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Not Having a Blog Is Not An Option

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Joel Libava – otherwise known as The Franchise King – Enjoy!

If your business doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t have a chance. And, I’m not even talking about a professionally designed and optimized one. If you don’t have even a basic website up and running these days, your prospective customers and clients are going to have a hard time seeing you as being relevant.

And, if you don’t have a blog attached to your website, those same prospective customers and clients aren’t going to have a chance to learn about your expertise, and about the human side of your business.

55,000,000

That’s how many blogs there are (in the world) at the time of this writing.

And, those are only WordPress blogs. There are millions of other blogs that are on other blogging platforms like Typepad, Drupal and Tumblr.

Now, you can let that number motivate you, or you can let it freak you out-it’s your choice. (Personally, I hope that it gets you motivated to get a blog up and running right now.)

Blog Benefits

  1. Visibility
  2. Your visibility-especially online, will increase with a blog. The more you write, the better the chances are that you’ll get noticed. And, not just by your potential customers/clients. Reporters, writers, and PR people read blogs too.

  3. SEO
  4. Search engines love fresh, new content. Search-engine spiders-those little robots that are scouring the web, 24/7, get energized when they locate something new…especially if it’s closely related to the words that are being searched by your customers/clients.

    Active blogs…ones that have at least 1-2 original posts published weekly, provide that fresh, new content that search engines crave, which in turn, can increase your company’s chances of being found online by your target audience.

  5. Cred
  6. You need some. If you don’t come across as being a credible source of information, your customers are going to have a difficult time opening their wallets up to you…your business.

    A great way to show just how much you know is to write about it. These days, there’s no better way to do it, then on a blog. (It doesn’t even have to be done on your own blog. See #4.)

  7. New opportunities
  8. Once you’ve been writing posts-articles of your own on your own blog for a while, you can start approaching others in your industry, or even a related one, and write a blog post for them. (A guest post)

    Writing an article on someone else’s blog can provide you an opportunity to showcase your knowledge to an entirely new reader base. (And, possible new business opportunities and/or strategic partnerships.)

    Just make sure that your post is informational and helpful in nature-not promotional. (You’ll get an opportunity to promote yourself-your company at the end of your post, along with a link to your website or blog*.)

  9. Keeps your head in the game

There’s something to be said for writing your thoughts down, as opposed to verbalizing them or keeping them in your head.

You know things that others don’t. Why would you want to keep those things inside of you?

Do you have an idea that potential customers/clients can put to good use right away? Share it through a blog post. Do you have some opinions about your industry…and what needs to be changed to make it even better? Consider sharing those opinions on your blog. (Only if you’re comfortable doing so.)

Having an active blog keeps your head in the game-your game…your industry.

You want some more? Check out these 9 hidden benefits of blogging.

Thousands of articles…blog posts…have been written over the years on the importance of having a blog. If you don’t have one yet, what are you waiting for?

No more excuses

If you don’t consider yourself to be tech-savvy, have no fear. There are literally thousands of talented designers and programmers that can help you set-up your blog. It’s not expensive either, so scratch that one off your list of excuses of why you can’t do this right now.

If you haven’t written anything of substance for a while, don’t sweat it-I have a solution. Start a blog, and start writing. You’ll get better. Just keep writing.

And, if you think that no one will read it, you’re just plain wrong. Do you have any friends? Ask them to read your blog. Do you have employees? Do the same with them, and ask others in your industry to read it, too. Add a link to your blog on your main website. Do you have a LinkedIn account? Add a link there, too. Think of some other places that you can include a link to your new blog. And, before you know it, you’ll have a handful of readers.

That’s all you need at the beginning.

The more you write the more interest you’ll garner. Your early readers will start to share your posts with others. They may start reading your blog…they may even subscribe for free to receive your newest blog posts.

Have I succeeded in convincing you to start a blog?

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become A Franchise Owner! He’s on a mission to create a new generation of super-successful franchise owners. He provides much-needed advice to individuals interested in franchise ownership with his top-notch advisory services and to the masses via his award-winning franchise blog. He’s on Twitter constantly @FranchiseKing.

What Most Small Businesses Are Doing Wrong on Social Media (And 5 Tips For Success)

I’m taking some vacation time this week and I’m actually going to stand waist deep in the Columbia River in Oregon and cast for Trout. (Don’t worry I won’t hurt any I’m strictly a catch and release kind of guy.)  While I am away, I have a great lineup of guest bloggers filling my shoes.  This post is brought to you from Dave Kerpen.

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable, a social media agency that has worked with more than 200 leading brands, including Verizon and Neutrogena. He is author of The New York Times best seller Likeable Social Media. Dave recently launched Likeable Community College and Likeable Local.

Over 900 million people in the world are on Facebook, including over 180 million Americans, or 1 in 2 adults. Twitter recently surpassed 300 million accounts. Small business owners are trying to take advantage of these trends, but few are fully reaping the rewards. 

For most business owners, the temptation is to use social networks to promote themselves and broadcast their messages. But if you stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like a customer, you’ll understand that the secret to social media is being human – being the sort of person at a cocktail party who listens attentively, tells great stories, shows interest in others, and is authentic and honest.  The secret is to simply be likeable.

Here are 5 tips for small business owners to be more likeable and ensure greater success using social media:

  1. Listen first. Before your first tweet, search Twitter for people talking about your business and your competitors. Search using words that your prospective customers would say as well. For example, if you’re an accountant, use Twitter to search for people tweeting the words “need an accountant” in your town. You’ll be surprised how many people are already looking for you.
  2. Don’t tell your customers to like you and follow you, tell them why and how they should. Everywhere you turn, you see “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter.” Huh? Why? How? Give your customers a reason to connect with you on social networks, answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” and then make it incredibly easy to do so. Note the difference between these two calls to action: “Like my book’s page on Facebook” and “Get answers to all your social media questions at http://FB.com/LikeableBook.
  3. Ask questions. Wondering why nobody’s responding to your posts on Facebook? It’s probably because you’re not asking questions. Social media is about engagement and having a conversation, not about self-promotion. If a pizza place posts on Facebook, “Come on by, 2 pizzas for just $12,” nobody will comment, and nobody will show up. If that same pizza place posts, “What’s your favorite topping?” people will comment online– and then be more likely to show up.
  4. Share pictures and videos. People love photos. The biggest reason Facebook has gone from 0 to 900 million users in 7 years is photos. Photos and videos tell stories about you in ways that text alone cannot. You don’t need a production budget, either. Use your smartphone to take pictures and short videos of customers, staff, and cool things at your business, and then upload them directly to Facebook and Twitter. A picture really is worth a thousand words – and a video is worth a thousand pictures.
  5. Spend at least 30 minutes a day on social media. If you bought a newspaper ad or radio ad, you wouldn’t spend 5 minutes on it or relegate it to interns. Plus, there’s a lot to learn, and every week, new tools and opportunities across social networks emerge. Spend real time each day reading and learning, listening and responding, and truly joining the conversation. The more time and effort you put in to social media, the more benefits your business will receive.

Above all else, follow the golden rule:  Would you yourself click the “Like” button, the Follow button, or Retweet button if you saw your business on Facebook and Twitter? Would you want to be friends with your business at a cocktail party? Just how likeable is your business?

Image credit: owenwbrown

The Hierarchy of Social Marketing

I think one of the things that small business marketers struggle with around the entire topic of social marketing is trying to jump into the new new thing without enough analysis of what they should focus on. I happen to think this is an important, evolving and essential area of marketing for small businesses, but there’s a hierarchy to it. In other words, there is a logical progression of utilization that comes about much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Nature.

Social Marketing HierarchyAs Maslow theorized, the ultimate potential of your marketing or human self-actualization couldn’t be achieved until the most basic human psychological needs – breathing, eating, sleeping, sex were first met. (Yes, I’m about ready to compare blogging to sex.) In fact safety, love, and esteem all come before transcendence. Now, before I edge too close to the deep end here, I’m simply comparing what I think is a bit like progressing up the social marketing hierarchy.

Most small business owners should look at the following progression or hierarchy as they move deeper into social marketing tactics. So, jump in, but do it in this order and don’t move on until you have the basics of each stage down and working for you.

Blogging – the foundation of the pyramid – read blogs (Google Reader or Bloglines), comment on blogs and then blog. This is the doorway to all other social marketing – WordPress, TypePad, Blogger

RSS – aggregate and filter content around subjects and use RSS technology as a tool to help you repurpose, republish and create content – Some tools – Feedburner, Google News and mysyndicaat

Social Search – this is often ignored in this discussion but I think it’s become very important for small business owners. Directories that publish reviews from customers – good and bad. You can participate and should stimulate and manage your reputation here. Insider Pages, Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Local.com, Judy’s Book, Yelp

Social Bookmarking – tagging content to and participating in social bookmarking communities can be a great way to open up more channels to your business as well as generate extra search traffic, but it takes work – del.icio.us, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Mixx, Small Business Brief

Social Networking – branching out to take advantage of the numbers of potential prospects that you might find in sites like Facebook or MySpace will frustrate at least as a business tool if you don’t have many of the above needs met. These networks take time to understand and thrive on ideas and content. You’ve got to have much to share if you wish to build a business case. The good news is that industry and idea specific sites for everything from book lovers to green living are springing up every day. Here’s an enormous list of social networking sites from Mashable

Micro – I’ve lumped some of the more experimental social tools into the edge trend of micro, social, real-time communication that will likely only confuse most small business owners. The confusion is not because they can’t figure out how to make them work, it’s just not obvious why they would spend the time. I think Maslow suggested the self-actualization was a place that most might never reach and in social marketing terms Twitter, Thwirl, Plurk and FriendFeed might be some sort of sick transcendence.

All the evidence that we have indicates that it is reasonable to assume in practically every human being, and certainly in almost every newborn baby, that there is an active will toward health, an impulse towards growth, or towards the actualization.

Abraham Maslow

Is networking online really that different?

Social networkingWith all of the hoopla these days about networking online I can’t help but wonder why people get so confused about how to approach these new tools. See, networking is networking, only the tools that you can employ have changed.

When you think about it, hasn’t networking always been social networking?

Here are some of the proven, effective best practices when it comes to networking

  • It’s never about the sale, it’s always about the relationship – build first by giving
  • Don’t keep score, give because you can help, the universe will sort out the accounting
  • Network with your peers and partners as much as with your prospects and customers
  • Every network has influencers, build relationships with the influencers
  • Get out and chat, lunch and visit with the members of your network from time to time

While I’m sure there is many a fine point that could be added to that list, would you agree that’s what effective networking looks like? So, I ask you, does that change just because the networking platform is no longer a Chamber of Commerce? Doesn’t that sound like a pretty effective way to approach building and expanding your network within a Small Business Brief, Digg or LinkedIn?

Building and maintaining strong networks is the killer practice for the most successful organizations, every business should be reaching out and connecting with customers, prospects and partners both online and off. The secret to opening up these new access points online and expanding your networking reach globally is to go in there with the same best practices in mind, but find ways to creatively apply them with the new, rich set of tools.

Okay, an example of creatively applying this concept.

Let’s do lunch – can become let’s do virtual lunch.

Here’s what I would propose – send 5 people you would like to network with a $10 Panera Bread Company gift card and invite them to grab lunch and meet for an online group chat to discuss X (x = a topic like a book, or tool or some challenge you know is common.) – You can use Campfire from 37 Signals to host the chat.

Here’s what is really cool about this. This could be a very powerful medium to network, share ideas and build relationships. You could set this up and do it weekly with different peers, partners and customers. (you don’t have to always buy the lunch!) But, what I really like about this idea is that the group chat tool creates a transcript that will certainly enhance the participation of the members in the chat and could easily turn into great content for future consumption.

Learning about new media

JigsawYou may still feel like you are a fish out of water when it comes to wading into social networking pond (don’t you love mixed metaphors?) but you do need to educate yourself on new and emerging tools to be able to analyze and cut through the hype just enough to glimpse why you might invest your time and resources.

I am presenting a free webinar next week put together by the folks at Jigsaw – an online directory for business contact and company information built by members titled:

“Getting Social – Leveraging New Media Tools in Marketing” on January 30, 2008 at 10:00 am – 11:00 am PST.

In this free webinar I’ll cover:

• How to use blogs and podcasts as tools to enhance your search results and create education-based content.
• Simple uses of RSS technology for research and content creation.
• Smart ways to get your organization, customers and prospects involved in social networking.

Join me if you can! I don’t have all the answers, but I can help you make sense of some of this stuff.

You can register here

Let’s get more social

Social networks are something that I believe small business folks should tap. Some offer small businesses more than others, but you’ve got to get in there and find ways to use these growing resources.

One of the ways to get started or more involved is to connect with people you know and trust. Here’s a list of the social networks that I use the most and links to each that will allow you to follow, friend and connect with what I’m doing on each. Check them out and connect with me if you wish.

New look and more better userness

duct tape marketing logoLook, if you’re visiting here for the first time, you might not notice that I’ve completely overhauled the site. Not just the blog, the entire Duct Tape Marketing site.

This redesign was very overdue. It’s funny what can happen when you spend most of your waking hours producing content for about six years or so. One day you look up and find you’ve created one of those hall closets where all the stuff you need is, but nobody can find it, and cleaning it out becomes, well, one of the worst jobs in the world. So on top of a new look, which I think supports the brand, you can actually find an incredible amount of stuff again. It’s always been there, if you knew where to look. Now you can find it by starting out at the home page – www.ducttapemarketing.com

So, if it’s been awhile since you kicked around the entire site, please be my guest. Especially those of you, and you know who you are, that have suggested politely, or otherwise, that my site needed an overhaul.

This site now also holds together an article database script, WordPress blog, job database and social networking custom implementation of the KickApps tool capable of housing and streaming videos. Now that’s what I call a right proper use of duct tape.

The biggest addition to the site is the WorkBench – a business social networking community. The WorkBench, a true work in progress, allows small business owners and marketers of all kinds to build a profile, network with like-minded individuals, show off you stuff, upload, share and rate audio and videos and even create a blog on the fly. There is a small business forum that allows users to either ask a marketing question or give a marketing answer. We will be holding our very first contest shortly allowing members to compete for nifty prized like duct tape wallets and the like.

I invite you to visit the WorkBench, become a member, build a profile and even blog, add audios and videos and connect with other members by commenting and rating content that get added. As Duct Tape Marketing readers you are some of the first to be invited so please, realize that communities take time to grow, and know that I am open to hearing your suggestions on ways to improve it.

Thanks for making this possible!

Special props to Haylie McCort – dotcomcowgirl who foolishly believed me when I said it was just a little refresh!

2008 will be the year of the personalized social business network

Look, I don’t really think that the mySpaces and Facebooks of the world are that important for the typical small business as they stand today. There may be very practical business reasons for some to actually use these and other social networks, like LinkedIn, for business gain, but most people that have jumped on the social network bandwagon have found themselves left with a “is this all there is” kind of feeling.

To those I say this, the value of the current public social networks for business folks is not what you can get out of them for gain today, but what you can learn by using them for practical gain tomorrow. That’s why SpacebookedIn makes sense for you now

The Facebooks of the world are busy teaching millions and millions of business folks how social networks work, how social networking works, how shared applications can be viral and ever-present. The real payoff in my opinion is that the wave to come after the Facebook bubble bursts is the “personalized business network.” Once everyone of your customers and prospects knows how to use what are easily replicatable social networking tools, like building profiles, sharing video and connecting based on mutual interests, your job of building your own social business network around your own very specific community of niche will get a whole lot easier.

2008 will be the year of the personalized social business network – that’s my prediction!

Think of mySpace, LinkedIn and Facebook as your labs – get in there and experiment for the future. then start planning your own personalized social business network.