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Regular Blog Posting is for Sissies…

I’ve been a little remiss on the blog – but it’s for good reason. I’ve got a few projects that are being revived and have demanded an awful lot of my attention this week. It’s good stuff – but time consuming. Add to that an influx of new work, and my ability to keep you entertained has been hampered.

freakFirst up – FreakinAsheville.com. Yes – it’s coming back. Expect a launch on April 1 (no fooling.) I’ve got a few big folks on board (Zen, Bill Kopp, Kat, Mr. 420) and I’m looking for more contributors and folks to add to the craziness. It’ll be all of what you loved about The Freak to begin with – but with technology that will actually keep up with the content. There’s going to be a great calendar, awesome photos of Asheville, news of the strange, message boards (bring it on!) and a whole lot more. If you’re interested in contributing or you have ideas, I’d love to hear from you. We’re looking for a few good men, women and aliens. Join up now. It’s freakin awesome.

aafSecondly – AllAboutFreelance.com. This has been a pet project of mine for many moons, but I’ve really been adding to the site – again, with lots in store. It’s a repository for tips, tricks and resources for freelancers. Since that’s really what I am, I thought I’d share a little bit of what to do – and what NOT to do. I also have a second contributor on this one, so expect more updates there.

Check ’em out. Very different sites, but both with some great content.

And, I promise, I’ll be back here. Don’t you worry.

No – please, tears aren’t necessary. Just send money. And coffee. And tea. Thank you.

Social Media 101 – Step 6: More Facebook Strategies…

luxOk, maybe this is a little more of Step 5(a), but as you’ve probably gathered, I can get a little long-winded. Most folks won’t hang with me long enough to allow me to carry on and beleaguer the point even further. Now, keep in mind that I like to hear and tell a good story – but today, I will get to the point – in a minute.

I guess my love of stories comes from growing up in the home of a musician. My father, bless his crazy soul, is a musician (available for wedding, bar-mitzvahs and playing just about anywhere*) and as such, he had some crazy friends. Some of them were crazy in the sweet, fun sort of Shel Silverstein way. Others, I’m convinced, were a hop skip and a jump from full time murderous rampages using cocktail forks – but, I digress (per my usual.)

There were always people around (in our house, smoky taverns, recording studios, emergency rooms,etc.,) or I was always around said people, who told these stories. Some really cool, some really bad, many set to music, some set to screaming and yelling. I fell in love with stories and story telling. Everyone’s got a story, even if it’s confusing and ultimately surreal to little boys. Dylan-esque stories, beer-filled rants, incoherent gibbering, deeply personal and incredibly shallow conversations – I grew up on them, and they still feed my imagination. Man, I do love a good story.

What’s your point, James? Get to it, man…

Ok – the point is if you build a compelling story on Facebook, people will dig it – and they will come back to hear a little more of the story. How do you do that? Well – you gotta decide who and what you are, who and what your audience is, and what they (and you) are looking for and expect. You know – all that crap that we talked about in the first few steps (you DID follow those first few steps, right?) If you build a compelling story, using compelling content, you have a better chance of “Going Viral,” which is really the name of the game. If you have 2000 followers sharing that story with 120 people (the average number on Facebook) – well, you do the math. That’s what you’re looking for in all of this – and that’s the real power of social media and social marketing.

And, without further adieu – the rest of the story (see what I did there?)

Lesson 6: More Facebook Strategies…

The Exercise:

Part 1: Strictly Business: Once you’ve figured out what you’re going to say – keep saying it. Say it in photos, movies, stories and things that your audience will find valuable. Don’t babble about your dogs or what you had for lunch (unless you’re a vet or a restaurant.) This won’t really help you grow, and personal minutia is far less likely to get picked up and redistributed for you. That sort of thing is best left to your personal Facebook page. Remember, you’re trying to build customers – not impress people and make friends. You want to be friendly, but this is about business. Treat it as such.

Part 2: Add Value: This is the tricky part. You want make your story inviting, interesting and relatable, or it come out as cold and boring or greedy or overly salesy, but you’ll see much larger response if you add some sort of value. Tips, tricks, advice, links, etc. You want to give the viewer something that they can use to better their business or life or whatever. If they find it interesting and it builds your brand’s “story,” they’re a lot more likely to spread it to their friends. Great success!

Part 3: Ask Questions: If you invite interaction, you’ll get interaction. Don’t make all your stories closed-ended: “Here it is – and that’s the way it is. Period.” Leave some room for discussion: “Where it is – what do YOU think about that?”

Part 4: Leave ‘Em Wanting More: Again, this is one of those questions of “closing the loop.” You want to give your customer/liker enough information in your posts to be compelling, useful and valuable – but you don’t have to give them the full story every time. Build up to it – then deliver the hook or punchline later. Think 4-5 posts ahead sometimes and lead your viewers on. Leave them hanging so that they come back. In the words of Lux Interior “How do you keep a moron in red-hot suspense? I’ll tell you that later – but first I’ll tell you this…” Pique their curiosity, set them up and knock ‘em down later. Curiosity is a great sales tool.

Building and telling compelling stories will put asses in the seats and bring them back for more. If you tell a good story, folks will spread that story for you, help you write that story and they’ll come back or hang around to hear the end of the story. How else could Mr. Zimmerman get away with all 10 minutes of “Joey?”

Next up is Step 7: Even More Facebook Strategies…

*My father really is an amazing songwriter and musician. He’s an inspiration.

Is This How the World Sees Web Designers?

WEBDESIGNERADSurfing Facebook early this morning, and this is the sidebar ad. Apparently, to be a web designer, you have to wear big ugly glasses. Is this the most effective ad they could come up with? Should I be offended? I’ve got an impressive Raymond Massey-like physique and I’m as cool as Dylan Thomas. Suck it, Facebook. You don’t know me.

Social Media 101 – Step 5: Facebook Strategies…

mellow_out_manBy now, you’ve either lost interest, our you’re saying to yourself “Shut up, man – let’s get to some good, actionable stuff. Damn.”

Well – I’m getting to the actionable stuff. You know, you’re awfully demanding for someone who’s getting an awesome, free course on social marketing. I DO have a life, and I like to ramble, so you should cut me some slack. I mean, really – if it’s free, why are you complaining so much about my roundaboutness and rambling ways? I eventually get to the point – it’s just that you have to sit through some of my cute colloquialisms and interesting little sidetracks. Is it not worth it?

I’m getting to the point – HEY, MELLOW OUT, MAN!

Here it is – my Horribly Important and Phenomenally Timely Step 5:

Lesson 5: Facebook Strategies…

You’ve got your Facebook page all set up. It looks awesome (especially if we designed it for you) but where do you go from there?

You’ve got to USE your page, understand your page (especially Insights) and you’ve got to be consistent with it. And so – the exercise:

The Exercise:

Use_Facebook_as_PagePart 1: Use Your Page: This one seems reasonably simple – but a lot of folks just don’t know what to do. You’ve got to actually get in there and use your page – not just your Facebook personal account. What you want to do is “Use Facebook As…” your page. This will take you from your personal account to your business account. See that little photo to the right? That’s where you want to go. Click it – and you’re ready to start using Facebook as your business.

“Great,” you’re saying “What should I do now?” Well – there’s a lot to that question. When does your intended audience use Facebook? When are they the most receptive to your posts? What sort of posts are they looking for? Check your Insights for that kind of information. One thing about Insights – if you’re just starting out, you’ll not get a lot of good info there. You’re going to have to “throw it against the wall and see what sticks.” Post photos, post rants and raves and weird links. Post stuff that interests you, concerns your business. Just try a bunch of stuff. You never know what’s going to work. Find a leader in your field – see what they’re doing and steal* their ideas.

That’s for YOUR content. That’ll help entertain the folks who like your page – but how do you get more likes? How do you attract other businesses? The business end of it all is pretty straightforward – go around and find the businesses you’re looking to bring in as clients and customers. “Like” their page and post on their walls. Interact with them. Share and repost their stuff – add value to their pages, and they’ll return the favor. Not always, but it’s reasonably reciprocal…

Getting more public and individual “Likes” is a different thing all together, and that’s really a topic for another post (stay tuned!) – but liking businesses and adding high-value content are the first steps. If you build it, they will come – but you’ve got to build a compelling page with good content that works well and looks nice.

The main point in all this social media/social marketing thing is USE IT! USE IT A LOT! USE IT CONSISTENTLY!

Part 2: Understand Your Page: Read this. It’ll help you understand who’s hitting your page and using your content – and what’s effective. Understand the function of your buttons and different areas of your page. Know what you’re doing. Play around with it. Explore every aspect of administering your Facebook page. Again, this is a huge topic that a 101 course can’t really cover – but stay tuned, I’ll cover it in horribly awesome and generally informative semi-detail.

Part 3: Be Consistent With It: If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a million freaking times – be consistent with your Facebook page. Hit it often and keep your message consistent and even. This is, like I’ve said, the most important part of all of this – keep it going. Study your demographic, decide on your message and your style – and then stick with it. Post regularly, surf other sites and businesses regularly and use it as much as you can. REMEMBER – THIS IS A MARATHON. Don’t get to the first turn and say “Screw it. I’m tired.” and go and get a cup of coffee while the rest of the runners keep going. You’ll never win the race that way…

Next up is Step 6: More Facebook Strategies…

*”Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” ~ Pablo Picasso (or maybe T.S. Elliott. Nobody really knows. It’s just a great quote that sort of fits here.)

Black Wednesday vs. SOPA

OBAMAI’ve decided to pull the plug on this site tomorrow, and for 24 hours, to join the protest against SOPA and PIPA. I try to keep my morals and politics out of my business (although I will get irritatingly emotional at times) but these bills absolutely must be defeated.

I’m against online piracy and copyright abuse – but neither of these bills will really do anything to actually address the issues. What they do accomplish is essentially the death of the internet as we know it. If you post, blog or tweet anything that you don’t have express written permission for – or if someone just doesn’t like what you’re saying, you can get shut down. Not just the post getting pulled – YOUR WHOLE FREAKING SITE or PROFILE. GONE. No recourse. No trial. Just GONE.

This, my friends, is complete and utter bullshit. It MUST be stopped, or a vast number of us will be out of work and incapable of providing for our families and ourselves. The American economy will be destroyed, and life as we know it will be forever changed for the worse.

This is censorship. This is the death of free speech and open discourse on the internet. Sound like fun? If you think it’s a good thing to have our rights and our free speech completely hosed, just sit there and do nothing.

Don’t let this happen. Click here to visit AmericanCensorship.org. There’s great info there and actionable items that are pretty easy. Get off your duff and do something. We have to stop this – or where will you get your inane banter and superfluous coffee-related rambling?

*see that photo? that could get my whole website disappeared. pretty offensive, huh?

Social Media 101 – Step 4: Get Rolling…

SRWell, well, well – you’ve waded through the incredibly important first 3 steps. You’ve defined who you are, you’ve defined your audience, and you’ve defined what you need to say. Now what?

Get rolling, son. Get rolling.

How do you get rolling? Well, the first order of business is to decide where to start that ball rolling. There are about 7 billion different social networking sites (and sites that are not really social, but considered part of the tool box) out there – Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube – too many to mention. I’m going to focus on what, for most businesses, would be considered the top 3 – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Google+ is going to wind up being a heavy hitter at some point, because Google is just ubiquitous, but it’s a little early yet to focus too much energy there.

How do you get rolling? What’s the methodology to starting? It’s pretty easy. And – if you already have these outlets set up, you can skip to Lesson 5. Well, as soon as I write lesson 5. Unless you have a time machine. If you have a time machine, please contact me. I have some ideas…

Now, since you’re obviously pulling your hair out and saying “James, just get to the point. I appreciate the banter and the small talk, but I’m really just here for the information, I offer the Incredibly Helpful and Informative Tip #4:

Lesson 4: Get Rolling…

You’re ready to go. You’ve got your info in hand and you’re ready to sign up and start making your waves in the Social World.

If you’re like the vast majority of businesses out there, you’re going to see the best bang-for-your-buck from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Well – if you want to be on those, you gotta follow a couple of steps, keep your branding and message consistent and keep it going.

PLEASE REMEMBER THIS – IF NOTHING ELSE: Social marketing is NOT a quick fix. You can be at this for a long time before you start seeing a real, quantifiable return. Don’t expect a thousand people to beat down your door tomorrow, just because you’re using some terrific tools, advice and strategies. Be patient. You’re starting a ball rolling down a not-so-steep hill. It’ll be slow at first, but it’ll pick up momentum – as long as you don’t stop it. Gravity wins. Gravity always, always wins. Don’t fight against nature, son.

You’re ready, but where do you go from there? I’ll tell you where:

The Exercise:

Part 1: Facebook. Don’t have a Facebook page? Tsk, tsk, tsk. Actually, it’s pretty easy. On the screen where you sign in, at the bottom below the green button, you’ve got a nice little link that says “Create a Page for a celebrity, band or business.” Click there. Pretty easy. You can also watch this incredibly informative video. Thankfully, Facebook has made the whole process pretty simple and obvious. Just do it. Then, make it pretty or hire someone to make it pretty. This is important. Consider Facebook a mini website. You wouldn’t allow your website to look like crap (please, God, tell us your website doesn’t look like crap) and you shouldn’t allow your Facebook to look bad, either. This is what people are going to see when you start attracting new customers, leads and business contacts. First impressions are important. Fill out the information, fill it out honestly and completely. VERY important. Please know, too, that this new Facebook page is NOT your personal profile. It will be linked to your personal profile, but folks won’t be able to see your latest booze-filled rant on how bad the Steelers suck. Well, as long as you have your privacy settings correct. Your personal profile and your business page are 2 totally different things, and must be treated as such.

Part 2: Twitter. Twitter, for as insanely noisy as it can be, can be an important avenue. You can “microblog,” and you can have it pull links and feeds from your main website, Facebook and just about any other social marketing effort you might be involved with. The nice thing about Twitter is that is IS so limited – nobody’s expecting you to write the Magna Carta in a tweet, so you don’t have to try quite as hard. You still want compelling content – but it’s not quite as stressful. Sign up for a Twitter account here. Again, fill out the information as fully as you can. Add your profile pic or your company logo. Change up the background. Make it yours. This is important – nobody wants to come to your Twitter page and see the default settings. This is your brand – your identity. Consider it a business card. You’re not going to hand someone a blank business card, are you? Own it – that goes a long way.

Part 3: LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great service. You can link to a bazillion business people all over the globe. You can join groups of similar interest, start your own groups and really get your name and your business out there. Sign up for LinkedIn. Again, you’ll want to be as thorough with this as you possibly can be. Add YOUR photo to this. Don’t use your business logo here – you’ll want to show people that you’re a human being, and as good as your logo may be, it’s just not human. Once you’re in, start poking around, let it pull some contacts from your email and you’re off and running. LinkedIn is really good at suggesting contacts that you might know. It’s worth the try to contact and link to folks – you never know who’s going to be looking for what you’re providing.

So now you’re ready to start posting, finding and mining for leads, likes, contacts and followers. That’s the next bunch of tips. If there’s nothing else that I can stress in this series – I want to stress consistency. Stick to your message, stick to your style and stick to posting/tweeting/blogging, etc. You’ve got to stick to the social thing for the long haul to make it work for you, and you’ve got to stick to your message and style – that’s all that’s really going to work. There are now magic bullets in social marketing. Anyone that tries to tell you otherwise, well…

Next up is Step 5: Facebook Strategies…

Social Media 101 – Step 3: Find or Make a Hole and Fill It…

SARLACSocial media and social marketing have what SHOULD be a high calling. It’s a great way for folks of like mind to share information and create groups and socialize with folks who are interested in the same thing.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of noise, and folks throw out a lot of information, links, videos and what-not without a lot of thought as to the usefulness/interestingness of that information. And, yes – I make up words…

Which is what this cute little post is all about. To make the most of your time (and investment), you really want to find a place or space where you can innovate, or you want to stick with the tried and true. You want to find a hole where you fit – and fill that place up with good info, humor, photos or whatever. If you fill a void and fill a need, you’ll attract visitors, fans and – most importantly – interaction. But, be warned – if you try to maintain the status quo and do only what the “experts” tell you to do, it can come across as hollow – and repeat visits and viral sharing will be more difficult.

And so, in the interest of helping you identify and fill those “holes” and keep your social interaction genuine and compelling, I offer the Insanely Important Tip #3:

Lesson 3: Find or Make a Hole and Fill It…

Who is your audience and what do they want to see? Are your competitors offering that info? Is it oversaturated? Has that message become so diluted and over-done? If it has – innovate.

You’ve got to define the need (hole), define the current solutions to that need and then find a way to differentiate yourself and become an “innovator”. That’s pretty broad – but with just a tiny bit of thought and action, you can set yourself and your information apart – and generate a lot more interest and interaction, which is what this social game is all about. And so…

The Exercise:

Part 1: Who’s Looking in the Holes? Define your audience. This should be pretty easy. You know your business, right? If you need help here, contact us – we’d love to explore your audience, clients and customers and make some suggestions. Examine who these people are – online and offline. See what they like, what they expect, what they buy. Google the crap out of the demographic. There’s plenty of info out there. Write it down and keep it within easy reach – you really have to keep this in mind, because you’re NEVER going to appeal to 100% of the world’s population – so it’s better to try to narrow it down and focus on the folks who are REALLY your consumers.

Part 2: What Are the Holes – or Do You Need to Create Them? Define your audience’s wants, needs and expectations. See Part 1, above. You probably don’t have enough money or time to be so broad that you accidentally fill those wants, expectations and needs. Being precise saves time, money and psychic energy. Fill the obvious holes, look for new ones or create new ones. If you see a need (hole) in your field – fill it. If you can do that, you can innovate and capture a great audience – but breaking free of people’s expectations is difficult and fraught with danger. People are reluctant to change, so plan accordingly.

Part 3: Fill the Holes with the Same-Old-Same-Old and/or Differentiate. Which do you want to do? The answer is the one that is going to work best for your business and your viewers/fans/customers/clients. If your audience expects and consumes primarily pie charts, give them pie charts, but give them kick-ass pie charts. Give them something a little different and a little better. Add your own spin – humor, color, better design, more usable formats, etc. If your pie charts suck and the next guy’s are a little bit better, which one is going to sell harder? You get the idea. You want to fill the outstanding needs a little better than everyone else – but “better” is kind of subjective here. Sometimes, just your personality is enough of a differentiation to make your stuff more compelling. If you’re going to be completely different and offer your customer base something other than what they expect, you have to plan for a little blowback – but in the long run, standing apart from the field can be a GREAT boon to your bottom line – as long as it’s done judiciously and with your expectations in check.

In summation – Define your audience, define their needs and expectations, then define how you’re going to fill those “holes.”

Now, young Padawan,, if you’ve completed Step 1, you’ve defined your business. In Step 2, you defined your “message.” Today, you defined your audience and their needs. Put them all together and you have your basic “Social Marketing Plan” or at least the bones of your concept. You’re ready for the big guns and the real rubber-meets-the-road Step 4: Get Rolling…