9 Essential Software Apps

I wanted to tell you about 9 Essential Software Apps and online resources I have used in the past, everything I am going to talk about is free.

9 Essential Software Apps

1. Anti-virus

I use Avast but AVG is just as good, both are great and so is the price for home use- free. Go to Avast or AVG

2. Advanced System Care

iobit.com turn out the best little free app for cleaning your computer called Advanced System Care. They also have a free defrag program and other apps but I have not tried them out yet. Read more

Basecamp V Copper

Online Project ManagementManaging client expectations, project management, work allocation and tracking is not an easy, in fact, it’s down right hard to do it right especially if the job is complex and the client is difficult.

Transparency is the way to go and you want to do it right. Part of good project management is having your finger on the pulse of the project, scheduling the process, looking for things that could go wrong and planing for all contingencies and on top of all that keeping everyone involved informed and up-to-date with where you are at any given moment on any of your projects.

Doing this right can impress the hell out of your client if the process is easy to use and the software does what you want it to do, this all comes down to choosing the right project management software.

I have just gone through the process of moving over to online (cloud) project management and here is what I came up with. I did not have to go far, I tried about 6 different platforms and in most cases they where similar to Basecamp.

Basecamp

Basecamp came highly recommended from many people and the hype is that it is the best online project management platform available, so It was my first stop.

They don’t have a free version or a free trial plan so I needed to fork over my credit card details with the promise that if I don’t go beyond the 30 day trial my card would not be billed. I don’t call that a free trial but as I had heard so much about Basecamp I signed up.

Basecamp has a good interface but the problem is that it is not very intuitive. The help section is not that helpful and does not correspond to the section you want help with. The order of the stages is just wrong and again not intuitive. This is coming from someone who designs online applications and is very adept at working through thought processes.

After half a day off setting up and testing I was on the hunt for something that had to be better. If this was the top rated project management platform I was going to have to write my own because Basecamp just does not cut the mustard for a intuitive, good project management platform.

Copper

I came across Copper as one of the 6 platforms in my quest and they had a free trial for a month, yes, that’s what I like, try before you buy.

From the start I was impressed, the site is a users wet dream, written in HTML5, it is slick and intuitive. As a website designer I was impressed and instead of taking half a day to work it out I was up and going in 30 minutes.

The set up of users, groups, and clients was just too easy and the process ordering was in accordance with what I have in mind for managing projects.

Copper includes everything Basecamp charges extra for, wow, what a bargain.

Summary

If you are a Basecamp user, have a squiz at Copper, it will cost you nothing but time and the learning curve is a fraction required for Basecamp plus you get a heap of additional must haves included.

There is no choice between the two, Basecamp comes a poor second to Copper.

Build Links Backwards

What would you do for a link you really wanted? Would you beg? Plead? Pay? Stand on your head? Kill a man? Ok, if you’d do the last one, stop here, and reconsider your life choices. Everyone else can keep reading.

Content creation starts in a ton of ways; research, conjecture, tequila, current events… ideas come from everywhere. But it often ends with making something you think is awesome, promoting the hell out of it and hoping it gets links. But, just to shake things up, why not throw the process in reverse and build links backwards?

One of the things that inspired this post was something Wiep Knol wrote a couple of years ago in a post about Authority Links he said, “Contact websites and ask what they’re looking for.”

Wow, what a concept.

Instead of trying to create something that MIGHT appeal to the masses; why not create something that WILL appeal to a few?

Yes, this is not the fastest approach to building links. If you’re looking for speed and quantity, it’s your turn to quit reading. Congrats though, you made it slightly further than the sociopaths. For you, there is a barely literate guy with an automated program who can build “100 high quality link to you site today”, he’s got exactly what you think you want.

However, if you’re willing to spend the time it takes to get a high quality link, and yeah that one was singular on purpose, then this method might appeal to you.

Here’s the program, ready?

  • Find Great sites or great pages (one specific, strong page you want to be listed on)
  • Make contact
  • Have a conversation
  • Do the work
  • Get the link.
  • Ask for promotion.

Ok, now here’s the long version

Find Great Sites and Great pages

Here are some ideas of what qualifies as a “great” site

Relevant blogs with a large following – Look at the blog’s subscriber base, social media following and the number and quality of the comments on the posts. These are some indicators aside from just blog’s back links that will tell you if it’s “worth” writing for.

Educators that have websites – College professors and school teachers in particular tend to be very busy and probably have a thing or two they wish they could reference but don’t have the time to create themselves. They might consider it very generous on your part if you offered to do it for them.

News Outlets – Aside from reporters that are always looking for a story, I don’t know about your but my local paper actually has several individual blogs on their website. A great way to get on a newspaper site is to get in with one or two bloggers. Radio, and television can be similar, particularly the local stations. It might be easier than you’d think to get in touch with a local on-air personality.

Professional associations – These websites often link out to other sources of information. And often there are several different groups which could be relevant to an industry. The trick is to hunt down the person who makes the decisions on what gets linked to.

A Site which could send traffic –Yes this is vague, but finding a site like this means thinking like your customers. Any kind of an informational website discussing your kind of product or service that could send a lot of qualified traffic your way would fit in this category.

Make Contact/ Have a Conversation

After you’ve pinpointed the site or sites you want to target, make contact. The key is to sound like a normal person not like a pushy, sketchy, marketer. Basically, pretend you’re not a link monger. So, you may need to suck it up and read or listen to something they have done. Have an idea of who this person is.  Is this mildly stalkerish? Eh, only slightly, but in a totally non-threatening sort of way.

Open ended questions can be useful, but you might want to be a little more specific than “So, what would you like to link to?” Don’t make this person do your brainstorming for you. It helps to have a few ideas already bouncing around your head. Something like:

Hey Name

Read/saw/heard your article/news story/radio segment on “blah blah”. Insert intelligent comment or observation here.

I was wondering if you might be interested an article about [Insert an idea]

Or

I was wondering what kind of research or resources you wish existed on the subject of [Insert subject]

I’m thinking of writing something in that area and would love your feed back about what you think would be worth linking to and sharing with your readers/viewers/listeners/.

Another option is to send out a brief survey to a number of sites that you want links from, to find out if there are any common interests in terms of topics. The keyword here is BRIEF though. A few loaded questions on specific topics should help you get what you need, and now you have a group of people who feel invested in the process, which helps increase the likelihood that they will link to the finished product.

Do the work

This is the hardest part. But there’s no way around it. Block out a few hours, grab a hot pocket, and dig in. Before you know it you’ll have created something you’re actually proud of and become a mini expert on a new topic. For bonus points whip out some of your new found knowledge at a party this weekend.

Get the Link and Ask for Promotion

Once you’re done, contact the person who inspired the creation. You might even want to credit them at the end of your piece. Offer gratitude for the help and let them know that the resource was created because of them and that you hope they like it enough to link to it. Unless you really dropped the ball on the “Do the Work” part of the process, you stand a really good shot at getting the link. Don’t forget to throw in a request for a quick tweet or a “share” on a social bookmaking site if they really like it.

Déjà vu

If parts of this sound sort of familiar, it’s because there’s a lot of over lap with the process of finding guest blogging opportunities and writing the posts. The only difference is that you get to keep the asset. Rather than giving someone a terrific article that picks up back links over time for their site, your site reaps the long haul benefits.

If the whole process seems way too time consuming, consider this before going back to your usual template. Cheap, worthless links aside, the value vs the expense of these links is worth it. If you were buying a link, links of this quality could potentially cost hundreds of dollars, a month, in addition to the cost of the time to find the contacts and negotiate the deal.

When there is a site whose link juice you crave like a Klondike bar, go after it. But be smart about it and you may find if you give them what they want, there’s a really good chance; you’ll get what you want.

The Key to Solving Any Problem

My father is a physicist, and whenever and I had some tough physics problem in my homework I would come to him for help. There is one advice he would give me that I can still remember. He would say: “sketch out the problem and understand what is going on before you try to solve it.”

The interesting thing is that this exercise will help you solve pretty much any problem in your life, be it a professional or a personal one.

Why? Because we almost never take the time to analyze and understand our problems before we try to solve them. We think we do, but we don’t.

For example, we all go through some kind of financial problem sooner or later. In order to solve it, however, we just “think” about it, maybe before going to sleep, maybe on the commute to work, and then we take a decision. Some of us might talk with other people asking for their opinions, but that is it.

How many of us actually sit down with pen and paper (and a calculator in this case), sketch out the parts involved in the problem and analyze what is going before trying to find the best decision to take? I would guess not many.

Here is another example. Given that you read this blog I am pretty sure you want to make your blog or website popular. But have you ever sit down with pen and paper to sketch out what factors make a blog popular, how they interact together, what kind of strategies you can use in your own case and so on? Again I would guess the vast majority haven’t done this.

And keep in mind that the sketching part is essential. When you draw and write things down you basically increase the processing power of your brain, because it becomes much easier to visually the elements involved, to understand how they are related, and to discover new aspects of the problem you hadn’t considered forehand.

So remember, whenever you are trying to solve a tough problem, sit down with pen and paper and sketch the parts involved, trying to understand what is going on before you choose the right solution.

Original Post: The Key to Solving Any Problem

Here’s Why Lawyers Don’t Run Startups (And Why Entrepreneurs Hate Lawyers)

Startups need to have a great lawyer, accountant, patent attorney, etc. But founders need to know how to ask for their advice and when to ignore it.

Why Entrepreneurs Hate Lawyers
I was having coffee with a friend who teaches at the U.C. Berkeley Boalt Law School and runs their entrepreneurship program. Our conversation led us to Scott Walkers post Why Entrepreneurs Hate Lawyers and why we both recommend that entrepreneurs print it out and tape it to their wall.

I remember when I encountered bullet #1 on Walkers list.

You Can’t Sign This Deal
After being in business for all of seven months, one of our first deals at Epiphany was with a software company called Visio, (now owned by Microsoft.) After some heroics from our CTO in extracting data from SAP, the Visio CFO loved our product, thought we could save them a ton of time and money and wanted it installed ASAP. We were excited that we were getting our first six-figure check and a reference customer. Then Visio gave us their boilerplate contract.

We passed it to our law firm who promptly threw up all of it.

“You guys can’t sign this. It has you putting your software in escrow, giving them all of your source code if you go out of business, indemnifying them from all possible lawsuits, not selling to competitors, first rights on a number of irrelevant issues and has a clause about promising them your first-born children.” I stopped listening for a while as it dawned on me that the deal I thought we had was probably now gone. I was feeling pretty deflated. I tuned back in when our lawyer said, “Let us start negotiating better terms with Visio’s company counsel.”

When I was a younger entrepreneur my answer would have been, “Ok. See if you can get us better terms. Call me when you’re done.” This time I said, “Make a list of the issues in bullet form, send them to me and I’ll get back to you.”

Strategy Questions Not Legal Questions
The issues our lawyer had raised about the contract, while correct, were strategy questions the founders needed to answer, not legal questions. Negotiating deal points before we thought through our strategy at best would have cost us a ton of money with little progress.

Looking at the Visio contract the question we were faced with was; how bad would the short term consequences be in signing the deal?  The answer to that was easy – none.  We’d have money in the bank and a reference customer.

The next question was, how bad would the deal points Visio was asking for screw us in the long term?  This was more complex.  Some of them would have limited our ability to sell to other software companies. Those were clearly unacceptable. Some of their other requests were just “comfort” issues like putting the software in escrow to protect Visio in case our startup went out of business.

Finally, there was a class of what I call “business development contract terms.” This happens in every company when a contract is passed around for review and everyone feels they have to mark it up with extraneous demands to feel like they had their say. Most of these points might have sounded great in law school but were impossible for a startup to deliver.

So we had to decide what deal points we could live with that wouldn’t kill our company.  For example, I could agree to put our software in escrow if Visio would pay for all the legal and logistical expenses (knowing full well it was a “see, we’re doing our job” issue the Visio lawyers were insisting on, but one that Visio would never implement.) Other deal points, which my lawyers said were fatal, were also easy to agree to – don’t sell to competitors? We could easily agree to a 90-day non-compete as a sign of good faith (what Visio didn’t know is that we had no bandwidth to take on another customer while we were getting their software installed.)

My co-founder and a few board members brainstormed to make sure we weren’t missing anything. Then we got on the phone.

Why Lawyers Don’t Run Startups
We realized that our goal 1) was to get a deal done, 2) on terms we could live with and 3) it required talking to someone senior at Visio with the authority to make decisions on their side. Only then could we have our lawyer spend any time on the contract.

We called the Visio CFO.

We explained that their boilerplate contract was something we couldn’t sign because it would put us out of business. We said we would be happy to work with him in providing assurances on issues that were of importance to him and his company.

We suggested that we see if we could agree to them in this call. But we wondered if he had the flexibility (meaning the authority) to overrule his lawyer on their standard contract?  (It now became a matter of pride that he could.) We said that if we agreed on the big issues we could send the deal back to our lawyers. (He was surprised to hear about half of the things in his own contract.  “It says what?!”)

We agreed to the major points in a half hour. The lawyers had the final contract done in two days.

Lessons Learned

  • Lawyers provide a service; they are not running your company.
  • If you find a lawyer who talks about solutions not problems, hold on to them.
  • In every company that gives you a contract there’s someone who wants a deal.  When you run into contract issues, call them first for advice.
  • Recognize whether you have a legal problem or strategy problem.
  • The web has great blogs by lawyers who get it.  Read them.


Post by Steve Blank teaches entrepreneurship at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford University and the Columbia University/Berkeley Joint Executive MBA program. He also wrote about building early stage companies in his book, Four Steps to the Epiphany. This post was originally published on his blog, and it is republished here with permission.

How To Survive When Your Business Is In The Off-Season


Next month, Matt Kersten will be up to his neck in Christmas cards. The founder of Kersten Cards, a Scottsdale, Ariz., greeting card company, says 80 percent of his 4,000 orders per year are Christmas cards, which typically hit between July and early December. That leaves fully half of the year with minimal orders–and scant new revenue.

“It’s definitely tough, but we do it,” he says. “It’s important to manage costs, and you constantly have to reinvest in your business. You can’t stay stagnant.”

That balancing act is one that most seasonal businesses face, says Dexter P. Morgan II, founder of MFS Consulting, a Newport News, Va., management consulting firm specializing in small businesses. “The seasonal business, regardless of size, needs to save money and resist the urge to spend when flush with cash,” he says.

Other actions that can help…

Line up credit

Line up credit

Credit markets are tough, but not impossible to crack. Kersten has a line of credit he uses conservatively when cash is tight.

“We usually don’t need it, but it’s comforting that it’s there,” he says.

The bank took a rigorous look at his personal finances before renewing the line, he says, something it didn’t do when it established the line in 2009.


Create a calendar-based budget

Create a calendar-based budget

Image: G. Rivas Valderrama via Flickr

Often, seasonal businesses have the most expenses just before the season starts, which is when money is typically tightest.

Morgan advises his clients to plot out everything–from when sales typically hit to the best time to purchase materials and hire staff. Then allocate the cash accordingly.


Negotiate terms

Negotiate terms

Work with suppliers to establish favorable credit terms or to modify contracts.

Kersten was able to change some of his annual advertising contracts to seasonal contracts, saving him thousands of dollars.

Morgan says suppliers may be willing to grant seasonal businesses extended payment terms or make other accommodations.


Develop new products

Develop new products

Kersten has also developed invitations and other holiday-themed cards to extend his selling season.

Morgan approves, advising seasonal businesses to offer products and services that complement what they already do, but which may carry them into other seasons.


Now, check out:

Now, check out:


5 Ways To Beat Procrastination



Putting things off for another day is one of the things millions of us know how to do well, but it creates anxiety, low-quality work and missed deadlines.

Researchers and psychologists have come up with many reasons we procrastinate.

Instead of fixating on why (years of therapy could give you an answer), its best to find ways to manage it.

Here are some common and not-so-common tips to beat procrastination.


Sometimes it’s good to wait

Sometimes it's good to wait

Yes, it’s counter-intuitive, but some people do their very best work at the last minute.

The danger is that some think they do well in the eleventh hour and they really don’t.

In the real world, you don’t get to decide whether or not your work is excellent–others do.


Strategy:

Strategy:


Listen for clues about the quality of your rushed work to find out how good it really is.

If you have the appropriate relationship, ask clients and colleagues about the quality of your work (they don’t need to know it’s last minute, so that they won’t place a value judgment on it).

Listen to them. If they indicate that your work is sub-par, procrastination is a career limiter for you.

If they like it and you can put up with the anxiety of rushing around as the deadline looms, procrastinate to your heart’s content.


It becomes an addiction

It becomes an addiction

Don’t confuse the massive relief of finally getting something done with the high you get from doing a good job.

One is the release of adrenalin along with the negative stressor hormone cortisol (relief), and the other is fueled by the pleasure hormone dopamine (job well done).

Over time, you can become addicted to building anxiety so you can relieve it because it mimics pleasure, but it’s not the same.

Cortisol created from anxiety will eat you alive, and ultimately, it’s a bad long-term strategy.


Strategy:

Strategy:/

Image: G. Rivas Valderrama via Flickr

Set your clock 15 minutes ahead.

Set your due date a week ahead on the calendar.

Trick yourself into believing that those new deadlines are real.

Over time, you will adapt to the earlier schedule and act as if the deadlines are real. If you’re a serial procrastinator and you take this tact, you’ll actually give yourself some leeway to re-do bad work.


Incubation

Incubation/

Image: Rich Moffitt via Flickr

One of the most fundamental elements of creating insight and innovative thinking is a process called incubation.

It’s when you begin a project and then put it away for a period of time.

Give yourself time to do this and you’ll beat your competition with your thorough thinking and whizz-bang proposals.


Strategy:

Strategy:/

Put the project aside for a few hours or even a week.

Think about it, but don’t actively get back into the project.

When you come back to it, your brain will usually have made connections it didn’t formulate before.

This makes your work more profound, robust and better overall. You can’t do this if you wait until the last minute.


Someone to watch over you

Someone to watch over you

Image: Mara 1 via Flickr

We are less likely to procrastinate if we know there’s accountability.


Strategy:

Strategy:/

Image: mistress_f via Flickr

I have my office manager send me a weekly update of all the things I owe her or that I said I would get done.

She holds me to them and has permission to nag me about them.

She puts things on the list beginning about one month from their due date. She lists them in order of priority. It works like a charm.

Sometimes we need someone else to help us stay on track.


Get Started

Get Started

Action precedes motivation.

That means you have to start something before you can really get motivated to get into it.

You’ve experienced this. You start to clean out a drawer because you couldn’t find something.

Before you know it, every drawer around is tidy.


Strategy:

Strategy:/

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6 Tips For Managing A Remote Staff

New technologies have made it easier than ever to work with freelancers and telecommuters.

But the new world of the remote staff requires some updated management tricks, too.

WebWorkerDaily has some recommendations for how you can stay on top of your out-of-office work force in a recent post.

In summary:

1. Clarify all the details of an individual’s role on a project or in a position, in writing.

2. Start the day with a short video or conference call to get everyone up to speed on the expectations for the day and to discuss any issues.

3. Encourage open communication when any problems arise (for example, make it clear that employees can call you directly the minute they encounter an issue).

4. Establish a regular work schedule.

5. Break down projects into more manageable, scheduled milestones.

6. Determine measureable key performance indicators for every employee before each project.

7 Features for e-Marketing

What is an e-promotion? Known are many definitions to what e-advertising is, with the most commonly used to be: an e-Marketing is the advertising that is using the internet as a manifestation media. Among other definitions there is a working one stating: e-Marketing is the total figure of all actions that a business may conduct by means of internet with the sole purpose of attracting and further retaining the attracted clientele. Whatever the definitions, an E-advertising so far remains a contentious matter to talk about. An e-advertising has initially surfaced in the form of an assortment of different techniques that were used by the founding companies promoting their services in the middle eighties of the past century and this is the matter upon which there is no doubt.

These 7 features of the e-Marketing are put at the top of any e-Marketing strategy.

1 .Personalization

The essential idea of personalization as a part of e-advertising mix is focused in the imperative requirement for recognizing, identifying a certain client to found relations (establishing relationship being a basic point of advertising). It is a key question to be able to see our customers on entity level and with the purpose of appreciating the market and be capable to create the modified, personalized goods and services.

2. Data

For example, a specially compiled data file deliberately placed on the user’s workstation can let us learn fundamental information concerning the internet channel that is available to the visitor: as a result, if we know user is using a slow channel then we may provide a low- level variation for our website, including the compact graphic content and no multimedia and flash features. This will prevent the customers from exiting the website for the grounds that it needs much too long time to see its pages and also this will ease our customer’s understanding on our website as well.

3. Customer Service

Customer service is the basic and required activity within the list of the various many functions that are being extremely required while estimating the different transactional situations. In fact, we may well tie the vision of the customer service processes to the insertion of the “time” element in transactions. We are supposed to think of the Customer Service element (in its entire and largest designation) as a crucial one in the e-advertising mix.

4. Privacy

Another aspect being privacy that is a constituent of the mix very much associated to the earlier one-personalization. If we draw together and stock up information in relation to our clientele and possible consumers (consequently, when we carry out the personalization piece of the e-Marketing mix) a central issue arises: that of the approach this data will be considered, and by whom. A main task to perform when implementing an e-Marketing tactic is that of building and developing a policy upon access events to the selected data.

5. Obligation

This is an obligation for any salesperson who is considering himself a responcible business person to account all features of privacy, provided that data is gathered and stored, information regarding entity people.

6. The Standard 4 P’s

Privacy is extra essential when setting up the e-advertising mix given that there are numerous set of laws and legal facets to be considered concerning collection and usage of such data. As we can without difficulty understand, the support (or aid if you wish) is able to be performed with any constituent from the standard 4 P’s, therefore its moderating character.

7. Search

We live in the world of Internet technologies which give us a really unique chance to choose exactly what we search for the best price on the market. Use this opportunity and search Google and other search engines for marketing and promotional strategies.

Today you should use all the tools available if you really want to gain success. Visit social networks and look through the relevant topics, go to the niche forums and participate in the online discussions. Also don’t forget about blogs – subscribe to the RSS to keep abreast of about this and other relevant topics.

Google Wave as a Live Blogging Platform

Post by Frederic Lardinois

Do you remember Google Wave? After a lot of hype around the initial launch of Wave – which some pundits billed as an “email killer” at the time – things have been rather quiet around the service. The latest update to Wave, however, could push the service back into the public eye. Publishers can now easily embed waves on their sites and readers can see them without having to be logged in to Wave, which makes Wave a great live blogging platform.

Wave for Live Blogging (and more)

At first glance, this looks like a minor update, but for the first time, you can now easily embed waves on your own site. Google notes that you could use Wave for real-time RSVPs with the Yes/No/Maybe gadget and to publish documentation via embedded waves. For us, however, the real potential here is live blogging with Wave.

The interesting thing about using Wave as a live blogging platform, of course, is that readers can see what a blogger is writing in real time. Live blogging doesn’t get more real time than that.

Wave allows users to easily style text and embed images and videos. Adding additional writers to a wave is also as easy as adding another contact to the wave.

Wave Elements: Embedding Waves Made Easy

Until now, embedding Waves took a bit of work and users who weren’t logged in to Wave weren’t able to see your updates. Thanks to the newly released Wave Element tool, however, embedding a wave is now simply a matter of copying and pasting a snippet of JavaScript into your site or blog post. To make a wave public, you also have to add the [email protected] account to your wave.

You can see an example of what an embedded Wave looks like below.

One Caveat: Doesn’t Work With Internet Explorer Yet

The Wave team, however, also points out one major deal-breaker: the embedded waves don’t work with Internet Explorer yet (even with Chrome Frame). The team plans to resolve this issue soon, however.

[readwriteweb]

Moving People From Facebook To Your Blog

Commanding Influence: Build A Strong Online Presence

It’s no secret that people love Facebook. Some are practically addicted to the thing. So how do you convince a stubborn audience to focus on your content instead of Farmville?

If you guessed, “Maintain a Facebook fan page”, you’re wrong. Here’s why. You may have noticed that the fans on your fan page are either friends and family, random people who don’t interact, or those crazy, obsessed fans that already follow you on every social media source available.

Why is this the Case?

Facebook is its own world. Those who choose to leave Facebook and venture out onto the Internet, to either educate or entertain themselves, don’t want to mix the two worlds. The last thing your readers want is their friends finding out they’re fans of “Personality Development Blog” or “Daily Menopause Tips.”

Before I dissect this issue, there are four questions you need to answer before making a plan to market to this new audience:

  • Does this audience know they need my help?
  • Does this audience want help?
  • What are the biggest problems this audience encounters that I can help them with?
  • Has this audience evolved with the economy and/or technology?

Once you have a good idea of what this new audience wants, all you have to do is tailor your marketing platform to their interests without letting them know you’re actually marketing to them. I’ll explain how near the end.

College Students: The Classic Example

About a year ago I decided to start a blog for college students. Being a senior in college, I thought this would be easy. I decided to go after a niche market of students interested in using new technology to aid them in their studies – but there was a problem.

The college students of today have grown up on Facebook since its inception just over 6 years ago, and to many, it’s their home online. It’s how they keep up with all the facets of their social life, which we all know besides going to class, studying and taking exams, takes top priority.

You’d be surprised how many students keep Facebook as their browser homepage; so naturally, my target audience was stuck on the world’s largest social networking site leaving me with an arduous task.

Do Your Research

Since college students spend the majority of their free time on Facebook, you have to work extra hard to market to them. When they do venture off Facebook they don’t go very far. They tend to go to sites such as YouTube or CollegeHumor, but they don’t particularly use Google to search for things they need.

Instead, this generation is much more likely to search for things they want. For example, students are much more interested in college parties than “college help,” “college websites” or “college blogs.”

Knowing Your Audience

The college student example can be applied to any audience that:

  1. Grew up with technology.
  2. Is desensitized to advertising.
  3. Shows more focus on wants than needs.

If you don’t know your target audience well, their bandwidth for dealing with marketing is extremely narrow. Once they feel they are being marketed to, they unequivocally tend to shut down. So how do you market to this difficult segment?

Relevancy. In order to reach this audience, you have to be as targeted as possible with your message. Since your audience is busy commenting on photos, looking for new games and just busy having fun, it will take time and effort in order to get noticed.

Tips and Strategies

  1. Understand how your site is better and different than other sites. Can you think of specific problems that you solve well and better than others? Finding a niche may help gain some initial traffic. I’m sure you recognize that word travels fast once you generate some initial success.
  2. Turn your audiences wants into needs. When I started CampusByte, I knew my audience was largely made up of iPhone users. I wrote several articles targeting students with iPhones. It was only a matter of time until Google picked one up. I now rank on the first page for “Must Have iPhone Apps.” Your audience will take the bait and stick around for the other content because you were able to satisfy their initial search.
  3. Encourage interaction. Facebook allows users to fully interact with their friends by commenting, “liking”, sharing and subscribing. If your site allows for similar actions, your new reader is much more likely to stick around. Encourage new readers to sign up for updates and make it clear that you want them commenting on your blog.
  4. Don’t let online tools be the only means of gaining customers. Get published – magazine, newspaper, newsletter, whatever. Let people know who you are and more importantly, listen to them! Put up posters. Sponsor an event. Beg. You should be working now to be part of your new readers lives – all of these are great opportunities to reach out.

(Sitesketch 101)

Maximize Your Content’s Reach on the Social Web

We have all heard that “content is king” — Sumner Redstone deemed it so, then Rupert Murdoch upped the ante, calling it “emperor.” But how do we make sure content is delivered to the right places, at the right times? How can we measure the effectiveness of this content and its distribution?

The model for publishers is changing due to today’s social media growth and the reliance on “stream consumption.” Audience attention is increasingly fragmented and traditional ways to reach them with content and advertising are becoming less effective. Brands must transcend many different platforms to remain relevant. Some numbers on this:

  1. Time spent with social networking has surpassed time spent with e-mail (Nielsen).
  2. Time spent on social networks and blogging sites is growing at over three times that of the overall Internet (Nielsen).
  3. 7 out of 10 Americans consume content via the “stream” or news-feed style communications (Pew Internet).

These indicators point to the future of a “siteless” web — a consumer-centric online economy where audiences decide when and where they will receive content, with less emphasis on single destinations. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a website, but rather that content needs to be distributed across many websites, platforms, social networks, new devices, and so on.

Today, content producers have a lot more to keep up with if they want to stay relevant. There are social media purists who believe automating the delivery of content to social networks is taboo. But if you manually post a headline and link to your content on each of your social networks, is it really that different from automating the process?

We’re all short on time, and there is nothing wrong with creating some efficiencies. But you do need to be smart about it, and make sure you’re adding value. Here are a few tips that can help you do it.


Measure


line graph image

This is the most important thing you can do to make sure you are reaching your audience. You cannot improve what you do not measure. The goal is to know and understand when your users are the most engaged with your content.

  1. Learn what content they like on each social destination. Track the engagement around the same piece of content on each social destination. What works on Twitter won’t necessarily work on LinkedIn. One approach is to think about your social audience as a focus group. Their level of engagement with each headline will help you determine what they like. Learn from that, use that data to create more of the same, and tailor your website and other streams.
  2. Study what the right flow of content is. What is too much, what is not enough? This is likely very different on each social network.
  3. Track your reach. How many followers, friends and contacts do you have? How do they grow or shrink when you tailor your content and its flow? Your audience will dissipate if you are not adding value or you are drowning them.

Find Your Digital Center


What is the one tool that you are comfortable using to create content on a constant basis? This could be Flickr for pictures, Twitter for status updates, or a blog. Whatever it is, make it your central command. You shouldn’t feel overwhelmed about creating totally different content on each social network. Pick one and focus on that.


Distribute


Once you have identified your digital center, connect it to all your other social networks. Think of your digital center as the hub and the other networks as the spokes of a wheel. The idea is to create the content once. In today’s world of the siteless web, your customers are choosing their own digital centers, and chances are, they’re not the same as yours. You need spokes to make sure you’re reaching everyone you need to and, more importantly, everyone who wants information from you. And, since we’re all short on time, making this process automated and intelligent is key. Here’s how you can do this:

  1. Filter: The expectations on each social network are different. Understand your audiences on each and tailor your content accordingly. Twitter has a different vocabulary (hashtags, RT) than Facebook Your readers on Facebook may find it odd to see a hashtag in their stream.
  2. Control the flow: If you are creating multiple pieces of content per day, it is important to not send it out all at once. The half-life of a piece of content in social media is measured in hours. Things are flowing through your audience’s stream all day long. To keep their attention and increase the opportunity for them to see your content, regulate the flow, just like a dam. Hold some things back. Track the time of day you are seeing the most engagement and adjust your flow accordingly.
  3. Customize: With the amount of content your audience is seeing in a day, yours may go unnoticed as they scan their stream. The headline is now more than ever, the most important sentence you write. Add in some branding elements –- it doesn’t need to be over the top. Just let your audience know where it is coming from, especially if you are cross-posting.
    • Use Hashtags: If you are posting to Twitter, add a hashtag to improve your SEO value.
    • Strong Headlines: Spend extra time writing great headlines. Pack them full of topical words that search engines will find (but don’t overdo it).
    • Recycle: With the amount of content flowing in the stream, something is bound to go unnoticed. Send out your most popular content again. Add a label to it, like “Most Popular Today…” It may attract someone new.
    • Paid Distribution: If your budget permits, take your most popular content and syndicate it outside your personal networks through paid promotion.
    • Widgets: Widgets are an easy way to display popular content across different sites and remind your audience which social networks you participate in.
    • E-mail: Don’t forget about e-mail. Some people still prefer to get messages that way.
    • Use Hashtags: If you are posting to Twitter, add a hashtag to improve your SEO value.
    • Strong Headlines: Spend extra time writing great headlines. Pack them full of topical words that search engines will find (but don’t overdo it).
    • Recycle: With the amount of content flowing in the stream, something is bound to go unnoticed. Send out your most popular content again. Add a label to it, like “Most Popular Today…” It may attract someone new.
    • Paid Distribution: If your budget permits, take your most popular content and syndicate it outside your personal networks through paid promotion.
    • Widgets: Widgets are an easy way to display popular content across different sites and remind your audience which social networks you participate in.
    • E-mail: Don’t forget about e-mail. Some people still prefer to get messages that way.

  • Grow


Here are some tips on how to grow your audience:

  1. Use Hashtags: If you are posting to Twitter, add a hashtag to improve your SEO value.
  2. Strong Headlines: Spend extra time writing great headlines. Pack them full of topical words that search engines will find (but don’t overdo it).
  3. Recycle: With the amount of content flowing in the stream, something is bound to go unnoticed. Send out your most popular content again. Add a label to it, like “Most Popular Today…” It may attract someone new.
  4. Paid Distribution: If your budget permits, take your most popular content and syndicate it outside your personal networks through paid promotion.
  5. Widgets: Widgets are an easy way to display popular content across different sites and remind your audience which social networks you participate in.
  6. E-mail: Don’t forget about e-mail. Some people still prefer to get messages that way.

    Conclusion


    Why is it so crucial to find services that enable and support this siteless strategy? For publishers and bloggers it’s simple: The fastest wins. In a world where the half-life of a story is 50 minutes, real-time updates enable you to start that clock as fast as possible after publishing your story. If you and your competitor hit the publish button at the exact same time, and your feed is push-enabled and theirs isn’t, your readers see the story first. You’ve just won by getting traffic to your site where you can monetize those visitors.

    For brands, consumers tend to be more responsive to content marketing than other forms of online marketing. With content flowing freely on the siteless web, your fans will be more likely to share it. Good content reaching the right people in the right way builds loyal customers.

    [mashable]