I love reading books.  It’s kind of a prerequisite for teaching English I guess (something I’ve done).  Those who spend time behind bindings (or those delving in digitally) may notice introductions to many classics.  The introductions are often written by fellow authors and people of words.  Why do publishers approach others for introductions?  It’s because of the knowledge of the introductions’ authors; in short, ‘they know their stuff’ when it comes to the genre, author, and scope of the literary landscape.

Do you know your stuff when it comes to your vertical?  I want you to prove it through social media.

Video
I love writing.  Not every soul does.  What’s your medium of choice?  If you know your stuff, then you have something to add to the ongoing industry conversation.  Are you more of a talker?  So be it.  Start a video blog expressing your thoughts.  I think vloggers have some advantages over bloggers.  ‘Seeing’ people is more personable.  Additionally, viewers can better assess a vlogger’s passion and personality because more social cues are available via video format.

I saw this video on entrepreneur encouragement last week.  Is it done off the cuff?  Yes.  Was it unplanned?  Perhaps.  Does it make an impact?  That’s a definitive, “Yes!”

Slides
I’ve noticed a number of parties sharing their slides as well as those of others.  Slides are condensed forms of live presentations.  Of course, slides can’t duplicate the presence of the speaker; but, you can gain a lot of information from them.  Have you done a presentation in-house or externally?  Have you shared the knowledge with others?  Why not assemble your slides and share them?  Sometimes “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  I’ve seen well-done slides accompanied by very little text, without taking away from the powerful message of the overall presentation.

Marty Weintraub recently did a presentation and offers his slides on his Facebook page (You have to ‘like’ to download – pretty savvy, huh?)

Librarian
Content curation is a well discussed trend and marketing motion.  Have you thought about housing resources?  I see many brand sites hosting a resource section; but, it’s usually reserved for internal content rather than industry-wide material.  Why not be a librarian in your industry?  Be known as a personality or brand, collecting the exceptional resources within your respective space.  It sends a message; it helps brand personalities and companies as ‘keepers’ of valuable content.

I can’t tell you how many times per day, I read messages related to ‘creating great content.’  (Sigh) ‘Great’ is subjective and contingent on many factors.  Additionally, the thought of doing it consecutively is a bit intimidating.  Some days you feel like a contributor and others…like a keeper of content.  Either way, roving for and housing great content offers value to your visitors.

There’s an online marketing cohort of mine, Wayne Barker.  The guy is very meticulous and diligent in keeping his eyes on the online marketing space. I do the same; and, he’s made a good impression on me.  He keeps a Google Plus library of industry posts.  He’s branding himself as a librarian.

Conclusion
If you’re doing a good job using social media, you’re not only sharing your material, but maintaining and sharing the content of others as well.  Not only does it create value for the industry and your followers; the process speaks in and of itself.  It says, “Hey, (respective vertical) followers, I know my stuff.  I know good content when I see it.  Know and remember that about me.”  Don’t be fooled; we’re watching you for better or worse.

Google has been making many updates.  Have you heard?  Don’t worry; the search engine optimization world closely tracks the search giant’s moves.  We must.  There’s too much invested in the process.  Our consumers depend on us to do a good job for them.  Your consumers depend on you too.

One of my jobs as an online marketer is suggesting best practices.  Obviously, I follow the evolution of Google closely; it’s both interesting and warranted to intelligently address cohorts and readers.  One of the best suggestions I can give (after being in marketing for a while) is minding your target…which is not Google rankings (rank is a means to an end).  Rank is only one piece of the puzzle.  As far as revenue, nothing’s happening unless consumers do something.  The Google rank is just an ad after all.

It’s Sunday; hopefully you have some time to think of the forest through the trees before the busy workweek begins tomorrow.  I would like business owners to invest the time in thinking about the following.

About Us
Imagine you just met a potential business partner.  You would want to know more about them, wouldn’t you?  I would.  I do.  Can consumers get all desired information from your about us page?  I’ve seen a number of business sites with sad about us pages, offering no information about executives, brand missions, and employees.  That’s a big red flag for me.  Why is your brand hiding?  Do you have something to hide?  Competition is fierce.  Why should consumers partner with your brand when you don’t indicate ‘who’ your brand is?

Take time with your about us page.  People like to know about executives, employees, and their thoughts on business practices.  Consumers want to know more about the brand.  More transparency by businesses facilitates feelings of comfort and familiarity for consumers.

Examples of good about us pages:

http://www.blueglass.com/about/

http://www.distilled.net/about/

Notice the About Us experience is multi-faceted.  There are pictures, personality exhibited, people smiling and described, etc.  You get a clear picture of the business and team members.  Get your about us page there.

Page Bounce Rates
It’s quite simple to throw up Web pages.  However, each page should have a definitive purpose.  I understand all businesses want to make money from the Web; yet, understand the purpose of Web sites.  A good Web site is a resource for interested parties.  It should be a place of information and ongoing interaction.  What are the bounce rates of your pages?  Check pages where people spend little time.  Why could this be?  What orchestration decisions were made that could be bettered, perpetuating a visit?  What site pages are most sticky?  Why?  Would it be wise to engineer pages like that more often?

High bounce rates tell me that a Web property is highly optimized for engines but offer little value or embrace for consumers, as if browsers were captivated by rank or meta tags, heading toward a Web property only to find it ineffectively ‘walking the talk,’ not ‘living up to its preliminary advertisement.’

This bounce rate post offers a ton of resources on the topic.

Please be mindful of best practices.  Aligning your search engine optimization campaign with best practices eliminates the worry of Google updates.  Do be concerned (always) with customer updates; constantly think about improving your Web site and digital communications for your customers.

 

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Batter up, April is here.  It’s time for a new season of baseball.  Teams are well practiced, prepared, and have planned for success.  In theory, each team knows what it takes to succeed.  It’s a matter of playing hard each game, maintaining positive momentum, and keeping cleats laced for the long haul.  There are little-to-no surprises to be had by management.  There are unfortunately the occasional slumps and trades; but, managers have all the tools at hand to compete.  In short, there’s no crying in baseball; and, there should be no crying in branding, moving forward amidst the marketing season.

Bad Link Networks
Perhaps you’ve heard.   Google is addressing link networks, entities which are bad for businesses, browsers, and the Internet as a learning place.  The owners of the networks know of the low worth; in addition, it’s hard to believe brands involved in the networks are not somewhat aware.

It’s a brand’s responsibility to ensure its funds are ethically implemented.  It’s understood that particular providers may have more ‘knowledge’ of online marketing; however, due diligence is warranted when leveraging service providers.  Are you blindly handing money to providers and granting them carte blanche?  Perhaps it’s time to be more responsible with your brand.  If you’re not looking out for your brand’s best interest, you better at least understand Google is looking out for the best interest of its search engine.  Don’t cry about it; be proactive and build links the right way.

Do you want audiences to view your team as a major or minor league squad?  Those in the former group don’t rely on link networks; the big boys put in the time to find worthy and legitimate links.

Scraped Content
News aggregation is running rampant on the Web.  Journalists of popular news sources don’t like bloggers ‘copying’ their stories; and, bloggers don’t like it when other bloggers or sites ‘copy’ or ‘scrape’ their stories.  True, scraped content is basically a cut and pasting of another site’s content.  Sites of lower quality often do this to recruit visitors and gain some ranking traction.  But there is no thing as a good content scraper.

There’s no reason to scrape content or ride the story coattails of others.  Plenty of original conversations are to be had.  A brand, leveraging scraping and borrowed ideas, is never going to make it in the ‘big leagues.’  For one, the search engines will never allow such a site great rankings for long.  Secondly, it basically ruins the brand’s chances of building authority and reader respect.  A large part of online branding focuses upon building a community.  No one rallies around a scraper site.

Can your team produce real results?  Do you need to steal signals, plays, and strategies of others; or, does your team have natural talent?  The world is reading.

No Authors
Have you ever visited a site, which appears to be an author ghost town?  Meaning there is seemingly no personalities aligned with the brand and its offered services?  For instance, a search engine optimization service, offering articles of insight with no visible author may cause alarm for readers and service seekers.  Some brands cultivate content; yet, readers want to know the source; they want to know a brand houses experienced and efficient practitioners.  Author rank will come more into play in the near future.  Does your brand have visible authors, serving as the overt practitioners of your brand?  Don’t shed tears in the near future when this becomes more of a regular occurrence and source of better rankings and authority.

Does your team have no fans in the seats?  Think of your favorite baseball team.  When fans wear jerseys, do they adopt a particular player?  Most people are fans of teams largely because of the players on the field.  Who are your star players?

 

Are you happy to read me; or, do you have a case of the Mondays?  I know I got some people to smile with the Office Space reference.  We maintain things of interest or necessity in long-term memory.  Ingraining company-related sentiments into consumer minds is branding.  Focus on building a brand is a cornerstone of marketing.

Think about it.  As competitors struggle to best one another in all verticals, leveraging the ‘next best’ search engine optimization tactic, focusing on sought keywords and phrases, your brand can begin creating positive associations to your brand, ‘owning’ your name and related associations.

Remember a while back when Stephen Colbert asked his followers to make him the “Greatest Living American”?  I saw another SEOmoz post today related to branding a group of people.  The idea of marketing is to increase traffic to your brand, correct?  Ideally, keywords related to goods and products would not mean (as) much if your brand received a healthy, regular flow of traffic, correct?

Think about it.  If your brand is enjoying traffic and exposure and releases a new product or service, a smaller ad budget is warranted regarding ‘ranking’ for those terms; your brand is already ‘ranking’ with consumers.  New and ongoing information may only need intense marketing through social media accounts, home pages, newsletters, blog posts, etc.

Rather than leverage immediate rankings (some brands, with great rankings in mind from the start, are getting mauled by Panda as of late), impress consumers with a solidly-built community.  I know.  The process takes longer; but, the company is in business to provide value rather than make money, right?  We all need money; but, don’t underestimate the perception of consumers.  We observe the difference; and, we have plenty of options…

Pay-per-click management garners short-term exposure, allowing a brand to take presence in the SERPs while focusing on branding, raising awareness about the company, the site, executives, workers, philosophies, and so on.  PPC can be the rental home of your marketing pursuits; but the never-ending process of branding (Don’t allow for stale branding.) is how your business settles in a niche, making a home for itself along with a community of followers.

Joanna Lord wrote a post a while back on leveraging inbound marketing.  There are great insights in the post regarding building a brand community with a variety of content.  I celebrated the idea, making the connection between branding and online success:

I think a brand can’t go wrong in making further connections with customers and strengthening current ones.  In a time when there is so much competition in all verticals, branding helps consumers view your brand as unique, distinguishable from the competition.  Talk about savings on marketing costs…’optimize’ branding efforts, get browsers to come to you through brand-name searches and  ’favorite bar’ clicks, those are the kind of ‘rankings’ branding can get.

The time to start branding is was yesterday.  Rather than going cuckoo for keywords and rankings, possibly collecting wrist slaps from the Panda, go cuckoo over your customers and building a lasting brand.  I saw Rand Fishkin wearing this shirt in the latest White-Board Friday post.  I want one; the message is loud and clear and relates to products, services, and branding…

 

 

I still have growing to do; I’m only thirty-two (thirty-three next week; send b-day sentiments to Anthony Pensabene, Web Office box Twitter, USA.)  This may seem immature but money isn’t everything to me.  I feel some of you sneering; we’ll have to agree to disagree.  From a business branding point of view, I think providing exceptional service holds more value than immediate income.  As a consumer, I shop by a golden rule; make me feel valued and I will value your brand.  It seems simple to me.  What seems more lucrative to you, showing your brand’s money-making or service-oriented skills?  We know what holds more value for your target market.  You know them, the ones whose favor your entire business depends upon…

The Extra Yard
Executives want their business to run smoothly.  Unfortunately, reality trumps such business decisions at times.  When something goes wrong during business day-to-day, reputation management becomes a part of branding.  Address reparations for your customers; think about the approach because it could influence your ongoing reputation.

I recently purchased a larger-sized home implement from a furniture store.  I was told by the store employee (I addressed the situation beforehand because it seem curious it would fit) that when I came to collect it, there would be no qualms fitting it in my Jeep Wrangler.  Okay, math and spatial computation is not my forte; I leave it to the experts.  I came; it was too large; employees expressed distaste with me (because I brought my Jeep); and, we were all left at a standstill.  “What can your brand do for me?”  I thought it was a good question.  I was told (for an additional charge) I could rent their truck and drive it to my place.  Could the store have done a better job branding, going the extra yard for a consumer (who was inconvenienced due to following store direction)?

Spot Clean Transparency
How transparent is your brand?  Some brands feel that keeping some facts closer to the breast, may garner more cents.  Do such maneuvers make sense?  After you squeeze a few more dollars and cents from consumers, is it worth the long-term impression?

Last month, I was largely excited to purchase a smartphone.  I read a lot and thought the mobile device would allow me to evade newsstand costs and read at convenient times and places.  What I clearly didn’t understand (nor was it addressed at the time of purchase or agreement signing) was the incurred charges to come.  I got my first bill, which is ridiculously priced.  I understand, providers; it’s my job as a consumer to read and understand.  But seriously, providers are contorting this way and that to produce the ‘next best technology.’  You can’t send an email or alert when I exceed my allotment?  It seems to be okay to send commercially-driven emails and alerts…  Do you think it is better branding practice to clearly illustrate charging processes or adopt a buy-at-your-own-risk philosophy?

It’s ALL Your Department
I understand companies house a variety of practitioners.  As admitted above, I’m not your numbers guy.  However, something I learned from my time as a teacher – help people find the answer.  The resolution to a particular concern may lie beyond a respective department; but, as far as customer service, the company is one department.  Branding consists of the minutest exchanges with consumers.

I was recently on the phone with a cable provider.  It seems I’m dealing with a “unique situation.”  Okay, I understand.  I invested at least twenty minutes with a service provider until they called shenanigans on the entire conversation, admitting they could not help, transferring me to another “department.”  When the other service provider picked up, they were annoyed at my annoyance in having to explain my “unique situation” a second time to the same service provider.  Could the company use some branding troubleshooting?

 

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Too cool!  I gained some new Twitter followers due to my sweet tweeting.  Should I follow them back?  Well, let me see ‘how popular’ they are first; surely, I can’t be seen walking the halls of Twitter, following those who aren’t cool; I wouldn’t be making a good impression. That rationale worked(?) in high school; it can work in the professional world too, right?  I don’t think so.

I frequently pass by McDonald’s.  I think the brand served enough people to provide every soul on the planet with (at least) three meals per day for a week.  I’m impressed (using the marketing meaning of the term only).  McDonald’s is kind of a big deal, yet not in my life.  I think I was donning my little league baseball uniform the last time I (purposely) headed the brand’s way (1991?)

But who am I to speak upon McDonald’s?  The long-standing brand has over 360,000 Twitter followers ( I only have about 250).  If you were passing me by on Twitter, you may feel ‘too cool for school’ to follow me.  Only 250? Pfft.  However, you may be impressed by those with many ‘followers.’  Who provides better value to their community?  I think it depends on how a brand wants to ‘impress’ you.

Twitter is a leveraged social media implementation of the online marketing world.  I’m an online marketing professional as well as a consumer.  Being in the former party helps me make ‘educated’ decisions as a part of the latter group.  As an online marketer, I provide my readers insight gained from my experiences.  Hopefully, the following information helps you make better sense of Twitter from a consumer and brand perspective.

As an Online Marketing Consumer
As an online-marketing consumer, I encourage readers to employ better diligence when shopping for providers.  Don’t be immediately impressed by followers, numbers, press mentions, and advertising.   Marketing companies are comprised of marketers, those who make a living making impressions (both varieties).  I referenced Dr. Pete’s work (under ‘being new’ column) in a former copywriting post.  He draws reader attention to the difference between search-engine visibility and conversions.  Impressions don’t guarantee impressed (the better kind) visitors and consumers.  Make sure brands garnering cosmetic results (a lot of Twitter followers, search-engine rankings, Facebook friends) are delivering services worthy of the ‘impressions.’  I assure you; the two are not one in the same.  Many online marketing shoppers make mistakes because of it.

As a Brand Using Twitter
A few months ago, statistics were released regarding how consumers approach social media.  Some local businesses may have been surprised to find a high number of consumers were merely interested in coupons and upcoming deals rather than brand engagement.  Perhaps your brand only wants to use Twitter for impressions (the marketing kind).  That’s for your brand to decide.  I would suggest doing more with it for branding and reputation management purposes; but, take my advice with a grain of salt; I only have 250 followers.

I ask all readers to understand the difference between initiating online impressions and making a genuine impression on your target market.  As a consumer, you just don’t want to notice a brand’s impressions; you want to know if a brand beholds the services to truly impress you.  As a brand, do you just want to be noticed?  You want your brand to build a community who values your brand, right?

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