Monthly Archives: May 2011

Why podcasting and audio is more important now

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Mobile. There, that should say it all.

Please excuse me for writing in the first person because this post includes a lot of personal experience. That experience will be valuable to someone reading this so the intent is to make it real, easy to comprehend and simple to replicate with a level of success. If you do not know already, among others I am currently involved with, I founded and host the popular Social Media Edge Radio podcast with my co-host and regular weekly contributors since 2008.

Imagine you are jogging or taking a long walk and would like to learn something while you are spending the time. Sure you could listen to some really good music or you could listen to this blog article on your MP3 player or mobile device. In fact you may be doing that right now since I did take the time to record this one for you. Since your hands are free and your eyes are free you can still enjoy your walk, wave to the neighbors, stop and smell the roses, and skip stones in the pond.

Hands free

Reading digital text generally requires at least one hand and both eyes. When you reach the bottom of the text you have to be able to scroll. You could have a text to voice application read your articles in quality that is improving but still lacking. What you cannot do is read this article while you are driving … at least not too many times. Audio frees the hands and the eyes to perform other tasks.

Comprehension

Maybe you and I do not have conditions which affect our comprehension but there are millions of people with conditions like dyslexia who have reading and comprehension levels diminished. Providing audio content to them vastly improves their comprehension of the content. This is not a guess or theory, it is a proven fact.

Inflection

How many times have you written something only to have it misunderstood because the reader interpreted your mood incorrectly? It happens more than we like to admit. Now that we have short message communication it is even more important to make sure the reader understand the voice in which we are writing. Audio can take care of this in many instances.

But how?

Podcasting and audio presentation is as easy as leaving a voice message. It can also be higher tech but unlike video the clarity is all that matters. If the listener can hear your voice and comprehend your message you have succeeded.  Years ago this was a more difficult task and prior to the MP3 format, thank you Moving Pictures Expert Group, we were pretty much limited to .WAV, .AIFF and my least favorite (but most used at the time) .RA from RealAudio.

In 1999 I started my first audio podcast. It was a weekly dedicated to Ska music called Real Aliens and I hosted under the name Reverend Munk. Amazingly the show became very popular very quickly even back then. Perhaps it was the uniqueness or simply the popularity of the bands I interviewed. Either way it required more time than I was able to be compensated for so lasted only a few months before it had to be terminated. Had some of the tools I will introduce to you been around at the time it would likely still be rolling.

Back then I had to use somewhat costly equipment to pipe phone calls directly into my computer for easier recording and I had to use some rigged peripherals to accomplish my task without spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on expensive studio gear. Once that was done mixing the audio with music samples, sound effects, bed music, bumpers, and so on took hours. Today it can be accomplished in minutes with great result and some services allow you to accomplish much of this on the fly.

Some of the tools I use today

Let me introduce you to three tools I use regularly which are varying in ease of use and I will start with the easiest one first.

Cinch at Cinchcast.com

Cinch

A couple of years ago I used a service called Utterli and really loved what it offered. It had started out at Utterz but went through changes and added the ability to phone in or otherwise record audio “micro-blogs” which could then be embedded in blog posts. Utterli utterly disappeared one day. I tried to use the app on my Treo and it was completely unresponsive. I went to the site and the CSS was missing. I was really bummed. Over 100 or so recordings gone. Not to mention dozens of blog posts with embedded audio I had to find and repair.

Yay for Cinch! One day my friend Amy Domestico over at Blog Talk Radio told me about their new project, Cinchcast. I looked at it and thought for sure they had bought and improved Utterli. No, she says, they built it from scratch. And better, and easier to use. The results can still be embedded into blog posts (as you see at the top of this one), recorded from a computer or phone and syndicated to your social media accounts. Oh, and it’s free.

Blog Talk Radio is a live podcast service

Blog Talk Radio

Very simple social media in 3 steps

By the way, baby steps are only easy for people who have already learned to walk. Most babies fail dozens or hundreds of times before they can even walk across the room. Be patient, keep trying.

I asked on The Hip Roof Radio last night what I can do better for attendees of the seminars and events where I speak. Sheri Moritz said, “We leave these seminars with our heads spinning because we’re so full of SEO and ROI and metrics. Nobody ever takes the time to say ‘this is how you create a Twitter account, here is why and here is what you do with a Twitter account once you have one.’”

 

Speaking on Applied Social Systems at Xplode

Loudly And Clearly.

 

Part I

If you do not have a website with landing page capabilities on a server account you control – get one.

If you do not have a Facebook account you will never get a referral or client from Facebook.

If you do not have a Twitter account you will never get a referral or client from Twitter.

If you do not have a LinkedIn account you will never get a referral or client from LinkedIn.

Part II

Beware of bloggers, gurus and commenters with great sounding theories and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS shop for price before paying ANYONE for services such as setting up your WordPress blog. Think long and hard before you let someone handle your social media content for you because it’s not their license at risk – it’s yours and maybe your broker’s, too.

Part III

Here is how anyone can succeed in social media and I mean any one. Success is relative but this will get you there. DO NOT GIVE UP TRADITIONAL MARKETING IF IT IS WORKING! If you sell 3 houses at $3500 commission each a year from a $500 yellow sheet ad don’t stop. If post cards yield 2 sales commissions of $5000 per year at a cost of $1000 you’d be a bonehead to stop.

Get a website that can accept form data from visitors (landing pages, WordPress, hard coded – doesn’t matter)

Open accounts on at least those three social communities and use the same name or “handle” on all of them if at all possible

Write a short but very pointed profile (“I am a real estate agent with homes for sale in Tootooville. http://mycoolsitebyken.com 678-439-8683″)

Make sure your branding is an accurate portrayal of you and your services and use the same branding on your website, Facebook profile, Twitter background, and LinkedIn profile.

Do not use social media like a town crier’s podium – get involved, join conversations that you did not start, make friends, do NOT sell sell sell (with some small exceptions)

Establish a specified time every day to touch every site for your own plan – you can change later but develop the habit of checking Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well as posting to your blog. (ActiveRain is great but get your own blog on your own server, too.)

Twitter

Easy CSS menu maker – online and free

Free, online CSS menu maker

Free CSS menu maker

It is not always that one “can” create content and widgets “from scratch” sometimes it is about saving time and still achieving the same result. Every developer who has been developing for a year or more has already amassed a large library of re-usable code. Sometimes it is expedient for the developer and the client for the developer to access a simple tool to make the job go faster. Great developers pass the savings along to the client. Hint, hint.

Say a hard-coded site (not a CMS like WordPress or Joomla) needs a custom drop down menu and the site owner is a do-it-yourself kind of person. They could easily find code that could be modified by snooping or purchase software to create the menu. But why not use something that is free, fast and requires no download?

Being heard over the social noise

The reward with public streams of communication is the fact they are public. The challenge with public streams of communication is the fact they are open to the public. Confusing? It shouldn’t be.

Before there was the digital media explosion, and in fact still in some venues, one could find public bulletin boards for patrons and passers-by to post business cards, announcements, for sale, lost and found, and other types of communication. When they first were put into operation the venue management would usually be diligent about policing the content and making sure the postings were orderly. Many even had rules posted and a few had categories which could be posted in certain locations on the board. Fast forward six months to a year and the board would be inundated and disorderly making it nearly impossible to be seen in the crowd.

How can one be heard over the masses?

 

Marketers, even private marketers looking to sell a motor-scooter, are innovative. Soon you would see, on these bulletin boards, lime green paper or larger photographs pinned on top of the other ads. In fact this resulted in an early form of spam and you would occasionally see 20 or more business cards from the same person pinned all over the board where others had posted a neat little stack one on top of the other.

What has changed in the last 10 years?

While local bulletin boards were not invasive into our lives digital bulletin boards, digital marketplaces and social media services are now on our desks, on our laps and in our pockets. Moreover using fluorescent colors in the Twitter stream is not possible. So what needs to be done to stand out from the massive flow of information?

Unlike the local bulletin board social media is, for the most part, global. Chris Anderson of Wired magazine coined the term “long tail” which really is an obtuse way to say “highly targeted” marketing yet for the sake of using a standard term long tail will be used in conjunction with hyper-local or hyperlocal. Long tail means using highly targeted words in conversations in the social stream with the goal of being recognized by the searchers when those words are called by a search from an individual.

Instead of spending reading time reviewing the millions of posts that are made daily it really is not important how many others are posted but how many see and react to a specific posting. Furthermore that the person acting on a post is the ideal or nearly ideal candidate for the product or service being presented. For the sake of this article the assumption is the goal is a transaction. That transaction may be an order, a subscription or simply a “follow”. Being real transactions with a required financial investment from the user are generally the more challenging so more of a focus is placed on financial transactions.

Vendors generally know everything about the product or service being offered. Vendors quite often are limited in their knowledge of how buyers search for their product. More often than not the vendor’s choice of keywords will rarely be used by those with a transactional intent when searching for the product.

Sniping key words that pay

The good news is “Budweiser”, “Coca-Cola”, “Verizon”, “Chevrolet”, are national brands which spend millions and millions in marketing. Most small businesses simply need to attract a few dozen transactions per week to be very successful. Still with the right message and the right delivery local and regional campaigns can go viral, a term used to describe a campaign which takes on a life of its own and is spread from person to person without need for further input from the advertiser. Viral is hard to hit on and mostly unpredictable. Identifying, targeting and using keywords that pay, however, is a repeatable science.

Web designer or developer? Why you should care

Back in the ancient days of web development, around 1995 or so, the common name most “gurus” chose for themselves was “Webmaster”. Of course that is, and was, a real term which was not clearly understood in the main stream. The definition, clearly being written, for a Webmaster was essentially: the person charged with overseeing the operation of a website. This included everything from development and design to content and data control. Within the name Webmaster, however, fall two distinct services which are rarely separated in main stream conversation yet when one is engaging the services needed it is relative and of high importance to know and comprehend the differentiations of these two terms developer and designer.

iCobb has provided development since the mid 90's

Why is it important to know the difference between a designer and a developer?

 

Almost certainly there will be a few who read this post and make the argument it really does not matter. For the person or company writing the checks that statement could be dangerous and costly. Understanding the difference and knowing which tasks are performed by each can help even a small site owner save time and money as well as other types of capital simply by knowing what goals each position is charged with attaining.

A designer

Can social media success be measured?


Offline meetings are a great goal

For most bloggers, tweeters and Facebookers there is no real end to online. The online simply goes on and on and on and on, online. Some would offer their opinion, a theoretical enhancement of an unmetered status, of how to “correct” the issue. Perhaps there is no issue. However, in a summary inspection it is simple to tell if social media is helping one achieve their goals. That said there is not only one test and the definition of “success” is the big variable.

Most importantly one must have a goal even if that goal is dynamic and progressive. Goals for online activity may include getting people to “like” posts, having tweets “retweeted” and inspiring comments on a blog post. These may, indeed, be the end goal. For sites generating revenue on a traffic basis this may even make economic sense. Even if the goal is not an economic value one may still set this as a goal. It is not incumbent on the world to neither determine nor validate private goals.

WordPress 101: Posts versus Pages


Posts vs Pages

For those of you who have used WordPress for any time at all this may seem a very elementary question. So often for new users it is one of the first questions they have around the time the site is turned over to them by the installer or after they complete an installation and begin using the site. After all everyone wants “web pages” and it plainly says there in the menu bar “Pages”.

Here is the main difference in appearance, not function or personality, between pages and posts (generalized):

  • Posts become part of the “blog” or “articles” and show up in reverse chronological order on the site.
  • Pages appear as a single “page” within the site generally linked from the menu bar or sidebar.

As with everything WordPress there are customizations which ultimately determine how the site visitor interacts with your site so pages and posts may be used differently on customized sites but the above is true in most WordPress installations.

Is it possible to have a WordPress site with only pages?

Of course it is. I have had several clients over the years not want a “blog” but because WordPress is so simple for anyone to install, setup and use I pointed them to WP as their solution. For most people there is no need to modify the installation and take away the ability to create posts they simply remember: only create new pages.

Theory: Thief of hope for businesses

word cloud

Words are powerful!

Warning: If you are looking for accurate information to help you in your efforts to achieve a higher bottom line through the use of online marketing I’m your friend. If you are a bloviating attention whore who steals people’s time and money by regurgitating crap you can’t understand to begin with I am no friend of those activities. Now then …

Call me a crusader. If it means I care about what happens to my readers I will wear the badge proudly. More specifically if the industry I represent has actors in it which harm my readers, friends and clients you can rest assured I will speak out. The important piece of this concept I hope everyone grasps is just because I write about something someone said or did that harmed one of my friends does not mean I wish harm to that person. It means I hope to balance their damage by providing statistical proof of a better way.

“A man with a theory is never a match for a man with experience.” Jeremy Blanton said that to me in a private Google message after a sixty plus comment back and forth about Networked Blogs . He said he heard it from his pastor. I like it. It means something to me.

Just to serve as an example let us examine one statement I heard by a “social media expert” who, by the way, follows 1350 people on Twitter and has 231 followers with 89 tweets.

Here is the theory:

Business tweeting is best around lunch time when people stop to take a break and check their Twitter accounts. (Could sound very reasonable.)

QR Codes; The Real Life State of Affairs

My QR State of the Union

QR codes are recognizable to many more people than last year but are still a long way from ‘mainstream’.

Mobile scans growing at over 800% since Q1 2010- per scanlife.com


I wanted to see how many real world examples that I could find so I headed out on a local mission to find QR codes around Atlanta GA, as this is my home-base, and a top social media connected city.   I had hoped to find some great examples of QR in the the ‘real world’. Have a look at this video to see the result.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fktYvYc75ck&w=425&h=349]

 

 

I’ve been seeing more and more QR at the tech events I attend including REBarCamp, ProductCamp, and RETechSouth.  QR codes make good sense in these circles as many attendees are using smart phones and can quickly install and learn to use a scanner if they arent already.

A Very Short Primer on QR Codes:

In order to ‘use’ a QR code, it must be scanned. Many scanning apps are available for smart phones and this is where it all starts. One must have one of the tools in order to ‘read’ the code and make the leap to wherever the code leads.

One list of apps is found here;

These 2 dimensional codes were developed by an auto parts maker for inventory tracking and are capable of far more information that other barcodes. They are very reliable and sturdy meaning hold up well to scuffs and scrapes.  The error correcting factor is big.

The developer and patent holder, has no interest in restricting its use by others, so it has become akin to open source.

 

QR Codes – An Easy Recipe

The codes are becoming very recognizable and are very easy to use.  More and more will be appearing, and many may even prove to be useful, and accepted by regular humans.  As smartphone use rises the QR use should follow, at an accelerated rate of growth.

Creating QR codes is very easy. There are many sites to do this and I’ll leave that for the reader to pursue.  I’ll focus here on one of the easiest and most useful, IMO, and that is Google’s link shortner,   http://goo.gl

In QR the information encoded is very often a url of some sort.  By using goo.gl the link will be shorter, and will allow for tracking analytics. This is most a useful combination as marketers and is key in knowing what works.

 

Google generates QR Codes

Google link shorterner and QR code generator

 

 

 

The best use of QR is to direct the visitor to a mobile optimized page, which could be a video [my favorite! ] Sending someone to a regular web page is going to frustrate many users when they land there on a mobile screen.

Google loses 3% share while Bing gains 6%

Google means search. To bloggers, SEO professionals and the majority of users saying “let me do a search for that” can be interchanged with “let me Google that”. In an amazing month of performance, however, search provider Bing has closed the gap by gaining on competitors while Google slid back helping that closure. Read the full data at Hitwise.

Google loses ground to BingHitwise did not examine the “why” and that is an important unknown. For example if Google decreased brand advertising during the welcoming of Larry Page to the Big Chair while Bing increased their market share through traditional media that can easily be overcome. If, on the other hand, Bing has become friendly with a larger number of product developers and distributors increasing their presence in downloadables and distributables it may be a much harder fought war.

What these numbers should say to the enterprise and aggressive online marketer is “don’t forget to consider Bing in your process”. Finding a session at just about any BarCamp or tech Meetup about Google is a cinch. Seeing this report and it possibly marking a trend should increase the number of Bing sessions at those same events.