A New Way to Hire Me: Thumbtack


I just found out about this awesome website when I was searching for local photographers (to give another photographer advice about her website), and all of their listings kept coming up on thumbtack.com.  It looked like a very modern, active site where professionals could list themselves for hiring.  The way it works is you type in what you’re looking for (so for me, you would want to type in marketing or website design or inbound marketing) – a form pops up, and you give some details about what you’re looking for.  It notifies me that someone needs my services, and based on the info they give, I can give them a quote of how much I think it would cost.  It’s pretty cool.

So, here’s the link to check it out.  And if you’re a fellow professional, you should seriously consider listing here.  It’s a really cool business model.

Top Branding Resources to Make Your Life Easier


I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at this- because who doesn’t have a “top (insert trendy thing here) list?” I’ve used these tools and they have definitely made my life easier. Thank me later.

  1.  
     
     
    I’ve used several newsletter services in the past, but this one is by far the best.  Your messages won’t get dumped into your recipient’s junk box, and the interface is super easy to create a professional looking design.  No, they are not paying me to say this.
     
  2.  
    Vocus.  At first, I wasn’t sure about it.  It’s technically a “social listening” service- but I use the PR web press release service that is rolled into it.  I love it for that part alone!  It is such a great interface to upload a press release and get it in front of a lot of eyeballs.  Highly recommend.
  3.  

    This book.  It is awesome.  A very quick read and explains the fundamentals behind why inbound marketing and social media/blogs are so important for your brand.  You.must.read.this.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.

  4.  
    This is also a great book.  It gives lots of great resources and best practices for your brand.  Erik Qualman has also created some great videos that show you the power of social media.  See below.
  5.  
     

    Social Media Revolution
    The socialnomics channel on YouTube has a lot of great videos on social media and how/why it’s so powerful.
  6.  
    Do you need a high quality logo but don’t have the time or money to hire someone to do it?  Look no further.  Also has useful tools for other marketing materials for your brand.  There are paid and free options for logo creation as well.

     

    So those are some of the resources I like- off the top of my head.  There are a lot of other great tools out there- what are some of your favorites?  Tell me in the comments.  Did you find this story interesting? Be the first to like or comment.

 

Why is Site Structure Important?


Site structure is very important not only for search engines, but also for your audience.  Since how you rank in a search ultimately will help your potential audience find you, the question can be answered very simply.  The importance of site structure- and a good site structure- provides (yes, I’ll say it again)- the gold standard of customer service.

In providing access to organized information that is easy to find within your site, you are making it easier for the audience to get what they need.

Some keys for structuring your site well:

  1. Sit down and put together a list of services/products you provide.  Ask yourself whether some of the services/products fit into different categories.  Make sure each type of product or service you want to display on your site is described in detail.  Remember, the more content, the better.
  2. Determine who your audience is- and determine what each type of audience would be looking for.  One client I’ve worked with for years- they manufacture custom solutions for companies in the medical device industry, as well as companies in the food packaging industry.  Although the base technology is the same, they want to showcase the solutions they are capable of providing by vertical so it is very easy to access the necessary information for the potential customer.    
  3. Organize the pages within your site to meet what the audience is looking for.  You can do this in a variety of ways- you can organize by type of product, type of service, business verticals.

Structure is very important.  I have seen a lot of websites with tons of great content, but no real structure to it- a landing page and then access to lots of different pages.  It appears to be a mish-mash of content.  Organization is good- for the user (most important) and secondly, for search engines.  Search engines index your pages based on a number of things.  They want the most credible and informational pages at the top of their results.  One of those ranking criteria is based on how organized your site is- how easy the information is to access.

Can your site’s structure improve?  What have you found going through this process?  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

Social Media is Here to Stay!


I am a huge fan of the Socialnomics guys!  They help explain why using social media is so effective as a marketing/advertising strategy.  Based on impressions alone, it makes sense.  Note: This is video number three- I’ve also posted the first video in an earlier post.  Check out their video:

Sometimes when meeting with a client, they are skeptical as to why social media would be relevant for their business. It allows a business entity to connect in such a way that the consumer does not feel like “just another number”.  The consumer feels that the business, however large or small, values their input.  In this day and age of disconnect, interacting on this personal level is the gold standard of customer service.

When someone feels they matter, they WILL give you their business.  I know I do.  What do you think?

Cyber Espionage: The Dark Side Of The Web


Lately I’ve been reading a lot about information security breaches.  Ahem, and experiencing them first-hand.  In the world of inbound marketing, information security is crucial to maintaining the integrity of your digital accounts.  A breach in these accounts could mean the loss of data for clients, or even the loss of integrity in terms of your image.  It’s quite a sinking feeling when you realize that your data has been stolen or compromised in some way.  According to the recent WebSense 2010 Threat Report  “79.9% of websites with malicious code were legitimate sites that have been compromised…..52% of data stealing attacks occurred over the web…. [and] 84.3% of email messages were spam.”  Think of some of the “big name” websites you usually visit- yes, even those could have been or actually were compromised with malicious coding.  The e-mail statistic is not shocking, I have my Gmail account with nearly 9k email messages in it, most of which are spam.

The statistic that is most alarming to me is that 52% of all attacks where data is stolen occurred over the web.  Think of how much information you give away on the web between online banking, financial forms, e-mail addresses, and social media.  All of that information is susceptible to being stolen.  Aside from malicious code, one way this information can be stolen/compromised is by people who know you well.  Although you may not have given anyone your password, think of  the security questions associated with your accounts in the event that you need to re-set your password.  Does anyone at all know you well enough to be able to answer those?  Does anyone but yourself have access to your computer?  If so, read on- here are some precautions that you can take to prevent your information from being compromised:

  1. When logging on to your on-line banking interface, always make sure the address in the address bar starts with “HTTPS” as opposed to just “HTTP”.  Also, in some browsers (and depending on which version of browser you are using), there will be a little lock icon near the address bar or at the lower right-hand corner of the screen.  Make sure this is present as well.
  2. If you are not the only user for your computer, do NOT save any of your passwords in your browser.  The settings for storing passwords can be edited in the browser options.

  3. Set your browser to delete history, cookies, temporary internet files, form data, and passwords upon closing your browsing sessions.  It’s definitely a pain to have to enter in the information each time you log on, but if you aren’t the only user on your computer, this would be one way that someone could get access to your secure information without your knowledge.  I highly recommend this especially if other user(s) of your computer have ill intentions.

  4. Change your non-email (banking, social media, blog, etc) passwords and security questions often.  At the risk of sounding paranoid, I change mine weekly.  I didn’t always do this- but after a recent data breach by a former associate, I decided it was time to read up on security precautions.

  5. Change your e-mail password often as well- sometimes when someone is trying to gain access to your account, they will need to open the e-mail sent by that site to re-set the password.  If they cannot get into your e-mail, then they cannot re-set it.  If you start noticing e-mail notifications from sites where you have accounts about re-setting your password, someone is definitely trying to gain access to your information.    In certain instances, depending on what kind of access they do gain and depending on what they are doing in your account, this can be grounds for criminal charges.  Recently, someone attempted to delete my domain name in my GoDaddy.com account.  Luckily, I caught the e-mail notification and was able to contact tech support and prevent anything bad from happening.  Luckily, GoDaddy.com was able to log the IP address of this person and further action can be taken.

  6. In addition to a good anti-virus software package, you will also need a mal-ware remover.  I prefer Avast anti-virus, as well as Ad-Aware for spyware removal.  Make sure you are updating these types of programs frequently- people who are set on getting your information are smart, and determined.  Trojans viruses can log all of your activities – and open the door for theft of information, identity, and money.   Set your computer to auto-run these programs daily, and you’re much more protected against a security breach.

  7. Avoid questionable content: adult content image searches lead to bad things.  According to the WebSense 2010 Threat report “Bing Adult image and video queries shows that 8.18 percent will result in a search results page that contains a malicious link. . . Google adult image queries were even more striking. . .50.38 percent of queries will give us a search results page that contains a malicious link.”    WebSense also reports a 111.4% increase in malicious websites from 2009 to 2010.    So, always remember to keep your web browsing squeaky clean and you’ll be a LOT less likely to have your information compromised.

  8. Make sure the address in your browser window matches that of the website.  What I mean by that is- if you are visiting FaceBook, make sure you check for the “https” in the address bar.  Social networking sites are targets for phishing scams.  If you try to log-in to a page that is phished, most likely, the address bar will show an address that is slightly different from the actual URL.   Once you enter your secure information, your account has then been compromised.  Another interesting statistic – WebSense reports that “40% of all  Facebook status updates contain links. . . and 10% of those links are either spam or malicious.”  So pay close attention to the website address, as well as what links you click on once logged-in to the site.  Recently, a client was using their Facebook interface and noticed that they kept getting an error message while attempting to log-in.  It just so happened that I was meeting with them that day anyway- and they were able to show me exactly what happened.  The URL was slightly different from the correct Facebook URL and I explained exactly how people do this.  Simple solution: we secured the correct URL, logged-in, and immediately changed the password.  The way phishing works- is that you are tricked into entering your information into a false log-in screen that looks nearly identical to the real site.  The phishers then collect your log-in and password, and use your account freely to do whatever their evil little hearts desire.

Take a look at this list of major discoveries WebSense made during 2010.  It’s pretty surprising at first blush, but after reading through this report, I understood why and how it was possible.

Hopefully, if you employ these tactics, you won’t become the next victim of a malicious cyber espionage attack- and won’t fall prey to the dark side of the web.  May the e-Force be with you!

Facebook Places vs. Foursquare


Foursquare and nearly seven years ago, Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg. According to Socialnomics.com, it took a mere 9 months to rack up 100 million users. Since then, the world has been dazzled and amazed by the continuous development of the Facebook platform, as well as other social networking sites like one of the newest- Foursquare.  This platform was created in the latter months of 2009 and had accumulated 170,000 users by December 2009. In comparison to Facebook,  Foursquare doing pretty well considering how focused the practical application of this new social media site is.

Here are some of the great things about Foursquare: The nature of “checking in” to different businesses where groups of people meet to socialize or congregate encourages healthy competition amongst your friends for badges, “mayorships,” and even discounts on the product that is being promoted.

If the idea of opening your physical location to the world is eerie, you can modify your privacy settings. This is another feature that is great about Foursquare- the privacy settings are designed in such a way that you have sole control of what you show other users, and your friends.  The only downside that I can see to this social networking site is that you stand to lose credibility if you are caught being the mayor of… let’s say… a specific bar, especially if you visit that establishment too many nights in a row, it tags you as being on a “bender”.

Not exactly something most users would want their supervisor, clients, or Mother to see.   Always remember, what you post on the internet could be there for days, weeks, months, years, or even gasp forever. Yes, it’s true. Take heed now. The security settings are pretty simple and straightforward so most people (possessing average intelligence) should be able to avoid these possibly awkward situations.

Does Foursquare have any significant competition?  Yes.  It does.  Recently, Facebook developed and released an application called Facebook Places.  To put it mildly, it’s not great.  The concept behind the Facebook version of Foursquare seems a bit rushed and there are inherent flaws in the design that we are now discovering actually pose quite a privacy risk.  When you post on the internet, or any social networking site, the assumption is that you are there to socialize.  The assumption is that you want to socialize with your friends and share information.  However, each user has a different comfort level of what type of information they would like to share.  The privacy controls that Facebook set forth allows the ability to custom tailor each Facebook account to meet the discretionary needs on a per-user basis.

In the past there have been some “issues” with privacy settings.  There is a ton of information on this topic- so I’ll save that for a later article.   Recently, I was updating my Facebook privacy settings- and was surprised to find new settings for Facebook Places:

  1. Facebook privacy settings allow you to control who can see which places you check yourself in to.  This is good, obviously.
  2. Facebook privacy settings allow you to enable or disable if other users at the same location can see you in the “people here now” area of the application.  This is also good if you do not want people to know your every move.
  3. Facebook privacy settings allow you to enable or disable whether or not your friends can check you in at places.  This is where it gets tricky.

The Facebook Places tool does offer some control over settings as listed above. Some being the operative word here.  The users of this tool must actively check themselves in, as opposed to automatically being checked in as they move around town.  So this is good, obviously, however by default, friends can tag you at places where they have checked in to whenever they want.  Although you won’t show up in the places application if you don’t allow it in your privacy settings, your geo-tag will show up in your friends statuses, their friends statuses, and anyone else who can see the various tags involved in the specific place where you’ve “allegedly” checked in to.  But wait!  There’s more!  All of these tags that you can’t see- you can’t do anything about.  Because they are all controlled by your friend’s privacy settings, and the privacy settings of their friends, and friends of friends.

So now that we’ve discovered that your friends can tag you into one of the places where they’ve checked in, the question of validity arises.  In this application, a tag is (or appears to be) just as “official” as a check-in.  Once you are tagged in a post, your friend, other people who are tagged, and their friends can see this.  If they have their account totally “open” so that anyone can see their wall, then guess what?  Literally everyone can see this “check in.”  Nothing that you can change in your own privacy settings can prevent this.  This opens the door for mis-information to be spread around the world-wide web very quickly.  Obviously each user can un-tag themselves in any post that they can see- however it might be too late, the damage could already be done.

According to a recent article on MSNBC.com, a miffed co-worker or angry friend can “broadcast to everyone (including your boss) that you are in a coffee shop, museum or airport — even if you are sitting in your cubicle working. Even if you haven’t agreed to use Facebook’s location service. And even if you aren’t logged in to Facebook.”

This seems pretty frightening to me.  Imagine what could happen if this spirals out of control- here are some hypotheticals:

  • What would stop a Facebook Places user who opposes the current Administration from broadcasting odd, untrue, and possibly damaging things about our President?  Seemingly, nothing.
  • What would stop an angry ex-girlfriend/boyfriend from broadcasting malicious things to the world that could defame the character of the other half of that previous relationship?  Probably nothing.
  • What would stop a co-worker gunning for your position from broadcasting that you were out doing non-work related things during work hours?  Certainly not the weak-to-non-existent privacy settings that Facebook provides….

The point of this article is not to “slam” Facebook, because I think it is a great marketing platform for businesses, social circles, and Farmville fundamentalists alike.  The point of this is to make everyone aware of the frequently changing privacy settings- and that every single time a new feature is added, or changed, your privacy settings are compromised all over again, and in this case, some control is removed completely.  This seems ridiculously unfair and stands to cause problems that transfer over from the cyber world to the real world.

So now I’ll say… when predicting the winner of Facebook Places vs. Foursquare, I’d definitely have to say- overwhelmingly, Foursquare, for the win!  Facebook needs to get on it, fix the security settings, and fix the glitches.  Once that is done, they will be in top shape to compete against the surprising power of one of the newest additions to our savvy little social networking world.

ReTweets: Followers, Semantics, Timing, and Virtual Snowballs


Who would have ever thought that such an innocuous little feature on Twitter could have turned into such a ground-breaking concept for SEO and viral marketing?  Certainly not myself.  I’ve had a Twitter account since I heard Barack Obama had one back in 2009.  I also heard on that same day that he was making tourney picks for the NCAA Championship.  This inspired me so I jumped on my computer and started tweeting about how cool I thought it was that THE PRESIDENT had a Twitter account and that HE ALSO PICKED HOOPS.  So obviously, being a very astute and like-minded constituent, I hoped he would see my Tweets.

No such luck.  I got frustrated and bored and ignored Twitter for a while.  THEN a little bird (how ironic) told me about the re-tweet feature.  So I decided to research the phenomena.  According to Dan Zarella, viral marketing scientist, and author of “The Science of ReTweets”- there are “four factors that make certain Tweets more viral than others.”  I’ll break it down for you along with my analytical drivel.  I’ll try to make this concise.

1) Followers do matter.  Zarrella states that although more followers might mean the likelihood of possible ReTweets increases, the correlation is weak and other factors may play a larger role.  He breaks it down using a mathematical formula:

Dan Zarellas ReTweetability Metric

Once looking at those numbers, Zarrella states that based on the trends he sees, he finds the content is actually more important.  The quality of the Tweet is much more important than the number of followers a user has.  This makes sense to me.  Quality matters.  Obvious.

2)Semantics and your Tweets: Zarrella suggests that while analyzing the semantic content of Tweets, several trends become obvious such as key language that gets the most ReTweets.

  • Include a call to action such as “please ReTweet“- although you think it sounds a bit elementary, it works.  Please refer to the K.I.S.S. theory.
  • Regular timely updates on Twitter get more ReTweets also.
  • Freebies are popular (I don’t necessarily think that I would strongly push advertising freebies for all types of business, typically retail does better in this aspect)
  • Self referencing (Tweeting about Twitter)
  • Lists are major
  • Blog posts are very popular among ReTweets

For further information on key words that are ReTweeted the most, please see Dan Zarrella’s article.  He also notes that polite calls to action (where the word “please” is used) have higher rates of being ReTweeted.

3) Timing is everything- Tweets posted during business hours – Eastern Time– are more likely to be ReTweeted.  The best time to Tweet would be hypothetically at the beginning of the work day.  According to Zarrella’s research, there is a marked increase in ReTweets during business hours and from then on throughout the day and into the night.  He suggests Tweeting at the beginning of the day to capture the most ReTweetability.  I agree with this.  Research that I have done on social media shows that the best time for new blog articles to be posted is also during EST business hours.  One could hypothesize this is because more people are surfing the web at work…. I believe this could be one of the factors as to why these hours are the best times to see ReTweets.

4)”ReTweet Cascading” is the theory that people will ReTweet content that they have already seen posted as a ReTweet.  I can say without any doubts, this is true.  At least for myself it is.  I cannot imagine my thinking is too far off from everyone else using Twitter- I am more likely to ReTweet something that I see my friends ReTweet.  For the same reason that people form friendships outside of Cyberland, they also form virtual friendships with like-minded people.  Chances are, if I like something enough to ReTweet it for my followers to see, it’s something I think they would like.  Ipso ergo, they are probably going to ReTweet it as well, thus causing a chain-reaction, a virtual snowball effect.  Zarrella also shows through his reasearch that the  more times content is ReTweeted, “the more likely it is to be further spread.”

Hopefully this information can lend some perspective when you are considering what your next Tweets will be.  For more information on Dan Zarrella’s research, you can see the link referenced above, and you should also take a look at another article he authored on some key words and phrases that will get you the  most ReTweets.