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How to Copy Twitter Lists, Consolidate and Manage Them

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How to Copy Twitter Lists, Consolidate and Manage Them Oh joyful day. Oh wonderful upgraded functionality. Twitter  finally updated their list functionality on May 30th to increase the amount of lists you can create from a mere 20 to 1000, and to allow each list to hold 5000 Twitter members, instead of a scant 500. Continue reading

The Online Marketing Version of a “No Vacancy” Sign

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Online Marketing No Vacancy by PunkToad

In a bygone era business owners tended to conform to known best practices, many of which happened also to be a common courtesy. Take, for example, the lowly ‘no vacancy’ sign. Seems simple enough, right? I mean, why would a hotel operator force a weary traveler to drive in, park the car, go to the front desk, and ask for a room when a simple roadside sign would let the traveler know up front that no room is available? Of course, current-day businesses have a penchant for asking “Well, what else can we sell a potential customer”, but I’ll save that for a future post.

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Social Media Channels Are Like a Great Fishing Spot

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Social Media Channels = Fishing Spots

Where have you been fishing for business lately? It’s tough to choose, isn’t it? There have never been so many great places to cast your line or net. As a business owner, you need to know where the fish are biting, not just where they are swimming. Let’s take a look at some simple tips for fishing for business in the “Great Social Media Channels.”

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The Dog Ate My Blog

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The Dog Ate My Blog Post Let’s face it, some things have not changed all that much from our school years. Sometimes — okay, oftentimes — we put off working on the things that stretch our brains and stress us out. Judging by the conversations I’ve had with clients over the past 14 years or so, writing website content is a good case in point.

Lest someone say that we just don’t understand how hard it is, let me come clean by telling you that this article, due several days ago, kept getting brushed aside and still sat as an empty document on my desktop for hours this morning. Add interruptions and an endless To-Do list and — well, I “get” the excuses.

This does not change the fact that earning a grade requires you to do the work. A website is no different. Add no value to it, and you can be assured little value will come from it. I’m sorry, but content must be added regularly to your website/blog for it to be effective. This is not my will, but that of your visitors and the search engines (Google). And of course good grades and quality website traffic alike are dependent on a great many factors. Here are some quick tips for ‘making the grade.’

  • Block out time, and everything around you, for creating new content regularly.
  • Review past responses to questions that come in via email or phone, or that your sales staff identify as common. Any answer you give, when slightly modified, could become a blog post or an FAQ.
  • Keep notes, scribbles, photos, or audio recordings of ideas you have about posts as you think of them. They don’t have to be finished in one sitting.
  • Use tools like Evernote, Catch, Dropbox (Affiliate link so you get extra space and so do I.), or Google Docs to store your subject ideas. And don’t forget that you can dictate to modern smart phones. Try it!
  • Create an editorial calendar that highlights the type of content for the following circumstances related to your business/market: seasons, product releases, holidays, sales cycles, events, promotions or awards, staff changes, philanthropy and sponsorship activities, etc

If you are still reading, then clearly you know how important all this is to your business. Now, what are you going to do about it? Don’t make this a New Year’s resolution, make this a New Year’s Marketing Imperative. Oh…and keep your dog away from your blog.

Don’t Blame Me! I Tweeted About the ‘Other Guy’…

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Sometimes Political Posts Can Cause Trouble Between FriendsTry this modern twist on an old slogan: It is common these days to allow our vote speak for itself, particularly if we’re dissatisfied with the results of an election. What’s interesting is that the “other guy” doesn’t necessarily have to be a guy, or even a person anymore. It can be an issue – something that drives you, or a problem you think needs to be solved.

Politics at its heart is just a different form of marketing. There are more rules you have to follow and some restrictions on what you can do that are different from traditional marketing, but the basic difference is that, when the polls close on Election Night, you can’t change the result until the next time an election rolls around.

That may be why the lessons in politics are harder to learn: the “event” we all market doesn’t take place for at least another year, so what we’ve learned is all too easy to forget. That said, I hope there are some things you can take away from this past election season that you can use in your personal marketing efforts and apply to things you’d like to see changed.

1. An online movement that doesn’t create change isn’t a movement!

To illustrate my point, I’ll use the recent attempt by Congress to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The online marketing community realized that this legislation, if it became law, would do little to protect intellectual property online but would instead set up a lot of roadblocks for Internet users. So the community decided to take action. It started a movement in which various organizations (including ours) agreed to “turn their websites dark” in a show of solidarity against the legislation.

The protest worked. SOPA was stopped. But the movement missed an equally important opportunity. It made no effort to educate its supporters about where their individual legislators stood on the subject- and how they voted. If activists had taken the time to educate supporters better, they might have been able to impact the debate surrounding CISPA – the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act – a similarly controversial piece of legislation. With 87% of the seats up for grab in Congress this last election, the movement might have been able to change the political landscape and stave off any further draconian efforts to police the Web.

I’ve seen many of the movement’s anti-SOPA communications because I have lots of friends who care passionately about this issue. I agree with them, but I take the course many of us do: I say to myself, “they know what they’re talking about, and I trust their judgment, so I will take action when directed.” Leading up to the election, none of my friends shared a single voters’ guide or any material discussing the issue or indicating how my Representative or Senators voted on it.

It is one thing to be passionate about an issue, but to effect change you have to get off the sidelines and into the game, as uncomfortable as that might be. Politicians are not all that different from any other rational actor – they’re going to pay attention when you give them a reason. Organizing online does not give politicians a reason to listen to you unless you show them how you can impact their objectives (in a positive or negative manner). Connecting who you are and what you stand for with actual votes when they tally the ballots, or shaping how the media covers the election (and influences voters in the process) is how you will influence a politician to reconsider his or her position.

2. Talking about your favorite politician online does not win friends or influence voters!

How many readers saw friends post something to the effect:

“I need to find a way to screen out political posts from my feed so I can stay friends with people.”

Our political feelings don’t always line up neatly with those of our friends, particularly when social media have minimized the emotional investment required to maintain a friendship. By that I mean, I can be someone’s friend without having to remember key things like their birthday, their likes and dislikes, where they work, their kids’ names, what they look like, etc.

I slightly exaggerate that for effect. But you can’t expect to maintain a network of hundreds or thousands of people who all agree with you on every political issue. You also can’t expect to say disparaging things about people who disagree with you and hope to remain friends.

That said, all the commenting in the world isn’t going to help your candidate at all. Rather, it just reinforces an incorrect perception that your candidate is doing well. Facebook likes to help us figure out what we want to read most. When you’re talking about something, it’s going to show you more posts about that subject. Unless you have a lot of interaction with people who disagree with you, you’re more than likely going to see opinions that validate your own, creating a false impression that your opinion is reflected by most other people.

As media outlets become more polarized and we continue to gravitate toward those that reinforce our point of view, this problem will only get worse. Unless you’re actively working to reach out to people online who you know are planning to vote for the ‘other guy’ or not vote at all, you’re not helping your cause by just talking about it online.
Technology has made it so much easier to participate in the process. There are tools you can use to organize people and collaborate online. You can even make get-out-the-vote calls through the Internet. Candidates and advocacy groups are always looking for new ways to make helping more convenient, and the Internet always seems to be the solution.

Whether your ‘other guy’ is an issue or a candidate, a small amount of effort can make a tremendous difference! Just looking at the recently concluded Presidential race, the five closest states were decided by a margin of 5% of those who voted. Sixteen states (including those five) were decided by 10% of those who voted! This year there are many races for the U.S. House of Representatives that were decided by less than 5,000 votes – some by even a few hundreds of votes.

Organization makes all the difference, translating your online activity into offline action is what can change elections and deliver the results you want. If you learn anything from this election, it’s that saying “meh” is not enough – you have to find a way to impact the process if you want to see change. Contact me if you want to learn more about how to transform online activity into real change – I’ve helped people figure out how to win elections and influence voters for over a decade, and I’d enjoy helping you design a strategy to achieve your goals as well!

Facebook ‘Promoted Posts’ for Personal Profiles

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Let’s say you wanted to say hi to your Facebook followers – no not just to the ones currently being served your hilarious cat pictures based on edgerank, but also to the ones who have long since stopped clicking “Like” and are no longer commenting on your posts. Well, currently for $7 per post, you can force your way into (correction: increase the odds of showing up in) your friends’ news feeds.

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Learning From Strategic Mistakes of Presidential Campaigns

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The Presidential campaigns are making mistakes you can learn from - make sure your customers can "connect the dots" by giving them clear calls to action
I came to online marketing from the world of politics, where I spent over a decade working on the “official,” or policy, side of the field as well on candidates’ campaigns. The political world presents some interesting constraints that force you to think creatively about marketing challenges.

Like many businesses operating in a difficult economy, government and political offices are forced to consider time as a commodity, not just a factor in completing a project. When it is difficult or impossible to increase the resources you have available for unanticipated spikes in activity, figuring out how to leverage what you already have generates significant value to your organization.

While I’m not as active in politics now, I still follow it fairly closely. The presidential conventions presented a great opportunity to look at how the campaigns plan to connect with activists in the buildup to the elections in November.

One thing people often miss is that convention speeches and activities are focused on people who are paying attention to the election at that point in time. Generally speaking, activists (on both sides) and highly educated politically independent voters are the people who tune in for the convention speeches. These are the folks you recruit to help you identify voters and get those voters to the polls in November.

The most critical element of the convention speeches is the audience they provide. According to Neilsen, the Republican National Convention drew just over 30 million viewers on the final night and the Democratic National Convention had 35.7 million viewers on the night of President Obama’s speech. Over the course of both conventions, not a single night of coverage had less than 20 million viewers. Even if half of the people watching are from the other political party or otherwise immune from influence, that is over 10 million people watching the speeches at any given point during the convention coverage.

Not at any point during the convention was there an effort to drive viewers moved by what they were hearing to connect with the campaign. This is downright criminal. I went back and listened to the full speeches by the presidential candidates to be sure I wasn’t crazy! Not a single call to action during either speech

… not a request to opt-in to a text message update

… not a website address

… not anything!

As the election increasingly tightens, both campaigns may find themselves looking back to consider what more they could have done to recruit more volunteers through their convention messaging.

There has also been a tremendous amount of missed opportunity in terms of their email outreach strategy. I actually subscribed to a campaign’s email list once, but I’ve been included on it multiple times because my contact information was “acquired” though other means. I use the Gmail trick with the “+” symbol to track how my email address gets passed around. The consequence of this strategy is that they haven’t consolidated my addresses on their list.

I get each email from this campaign sometimes once but more often at three different times. I didn’t think much of it at first; I just figured that at some point they’d either, 1) stop, or 2) segment and hit me with some different messages, especially since I’ve never interacted with a single piece of mail they send.

The kicker is, they’re all the same … exactly the same! No different message, no attempt to a/b test messages to see if I might respond to a different offer or call to action. Now we’re talking about roughly 220 messages over the last six months! That’s over one email each day! One stop to look at their campaign analytics and just try something different for groups of addresses on the list could have a huge impact on their results. The campaign is already creating the data; all it would take is a quick look, a quick click, and they could shake the message up a bit.

Now I don’t live in a swing state, so much of the Presidential campaign activity passes me by. We sit on the sidelines when it comes to most of their outreach efforts. The convention and online marketing campaigns are the largest “windows” into their activity that we get to peek through during the campaign. From that standpoint, the campaigns aren’t leveraging what they are already producing very effectively.

One of my favorite things we do at Cirrus ABS is help people sort through online strategy questions. I talk to people all the time who know they want to do something online but are afraid to direct resources to a project that isn’t going to produce significant value. Click here to learn how we can help you identify which online marketing strategies make the most sense for your business, so when the opportunity presents itself to speak to millions of people you won’t miss a chance to direct people interested in your message to a channel where you can convert them and achieve your goals!

Twitter Profile Header Image Template for Photoshop

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You may have already heard that Twitter announced the addition of header images for profiles today, but what if you don’t want to just upload a standard 1252×626 header image? Well, I played around with it for a bit and decided to throw together this down and dirty how to and whip up this Twitter profile header image template for Photoshop or Gimp.

Let’s talk about the quirks first.

Example Customized Twitter Profile Header Image

  1. The image upload minimum is 1252×626 pixels, but the display is actually 520×260 pixels with a thin dark gray border and rounded top edges. Since you’re not designing at a 1 for 1 size, it will make matching up the rest of the template difficult. See the green example to see what I mean.
  2. The profile picture is centered with what appears to be a rounded 4 pixel border. (Display size roughly 178×178) And, as Derek Pillie pointed out, they all get the gradient added.  This makes matching backgrounds, for a transparent look, an issue unless you now change your background.
  3. The name, username, description, and location are all centered and will of course be dictated in part by how much data exists. *I have not tried playing with left, center, or align right overall design settings yet, but I see no indication or examples of that changing this area.
  4. I couldn’t find any language specifying what could, or could not, be in the header. In other words, prepare for a lot of self promotion, calls to action, contests, and general garbage clogging up headers. This does of course free you up to add a phone number or other tactful and useful information in.
  5. *UPDATED* There is an issue, as pointed about by Chuck below, on how the mobile and tablet versions display. Needless to say, there is no way to correct for this in the template. Just be aware of it and try to review your profile on a mobile device before putting a stamp on your work. Certain types of Twitter header layouts are going to be more prone to issues than others. Check mobile and tablet header samples, in both iOS and Android flavors, here.

To make things a bit easier, at least for those of you with Photoshop or Gimp, I created this Twitter header template (sample of cheat sheet below). If you don’t have Photoshop or Gimp you can use this full size .PNG cheat sheet. If you use the .PNG version, you will just have to overlay it via whatever program you are using for position hinting. Please note this is not my most precise work ever, but it worked well for the variations I tested with. It’s my hope that this will help you get more creative with the available space and serve as a reference to keep your text areas free of things that will inhibit legibility of the Twitter header. By all means, let me know if you spot any issues and feel free to share it with others. There are plenty of other step by step Twitter header examples and how-to’s, so I will just point to Twitter’s own info about how to add a header photo. You won’t see a change to the new profiles UNTIL you upload a header image.

Twiter Header Template and Cheat Sheet

Did you find this helpful? How about being a peach and sharing it out to Pinterest for me. Need some internet marketing help? Give me a buzz at 877.817.4442.

Graphic Designers Will Someday Rule the World

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Count on it: Graphic designers, photographers and really anyone who has the ability to use images and graphics to communicate an idea or deliver a message are poised to take over the world. It’s not that there are super-secret meetings of designer guilds plotting how they’re going to systematically run our lives, though I doubt they’d admit it if they were! The sobering reality is, they will take over because we can’t help ourselves – their skills empower content and captivate imaginations, driving a greater share of our attention to their work than content we should probably read, but don’t prioritize because it is less visually interesting.

Newspapers started recognizing the importance of solid graphic design as early as the 1960s
That may seem like a bold claim, but a brief history of content delivery tells us that as early as 1960 and increasingly through the 1970’s newspapers devoted significant effort to producing compelling designs to attract more readers. Television, always a visual medium, has dramatically accelerated the emphasis on set design for distributing news and has developed creative ways to display callouts and advertisements incorporated into their existing broadcasts. As websites started playing a larger role in how we consume information, and designers were unleashed, bending and sometimes breaking website design best practices to deliver a compelling visual experience.
A good eye for graphic design will drive more people to read your content
As people increasingly consume information via social channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, and Empire Avenue, the relative power of designers will only grow. We hear everywhere – at conferences, in webinars, online during chats – that strong visuals are driving engagement. It’s not that you get more “credit” for having a nice picture or a strong graphic – readers are just more likely to be drawn to that content. More traffic to your content increases your credibility and improves your placement on those channels.

Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus all followed Pinterest's lead in developing a strong, graphicly-oriented user interfaceIf you want quick evidence of this trend, look no further than the design concepts being used by the above-mentioned social media to present information. Following the lead of Pinterest after explosive growth on that channel, each of the platforms mentioned above went to a more visual display format that emphasized the use of graphic elements in presenting information. If your content doesn’t have a picture that Facebook can use to preview the content, statistically speaking your content is less likely to be consumed than content with graphic previews.

I am not suggesting that your content isn’t important or that it doesn’t deserve attention. The simple fact of the matter is that the human mind responds strongly to visual imagery and we subconsciously are drawn to content that is complimented by strong visual elements. If you want people to read what you took time to produce, you need to find a way to draw attention to it or promote it. A good rule of thumb you can use is that for every minute you spend producing content you should spend four minutes promoting that content.

So what are you to do if you’ve decided to develop a website or write a blog and you have no game when it comes to graphic design? First, you have my sympathy: while I have been graced with some gifts, graphic design and photography are not among them! As with anything else, this becomes a resource issue. Do you spend money acquiring good images, find someone who can create them for you, or take the time to learn how to make them yourself? It becomes a tricky issue because Google and other organizations are working harder to identify people who illegally use unlicensed images and content. If you’re going to use another person’s picture, be sure you have permission to do so and that you credit them appropriately.

To learn a whole lot more about enhancing your marketing efforts with killer audio, video, photography, and other imagery, register now for the free upcoming Cirrus ABS seminar, “Audio, Video, and Imagery for Online Marketing.” Your presenter will be Kevin Mullett, Cirrus ABS’s director of product development and a recognized marketing and social media specialist.

Social media isn’t failing; you’re failing at social media

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Trying social media seems to be all the rage. Why do I say trying? Because many are jumping in without solid social media direction, strategy, commitment, or follow-through. This, of course, has the potential to yield the same substandard performance as “trying” to lose weight. The unfortunate side affect of social media failure is the questioning of its place as a viable marketing channel for your business when it most likely wasn’t social media that failed. Continue reading