Online Marketing

Legitimate online marketing, as opposed to “Internet Marketing”.

Marketing Like the Spork

Somewhere in the annals of bad ideas masquerading as genius, the Spork must have a rippingly bad review. Conceived as the answer for a combination spoon, and fork, it sports a bowl that is too shallow to work effectively as a spoon, and tines that are incapable of spearing anything at all. The results of trying to eat a meal using this poor excuse for flatware, is most often hacking solid foods to bits in an attempt to fork them up, and soup running down your chin because it spills between the tines. Even a fork is more effective at eating liquids, and a spoon at eating solids, than this warped piece of plastic which not only fails at delivering the function of either one, but fails to deliver any useful function which one could not obtain by using their bare hands (it is often not any cleaner to use a Spork than to use your fingers, the only difference is that in using your hands, the food ends up on your fingers instead of on your clothes).

The Spork is loved by one class of people – which accounts for the otherwise unaccountable continuation of such an appallingly ineffective piece of culinary hardware.Ā  It is loved by cheap financial managers. Combine the spoon and the fork, and you eliminate the need to purchase two objects, and can purchase just a single one instead. Since the Spork is invariably produced on very thin, cheap, plastic (clearly intended to break under minimal stress, thereby further frustrating the already annoyed customer), the savings are magnified even more.

The customer invariably HATES the Spork. It is a singularly uncomfortable eating utensil. One usually ends up having to drink liquids and having to spoon up forkable foods, simply because the thing just won’t work using any of the more familiar eating etiquettes. I love KFC potatoes and gravy – but somehow the indignity of having to try to get a smooth spoonful using the Spork that they provide, spoils the flavor and my enjoyment of it. I’d rather take it home and eat it using a real spoon or fork.

Let’s consider the Spork as a marketing method. One size fits all… Which we know, never does. In fact, one size rarely fits even HALF. More often, in the attempt to do everything with too little, one ends up, like the Spork, with a clever idea that utterly fails to work in actual practice.

If you market like that – trying to BE all things to everyone, you’ll fail too. You need to decide whether you are a fork, or a spoon. Or even a toothpick or napkin (hey, with all those Sporks running around, there’s a real niche for napkins!). Choose your purpose. And stick to that. Work out a cohesive message that targets a real need. Then work it. If it doesn’t work, tweak it – how many times do you think that flatware designers modified the spear into various incarnations of the fork, before they came up with a convenient, four tined, easily grippable utensil which allows even a two year old to eat solid foods without wounding themselves? Keep trying, and eventually you’ll work out the perfect marketing utensil as well.

If you run across a marketer who tries to sell you a package that “does everything”, or that promises to deliver all possible customers, RUN. They are trying to make a Spork, and you, as the unfortunate customer, are going to be left having invested in something that fragments your customers instead of gently lifting them, and leaves customer service soup running down your chin.

Bots That Suck… Bandwidth, That Is!

So you’re supposed to get indexed in search engines and directories, to increase traffic to your site, right? Only not all search engines are “good” search engines, and some directories are also more enemy than friend.

Usually, if a search engine “spiders” your site, they follow some rules to make sure it does not harm your site. Spidering just means that the search bot crawls through your site looking for juicy bits of content, and then throws them into their index.

Robots have rules. When they come to your site, they are supposed to stop in and check with your robots.txt file, just to see if you have any instructions for them. And then they are supposed to OBEY the rules you give them.

But some bots don’t play nice. It is important to note that ALL major search engines SAY they respect the robots.txt file. But even those who say they do, often don’t. That includes Google, and some of the other biggies – they’ll MOSTLY follow it. But they sometimes disobey.

Bad bots don’t even look, or they look but don’t pay attention to what it says. Often, when you get a bot you don’t like on your site, the first suggestion is to block it in the robots.txt file. But that is often a waste of time, since the bot is not obligated to obey the rules in that file. To most bots, the robots.txt file is merely suggestions.

Some are so aggressive, the only option is to block them through an .htaccess file. Unlike a robots.txt file, a bot HAS to obey the .htaccess file. You can set it up so that the bot simply cannot access your site at all, and it has no choice in the matter.

So what does a bad bot do?

They can do several things that you probably don’t want on your site:

1. Suck bandwidth. This is common with badly written search bots. They just thrash your site, pulling up page after page, sometimes endlessly indexing, sometimes following all the links and then looking for things that are NOT linked. A bad bot can suck several gigs of bandwidth in a single session (this is an astronomical amount!).

2. Scrape content. Most bots do pull text to print in a summary in their search results. A bad one will scrape more than just sample text, and may reprint your content in unauthorized ways that constitute copyright violation. When images and text are scraped, this takes MUCH more bandwidth.

It is important to point out that bandwidth consumed by bad bots almost NEVER gives you any kind of return. Bad search bots pretty much DON’T send you site traffic.

Typically the first indication you’ll have is of escalating bandwidth usage which does not correlate with a proportional increase in traffic. In many hosting accounts, this is serious, because if your bandwidth exceeds a certain amount, your account may be suspended, or your host may charge you more. So bandwidth consumption with no return benefit is not a good thing.

Two bots that we have encountered recently are the Cuil bot, and the Twenga bot. Both absolutely TRAMPLE a site, and suck HUGE amounts of bandwidth, but send pretty much NO traffic to a site. The Cuil people are at least polite about posting the IPs that you can block. Twenga is not – and it has to be stopped using an .htaccess file. Neither one has a reputation for abiding by the robots.txt file either.

Both of these consumed the same amount of bandwidth that about 50,000 site visitors would consume. And Twenga seems to increase by the month.

We recommend that you do NOT submit a site to either of these engines, and that if you see escalating bandwidth usage on your site, do some checking to see whether you’ve been hit. Twenga may show up as an unknown bot with VERY high bandwidth usage. Cuil may show up with Admin URLs in your referrers – in other words, the referral URLs will be ones that PEOPLE could not have come from.

There are other bad search bots as well, which show up in similar ways. Usually, a search on Google for the bot by name will tell you pretty quick whether other people are having similar problems.

Explaining Quiet to a Shouter

The site was sold to another buyer. The buyer immediately started revising the content to make it “better”. They had purchased it from an expert, but felt there was more to do on it. There often is.

Page by page, the content was rewritten. Link by link, the backlinks were revised – some were deleted because they had been there specifically as a favor to the former owner. Navigation links on the site were also renamed. Part by part, the site was restructured, and pieces were now used in new ways.

A few months later, all search engines slowed the traffic they were sending. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that it was probably due to all those changes.

Are changes bad? No, not at all! But there are good changes, and bad changes. And Search Engines have things they like, and do not like, in websites, so if you make one or two changes that they do not like, they’ll probably forgive you. But if you change EVERYTHING and introduce things everywhere that they do not like, it is going to add up and hurt you.

Am I picking on anyone in particular that I’ve sold a site to? No. This is a common story, unfortunately. And you cannot teach someone ahead of time, because it all has to do with judgment. If I say, “keep the home page content shorter”, or “do not use too many keywords in a row”, or “don’t make your navigation links too long”, then they are going to use THEIR definition of “too much”. And it really varies from person to person.

I can even tell them “keep your nav links to no more than 3-4 words”, or “no more than 4-6 paragraphs on the home page”. But some people still won’t believe it really matters, or they will just gradually add a paragraph or word, then another, and then forget that it mattered when lightening doesn’t strike at once.

Sometimes it takes a while before the boom lowers. Partly because the search engines will not always react immediately, partly because the effect can be cumulative. You may get away with 9 edgy things, but be sunk on the 10th. And then it can take a while to isolate exactly where the problem is.

Normally when a site changes hands, if good changes are made, good things happen. If no changes are made, nothing else changes in reaction to that. Search engines could care less who owns it. Sometimes, more traffic temporarily occurs as a result of aggressive changes, but then reverses when too much is done, or when the search engines finally catch it.

But we’ve noticed that when a site is penalized, or when it drops in the ranks, that there is usually no single isolated reason. That can also make it hard to diagnose, because you have to weigh the factors and see if there are enough to warrant a lack of interest by search engines. Or it can be easy to diagnose it when you look at a site and there are borderline or over the line elements everywhere.

It isn’t always a penalty – often it is just that you’ve loaded in so much hype and drivel that someone else’s site gets to the point better, and rises above yours. Diagnosing that is a matter of judging overall quality. And if that has declined, it is probably why traffic has decreased. Often it isn’t that this element or that element is outright bad, it is just that EVERYTHING is borderline, so the quality of the site overall has significantly declined.

Some people believe that the best marketing strategy is to shout louder. That the person who will get heard the best, and paid the most attention to, is the one who hollers loudest. This isn’t at all true, either in marketing, or in life (just watch a kid tune out who is used to being hollered at, the minute someone raises their voice).

More isn’t always better. Most of the time, a quiet invitation, with good explanations will get more positive responses than aggressive ad copy. Something that is simple to understand, with options for more details will get more trust and buyers than miles of hype filled copy that appeals to greed but doesn’t explain necessary details.

Some people will understand this. Some simply never will. It is like the speed limit. Some people understand that a speed limit means something. They will always go no more than 65 in a 65 MPH zone. Others will push the limit, by a small margin, and swear they never speed. Many will go as fast as they think they can get away with, and then grumble when they get a ticket, say it wasn’t fair, then go out and speed some more. People are like that with marketing and SEO also.

I haven’t yet found a way to teach someone to recognize quality. I can teach them rules by the numbers, but if they don’t recognize quality, they won’t respect the rules. If they are naturally a shouter, then to them, being quiet may mean talking in a normal voice, instead of whispering.

And in marketing, quietly speaking the truth is VERY powerful.

Marketing to a Narrow Niche

Niche marketing has really buzz over the last few years, with many marketers claiming that it is a more effective way of marketing. Niche marketing means you select a facet of a market, and serve that market only. I agree that it is something that can be effective for very small businesses, but it also has limits that need to be understood if you really want to make money at it.

For the most part, niching is something that happens naturally. Oh, a few people have to consciously think about it to do it, but most only have to think about it to figure out the niche they already occupy. Most niches are what they are – you can’t easily broaden or narrow them. A product or service works for the people it works for. Good niching just identifies that accurately and then maximizes the potentials.

Very narrow niches are difficult to market for. And often, you can’t broaden the niche just because you’d like to. If it doesn’t exist, you can’t create it. Let me explain through an example:

  • We sell a piece of software for Webmasters. Ok, BIG target market, right? Well, maybe .1% of the population could conceivably be classed as a Webmaster, or Web Designer. With a world population rounded to 7,000,000,000, we have a nice fat number to start with. .1% = 7,000,000
  • The most likely people to want this are self-employed Webmasters, or very small web companies. So chop that number by 80%. That gives us 1,400,000.
  • Our software is ONLY for Webmasters who also sell hosting. We just chopped another 90% off of our market base. This leaves 140,000.
  • It is also ONLY for those who use Cpanel hosting. So we just whacked another 60% off the previous total for a remaining number of 56,000.
  • And, it is only for those who use a specific billing manager – WHMCS. We just reduced the last total to about 10% of what it was, leaving 5600 people.
  • Of that total, only a fraction – perhaps 20%, will be in a position to WANT the software we have – they will want the automation feature we provide. 1120 brave souls.
  • Probably 30% of those people will think to look for it, about 1/3 will try to code their own, and another third will want it but think it does not exist so they won’t look. 336 people left.
  • Of those, about 1/3 will actually be prepared to PAY for a solution. Most want one free (it doesn’t exist, but it doesn’t keep them from stubbornly claiming that they should not have to pay for it). That leaves about 111 if we round off.

So at any given time, we may have about 111 people worldwide who are ready and willing to buy the thing we have, IF we can reach them and let them know that we have it. Finding 111 people in a world of 7 billion people is a difficult thing to do! The amazing thing is that we do actually make sales with this software.

But the niche is very tight. Even if we promote where they are likely to hang out, we still have a low chance of locating them, because they are always just a small portion of the people there. It makes marketing it difficult.

So why do we do it? Because we need the software, so we have to develop and maintain it anyway. We might as well sell it to those few people who do need it.

Can we broaden the niche? Perhaps. We could code a version for Plesk. This might increase our market base by 30-50%. Is it worth it? Recoding the app for a second version would cost us several thousands of dollars, and might give us only 1-2 sales per month (at around $300 per sale). We’d have additional ongoing development and maintenance costs as well, which might in themselves offset the profits. We don’t NEED a Plesk version, we don’t use Plesk, so our motive for doing it anyway is gone.

Niching is a good way to differentiate a business, but it is important in doing so that you make sure there is enough of a target market to actually promote to and earn from. Otherwise it can be very difficult to profit from your niche.

Just Because It Works for Fast Food…

When you order Fast Food, you are presented with a vast array of choices, for every palette, and every appetite size. Get 20 different things, get them alone, get them with other things, get them big or small. When someone is presented with this every day, they may feel that this is just the way to do business, and that their own product or service must give everyone every conceivable choice for delivery of that product. They want their websites to always have more, and more, and more!

I think there are several reasons why the large menu of choices and groupings works for Fast Food.

Partly because they are selling to groups as often as they are selling to individuals. Individuals want quick and simple choices. They want what they like. Groups want something for everybody – which is what Fast Food has to market to. If a business sells to individuals, or single items aimed at a single decision process, many choices may not be superior to just a few well defined choices. But for stores that sell an assortment of items to groups like families, where someone needs to purchase multiple items for several different people at a time, there is a benefit from more choices.

Food is also associated with moods. So are many other industries – jewelry, clothing, entertainment, and others. A lot of choices is key, because people want what they are in the mood for, and moods are very changeable. Food is a consumable which is purchased over and over, and that purchase choice may need to change with every purchase. Jewelry and clothing are also purchased for transient use, even though articles are worn more than once, people want to own more than one, so choices are important. Conversely, if someone is purchasing a long term item that they only buy once a year or less, mood is less important. Many choices is less of a factor than making the RIGHT choice, and understanding the choice they make.

If the target market understands your offering – food is simple to explain – then many choices are less confusing than if your target market doesn’t really get how the products are different. That happens with a lot of markets where you have to educate the client as they make a choice – more choices can result in confusion if the product or service is one that people generally feel is confusing to start with. And no matter how you simplify it, there are industries where people ARRIVE with a feeling of confusion before you even get a chance to greet them! šŸ™‚

I sell websites. More choices only confused my clients. They wanted two levels of service that were easy to understand, and a few different combinations of functions to choose from with examples of how they might be used. More than that, and they got overwhelmed.

To apply this to websites, keep choices simple for many types of industries. Offer many choices for other types. But before you go and copy the Fast Food Menu Model, make sure your business has similar needs. Otherwise you’ll work against the natural behaviors and responses of your target market.

Networking – You Just Have to Do It Yourself

Networking is a form of relationship marketing. It works because of relationships. This makes it very difficult to outsource networking. It ends up being something you pretty much HAVE to do yourself.

Larger companies often outsource networking. But when they do it successfully, they do it using someone who has an engaging personality – that PERSON becomes the company. It is still personal. They also often hire salespeople, and those salespeople network for their OWN benefit. They may represent the company as they do so, but if they leave that company, they take their networking power with them, and it transfers largely to the new company.

For small businesses, since the owner is their own best asset in creating a unique and memorable business distinction, networking is something you really must do for yourself.

People respond to networking because of personalities. So being yourself in networking is an asset. Sure, there are skills you can learn – listening, what kind of things to share, how to write intelligently (interesting, I almost misspelled that word!), and where to share. But your greatest power lies in your own personality – showing an appropriate sense of humor, sharing discouragements others can identify with, being excited over good things that happen, etc.

Networking becomes very much about who you know – your circle of acquaintances. People associate the business with the person whom they met. They either like, or do not like the business, because of the person they interact with.

Someone else just can’t do that for you. Because they are then networking for themselves, not you. If they leave, their power goes with them, and you have to start all over. You want to build that power for yourself.

Yes, it takes time, but it is time you MUST invest. Because when you do it right, networking is very powerful – and comes back to repay you over and over.

When “Local” is a Curse

One of the major advancements in the internet in the last few years is a greater emphasis on Local marketing. The internet evolved through a few phases, and is finally to the point where enough businesses have websites that local marketing is effective for some businesses, especially those in larger metro areas.

We find that it is a curse, and not a blessing, most of the time. This happens for two reasons:

  1. Our business is national. We rarely gain ANY clients from our local area, and even when we do, they do not find us by searching for THEIR town. Because in Wyoming, ALL of Wyoming is “local”. But internet promotional systems don’t see it that way. They see a town as being local, and anything outside of that being something else. So here we are, in a town of less than 300 people. Seriously. When we do make “local” sales, they are NOT in the town we live in. They are at least 60 miles away. Most internet systems consider a radius of only 50 miles. We don’t have enough people within that radius, and cows and antelope are unlikely to care about owning a good website, or learning to be a webmaster. Using local promotion, in this instance, is completely useless, and you don’t have to hear the “moo” to figure that out.
  2. We promote to other areas. In this instance, geo-targeting is helpful, but the implementation is often a hindrance. We found a new “local” promotional engine online. It could have been VERY useful for promoting our seminars, which ARE local to major cities in the US. However, they required that we enter OUR address, and based all search capacity on that address, NOT on where we were offering the local service. And they were not the same, because we travel to various locations in the US. Again, the system was unable to accommodate what is actually a fairly common need. So even when local promotion SHOULD help us, someone else’s system has tunnel vision and cannot see a use outside the one they envisioned.

Local search and promotion has been a fairly useless thing for us so far. While we can target some paid ads, free resources which make a big deal over regional promotion based on our physical location are completely useless. There are no customers here!

We had an SEO pro once give us some assistance in optimizing our site. She got all hung up on the local search thing, and could not seem to understand that the entire state of Wyoming has significantly less than 1 million people, and that there are only a couple of searches per day for Wyoming based search terms, almost all of which are monopolized by companies from other states who assume that all states are created equal, so they go after all 50 states. It simply wasn’t a worthwhile expenditure of energy to attempt to dominate the search engines for Wyoming related terms, when it would not result in any significant number of site visitors, let alone actual conversions. Interestingly enough, we’ve had better success from having the word “Canada” in our pages than from having the word “Wyoming” in them.

I haven’t yet figured out if there is a solution that would allow us to capitalize on local search for our Workshops. It does not seem practical to attempt to set up multiple profiles to target multiple regions, because they all do share the same business name, and I don’t have a physical address or mailing address in all the areas we will be traveling to. Yet most systems do not even consider any kind of situation like this.

I also know there must be many other kinds of businesses who have a target market located somewhere other than where their physical location is situated. And I guess they are left out in the cold as well.

What Google Doesn’t Want You to Know

If you own a website, you may think that the information released by Google is reliable information to base your actions upon regarding your website. You’d only be partially right. Because Google doesn’t tell you everything, and doesn’t want you to know everything.

Google has a set of standards. They want you to think that those standards are completely enforceable, when in fact, they are not. They want you to adopt those standards as your own, and to never never try to trick the search engines into giving you what they consider to be an unfair advantage. Of course, their definition of “unfair” is probably not the same as yours – but they want you to act in a way that is in compliance with what THEY prefer to have you do – and not necessarily what is in your best interest.

Google does NOT want you to know their exact methods of judging what they consider to be quality and what they do not. They do not want you to know what their technology is, or is not, capable of. And they do not want you to know exactly how they decide that one site is more important than another. They are afraid if you know that, that you will use that knowledge to manipulate their search engine to give you an unfair advantage. In fact, the Guidelines in the Webmaster Tools contain many verifiable inaccuracies, combined with instructions so vague and commonplace as to be completely uninformativeĀ  – so even their own instructions do not yield any useful information.

They would like you to believe that their technology is capable of more than it really is. You see, computers cannot THINK, and never will be able to. So when it comes to judging quality, they really can’t do that. Because they cannot think, they’ll punish you unfairly a good percentage of the time, and reward you unfairly a good percentage of the time. And interestingly enough, those numbers really haven’t changed a lot with improvements in their system, they’ve just changed the kinds of things they reward or punish.

Let me be clear on one point right off – I do not recommend “black hat” (sneaky or deceptive) SEO tactics, and I never have. I have always believed that quality and value are the best choices, and that they give you the best return, no matter where they are applied, and that this philosophy is the best one for SEO. I believe that an honest person, trying to convey an honest message, has the advantage in the long term.

The fact that Google (and other search engines as well) do not really WANT you to know what they measure and what they don’t, means that to an extend, SEO professionals are simply guessing on many points. Oh, sure, experience tells them that this matters and that does not, but sometimes that experience is misinterpreted. There is NO SUCH THING as objective double blind testing with SEO – because no two situations are identical, so they cannot be objectively measured. So it is not only impossible to get Google to give you a straight answer, it is also impossible to figure it out by objective analysis.

This accounts for many of the misconceptions online about SEO, and for many of the wild theories that repeatedly resurface. It also accounts for the buzz raised each time Matt Cutts says anything even mildly suggestive of real information (which, upon closer examination, always reveals itself to be more sidestepping of genuine communication). It is almost funny to see the news reports after he gives a public address – people will be announcing the amazing thing he said, when in fact, he did not say anything at all, just suggested that he might know something he is not going to tell.

So take the words endorsed by Google with a grain of salt. They are not always true – and they are more often implication than actual statements.

Because in reality, Google doesn’t WANT you to understand how it all works.

Check out our new Cottage Industry Consulting and Development services at for common sense help with the SEO on y0ur website.

Advertising on FaceBook

It has been a new experience to begin experimenting with advertising on FaceBook. I have run, or attempted to run, several ads, and one of my associates also used FB ads.

They can be purchased as PPC, or Pay Per Page Load (referred to as CPM). PPC costs more per, but is action based. CPM just charges you to show the ad, and does not guarantee clickthroughs.

FaceBook has some rather strict, and often strangely implemented rules about advertising. It seems to be implemented through keyword flagging, rather than by thinking people. If you have an ad that has certain words in it, which they consider to be restricted, your ad will be disapproved. No appeal. NO second chance. Once disapproved you may NEVER resubmit it, and never advertise that website again.Ā  We find this to be not only harsh, but entirely unreasonable, especially since reading their guidelines won’t really clue you in as to which keywords they are flagging, or even why. Their terms of use are fairly vague, and non-specific, so it is difficult to tell sometimes just what they are forbidding.

This means, that if you word a disallowed topic to sound like an allowed one, you can promote it. If you accidentally describe an allowed topic using a word that they have flagged, your ad will be disapproved, regardless. Even more oddly, when we had one ad approved, they subsequently disapproved an ad for the SAME THING (using a word they did not like), and they said I could never advertise that item againĀ  – all the while, the original ad, going to the same URL, was running in the background and they were happily charging us for it.

The second thing that people often misunderstand about FaceBook ads, is how they are targeting. If you are offering Web Design services, for example, and list “web design” as a keyword in your list, they will display your ads to OTHER WEB DESIGNERS! Because the match words are pulled from the profiles. So you have to list keywords that fit your target market, and NOT necessarily words they would use in a search engine. This is obviously a problem to many users, because I am constantly bombarded with ads for web design, and graphic design.

Can they work? The verdict is still out. We did get clickthroughs – though the price we had to pay for them was pretty steep for one industry ($1.50 to $2.00 per click). The “suggested bid” was so far off that it was pretty well useless – it suggested bidding $.67, when clicks were STARTING at $1.52.

We did not make any sales, but we also did not run it for an extended period of time. We did try tweaking the ad – but ran into the disallowed issue above, and did not dare submit another ad for the same thing, lest they blast our current ad. Such inconsistencies make it very difficult to truly test and optimize the system.

They do have a nice ability to target regionally, which is useful for some businesses.

Overall, I think they could really work for our seminars. But having insulted their word list, I’ll never know that unless I want to set up another website and promote it there and link to the main site. That seems a bit too much like playing games to me, and frankly, I’m finding that FaceBook is making it a bit too difficult to allow me to pay them money, so I have sort of lost the enthusiasm for testing it anymore.

Our associate who used this found that it was good for delivering visitors – though she also had to tweak her keyword list – but that it really didn’t result in increased sales. She is hopeful that some of the people who still associate with her due to contact through the ads may eventually result in business.

If you decide to play with them, realize that a $5 per day budget may not go as far as you think, and that the censor-bot that screens your ads is impossible to predict.

Difference Between FaceBook Pages and Profiles

Pages and Profiles are two separate things, with two separate purposes on FaceBook. But if you don’t know the lingo, they can sound like the same thing.

A PROFILE is what you start with. It has some rules, and it does some thing, for a specific purpose.

It is designed to let you communicate within a group of people – and to allow people to connect with people. Therefore, a Profile is for a PERSON. It is NOT for an entity like a business, town, or organization.

Profiles allow you to let people know what you are doing, tell people about yourself, and control who can see it, and who cannot – Profiles are only partially indexed by search engines. They have a limit of 5000 connections.

People can connect to you by requesting a Friend connection.

A PAGE, is something that is OWNED by a PERSON – so in order to have a page, you first have to have a profile. Because a page is essentially owned by a profile.

Pages are designed for ENTITIES. If you want to promote your business on FaceBook, create a profile (that’s personal), and then create a page (for the business).

Many of the functions are the same. People SUBSCRIBE, instead of connecting through a Friend request. A Page has no limits to the number of people who can subscribe.

When you are connected as a Friend to someone, you see all their posts. When you are subscribed to a Page, that page does NOT receive your personal information. Communication is one-way on a Page, Two-way on a Profile. A very important difference.

Pages are fully indexed by search engines, and have options for discussion groups. Unfortunately, the discussion groups do not send notifications on discussions, so they are rarely used by page subscribers.

A Page is a good way to keep customers informed though.

You can feed a Page into Twitter. You can feed Twitter into a Profile. So you can post to your business page, and it will show up automatically on your Profile wall if you have connected both feeds.

FaceBook also offers other options, such as Groups (really just another form of Page, which you can join, but you won’t get discussion notices from that either so they are rather ineffective), and Causes (again, a variation on Pages, and completely ineffective because everybody joins, but then does nothing to actually make a difference to the cause).

The first step is getting your Pages and Profiles straight. Once you understand the purpose for each, and how they can be used to advantage, FaceBook can become a better tool for you.

Eliminating the Competition

In theory, if you create a product that the competition can’t touch, you have effectively eliminated the competition. But only in theory. In reality, the competition still has as much of an effect on you as always.

It is a powerful strategy to define and separate yourself from the competition by what you offer. By doing so, anyone who understands what you offer, won’t even consider your competition. In that respect, you’ve eliminated the competition, because they can’t really even do what you can.

That whole concept though, hinges on one thing: Whether or not your prospects really understand what you offer.

Helping them understand that can be tricky. In some industries, it is simple, and obvious, and once people know, they will flock to it. But in others, it is much more difficult.

In many industries, there is a standard way of doing things. It is so ingrained in the customer, that the customer will expect you to be like all the rest. Even when you can get people to purchase, they often think you still ought to behave like the competition – because even when the standard way is inferior, it is familiar, and people often default to familiarity even when it is not what they say they really want. People are like that.

Educating them to understand how you do it, and why you do it that way, can be very difficult. One in 20 will “get” it.

Your competition may use the same words you do, to mean different things. They may persuade people that a solution ought to be “easy”, when an easy one doesn’t EVER work. They may just talk louder than you, and get noticed more, so people choose them because they could not find you.

So eliminating the competition by providing a clearly superior offering isn’t the magic pill it should be. It is, however, a great place to start.

Tools vs Toys

This morning I read a rather scathing point by point critique of FaceBook. The author of the review stated many negative impacts on relationships, productivity, and general quality of life. And the author was right. But it isn’t quite as simple as that, because for many people, FaceBook IS a great evil, and a detraction from living – a time sucker which contributes nothing positive to their lives, interferes with real relationships, and can feed addictions that leave a person nothing more than body in the chair that takes but never gives. For others, it enhances positive communications and allows them to accomplish specific necessary goals.

The same can be said for computers in general, cell phones, television sets, and other technology. It can either be a great evil, or a benefit in the lives of those who use them.

So what’s the difference?

Some people use FaceBook, computers, and other technology as a Tool. They use them to make business easier, to create useful or necessary things, and to communicate in ways that move their useful goals forward.

Other people use these things as Toys. They play. And that is ALL they do. Now there’s nothing wrong with a little play to leaven the lump, but when life becomes about Play, to the exclusion of work and real relationships, it is a serious problem.

My computer is a tool. I occasionally play a game of Solitaire or Mahjongg to give my mind a rest from intensive work. I have fun with networking, but use it mostly for developing business relationships and keeping up with some extended family. I honestly don’t get how people can spend hours a day at it.

Social networking and gaming both, are things that can eat up hours and hours of time, and leave nothing to show for it. Who really cares in a year whether you got the high score or not, or whether you found a cute little fish in your Happy Aquarium? It didn’t add to the substance of your life, it just sucked out some time in which you could have been doing something of value.

Many of my business associates find that they sort of get lost with social networking for a while. They have a hard time zeroing in in the tasks that help their business, while reducing the time drain of the things that are just peripheral fluff. But for successful use of social networking for business, it is essential that you figure out which things benefit you, and which things just take time.

When you use a computer and the internet for a Tool, you pay attention to the effectiveness of how you are spending your time. Yes, I know, that was an incredibly awkward sentence!

If something takes a lot of time, but doesn’t really help your business, or your life in a way that enhances your efficiency or your most important relationships, then it is time to take out the machete and do some aggressive thinning.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.