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Social bookmarking basics

on Jan 26 in branding, search, social bookmarking, social media posted by

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the simple approaches work the best. Social bookmarking is a simple, effective way to increase visibility for your website, so let’s review the basics.

In a nutshell, social bookmarking lets the online community find and recommend Web content. According to Wikipedia, it is “a method for Internet users to store, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web pages…”

In a world where the amount of information is making it ever more difficult to find what you want, this form of “social searching” is an increasingly efficient way to find needed content. Some observers suggest that the pace of growth will outstrip traditional search engines’ ability to find relevant content, so that social search will come to dominate the search industry.

Irrespective of punditry, social bookmarking allows your business to provide a way for your community to share content through sending URLs to colleagues and friends, and tagging and commenting on the quality of such sites.

The most popular social bookmarking sites are:


  • Delicious – Users label their bookmarks with tags that relate to the content. As of the time of writing, it had more than five million users and 150 million bookmarked URLs. Most businesses will benefit from setting up an account on Delicious and label their own sites with desirable tags. However, it is unadvisable to systematically set up link farms where you hire someone to mindlessly bookmark your pages. Let your content speak for itself by allowing other users to bookmark your pages. 
  • Digg – Focus is mainly on news, images and videos, and allows people to submit links and stories, and also to vote on those. “Digging” refers to voting a story up, “burying” is when a story is voted down. You can set up an account and submit your own stories to Digg. However, the site administrators penalize users who post items only from the same URLs, so the manager of your Digg account should also post items from other sites. 
  • StumbleUpon – customizes search results according to user-defined preferences. The user can install a “Stumble!” button in the browser’s toolbar. When clicked, a Web page is displayed, based on the user’s preferences as well as his or her ratings of previously “Stumbled” pages, or ratings of friends and users with similar preferences. 


These sites provide branded widgets that website owners can embed to allow users to share their URL (bookmark) with a single click. Better still, this activity can be pushed to social sites such as Facebook and Friendfeed, so that bookmarking becomes a social activity with broad impact.

Rather than embedding each of these in your Web pages, you can use a social bookmarking application such as AddThis.

According to their Web site, AddThis is “the #1 bookmarking and sharing button on the Internet.” You add a snippet of code to their Web page (preferably in an include file that is served to all pages). The button creates a pull-down menu that enables the user to select from a range of options, including


  • Adding to social bookmark sites such as Delicious and Digg
  • Adding the page to the user’s favorites
  • Emailing to a friend


The service provides analytics so you can see what services are most often used to bookmark pages. There is no fee to use the AddThis service.

Five tips to managing your time feeding the Twitter monster

on Oct 22 in branding, hints and tips, tools, Twitter posted by

Twitter Monster (thanks to IconArchive)As an independent social media consultant (yay!), I have to watch my time carefully. Twitter is an essential part of evolving my personal brand (see Ten steps to evolving your personal brand), but no one is paying me to do it. I have plenty of billable work in the pipeline, so that takes priority.

But with Twitter there’s no let up. That’s my strategy: provide consistent content that provides value to my Twitter followers. It’s hard to judge what the balance is. Right now, I spend about one to two hours per day feeding the Twitter monster. (Cute little bird? Not! Anyway, it’s Halloween season.:)) I could spend more or less, and provide more or less value. That’s a judgment you have to make. But there are ways to useyour time more efficiently. Here are five tips to help you manage your time

1. Use Hootsuite — Hootsuite is a great help to managing your time. I can streamline my tweets, schedule them, retweet at the click of a mouse and more. (See my recent series: Ten steps to becoming a Twitter power user with Hootsuite).

2. Aggregate your information sources — You can aggregate your information sources using RSS feeds. Much of my leg work is reviewing my RSS feeds and Twitter home feed for news (about an hour). I use iGoogle to streamline managing the flood of information. You can create tabs for each subject matter, and then add RSS feeds to specific tabs. It’s also a great way to make sure you track tweets of the most relevant people you are following.

3. Schedule your tweets ahead of time — Hootsuite again! Other apps let you schedule tweets, but Hootsuite is browser based, and does everything (almost) you need in one place. Every day I post eight to 10 tweets, scheduling them for regular intervals during the day. This takes me about a half hour total. It would take twice as long if I did it in real time, having to go back to Twitter, login, and post the Tweet every time. You can offer great value by Tweeting way ahead of time for a special occasion. I have posted Halloween-related tweets for every hour from 7:00 am on October 30, using the hashtag #twickortweet.

4. Embed feeds in your blog or website — Do you have to retweet every time someone mentions a topic of interest? For some topics that wouldn’t be practical in any case. One solution is to embed feeds in your website and instead to remind users they can go there for up to date information. You are saving them configuring the feed themselves and driving traffic to your site. WordPress has a great little plugin that will embed any feed. Search in Twitter for your keyword, pull the feed URL and paste the URL into your page. (The instructions are in the plugin documentation.) There are other ways to do this if you’re not running WordPress. (Here’s a post to get you started embedding RSS feeds.)

5. Systematize your process — Some of my Twitter use is to inform followers of a blog post such as this one. So I have a system that minimizes the time spent (and avoids spamming followers). I post it once to Twitter, then to appropriate groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. I might spend a half hour writing the post, with another 15 minutes or so on posting the link to the various social channels. (sometimes to another blog if it has a relevant article).

So that time adds up! When you are off the steady wage gravy train (woo hoo!), it takes some balancing. But I am managing quite well so far. How about you? Do you have trouble managing your time on Twitter? Is it part of your job? What tips or processes do you have to help you manage your time feeding the Twitter monster?

Ten steps to evolving your personal brand

on Oct 18 in blogging, branding, facebook, google, hints and tips, linkedin, reputation management, social networks, strategy, tools, Twitter posted by

Anyone who has an online presence needs to understand the importance of personal brand. The person on Facebook who got fired because she posted on her profile that she hated her job did not get the concept of personal brand.

But there are many social media channels. Most people have several profiles, which they maintain to a greater or lesser extent. What is the point of perfecting your LinkedIn profile if you inadvertently sabotage it with a lackluster blog or indiscrete Tweets? The solution is to evolve your personal brand.

By evolving your brand, you start from simple principles and create an increasingly complex presence. Before you start on any of this, you must understand the process of biological evolution. Broadly speaking, it is a process of experimentation, ruthless selection, survival and propagation of what is successful. Here are 10 steps to implement as you evolve your personal brand.

1. Establish goals –– Decide what you want to do with your personal brand. First and foremost brand is about perception. Your basic goal is to craft perception of what people think. What do people find when they search for you on Google? Do you want to be seen as an expert, thought leader or influencer?

2. Consider your audience — Who are you communicating with via social media? If your personal brand is your professional persona, what kinds of topics interest your audience the most? Find the common ground with the topics you are knowledgeable about. By sharing your unique knowledge you provide value to your target audience. It’s vital also to consider the kinds of online behavior typical for your audience. Does your audience create and upload content, will they comment on blog posts, or are they content to passively consume content? (Charlene Li’s “ladder” model of social media participation is a good starting point to classifying user behavior.)

3. Research platforms — If you want to use Facebook just for family and friends, it might be unwise to “friend” work colleagues as did the unfortunate Facebook user in the example above. If your professional network is mainly on LinkedIn, tweak your profile and engage on Answers and Discussions. Bear in mind your audience might not be active on the platforms on which you’re active. For instance, in regulated industries (e.g., pharma) you’re unlikely to have a large audience in social networks. Do some research to find out where your peers are. In choosing platforms consider whether it gets traffic (one reason Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla), relevance, the value of content and if you are comfortable using it.

4. Create a strategy — Once you have identified where your audience is active online, and what kinds of topics you want to engage in, create a social media strategy. A common mistake starting out is to assume strategy is simply engaging your audience. It is not. Think of strategy as similar to a business plan. Your strategy needs to include long- and short-term goals, evaluation of the competitive landscape, resources you plan on using, success benchmarks, a tactical summary and a schedule for executing tactics. Be sure to try something new and unexpected. Mutations are the raw material for evolution. You have to have unusual approaches to survive in a competitive and changing environment.

5. Implement your strategy — The schedule in your strategic plan will guide your day-to-day activities: for example,  what to blog or tweet about, how many posts or tweets, what kinds of content and what kind of integration (such as cross-linking with your other online presences on LinkedIn, blog comments, forum posts and so on). A common mistake for beginners is to start their social media branding at this stage, rather than including implementation as part of a strategic plan.

6. Measure your results — Your strategic plan’s benchmarks will include metrics for you to assess your progress. There are endless different ways to measure social media. If you are advertising, a good start is the IAB’s Social Media Ad Metrics Definitions. If you have a WordPress blog, use a plugin that provides a good overview of basic stats. For more detailed stats, Google Analytics are a must. You can set behavioral goals such as a conversion or clicking on a link to directly measure the impact of specific site content. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, these applications provide a variety of stats. On Facebook, the Fan page provides information on the number of views, fans, uploads and so on. Several third party sites provide stats to allow you to track your progress on Twitter, such as the number of followers, posts, and URLs clicked. There are endless permutations. Again, you need to experiment and see what works for you. (Introduction to social media metrics)

7. Compare your results with your goals — Selection is a key step in evolving your personal brand. In order to begin the selection process you, see if your results are meeting your goals. When you compare your results with your goals, it will help to refine your goals and to get more specific. Say your goal is to be the top blogger in your industry. How will you measure whether you are the top blogger? You could use your Technorati rank or traffic. Or may be you just want to be a better blogger. You could use the change in number of comments over time, so traffic or rank would be less important. The key is to focus on what is most important relative to your goal.

8. Continue what is working — Once you have the first seven steps, the rest is easy. Simply keep up with what works. Do more of what gets positive results, whether it’s more traffic, more comments, or whatever.

9. Quit what is not working — Do less of what doesn’t work. This is selection — arguably the most important step of the evolutionary process. Selection is ruthless. You need to be too. You might have to give up something that’s precious or important. The dinosaurs were awesome animals. They’re all dead. Extinct. For ever. You need to think along those lines. What’s not working? What is diminishing your survivability? If it’s not working, kill it.

10. Start all over — Yup. Evolution is iterative. Just like the environment, the online ecosystem is always changing. Life’s evolution is always ongoing, and always will be. To survive and thrive in the online ecosystem, you too will need to continually evolve. Start from Step 1 above and continue the process as long as you want to stay in the race.

Does it work? Sure. If you stick to your plan and persist, your personal brand will evolve and you will get results. Here’s a screen shot of my stats on this blog since have focused on evolving my personal brand. It isn’t the only measure of success, but it illustrates that you can evolve your personal brand applying the above ten steps.

“OMG, I hate my job” Facebook post gets employee fired

on Oct 13 in branding, facebook, hints and tips posted by

Unhappy at work? Want to vent online? Perhaps you should first think how you would respond to a derogatory Facebook post by an employee. In this example, the boss fired the person.

Take home lesson? Everything and anything you post online reflects on your personal brand. Think of it as the Miranda Rights of social media: Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of social media.

Legal ease for business

on Dec 23 in branding, business, quote of the day, Twitter posted by

Thought of the Day, Dec 23, 2008

Sinden Lee reports that Burger King (@theBKlounge) served a cease and desist notice to @whoppervirgins via Twitter. The user @whoppervirgins (whoever that is) co-opted a Burger King ad campaign’s key theme to tweet about various silliness, only loosely connected to the brand. There are two points here. First, perhaps BK should be pleased that someone took note of the campaign and began a Twitter account revolving around it. Here is a brand evangelist that the company should be cultivating, not quashing. The second point is that it’s not especially remarkable for BK to tweet its notice directly to the offending party. When a major corporation routinely tweets such legal notices to users on matters unrelated to Twitter activity, that will be remarkable.

“Who knew you could serve legal notices on [social networking] sites? BK’s Twitter account sent a notice to WhopperVirgins — presumably an account set up by someone outside the Whopper king’s official domain.”

— Sinden Lee
Burger King Serves Cease and Desist Notice Via Twitter

To be or not to be who we want

on Dec 22 in branding, hints and tips, quote of the day, trends posted by

Thought of the Day, Dec 22, 2008

It’s curious how our identity seems to be this fixed concept that stays with us throughout our lives. (I am always “me.”) Yet our personalities shift and change from day to day, or even during the day. (Are you a morning grouch?) But with the Web we can take on whatever identity or personality we choose. We can create our persona. So Richard Millington chose to become Nelson Mandela. And Janet (anonymously) chose to become a (fake) representative of Mobil Exxon. (See article by Jeremiah Owyang.) From the day of my first foray into social media, I viewed my online profiles as a personal advertisment, my brand. I had had my own website online since 2000 (Jungle Photos) and, realizing that there are no closed doors online, figured that my online persona was what I chose to project to the world. Our brand is what we choose. So now we have the power, as never before, to be who we want ourselves to be, to create who we are.

“If I’m really determined to impersonate Nelson Mandela, I’m going to find a way to do it.”

— Richard Millington
How I became Nelson Mandela


5 Worst Twitter Disasters of 2008 (Twisasters)

on Dec 16 in branding, business, marketing, politics, products, social media, strategy, Twitter posted by

2008. What a year for social media. The Obama campaign’s consummate use of social channels and subsequent success highlighted social media’s power to engage and motivate practically anyone. But the year was also marked by severe drubbings received by corporations trying to capitalize on social media or not understanding the space. Jeremiah Owyang offers a list of brands “punk’d” by social media during 2008. Here I focus on the worst Twitter disasters (Twisasters) of the year.

1. Motrin Moms
Top of the list and best known is the debacle suffered by Johnson and Johnson, parent company for the brand painkiller Motrin. A too-clever video targeted at moms who carry their baby in a sling offended a number of Twitter moms. The moms felt the vid implied that their use of baby slings was merely a fashion statement rather than a practical alternative to a push-chair. The word got out on Twitter, spread to the blogosphere and in a matter of a few hours the company was backpedaling and eventually chose to pull the campaign entirely.

2. Exxon brandjacking
Anyone can set up an account on Twitter, and use any pen-name (pseudonym, avatar). Exxon Mobil was caught with their pants down when someone registered an account, claiming to be a representative of the company and tweeting very candidly (perhaps more candidly than one might expect from a giant oil company). Once the ruse was discovered, the account was quickly shut down. It seems that Exxon is still failing to manage its Twitter presence (see @exxon). Rodney Rumford lists 33 brands that have flubbed their use of Twitter, including notable brandjackings: Disney, Marlboro, McDonalds, Sprint

3. John McCain
Constantly playing catch up, it’s not surprising that @JohnMcCain failed to make the most of Twitter. After a mere 25 updates, the Republican candidate for president stopped updating his Twitter feed. Perhaps it was just too much effort, or perhaps he had nothing worth saying in 140 characters, or maybe the 72 year-old did just not “get” the power of social media.

4. Barack Obama
What? you say, but @BarackObama used Twitter to such great effect. But note, Obama (or his campaign) has failed to Tweet a single 140 character message on Obama’s page since Nov 5th 2008 — that is, the day he won the election. His last word? “Thanks.” Where are you, Senator Obama? After setting such a great precedent, we have no idea why Obama has not continued to maintain his unique connection with the Twitter community. Now for an that’s a disaster.

5. IBM
I don’t want to pick on Big Blue (surely easy pickings!) but they really dropped the ball with Twitter. @ibm is a dead page. No brand icon, no posts, and only 12 followers. Representatives of the company explain in Jeremiah Owyang’s blog post that this was an executive decision, saying the company has “opted for a decentralized approach” and “realize this has some significant limitations.” Nevertheless, it still seems the company is missing an opportunity to connect with the techies and geeks who make up its community and many of whom are on Twitter. Other notable dead or inactive (parked) brands from Rodney Rumford’s post: Delta, Verizon, Nike, Budweiser

Links to referenced content
Why Brands Are Unsuccessful in Twitter
33 Brands That Suck on Twitter
Motrin commerical (YouTube)

Laughing at monetizing Twitter

on Dec 16 in branding, business, quote of the day, Twitter posted by

Quote of the Day, Dec 16, 2008

How to monetize Twitter has been a favorite topic among the Twitterati, and one that shows no signs of reaching a conclusion any time soon. How ironic then, that many have found ways to make money from Twitter, or at least use it in ways that build brand awareness or provide customer support. But then, if we understand that Twitter is a tool, this makes sense. It’s easier to make money with a hammer by banging in nails than it is to make money from selling hammers.

“People laugh at Twitter, and they can go ahead and laugh for all I care, but I’m here to tell you that it can be invaluable. Aside from the personal connectedness and relationship maintenance it’s good for, let’s be honest – it’s paying my rent.”

— Marshall Kirkpatrick
Twitter is Paying My Rent


Influencing influencers

on Dec 10 in branding, business, hints and tips, quote of the day, thought leaders, Twitter posted by

Quote of the Day, Dec 10, 2008

Social media, in particular microblogging tools such as Twitter, offers the possibility of one-on-one conversations with anyone who is interested in your product or service. Marketers have taken a keen interest in the potential for connecting with the most influential members of this audience, so-called influencers. As Nick Hayes recognizes, being able to influence the influencers can provide a much higher ROI than simply broadcasting your message, whether through social media or traditional channels. The key, then, is to understand exactly how to message such influencers, to ensure they become evangelists for your brand, rather than disdainfully (sometimes arrogantly) rejecting your approaches out of hand.

“While few people have argued about the importance of influencers over the past few years, we’ve been surprised at how reticent many organizations have been to adopt influencer practices. … These days, especially with all of us reading of an economic downturn, organizations know that they have to change from their traditional spend allocation, so there’s a greater willingness to do something different. And targeting a company’s business influencers now fits the bill of being refreshingly different and measurably beneficial in sales terms.”

— Nick Hayes, founder of Influencer50

Companies Waste Billions by Influencing the Wrong Influencers

What is QR code? Answers and possibilities

on Dec 05 in branding, business, marketing, personal information management systems, products, technology, tools, trends posted by

What will be next big thing? It’s impossible to say of course. One possibility is QR code.

Wonder what the black and white square on the left side of this Web page is about? That is QR code. It is a 2-dimensional barcode. (The familiar black and white lined strips are basically one-dimensional.)

QR code enables you to encode much more information than the bar code. The bar code (or UPC) can contain only numbers. But QR can contain so much more, including text and even pictures.

You may even have seen QR code on product stickers, notably USPS postage stamps dispenser from automated machines. So what’s the big deal now? Well, smart phones such as iPhone and the G-phone can run software which, combined with the built-in camera, can read the QR code. Anywhere. Anytime. Anyplace.

Scan the code to the left into your iPhone. It will yield the URL of this Web site that can load into the phone’s browser.

With the growth in smart phones, combined with the ease of generating the little squares with online apps (best is, they are sure to become ubiquitous.

Imagine strolling down the street and seeing a poster about a sale at a nearby store. Scan the QR code into your phone, and it will automatically load a URL with a Google Map location and directions to get there.

Or you see a piece of street art. Scan the code and find out the name of the artist and where you can purchase it online.

Or if you have kids, in case they get lost, put their name, address and location info on their shoes or clothing.

Any advertisement could include QR code to provide access to more product info and a URL, enabling advertisers to track offline to online metrics with much greater accuracy than possible today.

Of course, there are countless other possibilities. Expect to see more QR code in 2009.

Info links
How Stuff Works UPC bar code
Wikipedia: QR Code