Saturday, November 14, 2009

Small Business Blogs: Good for Goosing Google, Better for Customer Communications

Good thing I wasn't lighting a match the other day when a guy told me that small business owners (businesses with <100 employees) really don't care to connect with customers through their blogs--because I certainly would have lit my hair on fire with that one!

Yes, this particular social media consultant told me that blogging fits in two categories: business blogging and personal blogging. According to the guy, business blogging, and business bloggers, really don't care about comments or connecting with customers though blogs. What they're concerned about is getting more results in search and that's all they really want their blogs to do.

I was then called a "social media purist" for advocating that even small business owners should want to connect with customers through their blogs, I just about hung up on the guy. Perhaps it was morbid curiosity that kept me on the line and listening to what he had to say....

Still, I was really shocked by this way of thinking. Sure, you can goose Google by tweaking headlines and the first 200 characters in your blog to reflect the keywords that you want associated with your business. You can even create more links for yourself by having a number of keyword and content oriented blogs connected back to your website in some way.

But if that's all you're doing, and you're not connecting with other blogs or websites or bloggers--who, believe it or not, are also potential customers-- then that alone won't get you a substantial result in Google.

See, links from others help to draw your blog into search and help to "feed" Google. You get links not just by asking people to link to you or because you bought them. You get links to your blog by linking to others, by adding them to blogrolls and the like. Google used to penalize sites for paid links anyway--and even though the jury's still out on paid links, even if Google doesn't catch you the paid link might not give good return on investment.

Still, when your money is limited, buying links probably isn't as good as a small but efficient PPC ad strategy--perhaps even a PPC campaign on Facebook. Or advertising on a local TV website or an independent hyperlocal blog.

IMHO, the aim and intention for small businesses in social media should be to connect with customers. When you think about it, social media is like old fashioned retail--where chatting with your customers & potential customers created long-lasting relationships and continued sales.

And if small businesses do not want to connect socially with their customers, perhaps they should re-think getting into social media at all. It may simply not be the place for some kinds of businesses, and that's okay. In fact, more damage can be done by neglected social media than by no social media (think: old information in search.)

Think about it....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Hire Someone to Manage Your LinkedIn Profile

Lately, I've noticed a rash of social media consultants offering to manage the LinkedIn profiles of busy professionals. It's one thing to hire someone to help write your profile out--that's like resume writing or having some good p.r. writing done. But to manage it?? You've *got* to be kidding me.

I think the idea comes from the old days of having a secretary. Having been one of those in the 1980's, I remember when The Boss would come in from a business lunch, hand me a card and say "Add this guy to the rollodex, will you?" Like a good little secretary, that's what I did...

Now, I know that a good analogy for describing what LinkedIn can be is that it is a kind of rolodex online. Well, it is, and it isn't. It is in that it's a way to keep your contacts in a place online. It isn't in that it your rolodex never left your office, and it didn't require you to have a password to get into it. Further, people in your rolodex ever able to see the other people in your rolodex? Could anybody off the street come in and search your rolodex (which could happen with LinkedIn, if you do not manage your privacy settings accordingly?)

When a businessperson hires someone to keep a LinkedIn profile, or has someone in his/her office keep track of that profile, they must first hand over a password. For some, this might not be a big deal, and they will change the password when and if that person leaves.

What, though, if that person has changed the password without telling you? What if that person has edited your information in a certain way, or added people they believe you should be connected with.

Businesspeople who do not fully understand social networking but feel they must be there may be far too trusting with the information they allow others to manage for them.

It's like I always say--if you refuse to be responsible for your online identity and who you are in social networking, then perhaps it's not the place for you. The Internet is not analogous to the old paper-and-filing-cabinet world. It is a web and everything put there has the potential to be linked everywhere else...

Further, the old paper-and-filing-cabinet world gave us a false sense of security. It was difficult to break into those places and to get information out of them. It lead us to believe that things like an office rolodex were private. But the Internet is different, and what you put there, even you are mindful of security settings, even if it is behind a password-protected wall, is, potentially, public information. (hence one must be careful with social security numbers, driver's license numbers and the like--which are not meant to be public information.) So, one has to be more responsible for one's own social identity information on the Internet than they were in the paper world.

Because, in the past, if a secretary got fired, he couldn't necessarily mess with your information. Now, he can. Ad in ways you might not even know.

So, while I can give you a whole bunch of links on the deeper and techological reasons why one should manage one's own LinkedIn profile, and not give it to a social media person nor to one's secretary, I'll simply borrow a phrase from Doc Searls which might apply: participating in LinkedIn could be said to be a public activity under private control When you give the management to someone else, you are giving away control over private real estate online.

And are you really ok with giving away the control of your business contacts and your business persona (which is contained in that profile) to someone else? Do you really want to be, on a social networking site, a lot of spin with a plethora of connections that might mean less to you than if they were sitting in a file on your desk?

And, if all you really want to do is keep track of the business cards you acquire, because they may be potential new business contacts, there are a whole host of tools to help you with that--all kinds of card readers and such. So you don't even need LinkedIn for that purpose.

Think about it....about what you want from social media. Assess whether or not you have the time for it--don't just hire someone to do it for you. Do it for yourself.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wall St. Journal Disses Women in its "Future of Journalism" Twitter list

My good buddy Lisa Williams (founder of found something very interesting today when she checked out @WSJ's Alan Murray's new Twitter list for The Future of Journalism: there are no women on this list.

What gives, @WSJ? There are loads of women news innovators, who are creating the future of the news NOW, not just postulating about it. And it's not just Lisa, but

Amy Gahran who also won a Knight grant and edited Poynter's EMedia Tid-Bits column
Stacy Kramer of PaidContent
Susan Mernit (founder of Oakland Local)
Geneva Overholser
Shirley Brady who does a fab job for BusinessWeek...

Not to mention the numerous women who are creating journalism daily, even hourly, on their own hyperlocal news sites.

Why is it that women keep getting overlooked by the journalism establishment when it comes to who's doing the innovating? Why does there seem to be a wholesale ignoring of women's accomplishments and achievements in the brave new world of journalism on the Internet.

Or is journalism such a "priestly class" that they can't acknowledge the Mothers Superior that are keeping dialogues and their "churches" alive and growing out here in this land of unwashed journalistic barbarians (read: bloggers.)

Too many women are being overlooked by an establishment that is doing very little, too slowly, to get with the new program that is kicking the ass of newspapers and journalism overall. Too many projects and the women who are creating them are being passed by in favor of the "boy wunderkind."

If this continues, perhaps some of the most forward-thinking projects, and great lessons-learned out here will be nothing more than links on someone's blog...

Of course, the mistakes will continue to be made because nobody bothered to take a look at those lessons learned...

And if we're giving journalism the Sicilian Kiss in the next couple of years, the hegemony that ignores the women will only have themselves to blame.

When all they had to do was look around, and include some of the best, brightest and most innovative women helping the cause of journalism today.