Category Archives for The Online Life

The Earthquake in Haiti

I don’t support very many causes. But when I was confronted with the scope of the destruction of the earthquake in Haiti I felt I had to do something, so I donated some money.

Right now, unless you are a search and rescue team or have medical supplies, money is what they need the most from you. And quickly. Doesn’t have to be much, just what you can spare.

Here is some places you can donate:

Thanks to webaddict for his tweet with the haiti 48 hours later link, you’ll just have to look, words are not adequate.

Consistency or Perfection of the Moment?

I have been blessed with some modest athletic abilities. When I was playing a lot of volleyball, I achieved moments of pure perfection on the court. The spike I put away that rocketed past two defenders. The dig I got that ended in a roll, due to the stretch and momentum it took to get there. After that perfect dig one of my teammates said, “That was beautiful”.

These moments are so wonderful when they happen that sometimes they blind us to how to win the game. Which is … consistency and high percentages of not necessarily winners but keeping the ball in play.

Consistency is what we all need to do more with in our jobs and our businesses. Would you rather have a site that was a flash in the plan and earned a lot of money in one week or the site that is a steady if not spectacular earner for years?

Think of this in the context of PPC vs. SEO as a SEM strategy. While arguments can be made to the contrary, PPC in general is better for quick results and SEO is slower and works best with consistent efforts. Which one do you prefer?

Facebook – even your parents use it

It starts out by getting requests from people, at first a few, then more. You give in and build your Facebook page, or recruit the kid down the street to help you do it. Then you start looking at other people’s profiles and see people you know. Next thing you know you are connecting to people you haven’t talked to for years and it all snowballs from there.

It’s no wonder that Facebook attracted 25 million new users in the last month alone.

Facebook, a phenomenon that started with the under 35 set, is maturing in both demographics and uses. Facebook was born in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 and originally only for college students. A year later, high school students were allowed in. In 2006, Facebook got rid of its gatekeepers and began letting anyone in.

Over the next year, it grew from 12 million to 50 million users. Then it launched versions in Spanish, French and German. Today about 175 million people are on Facebook.

While most Facebook users are younger than 35, so many older people are now using it that the portion of the college-age users has dropped to 41 percent. Robert Scoble, a blogging and social media technology expert, says eventually Facebook’s popularity will slow — but not any time soon. And it remains hip with the college crowd.

“Having older people there doesn’t affect your experience,” Scoble said. “It’s segregated. You have your friends and your whole experience there is based on who your friends are.”

Of course some overlap occurs. Parents are finding that Facebook is a good way to keep in touch with their college age children who previously forgot to email or call. Of course some young people in college may be a little wary of their parents keeping tabs on them that way, however most just remove a few pictures that the parents might not appreciate.

The older crowd is here to stay on Facebook, in fact UC Davis is examining the “effectiveness of social media used by the higher education sector to communicate philanthropic news”. In other words, UC Davis thinks there might be enough people on Facebook with enough cash to help fund higher education. Since Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaign, which heavily leveraged social media, it has become acceptable to run social media fundraising campaigns. Entrepreneurs are following suit and are using it to reinforce and create new business connections.

Think about the essence of a marketing campaign. You decide on your messaging and branding and with certain key activities you build momentum and buzz towards your event. This translates well to Facebook. Your Info tab .. or even better your business page, informs everyone about and even brands you and your business and your Facebook activity builds momentum towards the event you are marketing. It’s a natural fit.

Whether you plan to use the internet purely for personal reasons or you are looking for professional networking, Facebook will open doors you didn’t even know were there.

What’s your brand?

The Economist recently had an article noting the rise of the “faceless bosses”. Outsized personalities such as Jack Welch and Robert Nardelli are gone or retired. Carly Fiorina has turned her attention to politics.

While clearly, in today’s turbulent times, keeping your head down is attractive, I found this article an odd juxtaposition with the revolution in branding that social media is creating. Corporate branding, ho hum, personal branding is what is hot. If you haven’t figured out, you are brandU. What we say and do on twitter, facebook and our blogs becomes part of the gestalt that defines the online perception of who we are and what we have to offer.

So what does your brand say about you? Is it disorganized and not clear? Show me yours! As someone whose brand is not as together as I would like, I would love to see a a great example. Just post your URL or social media handle
below.

Are you ready to blastoff? Review of the BlastOff Network

Are you ready to blastoff? With the Blastoff Network Internet users can customize a portal to access news, games, social networks and shopping all in one place. It’s not a new idea, as it is similar to iGoogle, but what’s different is the affiliate program and partnership with PrePaid Legal.

The idea, like with many MLMs and affiliates, is that you build a network of friends, you then all shop together in Blastoff’s network of online stores and receive commissions on yours and your friends’ purchases. Before visions of riches start dancing in your head, keep in mind you are going to need a big downline to make any serious dough. Blastoff also partnered with PrePaid Legal to give its associates early access (and extended genealogies), getting in return a group that was tailored made to do some serious buzz marketing.

And marketing they are. MLMs, just like their salesman cousins, thrive on excitement and hype to drive recruitment. I’ve seen some “Wow” emails circulating around, sadly with some bogus unsubscribe links. Hopefully these folks are not intentionally spamming.

So is it worth the hype? Some might enjoy the custom page you can build with the network. You can set it up to connect to your facebook account (the video mentions twitter as well but that seems to not be there yet), add news feeds, games, and media sites such as hulu all with selectable themes as backdrops. Since I’m not a heavy user of portals or aggregators, I turned to a millennial (early 20s) to get an opinion of it. His take? “…very clunky and unusable. Sure you could spend hours getting it just the way you like it, but it should be user friendly right off the bat. The sites different ‘hip’ colors hurts the brain and at first glance you have no idea what the site is about.” Harsh words.

I agreed with him about the non intuitive user experience with customizing the site. On the FAQ, it advised using Firefox 3.5 for the best experience. I had some problems with Firefox 3.0, but it did better with Internet Explorer 7. And I simply could not figure out how to get rid of the ESPN widget (sorry I’m just not into spectator sports). You also are limited in the sites you can add. It’s not like you can drop any feed into your page. Let’s hope the experience is improved in the future.

The shopping picture looks a bit brighter. Blastoff does have some promising looking deals on “wireless” and “home services” that might be of interest. There are some prominent names in the mall section. Of course you can find deals independently, but it is convenient to have them gathered up for you. I’ve purchased one product from the network. Looking around, I did find cheaper deals for the same thing, but when I purchased through blastoff, I got a coupon auto filled in for a 10% discount making it competitive.

Since it is completely free to join, Blastoff will cost you nothing to check out. And if you invite enough friends that like to shop, those pennies might add up .. for you as well as for me.

Twitter’s summer

Twitter is certainly having a momentous summer. There was the recent DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks, that rendered it inoperative. And the battle lines between it and facebook became more clearly drawn. Twitter is definitively morphing before our eyes, as I recently alluded to in my “lost its shine” post, but the question is into what?

The two trends to watch are use of twitter for branding, as Martha Stewart has, and the its search engine.

If you haven’t jumped yet onto the twitter bandwagon, check out this blog post I got from the Web 2.0 group on LinkedIn, an excellent group of links on using twitter.

Internet Marketers And Time

The Story of Suzie is a fable, written for Internet Marketers and anyone else who wishes to succeed with a project, business, or endeavor of any kind.

Every morning she had cold-cuts for breakfast. When when guests came to her home, she served them only croissants and jam, because she had never heard of cooking.

One day her friend Mary called her, in great excitement. Mary told Suzie that she had just discovered a something new and wonderful, and that it was called cooking. Mary hastily explained that she had come across an advertisement on the Internet, which explained what cooking was.

After hearing a few sentences of explanation from Mary, Suzie got very excited herself. Amazing! One could actually put food into pots and pans, heat it up, do different things with it, and then one would not have to live off of croissants and cold-cuts.

But it got better. Mary went on to explain that cooking wasn’t only for experts, but that that anyone – even someone like she or Suzy, could learn to cook. And that in fact, they could do it right from the comfort of their own homes.

“Wow!” Suzy said. “How do I learn this?” Then, a little timidly, she asked, “Do I have to go to expensive night school? Because I don’t have ….”

“Oh no!” Mary said. “You don’t have to go to night school. I found a wonderful website online, and there is a very nice girl there, who will teach you how to cook. All you have to do is buy her eBook for $37.00. You can download it any time (even if it is 2 am!) and start cooking right away!”

Suzy ran to her kitchen computer and logged on. She quickly bought the eBook entitled “Cook at Home.”

The next day, Suzy was so excited, she even skipped her cold cuts. She grabbed a glass of milk (she had never heard of coffee yet, because that would have involved cooking) and opened up her eBook. She began to read it avidly.

On page 3 of the eBook, the author recommended a free software program which would help Suzie measure her flour and sugar, in case she needed to double or triple a recipe. So Suzy downloaded the software. (Of course, she had to enter her email address first, but that was okay, because it was free. Besides, they offered to send her a very helpful free newsletter!)

On page 10 of the eBook on cooking, Suzie arrived to her first recipe. It taught her how to make scrambled eggs. Suzy went to the kitchen, and got out an old frying pan that had belonged to her great-grandmother. “Ah, so that’s what this thing is for!” she said. She had butter, but no eggs. So she went to the store.

Suzy got caught in traffic and by the time she came back from the store, it was two hours later and she was very tired. She logged on to check her email. She was pleasantly surprised to see that already had the first issue of her newsletter!

The newsletter explained to her that, while most people tell you to cook with a frying pan, that’s really old-fashioned and slow. And that the best way to really cook was to get a special pan called the Super-Sonic-Fryer – which would “fry her eggs in less time than it takes a sun beam to get to the other end of the milky way”! That sounded exciting, so Suzy went to buy that Super Sonic Frying Pan.

The next day before Suzy started on her cooking exercises, she decided to search around Google a bit to see if anyone else had tried the super sonic frying pan. She got a bit distracted through, but that was okay. Because she came across something very exciting. A bread cookbook!

The advertisement explained that there are lots of things to cook, but nothing as powerful and effective as bread. And that, if she really wanted to succeed as a cook, she had to bake bread.

So Suzie of course downloaded that eBook and began to make bread.

Half-way through the recipe she realized she needed to buy yeast, so she went out and bought some.

When she returned, another newsletter had arrived. And this was exciting! It said, “Forget scrambled eggs, forget bread, that stuff is for the birds. What you really should make, is Italian pasta!!” Not only that , but if she signed up now, she would be eligible for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (which could expire at any moment). She could sign up for a free online course, and for only $29 per month, she could learn how to make all kinds of Italian Pasta – everything from tortellini, to ravioli, to spaghetti, and more.

So of course, Suzy forgot about her eggs and her bread, and she hastily purchased this new Italian Cooking eCourse. Her incomplete scrambled eggs project was no longer useful, so she threw it away. She had some bread dough rising, but while she was studying her new Italian Cooking eCourse, she forgot all about it – and it eventually fell flat and had to be thrown away as well.

A week later Suzy was depressed. She had bought all these eBooks and materials on how to Cook at Home, and had been working furiously at it, but she had yet to make a single dish!

All was not lost, however. She saw an ad for a new cookbook, which was said to be quite excellent. According to the testimonials on the sales page, many people had been trying for years to learn to cook at home, but only had success after they read that cookbook.

So, with a sigh, she bought it. Maybe this one would have the answer she was looking for.

Two months later, Suzie had accumulated an entire bookshelf full of cookbooks. Her refrigerator was full of leftovers of incomplete dishes she had begun to prepare. But she had not yet completed a single dish. Not even a piece of toast!

Suzie sat back in her big chair and let out a long, sad sigh.

“Well, she said. I guess those people who tried to warn me were right. I’ll never Cook at Home. Cooking is a scam!”

The above is a true story. But its not about Suzie, and its not about cooking.

Its about Internet Marketers like you and me.

Some people succeed at Internet Marketing, and others don’t. Why? Well, there could be many reasons.

But first and foremost – do you finish what you start?

Or do you hop and jump from one idea to the next, in search of the next great recipe?

Do you start to generate income with a certain method, only to receive an email which tells you how “that method is really slow and if you really want to make money online, now, fast, then what you should actually do is …..”

Do you have so many good ideas that you start on all of them, so that none of them can get the amount of attention they truly need, in order to succeed? Well, if you do, don’t be surprised at what you probably wind up with – a bunch of incomplete projects that haven’t yet begun to generate substantial income.

You’ve heard people say “take action,” and that’s true. You’ll never get any eggs scrambled if you sit around reading cookbooks all day, and you’ll never make any money online if all you do is read eBooks.

But there is a little more to it. Suzie took action, but she never followed through. She took on more cooking projects than she had time for, and none were completed.

As an Internet Marketer, you are most likely trying to build up streams of income. It might be a website which generates regular sales or ad revenue. Or it might be another successful campaign. So, in a sense, those projects are never really “done” (unless you drop them).

But there is a phase when you are still establishing and building up that income stream, and there is a phase when that income stream is actually creating regular revenue (which can ideally be maintained without a lot of work).

If you don’t carry your projects through past that first phase, you will wind up with a bunch of projects that are still in the “establishment” stages, but not generating substantial income.

It takes self-discipline and control to stick to a project and carry through with it until it is successful. It can be very easy to be led off in many different directions in search of greener fields.

Its a continuous pull. Call it what you like – diversion, distraction, persuasion, or “the call of the inbox …” It will always be there, perched on the side of the highway, ready to pull you off the road at any moment, like a vulture waiting for vulnerable prey to pass.

Be alert to it, and continue to push forward with your current project.

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Anna Williams article, “The Story of Suzie” was originally posted on Holly Mann’s Blog
Anna has written a basic and succinct post following this story, which contains some simple rules you can remember, to keep you on track and progressing. To read this post please visit If You Want a Project to Succeed at Anna’s blog.

The death of internet marketing?

I’ve been doing some mass unsubscribes from the IM guru’s lists.  Too many hyped promotions, too many people cross promoting.  And the worst thing of all, it completely distracts me from getting real work done.    Seems like I’m not the only one.

You don’t have to be dressed to telecommute

The Career Journal, part of the Wall Street Journal site, published Working Productively as a Telecommuter.  The article had some good but general tips, such as avoiding isolation and making an effort to reach out to work colleagues, but some of the suggestions were of dubious value.  In particular the old school urging of “dressing appropriately”.

I work out of a home office 4 days a week.  I started telecommuting several years ago starting with 2 or 3 days a week.   Some days I start my days very early, often around 7:30 in the morning.  And at that hour,  I am not interested in putting on a suit or other work attire.  In fact, I might be even in my sweats, yet to take a shower, and my productivity is not impacted one bit.

In the end if you are committed to what you do, you really don’t have to worry too much about “preparing yourself psychologically” as Garone advised, as most people can make the transition.   The article would have been far more useful dealing with topics such how to keep cohesion with a distributed team and a survey of ways to keep in touch with your colleagues (IM, email, phone, twitter) and when to use each.