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By James Burchill

In business, you have but one function–to find new customers and keep them. Today I want to talk to you about using social media to augment this natural process.

The interesting thing about social media is that as a technology it facilitates something that we as humans do naturally. Social media accelerates the relationship from unknown to known. Sadly it has a tendency to bypass some of the natural checks and balances that we would normally implement (but I’ll save that for another time.)

Before we talk about social media’s ability to build our business, perhaps we should talk about the value of your network. The question I would ask, is this: Are all contacts in your network created equally?

Instinctively you realize this is a foolish question. You know some contacts are mere acquaintances, while other contacts have a deep bond to you in your business and represent true value.

The process of moving a contact (a prospect by another name) is simple and involves three stages. The first is to generate AWARENESS. This means people in your contact network know you exist, you are visible to them.

Although you’re visible to them, they are not sure about your business, your true value, or what you can do for them. To increase their value (to you) it requires moving them from awareness to TRUST.

At the level of trust (and you could subdivide this into two categories) contacts have a sense of what you do. They have proof. Second level of trust would be social proof, whereby they not only know what you can do, they’ve heard other people say so as well.

Finally the third stage is ACTION. They are now aware of you, trust you, and have heard good things about you, and are now ready to take action (which usually means they buy from you).

Now you understand the three stages you can probably see how social media facilitates and accelerates the movement between stages in your network. Here’s a question for you: Without thinking too much, do you know what kinds of social media would be good for each stage in your network’s evolution?

For instance, Twitter (which is publicly available) would be a prime example of building awareness. Facebook, which requires either personally friending an individual, or permitting someone to fan your page, is a prime example of an engaged, trust based platform.

Moving your network to take action can occur on almost all social media platforms but there is one that lends itself very well, your blog. Capable of sharing detailed information, pictures, video and audio, your blog is a perfect “grand central” for your online social media activities.

You might find it interesting to note that studies have indicated approximately 85% of your network is in the “awareness” stage. Approximately 10% of your network is in the “trust” stage, and about 5% are ready to take “action” (buy something.)

Armed with the understanding of how you move a prospect through the value proposition in your network and increase their overall value to you and your business, I imagine you are wondering how you’ve allocated your social media activities to date…

If you’re like most people, you’re probably spending a disproportionately large amount of time on the awareness stage (which is a bit like trying to be seen in a crowded room), when you really should be focusing on converting them to the trusting stage on your network’s evolution.

It’s certainly something to think about isn’t it?

JAMES BURCHILL shows individuals and companies how to profit from the innovative use of Internet technologies, strategic content and social media marketing. You can find out more at James’ website and you can subscribe to his J-List and get over 40 articles, reports and advice on Internet Marketing today.

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By Radi Hindawi

One of the first mistakes individuals make when leveraging search engine optimization and directories, is to assume that the use of these tools is an easy matter. There are no shortcuts around digital marketing. You must be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time and resources in order to yield the benefits of these tools. This may include re-building the coding of your existing design and re-structuring various modules that link to your site.

Below are key mistakes that many individuals continue to make when utilizing search engine optimization and directories to enhance their online presence.

META Tags

One of the biggest mistakes comes from the actual coding of the website. Individuals tend to forget, or avoid using META Tags in belief that they infringe on the privacy of others. This, however, is not the case. META Tags allow you to define your web pages on emerging search engines and directory listings. Even though Google no longer requires an individual to build such coding, many upcoming search engines still use this coding system as a primary means of dictating a name and valid description for a site.

The two most efficient META Tags are “Description” and “Keywords“. “Description” allows you to define your site and its content, while “Keywords” are based on words that people search to find your website.

Site Content

It is also important to structure your content in a more efficient, user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing way. One of the biggest challenges faced by many existing websites is that the information is so cluttered that search engines cannot build a valid set of tags for them. There are a couple of strategies that can be used to build a website’s content including the use of headers and sub headers, bold/italic text and even bullet points.

It is estimated that today’s users will ONLY browse through your content for around 13 seconds, so you must structure your site accordingly.

Submitting your URL

DO NOT limit yourself to Google.

It is important to submit your site to as many search engines and national directories as possible. Limiting yourself to one system may deter your future plans of growth. The current dominance of Google is likely to waver in the next ten years, in the face of fierce competition. With that being said, it is important to ensure that your site is adopted by as many search engines as possible, to compensate users that use Bing, Yahoo and even Ask Jeeves.

It is also important to look at various directories that can help boost your numbers. In Ontario, many organizations fail to submit themselves to the Ontario Business Directory and DMOZ (Open Directory Project). Even though such submission processes are time-consuming, it is crucial for every organization to research these directories, as they have the potential of sharing your site with more users and a wider demographic.

Getting Individuals/Sites to Link to you

It is also essential for you to constantly promote your site and get others to link back to you. Social networking sites do build on your page ranking, but are NOT ENOUGH to extend your sites’ foundations online. One of the most efficient ways of building ranking today is through blogging. However, the biggest mistakes made when blogging is in terms of the featured content. Always ensure that the content being blogged is:

  • Easy to read and well-organized with links, bold/italic text and bullets.
  • Directly and strongly related to the site that you are promoting. If your website is about your company, do not discuss your personal life on the blog.
  • Linking back from the blog to your website. Confirm that these links are clearly visible, active and not broken.

It is also important to keep informing your blog-followers on any updates and progress to your website, and any URL/page changes.

Radi Hindawi is a Digital Enterprise Specialist graduate from the University of Toronto’s Communications, Culture and Information Technology program. Radi has leveraged his academic background and professional experiences in web development, online communications and digital marketing to found a digital media company and manage a successfully growing blog. For more information, please visit www.radihindawi.com

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by James Burchill

Have you Googled yourself recently? Studies reveal half us have sought information about ourself on a major search engine in the last year. More interestingly is the number of us who have gone looking for information about other people (approximately 1 in 3) and the trend continues.

Turnabout is Fair Play

BurchillBusinesses and recruiters now regularly “look you up online” to see if you are the kind of person they want to work with. That’s correct; it’s not just people vetting businesses anymore, the proverbial worm has turned and now those businesses are looking back at us.

If you aren’t already actively managing your Internet digital footprint you really should because 20% of North American companies now have online personal presentation polices. 1 in 5 businesses are policing how you present yourself on sites like Facebook, MySpace and even your personal blog.

Share With Care

Choose the pictures you share with care, be mindful of the videos, audio and blog posts you share with the world because it can have consequences. Remember, what you blog about today can last a lifetime – literally. So what you say on your blog about your favourite religion, political party du jour, or some other seemingly innocuous subject could quite literally cost you your job!

Damage Control is Too Late

And if there’s nothing bad out there about you right now, and you think you can ignore this – think again. You need to begin proactively publishing your own “approved” content because when someone steps forward after an issue they have less credibility – it’s reactionary not preemptive. The same happens online – if you are no where to be found until someone says something you dislike, you lose credibility.

Getting an Accidental Brand

There are many ways to become infamous on the Internet, too many to list here, however, be careful of mischievous teenagers wielding video cell phones. In 2007 a video of a drunk David Hasselhoff, sprawled on the floor eating a burger, became hot news when his daughter allegedly published it to YouTube for all the world to see. Type David Hasselhoff into Google and that infamous video is still in the top 10!

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

As the saying goes, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!” Whenever a new frontier opens there are winners and losers, online reputation and personal branding is no exception. For example, if someone spent about 30 minutes being mischievous they could cause some serious damage to your reputation. The current market rate for reputation repair on the Internet is about $10,000.

Blogging and writing about yourself is free.

James Burchill shows individuals and companies how to profit from the innovative use of Internet technologies, strategic content and social media marketing. Visit www.JamesBurchill.com and you can subscribe to his J-List to receive more than 40 articles and reports about Internet Marketing.

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Radi HindawiBy Radi Hindawi

You hire a graphic consultant to develop a web presence for your company. After months of investing your time and resources and even longer overcoming obstacles and emerging issues, your website is finally complete. You successfully launch it online under your personalized URL address and wait for the hoards to beat a path to your door, but they do not come.

In the cluttered world of web pages and online information, simply having a webpage is no longer sufficient. This should, instead, be complemented by additional web optimization tools that can raise the profile and awareness of your site across the World Wide Web. Web optimization is a different process and requires a different approach than web design.

SEO RadiWeb optimization is about  building traffic on your site. Web optimization allows you to link your site with unique keywords, labels and other features that will be directly associated to your page during a user’s search. Ultimately this process will lead to an increased awareness and traffic.

Web optimization utilizes different tools and it is important to understand how each can increase your online presence.

Social Media

Social Media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook allow you to publish and market your website’s URL to these communities of followers, increasing its accessibility.

Search Engine Optimization

Submit your website URL to search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN Search and Ask Jeeves to improve search optimization every time an individual links into your site.

Blog Development

Blogs are great tools that can help introduce and attract readers to your site. They allow you to communicate directly with your clients online.

Directory Navigation

Another area, which tends to be forgotten, is that of directories. Directories filter your website into various categories allowing more users to directly connect to you online.

Each of these tools requires a significant amount of time, effort and patience. However the outcomes of these efforts are significantly positive and, as a result, can generate increased visitors to your site and build a powerful and positive image for not just your website, but your business.

Radi Hindawi is a fourth year Digital Enterprise Specialist student at the University of Toronto. Radi has extensive experience in web development and design and currently runs his own company, Innovations Canada . Email Radi  Hindawi.radi@gmail.com

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