We are all aware of the value that our digital tools bring us. Our technology expedites information delivery, allows us to follow our social networks, makes calling from anywhere possible, and provides on-demand entertainment.
Based on this quote from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, we are actually depriving ourselves of much-needed mental downtime that ultimately may be affecting our learning capabilities.
“Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”
Perpetually Plugged in People
There are armies of mobile application developers who are hard at work creating new productivity tools and producing games to entertain us in between tasks. I am not a Luddite. I use mobile technology for both business and pleasure but it does seem possible that society is becoming enslaved to its mobile devices.
Entrepreneurs benefit greatly from the advanced technologies availed by multimedia mobile devices but these same advantages have potential to introduce stress, which can have a negative impact on our overall business productivity. While we want to give our customers the impression nothing matters more to us than our business, we are of no use to customers if we are burned out.
All of our technology needs to be rebooted periodically to clear memory and cache. The same is true of us humans. While it is easy to assume that browsing the internet, checking email, or playing a brief game is a break, these activities don’t remove our technology chains nor provide our brains the breaks they require to renew our creative juices. Regardless of our professions, most of us are tethered computers throughout our work days so taking a break on another computer isn’t really a break, is it?
During a keynote speech, Harvey MacKay suggested that the most productive time that he spent was time spent looking out his window. He went on to explain that he was both resting his eyes and refreshing his imagination. This “stuck” with me. In situations where there was no window, I hung a photograph of a beautiful place upon which to fix my gaze.When I am confounded by a bit of code for a wordpress website development task or unable to come up with fresh ideas for a new branding strategy, leaving my office for a stroll along the ocean shore totally renews my perspective. While I am away, I am not thinking about the work task. I am enjoying the salt air and interacting with people around me. I also leave my mobile device in the car while I am at the beach. There is nothing so earth shattering that it cannot wait for a few hours. Relaxing in a chair with a good book (with REAL pages!) or doing a crossword puzzle is another method that I use to get away from bright LCD screens and computers.
So, whether your thing is shopping, cerebral pursuits, or nature, do your favorite things and leave the mobile devices at home so you can clear your mental cache and attract new ideas. You will return to your tasks and I guarantee you will feel better and be more productive.
Skype is an invaluable business building tool. Not only does it allow you to conduct business internationally without incurring international long distance charges, it make is very easy to share large files and engage your customers in video chats when the need arises.
There is a dark side to Skype. Hackers prey on naive online users. Last year’s hacker game was to usurp an account and initiate contact with all confirmed contacts, inviting those people to accept files. Even though I do not consider myself to be naive, I was duped into accepting and opening a file, in March 2009, when a seemingly active client offered it to me. When I lost access to my Skype account, I realized I had been hacked. It took a few days to put everything back together and it was a real headache.
I haven’t accepted any spontaneously offered files or clicked on any uninvited links since that time, even if the offer is extended by a long-term contact on my list.
This year’s hacker game is to hijack an account and offer a link that looks like a Skype link to all confirmed contacts in that account. With a slight amount of scrutiny, it is obviously not a link you should follow. The link will probably ask you to login to your Skype account, at which point the hacker has your credentials. If you have a Skype subscription attached to your PayPal account, the hackers can run up huge expenses for you. Skype takes no responsibility for this. Neither does PayPal.
When my Skype account was hijacked in March 2009, I had no Skype subscriptions but friends of mine who were hacked by the hackers who hacked me were harmed financially. A hacker’s sole intention is to steal something from you. They are clever people and it is truly a shame that they have chosen to use their creative talent for malicious intent.
Safe computing and surfing is an old topic but its relevance is not stale. It is comprised of more than running Spyware blockers and Antivirus software, especially if you are a member of any internet messaging application.
How to Avoid Skype Hackers!
Here are some steps you can take to be safe on Skype:
- Whenever a friend offers you a picture or file, ask them what it is. Try to engage them in a longer conversation so you can determine if the language they are using is native to them. If you feel uneasy about it, ask if you can connect through voice to have them explain why you should accept the file. A hacker will not be able to talk to you.
- When you are asked to confirm a contact, ask the requestor how they found your ID. If they can’t provide information that links to any sites or chats you have a membership in, decline the opportunity promptly.
- When you are invited to click on a link unexpectedly, look at the link carefully first. Here is the dialogue from a recent attempt to hijack my account today. You will notice in the first line that English is not their native language. By the way, THE LINK HAS BEEN DISABLED IN THIS POST!
[11:20:10 AM] MyFriend says: hi how are you,i send to you link please sign in ok and thanks http://smii.host.sk/www.skype.com/?id=79826&lc=us
[11:23:04 AM] Marj Wyatt says: oh dear, hackers at work
[11:24:01 AM] Marj Wyatt says: more importantly, what sorts of idiots spend their days trying to wreak havoc on nice people?
I received no response to my inquiry, but I wasn’t really expecting one. I admit to my brutality in my biting response but, frankly, it was a way to shut them down immediately. I posted this thread here so you could see an example of a hacker’s link. There will always be something after the domain name.
The first time I encountered this in Skype, I asked what the link was for. The user at the other end kept repeating that it was “a surprise.” I was polite with them and informed them that, if I wanted to access my Skype account, I would login through a browser and not through their link. The abandoned their efforts.
Managing Your Online Life
Tools, like social networks and Skype, have made it easier to build business and promote products and services at a minimal cost. They have also opened up a new channel for hackers. Both Twitter and Facebook have been hacked repeatedly during the past year. To the best of my understanding, it always starts with a malicious link.
Very early in my practice of conducting business online, I learned to set every profile that I have on social networks to approve comments manually so I could avoid the use of my pages as advertising space for others. People who have a penchant for doing this have had the nerve to complain when I do not approve their posts with links to their list building tools or business opportunities. Oh well…
New contacts on Skype are always advised that my accepting them is conditional and presumes that they will not promote every business opportunity they come across on the web via Skype broadcast tools. When a confirmed Skype contact sends me a link to something that they are promoting, I always ask questions and remind them that I’m not looking for get rich quick schemes. Not so long ago, one of my contacts decided to launch a group chat with the founders of one business, after I declined to enroll myself. It was quite embarrassing for me. I didn’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings but I also did not like the feeling of being cajoled into joining yet another “worthless webinar” so they could get a bonus.
The LinkedIn network uses a process for profile publications that begins with a request, from you, for the feedback. It is very straight forward. Additionally, LinkedIn uses associations like school or work to help people find friends. It may take a little longer to build your social network there but at least you know who you are connecting with, which provides you with a reasonable expectation about how they will behave online.
I have also monitored my Twitter feeds carefully. When a Twitter contact presents themselves as being uncouth or a Twitter Spammer, I will “unfriend” them so my Twitter feed isn’t cluttered with junk. It is my feed, after all. :)
With the caveat that I find the Facebook user interface unwieldy and may not have taken the time to figure it out, there doe not appear to be a setting for manually approving comments on my Facebook wall. This is a bother because it enforces a need to go into your account and delete content that you do not want displayed.
Building Business Online
Skype, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are powerful business building tools when they are used appropriately. Social manners should not be tossed out the window just because you are in an online relationship with your prospects and customers. When you are respectful of your online contacts, you will attract more business contacts who are also respectful of you.
Have fun online, be careful, and be prosperous!
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Email marketing came of age after direct marketing practitioners realized that their methods of engaging customers with postal mail could be applied to the Internet. For those who are unclear about what email marketing is, it is using email to promote offers and/or obtain new customers. Reports have proven that this is the next best marketing technique after search marketing.
You can rent a list, purchase a list based on demographics for your niche, or set up an opt-in page to gather list members from your target market. Even though it takes longer, building your own email marketin list from scratch is probably the safest and most reliable method to use.
No matter where you begin with your list building, a well-written email marketing message can gain a prospect’s trust by disclosing relevant information that helps them to make informed purchasing decisions. Email marketing also has potential to enhance relationships with existing customers if you continue to provide valuable communications that facilitate repeat or referral business.
The major advantages of email marketing is that there are multiple ways to automate your scheduled or broadcasted communications and it is much more cost-efficient than postal mail. In addition, your offers have potential to “go viral” because members of your lists can easily forward messages to friends and colleagues who they feel might be interested, which increases your opportunities to make sales and add new customers to your email marketing lists.
Within a relatively short period of time, a large audience can be identified and targeted. Autoresponders, like Aweber, allow you to monitor the responsiveness of your list with email open statistics and click through rates on your embedded links. They can also help you craft a message that won’t be filtered out by built-in spam catchers.
The sales ratios of your email marketing campaigns or inquiries from members of your list may lead you to new ideas for products and services. Email enables you to engage your customers in dialogue that helps you to scope your new product development by inviting list members to take surveys or provide feedback on ideas that you are forming. Talk about convenience!
How Much and How Often?
Loose statistics from direct marketing resources indicates that new customers may need to hear about an offer up to 10 times before making a purchasing decision. Equally important is that your messages must be timed in such a way that your new list members don’t feel overwhelmed. For example, I’ve enrolled in campaigns and opted out immediately after receiving multiple messages in quick succession or too many notes in a week.
In my opinion, more than one email marketing message a day is too many. I’m also of the opinion that more than a couple (3 or more) email marketing messages a week is too much volume, particularly prior to conversion. Setting up your campaigns to send email every 4th day, or so, keeps your offer on the prospect’s mind without seeming overly aggressive. That is the whole idea, right?
If all of your all of your email marketing messages are pitching something, people will learn to ignore you. Keep your email marketing messages relevant and brief. Most folks are dealing with information overload when they peruse their email inbox so your subjects must stand out if you expect your email to get opened. Using fantastic email marketing titles that compel people to open may work according to some people but it also can make you seem less trustworthy. To earn and keep the confidence of your list members, stick to actual facts about your offer and try writing messages that DON’T require disclaimers in tiny print at the bottom of the note.
Email Marketing Can Have a Dark Side
Some companies collect email addresses of people illegally and send irrelevant mails to them, which can be very annoying. To get past spam filters, these messages will often have many lines of irrelevant text below the offer with “safe” words in them.
Some hackers intentionally design an email that looks like an advertisement but, when the ads are clicked, malicious software is downloaded that creates headaches for an unsuspecting or naive end user. I will never understand why smart people, like hackers must be, use their creativity and talent to wreak havoc on people! Even though your email marketing message is not malicious, you need to understand that everyone with a computer and email has heard one or more horror story and this will affect the success of your campaigns … especially if you have purchased or rented a list.
In my previous post, I discussed the highlights of the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. Caution is recommended for any list you choose to join but this does not keep you from receiving unsolicited email marketing, just as postal regulations do not restrict sending demographic based mail to your home.
Since the CAN-SPAM act only applies to US businesses, it is legal to initiate an email marketing campaign from a purchased or rented list as long as a physical address and a functional opt-out is included in the message, and email marketers are allowed up to 10 days following the request to remove people, the CAN-SPAM act seems to protects marketers more than consumers. Sadly, my single voice isn’t loud enough to get these laws changed anytime soon and corporate entities with much more influence than me are working hard to loosen SPAM regulations, not tighten them.
Most email clients and webmail systems have spam filtering capabilities that can help to keep your inbox clean but those algorithms aren’t perfect. How many times have you found a legitimate messages in your spam folder? How many legitimate messages have you accidentally deleted?
Email Marketing is Only ONE Marketing Channel
As the saying goes, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. This is especially true for marketing and advertising expenses. Email marketing is a great tool for building your business out there but you should also be testing other marketing methods and you should always be tracking the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Go forth and prosper, and make sure you use this marketing method wisely.
Email marketing is a proven method of developing a relationship with your customers and, if that relationship is properly developed and nurtured, a way to generate affiliate cash flow when you need it. All that is well and good, but when your opt-out doesn’t result in being opted out, email marketing campaigns can result in driving business away.
One of the inboxes that I own began receiving email from Elizabeth Jackson. Since I used to know an Elizabeth Jackson, I was enthused to see her name. It was disappointing to find an advertisement for Work At Home jobs when I opened the email.
I used the option to unsubscribe, more than a dozen times during the past 3 months, and I continued to get email from Elizabeth Jackson from different email addresses. Each time, I opted out again. Further research today helped me deduce that Elizabeth Jackson is a fictitious name used to “protect the affiliates” who are promoting a certain CPA campaign offered by Clickbooth, to get income. Clickbooth advertises themselves as the “exclusive CPA Network” who is ranked #1 by Website Magazine.
Ok, that is all legal but my question today is, who is protecting me, or others who didn’t invite these CPA email offers?
SPAM and the Consumer
Prior to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, I was forced to close a business email account that was being overwhelmed by no less than 50+ messages an hour in a language I couldn’t even read! Things have gotten better, for sure, but it is possible to be in compliance of that act and still be doing nothing other than irritating customers or prospects. Case in Point: Elizabeth Jackson.
Here are some CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 cliff notes:
- It is an opt-out law and, for most purposes, permission of the e-mail recipient is not required. If a recipient wants to unsubscribe or opt-out, however, you’d better stop sending e-mails you are at risk of being subject to severe civil and criminal penalties.
- Fraudulent or deceptive subjects, headers, return addresses, etc., are prohibited.
- Sending sexually explicit email without clear markings is a criminal act.
- Email marketers must have a functional opt-out system that is easy for consumers to use and is operational for at least 30-days following each mailing.
- Email messages should include a physical address of the company in the email.
- Spammers AND those who procure their services are culpable and both can be prosecuted.
- Personal emails, and perhaps non-profit emails, are not addressed by the act. It applies to all US businesses who are sending commercial email of a transactional nature.
SPAM and the Business Owner
Looking over the guidelines again, a smile came to my face. I do feel that some of the earnings claims in subject lines from a few of the internet marketing lists that I’ve joined are nothing other than deceptive, in spite of their disclaimers. This is especially true when the click through leads to a product or service that was not developed by the sender. But I am a perpetual student of marketing methods and completely understand that this is how affiliate programs work.
Email marketing is a good business strategy, especially for affiliate marketers. At Flippa, sites with lists are worth more than other sites at the time of sale. Thus, whether your motivation in launching a site is to build a Niche Empire or develop a site to later sell for profit, building an email marketing list is very important!
An apparent loophole in the CAN-SPAM Act, which is always exploited by senders of unsolicited email, allows email marketers have up to 10-days to complete an unsubscribe request. Although those business owners are adhering to the letter of the law, I find it absurd. All the autoresponders that I have ever used or recommended facilitate immediate removal from a list.
Pick Up The Phone!
In my desperation to stop getting three more months of unsolicited email from Elizabeth Jackson, whom I now know is a fake person, I was prepared to send a snail mail letter but I dug deep enough to find a phone number to call. I did allude to the CAN-SPAM act during my call, which may have inspired them to be more attentive, but that remains to be seen. Regardless, it was comforting to actually speak with someone who listened to my concerns and gathered up the email addresses that I wanted to eradicate from their lists.
The phone seems to have gone out of fashion but the truth remains that consumers sometimes need a phone number to call. Business owners might conclude that including a phone number on your primary sales page footers or within the terms and conditions page at your site is a good idea for owners of affiliate programs. After all, the program owner is equally exposed to the fines and penalties outlined in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, and they are legally obligated to manage the affiliates who are issuing email marketing messages on their behalf.
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While having fun with the grandkids the other day, we visited a place nearby that specializes in educating people about the California Gold Rush by providing an experiential tour of a mine on their property. What does this have to do with Web Marketing and Branding, you might ask? Read on….
The California Gold Rush created a lot of wealth. So has the internet. Not unlike internet properties, 49ers staked claims on mines, hoping the vein was rich. The conditions were difficult, picking their way back into the mines and chiseling through rock by hand. There were certain things that they looked for that provided direction about pursuit of a path. The same is true of internet businesses. It all relies on choosing the right “real estate” to begin with and doing the work necessary to extract the value of that space.
As the kids panned for gold in the trough that the owners of the ranch had set up, they each had different reactions. One child in the group complained immediately, saying it was too hard, and sulked for a while. Another “struck gold” right away, shouted out about their good fortune and continued to shriek every time they thought they had found another nugget. The remainder of the group quietly found nuggets, washed them off and set them aside, and proceeded to look for more.
Where is the Online Mother Lode?
If you are not new to online business, you know exactly what a niche is and how important it is too. If you are new, this is a term you need to understand. I can’t tell you what is a profitable niche in a blog post but I can tell you there is a lot of material out there regarding choosing a niche.
In summary, a niche is an area of interest for consumers. I will always recommend that people begin a business that is in line with their personal passions or hobbies. While your passions may align with a profitable niche, it is equally possible that your highest area of interest is NOT what other people are looking for. This should not dissuade you entirely but it will make penetration of that niche more work. Equally possible is that a niche that you know people are looking for is also a niche that is saturated. Specializing that niche may allow you to find a “vein” to follow to create online income.
There are free tools to use to explore possibilities but, as expected, digging for gold by hand requires a little more effort and time. The external Google keyword research tool is a great place to start. It may seem like a good idea to choose the niches with the most search volume. Within reason, it is. You need to be aware that searches with a lot of volume also have a lot of competition. A good rule of thumb is to choose phrases that have monthly global search volumes between 1,000 and 15,000.
Once you think you’ve found a niche to exploit, continue your due diligence. Use Google again to find out how many pages are there for you to compete with. Take the term that appeals to you, place it in a Google search box in quotes, and submit your search. This will return the number of pages with each word in your phrase in any order. If you submit the search without the term in quotes, it will turn up the count for all the pages that have all of the words in your phrase anywhere on that page, whether together in a string or not.
From a reasonableness perspective, it is best to choose niches that have less than 100,000 competing pages online, so long as the supporting search volume is there. This is a guideline only. Persistence will get your pages elevated in search engine listings for more saturated niches.
For the expense, a great niche research tool is cleverly named Micro Niche Finder. This tool allows you to analyze the strength of competition and computes the number of back links, which is a measure of how many links you will need to build to your site to allow it to rise above other listings for that term.
If you don’t want to learn at this level or purchase tools that would make it easier for you to conduct your own research, you can opt to work with someone who has knowledge of how to research a niche and choose good keyword phrases. Use the convenient contact form to initiate a conversation with me.
What Tools Can You Use to Launch your Campaign?
It is hard to be in an online business without a website. If the great keyword phrase you’ve found is an available domain name, grab it quick because you will need a website somewhere online to promote your niche. With all of its built-in features and since my specialty is WordPress Website Design, it is the best software that I can recommend for your business website.
While you can start a free site using wordpress software at Wordress.com, my position has always been that it is far better to retain ownership of your content. Besides, theme choices and add on open source software is limited at WordPress.com. These limitations can impede your progress.
I’ve worked with people who operate on an assumption that a site hosted at WordPress.com will get more traffic. WordPress.com is a high-traffic site but you must build interest in your page in order to have traffic. Why do all of that SEO work on a site if you don’t own it? Seems silly to me…
There are many free themes out there for you to use and, if you find a theme that is close to what you want, you don’t need any special technical skills to put up your own website. Personally, I recommend taking a look at Studio Press themes.
Remember that owning a website does require you to know something about HTML. Last year, Holly Powell and I conducted a couple of online webinars to teach people the nuances of choosing domain names, registering them, activating them on your chosen host, installing wordpress, and other things you might want to know to use the software. I will be updating the training for the latest version of WordPress soon but you can follow this link for access to the 2009 Live Blog Training at no cost. If you sign up for the newsletter there, you will find out more about new training modules as they become available.
What Kind of Miner are You?
Let’s get back to the kids who were panning for gold. Maybe you’ve already found your Mother Lode niche and are living your dream life. But, if you haven’t, what kind of miner will you be when you locate your niche and the first online payment arrives? Will you shout out your success for all to hear or will you use the knowledge you gained to find that niche to locate and develop another?
Last week, a colleague, who also is an RSS email subscriber to my site, told me they had copied a recent post and published it on their site. Because I also had helped them set up one of their blogs and coached them a little, I presumed that they meant they had syndicated my content using a WordPress plugin that had been recommended. However,because they said the word “copy”, it seemed like a good idea to ask a clarifying question. The subsequent conversation felt a little awkward and I am still trying to determine if they were simply naive or if it was something else.
What is a Web Copyright?
Every WordPress Website theme that I have created or customized includes code which places a default copyright in the footer. Summarizing an article on this topic that I read on Smashing Magazine, the same laws that protect printed copy also protect internet content. Since April 1, 1989, all published content is “automatically” copyrighted and it is not available for use in the public domain throughout the lifetime of its creator plus 70 years.
An idea cannot be copyrighted so, if something you’ve come across on the internet spurs a new post for your site, you are not breaching copyright law. You are allowed to cite excerpts from existing web content without crossing the line but you cannot replicate articles in their entirety without specific permission.
You also must have the permission of an author before you translate their content to another language.
The “fair use doctrine” is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work.
Website Owner Responsibilities
As I was researching this topic, I was enlightened on a topic that may be confusing. Web content is OWNED by the person who creates it. In other words, comments are owned by the commenter, not the website owner. Copyright law implies that you cannot alter content that is not owned by you and this may include removal of links, which is something that I have done myself.
This little nit will be covered in a terms and conditions statement on my website so that people who choose to comment about my posts are fully aware of my policies regarding links in comments.
Bottom Line: Blog Posts are not like Daylilies
In the patio garden behind a house where I used to live, I frequently gathered up Daylily volunteers from between the cracks in the retaining wall and replanted them in the garden bed where I actually wanted them to grow. That they were interested enough in survival to cast off volunteer plants any place that roots could take hold impressed me.
Bloggers are no different. We publish our content and send it out on RSS feeds, hoping to acquire new readership and engage our audience in such a way that they will tell their friends on the social network. We’re honored that you want others to know about our work, believe me.
Some of us put real research time into creating what we believe will be valuable and accurate content that we hope will be helpful to our target market. The whole idea of spending time on a blog post is to build authority for the business niche that we are endeavoring to grow. We want to help you but we don’t want to write your blogs for you. I make no apologies for saying that out loud and will happily engage in discussion about it with anyone whose opinion may differ.
Some very helpful people have directed me to authority sites on plagerism and copyright protection for my reference. Here are those links, should you also have an interest: