My next book, Return on Relationship, written with my friend and colleague Ted Rubin, offers a comprehensive look into the importance of building, nurturing and maintaining relationships with your clients as a means to drive loyalty, engagement and ultimately sales.

The very first chapter is titled, “If I Build It, Will They Come?”, referencing the movie Field of Dreams.   For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s about a farmer who becomes convinced by a mysterious voice that he is supposed to build a baseball diamond in his corn field.  He does it and baseball players from yesteryear show up and play on the field, fulfilling a childhood dream.  I use this often when I’m speaking to clients about online and social media marketing.  Can you build a website, Facebook or Twitter presence?  Sure.  Will people come?  The answer is…it depends. It depends on how dedicated you are to building and nurturing the relationships with your current and potential clients and brand advocates. You can read the book to find out what advice we give for doing just that (and I hope you do!), but here I decided to offer some insights you won’t find in the book I’ve learned about building relationships from the best teachers– my children. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Turn on your listening ears. This is a saying that plays over and over again in our household. Are your listening ears on? One of the most important keys in building relationships, is to be a good listener. How can you deliver the products and services that your constituency wants and needs if you don’t listen? How can you get the most out of your team members and consultants if you’re not paying attention to what they tell you? Many missteps can easily be avoided by just turning on your listening ears.
  2. Play with everyone. When I’m out attending live events, I always notice that people spend time with the same folks over and over again. My son never tells another child, “I don’t want to play with you”; he plays with all of the kids all the time—that way, no matter what park we go to, he inevitably finds a friend that he can play with. If you only talk to a select few, you are missing out on potential relationships with some great people.
  3. Offer help. My son always offers to help others who have fallen down or seem to be having a difficult time. In business, I find it invaluable to offer assistance when I can. I have forged great relationships with my clients and my peers simply by asking, “How can I help you?” This small effort has translated into continued business and referrals.
  4. Be persistent. I saw my son trying to figure out how to run up the playground slide. It seems to be some rite of passage for kids. He started by just trying to climb up from the bottom, then moved a bit back and tried to run up, then farther and farther back until he was able to get enough momentum to carry himself up to the top of the slide. I’ll never forget the look of pride on his face when he figured it out. Building successful relationships works the same way. It doesn’t happen overnight; you have to constantly reach out and connect with people on their level. Make a plan and be persistent.
  5. If something stinks, change it. Anyone who has walked within a mile of a baby who needs a diaper change knows what this means. It’s the same with building business relationships: If it’s not working or if you’re not getting what you need, change the way you’re interacting, the information you’re giving or the method of communication until it does.
  6. Follow up. My son always asks me if I’ve called back so-and-so’s mommy who asked for a play date. If I forget, he reminds me—constantly. In building a successful relationship-based community, the follow-up is the most important part. Don’t just respond on social channels or just send an email—pick up the phone or send a personal note. People just love to receive a note in the mail, and it will go a long way to building and solidifying their relationship with you or your brand.
  7. Share and share alike. We are always telling our kids to share. Why? Not only because it’s polite, but also because if you give, you get. Give great information even if it’s from a competitor, or share insights about complementary products and services…and you will be more useful to your base and in turn create a responsive community that looks at you, your product or your service as a go-to place for great information.
  8. Have a short memory. So a kid knocked down my son on the playground one day. The next day I thought for sure my son would not want to play with him, but there they were on the swings, then my son was kicking around a ball with that same boy! Kids know instinctively that if they held grudges, no one would play with them at all. Every kid gets knocked down at one time or another. I’m not saying that if you’ve had a bad experience with someone you should continue the relationship; I’m saying that if you hold onto that memory, you may never get to work with anyone because you might not trust people simply because of one bad experience. When building a community, remember that the most vocal detractors can be potential advocates.  If someone cares enough about your or your brand to complain, there is a potential to turn that relationship around.
  9. Don’t yuck my yum. In other words, if I am eating something you don’t think is appetizing, don’t say “yuck.” Why? People have different tastes; there will be people my children will meet from different backgrounds who eat different foods or have different cultures. It is a good practice to say “No thank you” rather than “Ewww!” or “Yuck!” For relationship building, this means holding your tongue and personal opinions at times when voicing them would be a disadvantage to you or your brand. Also, there is nothing wrong with healthy debate—for two people to agree to disagree—but don’t immediately shoot down someone’s viewpoint just because it’s not your own.
  10. Do it with a happy heart or don’t do it at all. This one came from my mother, and I’m teaching it to my kids. In other words, if you’re not going to be authentic and willing to put in the effort to do something well, don’t bother doing it at all. In business relationships, we say in the book that REAL trumps PERFECT every time. Have an authentic voice and a real willingness to build solid relationships, and you will succeed.

Me with my co-author Ted Rubin 11. Teamwork makes the dream work. We are constantly watching our kids work together to achieve a goal. Wherever possible, look for ways to collaborate and work with others—even competitors—to help get maximum visibility for your messages. It’s a great way to build a responsive community simply by reaching out and asking for ways you can work together. In the case of this book, this is exactly how it came about. Ted heard me speak at the Women Entrepreneurs Rock the World conference, and we met and decided our philosophies were in line and we could accomplish more by working and writing the book together than each on our own.

So in building your business relationships, take a cue from observing your kids (or remember what your parents taught you): turn on your listening ears, offer help and be persistent. Keep it real, and you will soon see an amazing community of brand advocates helping sell your services for you. It won’t be easy or fast, but you will certainly reap what you sow on your field of dreams.

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By Polly Schneider Traylor | Business on Main

A Pinteresting Idea for Marketers -- Business on Main -- © Matthias Tunger/Digital Vision

If your business can relate to customers with enticing visuals, then Pinterest — the social media darling of the year — is for you. Here’s why.

In early 2012, Sue Zimmerman, founder and owner of a boutique in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, started a Pinterest page to help promote her business, SueB.do. Today, referrals from the relatively new social media network represent 75 percent of the retailer’s online sales. Her physical store still dominates annualsales thanks to the busy summer season, but she’s committed to maintaining her presence on Pinterest.

“I am a visual thinker and have products that are pretty to look at, so Pinterest is a great opportunity to link back to my blog and website,” she says. Like other Pinterest enthusiasts, she enjoys the site because the boards (categories of images, or “pins”) are permanent, unlike a tweet or Facebook update that’s here today, gone tomorrow. That permanence, she says, can help create a strong brand image and relationship with customers and followers.

Do you really need another social network? First, consider that Pinterest isn’t just the new kid on the block, but a novel social network because of its focus on images and “pinning,” which is a snappy way to share content without having to actually write something.

6 reasons to start pinning today

1. It’s on fire!
Pinterest is a booming social media space where your customers might be hanging out — particularly if you sell consumer or lifestyle-oriented products and services.

“In 2011, Pinterest wasn’t on the radar, and now it has a 12 percent market penetration,” remarks Laurie McCabe, co-founder of the SMB Group, which recently surveyed 665 small and medium businesses on their social practices. Forty-five percent of companies surveyed said that Pinterest creates better interactions with customers and prospects, the second-highest method after LinkedIn and industry forums. Pinterest is also the second-highest method for lead generation and sales (36 percent) and competitive intelligence (31 percent) over Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

2. Get started in minutes

It takes a few minutes to open a free Pinterest account and start pinning, repinning and creating boards — without any instructions. A business could feasibly spend five or 10 minutes a day maintaining its boards by adding new pins and repinning or commenting on the pins of colleagues and friends. To make it even easier to pin an image, you can download the Pin It button to your browser or use the Android, iPhone or iPad app to snap images and pin them on the go. Pins link back to the item’s source page, including your e-commerce site.

“Of all the networks, this is one of the easiest to use because it’s just images,” says Kathryn Rose, a social media strategist and trainer for everyone from startups to multimillion-dollar corporations. For many, Pinterest is a refreshing break from social media tedium, suggests Jason Miles, vice president of advancement at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, and co-author of the soon-to-be-released book “Pinterest Power.” “People are fatigued by Facebook, and many still don’t understand Twitter.”

Read more at Business on Main from MSN.com

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In my upcoming book: Solving the Social Media Puzzle: 7 Simple Steps to Planning a Social Media Marketing Strategy for Your Business, my co-author Apryl Parcher and I lay out the steps to successfully planning a social media strategy to maximize your social media marketing efforts and chances for success.

In the last 4 plus years of working with clients in the social media space I found that one of the common issues with my clients is that they had no plan. Everyone wanted lots of fans and followers and their content to go “viral” but no one had a plan to get there. Most didn’t even have goals at all! They didn’t even know who they wanted to target most of the time.

That is why it is it critical to plan before you get started. One of the biggest misconceptions of social media marketing is that it is free; it’s not free because like any other of your business efforts, it takes time, and time is money right? Without a plan, you will be wasting lots of time trying everything and accomplishing nothing.

The second question is “who are you trying to target?” Many times we get the standard old-school marketing demographic answer “women 25-54, upper level income” etc.

One of the greatest benefits of today’s social media and online marketing opportunities is that you can really target your audience down to their interest levels, their zip codes, what shows they watch and more, simply because they tell Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin what they like OR they talk about these things in their bios, tweets and online interactions.

What does this mean for marketers? This represents a big shift in the way in which we communicate with our audience. Instead of trying to communicate with broad categories of people we need to have real conversations with real people. But how do you achieve this shift and figure out how to get to your goals? Simple–you need a plan and a strategy to get you there.

What will a plan do for you? For one thing it will take the blank page syndrome and the “what will I write about today” pressure away. Many people abandon their social media efforts simply because they don’t know what to say. What’s more is if you actually have a strategy in place, things like design changes in platforms which happens seeming daily, won’t leave you scrambling.

Lena West, Social Media Marketing Mentor at InfluenceExpansion.com says, “Everyone is so busy getting their nerves pinched when Facebook makes a change or when Twitter shifts their layout. The reality is if your business marketing is THAT reliant upon fancy graphics and welcome tabs, your problem isn’t what Facebook is doing, it’s what you’re NOT doing.”

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Here are some simple tips from our new book that will help you begin to build the foundation of a solid social media marketing plan:

  1. Talk to people not demographics. Use personas when designing your target audience. Give the target a name and characteristics like what they watch  on TV, do they have children, what do they like to do, things like that.
  2. Think about your goals. What are you trying to achieve? I think everyone knows by now that the sheer number of fans (likers), followers, views and connections are not necessarily going to drive business.
  3. Decide where you will spend your time. The big social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and Google+) have characteristics of the audiences they attract. If you are running low on time or staff, delve into which one (s) of these will really serve your needs and attract the audience you desire. Focus your efforts on that one or two for the next 90 days and then add others as you have time. Don’t try to be everywhere if you simply don’t have the time.
  4. Use a content and blogging calendar so you can plan out a strategy. Here is the one that we use and you can download it free http://solvingthesocialmediapuzzle.com/calendar/
  5. Have a system for measuring results. Now that you know where you’re going, how do you know when you’ve achieved them or if you’re even on your way?
  6. Constantly be tweaking your strategy as new things come up. Read blogs that focus on the networks you’ve chosen, they often times will give great strategies and case studies that you can implement in your own business.

I want to hear from you, what planning strategies have you used to be successful on social media? Share in the comments box below.

Post originally appeared on genConnect 

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Managing your online relationships isn’t always easy, but when it comes to your brand’s reputation, there are some steps you can take to protect it and turn unhappy customers into loyal fans

As you or your brand becomes more engaged on the social channels, it is inevitable that you will see brand questions and comments, some of them negative. Many brands are still resistant to joining and actively participating in the social sphere for this reason alone.  Even if you or your brand is not present, the conversation about your brand is still going on. Isn’t it better to find out what people are saying and, if it is negative, offer solutions?

Geoffrey Gitomer, best selling author and sales guru even wrote a book titled Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. I know in my own experiences that using the tenets of relationship marketing and generating and achieving that all important customer loyalty is often just simply about responding when your customer is unhappy. Many times your clients just want to know that you heard them and that you acknowledge there may be a problem and will try and fix it. I’m sure at this point you realize that everything posted on line lives forever, so you MUST have a plan of action on how to deal with any negative postings. Keeping in mind, of course, the most important tenet of relationship marketing and customer service: The customer is always right!

With my clients, whether they be large or small, I always recommend that a communication plan be put in place. At the very least, consider the possibility that someone someday may not like you or your product. This way you will be prepared. For larger brands, it’s imperative to decide these strategies. When having an initial “on boarding” meeting with one of my clients, a major laundry detergent brand, I asked what would happen if someone posted that their laundry detergent burned a whole in their clothes – or worse, theyaccuse the brand of causing personal injury? That was something they hadn’t considered. So we took the time to put in place a plan that took into account the innocuous complaint or question; i.e., the coupons didn’t print, can they use the detergent on all kinds of clothes, etc., all the way to the worst case – someone was injured.

Here is the plan we drafted:

  1. We conducted a listening campaign for the first month that included more closely monitoring the social channels to determine what, if any, consistent complaints or questions arose.
  2. Then we compiled a document that included responses to the common questions and complaints. Both Twitter andFacebook responses were drafted – approximately 20-30 for each that way their legal department could review and approve them but customers would get a response more quickly and the responses did not look “canned.” We also performed the same exercise for other types of posts, including compliments. This way, we had all communications covered and we were able to engage more quickly.

Example for complaint:  We’re sorry that you’re having trouble, [FAN NAME]. Please contact customer service at [800# or email] so that we can take care of this for you ASAP.

Example for compliment: Thank you [FAN NAME]. It always makes us feel good if we can help make life a little easier for our friends.

  1. We decided which types of comments and questions needed to be routed to different departments. For example, if someone said that their product caused injury, those comments would be routed to the legal department for review and response.
  2. There are several online tools that help with customer service (Facebook, in particular); but as the page grew, we contracted with Parature, a Facebook client services tool that routes consumer questions and complaints to individuals within an organization. This allowed the brand to keep a better handle on the types of comments and also to be sure they were routed to the correct person or department more quickly. Parature uses keywords set up by the brand to determine which posts get routed to which department. Also, Parature will automatically remove or “hide” posts that include profanity or include inappropriate content.
  3. Lastly, the team decided specifically who would be responsible for responding to these issues. It was clear that if we did not have someone experienced or had a plan in place, things could go bad quickly; so we drafted a social media policy for distribution to all of the departments. In thecase of Facebook, the new Timeline roll out will allow a team member to respond directly to a fan that sends the brand a message. This is a very positive enhancement and will be a great addition to your Facebook relationship marketing strategy. However, you still need to decide who will be responsible for these communications and what the acceptable responses are.

There is no doubt that it will happen eventually to you or your brand. Someone will post negative comments, but being prepared is the key. If your brand is under attack, your first reaction may be to defend it. This can make a bad situation worse. In the case of other brands I’ve worked with, this has happened with disastrous results. You have to resign yourself that you cannot please everyone but using a few of these tips your relationships can be enhanced, you can save a customer and, perhaps turn a negative experience into a positive long term raving fan for your brand.

Post originally appeared on http://genconnect.com 

http://www.genconnect.com/career/brand-management-marketing-turn-unhappy-online-customers-into-lifelong-fans-kathryn-rose/

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Facebook’s new Timeline design changes the way brands can interact with consumers, and Facebook users with each other; what you need to know to make the most of it

Today, Facebook will announce the new Timeline Design roll-out for brands platform-wide that will take place on March 30th. You have the option to preview the design and upgrade early if you choose. What you need to know is that the current look will be replaced by the Timeline view you see on your current personal profiles.

How you need to prepare:

1.) Your current images, whether or not they are just your logo or you have a longer image, must be adjusted. Logo size is square no more than 180 x 180 pixels.

2.) The “cover photo” is a maximum 851 x 399 pixels. Please be advised, though, of the Facebookcover page guidelines. Cover images may not contain:

  • Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our web site”
  • Contact information, such as web address, e-mail, mailing address or other information intended for your page’s “About” section
  • References to user interface elements, such as “Like” or “Share,” or any other Facebook site features
  • Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”

All cover images are public, which means anyone visiting your page will be able to see the image you choose. Covers must not be false, deceptive or misleading, and must not infringe on third parties’ intellectual property. You may not encourage or incentivize people to upload your cover image to their personal timelines.

3.) Apps and custom pages now move to under the profile picture. You can show a maximum number of 12 apps.

Like before, you can move the “apps” and custom tabs around to highlight ones you would like shown; photos and Likes cannot be moved. To move the custom tabs, hover your mouse over the upper corner of the app or custom tab, click the pencil and then click “swap this with” and the app or page moves to that spot.

The unfortunate part is that you cannot select a “default landing tab” as before, so if you created a fancy welcome page or another kind of custom page, you’re out of luck unless someone actually clicks on it.

4.) You can make a certain post “stick” by “pinning” it to the top of your page; “pinned” posts stay up for seven days.

5.) Your admin panel has moved to the upper right side of the page. From there you can manage most of the page functionality you had before. Selecting admins, adding apps, etc.

6.) A GREAT addition is the ability for your fans to private message the brand and the brand to be able to respond to the fan. Before, if a fan asked a question and you wanted to respond privately, you had to do so through a personal profile. Now you can respond as the brand, which will help with customer service.

7.) You can play with the design until you’re ready to publish it or until March 30, because at that point, the page will be live on the new design.

You can see some of the new cover design with brands such as Coca-Cola here.

Post first appeared on GenConnect 

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My post Is it really all about relationships?  Yes it is, was recently featured on my friend and fellow relationship marketer, Ted Rubin’s site.  Blogger Bruce Sallan made a very interesting comment on the post.  He pointed out the principles of the business relationships I outlined were the same for any kind of relationship.  He was very much correct of course and that got me to thinking about the one day dedicated to all things relationships, Valentine’s Day, and what it could teach us about social media marketing and the Return on Relationship™ philosophy, my friend Ted Rubin and I espouse.

For example, today my husband told me that he was going to be on a business trip this week and won’t be here for Valentine’s Day.  At first I was disappointed but then I got to thinking about all of those long ago boyfriends who would always complain about Valentine’s Day. They would say things like “It’s a Hallmark holiday” or “Why should I show you once a year how much I love you, when I show you all the time,” things like that.  The difference between all of those guys (who we used to call Mr. Right Nows because we knew they weren’t Mr. Right but they were fine for right now) was that Valentine’s Day was really the only day they DID show up!  So now that I have my Mr. Right, I decided that it Valentine’s Day in and of itself really wasn’t so important after all.  I thanked him for thinking about it and told him it didn’t matter because it IS just a day, he always shows up for me and our family and consistently so.

How can brands apply this type of thinking to their online and social media marketing strategies?  Simple: do you or your Brand want to be Brand Right or Brand Right Now?    Do you want to have long term relationships with your clients or short term transactional ones?

Here are some lessons from personal relationships and Valentine’s Day I believe all brands should think about when building a social media marketing strategy

  1. Show up consistently — Don’t show up once a year, once a week or once a day for that matter, social media is about conversations and engagement so you need to be consistently active on your chosen networks or you will not develop the trust and loyalty factor on which long term relationships are based.
  2. Roses by any other name to do not smell as sweet –- if you build a consistent following and conversation your followers and loyal brand ambassadors will forgive you more readily for when your brand makes missteps.  Take the Jet Blue response to a difficult situation; when the flight attendant blew his cool on the tarmac at JFK the company went silent for a couple of days, but then smartly posted a short blog about the incident which was shared on all of their social sites. Because Jet Blue is consistently engaged and shows up for their customers, people were more patient with them when they fell silent realizing they needed all the facts before responding.
  3. Give Christmas presents in July and take December off –  I heard Brian Kurtz, direct mail guru for boardroom.com say this at a seminar last year.  In other words, give when it’s not expected.  I would rather get a rose or a special gift on a random day then on a day that is designed for it.  Give a coupon for being a loyal customer, fan, follower, when they least expect it.
  4. Loyalty and trust take time and effort. Of course people and companies want loyal and attentive communities around them but are they willing to put in the time it takes to foster it? It’s easy to buy a dozen roses and get some chocolates for your loved one once a year but does that really make someone loyal?  What have your actions demonstrated the rest of the year? Have you asked them how they were and really cared about the answer? Brands who demonstrate true caring and enjoy an authentic sense of community with their clients or constituency will be the ones who have the loyal customers in the long run.

Return on Relationship is something we can apply to all aspects of our lives.  But brands in particular need to embrace and use this philosophy in their online interactions.  Please comment and let me know your thoughts around building loyalty and Return on Relationship #RonR.

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Has this happened to you?  You have an opportunity to guest blog on a prominent site.  You ask if you submit the blog and it’s published, could you then repost the blog on your own website (with a link back to the original post, of course)?  Or, others see your blog posts, enjoy the content and ask if they could repost on their site?  In either case, you may have been told that you cannot repost on your own site or that you shouldn’t allow others to repost your blog because of something called “duplicate content.”  In other words, if your post is re-published on many other sites, the other site could outrank your own post in Google and other search engines, or it could actually hurt your own site’s rankings.

As a search marketer, I am always defending the re-publishing of posts and ignoring the duplicate content issue because I’m of the opinion that more potential readers of my content and links back to my site are the important parts rather than worrying about whether or not another site will outrank my own with my content.  But lately, this issue has come up so much that I decided to find out for sure if my theory was correct.  So I reached out and asked one of the world’s authorities on search engine optimization, Rand Fishkin CEO of SEOmoz.com, and asked him to help sort out fact from fiction. Rand pointed out that there is no absolute answer but offered some great suggestions:

KR: Does reposting blogs on other’s blog sites hurt search engine rankings?

RF: It is possible that if you re-publish your content on another site, it could rank in the search engines rather than your own, original version. A link back is often enough to negate this, but there’s also a technical way to make it work 99.9% of the time and that’s with the “Rel = canonical” tag (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/12/handling-legitimate-cross-domain.html). If you use this (or have those blogs you guest post on use it), you can feel very confident that your own post will be the one to rank.

 

If you feel a little lost at the mention of rel: canonical tags, as many do, I’m going to break it down for you with the help of another great source—my friend and SEO guru, Tisho Richardson, Web Associate at ThomasNet.com (formerly the Thomas Register).  Very simply, you put this type of html tag between the “head” tags on the blog post page of the ORIGINAL post; this way the search engines know that this is the one true original version and should rank this version above all others.  This is an example of what a rel: canonical tag looks like behind the scenes of a website:

For example, with the first scenario I referred to–guest posting on another blog, the rel: canonical tag should appear on their site on the page where the blog is posted.  In the second, where others are sharing your already published content, the tag should appear on your blog page (and always be sure that they link back to your original post).

If you have a wordpress blog, as I do, there is a plugin called “Canonical URL’s”. Once the plugin is installed, you will see a box under the post marked “Canonical”.  In there you put the link to the post.

KR: To what exactly does duplicate content refer?

RF: Duplicate content has a very broad definition in the SEO space. It can mean content sections that are duplicated across a single site or multiple sites and can also mean entire web pages that are copied from site to site or are accessible on multiple URLs on the same site (causing confusion and potential cannibalization). As a blogger, I wouldn’t sweat the definitions around it too much, but I’d try to make sure that I used something like the rel=canonical on my own site’s pages (most of the major blogging platforms either do this by default or offer it with SEO plugins).

 

KR: In your opinion, is it better to have more potential readers of the content and backlinks to your site than worry about the duplicate content issue?

RF: I’d generally bias much more in favor of posting on someone else’s site and getting the link back than worry about having that piece outrank my own. I’m still getting the writing credit, the link and the branding. Over time, if lots of people refer to my site, I’ll outrank all the others anyway (most of the time).I would, however, add that in many cases, it can pay to write unique material for guest posts, rather than sending along something you’ve already published on your own site. The reason’s not just SEO-related, but because fresh, never-before-seen material has a greater propensity to be shared, show off your style and earn you a following.

 

Thank you to Rand and Tisho for clearing this up and giving some great tips.  Bottom line?  It seems that having the potential for branding and backlinks to your site outweighs the potential negative of having another site outrank you for your own post.  However, if it is a major concern, it seems pretty easy to install the canonical link plugin, and it won’t be an issue any longer.  And, of course, it’s always best to write original content if you can.

(If you find this blog helpful, go ahead and repost– I installed the rel:canonical tag, but please be sure and give credit a link back to my site.)

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Social media pro Kathryn Rose interviews the CEO and founder of new innovative social network, Honestly, Now.

Honestly, Now is a new innovative new social network I recently discovered. It’s still in beta, but users will see quickly how useful it can be.

In a nutshell, users ask questions like, “Do I tell my boyfriend I cheated on him?” or “Should I thank people for re-Tweeting me on Twitter?” and experts like myself and others answer the questions, as well as general users of the site. One user uploaded a picture of herself in her new glasses and asked for opinions from the user base. It is a great way to get expert and objective opinions.

I had the opportunity to interview Tereza Nemessanyi, the CEO and founder of this new innovative social network, on the story behind Honestly, Now and what users can expect when they join:

Q: What is the idea behind Honestly, Now? Why did you feel the need to start yet another social network?

A: My parents died rather suddenly after I had my first child. I found I had more questions than ever – personal questions, and important decisions. But my support structure was gone and I wasn’t sure my friends were telling me the truth. So, to recreate what I’d lost – great advice and honest, compassionate truth – I combined the best of social technology with what I know about market research techniques and expert networks. You can say I digitized my mom, in a way. There are important conversations women have every day – our most important conversations – that are not happening online and are not as good as they could be, because existing social networks don’t understand them. Said another way, we are disrupting “Dear Abby.”

Q: Who are the experts?

A: Experts are a special status level on Honestly, Now and we showcase our experts to the community. They’re the top dogs and their comments have the most visual weight – they are the wise ones. We believe in the power of smart people helping others, and we want people to get to know these experts. We are always looking for new experts. Popular topics include social media, career and business, parenting, relationships and romance, fashion and style, travel, and technology. We want no great question to go unanswered. Because – for certain – there is someone excellent out there who makes a living helping people with that problem. We want people to know it!

Q: What do you want people to know about Honestly, Now?

A: We truly want to make the world better, and make great business for everyone, by being honest. I want us to create a billion ‘honest moments’ – moments where someone asks, votes, or answers. I truly believe that if we hit a billion honest moments, the world will be a much better place.

Honestly, Now can also be great as a business tool to do some crowdsourcing. I’m sure brands and businesses can benefit from asking poll-like questions to help in target marketing or test a concept.

Honestly, now … who wouldn’t want more honesty and making the world a better place? Give it a try! It’s a great way to get objective input on your most pressing issues.

Post first appeared on Genconnect

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Like many, I’m new to the social network Pinterest.  It intrigued me after reading many articles about it being the fastest growing social network, so I set out to uncover the business case for using it.  Because I’m a social media marketer, and business owner, it’s important that I squeeze every bit of visibility potential out of the various networks if I’m going to spend any time there.  To learn more, I enlisted a friend and pin-wild owner of the boutique Sueb.do Susan Goldberg Zimmerman to give me the guided tour.

Susan was a great teacher, showing me all of the beautiful images she collected of places she wished to visit and the products she has in her store.  I asked her what the business use was and she said that she looks at the images as an introduction to the person as to whether or not she wants to follow them or perhaps do business with them.  That was fair, but there had to be a more compelling reason for me (or my clients) to spend our time on Pinterest.

Once I was on my own, my first thought was about how addicting it could be; creating boards and pins of various topics can be a lot of fun but can also be a major distraction.  And from many of the blog posts I am reading, speaking to friends of mine that are full blown Pinterest addicts and my own experience trolling the web for over an hour looking for images to add to one of my own boards–it turns out I’m right.

As I mentioned, my mission was to find a business case to use the network so, I had to get back on task.  While I’m a visual person to some degree, I’m nowhere near as adept at fleshing out beautiful images that tell a story like my friend Susan.

Through my research, I found that using Pinterest is a great way to create interest in, and drive traffic to, your blog posts.  Of course your posts must have images on them–an important strategy you should be employing anyway—and it’s very easy to set up a board or several boards that highlight your blog posts.  Using the ‘pin it’ bookmarklet on the Firefox browser, you simply click on the image in your blog post and ‘pin it’ to a board. There are other ways to add images, you can upload them as well from your hard drive or embed code in order to aid you in pinning things more quickly.

Once you pin the image in the post, it displays on a board.  You can set up a board with any name you like.   If someone clicks on the pin and either clicks on the image or the link in the pin, they’re taken to my blog.  The same process also works for videos.  You can ‘pin’ videos from YouTube and once the pin is clicked the video plays on the site, no need to link off to the video.  This can be a very valuable tool.

Also, as an SEO person, I wondered if links from Pinterest could also provide any site ranking benefits  on Google and other search engines.  Turns out, so did Search Engine Land, and they did a great post called “How to Use Pinterest for Local SEO.”  Apparently, Pinterest, unlike other social networks, allows “do follow” on their links; that means the links provided on Pinterest are giving ranking benefit.

Some of the pointers they gave:

  1. Make sure your profile is not hidden from search engines and use keyword-rich “about” descriptive text.
  2. Begin your “about me” with your business URL.  This is not a live link but it can’t hurt to have it here.
  3. Be sure to list your web URL (shown under your profile with a “globe” icon) and also set the location to the city where your business is located.
  4. If your business is well represented by a Google Places business page, consider using that as the landing page for your profile instead of your website.  Particularly if there are great reviews of your products and services located there.
  5. If your business is local, set up boards with your city name and collect pictures about your local area.  They don’t all have to be pictures of your products.
  6. Create boards with keyword-rich titles.
  7. Use good keyword text when writing descriptions of your pins.
  8. Make sure to pin attractive images.  Pinterest users are all about the visual.
  9. Cross promote your pins on Facebook and Twitter.

Another great tip:  Set up a Pinterest contest for your business. Offer prizes to those who post pictures about your business.  I also discovered in my research that if you put the price into the item’s description, a banner comes up with the price displayed which could be useful for retail shops.  And, unlike Facebook ®, it does not appear to be against Pinterest terms of use to set up an account in a business name, like Susan, whose account is under her boutique name.

Another way to use Pinterest, is to create new relationships with potential collaborators.  The return on relationship factor is very high on this network.  Folks are pinning and repinning content at lightning speed. You can also make comments on someone’s pins; so as long as you keep in mind the “relationship” aspect of the marketing, go ahead and post comments on pins perhaps inviting a co-promotion with a link back to your site.

There are a couple of things to be aware of with Pinterest, however.  When I first signed up I noticed that I was getting a number of emails letting me know that a great deal of people were following me, which was strange because at the time I didn’t have one pin posted.  After some research, I figured out that Pinterest was committing a major no-no; they are autofollowing people based on your “interests.”  Can you imagine the magnitude of the fallout if Facebook began to “auto friend” people based on your hometown, high school, etc.?

The other thing I noticed is that there are absolutely no privacy settings. So, if you decide to create a board that has family pictures or pictures of your local town, anyone can view them and re-pin them, something privacy advocates have been railing against on Facebook and other sites.  You must take care not to post private pictures on Pinterest.

Next beware of copyright infringement. Take a look at the “Pin Etiquette” section.  It’s best to give credit to the photographer or person’s work that you are pinning.  If you use images in your blog posts, be sure to purchase them from a licensing site like IStockphoto or Getty Images.

Lastly, once spammers realize that Pinterest is a “do follow” network, look out for all of the completely irrelevant spam comments on your pins that include links to various travel, Viagra and SEO services sites (or worse).  This I predict will be a major issue in the coming months.

Overall, I think it’s a fun, innovative network that businesses can definitely benefit from using.  Keep in mind the privacy concerns and be careful when sharing.  Also, like any social network Pinterest can tempt you to fall into the rabbit hole.  Use an egg timer or a downloadable timer on your desktop to prevent you from wasting time.

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Bullying is reaching new heights and kids face threats everywhere; one mom took action when her daughter was a victim, and launched the Great American NO BULL Challenge

When Shawn Edgington’s daughter, Nicole Edgington, was bullied during her senior year of high school, stalked and physically threatened online, she knew she had to do something.

Shawn started her quest to help her daughter by writing the bestselling book for parents about understanding how to parent today’s connected teens called, The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media: Understanding the Benefits and Dangers of Parenting in a Digital World. When researching the book, she came across this alarming statistic: almost 50 percent of teenagers have experienced cyberbullying, sometimes with deadly results.

She decided to take the lead and develop a nation-wide campaign that would use the power of the social media to draw attention to the issue of cyberbullying in a really big way. Thus, the idea for The Great American NO BULL Challenge, a video contest coupled with a teen video awards show, was born. The contest begins this Sunday, Jan. 15.

“The Parent’s Guide is a great success, and we received a great deal of press and attention to this important issue as a result, [but] I just felt it wasn’t enough,” Shawn told me. “I needed to do something on a national level to draw attention to this epidemic and empower students to make bullying the ‘un-cool’ thing to do.

“No doubt, the bullying conversation needs to start at home with the parents, but the bullying is happening because KIDS think it’s OK or are oblivious to how hurtful their actions are,” she continues. “If we can motivate kids to stop the conduct, that is where we are going to win big, which is what The Great American NO BULL Challenge is all about.”

As the author of The Parent’s Guide to Facebook, I have become very involved in the campaign to support and promote Shawn’s initiative. I wrote a blog post about working with her, even though we have books that have almost identical titles. Why am I promoting her book? The answer is simple: coo-petition. On an issue as important as this, it’s no time to compete against one another.

Read more…

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