Thursday, April 24, 2008

Social Networking – Making all the Cats Play Nice Together

Sometimes, when I consider all of the options and directions that social networking is taking us, I am reminded of the analogy of “herding cats”. How can you keep track of it all? There are so many social networking sites, so many options and opportunities, so many blogs to read, it just plain gets overwhelming.

I mean, forget about trying to make it work, forget about playing the game, how do you even just get started? How do you wrap your head around it? And, how do you keep it all going? Can you even imagine integrating it all into a comprehensive promotional plan and actually accomplishing anything?

It’s like each site (and there are new ones every day, it seems) is like another cat in the house that is your website. And if you have one or two cats, they’re pretty easy to manage, aren’t they? But after a while, you get a few more and a few more, and before you know it you got a whole pounce of cats. And each one wants to go a different way, and wander off into places you don’t understand. And then they start mewing to be fed!

Well, let’s talk about how to do it.

  1. First, start with only a few cats, and let them grow.

There are a lot of social networking sites, and they can get really crazy. So, it can be a good idea to ease into it, rather than to jump in. Start with a simple blog, maybe a Twitter account, or a Squidoo lens. Maybe after a while, you could make a MySpace page. The point is that jumping in and trying to maintain a lot of social networking sites can be very overwhelming. Pick a few and get a feel for them, then add more.

  1. Cats love to be fed, and petted

If you’ve got a lot of cats, and you want to get all of their attention really quickly, you can do it with these three words: Shake The Box. That’s right. Grab the box of cat food and give it a shake. Ears will perk, eyes will turn, and the cats will come running to you. In our analogy, the catfood is good content. If you shake up something of interest, of value to your audience, they will perk up and come running.

Of course, if you shake the box, and then don’t actually pour out anything of value, it won’t take long before the cats learn that you’re bluffing. And then you can’t pay them enough to come to you.

Cats also love attention. Go out on the ‘net, and give a few strokes to the cats out there. Post some comments on other people’s sites. Post some tweets and blogs ABOUT other people’s sites. That’ll get cats purring and meowing, and coming back to your site.

  1. Cats like catnip, but it doesn’t help

Cats like catnip because it gets them stoned. They roll in it, they chew on it, they play with it. In the end, however, they don’t really do anything with it. They just get buzzed for a while. Catnip doesn’t nourish them like catfood does. It doesn’t satisfy them like getting a good rubdown does.

In our analogy, catnip is fluff. It’s like posting a blog entry about your breakfast. Or tweeting about the weather. If you can’t make it creative or informative, then ultimately it’s going to leave people unsatisfied. Posting often is important. Posting good, substantial content is more important.

  1. Change the litter box once in a while

Once you’ve been doing something over and over for a while, even if it works, it eventually gets a bit stinky, like an old litter box. It’s time to change it up. Freshen it. Get a new perspective, try some new ideas. Clean out your social networking and people will notice and come back.

With all of these ideas, you can start to herd your pounce of cats into something more manageable and ultimately successful in your social networking efforts.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Using the New Media – A Personal Case Study

For about three years, now, off and on, I’ve been working on a second CD, a follow up to “One United Generation”. It takes so long for me to get the songs done because I do them in my spare time in the evenings after my kids have gone to bed. But finally, the songs were all done, and I had the graphics designed, and I prepared the website ( for the new product.

The next step was, of course, to begin rolling out the marketing machine. First of all was announcements on my website, on my blogs, and in my email newsletter. Then came a bulletin to all of my myspace friends.

One thing that I did is something that I want to share with you in more detail, as a case study, because there are a number of things that worked well that merit a closer look.

Even before I released the new album, I was considering the three steps of internet marketing. I’ve written about these before, but spelled out very simply they are: identify your audience, find them on the net, then get in front of them. I thought about my audience, and I identified them as members of my church. I thought about where they are, and I thought of a site called Meridian Magazine. It’s basically an online magazine for church members. It draws huge amounts of traffic on a daily basis, looking to read their articles and content. Of course, it’s also advertising-driven, much like a print magazine would be. It’s perfect for me.

I checked, and it was immediately clear that I couldn’t afford their advertising prices. So, that method of “getting in front of them” wasn’t going to work. That turned to my next one, which was to get into their content. To get “written up”, so to speak. Here again, I had a couple of options. One was to write up a press release. Actually, better said, what I would really be doing is to include them in the mailing where I would send every media outlet in Utah and in the church a copy of my press release.

While that’s a good idea, I thought of one even better.

I thought back about my network, my friends, my contacts. It turns out that I have a very good friend, Bruce Forbes, who is not only a great writer, and a fan of my music, but also has had a couple of articles already published in Meridian. Maybe he’d like to do an interview and write it up for the magazine…

So, I sent him an email outlining the idea, and he was on board immediately. At first he asked me to send him some ideas of what questions to ask. I didn’t really feel comfortable with that, as I prefer to just field whatever questions the interviewer cares to throw at me. It seems more real that way. So, he sent me a big list of questions. It took me about a week to get the answers sent back to him, and then we corresponded a time or two to get some follow-up questions answered.

Finally, he sent me a copy of the final article to approve. I was very excited to read it over. The whole process was especially fun for me, because Bruce and I really go pretty far back, and his personality really came out in the writing and in the interviewing. Even though I was the subject, I could see him come out in the interview, too.

And the final result was wonderful. I didn’t make any edits. I did find a few typos, but other than that, it was solid. Bruce submitted it to his contacts/editors there at the magazine, and we waited. In the meantime, I finished the cover art for the CD, and got the duplication and the manufacturing set up. I got the website fully ready, and officially released the CD. Orders started trickling in.

Then, this last week, we got the OK from the editor, and the announcement of the day it would be published. As soon as I booted up my computer that day, I ran to the site to check, and there it was, as promised.

And did it work? That day the traffic to my website was more than five times my average. Newsletter signups and orders have seen proportional jumps as well. I’d say it worked!

Here’s one thing that makes this entire experience so fascinating: The whole thing happened on the net. I contacted Bruce through the web. The interview was conducted via email. The article was submitted via email, and published on the web. It drove traffic to my website, where people signed up for my email newsletter, and placed credit card orders over the web. Isn’t this how it’s supposed to work!?

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Recipe for Success

I love to cook. It’s an excitement and a joy that I’ve discovered rather late in my life. I love searching out recipes, and learning how one part of the world’s cuisine differs from another. I love to combine the flavors and the smells.

I also love it when I try something new or challenging and it all comes out just right. It kinda pays me back for all the times when I try something new and it completely flops.

I often see people writing instructions for personal development and using the old recipe formula. This is, honestly, another one of those. I think it’s a bit different, though. These are all the ingredients that make up the personality of a successful business person.

1. 1 Tbsp of Innovation

It really makes a big difference, especially on the internet, to be doing something new. Seth Godin, in “The Purple Cow”, talks about how if you want to have a business that people are remarking about, you have to have a remarkable business! You can come up with a completely new idea that is totally unlike anything else. You can look at an old idea, and create a new approach to it, or a new way to use it. You can take two or three different ideas and imagine a way to combine them into something new and incredible.

You don’t need much originality, just a simple fresh idea that you can build on.

2. 1 Cup of Drive

Your business has to get you excited. If you don’t do or don’t care about what your business is all about, why should your customers? Having a passion for something also means that you’re involved in it. And if you’re involved in it, then you identify with your audience, because you’re a part of it!

3. 3 Cups of Persistence

This is the core of the recipe. There really is only one way to fail, and that is to quit. If you can consistently continue, you will eventually succeed. Now, that’s not to say that you should keep doing something wrong. If you are banging your head against a brick wall, it would probably be a good idea to stop for a moment and see if there’s a door nearby. And if there’s not, then you’ll need to find a way to climb the wall. Ramming your head repeatedly into the wall isn’t going to chip it down, but sitting down or going away isn’t going to get you moving forward, either.

4. A dash of Chutzpah

Chutzpah is having the daring to get things started. I know a lot of people that have a lot of plans and dreams. They often research the dreams, and make the plans, but never launch them. A lot of people will invest the time and money, build the website, even, but never promote it. Some will spend weeks analyzing a decision, but never make the final choice. Just like how you don’t need much chili to spice up a meal, a little bit of chutzpah is all it takes to get things moving!

5. A splash of Rebellion

Throughout the life of your business, you will face the nay-sayers. These people have no shortage of reasons why your idea is lame, or your timing is bad, or the stars aren’t in line, or whatever other excuse they can come up with for you. It’ll never work, and they’re there to tell you why not, and they’ll be there to tell you they told you so when it all falls apart. But you’ll notice that they’re not doing it, either. You make choices for yourself. You are in charge. You can make it work.

6. Patience

Pour all these ingredients together and let them simmer in patience. This is a long-term work you’re starting. Just like a good soup has to simmer all day, a business takes time to grow.

Now, just like a good recipe, don’t worry too much if you don’t have one or two of the ingredients. Subsitute something similar, like passion for drive, or creativity for innovation. Or dig deep into your personal pantry and find some patience that you didn’t realize you had. And when it’s all done you can serve it up in style!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Social Networking: One-Way Street or Four Lane Highway?

Most of the time, when a business thinks of advertising and promotion, they think of it in terms of “getting the word out”. It’s a very traditional approach to it that has, so far, been working very well. The business will buy ads on radio and TV, they’ll place ads in newspapers and magazines, and they’ll send out press releases in the hopes that others will write or talk about them.

For a long time, businesses have approached the internet in the same way. They buy banner ads. They buy Pay-Per-Click ads. They even pay bloggers to write about their new (and old) products. In the analogy I’ve set up in the title of this article, this is like driving down a one-way street. All of the information about your product flows in one way: From the company to the consumers.

Now, this has worked up to this point, and to a certain extent, will continue to work in the foreseeable future. But there are some things that are changing in the marketplace, and especially in the electronic marketplace.

To continue with the street metaphor, one big change is that there are now a lot of side roads that are intersecting with your one-way thoroughfare. These side roads carry information, too, but they’re not just one-way. These side roads interconnect with each other and information and opinions flow freely back and forth from here to there. What I’m saying is that while you’re sending advertising and information out to your customers, they’re talking amongst themselves. They’re saying things about your products.

This is nothing new to the internet. For years people have been doing it. It’s what businesspeople call “Word of Mouth Advertising”. It can be a great thing. What’s happening online now, however, is that it’s happening much faster, and much easier. If someone discovers a product that’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, instead of just chatting it up with their neighbors across the street, now, they jump to their email groups and their myspace pages and tell a much, much wider audience. Now, it’s called “Word of Mouse”.

So, the newer, savvier marketers are realizing that this change to a more networked, interactive web, which has been dubbed “Web 2.0”, requires a new approach. Instead of a one-way street, the companies that understand ‘net marketing are building in two ways. First of all, they build a two-way, four-lane highway. They make sure that information, communication, and opinions flow back and forth, and they make sure that their infrastructure is in a place where they can handle the traffic. Second, they travel the side roads along with their customers, interacting with them on a more casual and personal level.

Here are some ways to get in on that traffic.

  1. Interact With Your Customers

Any time a customer, or even a potential customer communicates with you, respond. That establishes the road as a two-way immediately. Now, usually this means that when a customer asks a question, you reply. Or, when they complain, you fix their issue. When they buy something, you ship it out. But all of that is only the start. What would you do if someone joined your mailing list? Traditional marketing says to save their name and address and wait to contact them until you’re ready to send out a newsletter. But what if you reply to them right away?

When I’m posting messages to my blog, and someone makes a comment, I respond. When someone sends me a twitter comment, I reply. All of this communication isn’t just inbound.

  1. Share Other Information With Your Customers

What if you’re out on the ‘net and you find a website that’s really cool. Do you wonder if your audience would also find it useful or fun? Why not share it with them? Blog about it, write about it in your own newsletter, twitter tweet about it. Not only will the owner of the other site be impressed (and probably link back to your site), but your audience will start to recognize you as a source of good and interesting stuff. They’ll start to come to you for valuable information. And they’ll stay and shop.

  1. Encourage Customers To Talk To Each Other

They will anyway. They’re already building the backroads and the crossroads that intersect with your main highway. Why not help them build these roads, and then travel them together? Find a web-based forum space online, and set up a bulletin board for your business. Link to it from your website, and encourage people to go there to share communications. You can even moderate it, if necessary. You’ll be able to learn what’s on their minds, what their needs are, and what’s right and wrong with your products. And, your customers will feel like they know you.

  1. Good News Will Spread

If you do this effectively (and it will take a significant amount of time investment), word will get around, and you’ll be able to spread your news. In fact, your customers will eagerly spread it for you.

  1. Bad News Will Spread With The Good

…And yes, the opposite is also true. If you do something wrong, if something breaks in your products or your systems, that word will also spread. However, if you handle it well online, that can actually turn into an advantage. The ‘net is full of stories of corporations who handled bad news on blogs and social networks well, and those that handled it badly. Those that handle it well are responsive to their customers, explaining the circumstances, and fixing the problems. Those companies are perceived as being customer-focused, and bad situations can actually benefit the company.

On the other hand, companies that try to “spin” the problem with their “PR machines” will find themselves losing the trust of the audience they’ve spent so much time and money to gather.

Traditional, one-way advertising works. It will continue to work for a long time. But using the two-way street-level information that flows is fast becoming the difference between surviving and thriving. And it may soon determine those that don’t even survive.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

What on Earth is Twitter?

Recently, my colleague and I have discovered the internet-based curiosity known as “Twitter”. Initially, I had heard about it, and had read references to it as a way to promote your website in this ever-expanding, never-definable world of social-network marketing.

Now, I’ve been doing it for a while, I’ve been able to figure it out a bit more, and I’ve started to see its potential, both on my own sites, and in the efforts of my colleague. But it hasn’t been an easy thing for me to wrap my mind around. The first time I heard about it, it seemed like a petty waste of time. And between blogging and email groups, webcomics and news feeds, the whole internet is starting to seem like a petty waste of time, isn’t it?

But the bottom line with any of these sites or programs is this: Can I find a way to utilize it to my advantage? If I can, then let’s do it and leverage the benefit. On the other hand, then it needs to be abandoned to those with no lives.

So, here’s an overview of what I’ve discovered:

  1. What is Twitter?

Twitter is an interesting twist that combines some of the more creative elements of a number of social networking programs. It has the “friends list” from myspace and facebook. It has instant messaging, like Yahoo and AIM, and it ties so nicely in with blogging it’s amazing.

  1. How does it work?

Twitter members (whom I have a hard time not calling “twits”) find other twitter users that have common interests. They choose to “follow” them, creating, in essence, a friends list. The idea is that every so often (as often as each “twit” chooses to) he or she can jump to his or her twitter page and post a “tweet”. It’s a short message, saying anything they want to. Typically it’s used to share what the “twit” is doing or thinking at that very moment.

For example, I could go to my twitter page and send out a tweet that says, “Hey, I’m writing about twitter!” When I send that message, it will appear on the twitter pages of all of the people who are “following” my tweets.

Now on the surface, it’s easy to look at that and say, “Why would anyone care what I’m doing at any given moment?” It’s also easy to think, “Why should I care what anyone else is doing at any given moment?” On one level, you’d be right. It just doesn’t matter. “I’m cooking dinner”, or “I’m going to sleep.” Just don’t matter.

But what it my tweet said, “Hey, I just posted about such-and-such at my blog at Tell me what you think!” Maybe I might say, “I just added product X to my website at! Come check it out!” Suddenly it becomes promotional.

  1. How do I set it up?

To start with, simply go to and set up an account. You immediately get a profile page. Make sure that you create a link to your website on that page. There’s one inbound link right off the bat! Set up some good keywords in your profile. These will be used as other people search for you, so make these things relate to your web business.

You might want to check into some of the many twitter tools, like browser plugins, so that you don’t have to go to the site every time you want to post or read tweets. I use twitterfox, myself. It sits down in the lower right of my browser and pops up only when I want it to.

  1. How do I use it?

The first thing to do is to begin following some people. Not only does this get you involved, but once you follow people, most of the time they’ll return the favor, and you’ll get some folks following you as well. Do a search for some words that relate to your business. Other twitter users will have set out their interests in their profiles, so if there are any matches, you’ll pick up on them.

Then, begin posting tweets. Generally, I don’t recommend doing this too often. A few times a day is good. You don’t want to overwhelm people. After a while, as you’re receiving tweets from those you’re following, you’ll begin to recognize those that are sending you good stuff and those that are cluttering your tweet inbox. If you want to stop following the latter types, it will clear it out a bit.

  1. How do I use it to promote my sites?

Every time you do something related to your site or your business, post a tweet. Post a blog? Post a tweet! Doesn’t have to be long (in fact it can’t be long). Make sure that you include your web address. Write your tweets so that they catch interest instead of just coming across as spam. One way to do that is to post a question. Not like, “Are you interested in a new widget? Go to!”, but something like this might draw more people to your site, “How many widgets do you currently own?” or, “How do you use your widgets?”

The most astounding thing about twitter is its immediacy. I’ve been amazed at how quickly a well-written and cleverly posted tweet can draw traffic to a blog posting or a website. I’ve seen it happen in a matter of minutes. Go on, explore! And once you’ve signed up, look me up (mrkhmusic) and follow me!

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.