Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not sure which Social Media sites to Focus on?

Are you trying to decide which Social Networking sites you should focus your time and attention on? This report from Ignitesocialmedia.com will help you decide. Their report outlines demographics of the top Social Media sites including age, income, education & geography. Find out where your customers are spending their time!

The 2008 Social Network Analysis Report - Geographic - Demographic and Traffic Data Revealed

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What would I do with $6000 from HP?

If you haven't heard yet, HP has a program going on this month that allows 50 different bloggers to each give away $6000 worth of computers and software. Way cool, right? Each blogger has different rules and most of them have asked winners to give away a majority of the prize to others. And several of them have asked entrants to put the entry on their own blog. So, here's mine for the site http: www.livingintheory.blogspot.com/!

One of the laptops I would keep for myself to replace my current one which has a super-cracked screen that is getting worse every day. That will be a big help financially and also for my business.

The other computers I am super excited to give away! As I pondered who they would go to, it came to me that it would make sense to give them to aspiring Virtual Assistants - especially those who are financially struggling and can't afford to buy the computer that is so integral to this type of work. To choose these people, I will reach out to the VA organizations I volunteer for and ask for nominations. I will give the computers to aspiring VAs (small business owners) who volunteer for these professional organizations selflessly and give of themselves without expectation of reward or thanks. I have met so many Virtual Assistants who have awesome potential and are doing everything right to grow their business - they just don't have adequate tools to get them to the ultimate level they are capable of. Making a small difference in several people's lives would be such a great Christmas present to myself. When you give, you get in so many intangible ways! Many thanks to HP and all the bloggers for being so generous!

Friday, December 05, 2008

10 Twitter Tips For Traditional Media

Attention, those in charge of online marketing for Media! You need to read this blog post from Steve Pratt:

10 Twitter Tips For Traditional Media

Steve's first tip hit home - this is exactly what most of the media folks I follow on Twitter are doing! They are using it as an RSS Feed and not as an interaction tool. While there is some value in that, I can easily get that from the traditional RSS feed on their webpage. What I want from the media on Twitter is:

1. Some true breaking news (traffic accident on the Interstate, terroist attack, criminal loose in my area, etc.) - but not every news item that comes across their desk
2. Personal interaction! Ask about our thoughts & ideas, what's newsworthy to us, what leads we might have for a story you're doing (like HARO but more locally focused). Slow news day? We'll have ideas for you! Need a witness to that accident? Bet they're online.

Rick Sanchez at CNN gets it - he lets us know what stories he's working on, asks for feedback and opinions, even reads some of the responses on air. There are others that get it too, but they're few and far between. So, if you're in media and are in the department responsible for your online presence on Twitter, Facebook, etc. - please move away from just listing what's on your website already and start interacting with your readers & listeners. I promise you won't regret it!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

HP's Giveaway!

HP has 50 bloggers participating in a contest to win $6000 in computers & software. Each blogger sets their own rules to pick their winner and only a few start their contest each day. Today, I entered the contest at http://www.liz-henry.blogspot.com/ and later tonight I'll enter at http://morningsidemom.wordpress.com/.

Join in the fun and I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Social Networking: 7 Steps to More Traffic by Connecting and Repurposing Your Social Marketing

A very timely article from Online Marketing guru Donna Gunter. I'll be talking about this very subject today in a local seminar for business owners. Stay tuned for information on a series of Social Media seminars in the Colorado Springs area!

I'm lazy by nature and like to do as little work as possible. Therefore, when I have the opportunity to automate tasks, I jump at it. As I started getting heavily involved in social networking, I quickly became frustrated with having to update my status at several sites, as well as trying to figure out how to introduce my blog, my articles, and my ezine to my social networking audiences.

After much trial and error, here's how I connect and repurpose all of my social marketing strategies:

1. Set up accounts. Make sure that you have current accounts with Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace, and any other social networking platforms you regularly use.

2. Open an account at Ping.fm. The Ping.fm service automatically updates your status on all of your social networking sites, 21 of them at the current count. Depending on the number of networks you use, it will take you 10-50 minutes to connect your Ping.fm account to your various social network accounts. However, once everything is set up, you simply log into your Ping account, post your status update (no more than 140 characters), and your status is automatically updated on all of your social networking profiles. Rather than posting updates directly on Twitter or Facebook or MySpace, I instead use Ping.fm as the starting place for my daily status updates.

3. Display Twitters on other accounts. If you go to your Setting tab in your Twitter account and then down to "More Info URL", you will see a link to "Add Twitter to Your Site." By clicking on this link, you'll be taken to a page where you can add your tweets in a separate box (not the Status updates area) in your MySpace and Facebook profiles, on your blogger or Typepad blogs, or get the Flash or HTML widgets to add to other sites like Squidoo lenses or to your website. Just follow the instructions connected to each application. If you use Typepad for your blog, you can also do this through the Widget gallery by finding Twitter widget in the "Publishing Tools" section.

4. Connect your blogposts to Twitter. Twitter Feed enables you to feed your blog posts to your Twitter account. Simply create an account, go to "Create New Twitter Feed", and enter the RSS feed of your blog. You can control the frequency with which Twitter displays your blog post, as well as the text used to preface your blog feed. I use "Blog update" to preface my posts.

5. Connect your blogposts to Facebook. I use Typepad for my blogs, so if you use a Wordpress blog, there are probably plugins that handle this, as well. When you create a new blog post, you can choose to send a link to that post into Facebook. These links will appear in your Mini-Feed on your Facebook profile, and may appear in your friends' News Feeds.

In your Typepad account, go to Weblogs > Configure > Publicity, select "Prompt me to share new posts on Facebook." When this item is selected, TypePad will automatically display a prompt from Facebook when you create and publish a new post on TypePad. The Facebook prompt will only appear if you have selected the option in your weblog's publicity settings, and only when you create and publish a new post. The prompt will not appear when you save a post as draft, when you edit a post, or when you change the status of a post from Draft to Published.

6. Update your EzineArticles.com account. Article marketing is a smart and easy way to drive traffic to your site. If you're submitting articles online to article directories, you definitely want to be using EzineArticles.com, the biggest and most popular article directory online. To connect to Twitter, click on "Profile Manager" in your account, then "Edit Author Bio" in your Author's Area. Add your Twitter account information here. Each time a new article is accepted and published at EzineArticles, a post is automatically made to your Twitter account.

7. Update your aWeber account: I use aWeber as my email marketing service. You can now send an automatic Twitter post to all your followers on Twitter with a link to the HTML version of your ezine. When you create a broadcast in aWeber, select the option to publish a broadcast via RSS feed or to an archive, and then enter your Twitter account info, When your ezine is published, all of your Twitter followers will be notified.

There are probably others ways to connect the social networks and to repurpose content on social networks, but these 7 steps are all I need at the moment. Take 30 minutes out of your day to connect and repurpose your social networking, and watch your traffic and list begin to grow!

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Online Business Coach Donna Gunter helps independent service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To claim your FR*EE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at OnlineBizU.com. Ask Donna an Internet Marketing question at AskDonnaGunter.com.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

So You Want To Be My Friend?

You're on Facebook. You're on LinkedIn. You're on Twitter. Now it seems like everyone wants to be your "Friend". Should you accept them all? Deny them? Aliza Sherman at Web Worker Daily recently posted a great article to help you navigate the waters:

"Like anyone using social networks for my work, I struggle with the friend feature. There are a number of theories of how and why to friend other people and when to accept friend requests. Clearly, having more “friends” on your social networks has its benefits, but if friending is done randomly, how much value are those very random “friends” for your business goals?"Web Worker Daily, Oct 2008
Check out the rest of the article here.

Personally, my policy depends on the platform. On Twitter I do exactly what Aliza suggests in her article. On Facebook, I limit it to those I actually know of or have some sort of existing relationship with. On LinkedIn, I'll accept most anybody.

What's your policy? How are you friending?

Want to be my "Friend"? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn!

Friday, September 05, 2008

What you should and shouldn’t do at Yahoogroups

Fellow Virtual Assistant Kathie Thomas (from Australia) posted this fantastic article today about etiquette on Yahoo Groups. When participating in any email list or group, these tips are important reminders to us all:

- Use full sentences, not jargon that you would use on IM or while texting.
- Don't assume someone meant to offend - ask them offlist.
- Re-read your message before posting.
- When replying, delete anything not pertaining to your reply.
- If you change the topic, change the subject line.
- Avoid using wallpaper backgrounds.
- Check your grammar!
- Include a signature line

Read her full article here:

soho-life.com » What you should and shouldn’t do at Yahoogroups

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Employee vs. Virtual Assistant

Employee vs. Virtual Assistant

Now that you've decided you need some help for the administrative and day-to-day aspects of your business, you have a decision to make: Hire an employee or use a Virtual Assistant? Here are some things to consider when making your decision:

Employee (or a "Temp")

Pros:
› You can set their schedule and how they do certain tasks.
› Low(er) hourly rate
› Often able to come into your office to answer phones, file paperwork, etc.
Cons:
› Must pay payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, liability insurance, possibly benefits, bonuses, etc.
› Might need to provide equipment (computer, desk, software, etc.)
› Must provide and pay for training.
› You will be paying for break times and other non-productive time.
› How long will they stay? Are there advancement opportunities?
You will likely need to promise a certain number of hours per week.
Virtual Assistant
Pros:
› They have advanced skills and experience in a variety of software and programs. If you find a VA specializing in your industry they will already know industry-specific software, trends, and lingo.
› No benefits, taxes, or insurance to pay.
› No equipment needed - they provide their own!
› They are invested in your business and want to work with you long-term.
You can commit to a lower number of hours (or maybe not commit at all).
› You only pay for actual time spent on your project(s).
Cons:
› They won't come into your office to file or answer the phone (although some offer remote phone answering).
› Higher hourly rate (offset by not paying overhead & taxes).

A Virtual Assistant isn't for everyone. Certain industries need employees and some use both employees and Virtual Assistants. To successfully use a Virtual Assistant be prepared to work virtually (more on that in the next issue!), build a long-term relationship, and be open to new ideas. Now that you're informed, the choice is up to you!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Join The Blog Boost Giveaway!

Novel idea and a way to get subscribers to their newsletter, friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and get their content out there online. Well, a chance to win a bunch of cool stuff is enough for me! :)

Join The Blog Boost Giveaway! | MarketingFactor.com

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

  Why does ROI in social media suck?

A great article by Charles Heflin on the ever increasing social media/networking craze. While many businesses are skeptical about the value of spending time on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and a myriad of other sites, Charles says:

"The level of success in social media (as determined by ROI) is directly proportional to the speed at which you gain trust among your audience, the social nature of your products/services, and the nature of your social network traffic conversion funnel (sales funnel). Don’t confuse a social network traffic conversion funnel with traditional Internet marketing tactics."
Check out the full article here:

Why does ROI in social media suck? by Charles Heflin


And if you're on any of these sites, come follow me!

Twitter: www.twitter.com/copong
Facebook: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=857245173
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/cassts

Saturday, August 16, 2008

5 Critical Questions To Ask BEFORE You Hire a Web Designer

5 Critical Questions To Ask BEFORE You Hire a Web Designer

Whether you're building a website or a blogsite, the investment in a designer can be fairly significant. It's at this point that many service business owners decide to cut costs and have their 16-year old nephew design their site. This works out well until something breaks (with technology, it's never a question of IF it will break, only WHEN) and your nephew is out of touch because he just started his first year of college and can't be bothered. What are you going to do?

To run an online business, your website is your key to success. People arrive on your doorstep (site) like they might in a retail establishment, and decide within 5 seconds if they're going to stay and look around or if they're going to leave. It pays to invest some money in your site, as your site is the first stop on the like, know and trust journey that prospects experience with you. You need to be perceived as legitimate, as a "real" business, and as the solution to the problems that ail your prospective clients. If you're not able to design your own site, an experienced website designer can help finesse this relationship with your visitors.

How can you determine if your designer will create a site that you like and is useful? I've heard many horror stories over the years about the experiences that services business owners have had regarding the creation and maintenance of their websites. Here are 5 critical questions that you should have answered before hiring a web designer:

1. Site Ownership. First and foremost, you should ask if you own the final version of your site and the graphic source files. I've discovered that many web designers do NOT work on a work-for-hire basis. Instead, they maintain the copyright to the design of your site, so if you don't want to use that same company for site updates and maintenance, for example, they will not release any source files to another designer. Consequently, you will have to pay to have your site redesigned all over again. At the very least you should obtain a license to use the files in perpetuity and be able to make revisions to them in the future. This same rule applies to any special fonts or special applications developed for the site.

A second key issue in site ownership is ownership of your domain name. If your site design includes purchasing the domain name for your site, be sure that your domain's purchase is credited to you and registered to you as the administrative and technical contact. Many times the web design company registers your domain name and lists themselves as the contact, or actually purchases the domain and is considered the owner. At that point it becomes almost impossible to get your username and password for the account should you need to make any changes to your domain registration or to even prove ownership. Purchase your domain BEFORE beginning any work on a website.

2. Ongoing maintenance and hosting. Secondly, determine if you will be locked into a maintenance contract or hosting contract with the designer. Are they using any special software or application that will tie you to a particular type of hosting service? This may not be problematic for you initially, but ensure that you've got the flexibility to change your mind in case the design company is sold, for example, and dramatically increases their prices. Once the site is up, can you buy a program, like Adobe Contribute, for example, and do simple site updates yourself or must you use their company for any updates?

3. Experience with similar companies. Thirdly, take a look at their portfolio and be sure you like their previous work and that they have experience in web design for companies like yours. Call 1-2 of their clients (from the portfolios) and ask the client how easy the design company was to work with and how satisfied they are with the final product.

4. Marketing experience. Many web designers are simply that -- great web designers. They can make your site sit up and bark and run around in circles, if you like. However, the newest, coolest, showiest and flashiest technology is oftentimes NOT what you need to bring you the most traffic, get your site found in search engines, and convert prospects to customers. Don't fall for the glitz and glam that you see in a designer's portfolio. The best sites are simpler sites with a clean design and distinct marketing elements, like a clear call to action as seen in an email list signup box. If you can find a designer who excels at both design and marketing, you have found a gem whom you need to hold onto.

5. Return on investment (ROI). Asking a designer about the ROI for their clients is somewhat sneaky. In essence, what you're doing is determining their longevity (will they still be in business tomorrow), as well as their followup strategy in terms of staying in touch with clients to see how their businesses are doing. A web designer who stays in touch is one who's concerned about your success and is one that is much more likely to create a website that will produce profitable results for you.

The creation of your online presence can be a very expensive failure that takes much longer than anticipated. Don't let yourself be the next victim! Before hiring a website designer, make sure s/he answers these questions to your satisfaction, and you'll be on the path to a profitable relationship with a talented professional who can help your online business grow.

Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Online Business Coach Donna Gunter helps independent service professionals learn how to automate their businesses, leverage their expertise on the Internet, and get more clients online. To claim your FR*EE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at OnlineBizU.com. Ask Donna an Internet Marketing question at AskDonnaGunter.com

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer Speaker Series: Forty-Two Speakers in One Month

My colleague, Erin Blaskie, is hosting the first annual Summer Speaker Series featuring an amazing line-up of speakers including James Roche, Christina Merkley, Sheri McConnell, Alexis Neely, Allana Pratt, Lou Bortone, Viki Viertel, Lynn Scheurell, Kathie Thomas, Debbie LaChusa, Wendy Weiss, Terri Z, Donna Gunter, Diana Ennen and so, so, so many more.

Here’s the deal... She’s featuring TWO speakers PER DAY for the entire month of August (not including weekends because really, who likes working weekends?)

The best part is that this amazing series of speakers is priced VERY affordably. It’s going to be one of the hottest events of the summer and you’ve got an invitation from me!

Simply click through this link and register today. You won’t be disappointed and I’ll be there participating as well!

You can purchase a seat in one track, two tracks or get audio downloads included too (along with your live seat) so what are you waiting for! I’ve heard there is a cap of 200 people due to the bridge line and with the speakers involved, that won’t last long!

Visit the Speaker Series page and register now... ‘see’ you on the calls!

Cindy

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Generational Tension The Facebook Generation? - BusinessWeek

Liz Ryan explores the fear that upcoming workers (i.e. today's teenagers and college kids) will spend their work days whiling away on Facebook and other social sites.

Generational Tension The Facebook Generation? - BusinessWeek

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Digital Vanishing Act

George Colony muses on things vanished as a result of today's digital technology.

"My CDs made my records go away...
...my iPod made my CDs go away. All of my music (and I love music) is now held in my hand. "

Read the entire blog post at George F. Colony: The Digital Vanishing Act.

Creative Assistants Newsletter - July 11, 2008 - iContact Community

Creative Assistants Newsletter - July 11, 2008

In This Issue:

Do You Need Help? How to Know!

Twitter on the Brain

Xobni: Take Back Your Inbox!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Writing Email That Gets Answered

Chris Brogan has some excellent tips to follow when you want an answer for emails you send!

Writing Email That Gets Answered | chrisbrogan.com

Monday, June 16, 2008

Xobni: Email organization, search, and navigation for your Outlook inbox

I love, love, love this program! Xobni is a free add-on to Outlook and makes finding past emails oh-so much easier than searching via Outlook directly. It sits quietly on the sidelines until I need it and springs into action with no wait time. It has already indexed my emails in the background (didn't notice any slowing during this!) and I can quickly see at a glance the conversations I've had with someone or what I sent/received on a certain date.

If you use Outlook, this is definitely worth a look!

Xobni: Email organization, search, and navigation for your Outlook inbox

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Twitter - what's that?!

I feel a bit behind the curve on this one, but I've finally joined the masses who can be seen on Twitter. It's a platform called "Micro-Blogging" and is a bit of Instant Messaging combined with a bit of Blogging.

For purely social networking motives, users post throughout the day what they're doing, what they're thinking, reply and comment on other's posts, and post pictures.

For more business-related motives, users post new products, links to useful websites, ask business related questions and respond to other's questions. Here's an article on how large companies like Dell & Zappos are using it: Brands Turn to Micro-Blogging

I admit I was a bit skeptical, but after using it for a week or so can definitely see some benefits and advantages. If you're brave enough to give it a try, look me up under copong!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

Can’t Beat It Advertising: Sometimes the best things in life really are free

Have you ever stopped to count the number of ads received in your inbox on any given day? Isn’t it ironic that most of those ads are selling some form of advertising? Advertising and promotions are big business and, unfortunately, most of the programs promising miraculous results are designed to make money, but not necessarily for the advertiser. Caution is the word of the day for a small business owner with a limited advertising budget.

So what do you do? You have to promote your business. The “build it and they will come” theory only works in fantasy movies.

Many will say that you can’t be in business these days without a great website or that a newsletter is a must. Some join link exchange programs and others buy space in business directories. There are probably more ways to spend your advertising dollars than there are ways to earn them. The trick is in making sure that you don’t spend more dollars than your advertising brings in.

I have a confession to make. I have never sent out a regular, consistent newsletter, and my website has always served more as a place to send people to learn more about my business than as a vehicle for bringing in new clients. This may sound shocking, but business is good – better than good – business is great!

My secret is simple. My business grows because there is no form of advertising more powerful than word of mouth, especially when the word is a good referral.

Before you can get a good referral, you have to have a client. So to begin with, the person talking about your business should be you. And you should be talking about your business at every opportunity to anyone who will listen.

Networking is a very effective way of promoting your business, and you can advertise this way without spending a dime. The oft touted “elevator speech” was actually invented to be used in the elevator between floors as a way of introducing your business to strangers.

For a relatively small investment, you can narrow the focus of your networking by joining associations and getting to know business people who are likely to need your services. When you’ve identified your target clientèle and are ready to make an investment in promoting your business, trade shows and conferences are also a great place to meet a lot of potential clients in one place and at one time. No matter where and when you find yourself networking, be sure to remember the golden rule: always have business cards with you and don’t forget to follow up.

Get to know others in your industry and work cooperatively with them. IVAA offers some great opportunities to meet and work with other Virtual Assistants through discussion groups and message board forums. Referrals and sub-contract projects can come from other VAs when they know your specialty and are familiar with your work.

Once you’ve told everyone you know about your business (often enough that some of them start to leave the room when you walk in) you’ll find that you aren’t the only person talking about your business. You may start to get calls and emails from people who heard about you from your trainer at the health club or your child’s teacher or even the checker at the grocery store where you shop.

Referrals like these are great, but the ones that really grow your business are the ones from happy clients.

Every project that you complete to the client’s satisfaction is an opportunity for growth. Not only does a satisfied client continue to give you work, but they also provide the most powerful method of advertising available to you. When a satisfied client refers your services, their recommendation is:

  • more relevant than the best ad copy,
  • directed toward your target market,
  • trusted and believed,
  • and it’s free!
To make the most of this powerful promotional medium, you have to do two things; first, you must make sure that every client is a satisfied client. Then, when a client compliments you on your work or tells you how happy they are with something you have done, ask them to spread the word. Don’t be shy about asking.

Many clients will happily recommend you once you’ve planted that seed where they might not think to, otherwise. Sometimes, simple really is best. How much more simple can you get than providing great service and letting your clients sell your services for you?

--------------------
Debbie Tester of Outer Office, LLC leverages over 22 years of management and administrative experience to lead a team of virtual assistants specializing in full administrative support to speakers, trainers and coaches. For more information, visit www.outer-office.com.