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November 2012

014 The Podcast Report – Why Bloggers Should Launch A Podcast

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Hey everyone, Cliff Ravenscraft here. I’m back with another episode of The Podcast Report with my co-host, Megan Enloe.

In this episode Meagan and I talk with Dustin Hartzler from YourWebsiteEngineer.com. Dustin will be a panelist in a session titled “The Top Ten Reasons Why Bloggers Should Launch A Podcast!”

Dustin attended his first NMX event earlier this year, in New York City. He shares a few of the things that stood out to him from that event and what he’s most excited about when thinking about the upcoming event in January.

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Telling Your Brand’s Story: Historic Lessons and Modern Applications

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In May 1942, Nazis ordered a group of German filmmakers to go into what is today one of the most iconic areas of the time period: the Warsaw Ghetto. Here, over 400,000 Jews were kept as Nazi prisoners in conditions that most of us couldn’t dream of surviving. Rations without enough calories to survive, deplorable living conditions where disease ran rampant, and police brutality were some of the daily struggles for Warsaw Jews living in the Ghetto.

And yet, the Reich sent in a film crew. Writes Huffington Post’s Richard Z. Chesnoff, “Their perverse propaganda goal: to record for posterity examples of the religious practices and “sub-human culture” of the soon to be eliminated judische Rasse, everything from a circumcision ceremony to a burial service; from the extreme poverty of the many to the supposed lack of concern of those few Jews who still had some assets.”

The Nazi brand, when simplified, was “Jews and others who don’t fit our mold are bad people.” And they knew that the most powerful way to spread this message was not in telling this message to others outright, but rather showing it in story form.

The wall of victims at Yad Vasham, identified using both Nazi and personal records

The film was ultimately never finished because the footage didn’t tell the story the Nazi party wanted it to tell. But on my recent trip to Yad Vasham, the World Center for Holocaust Research, Education, Documentation, and Commemoration, I was taken aback by this idea of storytelling during the 1940s. It was something even the Nazi party, perhaps the kings of propaganda, pegged as extremely important. Brands can still learn from this lesson today.

The Value of Information

Recording and sharing information are perhaps more important to your brand than you realize. It’s in these activities that your story has a beginning, a base for your entire brand. Leaders of the Nazi party certainly put their own heavy spin on the information that was shared with the public, but they nonetheless realized the importance of precise records to the story they wanted to tell.

“For the Germans, proper record keeping was part of proper management. Hence, careful records and organized paperwork were maintained of all Nazi activities, even when these were criminal and murderous. The only blatant exception to this record-keeping was the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” a top secret operation for which there was no official budget and whose records were camouflaged within other records or in special language. It was only in the very last stages of the war, when defeat was at the door, that various officials (e.g., Adolf Eichmann) and offices destroyed some of the incriminating records,” says one historian at Yad Vasham.

Lest you’re wary of learning a lesson from the Nazi party, fear not: protecting information as a way to shape ideas and culture goes back much farther than the rise of the Third Reich. In “Archives, Records, and Power: The Making for Modern Memory,” authors Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook write, “Archives are social constructs. Their origins lie in the information needs and social values of the rulers, governments, businesses, associations, and individuals who establish and maintain them. Despite changes in the nature of records, the uses for those records, and the need to preserve them, archives, ever since the mnemons of ancient Greece, have been about power – about maintaining power, about the power of the present to control what is, and will be, known about the past, about the power of remembering over forgetting.”

The value in proper information, then, is power.

It’s easy to see how this translates into power for a brand. With the rise of social media, now more than ever before, it’s important for every employee, from CEO to night janitor, to understand the brand’s story. Every employee is a potential brand advocate through Facebook. Every employee is a potential customer service rep through Twitter. If information isn’t readily available to every employee, your company runs the risk of employees spreading incorrect information or muddling your messaging.

What systems do you have in place to share information within your company?

From Brand Information to Messaging

Every brand’s story starts with facts: when the company was founded, why the founders saw a need for a product or service, how the business operates today. But presenting the facts to your audience isn’t the same thing as telling a story. That’s what the Nazi party understood and why they sent filmmakers to Warsaw. And ultimately, it’s why the Warsaw Ghetto movie never got made. What the Nazi party realized is that they couldn’t turn the information about their atrocities into a positive message about their party no matter how hard they tried.

You can’t turn bad information into a good story–and your shouldn’t try. Doing so is no better than a propagandized message or, as we like to call it today, “spin.” If you have to spin your information to tell your brand’s story, it’s perhaps time to rethink your company policies and the way you do business.

You can tell a good story without being dishonest. It’s all about presenting information in an interesting way, not about exaggerating or falsifying information. There are certain “storylines” that resonate with customers you can use to tell your brand’s story. I also recommend checking out this extremely detailed lesson on the elements of story structure for businesses. At the root of business storytelling, however, is this: be honest and personable. People spend money when they know, like, and trust you and your company.

Some companies do this extremely well. Take Ford Motor Company, for example, who combine online advertising with storytelling to make new product promotion more entertaining and personal. Another great example is Canon, who’s Project Imaginat10n is telling a new story of inspiration, creativity, and product simplicity for their brand.

The Storytelling Timeline

Your brand’s story isn’t just a one-time tale with a defined end. As your business continues to grow, your story will expand. Thus, you need to update the information you share with your employees and edit your story to provide updates. Over time, your message may evolve, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you keep records well so that you’re always a credible source and continue to share your story in a way that is easily understood by your audience.

The Top 5 Things IBM’s Social Business has Taught Us

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Now is the single greatest time in history to be in business.

Businesses that have embraced social tools and methodologies have created a new set of rules
that enable organizations to compete in the economy as equals. Being large no longer ensures
a competitive advantage. In fact, being large may be a deficit in the new business environment.
Worse, few executives are aware of the massive transformation that is in motion. Most are stuck
in an old management mind-set of command and control that emphasizes “Do as I say” and
not “I want to hear your opinion.”

As a result, they are ill prepared for the colossal challenges that confront them now.

The leaders who will succeed in this social business age are those who welcome feedback,
leverage the wisdom of crowds, create pull, and foster workplace environments that promote
innovation. The skills needed to succeed today are not being taught in the workplace, high
schools, or colleges, as they were in previous ages. Instead, they are learned through
experimentation, which yields both big mistakes and stunning successes.

Certainly, the goal of leadership remains the same: to grow and nurture people so that they
are capable of achieving business objectives through shared missions and measurable
performance. But the crucial ingredients for success are advancing beyond the old leadership
model, to new ones that are more strategic and yield far greater results.

There are some distinct differences in the way businesses were run in previous ages and the
way businesses need to be run in the social age. It’s still about shareholder value, but the
game is different now and the playbooks need to reflect the change. There are new rules, new
strategies, and new ways of leveraging talent.

IBM exemplifies this shift and is leading by example. Here are a few formulaic changes IBM has
made to the old leadership model that resonated with me:

#1 Old Way: Corporate Politics = Climbing the Corporate Ladder

New Way: Corporate Politics = Less Trust

Now, there will still be politics; we all understand that. But there will be a much more transparent system where people will be able to see that someone is playing politics instead of working for the betterment of the organization. Once a person knows she’s being observed her behavior changes, and that’s a key thing to bring up. Today, with an internal social network (our digital village), executives are being observed, and they’re being called out for corrupt political behavior. Moreover, employees who leave their firms often write about their experience and submit their reports to influential media outlets.

Remember what happened to Goldman Sachs after a disgruntled employee, Greg Smith, told the New York Times that executives were calling their clients “muppets” and that the culture was  toxic?

Today’s employees need to learn that in the new playbook, trust and authenticity will get you further than playing politics.

#2: Old Way: Public Relations Agencies = Get the Brand’s Message Out

New Way: Thought Leaders + Influencers + Employees = Get the Brand’s Message Out

While traditional public relations agencies still have a role in today’s businesses, they will become less effective at delivering a brand’s message over time. The social customers, the media, and your industry’s thought leaders are all tuning these one-way broadcasts out. They are no longer effective in today’s social age. The new playbook calls for employees, thought leaders, and an organization’s social team to provide quality content that attracts the right target audience and engages them in discussion. Those interactions over time will produce new customers who are eager to work with you.

#3: Old Way: Information = Stored in Silos

New Way: Information = Stored in a Central Repository

Organizations must provide an internal social network (digital village) that includes a social software platform which allows anyone in the organization to store and retrieve relevant information that helps the complete their work. It’s no longer acceptable to hoard information in silos. That’s a page from the old playbook that isn’t acceptable anymore.

#4: Old Way: Workplace = Fixed Location/Fixed Time

New Way: Workplace = Anywhere/Anytime

Until just recently, most employees (including knowledge workers) were required to be at their desk working on the highest-priority projects and tasks. The company’s culture would dictate the work hours, but the hours were fixed and everyone knew them. In the new workplace, because of mobile technologies and the cloud, work is being done from home, from the road, and even from vacation. The expectations have shifted from “Don’t worry, you can get me that when you return to work in the morning,” to “Hey, why didn’t you reply to the email I sent you last night?”

Like it or not, the new playbook doesn’t have a fixed schedule or location.

#5: Old Way: Employee Knowledge = Isolated

New Way: Employee Knowledge = Promote Internally & Externally

Every company has at least a few of them. They are the people you look at and say, “Wow, how do they do it?” Businesses that want to compete in the new world must promote their subject matter experts (SME) both internally and externally. Making SMEs into industry celebrities attract fans (customers), which attracts revenue. The easiest way to find SMEs is to monitor your social platform (or examine the analytical data) for clues about who is producing high-quality content that other people tend to share or comment on a lot.

Often, these SMEs don’t need a lot of convincing to create content for external consumption. Occasionally, more introverted experts will need help from your social team, who can interview the expert or create quality content from the material produced by the expert. The key here is to heavily promote the SME internally and externally. While many executives will find excuses not to because of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, this play has several benefits for the organization.

In the final analysis, every executive must be aware of the big shifts occurring in business today.
If their performance suffers because they have ignored these shifts, their careers will take a
back seat.

3 Ways Content Creators Can Use Private Pinterest Boards

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Pinterest recently announced the introduction of private or “secret’ boards, which allow users to pin items to boards that their followers can’t see. This is a feature Pinterest users have been wanting for a long time, as it helps with planning gifts and surprise parties and pinning personal items that you might not want others to see.

If you’re using Pinterest as a marketing tool, private boards might not at first seem like a big deal. After all, why bother pinning images your followers can’t see to click on, repin, or like? But if you think outside of the box, there are a few ways bloggers (and even podcasters and video producers) can use this new Pinterest feature to create better content.

1. Sharing Content Ideas with Your Team

If you have a content team, like we do here on the NMX/BlogWorld blog, a private Pinterest board can be invaluable for sharing ideas quickly. Pinterest’s new private boards can be seen by one person initially, but you can invite others to view as well, giving you a great place to collaborate. Sharing ideas in this manner is especially easy because of Pinterest’s commenting system. Rather than a long email chain that just gets lost in the inbox shuffle anyway, keep your post concepts contained to a single board.

2. Creating Inspiration Boards for Future Posts

You can also create a private board of images that inspire your and could be good to use in future posts. Quotes, beautiful pictures, blog posts from other people, and reports can all serve as inspiration. Unlike the group post idea and collaboration board, these ideas might not be fleshed out quite yet, but that’s okay. No one can see them but you! So when writer’s block hits, head to your inspiration board to see if you can get your juices flowing.

3. Bookmarking Competitor Design Ideas

“Spying” on competitors (and I mean that in the most innocent way possible) can help you come up with new ideas for your own blog. There’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from others. So if you see a cool design element or notice another blogger in your niche using a cool plugin, take a screenshot and upload it to Pinterest. It’s easier (or cheaper if you hire someone) to make lots of changes at once instead of little changes here and there.

If you want even more Pinterest education, make sure to check out Debba Haupert’s Pinterest session at NMX Las Vegas!

How will you use Pinterest’s new private boards feature?

What Businesses NEED to Learn from Romney’s Project ORCA

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Project ORCA was supposed to be the saving grace for the Republican presidential campaign. In a race that came down to the wire in many states, this new way of organizing Romney’s league of enthusiastic volunteers to monitor voting across the country could have been responsible for swinging the votes his way. Obviously, that did not happen, and in a post entitled “The Unmitigated Disaster Known As Project ORCA” one would-be volunteer, John Ekdahl, outlined exactly  how this project failed. Another disgruntled would-be volunteer shared similar experiences with Brietbart News here.

Now that how has been answered, the remaining question is why. And, importantly, what can we learn from this mess?

Simplicity, Defined

Project ORCA was designed to be extremely simple. Using smartphones, volunteers were supposed to be able to easily report who had voted and who had yet to show up at the polls. That way, registered Republicans could be contacted and encouraged to come out to vote.

While the system was fairly uncomplicated for volunteers, the introduction to it was not clear. This is where Project ORCA fell short, and this is where many businesses fall short as well. Simplicity marries design and implementation. One without the other, and you risk failure.

With Project ORCA, volunteers’ questions were not adequately answered during conference calls. They didn’t receive their packets until the night before, and the term “app” confused people (Project ORCA used a mobile website, not an app available on the Android/iPhone store, but they called it a “mobile web app”). Volunteers were not instructed properly about the information they needed to take to their polling location, so many were turned away. Questions to the help line went unanswered.

When you introduce a new technology to your customers, is the implementation as simple as the design? Is your audience prepared for the changes? Are you ready to provide customer support? Have you taken the process out of the users’ hands as much as possible?

Timing is Everything

More important that simplicity perhaps, is timing. The Republican party waited until the last minute to implement this new system, causing mass chaos on election day. Ekdahl reports attempting to reach out for help so he could still fulfill his promise as a volunteer, but it seems as though the system was overwhelmed with people having problems, so he never received a response. Undoubtedly, many others found themselves in a similar situation.

Despite conference calls about Project ORCA in the weeks leading up to election day, too much was left to the last minute, with no real Plan B in place if problems ensued. The timing was just wrong. Had the kinks been worked out in October or better yet, even earlier, through beta testing and mock election day run-throughs, this initiative might have instead been a success. It may have even changed the course of the election.

I’m sure the Republican party did some testing before the big day. I’m not suggesting they just threw this together and crossed their fingers that it would work. But they didn’t also allow their volunteers to be part of the testing. If you’re introducing a new technology to your audience, whether it’s a brand new ecommerce site, a new interface for a digital product, or something else entirely (like a new way of counting votes at polling locations), you have to give people a chance to test out the system before they need to use it.

Half-Truths and Problems Ahead

What I find most troubling about the reports I’ve been reading from Project ORCA volunteers is that they all seem to have been reassured that problems were localized. Even before election day, it sounds like frankenspeak talons were tightly grasping this entire project. Writes Ekdahl,

“From the very start there were warning signs. After signing up, you were invited to take part in nightly conference calls. The calls were more of the slick marketing speech type than helpful training sessions. There was a lot of “rah-rahs” and lofty talk about how this would change the ballgame.”

Never underestimate your audience like this. People don’t want to hear half-truths and false flattery. They want answers to their questions and help with their problems. Nothing will sink a business faster than their customer base feeling like they’re being fed lies.

No matter where your political loyalties lie, I think we can all agree that Republicans have some rough roads ahead. It’s arguable whether the success of Project ORCA could have changed the tide, but it’s inarguable that it’s failure is making many uneasy about party management. This is perhaps the most important lesson businesses need to learn from the Republican party and the downfall of Project ORCA: the seas won’t always be smooth sailing, but when problems arise, how you manage your audience, especially through online channels, will set the course for the future.

Where is your business headed?

Image credit: Gage Skidmore

Why The President’s Tweet Became the Most Popular of All Time

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President Barack Obama made social media history with a tweet posted right after he was named the winner of the United States 2012 president election. This tweet surpassed tweets by celebrities like Justin Bieber to become the most shared tweet in history. As of writing this post, the tweet has been retweeted 0ver 793,000 times and favorited nearly 283,000 times.


It’s not surprising that a tweet from the POTUS after winning a second term went viral, but the circumstances are just part of what made this tweet so readily shared. Let’s take a look at why Obama’s tweet became the most popular of all time and what you can do to add some of that special sauce to your own tweets.

  • Visual Tweeting

The first and most obvious takeaway from Obama’s tweet success was that people respond to visuals. According to the Encyclopedia of Distances, about 65% of the general populus are visual thinkers, which is why teachers often make an effort to include visual aids when explaining a new topic and why infographics and Pinterest have both risen in popularity in the last year. The lesson here is to share images on social media when possible, especially if they help tell your brand’s story. People find these kinds of pictures easy to share.

  • Opportune Timing

Election night was a busy time for Obama and his staff, but they didn’t wait until a week later to celebrate Obama’s win with a tweet. They capitalized on the excitement of their audience by tweeting quickly after the election results were announced. The sunshine in the background easily gives it away that this is not a live picture, leading me to believe that staffers planned this tweet (and probably had tweet planned in case he lost as well). Can you take advantage over your audience’s excitement about something? Think about the timing of your tweets and plan them well.

  • A Personal Moment

It’s rare to get a look into the personal life of Obama, but this was an extremely personal picture with his wife, Michelle. Do you get personal with your audience? You don’t have to do so with every tweet, but allowing an occasional peak into your personal life can really help your audience connect with you. We’re all more likely to buy products from people we know, like, and trust. Personal moments allow people to get to know and like you, and from there, you can build trust.

  • Brevity

One of the biggest mistakes you can make on Twitter is not giving people the space to retweet you. If you’re right on the 140-character cusp, you’re not leaving room for “RT @yourname” or any comments about your tweet. This forces people to edit your original tweet if they want to retweet it, and frankly, most people won’t take the time. Obama’s very brief tweet helped to make it extremely shareable.

  • Emotional Tweeting

Lastly, Obama’s tweet is extremely emotional. To see him hugging his wife is not only a private moment, but also one that tugs are your heartstrings, even if you you didn’t vote for him. Anything emotional, whether it makes your laugh or cry, is easy for people to share, so think about how you can elicit these feelings from your followers.

Of course, a tweet that becomes as popular as Obama’s is something most of us can only dream of, but we can still adjust what we’re already doing to make our tweets more popular. For even more tips, tricks, and techniques for using social media for your business, check out our BusinessNext conference, featuring sessions like “How to Become an Effective Social Business Today,” “Social Media and the Law: Emerging Legal Issues and Obligations,” and more. And if you’re a content creator, definitely check out our next NMX event in Las Vegas for tips on promoting your blog, podcast, or videos using social medial.

7 Ways to Inject More Creativity Into Your Photos

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It seems everyone’s a photographer now (and that’s kind of awesome) but I gotta be honest… not everyone is an interesting photographer. The good news is that photography isn’t a field of magic secrets and you don’t have to sacrifice any animals to make better pictures. I’ll be speaking at New Media Expo in January about photography tips for blogging and social media, and I wanted to offer up some quick suggestions how to inject more creativity into your photos.

  1. Get close – And when you think you’re close enough, get closer. We see too many snapshots from a very wide angle and the interesting subject is only a small bit of the scene. Very few photos have been ruined by moving closer to the subject.
  2. EmissionsCrop Creatively – Most cameras make images with a 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio (the ratio of the long side to the short side of the image) and 1:1 ratios have taken off since Instagram became popular, but don’t hestitate to crop a photo into different dimensions. Have a wide, short subject? Make a wide panaorama. Something tall and skinny? Make a tall and skinny photo (this one might fit well alongside a blog post).
  3. Find the Light – Sure, you could get all fancy and use speedlights or other external lighting specifically for photography, but odds are that most of the photos you’re creating are happening under either natural outdoor light or the ambient light indoors. Look at that light. Look at the angles. Look where the light is hard and casting harsh shadows vs. where it’s soft and diffused. Move around. Place your subject where the light is better when you can. As a specific example, if there’s a window (not directly facing the sun) you’ll often find nice light coming through that window and nearby would be a great place for an indoor portrait.
  4. Fly High or Get Down – Far too many photographs suffer from “six foot guy with a camera to his eye” syndrome. They’re created in the most natural way as someone simply holds the camera up to their face and clicks the shutter. As a result, photos offen suffer from this similarity and lack of variance in perspective. Try something new… get down on the ground and shoot upward. Find a vantage point that’s up above the crowd. I’ve been known to bring a 6’ stepladder with me on some photo trips… it’s fascinating how just a few extra feet really change one’s ability to make a compelling image. Even without extra gear, holding your camera above your head can be a great way to change things up.
  5. Look for Reflections – I live near Portland, which means that a puddle of standing water is a frequent sight. Puddles aren’t the only option of course; great reflections can be made in lakes, fountains, or other bodies of water. Smooth water can make for some interesting straightforward reflections, but a rippled surface can also make for some interesting (although more abstract) patterns, especially at night.
  6. Leave Part of the Subject Out of the Frame – Most photos include the entire subject in the frame, but what if you left some of it out for a bit of mystery or to get your reader thinking a bit. Sure, you could write about a popular board game and include a photo of the game board… but what if, instead, you included a photo that only consisted of part of a recognizable game piece?
  7. Blur on Purpose – No, you probably don’t want to go out and create all of your photos blurry, but selective blur can be an interesting effect. Want to show motion as cars or people move by quickly? Put your camera on shutter priority mode (or use an iPhone app like Slow Shutter Cam) and set it to 1/2 or 1 second duration and see what results you get. Experiment.

These tips are a sampling of the sorts of things I’ll speak about in my Photography Tips for New Media session I’ll be leading at 2:15pm on the first day of NMX (Sunday, January 6th). In addition to the creative aspects, I’ll offer an overview of basic exposure and lighting, as well as a few things to keep in mind when shooting specifically for your blog or social media. I hope to see you at NMX!

The NMX (BlogWorld) Affiliate Program is Now Live

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Here’s your chance to nurture the growth of your online community and earn extra money for your trip to New Media Expo!

If your audience includes bloggers, podcasters, Web TV and other new media content creators, or if your site is geared toward business professionals who could benefit from learning about growing their business with social media, then this is a great offer for you.

New Media Expo is the first and only industry-wide conference, tradeshow and media event dedicated to providing valuable content for the new media industry & social media world, and it’s coming back to Las Vegas! New Media Expo will take place January 6-8, 2013 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The exclusive 3-day executive and business-focused BusinessNext Social conference begins on January 6. This is where independent content creators, journalists, micro-enterprisers, marketers, internet entrepreneurs and the world’s largest corporations learn about the newest online communication technology, tools and methods from innovators and industry leaders. Past events have offered more than 100 educational sessions with amazing speakers including Guy Kawasaki, Mark Cuban, Erin Kotecki Vest, Matt Mullenweg, Steve Rubel, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Alden, Elisa Camahort Page, Laura Fitton, Tim Ferriss, Mike Shinoda, Wendy Piersall, Chris Brogan, Tim Street, Paula Berg and dozens of influential bloggers, podcasters, award winning journalists, Fortune 500 executives, and world renowned online marketers.

Topics range from building audience & community, basic and advanced blogging and podcasting, Audio and Video tools & techniques, web TV and internet radio broadcasting, monetizing content, SEO and SEM, social media marketing, brand reputation management online, how to effectively engage bloggers, and including (and maximizing) new media in your business marketing mix.

New Media Expo’s Affiliate Program gives you access to an important, worthy and recognizable event which makes it easy to generate new revenue. It’s quick and simple to professionally promote New Media Expo using tools made available through ShareASale, our affiliate program partner.

New Media Expo affiliates made THOUSANDS in commissions with the New York show this spring.

Don’t miss out on earning commissions yourself. SIGN UP TODAY and put up your New Media Expo affiliate links!

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New Media Expo has teamed up with ShareASale to offer a simple affiliate signup process, so that you can begin earning commission payments from your website as soon as possible.

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Existing ShareASale Members:

If you are already a ShareASale member, but not yet part of our program, it’s even easier to apply! Simply log into your ShareASale account then click here or search the merchant list for “New Media Expo.” Click on [Join Program], review the terms and conditions for our program and apply. We’ll review your application and get back to you promptly.

Existing New Media Expo Affiliates:

*     Visit here: New Media Expo on ShareASale

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If you have any questions on the New Media Expo Affiliate Program or if you need something custom, please email Karen, Joel and Daniel, our affiliate management team, at newmediaexpo@gtomanagement.com.  Thank you for your interest in promoting New Media Expo 2013!

Chris Ducker: Chat Transcript

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This week, we hosted a Facebook chat with NMX speaker Chris Ducker. Chris talked all about virtual assistants and shared lots of great information. Check out the transcript below to see what you missed. And, be sure to see Chris’s session “45 Things New Media Content Creators Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants to Help Grow Their Business,” live and in-person at NMX in January!

 

New Media Expo First, Chris, thanks so much for staying up late to join us from halfway around the world!
New Media Expo Chris, start for us by explaining what a virtual assistant is, what one does and and one goes about finding one.
Chris C. Ducker New Media Expo – all my pleasure… So, allow me to kick things off a little, with ‘one i made earlier’…

Content Creation – we know the importance of it in today’s business world. We must educate, inspire, help and motivate people, before we EVER try and sell them.

Creating and marketing great, original content online is hard work. But, there is a little ‘calm’ to the entrepreneurial content creation storm that is on the horizon for business owners everywhere – and that’s basically ‘buying time’, by working with Virtual Assistants to help research, create, market and repurpose content online to help grow your business.

This is what I’ll be speaking about in Vegas in January, and it’s what I’m ready to chat about today.

Questions – love ’em. Let’s go!
New Media Expo Are you talking about hiring V.A.’s for writing content? What other duties can they perform?
Chris C. Ducker VA’s come in different shapes and forms. General VA’s (helping you with social media management, blog scheduling, podcast editing, etc., Writer VA’s, SEO VA’s, Web Developer VA’s, Video Editor VA’s, etc.

Bottom line – they help you get the ‘busy’ work out of the way, so that you can work ON your business, instead of IN it.
New Media Expo So while the V.A is doing that work, what are you doing?
Shane Ketterman Hey Chris C. Ducker What are some of the top challenges and ways to overcome them for those that are thinking of hiring a VA?
Maria Elena Duron What are some tools you use to manage and monitor progress with your virtual team?
Chris C. Ducker You’re creating more content, coming up with business ideas, putting together online products and services to offer to your community and make $$$!

You’re also spending less time in front of the computer, and more time in ‘creative’ mode, where you get the chance to spend more time with your family, friends, drinking coffee (or beer!), or traveling, even…
New Media Expo What percentage of your budget is spent hiring out, Chris C. Ducker
Bill Belew Where can I find a VA to do research, mine for contacts and follow up on those contacts? And do you have a list of places your recommend…and…too many questions maybe…what is the going rate? How can we know we aren’t paying too much or too little?
New Media Expo As you’re not working in an office with your V.A, how do you keep track of their progress and make sure they’re not billing you for the time they’re playing Facebook games?
Monique Johnson Chris C. Ducker When you are ready to hire a VA after interviewing them, what are some default terms that should be included in the contract?
Chris C. Ducker Shane Ketterman – one of the biggest challenges is also one of the biggest mistakes that most people make when hiring and working with VA’s for the first time…

And that’s assuming that everything will work perfectly from the outset and that no training is needed. That’s not the case. You will need to spend some time with your VA’s to get across how you want things done, etc., but once those processes are in place, life will be way easier and much more productive.

The other challenge is timezones… as a lot of entrepreneurs prefer to work with overseas VA’s (because they are cheaper, quite frankly) they also have to learn to be a little patient in hearing back from their VA’s, too. It’s all very workable, but it certainly isn’t a magic pill to pop!
Chris C. Ducker Maria Elena Duron: Buzz2Bucks – any project management system is a massive help out of the gate. Something like Basecamp. Dropbox is also great for sharing files, etc., and the Google app’s like Gmail, GCal, Google Docs, etc., also make life a lot easier, too.
Shane Ketterman That makes total sense on the training part – – it’s just like having an in-house employee, they need to be trained and onboarded.
Shane Ketterman Chris C. Ducker What do you see as a few of the top benefits content creators can expect once they have been working with a VA for a period of time?

Chris C. Ducker @bill belew – you can start at elance.com for simple one-off type jobs, but if you need a more permanent solution and want to bring a TEAM member on boar then I was be remiss in my duties if i didn’t suggest you check out my company at www.virtualstafffinder.com (promise this isn’t going to turn into a pitch fest!)

I also have this very popular post on my blog, too:

http://www.chrisducker.com/how-much-do-i-pay-my-virtual-assistant/

www.virtualstafffinder.com

One-stop hub for outsourcing virtual assistant or virtual staff. Find home-based virtual secretary, web developers and SEO specialists quickly
TBEX Like others here, I’d be curious how to find a trustworthy VA if you’re not seeing them in person at least semi-regularly. How do you minimize the risks in hiring someone you’ve never met?
New Media Expo Chris C. Ducker When hiring V.A.’s from overseas, how do you get past any language or cultural barriers?
Chris C. Ducker Monique – i thoroughly suggest having a simple NDA in place with all VA’s that you work with, whether it be a project based thing, or a full-time VA. bottom line is that unless they reside in your country there’s not much you can do – but, Filipino VA’s for example are very, very fearful or any legal problems, etc. so sometimes just having the signed paper is enough to make sure no major issues come your way.

you should also list down any holiday and sick pay benefits, etc., too.

that and working hours – although, most of my personal VA’s work on a flexible schedule – just as long as they get the work done by the time the deadline comes around, i’m happy! :-)
Chris C. Ducker Shane – top benefits for content creators… 1st – you can focus more on creating content. that’s the biggest draw. 2nd, they can help you research that content (great for stuff like infographics!), 3rd, they market the content for you via social media and engage in your audience with / for you. 4th, they can repurpose that content (turn a video into a podcast) and then upload to itunes, etc.

there are plenty more… but, hey – i gotta save a few for vegas!!! :-)
New Media Expo Chris C. Ducker How can one determine a fair price – one that doesn’t insult or take advantage of the V.A., but also doesn’t break the budget?
Chris C. Ducker TBEX – by taking your time. a lot of people hire the first person that sounds half-decent in an interview. not a good idea. keep interviewing… there is always someone better out there (well, 80% of the time, anyway!), based on my experience.

also – make sure you ask and follow-up on references, etc.

once you hire, you have ti invest in that relationship for it to grow into a real-deal working set-up. spend time on skype cam, send virtual birthdays cards to them… make them feel as if they are part of the team – even if they are half way around the world, or in a different state.
Chris C. Ducker New Media Expo – great question. it’s a tough one, and is based 9/10 times purely on location. for example a General VA based here in the philippines, with 2 years experience working online, will work full-time for you for $500 a month.

a US-based VA will sqwack at that number… so, you have to use best judgement, really. but, when it comes to paying VA’s (or any staff really!), pay them:

a) what they’re worth and,
b) always on time.

i actually have a free ebook guide people can download on salary guidelines for Filipino VA’s if they are interested – they can grab it at the Virtual Staff Finder site.
Megan Enloe How do you handle passwords? If they need access to sensitive accounts how do you protect yourself from a disgruntled VA hijacking your accounts?
Chris C. Ducker @megan enloe – you can use a service like LastPass.com… very easy to set-up and means that ONE password can be used for all your accounts (well the ones you want to give access to!).

I use it daily.
Shane Ketterman Great Question Megan! Kind of what I was thinking but I imagine that you put NDA’s in place and have all that signed just like an inhouse employee.
New Media Expo Chris C. Ducker – When you outsource content, how do you make sure your voices match?
Chris C. Ducker New Media Expo – lets clear this one up…

you can outsource the creation of generic content – like articles for niche site or something. but, i always suggest that you should never outsource any fo the content that you want to be ‘known’ for.

thats the thing – it’s YOUR voice. could you imagine if gary vaynerchuk started outsourcing his online videos – wouldn’t work, right…?!!
TBEX What are some of the questions people should ask when hiring a VA – but may not know to ask? One of those that garners the “that’s a great question!” response. :)
New Media Expo Chris C. Ducker – Excellent point. How many V.A’s do you have working with you at the moment?
Chris C. Ducker TBEX – here are around HALF of what we use when sourcing VA’s for clients… it’ll give you some solid ideas, no doubt:

Tell me a little about yourself and what you like to do in your spare time.
Why did you resign from your last position / Why are you looking for a new job? Tell me a little about what you know about our company already?
What have you done in the last 6-months to improve your professional skill sets? What attracts you to working for our company?
What is the number one driving factor for wanting to work with us?
If you’re given this opportunity, how long do you feel you’ll stay with our company? Lastly, tell me why you feel you’re the right candidate for this job…
Allison Boyer LOVE your LastPass.com tip Chris! Just checked it out, have been looking for something like this!
TBEX Wow. So I guess a *really* comprehensive questionnaire is a good thing to have!
New Media Expo Chris C. Ducker – Do you your V.A’s all sign NDA’s?
Chris C. Ducker New Media Expo – i’m a little spoilt as i live here, so i have a combo of an internal team and then an external / virtual team.

internally, i have around 30 people involved in the on-going marketing side of my businesses, externally, i now employ 6 full-time VA’s. but, all in all, i have around 280 people working for me…

phew…. i need a vacation!!! :-)
Megan Enloe What do you think of sites such as ShortTask.com or Fiverr.com?
Chris C. Ducker Yes – all my VA’s sign an NDA with me, the day they start working for me.
Chris C. Ducker TBEX – if you want a *really* good VA, yes! :-)
Chris C. Ducker Allison Boyer – lovely. glad to help, alli.
Chris C. Ducker @megan enloe – they are okay… i dont know shorttask too well, but fiverr is what it is. cheap and cheerful. i wouldn’t depend on them solely as my long-term, go-to outsourcing sources though.

Chris C. Ducker Allow me to post a link to this – the most downloaded podcast I’ve done on the Outsource to the Philippines show… 25,000+ downloads and still counting. it brings MASSIVE clarity to a lot of issues… roles, skill sets, salaries, etc.:

http://www.outsourcetothephilippines.com/super-virtual-assistant-myth/

www.outsourcetothephilippines.com

Dispelling the Myth of the Super VA and building a team of virtual assistants: General Admin, Content Writing, SEO work, Web Dev and Graphics Design.
New Media Expo I was going to ask you to dispel some myths for us. Always keeping a step ahead, Chris C. Ducker.
Chris C. Ducker New Media Expo – hahaha… well, i try my best!
New Media Expo Thanks so much for joining us today, Chris C. Ducker. I know it’s late there and you’re probably looking forward to some rest. Anything you’d like to plug before wrapping this up?

Chris C. Ducker Not really… I think everyone know’s that they can get their hands on all my free eBook’s, the FREE New Business Bootcamp course and links to VSF and OTTP over at my blog, http://www.chrisducker.com

Wait – was that a plug……?!?!?!!

www.chrisducker.com

Chris Ducker helps entrepreneurs catapult their small business into the 21st cen…See More
New Media Expo Sure was – and don’t forget your NMX presentation, “45 Things New Media Can Outsource to Virtual Assistants to Help Grow Their Business.” Thanks again, Chris – and thanks to all who participated and will be reading the transcripts.
New Media Expo Next week Gary Arndt will be stopping by.
Chris C. Ducker New Media Expo – ah, yes – that session is gonna be a LOT of fun (i have a few things planned!). Gary Arndt is a rockstar – i spent some time with him in Bangkok a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed our chats. He’s great.
Chris C. Ducker Thanks, everyone… I’ll pop back tomorrow (tonight for most of you) and answer any late questions that might be posted. See you all in Vegas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
New Media Expo Thanks again, Chris!


Bill Belew Thanks, Chris for being so patient with us.

 

Join us on Facebook each Wednesday 10am PT/1pm ET for our weekly chat. Our next guest is Gary Arndt, who will tell the “little guys” how to compete with the “big guys.” His NMX session in January is “How To Compete Against Billion Dollar Media Empires And Win.” See you at the chat!

How Home Depot Became a Pinterest Powerhouse [Case Study]

Author:

One might not at first think that power tools and lumber have a place on the Internet’s current social media darling, Pinterest, but this visual platform is being dominated by none other than Home Depot. Currently, Home Depot has over 12,000 profile followers on Pinterest, and their individual boards all have over 8,500 followers. If Pinterest’s high revenue-per-click rates and the assertion that Pinterest users are heavily motivated to buy are to be believed, Home Depot has build quite the lucrative following on this social networking – and it’s a following that is growing daily.

Understanding What Users Want

While DIY home renovators might go to Home Depot for pipes and wood, the company understands that this kind of item isn’t likely to resonate with Pinterest users.  Based on their Q2 2012 reports, about 2% of their total sales come from their online channels, which doesn’t sound like much until you remember that total sales for the company were $20.57 billion that quarter. People aren’t likely to buy certain items online because they want to see them in person, but Home Depot sells lots of items that people are willing to purchase sight unseen, and these are the items the company highlights on Pinterest.

For example, here’s an item Home Depot pinned on its Outdoor Living board:

Pinterest users are a lot more likely to buy this item online than to purchase potting soil or plants online, despite these being popular outdoor items at physical Home Depot stores.

Home Depot also understands that people are looking for different things at different times of the year. For example, during the fall, the boards at the top of the Home Depot profile include Tailgating Ideas & DIY Football Party Ideas and Halloween Crafts & Ideas.

The company also has boards for other holidays and seasons, like Valentine’s Day Inspiration and Summer Celebrations, but these are found closer to the bottom of the Home Depot profile. These can easily be moved to a more highlight position when the time is right.

Give and Take

The best take-away from Home Depot’s Pinterest activities is perhaps the way this company combines promotion of their own products with promotion of other items. Like with all social networks, when you use the platform as a broadcasting tool alone, users typically don’t respond well. To have a more complete Pinterest presence, you need to not only promote what you’re selling, but also promote other cool and interesting products and projects you find.

A good example is the Home Depot Wreaths for Any Occasion board, which features some Home Depot products like an ornament wreath and bat wreath alongside wreath products and projects from others sites, like The Charm of Home, Make and Takes, and Once Wed.

Home Depot has Character

What I personally like most about Home Depot’s Pinterest presence is the personality. Home Depot could take the path many brands take on social media by being extremely “corporate,” but instead, the company’s pins have a little flavor. The descriptions make it sound like a real person, not a stuffy corporation, is behind each pin.

In the above pin on the company’s DIY Wedding Inspiration & Gift Ideas board, for example, you can see Home Depot asking “How cool would it be to have a wedding cermony [sic] inside of a greenhouse?” and several people answered. This type of engagement with a brand is worth more than passive repins, especially for a product not originally from the Home Depot site.

Where Home Depot Could Improve

Although Home Depot does Pinterest better than most brands, I still see room for improvement. Here are a few ways Home Depot could have an even strong Pinterest presence:

  • More Boards: Currently, Home Depot only has 32 boards, which means there’s a lot of room for improvement. With a topic like home improvement, there’s no limit to the individual boards that could be created.
  • More Interaction with Followers: Home Depot’s conversational style with pin descriptions is just a start. The company could take things a step farther and interact with their followers through comments.
  • Following More People: Home Depot currently only followers about 280 people, which is a very small percentage compared to followers. By following more boards relating to home improvement, the company would have more ideas to repin.

It will be interesting to watch how Home Depot continues to grow on Pinterest, as well as see other brands follow suit and start to build a presence on Pinterest.

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