shiny facebook

Google Plus is where the action is. Wait, actually it’s Instagram! No, you completely forgot about Pinterest. Oops, you’re late to the Vine game.

If you think the number of social media channels has become overwhelming, you’re not alone. Just a quick snapshot from NameChk and you’ll see all of the possible social sites where you may be tempted to have a business presence.

namechk social networks list

Make no mistake, we’re in a time when having a social presence is expected. And businesses can gain major advantage by being involved in the conversations happening across the web, about their brands and industries. The “help economy” is about companies being valuable even to non-customers, beyond their products and services.

So does your business need Pinterest? Or Instagram? More importantly, can you develop heuristics or a framework that will help you make that decision for every future social network?

The success of your business depends on you saying no to things. Especially shiny new things. This includes not getting distracted every time you read a case study about a company who’s capitalizing on a new platform. Keep a couple of things in mind:

First, you don’t have to be everywhere. Two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies (those who should, by definition, have resources to devote to customer engagement) don’t have a corporate blog.

Second, you don’t have to stick with a channel. Of those Fortune 500 companies who don’t blog, many of them started, but abandoned the plan. Fail fast. That’s OK. Nobody rails on scientists who move on after a failed experiment. And choosing social media channels for business is often experimental—especially in new channels.

Content-Centric Social Media Perspectives

How do you pick which social media channels to invest in? Do you go by what’s popular or new? Where your existing customers are? Where your potential customers are? Do you follow your competitors’ lead? Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture.

Content Solar System

The business doesn’t revolve around the social network. Social networks revolve around you. Your social presence and success on any given social network is only as good as the material you have to work with and conversations you’re able to generate and participate in. With this in mind, it’s critical to assess up-front whether you have the kind of content assets necessary to thrive in any available channel. Beyond that, this content has to drive meaningful business value or you’ll have an unsustainable social media strategy with no real leverage within the company.

Content “Natural Resources” & Unique Content Asset Production

A unique content asset is any type of content you currently produce or have the capacity to produce that would be considered both valuable and hopefully irreplicable within your industry. Doing an audit of your unique content assets involves identifying the type of content you can realistically produce and distribute, given your unique sets of “natural resources”:

  • People/Expertise
  • Equipment
  • Location
  • Products/Services/Solutions
  • Organizational assets/Partnerships

And since each social network is media-constrained, you can break out your content assets by media type, like this.

Unique Content Asset Grid

 

Resources are well-adapted for certain kinds of assets. Your location (building, city, area) may lend itself well to images and video that can be leveraged for distribution and community engagement. Your location may also mean access to certain experts or businesses you can interview or collaborate with to create text-based content. These all represent sources of competitive content advantage, leading to greater visibility along with customer and community growth online.

Assuming you do a full inventory of all possible content categories you can then rank the content by quality and alignment with business and branding. What does this mean? Some content has a high potential to drive more interest and business within your community. Some does not. There’s usually a trade-off between high-interest and high business-driving relevancy, so you should balance type.

Your #1 question for social channel selection: Which channels are best capable of taking full advantage of the best unique content assets we have? Do these social channels provide enough incremental value (and do we have enough capacity) to justify adding them to the current social properties we’re invested in? Or are we better off treating this as an experimental channel and testing it for a few weeks before deleting it?

The benefit to adopting a content-oriented approach to selecting social channels is that it prevents you from investing in places where you can’t differentiate yourself or gain a meaningful ROI. It keeps you from getting “shiny social media syndrome.”

One final note: new channels may emerge that appear to have a lot of potential, but don’t necessarily provide access to new audiences, new content delivery advantages, etc. Google Plus had this challenge (in terms of market perception). How should a company evaluate this kind of channel?

One perspective says there are first-mover advantages for all channel participants. But this doesn’t mean you choose a new social media channel and shift your entire online strategy to support it. Short-term experimentation is an option. Using the channel for basic content distribution is an option.

Mini Case: Choosing Posterous Over Tumblr

What do you do when a couple of new channels seem to provide the exact same opportunities for your content assets?

A few years ago, we were selecting a more informal blogging platform to share some content. In the early days, there appeared to be no clear advantage of choosing Tumblr vs. Posterous. We went with Posterous. Posterous ended up shutting down its blogging platform while Tumblr grew to enormity and ubiquity.

We learned that we made a bad pick, but it wasn’t due to bad decision making. It makes a lot more sense to focus strategically on one platform than it would have to split efforts and distribute the same content on both Tumblr and Posterous. Do yourself a favor and be selective.

Final Thoughts on Strategy

As you plan your social channel strategy, you should always try to drive qualified traffic to your website, where people can be introduced to your business and offerings. There comes a point when the payoff from investing in an additional social media channel is less than the payoff from investing in the development of other non-social traffic channels.

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SEO Visual Blueprint Kris Jones 3rd Edition

Want to learn SEO? You’ll find hundreds of websites and forums, and dozens of books and ebooks willing to teach you. That alone should suggest that it takes more than a simple “how-to” to learn how to optimize websites for search engines and people. Some resources get outdated more quickly than others. Others can be too generic to be useful. Every SEO, myself included, has an opinion on how to go about it because we get asked ALL THE TIME by anyone with a website.

How well are you going to learn SEO if you pick up a copy of Search Engine Optimization: Your visual blueprint for effective Internet marketing?

In all seriousness, I think you are going to be months ahead of someone who relies on a varied collection of websites, forums, ebooks, conference presentations, etc. to build their SEO knowledge base. I think that anyone who reads a foundational book about SEO is going to be rewarded, but Kris Jones is to be commended for really bringing the core of SEO to the reader in an accessible way in this third and latest edition that he was kind enough to send me.

Here’s an overview of how the book works:

Kris Jones wrote this book for somebody who appreciates visual, simple, step-based learning, which is exactly what someone new to SEO often needs. There are a couple of highly recommended, free online SEO guides, but these don’t actually walk you through the steps like this book does.

Each page has excellent screenshots and labels. Pages are designed to take you through a particular task that will be relevant to learning some aspect of SEO. Here’s an example:

SEO Visual Blueprint Page Example

Each task has an overview followed by steps to get through the task. The page layout is one of the really strong differentiators, in my opinion. I especially love this format for some of the more technical tasks, like working with .htaccess files and redirects. You don’t need to be a coder. Everything is right there for you.

The other thing this book does is provide a very generous amount of extra Internet marketing material, including topics like PPC, social media, shopping engines, etc. This is an added bonus, since most SEO’s are interested in expanding their marketing skills to become a “full-stack Internet marketer.”

This wouldn’t be a real book review without some observations and caveats, none of which is meant to detract from my overall praise for the book.

1. You’re going to be funneled into particular tools, conferences, and resources. Kris Jones has a good reputation in the industry. I haven’t met him, but I’d like to. It’s not a criticism to say that Kris has definite loyalties that impact his recommendations. He’s the Chairman of Internet Marketing Ninjas. This means that there are a lot of recommendations for tools and resources that are connected to IMN, but which may not be the most common, industry-wide. Who cares, as long as they do the job, right? Do I think it’s necessary for you to register for the SES Conference or “Like” their Facebook page as part of your SEO training, as instructed on the page example above? No, that’s silly.

2. You’re going to be given a certain “style” of SEO training. I would rather have one organized, methodical style like this book presents, than be given a whole slew of options with no way to differentiate between them. (Although the book will dump way more keyword research tools on you than necessary). As a practicing SEO, I find the style in this book to sometimes border on “old guard” thinking. For example, there is zero reason to devote pages to optimizing meta keywords or saying that text modifiers like bold and italic “can lead to higher rankings.” Tips like these aren’t harmful, but they are no longer helpful. I have to think that some of this may just be tied to how long IMN has been around (1999). As a result, you’ll get pages on adding forums with vBulletin or phpBB, how to create static HTML web pages (who does this?), and optimizing for Technorati and Ask.com. This is cool and all, but I question the present-day effectiveness a little.

3. There’s a certain type of content I think this book needs for the next edition. SEO is a continuous cycle, but the book can sometimes feel too siloed in its approach to teaching skills. For example, it would be great to devote space to organizing and modifying keyword research over time, measuring and improving rankings over time, link building to pages over time. See what I’m getting at? People need the tools to do SEO. They also need the strategic perspective that will help them run an SEO campaign and perform well in the long-run by means of measurement, analysis, and adjustment.

Now, as an experienced SEO, it’s interesting to examine a beginner-level book and wonder how much of my judgment is due to experience or legitimate issues. I think SEO (Visual Blueprint) is a work of art and fantastic at what it aims to do and how much it accomplishes. I think it’s the best SEO book available and I recommend it to those learning SEO for the first time, or more experienced SEO’s who are in a position to teach SEO (or just need a solid reference).

For more on what Kris is up to, you can check out his current company, ReferLocal and his investment fund, KBJ Capital.

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The 10 Best Gifts for Graduate Students (From a Grad Student)

June 19, 2013

As a PhD or graduate student, gifts are really nice to get once in a while. While you may think the only good gift for a grad student is cash (my wallet is so lonely!), the truth is that money isn’t exactly memorable. Here is a list of grad student gift ideas that I’d recommend. […]

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