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Social Media Suffocation: Why I’ve Had Enough Of Networking Online

Sep 29, 2011   //   by laustinseo   //   blogging, Contests, SEO Blog, Social Media  //  25 Comments

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.

DOOR-KNOCK POLITICS

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.

FB-I

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?

laustinseo

Lewis Austin lives in Chelmsford, England, and is the Social media Marketer for SEO Positive Follow his blog on Twitter

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Secret 4 Step Affiliate System

Sep 28, 2011   //   by Ben Jackson   //   Contests, SEO, SEO Blog  //  8 Comments

This is way for affiliate marketers to get paid while building a list.  A major complaint of affiliates is that they don’t get a relationship with buyers.  They do all the grunt work and only get the sale, no email afterwards, nothing.  This system gets over that problem.

Rather than tell you I’m some online guru millionaire I thought it would be better to listen to last year’s “Bad Ass Guest Blogging” winner and be transparent.  You can take any part of this system and apply to your current or projects, or you can follow step-by-step.  Please share any insights you have along the way.

The Secret Exposed:

You make affiliate sales AND build a targeted email list without a website or cost

How does it Work?

•    You find a product with recurring payments
•    Aweber hosts a webform for you for free
•    The “thank you” page takes subscribers to the sales page with your affiliate link
•    You rank for low competition keywords to get targeted traffic to the web form

Why it’s Cool:

•    You make immediate affiliate sales
•    You build a list for follow-up emails and sales
•    You don’t need a website or ANY investment beyond Aweber
•    You can create new sales funnels quickly and easily

It’s a complete affiliate strategy that newbies and veterans can benefit from using.  So without further ado, let’s get into the specifics…

Step 1: Killer Product Selection

You need a product to promote and as you’ve probably guessed, we’re going to use Clickbank.

I avoid highly saturated niches like weight loss and marketing.  There are a lot of less competitive niches that are still profitable.  You’ll be getting your traffic from the SERPs and these niches will provide more low competition keywords to rank for.

What to look for:

Reoccurring Payments: This will allow you to earn more every month that you employ this strategy.  You’ll continue to stack up these payments as you make more sales.

Forget about gravity:  You don’t need to promote the most popular, trending info products.  In fact, the somewhat obscure ones are better as they are often very targeted and specific.  You want everything from the beginning to the end of the sales funnel to be targeted.

Email Follow-ups Ready:  Some products already have a series of emails prepared for you to use on prospects.  You can find these by going to the affiliate page that the vendor has setup on their site.

There’s no need to be super picky here.  Any product in a less competitive niche with recurring payments and a decent looking sales page will be a good fit.

Step 2: The Opt-in Form Creation

With your product selected it’s time to create your free hosted webpage.  If you’re not already using Aweber you’ll have to sign up.  It’s just $19 a month and is the only cost necessary for this affiliate system.

Part I: Making the Web form

Aweber has a bunch of different web form designs that you can choose from, but usually a very simple template is best.  You’re going to stretch out the web form and use it like it’s an entire webpage rather than just a form.

The best part – all of your content is already created for you.

Visit the sales page for the product you’re promoting and take a couple headlines, bullet points, etc. that you like and paste them into your web form.  They already did a lot of research on the target market and paid a lot for an experienced copywriting, so why try to do better?  They won’t have a problem with you using the copy either because you’ll be getting them more sales.

Part II: Redirecting with your Affiliate Link

Next you’ll head to step 2 in Aweber: “settings”.  There’s an option for your “thank you” page URL.  Enter your affiliate link here.  This way you will capture emails for your list and also send them to the sales page with your affiliate link. Read more >>

Ben Jackson

Learn SEO with this FREE course and check out more great content on Ben’s blog: www.SEODiscovery.org. Also make sure to follow Ben on Twitter so you don’t miss out on more guest posts like this.

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Is your Blog a Kick Ass Guide?

Sep 27, 2011   //   by Jeevan Jacob John   //   blogging, Contests, SEO Blog  //  2 Comments

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 :D

 So, Is your Blog a Kick Ass Guide?

Are you a successful guide?

Are you a successful 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:-

Post Content

  • 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.

Layout

  • 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.

 Conclusion

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 :D

 Image Edited. Original Image : Credited to the author.

Jeevan Jacob John

I am a young blogger who blogs about everything that is related to building a better blog. If you like what you are reading here, then you should probably check out my Why You Should Give A Damn Page. You can also find me at my blog - Blog Networking 101.

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5 Facebook Marketing Pack Leaders

Sep 26, 2011   //   by James   //   Contests, SEO Blog, Social Media  //  4 Comments

This is a guest post from James Adams. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.

Facebook may be the perfect way to keep in touch with friends online, but it’s also an increasingly important venue for businesses to engage with customers. As the social network becomes ever more prevalent, the marketing sector of the site has exploded – although many businesses have been thrown aside during the boom.

Find out which businesses have a handle on Facebook marketing with our top 5 pack leaders.

iTunes
You might say iTunes has got it easy, it a business with plenty of content to share and give away by its very nature, but where this Facebook page really shines is in its ‘Featured’ tab. There users find everything from free music podcasts and the option to share tunes with friends to exclusive offers, just the kind of things that tempt them to click like.

Redbull
A brand well known for its quirky adverts, Redbull has managed to bring much of the same feeling of fun to its Facebook page. The killer move has to be the relationship the drinks company has built with athletes – and the way it allows sports fans to connect to their favourite stars. Exclusive content, Redbull TV and a range of its own games and apps, this is a page easy to lose hours to.

Skyscanner
A flight comparisons site that certainly doesn’t have its head in the clouds, Skyscanner is leading the way when it comes to functional Facebook offerings. Users can post a flight request on Skyscanner’s Wall and receive a price quote and flight details back in seconds – all without having to leave the page or download an app. For example, if you were thinking of flying from London to New York in November, you would just type something like ‘London NY November’ and it would ping you back a best price and a link to the website to continue your booking. Other fun functions include a regular ‘where in the world’ where users are asked to place a holiday snap by country as well as thought provoking Q&A sessions and polls.

Toy Story
Film studio Pixar knows how to do something right, and the Facebook page for Toy Story is a perfect example of this. Not only is their page crammed with cute content, such as the excellent Toy creator’ app, it’s also nice and functional. When Toy Story 3 was released, fans could buy tickets without ever leaving their Facebook page and the same can now be done for DVDs.

Ben and Jerry’s
Already well loved for its inventive ice creams, this brand has brought the same innovative approach to its Facebook page – and with great success. With campaigns such as the app that let users turn their text upside down to celebrate ‘Flipped Out’ ice cream to apps offering free tubs, there’s something there for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Having a Facebook presence is about more than just having a Facebook page. It’s about engaging with people. It doesn’t take much work either. Could you host a monthly Q&A session? It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, where that’s marketing, construction, publishing – the important thing is to establish yourself as an expert and thought leader, or if you already have that status to use it to build a stronger social media presence.

James

James writes for PrNewsHub, a UK travel news and features blog.

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A Rebranding and Reputation Management Case Study Featuring Netflix

Sep 22, 2011   //   by Chris Help   //   blogging, Contests, SEO Blog  //  6 Comments

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:

  1. Ignore it and move on.
  2. Attempt to justify their actions.
  3. 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.

Dear Cori,

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:

  1. Who wronged me?
  2. 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.

  1. It makes me realize they are offering 2 very different services, each with its own perks.
  2. 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.

Respectfully yours, 

-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.

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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SEO: Art, Science and Luck

Sep 21, 2011   //   by Shannon Evans   //   Contests, Google, SEO, SEO Blog  //  11 Comments

This is a guest post from Shannon Evans. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.

Being in the SEO business now for a couple of years, I have read many articles on SEO. Countless posts discuss how SEO is both an art and science. I agree on both these points, however I also think a little bit of luck also goes into the mix.

Science
Even though no one but a few people at Google (cough Matt Cutts cough) know exactly what the SERPs are going to generate, we can do enough experiments to figure out a few things.

We know how to search relevant keywords, links from high ranking sites give us juice and what worked last month may or may not work this month. We may not have white coats and work in a lab, but SEO specialists are scientists of the Internet. We do experiments constantly and try to get our sites on the coveted first page of Google.

Keeping strict records of all link building efforts and analyzing all of the data you keep is a must in the SEO industry. Are certain keywords not preforming like they used to? Did you do something different? If not, you need to move your strategy in a new direction. In the SEO world Excel and other tools are your best friend.

Art
There is also an art to SEO. Sometimes you know a keyword may not be highly searchable, but if you play around and think of similar words you could hit SEO gold. It takes a very analytical person to be a great scientist, but in SEO you need to be analytical and artistic.

Take guest posting for example. We know guest posts help with link building, yet if you can’t write a great article chances are you won’t get  your link on many blogs. Now not all SEO specialists write guest posts. However, when looking at all the data you collect on a monthly basis, you need to be able to think outside the SEO box. How can you take your efforts to the next level. That is something your tools or Excel won’t tell you.

Luck
Ok, I might be going out on a limb here, but I think some of SEO is luck. Maybe not all the time, but there are those rare occations you just figure out something on accident—or as I like to put it luck. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does its fantastic.

It’s not to say that you didn’t implement an idea without an educated guess. However, I am a believer in luck. Maybe it’s the optimist inside me, but I think sometimes you take a leap of faith and it works. Sometimes the word luck gets used negatively, but in this instance I think sometimes when you stumble upon something that works, it’s luck.

Shannon Evans

Shannon Evans Suetos is an online marketer living is San Diego, and the owner of What's Your Two Cents?  WYTC is a blog dedicated to reporting the latest trending news topics to spark a conversation among readers. You can also follow Shannon on Twitter @ShannonEvansSM.

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Your Best Internet Marketing Asset > Your Blog

Sep 20, 2011   //   by Melvin Dichoso   //   Contests, internet marketing, SEO, SEO Blog  //  13 Comments

This is a guest post from Melvin Dichoso. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.

In general, there’s just one thing that you need to be really good at, in order for you to make money or simply just succeed in your online business. This one thing is called ‘internet marketing’, and its really nothing new.  But internet marketing is a very big subject that keeps on constantly moving and a lot of people can easily get confused with it. With that in mind, in this post I will be discussing why you should utilize the best internet marketing asset that you might already have – your blog.

Why Your Blog Is Your Best Asset

Blog is your best asset for the sole reason that it covers most of the things that you need in order to market what you have competitively. Also, everyone loves blogging so it shouldn’t be really hard for you to do this. You’re not going to do blogging lividly since its not really burdensome, you know what I mean?

If you’re still not convinced, here are some of the things that should nail it down for you:

It covers relationship building

Blogging covers the most important aspect of business which is relationship building. Because you’re writing mostly free stuff, it allows your popularity to grow but at the same time it helps you establish your expertise.

This is good because over time your adding more and more people to your blog which should then help you know more about your audience. It’s also inherently obvious that people start to buy what you have when you offer them good value continuously and in blogging, the good value that you provide is free.

SEO becomes nuts

While most people are going to work hard with search engine optimization for their business, you don’t have to because blogging will take care of that.

I worked with businesses that have their blog as the main driver of their traffic and also their main weapon for boosting search rankings. You probably have seen some companies use their blogs as well to increase exposure to their sites. Also, its not hard to rank at all really. You install a wordpress blog, grab all the necessary plugins, write good content and that should be it. The best thing about blogs is that they have what search engines crave for which  is content.

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Melvin Dichoso

Melvin Dichoso is a blogger and internet marketer who writes at MelvinBlog Dot Com. He's currently giving away a free report called the Blog Marketing Guide for his newsletter subscribers. He also tweets out occasionally.

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Why World of Warcraft Made Me a Good SEO

Sep 19, 2011   //   by Mitch Monsen   //   blogging, Contests, SEO Blog  //  29 Comments
This is a guest post from Mitch Monsen. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.

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.

Networking/Linkbuilding
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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Mitch Monsen

Mitch is an entrepreneur with several years of experience creating optimized web content. He operates WhiteFireSEO, an SEO consulting company, where he also blogs about SEO and internet marketing. Follow him on Twitter: @mmonsen7.

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3 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Call to Action

Sep 19, 2011   //   by Chris Help   //   Copywriting, SEO Blog  //  4 Comments

Whether you need to create landing pages for various products you’re selling or you’re providing copy for your home page on your business site, your call to action is one of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle. Nevertheless, tons of people get it wrong. In fact, many business websites fail to have any call to action whatsoever. I’ve even had clients ask me to take the call to action out of the copy I’ve done for them. It never ceases to amaze me.

But assuming you’re open to the idea of a call to action, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of yours.

1.       Avoid the generic—Yes, “Contact us now!” is nice and urgent sounding, but urgency isn’t the only thing your call to action needs. You need to avoid the generic line and add some specifics. Otherwise, you run the risk of sounding like one of those late night infomercials. How do you circumvent the generic? Make sure you explain what’s in it for the customer.

2.       Don’t forget the “how”—Research is conclusive: customers need to be told what to do. Like sheep, they need to be led directly to the proverbial slaughter. But guess what? They won’t get there unless you tell them how. You can tell a sheep to go lay down all day, but until you guide him there, nothing’s going to happen. In the same way, make sure your call to action tells the customer the exact step you want them to take.

3.       Make it visible—Yes, good copy usually ends with a strong call to action. But is it possible it can get lost there? Maybe. Assuming your copy is good enough to lead the reader all the way to the end, you still need to do something to make the call to action stand out. Italics or boldings are good for that.

But what happens if your potential customer never scrolls to the bottom of the page? For this reader, you need to make sure you have a call to action that shows up before they ever have to scroll down. Maybe at the end of the first paragraph, maybe on a button at the top of the page…

It may seem silly, but a simple sentence or two can truly make the difference between an interested party and a paying customer. What else do you do to better your calls to action?

Chris Help

Chris HELP started his own copywriting agency, HELP! Copy and Design, a few years back as a sort of side project to showcase his passions. But what ended up happening is it snowballed into full-fledged thriving business. So whether you need press releases, SEO articles, or good old fashioned high-conversion copy--he's ready, willing, and more than able.

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Bad Ass SEO Guest Blogging Contest Update

Sep 13, 2011   //   by Gerald Weber   //   blogging, Contests, SEO Blog  //  6 Comments

This post is meant to simply update you on a couple of things regarding the contest. However if you are interested in participating in this contest please be sure to read the official Bad Ass SEO Guest Blogging contest post for complete details on rules etc.

The first change is the due date to submit your post. This has been changed to October 12, 2011. We did this because last week was pretty much spent generating sponsors and awareness and we really didn’t get any contest entries last week.

OK now for the awesome news. Since we had such great sponsorship participation we are able to offer some really nice prizes. We have structures this in such a manner that if you really kick ass, you can really WIN BIG. But even if you do really well you can still win some nice loot and other non cash SEO related prizes.

With no further ado… here’s what you can win!

  • 1st place: $1000. Cash + a Lifetime “PREMIUM membership” to MyBlogGuest.com
  • 2nd place: $500. Cash + a full years membership at The SEO training Dojo.
  • 3rd Place: $350. cash + Link-Assistant.Com SEO PowerSuite Enterprise (max. functionality license)
  • 4th Place: $250. cash + 3 month subscription to SEMRush.com
  • 5th place: $175. cash + 3 month subscription to Raven Internet marketing tools
  • 6th Place: $100. cash
  • 7th place: $75. cash
  • 8th place: $50. cash
  • 9th place: $50. cash

Keep in mind these numbers could get bigger depending on how many new sponsors we get, however they won’t get any smaller! :-)

Now check out all the kick ass sponsors that made all these prizes possible!

Contest Media Partner

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The SEO Training Dojo

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Lifetime membership to: My Blog Guest. MyBlogGuest.com is the free guest post exchange community where users meet to exchange guest posts and network.

Link-Assistant.Com SEO PowerSuite Enterprise (max. functionality license) SEO tools

SEMrush.com – the best tool to spy on your competitors ($210 value) www.semrush.com

3 month Pro subscription to Raven Internet Marketing Tools ($297 value) Raven Internet Marketing Tools

That’s all the contest updates for now. If there is anything significant worth knowing at any point in the contest I will be posting additional updates to keep everyone informed.

Gerald Weber

I founded Search Engine Marketing Group in December 2005. More recently I co-founded viralcontentbuzz.com. which is the free platform that helps bloggers generate REAL "social buzz" on their best content. Feel free to follow me on Google+

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