Tag : blog

93: 5 Reasons You Should Be Using Google Alerts

Image provided by OPEN Forum by American ExpressNormally, you’d find an article here for my blog subscribers.  This AdverRyting, though, is a forward to my article that published this week on OPEN Forum by American Express.  This is my first article published in this clearinghouse of information and advice for entrepreneurs and marketers.  For months, if not years, I’ve been going to the OPEN Forum to learn how to grow my own business; so, it’s exciting for me to see my work next to that of the small business experts that the OPEN Forum has assembled.

The process was a little different for me—collaborating with an editor again, but that external insight proved both a welcome benefit and constructive challenge.

The principles in this article apply not only to the auction industry and the marketing practice but also to students, parents, employees, and non-profit workers.  I implement Google Alerts for many of the potential uses shown in the article; so, I can make these recommendations based on personal experience.

With further ado, here are the “5 Reasons You Should Be Using Goodle Alerts.”

OPEN Forum Sample Email

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70: Getting Engaged on Your Birthday

InboxToday’s my birthday.

Apparently, it’s public knowledge.  This week, I got an email from Panera telling me that they put a surprise on the MyPanera card in my wallet.  I got another birthday email from NFL.com, showing my last name on a Ravens jersey—a nice touch.  I would be more impressed, if these actions and emails weren’t generated by a database sitting on a server in Nebraska somewhere; but I’ve got to tip my hat to these companies for putting something other than solicitations in my inbox.

It’s not just mail-merged birthday greetings I noticed this week.  Staples sent me advance notice coupons in Wednesday’s email.  (In the past, they’ve snail-mailed me invitations for Rewards-member-only store hours and sales.)  As they regularly do, American Express sent me an email with links to four articles for entrepreneurs; and Ink by Chase sent me an invitation to an upcoming small business conference.  The makers of MapMyRun, one of the few paid apps on my iPhone, emailed me articles related to health and wellness.

Birthday Emails
What these companies know is that our culture craves autonomy.  We want corporations to treat us like people, not numbers.  We’ve been burned by Enron and BP, Congress and Wall Street.  We want our voices and purchases to count.  We don’t want to be told by Madison Avenue mad men what to want.

That’s why Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites have seen unprecedented growth.  It probably explains why shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol”—shows to which we can contribute—trump the ratings of scripted shows.  Beyond self-expression and acceptance, we crave more personal interactions with people, not conglomerates.

So, the entities that engage relationally gain advantage over their peers.  It’s not just that they have a Facebook account, a Twitter feed, or a birthday list.  It’s what they do with them.  They invite conversation, respond to expressed concerns or praise, and give away products, services, and/or information for free.  Instead of a broadcast mentality, where emails and status updates are all sales pitches, they’ve found the social in social marketing, the 2 [way street] in Web 2.0.  They know the difference between radios and walkie talkies—and choose the latter.

So, how do you engage the individual in your marketing?  What special offers do you give your prospects or clients?  I’ve heard of auction companies offering MVP parking or seating, permanent bidder numbers, and bidder receptions.  What intellectual property or advice do you send their way?  Some auctioneers conduct free bidder seminars; others offer FAQ documents or how-to videos on their Web sites.  Do you have a blog or newsletter?  If so, is it solely horn-tooting; or does it contain practical content?

You don’t have to be the birthday fairy to build an interactive brand.  But if you want what you have to go viral, you have to get close enough to people—where they are—for them to catch your contagions.  Go to the events and environments where they congregate (both online and offline); authentically join the conversation.  Listen to needs, themes, trends.  And say something more than, “I’ve got something I want to sell you.”

I’ve been in a Tuesday night study of the New Testament book of Acts, seeing things I never saw in a whole semester of Acts during college.  One of the truths that has jumped out of the narrative is how evangelism was conducted outside of the synagogue.  The apostles and disciples started with where each respective unbeliever was at that moment.  Peter and John told the lame beggar, “We don’t have money, but we have Jesus’ name to heal you.”  Philip asked the curious Ethiopian Eunuch, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”  Jesus asked a murderous Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?”

Few people want to be converts, stars on a performance chart, or numbers at a “bring a guest” Sunday.  At a core level, we want to be known and understood, loved and respected.  If someone were to change your mind on faith—a deeply personal asset—what approach would most likely woo and convince you?  What would that process look like?

Knowing this, is that the approach you take to share the faith you hold dear?

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41: The Not-so-silver Blogging Bullet

Communication BulletsIf you’re reading the same articles I am these days, you’ve heard there’s a silver bullet minted for business: blogging. A recent HubSpot study showed that commercial web sites with blogs garnered 55% more visitors than those without blogs. And they had 97% more inbound links (when other sites link to yours) than their blogless counterparts.

But to kill it at blogging for business, your ammo will have to be a 4-part alloy of balanced attributes. In unclassified documents obtained by biplane productions for this article, the not-so-shocking components are now available for commercial application.

Helpful Information

Readers are willing to waste their time on entertainment. But they draw the line on useless information. You wouldn’t care about your local tire shop owner’s trip to the Tire Industry Association‘s annual convention. You wouldn’t finish a story on you local UHaul‘s shipment of new trucks. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Change out your business for a random one in your phone book, then ask yourself, “Would I care about this news or advice?” If not, try a different topic. The more reader-centric you make your writing, the more likely your readers will absorb your content.

Give them practical information they can consider, if not use. Break it down into bite-size chunks or steps. Eliminate jargon to make room for layman’s terms. Prove that you’ve earned your insight, which they can receive for free.

Engaging Content

There are no owner’s manuals on The New York Times best sellers list. Extremely helpful content (in multiple languages, no less), but even gals wouldn’t grab a coffee at Barnes & Noble and read one. You’re going to find few doctoral theses shared on facebook or forwarded via email. Even with all the uproar, the various health care bills right now will go mostly unread by the masses whose lives they might impact.

So, sprinkle your knowledge with anecdotes, statistics, even graphics. Give it the sound of your voice, not wikipedia’s. Treat the reader as your friend, and they’ll stick around for more of your stories. Better yet, they’ll forward them to their other friends.

Altruistic Feel

You know that icky feeling when you’re flipping through the channels and a televangelist sneaks a book or DVD pitch in there? He may or may not have preceded the infomercial with inspirational insight; but a cord of distrust binds your interest, because the smell of narcissism and self promotion burn your perception. A lot of blogs wreak of these tendencies.

Don’t be that guy! Don’t soak your words with marketing. Trust that what you’ve dispensed for free will be received with gratitude and maybe even returned to you in some measure. People consult and hire experts, especially humble ones.

Professional Execution

I love when Jay Leno televised newspaper clippings of bad communication. The words made sense to the advertiser or writer. But poor editing and/or a lack of outside insight turned their effort into a detriment to their organization—and accidental humor on a large stage. Grammar, syntax, capitalization, punctuation—they matter. Presentation and readability can make or break your post. Undeveloped thoughts can turn interest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been spared by the pre-release review of my wife or a trusted peer. I’ve even chose not to publish posts, based on such counsel.

Treat your writing like you do your professional craft. Don’t be afraid to call in other eyes or even collaborate with other writers. Excellence communicates professionalism. Good ideas poorly expressed lose their impact.

We’ve all heard, “People don’t care what you know until they know you care.” Parents and teachers have proven this true for millennia. Sadly, many churches and their parishioners have not. Many times, to be candid, I have not.

Denominations emphasize our differences. Religion wraps faith in layers of suffocating exclusivity and distracting tradition. Christians, me included at times in my life, have made heaven a result of doctrines and creeds, checked lists, and kept rules. In so many ways, touching so many lives, the movement of Jesus has driven people away from our cause instead of to Him.

The secular world doesn’t care what version of the Bible we read or what reformer we most closely follow. They don’t search for a name on a sign. We won’t attract them with mission statements or the “what we believe” page on our web site. Few, if any, are impressed into heaven.

They want to know a personal God, and they want to see what that looks like in us. We are called to study the Truth and warned to watch for wolves. But we are asked to love with wisdom, to care with sacrifice. It’s easier to learn than to love. It’s easier to segregate than to unify. But easy is the harlot of the opposition.

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40: What Kind of Blogger Are You?

Colored PencilYou’ve read it, too: there’s a pot of gold under the blog rainbow. It’s difficult enough to weed through the millions of blogs, trying to find content that’s worth your time or even accurate information. The tidal wave can make it seem like your contribution will get drowned in the throng. Business magazines (and blogs themselves) tout the benefits of the blogging entrepreneur. With all the competition on the Internet, how do you carve a niche for your words?

The first step is determining what you want out of the blogosphere—what’s the end game, the reward for the investment? Is it discovery, influence, income—or maybe something else? With this premise clarified, you next need to determine what kind of blogger you will be. As with advertising, if you try to be everything to everybody, you have to compete with everybody. But if you can be the Pied Piper of a few, they will march behind your product. One of the following blogger types probably best suits your ambition.

Social Butterfly
You might be a blogger and not even know it. If you use sites like MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, or Facebook, you’ve contributed to what is categorized as “micro blogging.” Rather than post to your own site, you’re sharing content via a collective platform, where others can interact with your pictures, videos, links, and notes. This is a great venue for learning and teaching, as well as cultivating friendships. And it’s a good test to see if you can regularly generate popular content, to see if you might have blogging potential. Because not all online relationships are created equal, take full advantage of security and filtering features. Be real. Be yourself. But control the parts of your life that others can see.

How-To Expert
Most entrepreneurs looking to earn business off blogging go this route. If you can write knowledgeably about a topic, you can develop an “expert” brand that people will trust. Before you pronounce yourself a columnist, develop a list of all the topics on which you can competently write (or record in audio or video). You might even want to pre-write a couple handfuls of them before publishing the first one. Use visual examples, if you have them; and don’t be afraid to purchase stock photography. Edit carefully (multiple times), as poor grammar contradicts the professionalism you’re trying to convey. Simplify steps with bullet lists; and highlight links to similar articles, including any sources you might use.

Aggregate Hub
You don’t have to be the source of knowledge to be considered an expert. You just have to know where to find insight for others. If you can save others time in sifting through the Internet haystack to find the needles that interest them, your resourcefulness will make you a place they check first or regularly. Some, like I do, will subscribe to your updates. The challenge is to find the content others can’t quickly find themselves. Technology like google alerts can help, but you’ll need to spend a lot of time doing the research you’re trying to save others. Don’t forget that local stories might have a broader appeal and that international sources may shed new perspective on domestic topics. Try to post at least daily, if you want people to frequent your site. All stories become old stories on the web in a matter of days (if not sooner).

Blogging has democratized journalism, just as the MP3 democratized music. To get noticed, you’ll need to scoop some significant stories and be able to verify sources. It may be easier to report on local issues or trade news than regional or national stories. The key is to get that information online as soon as possible, especially if you’re competing with a print publication and/or its web site. If you’re reporting on an event that is broadcast, consider a live blog on location. To gain credibility, make sure any subjective material and/or commentary is well separated from the news part of your site. Stick to the facts, even if that results in small posts. Cross-sell your stories via email subscription, text messaging, and/or social networking sites like Twitter or facebook. Make sure you use images only for which you have permission.

You’ve got an agenda—a cause, a movement, a political party (or candidate), a hot button issue. You want to engage and enlighten people with opposing views. It’d be cool, too, if like-minded thinkers find you as a source of great ammo for the fight. While venting and cheering both prove cathartic, keep in mind that everybody you know (and many you don’t) can read your posts. So, keep it civil, appropriate, and mature. The goal here is to create content with a viral attraction, something people will want to forward to others. To gain a following, stay away from talking points, clichés, and unverified reports. (As soon as your references are proven false, you lose credibility.) New analogies and angles could get you noticed. Satire, if well done, gets shared and spread.

Journal Writer
You want to transcribe the moments and impressions of your life but with public access. The possibility that the public might be interested goads you to be consistent. If nobody reads your work, you’re cool with knowing that you benefited from the process. Someone out there connects with life and/or your experience, and you hope they find you. Categorizing your posts and tagging key words will increase your chances of discovery. Renaming your (legally-obtained) pictures with keywords before uploading won’t hurt, either. And living a life worth reading will prove beneficial to you and the anonymous web surfer. If you write through a specific lens/angle, you are more likely to attract a regular audience.

Do you think your slice of the world would make a decent reality show? Is your life odd or interesting—enough that others would find it entertaining? If you don’t mind the shameless plug or you’ve gained celebrity you’d like to milk, make the most of your 15 minutes of fame. To keep readers, include lots of photos and/or video. Create intrigue with teases for pending content. Remember that voyeurs and freak shows come with the territory; so, carefully monitor comments, if your blog includes that feature.

While not always altruistic, reviewing has become a way to establish your thoughts in the marketplace of ideas. Hotels, restaurants, attractions, trips, movies, books, fashion, cars—you get the idea—if you have keen insight and the ability to creatively express it, this could be in your wheel house. The more specific and concrete your reviews, the better. Allusions and comparisons can create effective, polished shortcuts in transcribing descriptions. If you’re posting to your own site (as opposed to a site like TripAdvisor or UrbanSpoon), you might want to collect a few other writers to post with you. Thematic content or posts with a congruent filter will make your posts more readable.

Once you know who you are and embrace it, you’re better equipped to pursue your piece of the readership pie. You may never reap more than you sew into the blogosphere; so, this isn’t a get-rich-quick deal. But in the chaos of an Internet full of self-promoting writers, your words can build your brand with wanted content spoken through your voice.

So many Christians burn out—some even walking away from their faith—because they are trying to live for God the way someone else told or showed them. Too many church leaders preach conformity to a tradition instead of to Christ. The fact is, we’re wired differently; and God did the wiring. We have different evangelism styles. We have different ways of expressing worship and feeling God’s pleasure. We learn and process and love differently. On top of that, we have different personalities and different spiritual gifts.

Throw all of those variables together, and you have tens of thousands of potential makeups. God prides himself in creativity balanced by symbiosis. He wants unity—not uniformity! So, explore what parts of your life flip your God switch. Discover where you feel most connected to what he’s doing in the world. Then run at it with everything you have. When you are all you can be, others will want that vibrance you exude.

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