Javits Center during  BookExpo NY, from June 5th through 7th, 2012.

Long before we made our announcement regarding BWENY, folks were asking about our call for speakers for this event and when it would happen.

It’s happening.

We’re pleased to open our call for speakers today. Last year, we received great feedbback regarding our inaugural NYC event due, in large part, to our educational content. We don’t expect anything less this year. And that’s where you come in. Though we do invite many speakers to participate at BlogWorld, we also like to choose submitted proposals. We especially love highlighting new and up and coming speakers, so don’t think you’re too “new” to speak at BWENY.

Now, before submitting your proposal we’d like for you to keep a few things in mind:

  • Brevity is a virtue. We know you have a lot to say about yourself, but when your bio is the size of a telephone book and your proposal is longer than a George R.R. Martin novel it gets a bit cumbersome to read.  Though we set character limits this time around, I hope you’ll be mindful of our desire to keep things brief and, well, keep things brief. Give us the most important points while leaving out the fluffy stuff. If we feel we need more information we’ll ask.
  • Our call for speakers ends January 9, 2012.  In order to give us time to go over proposals and make some decisions, please give us until at least February 28th before asking for status checks.
  • If you are a P.R. person, publicist, manager or any other type of speaker representative please don’t submit proposals in your name. Proposals must be submitted with the speaker’s name and contact details or they’ll receive an automatic rejection.
  • Also note, sales and product pitches are not allowed in our sessions. If you are interested in talking about a new product release, or educating attendees on how your product or service works please contact patti@blogworldexpo.com to talk about an exhibit space or sponsorship.
  • Please reserve the days between June 5-7, 2012 on your calendars. We understand and appreciate how many of you have limited time, but with so many speakers, it is not always easy to accommodate each individual speaker’s changing availability Please don’t set up appointments and meetings  for your time at BlogWorld until your presentation time is set in stone, since all speaking dates are final.
  • Panels won’t be considered if they consist of more than three panelists + one moderator. There are absolutely no exceptions.  Also,  please make sure all panelists know you’re submitting their name as panelists and they’re available to speak at BWENY. Nothing makes us crankier than to learn we accepted a panel and some of the panelists not only have no clue they’re speaking, but have no intention of speaking. Confirm, confirm, confirm. Lastly if you are submitting a panel every one of your panelists must agree to the terms of our speaker agreement before your panel will be considered.

Here are the tracks we’re hoping to fill in New York:

  • Content Creation
  • Food
  • Monetization
  • Community
  • Social Media
  • Media
  • Publishing
  • Education
  • Finance
  • Platforms and Apps
  • Business of Blogging
  • Traffic and Distribution
  • Mobile
  • Podcasting
  • Web TV
  • YouTube
  • Content Marketing
  • Fashion
  • Art
  • Internet Radio (Not podcasting)
  • Travel

Now go forth and dazzle us. Please be mindful of your pitch. Make sure your proposal has a title, brief description and lists three brief takeways.  Please don’t ask us to create your speaking proposal for you or say, “whatever you want me to talk about is fine by me.”  Bonus points for originality and creativity.

Questions? Find me on Twitter @blogworldexpo or @debng, or via our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ pages or community forum, and don’t forget the comments here at the blog.. My email is deb@blogworldexpo.com, but please keep in mind I’m inundated on a daily basis and you may not receive an immediate response.

Well…what are you waiting for? This post is over. Go write up your proposal.

Seven Blog Post Ideas for Business Owners

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“The biggest keyword tool is not Google. It’s your customer.” – Marcus Sheridan.

At BlogWorld LA 2011, speaker Marcus Sheridan talked about his experiences taking his pool business to a whole new level by using a blog. He’s able to compete with huge pool companies, even though he’s a small business owner, and more importantly, he’s able to do so in an economy where fewer people are spending money on pools. The secret Marcus shared with us is that if a small business blog understands what customers are asking, the blog can answer those question and ultimately make sales. He went over seven blog posts ideas anyone in any industry can use to gain traction with a small business blog:

1. Cost and 2. Price

One of the most common questions that people ask in ANY industry is how much they’re going to have to spend to purchase products. “What is the price of…” or “How much does…cost?” are great place for you to start. People avoid answering these questions for some reason, so if you’re willing to talk about price/cost, you’ll stand out.

3. Problems

Your competitors are going to talk about the problems with your products. Beat them to the punch! Address these problems instead of sweeping them under the carpet so you control the conversation. Talk about why your products are still the best options, even with the disadvantages.

4. Versus and 5. Compare

Customers what to know the differences between your products and between your products and other products. Who doesn’t love options? Talk about these differences on your site! That way, when they search for these long-tail keywords, your site is what comes up first. It goes back to the concept that you should talk about problems – you want people to hear you out first, so they can think about your products favorably.

6. Awards

People love to win stuff. Most industries don’t have official awards, so create them yourself! Not only will this be interesting to your readers, but you’ll also get linked by other people – even your competitors! From personal experience, I can say that this kind of post takes a lot of work and might be controversial, but you will get traffic and SEO value if you take the time to publish this kind of thing.

7. Breaking News

Lastly, if you can break news in your industry, this is a great way to attract more readers and to get people to link to you. It’s hard to get the jump on major news sources, but you can talk about how general news relates to your industry. As an example, when Virginia experienced an earthquake earlier this year, before the ground even stopped shaking, Marcus was planning his next post – to talk about the damages some pool owners could be experiencing and why his company’s pools weren’t damaged.

Marcus was by far one of the best public speakers that I’ve ever seen and I think his presentation can be summed up in one thing that he said during it, “If a consumer is thinking it, you should be writing it.” It’s a good lesson for all bloggers, not just small business bloggers!

Remember, you can check out the entire session, as well as other talks from BlogWorld LA 2011 by picking up a virtual ticket to the event.

About the Speaker

The story of Marcus Sheridan is a unique one. In 2001, he stumbled across his first business with two friends and began installing swimming pools out of the back of a beat-up pickup truck. 9 years later, and with the help of incredible innovations through inbound and content marketing, Sheridan’s company became one of the largest pool installers in the country and currently has the most visited swimming pool web site in the world. With such success, in late 2009, Sheridan started his sales/marketing/and personal development blog—The Sales Lion, and has since grown it to one of the strongest blog communities on the web.

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