Struggling to come up with some brilliant and potentially viral content for your website or blog? Not sure how to go about generating and executing on ideas without bringing in the heavy hitters (i.e. expensive experts)? No problem.
Here are 5 amazing and cheap-ass ideas that you can use to create content that will set the Internet on fire – and if done right – give your domain a huge SEO boost. Best of all, they won’t break the bank.
Let me be clear. This is for cheap-ass entrepreneurs like me. Not for broke entrepreneurs with no money at all.
So if you’re willing to part with a few bucks on some affordable ideas, let’s get started.
1. Pizza, Beer, and the “Yes and…” Game
If you’ve exhausted your list of potential ideas, why not get some of your colleagues and friends involved. Blast off an email to 20 of your friends inviting them to a pizza and beer party with a fun twist. It’s called the “yes and…” game.
If you’ve ever seen improv comedy, you know how hilarious it can be. It also tends to take some of the most unpredictable turns. Why? Because of one rule:
No matter what twist the plot takes, you have to go with it.
It works like this. Let’s say your friend suggests an idea that is completely ridiculous, you can’t reply with a negative comment poopooing the idea. You have to reply “Yes, and….”
“Let’s close the office for a month.”
“Yes, and let’s travel the world interviewing strangers and taking photos of everything weird or strange.”
“Let’s buy 1000 pizzas and send them to Google headquarters.”
“Yes, and we’ll include 1000 brainteasers printed on the pizza boxes.”
For the mere cost of a couple cases of beer and 2 or 3 large pizzas, you should be to come up with 100 crazy ideas in less than a couple hours. If you can’t, buy another case of beer.
What kind of things would you do for $5? It turns out that a lot of people would do all sorts of weird things. If you haven’t already, check out fiverr.com.
I’ve used fiverr.com to come up with catchy titles for eBooks, funny poems, and short video scripts. These little $5 investments may not be the source of life-altering goodness, but they will certainly start the juices flowing if you’re feeling a little stumped.
Here are some of the funny and weird things people will do:
- I will make a video of my Bunny eating your message for $5
- I will dance to an entire song of your choice in a hot dog costumer for $5
- I will make you feel better about losing your job for $5
- I will give you existentialist philosophic advice for $5
- I will write you a funny poem on any topic for $5
How can you say no to some of these offers??? Give it a try. You’ll spend more money on a haircut.
3. Xtranormal Videos
Have you ever tried to create viral video content. It’s not easy and it can cost a lot of money. Good quality video production can cost thousands of dollars, especially if you outsource to a production company.
There’s a cheap-ass alternative to production companies: Xtranormal.com. Their tag line says it all:
“If you can type, you can make videos!”
From your pizza and beer night (idea #1 above) or for $5 from a script writer on fiverr.com (idea #2 above), you can bang out a pretty funny 30 to 90 second script on any topic. Take that script, plug it into Xtranormal.com, and you’ve got yourself a funny video that you can spread to the world.
You’ve probably already seen some of these videos. You just didn’t know how easy they were to create.
Here’s a funny one about SEO.
What have I missed? Add your cheap-ass content generating ideas in the comments below.
We’ve all done it. Went out for a few drinks and a few laughs, and the next thing you know—wasted. And as long as you aren’t getting behind the wheel, no harm no foul, right?
Let’s be real for a second. Who doesn’t think it’s the best idea to text/Facebook/Gchat someone after a few too many? For whatever reason, it seems like the best idea at the time. Of course, if it really was a good idea, there wouldn’t be sites like www.textsfromlastnight.com.
I’d even argue that drunk dialing is the best option if you are going to insist on communicating with people who aren’t right there with you when you’re inebriated. Why? Because there is no record of it. But when you text or anything like that, you leave a paper trail that often won’t disappear.
When Drunken Use of Technology Collides with Your Business
It’s one thing to drunk text your ex or accidentally call your mom. But imagine if you accidentally got a hold of one of your clients. Talk about a nightmare.
Well that’s exactly what happened to a friend of mine recently who runs his own SEO article writing business. The other night I was awaken by a text that said, “check your email now.” Here’s what I found. Names have been changed to protect the innocent:
“My drunk ass was trying to Gchat Jason and accidentally clicked on a client. The following is what took place:
11:46 PM me: hahaha. oh my gosh. i was trying to click on my friend’s name. he played a prank on me in my apartment, and i was going to give him a hard time.
11:49 PM Rob: who is this?
no worries man
I’ve done something like this many of times
11:50 PM honestly, pretend it never happened because I think it’s funny
done worse myself
11:51 PM happy hour beers
Rob: luckily it was a guy and not a girl
imagine IMing a girl
and trying to explain that one
me: hahahahah, literal lol’ing
thank God you’re cool about it
Rob: haha yeah man I could care less
anyone who would get mad about that sucks
and needs to loosen up”
Okay. So any part of me that was pissed for being up in the middle of a work night reading my email was long gone by now. I was literally LOLing my butt off. True story.
What We Can Learn from This
Anthony got lucky. He made a colossal mistake that could have cost him a pretty important client. In his intoxicated state he accidentally clicked on the wrong name and proceeded to cuss at a paying customer. And not only that, but let’s face it, there’s no way the guy bought the “my friend played a prank on me and I was giving him a hard time” thing. Obviously, Anthony was bombed.
Luckily, his client seemed to be a kindred drunken spirit. But it’s safe to say that not all clients would take it this well. In fact, this sort of behavior could make you appear untrustworthy, incompetent, and downright unprofessional.
So what can we do to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen? Stop drinking.
I literally LOLed again.
So that solution is out. Now what? Well, perhaps separating our business contacts from personal? Or better yet—keep a separate business email address and don’t add business contacts to your Gchat!
Of course, that won’t keep you from accidentally texting them.
Best bet? Don’t hit the technology when you’ve been drinking. Instead, go home and go to bed.
Have you ever done something similar? How’d you handle it?
Well, not literally but if I end up in the obituaries section of the newspaper, you know who to blame.
To give you a bit of background, I decided earlier this year to start a few new blogs. I also decided, having worked as a linkbuilder and copywriter for a number of years to allow guest blogging, thinking I was not only doing something nice for the community but maybe I could spare a few hours writing time and get some really good user-generated content instead.
iPhonebloggers.co.uk was the first of these ‘guest blogging friendly’ blogs and although it’s only been going a few months, I’ve already begun offering guest blogging on it. Although I’ve had a few good suggestions from bloggers, I’ve had a lot of complete and utter crap sent through as well.
I’m not talking about duplicated content, it’s not. It generally meets the basic guest blogging guidelines I’ve set; that’s not normally an issue. What I’m talking about is 400 word pieces of low-quality drivel with a link or two at the end. Probably put together by some freelancer who gets paid peanuts to re-write articles he or she is re-writing from some almost defunct article directory. (When I say unique content, I mean you’ve actually had a think about it and come up with a unique angle – passing copyscape is taken for granted).
I know how it works – I’ve worked as an inhouse and agency seo for a number of years. It worked fine when article directories (god bless their panda-whacked little souls) were all the rage but it won’t work with blogging as well. Sure, there are blogs out there that will take anything. Sometimes I even jump in for an easy link if it’s a slow news day. But, for the majority of blogs and bloggers, guest blogging is a way to build influence and subscribers not just backlinks.
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
I appreciate that if you have something amazing to say, you probably want to write it on your own blog. That’s a natural instinct, but perhaps you’re just not understanding how guest blogging works.
When you write for another blogger, they’re essentially introducing you to all of their followers and friends. First impressions count. If you’re going to say something interesting, if you want to catch the attention of all these people and get them to follow you, link to you, whatever – now would be a really good time!
Guest blogging is a way to stand out, so put the time and effort into saying something worth saying not just repeating what’s already out there.
Don’t be Selfish about Social
Any serious blogger wants to build a readership, first and foremost. As a guest blogger you can help me do that by posting your blog post on Twitter and Facebook, you can stumble it and you can link to it when you write guest posts on other blogs. Ann Smarty is great for this. Guest blogging on Bloggingpro she links to another post she wrote on cleverdude.com. I’m sure she’ll get invited back. By the way Ann, with that attitude, you’re welcome to write a guest post for any of my blogs.
And linkbuilders don’t forget that pushing your guest posts out socially and linking back to them really strengthens the value of that link, as well as opening it up to more click-throughs and second hand pickup. It’s also plain old-fashioned good manners.
It’s Not A ‘Hit And Run’ Job
If you’re good, I want you back! Come pitch me another guest post and we’ll chat.
Advertisers understand that you often need to be exposed to a product a few times before you begin to notice it and ultimately buy it. The same goes for guest blogging. You might prick people’s attention the first time you write a guest post for me, but if you write two awesome guest posts in the space of a few months, people will sit up and pay attention. They’ll want to know more about you/your company/your blog and they won’t want to miss another post – AKA they’ll subscribe to your blog/follow you on Twitter/become a fan on Facebook – whatever.
I know you want in content links, but what I’m really looking for is in context links. What do I mean by that?
There’s nothing more spammy-looking than seeing a post with keywords forced in. You know the kind of post I mean? You’re reading through it and it’s all fine and then you come across a sentence that reads:
So book your flights to New York and jet off to a new adventure exploring the Big Apple. Or random car insurance links in the middle of an article. Just because you’re able to get the phrase into a sentence doesn’t mean it fits!
As long as you’re not linking to anything dodgy or totally out of context I’m actually cool with you having plenty of links to pages around your site. If you’re writing a post about the ‘Best iPhone Apps for Wannabe Hitmen’ and you’ve written a review of the Gunman iPhone app, well feel free to link to it if it adds value to the piece – that makes sense. Just don’t suddenly mention iPhone insurance or worse still car insurance, unless hitmen actually need and use it. Maybe they do, but it sure as hell sticks out like a sore thumb when you throw in a phrase like ‘cheap online car insurance deals’ with a link back to your site/client.
And while we’re on it, don’t just include your links your own site, Pagerank freaks! Co-citation is equally important in my opinion (and Jim Boykin’s), not just for seo but for actually writing a normal, natural-looking article that has some purpose other than to give you some exact match anchor text (which btw, matters less and less these days – SEOmoz agrees). Plus, you might just grab the attention of the people you’re linking to which could result in a retweet, stumble or more importantly a new relationship.
Look I know you or your client needs links (I do too!) and they’re getting harder and harder to get. The life of the seo and in particular linkbuilder is a hard knock one but don’t waste your time pushing out low-quality crap to my blog (at least). The fact that Google has whacked a ton of sites made up of this level of content should be an indication that it wants your copy to do more than just pass Copyscape – and blog owners like me do too! Put the time into writing something that I’ll not only read and publish, but that I’ll promote when I’m guest blogging as well.
These days everyone keeps looking for guest bloggers to write guest posts for their blogs. Getting guest posts isn’t a hard task in fact it can be the easiest thing if you’ve have a high traffic blog.
If you look at my blog, you’ll see I get bunch of guest posts every day and many bloggers keeps asking me what I’m doing to get guest posts? Today I’m sharing 5 effective strategies that I’ve used to get guest posts on my blog.
1. Add Guest post Page
This is far one of the easiest way to get guest posts on your blog. All you need to do is to create a “write for us” page on your blog. If you never created a guest post page than here’s what you need to add:
So, you want to write for Blog Name? We love to publish your guest post. Now don’t ask for benefits, because we Blog Name is one of the fastest growing blog on the planet. The benefits are just much more then getting traffic or backlinks, you can gain exposure and introduce your blog to our fastest growing community.
Some simple Requirements
- Posts are at least 450+ words.
- Interacting and replying to comments is must.
- Posts have a basic structure and are at least broken down into paragraphs.
- Posts must be in good English.
- Please don’t add more than two links.
- The post you submit to us is unique.
How to guest post to Blog Name?
- Register an account here
- Add your Full name, second name and fill out a short profile Bio info, feel free to add a link or two to your blog/site (use HTML)
- Visit Gravatar.com, having an image is a must in your profile
- Write your post, save it and it will be reviewed and published asap!!
2. Invite Bloggers
You can contact bloggers with a good pitch and why you’d like to get the guest posts from them. This is very effective strategy and I’ve good success with it. You don’t have to contact high profile or A list bloggers, contact an average blogger.
You can use blogging communities to find bloggers, who may be interested in doing guest posting on your blog.
Blokube is one of those communities which can help you find great bloggers who can write guest posts for your blog.
3. Join Social Media Networks
This may not be very effective way but still a useful one. I did found few guest bloggers who wants to do guest posting for my blog through Social Media Networks like Facebook & Twitter. In order to get success from Facebook & Twitter, you need to be very active in those networks.
You can use free/paid tools to automate the process – Dlvr.it, Triberr, Bufferapp,Tweetdeck, etc.
I’m sure most of you already know about MyBlogGuest, most awesome marketplace for finding guest posts for your blog. It is a forum community where bloggers give info about their blogs and then ask for guest posts from other bloggers/users.
MyBlogGuest is a unique community that is based on one simple principle: if you provide quality, you don’t need to pay to be heard. It is not just about getting more guest posts, it has forum, marketplace, gallery, find blogs for guest posting and much more. It even has a Premium Feature & Ann did great work in branding it.
5. Run a Guest blogging contest
Last but not least – Run a guest blogging contest, like I’m doing on Blokube Blog. Give away cash/ebooks/tools as prizes to the contest winners who do most number of guest posts on your blog. This can be a very effective strategy but to be very successful with guest blogging contest, you need to market it properly. Here’s what you can do to make sure your contest is a success:
- Contact bloggers/marketers and ask them to write a post about the contest
- Get a banner designed and ask the participants to put it on their blogs.
- Promote the contest on Forums like DigitalPoint, Warrior Forums & Webmaster Forums.
- Use Buysellads to do some paid promotion.
Over To You
All the above factors contributed effectively my blog in getting quality guest posts and will work for any type of content in any niche, in case you find something to disagree with in this post or have an opinion on this topic, please do share it with us below. If you find this post useful than please share it on Twitter or Facebook!
It’s easy to get hung up on the words you write. As a top blogger, you’d be foolish to not at least consider them. After all, words, sentences and paragraphs are your bread and butter.
But once you’ve worked out what to say and the tone in which to say it, do you take the time to consider the format?
Because if the layout of your copy isn’t readable, nobody’s going to stick around to see what you’ve written. And that renders all your well-chosen words redundant.
So read on and learn the secrets that are going to ensure your target audience is going to read all the way to the end.
The Seven Secret Steps to Irresistible Blog Posts
Master the Art of the Paragraph
We all remember when we’re obliged to start a new paragraph. When you change topic, change time or change place. That’s what your teacher told you at school, so you just keep ploughing on with the same rambling paragraph until you’ve exhausted the topic, run out of time, or moved to sunny Tijuana.
You credulous buffoon. Why on earth did you think your teacher was right?
Here’s the one time you need to change paragraph. Doesn’t matter if time, topic and place are still the same, there’s one point when you need to hit that return key.
When dramatic effect demands it.
A quick, single sentence paragraph is visual shorthand for “this bit is important”. So make use of them when you’re sharing something groundbreaking. And watch as your reader starts to scroll down looking for the next one.
Or for something just as arresting…
Hit ’em With a Hail of Bullet (Points)
What have great bloggers and successful gangsters got in common? Other than a penchant for whisky cocktails and jaunty hats?
That’s right – they both know how to fire bullet points with deadly accuracy.
Why are bullet points so effective?
- Visually arresting – a bullet point hits you like, well, a bullet between the eyes. You can’t ignore it. You stop and read.
- Clear and concise – it’s impossible to ramble on a bullet point. You’re throwing out pure, distilled information
- Breaks up blocks – people won’t read a wall of text. Liberally scatter your bullets, and your layout remains fresh and interesting.
Stop Skimmers by Sprinkling in Subheadings
Skim readers love subheadings. It’s pretty much all they’ll stop for.
And you want a skim reader to stop, because if they don’t, they’re scrolling all the way to the bottom, off the page and out of your life.
So unleash a few content speedbumps to slow them down. Enticing and enlightening subheadings help your readers to find the content they find most useful or interesting – so they’ll make a bee-line straight for it.
And then they’ll read it.
And if they’ve slowed down long enough to read a whole subsection, they’ve slowed down long enough to write a comment, hammer out a tweet, or buy your eBook.
Not bad for a bit of bolded text.
The Internet Can’t Say No to a Funny Picture
By now, the reader’s concentration is beginning to flag. All the typographical tricks are keeping them on the page, but you need to cut them some slack.
So throw in an illustration or two.
Preferably one that backs up your points – and don’t forget to add an amusing caption, just to re-enforce your message. Because long after they’ve forgotten the exact wording of your advice, they’ll remember that the funny monkey told them just how to keep people reading.
Beef Up Arguments With Block Quotes
By now, you’re coming around to my way of thinking. You’re plotting sublime subheaders, and coming up with cunning captions.
But something’s nagging at the back of your mind. Wouldn’t this post be truly, completely irresistible if you could just see a second opinion?
Block quotes are a great way of providing a second opinion. As they’re generally from another authority on your subject of choice, they carry weight.
And because they’re visually interesting, they fulfill the same role as bullets points and subheaders – they force the reader to slow down and pay attention!
Mr603 – Outspoken Member of the Twitterati
Yeah. That’ll just about cover it.
Think About Your Font
I can say with some certainty that you’re probably not going to have a clue. Which is frankly ridiculous if you want to create a truly irresistible post.
The art of font creation is a huge subject that I don’t have space to get into here. But prove the power of the font to yourself. Copy this post into a word processor.
Now set the font to Comic Sans or Vivaldi.
I think that proves my point. Don’t you?
Follow the six secret steps, and you’ll have framed your content in an absolutely irresistible way. But don’t rest on your laurels yet, dear blogger.
Because you’ve still got a final chance to throw it all away. By irritating your readers and driving them from your site, never to return.
Irritating blog quirks could fill a whole post to themselves, but there are two content killers that you’ll need to avoid at all costs:
- Pop Ups: I know you want your reader to sign up to your mailing list. But please don’t hurl a pop-up at them after they’ve just started to read. It’ll break their concentration and raise their hackles. Just don’t take the risk.
- Pagination: We’ve all got mouse wheels. So don’t split your post into seven chapters across seven pages. Because a blog reader will scroll for miles and miles to read your content. Just don’t expect them to click.
So there you have it. The seven secret steps to making your blog’s content truly irresistible. You don’t need to use all seven techniques in everything you post, but keep all of these techniques in your locker, and you’ll find your audience to be far more responsive.
And who can blame them? You’re totally irresistible.
If you’ve ever used Facebook, Twitter or any other social media outlet a single day in your life and done so with any rate of success, you’ve probably already heard the whines of other users who are mystified at how you did it, or been accused of making up the term “social media specialist.” In fact, some of the stuff people like to say is starting to sound positively rote by now:
“Look at you, little Ms. Popular! How did you ever manage to get all those Twitter followers?”
“I tweet stuff all the time, but no one ever retweets me.”
“I only have 100 friends on Facebook. No one cares what I think.”
The last sentence there is the most deadly — making a broad decision that isn’t yours to make, and giving up before you’ve even started to try. But many people do that, and it can be your death sentence in a digital world where your output can make or break your public persona. So here’s a handy list about what you can do to improve your social media standing and maybe get a few more people to notice you. Also, if you could stop whining about how unpopular you are, that would be super.
1. Decide What You Need to Say
One of the greatest dangers of social media is that it allows us to report information to the world stream-of-consciousness style, especially with Twitter. This is the reason that the service is crammed with photosofpeople’sfood and complaints about their ailments, which frankly is stuff that should be saved for your dining partner or the person you live with. Yes, I know you are excited about your food, but realize that no one else really is OTHER than you (unless you just so happen to be a master chef-turned-blogger tweeting pics of your newest mouthwatering creation.) We’ll delve into this more later in step two, but let’s keep a one-track mind here.
So if you can’t tweet/FB/blog about whatever you damn well please, then what can you write about? Well, that’s the first key — before you start blathering all willy-nilly on a platform where everyone can hear you, make a decision about what it is you want to talk about. If you’re coming up blank there, consider what you LIKE to talk about. Are you crazy about squirrels? Passionate about vintage computer collecting? Nuts about repurposed home decor? Whatever your favorite topic is, that classic and cliched old rule writers have been following for years still applies: Write what you know. However, there’s a new addendum for the modern world: Write what you love. Enthusiasm is catching, and if you communicate it with honesty, people will come. Except when it’s a picture of your lunch. But that’s all about consideration for others, and as long as we’re on that, let’s hit up step two. Read more >>
This is a guest post from Lewis Austin. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.
I don’t know about you, but I believe that all those one-time satisfied social networkers are FINALLY beginning to stem the hysteria that’s been surrounding the craze for a number of years now.
The original concept of social media is dropping dead, partly because more and more people are beginning to pick holes in its design and influence. Those who were quick to jump on the social bandwagon have found that the fast-growing phenomenon can only plod along for so long until it hits a big, brutal brick wall.
A lot of web users wouldn’t even have been interested in the launch of Google +, even though it is supposedly a revolutionary platform that will change the social media landscape irreversibly, because it’s automatically been compared to every other network of its kind (*coughFACEBOOKcough*). The reality of it all is that none of the features behind the best-loved social networks are new. Everything in the social media world has been done before and I’m clutching at straws trying to find anything that’s blown me away recently. If you look at the major networks and question what sets them apart from the rest, you really start to find more similarities than differences. And often the underlying reasons causing the introduction of each feature are much more flawed than you, being a fierce social networker, would care to admit.
The new features that have been released are simply expansions on what we already had. Take, for example, Facebook Places. Essentially, Facebook Places has just ripped off Foursquare and Gowalla. And for those who don’t know, Foursquare and Gowalla are location-based social networks that revolve around their ‘check-in’ feature. This means that if you’re meeting up with friends you can announce your new location to a select list of friends. Facebook decided to kill their app off, as they realised that only 6% of users had actually bothered trying it, so now the Places feature has been integrated into status updates. Which in itself is just irritating.
I’ve got a couple of burning problems with this system. Firstly, there is no need to dish out your latest physical location on a digital map for everyone to see. What purpose does it serve? Facebook makes all sorts of personal information available to others anyway, so essentially any nosy soul is set up to become your stalker; they can already look up your email address and phone number but now have the opportunity to track your current location too.
This feature is obviously raising concerns for safety of the younger generation of Facebook profilers. Despite the rules there are a lot of kids on Facebook who are clearly under 13 (a whole separate issue for a whole other blog!). Although some may argue that FB can’t be responsible for those who break FB law, these fledgling users have created a danger for themselves because their entire list of friends has full access to all of their information. It’s all too easy to imagine how less-than-scrupulous members of society would go about getting in touch with those who are slightly more impressionable.
You need to ask yourself if you want all of your Facebook friends to know exactly where you are 24/7. This isn’t a trust issue but more of a case of TMI. Quite frankly, being constantly bombarded with details about someone’s whereabouts is dull.
Anyway, the crux of the matter is, Facebook Places was not an original idea. Fact.
Now here’s one you may have spotted. Google Circles is just a developed version of Facebook’s Groups. This Google+ feature allows you to organise your contacts into particular groups, or Circles, and lets you choose how you share your data. Basically, this means you can separate dignified posts from slightly less savoury updates and distribute different types of information to different groups of people in your life. But, however well Circles took off initially, once I waited for all the Google+ hype to die down it became clearer to me that there was definitely a primitive version of Circles already available to app-starved socio-lites.
Facebook Groups were clearly the inspiration for the big G’s ‘pioneering’ feature. It must be said that Google has used this idea as a crucial building block for its platform and developed the initial idea significantly, which is highlighted in comparison to the lacklustre reception of Groups – in fact, it has to be said that many Facebook users did not really know about the feature and found no valid use for it. (…Myself included).
THE TWITTER-PATTER OF TIRED FEET
Twitter is the micro-blogging social network that has acquired 200 million users since its launch and it is safe to say that in terms of popularity, this site has literally exploded. The whole concept of Twitter is just a squished-down version of Facebook, taking all of the good qualities that Facebook offers to networkers, simplifying them and condensing them all together to create the hassle-free conversation platform that we all know and love. The process of befriending one of your peers consists of the click of a button and once you’re deemed a ‘follower’ you gain access to their status updates as and when they happen.
There is a bare minimum of information that is actually shared between users. All that’s required is a profile name, your general location and a paragraph about yourself. One of the most appealing things about Twitter is the simplicity of it all, I suppose. Updates are only 140 characters long, so all information that is shared is short and to the point (a concept that Facebook never really understood right from the beginning, with their fancy lists and whatnot). You don’t need to read through a novel of uninteresting information to find something useful. However, what is happening on Twitter is not new – the idea of ‘following’ others and checking out their updates is practically a simplified RSS Feed.
There is a mentioning feature which allows you to let someone know you are talking to/about them, but again this is a meeker version of the status tags on Facebook where you can tag someone in a post. The recent addition of the promoted Tweets feature leaves a lot to be desired, too. Allegedly set up to give businesses the opportunity to stick a short ad up alongside their relevant search terms, the idea is a spin-off of Facebook paid search advertising, which itself is an adaptation of Google’s highly successful Pay Per Click model. Despite its good intentions (for the profitability of businesses if nothing else), the feature seems to have slipped right under the radar and remained so unobtrusive to the point that many users have wondered whether its introduction was worthwhile.
THE MARRIAGE OF FACESPACE AND MYBOOK
Yet the classic case of feature-swapping is best explained by the rivalry between Myspace and Facebook. These networks were both possibly the biggest international social networks going at any time. I remember when Myspace was big. Myspace drew in the younger generation of networkers through its clear focus on custom pages and entertainment, but the novelty soon wore off as users began to migrate over to Facebook. I had a lot of fun on Myspace myself but when all of my friends began flocking to Facebook I had no choice but to join – after all, what is a social network without any friends? You’re just talking to yourself on a pretty little platform.
In an attempt to win back some users, Myspace introduced the same features that helped Facebook win users, such as photo tagging and of course the infamous like button.
We do need to remember, however, that this brutal method of prising users from the arms of the musclier, more exotic newcomer is not uncommon. Resorting to copycat tactics has always been a last ditch effort to win people back.
IT’S BUSINESS TIME
More and more businesses are flocking to social networks in the hope of building brand awareness and generating leads, but this trend isn’t a new one either. In the past, businesses simply had to go it alone. There was a distinct lack of professionalism and strategy behind social media management, with companies stabbing users in the dark with half-arsed promo campaigns, but now social media management has expanded into an actual occupation. Proof of this is that SEO companies and the like employ dedicated social media marketers (such as myself!) to manage the successful manipulation of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. We handle everything, from the basic layout to the select information we share with fans. Companies will invest in this service because, as long as their chosen social marketer knows their stuff, social networks are the equivalent to free advertising – it just takes some time to determine the methods that will work best. But despite starting every social campaign with the best intentions, we have to ask ourselves this simple question from time to time: have those very users we’re looking to influence cottoned on to our efforts? Are they so used to being ‘sold to’ that they simply shake off all our attempts to amaze them? Social networks weren’t set up to cater for big money-hungry brands.
LOCKING YOUR DOORS AND LEAVING NETWORKS THE KEY
Privacy is an issue that’s constantly niggling at the back of our minds. It’s simply human nature to want to keep our information safe and secure; hold our cards close to our chest. The on-going disputes about each user’s right to confidentiality are going to eventually determine the way in which we communicate. We need to understand that the net was made for sharing, yet still have some say in the way in which our personal information is used. Unfortunately, it’s a debate that’s not going to get resolved anytime soon, and here’s why.
Google caused uproar with its real names policy. Even though Plus was still in its beta stages, if Big G believed you were posing as someone else, you got promptly kicked off. Such was the case of Violet Blue, a renowned author and blogger who’s so highly regarded that she once appeared as a guest on Oprah. Violet was invited to the network by Big G itself, yet once the fake names policy was put in place, her account was suspended. Work that one out.
Teething problems, perhaps? I don’t think so. The Google+ team have stuck to their guns and are of the opinion that you need to pay for the privilege of joining their network by surrendering your identity. Using fake names makes it impossible for your closest friends to find you and therefore goes against the entire principle behind SOCIAL networking. But for many, the issue is this: if you’ve been using a make-believe persona throughout your entire cyber life, why should you need to disclose your true identity now? Many enjoy venting their frustrations or meeting other like-minded tech-heads completely anonymously. This ‘real name’ palaver caused problems for many and turned G+ from a convenient communications platform to a definite hassle within a matter of weeks. I reckon all the effort put into restricting usage should have been put into creating a safer, more secure environment for all networkers.
There are hugely popular conspiracy theories related to Facebook and its privacy policies. Many believe that the CIA use Facebook as a data mining system, which sees them flaunting the fact that many of us have become dependent on it and will happily choose convenience over security any day of the week.
The well-known ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous have warned that they’re planning to take down Facebook sometime around November 5th. This group of free radicals is being targeted by the FBI and have already infiltrated many government run websites that they consider against their cause. Better back up your favourite pics just in case then, hey. Targeting Zuckerberg’s crowned jewels is no coincidence, though; group leaders were furious after sussing out that Facebook will desperately hold on to your personal information, no matter what you do. If you decide to throw in the towel and delete your profile, FB will ‘hold on’ to your info, just in case you decide to return with your tail between your legs. They won’t just cling to your name and email address; they’ll make sure they store all of your activity history. If I’d have known this when I first set my profile up, I would have avoided joining completely!
Surely, the only move that will truly ‘revolutionise’ social networks would be giving users full control over their own privacy settings. Not just the ability to decide who’s allowed to tag you in their album or who’ll be able to track down your late-night video-sharing – proper, true control of your online footprint. Finding a way to make it harder for close friends and complete strangers can dig through a past that they weren’t involved in. My personal opinion is that having that information available is practically advertising it to be read, so I guess the best way to fight FB’s policy is to be extra careful about what you release.
PROFIT ABOVE PRIVACY
So, keen to overturn this dismal perception of network privacy, Google+ launched with the admirable intention of making sure everyone was upfront and honest about their identity and used their profile for the right reasons. What they fail to tell you is that, once you’ve set up a Gmail account, the bots crawling their servers can pick out keywords from your messages and use what they find for targeted advertising. They’ll pick out frequent topics from your conversations and send you useful (*cough*) ads and tailor-made discounts from relevant companies. Now, if we received our post already hacked to pieces by an over-eager mail man, we wouldn’t be best pleased, would we? So in terms of the way your account is manipulated, is this purely a case of ‘what I don’t know about can’t hurt me’? One step forward, twenty gigantic strides back, big G.
Microsoft actually took a stab at Google’s prying eye and created the GmailMan video to promote their new, slightly more ethical email service. It’s an exaggerated stab, granted, but the root of the problem is clearly raised.
REALITY AND WEB-ALITY
There used to be a clear line drawn between reality and web-ality. In real life you pop off down the pub for a pint and a catch-up; in web-ality you connect with those you never would have met were it not for the internet. Yet it seems that as time goes on the web still strives to become as realistic as possible. It’s important to remember that once you’ve ‘friended’ someone on the web, they’ve generally got unlimited access to your online movements. This isn’t like real life. In real life, if you meet a new friend, you don’t tell them everything about you. Some things they just won’t want to know.
With each ‘convenient’ update released, with each development launched, we’re told that we become closer to the ‘ultimate’ social networking experience. These platforms were set up to make it easier to connect with people, but what if we’re just victims of a communication overload?
This could be said of the latest changes that have been proposed for the Facebook layout (which, by the way, haven’t been received particularly well). The design updates, which were revealed by founder Zuckerberg at the annual F8 convention, include plans to encourage each user to share as much media as possible, allowing each of your friends to watch your online life almost in real-time. To replace traditional profile interfaces, Zuckerberg wants to roll out a vis-audio timeline of your activity, replacing streams with a mish-mash of videos, photos, audio and statuses. Facebook has received criticism from the masses – many have protested by describing the new look ‘too cluttered’ and ‘too complicated’ and are of the opinion that the site has become ‘too difficult to use and enjoy’. There’s too much going on, quite frankly, and users have been put off by the inability to easily shut off particular aspects of their life from certain friends.
The Likely Aftermath
Trying to tie together all these issues in what was supposed to be an upbeat article has been a mammoth task. But at the end of the day, I feel that many of us are still blinded by networking’s glory days and refuse to accept that the networks’ foundations are crumbling. Unless we can break down the barriers that stop social media REALLY progressing, we’ll simply keep getting fed the same ideas over and over until we fall off the wagon completely.
Listen and learn, social networks. Your users don’t want real life, they want freedom, optional anonymity and, above all, choice – three aspects of social media that are quickly slipping out of their reach. Major turn off; major brick wall.
But what do you think? Are you still enjoying social networking as much as ever, or do you feel the concept has been exhausted too?
This is a guest post from Jeevan Jacob John. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.
What is your Ultimate goal, as blogger who blogs about blogging (or something that is associated with blogging)? Or, what should be your goal?
If you ask me, I would tell you that the goal should be to guide your visitors in the right path. Most visitors of a marketing blog are looking for marketing tips that they can apply to their blog. They are looking to you, as a guide. They are expecting you to help them to “walk” in the right path.
Hi, My name is Jeevan Jacob John and in this blog post, we will talk about long term goal(s) – for your blog – and some analogies to get you started 😉
Let me ask you….
When you visit a new place (for sight seeing), you would need someone to guide you, right?
Same is true for blogosphere. When a person is new to the field, he is like a tourist. He needs someone to guide him to the right path (to success). He may later decide to settle on (start blogging), following your (as a guide) advise. So, your mission is to guide your visitor through the right path. Give them honest reviews. Be honest about what you say in your blog. Tell them the shortcuts (in the case of blogging, specific techniques to manage a blog).
A successful blogger is the one who guides his visitors through the right path.
Let me give another example:-
Bloggers are like teachers. The best teachers are the ones who are able to teach, effectively. Teachers use different techniques to get their students’ attention (or to encourage students to listen and take action). Like teachers, bloggers should also use different techniques to get the visitor’s attention and “make them” read your post 😀
So, Is your Blog a Kick Ass Guide?
Is your blogging success in guiding your visitors? The best option to answer this question to is ask your readers itself. Have a poll. Now, if you don’t want to do that, there is another option for you. You could just look at your traffic analytics and compare the bounce rates of your visitors (new vs returning) (Note: Thanks to Ana Hoffman of Trafficgenerationcafe.com for this idea). There are many elements (from design to content) that determine your blog’s success as a guide. Let’s take a brief look at all those elements:-
- Do you have an indicator (At the beginning of the post) that specifically tells your reader what the post is about? Yes, traditionally titles have been the indicators of the topic. But, it is always better to go a step ahead and describe what your post is going to be about.
You could add your own style to the indicator. For me, I use “In this blog post, we are doing to discuss about…” format. Adding a call to action is also a good thing to do (helps your reader to make the best choice, to read or to not read).
- Do you specifically highlight the main parts of your post? I don’t do this a whole lot of time, but I think, it would be really great if you highlight the steps that your readers needs to take (like post takeaway etc.)
I like to read the post take-away/bulleye/conclusion because it usually tells me what the post is about (in a deeper sense) and what I need to do (it especially helps when I don’t really have time to read the entire post).
- The standard rule of dividing your post into different paragraphs.
- Using different techniques like call to action to get your reader’s attention.
The call to actions, that are in the beginning of the post, serve only one purpose: to get your readers started. You need to use various techniques, in the middle of the posts to keep your readers on the page and to follow along.
- Use examples and analogies to explain your post (like I did at the beginning of this post).
It makes the post interesting and easy to understand.
- After you have done with the post, tell me what to do next (Share, comment etc.). You could personalize the call-to-actions to make it unique and interesting.
- Add a navigation bar to your blog (category bar). It will help your readers to browse through the topics and find what they want.
- The traditional rule of having a Search bar.
- Do you highlight your best posts? Yes, create a page in which you highlight the best posts you have written so far (it doesn’t have to be the ones with most comments/shares). Highlight the posts that you think are the best. Link to them.
A map will only be useful (to a tourist) if it highlights the important places of the city. Likewise, your blog needs to highlight the best posts you have written.
- Link to your guest posts. Add a separate page in which you can show off your reputation, as a writer, in various sites. This helps the reader to classify your blog in their reading list.
- When it comes to overall design of your blog, you need to use “eye-pleasing” colors. You also need to make your blog user-friendly (less clutter, more speed, better colors).
When it comes to list subscription, people tend to subscribe to lists that they find useful (in other words, to lists that are owned by successful blogs – guides). So, viewing your blog from a “Guide” perspective, helps you to become a better blogger.
What else does a Guide do?
- A Guide is also polite to his clients. His as a blogger, you need to be polite when commenting, contacting, messaging etc. [to] your visitors.
What are things are you thinking about right now? Would you mind to share it with us? Did you like the post? If so, what did you? What can I improve on?
Let me know of all your comments and thoughts about this approach on blogging. Thank you! Don’t forget to share because this post is part of the guest blogging contest 😀
Image Edited. Original Image : Credited to the author.
This is a guest post from Chris Help. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.
Yesterday I got an email from my wife asking “what the hell is this?” with a long, personal sounding email attached. At first glance I thought it was from her ex-boyfriend (after 3 years of marriage I still hate that guy). But upon closer inspection I realized it was from Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix. My interest was captured.
In case you didn’t know, Netflix recently announced that they were changing their pricing structure. They were offering both online streaming and rental-by-mail services starting at around 10 bucks a month. However, they were now separating the 2 services and charging 8 dollars for each one.
Hey, it pissed me off. And apparently a lot of other people as well. In fact, there was quite the stir about it online.
Now usually in a situation like this, a company will choose one of the following courses of action:
- Ignore it and move on.
- Attempt to justify their actions.
- Issue a public apology.
Netflix chose option 3 and did so in quite the fashion. Did they make the right choice? And how well did they pull it off? I don’t know… let’s take a closer look.
Netflix Gets “Personal” Touch
Below I have pasted the exact email my wife received. The plan is to divide it up into sections and dissect each one to see what they did, how they did it, why they did it, and if I think it will be successful. The letter is in italics to keep it separate. Sound good? Let’s get started…
Subject Line: An Explanation and Some Reflections
Eh. To me this was week. To someone like my wife who pays very little attention to emails from people like Netflix, this subject line could easily have gotten lost in the mix. And it certainly didn’t help her understand who it was from or why. Too generic. Now you’re probably saying “didn’t it say it was from Netflix in your inbox? Not exactly…it said it was from Reed Hastings, CEO and Co-founder of Netflix. The last part of his title was easily lost in the “from” column in the inbox.
Here Mr. Hastings begins by directly addressing my wife by name. At this point, we don’t know who this is from but we think “hm, they must know me.” So we read on.
I messed up. I owe you an explanation.
Okay, now you’ve got my attention. Not knowing who this is, I get that lump in my throat and am wondering:
- Who wronged me?
- What sort of bombshell are they about to drop on me?
So I read one—but with dread.
It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. Let me explain what we are doing.
There’s a lot going on here. But first let me state, I still don’t know who the hell this is from. That said, once I start reading and I hit the word “members” I immediately realize this same email was sent to a group of other people. My next thought is “this is an advertising gimmick.” And quite frankly, if my wife hadn’t sent it to me wondering who it was from and what they were talking about, I would have stopped reading on the spot and deleted it.
But I kept reading. Anyway, this paragraph does a few things:
- It lets us know the company is listening to their customers’ feedback.
- It explains what the complaints are for those unaware.
- It offers a personal apology.
- It lets me know that Mr. Hastings plans to explain his earlier actions in the rest of the email.
Most of this is good, except I can’t help but think I’m about to read something full of excuses. You know, someone trying to dig their way out of a hole. How about just a straight up “sorry, we screwed up!” and leave it at that? Eh...moving on with skepticism.
For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us). So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.
Hm, I’m starting to change my mind. Mr. Hastings states a very real problem for businesses like Borders that are collapsing. Keeping up with changing times is difficult. He also makes sure to stick by his guns in respect to the pricing change, which doesn’t sound as bad now that we realize his company was in danger of going under. That said, he makes sure to admit fault for what he believes he did wrong—not adequately explaining what was happening. Keeping me, the customer, out of the loop.
So here is what we are doing and why.
The explanation he made me realize I have been waiting for all along is about to come. I like how he let this sentence stand alone. It created a nice breaking point for the email and helped place emphasis where it should be. A great copywriting technique.
Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD. DVD is a great option for those who want the huge and comprehensive selection of movies.
I also love our streaming service because it is integrated into my TV, and I can watch anytime I want. The benefits of our streaming service are really quite different from the benefits of DVD by mail. We need to focus on rapid improvement as streaming technology and the market evolves, without maintaining compatibility with our DVD by mail service.
Mr. Hastings first explains the benefits of each of their two services. This accomplishes 2 goals.
- It makes me realize they are offering 2 very different services, each with its own perks.
- It re-sells me on their service offerings. As someone who may have become disenchanted with the company after the big announcement, this is a chance for me to remember what’s in it for me if I continue doing business with them. Another good copywriting move.
So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.
Sounds logical now that he broke them down into 2 distinct categories. Darnit all if this guy isn’t winning me over!
It’s hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”. We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.
Here I picture Mr. Hastings getting teary-eyed. After all, who really likes change? The guy is tugging at my heart strings here. Meanwhile, he announces the rebranding of the original Netflix—somewhat reluctantly. And while he explains the name, which seems logical enough, I can’t help but feel like the DVD-by-mail thing is going to die a slow death. He doesn’t seem too amped on it and the streaming section gets to keep the original name. If I’m with Netflix mainly for the mail order, I’m not at all happy right now.
Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to qwikster.com to access their DVD queues and choose movies. One improvement we will make at launch is to add a video games upgrade option, similar to our upgrade option for Blu-ray, for those who want to rent Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 games. Members have been asking for video games for many years, but now that DVD by mail has its own team, we are finally getting it done. Other improvements will follow. A negative of the renaming and separation is that the Qwikster.com and Netflix.com websites will not be integrated.
Knowing that I’m unhappy with the announcement, Mr. Hastings tries to save himself here. He gives a half assed attempt at assuring me nothing will change. And he even tries to make me think it’s only going to get better. But I’m no fool, Mr. Hastings. Your heart is no longer in this. The writing is on the wall. Bye bye, Netfl…errr… Qwikster!
There are no pricing changes (we’re done with that!). If you subscribe to both services you will have two entries on your credit card statement, one for Qwikster and one for Netflix. The total will be the same as your current charges. We will let you know in a few weeks when the Qwikster.com website is up and ready.
If I were him, I would have put the first line of this paragraph in all bolds. Because after all, the price increase is the most annoying part of the whole thing. And now he’s saying it won’t go up…anymore. However, if I’m upset enough about the recent price change to unsubscribe, this won’t win me back. But if I’m on the fence, well--maybe.
For me the Netflix red envelope has always been a source of joy. The new envelope is still that lovely red, but now it will have a Qwikster logo. I know that logo will grow on me over time, but still, it is hard. I imagine it will be similar for many of you.
Rebranding without rebranding. New logo, yet still the same colors we connected with. Will the logo be enough to break that emotional attachment? He hopes not. But he puts himself in this again and explains his own emotional turmoil, bringing back that personal feeling and forcing me to put myself in his shoes… or is he trying to put himself in my shoes? Effective.
I want to acknowledge and thank you for sticking with us, and to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.
Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.
And a closing apology. What’s done is done.
-Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix
p.s. I have a slightly longer explanation along with a video posted on our blog, where you can also post comments.
Ah the P.S. One of the oldest direct mail copywriter tricks in the book. He knows I’ll read the P.S. and let’s me know I have an outlet to express my thoughts. Smart.
Brilliant or Bust?
Here’s what it comes down to. I think they made some mistakes (like I bet a bajillion people deleted this email before it was ever read) but the email itself is fairly effective overall. And when you have made as many customers upset as Netflix has, the worst thing you can do is nothing. That said, I think they made the right move. A “sincere” apology with a logical explanation and no backing down.
What will this mean for their business? Only time will tell…
What are your thoughts? Reputation management success? Rebranding fail? Tell me about it in the replies.
Sometimes you find something that you enjoy so thoroughly (or that helps you escape so well) that it robs you of your time and poisons your relationships. For some, it’s drugs, alcohol. For me, it was World of Warcraft. This isn’t a “MMOs are Satan” post, so don’t close the page. After about a year of being “off the stuff,” I’ve had some time to sit down and really think about WoW and its effect on my life. This post is a rational look at how playing the game the way I did made me into a good SEO. In fact, the hardcore WoW raiding environment could almost be a training ground for potential SEOs, assuming they’re good at breaking meth addictions.I suppose in a way, this is a cathartic exercise for me, as I can’t recall hardly any positive memories from this time period, and this is some way of extracting some benefit from it. Either way, the principles still apply.
So why on earth would wasting life playing a video game make you a good SEO? There are several parallels that legitimately surprised me when I investigated them.
It all started with an ability to network. A lot of people can play World of Warcraft casually and reap marginal rewards and be just fine with that. I can’t. And, in order to get into the higher-tier guilds, you have to know people. No, seriously. You HAVE to know somebody, or you’ve got no shot.
As is symptomatic of nearly every situation where skill is involved (video game teams, jobs, sports teams, etc), in WoW, you had to prove you were already good/well-equipped before you’d even be considered. These requirements/expectations only increased as the game developed. So how do you get into a high-end guild that requires high-end equipment before you’re in a high-end guild? Know people.
WoW taught me to network; you’ve got to know the right people to get what you need. You have to reach out to them and pursue a real relationship. If people get the impression that you’re using them to further your own goals (gold beggars, people pleading for dungeon runs, cold-call link requests, etc), they’ll quickly abandon any semblance of a relationship that you may have had.
Analytics and Testing
High-end raiding in World of Warcraft turned me into an analytics machine. I grew a passion for analytics when I found the addon that monitored my DPS (damage per second). Suddenly, I had real, concrete results to refer to that I could use to quantify my performance. I did everything I could to see those numbers go up, and the higher I progressed in the available content, the more important monitoring these statistics became.
I started testing ways that I could improve those precious numbers. I would spend hours (yes, really) reading theoretical musings on message boards, playing with talent calculators, experimenting with sequences of abilities, maximizing my character in every way possible. I talked with several people who could not understand my fascination with this: “You’re doing math about a video game? You spend HOW much time on it?!” But I did, I really did.
And I loved it.
Eventually, I not only had to know what worked, but I had to be able to infer what would work based on upcoming changes. I had to be able to change my character to match my personal situation and not just build on the templates you’d find online. I had to outperform those around me to keep my spot in the raid. Sound familiar?
As you move up in the SEO game, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain what you’ve got: rankings, traffic, relationships, social profiles, whatever you’ve got. So by being almost required to know virtually everything there was to know about the game, I was exceptionally prepared to enter the wide and ever-changing world of SEO. Every algorithm change is a new patch, every website is a boss, every potential customer or social media contact is a character. I reveled in testing new ideas, button placements, color schemes, ad texts, page layouts, and publish times. I loved reaching out to new people, building my social networks and watching engagement rise with my backlink profile.
Big Picture Through Tedious Tasks
A major portion of World of Warcraft was doing minor, tedious tasks that never really took up much time individually, but together made a huge heap of daily errands that would suck most of the day away. But I did them, almost every day. Why? I had to keep up these grinds to get the prizes waiting for me at the end of the day.
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