Afraid of social media? Don’t be.

News, Social Networking

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I’ve been recently trying to encourage a client to incorporate social media channels into their advertising efforts. Their fears are the same I hear with all clients new to social media: they will lose brand control, there will be haters who post negative things, they don’t have the resources to do it, they need approval from someone else to do it, etc. But the real root of these fears is the fear of the unknown. They don’t understand the way this “New Web” works, and they’re afraid of it.

The way it was

The “Old Web” was a passive library of static information sitting on a URL waiting to be found and read.  To add content to the Web in the old days required knowledge of HTML. Your goal was to “get people to your website” and then make them stay as long as possible. There were a lot of expensive techniques we used to get people to find your website. Your website cost a lot of money, and you paid hundreds or thousands of dollars monthly to companies to do “search engine optimization” so that you could be found on the Web. Visitors had no way share what they read, unless it was by forwarding a link to someone in an email.

Good news. Those days are long gone and will never be back.

The way it is

The “New Web” is the web you see when you go online right now. It’s full of interactive blogs. it’s got Facebook, it’s got Twitter. It’s all googled immediately, thoroughly, and with pictures. Much of the content on today’s web is actually conversations between people. It grows and expands organically through connections.

Your website isn’t the only home for your brand anymore, whether you like it or not.

Your brand doesn’t live exclusively on your website anymore. It lives all over the Web, all over the world, wherever people are talking with each other. With the boom in blogging technology, social media tools, and smart phones, now people can say anything anywhere, about anything, without an iota of technical skill required. They can post on Facebook, on Twitter, on Yelp, on their own blogs, on the blogs of others, or in a million other places. But even though you can’t control what people say, you still have control over how you respond.

People are free to love you or hate you as they always did, but now they have the power to tell whole world about their experiences with you. What they say about your company is determined by how good your product is, and how good your service is. If you’ve got something fundamentally wrong with your company, they will tell you. If you listen and fix what’s wrong, you’ll win a loyal following and create a stronger brand.

It’s scary realizing you don’t have control of your brand. You can’t control the spread of information and the flow of conversation. So you really have only 2 choices left:

  1. Let it happen without you, or
  2. Make it happen with you. Join in the conversation. Create a Facebook page, get a Twitter account, brand it like your website so it all looks cohesive, and create a venue where you can connect to your customers directly.

Your website isn’t the only home for your content, either.

The information from your website doesn’t exist solely on your website anymore. Now, the same exact content can be viewed any number of places. With a WordPress-based website, you can simultaneously publish that content to your accounts on Twitter, Facebook, to your subscribers’ news readers or email boxes, with no additional work, technical skill, money, or effort. You can also add plugins to your website to facilitate visitors sharing your content with their own networks of contacts.

Free high-traffic advertising and web space for your very own content? People who like what you’ve said, and telling others about it? Pretty amazing! Remember how much we would’ve paid for that in the days of the Old Web?

I’ll leave you now with a couple of good articles I’ve run across lately in my quest to help clients get over their fears. They’re great reading, and I think will help the fearful to be a little less nervous about welcoming social media into their business strategy.

To quote one blogger, “The main thing I want you to take away from this article is that social media marketing is just a new twist on an old tactic. It’s not scary, and it’s not very different from many of the other forms of online marketing you’re probably already using.”

Happy Father’s Day, all you Breeders and Non-Breeders


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the breeder's cup runneth over

Happy Father’s Day! A friend led me to this interesting article from the Wall Street Journal yesterday:

The Breeders’ Cup: Social science may suggest that kids drain their parents’ happiness, but there’s evidence that good parenting is less work and more fun than people think. Bryan Caplan makes the case for having more children.

The gist of it is that modern parents are less happy than their childless counterparts, but that the gap of unhappiness is smaller than you might think. An excerpt: Read the rest of this entry »

7 Common Misconceptions that Business Owners have about Social Media

Marketing, Mobile Computing, Social Networking

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It’s human nature to be skeptical of newfangled gadgets. Even for a technophile like me, I’ve been slow to adopt some things I can’t see a use for. I was cellphone-less until the late 90s, when my brother, frustrated he couldn’t reach me when I was out, finally bought me a Nokia 5110 for Christmas. I quickly came to rely on it, but kept that same old phone for 5 years because I didn’t see a need to upgrade. I used to actively resist the newfangled phones that had cameras built in. “All I need to do is sometimes make a phone call,” I used to say. (Now I have a Blackberry, and I can’t even understand the logic of anyone NOT using a smart phone.)

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Meeting Ellen Forney, Comic Artist


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ellenforneyOn a recent trip to Seattle to visit our daughter and son-in-law, I was flipping through the local paper while sitting in a Capitol Hill coffee shop, when I happened upon an ad for one of my FAVORITE cartoonists of all time, Ellen Forney, author of one of my favorite comic collections of all time, “Monkey Food: the Complete Collection of ‘I Was Seven in ‘75’”.  Giddily, I fired off an email to see if she would be available to meet and show me her studio. As luck would have it, she lived nearby, and she agreed!

(Side note: I don’t typically stalk my favorite artists like this. Unless you count the time I called George Segal while on a trip to New Jersey in 1988, after discovering his studio was just 20 minutes from where my friend Diana and I were. He was nice enough to show us around and indulge our pretentious art student questions for a whole hour.)

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WordPress-based websites: what I’ve been doing lately

Blogging, Design

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Hello everyone, and sorry for the long absence! I’ve been up to my ears for the past few months in website work, catalog work and family visits. (It’s still raining babies in our family. I’ve now got a new baby nephew, and a grandson on the way, bringing the baby total to 8 in just under 3 years. More on that later.)

I’m really excited about all the WordPress-based websites we’ve been building lately, and I and wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about our process and show you some of the latest sites we’ve done.

All our sites are now built on WordPress using Thesis. WordPress is a powerful opensource blogging platform, and Thesis is a brilliantly flexible and SEO-friendly framework that helps you to customize your WordPress-based site. I do all the design work, and the multi-talented Doyle Calvert does all the programming and behind-the-scenes magic. Between us, we have spent the past 8 months getting Wordppress/Thesis to do some pretty amazing things. Here’s a sampling:

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Unraveling Bolero: Woman with degenerative brain disease paints music

Design, Great Finds, News

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I am fascinated by anything related to neurological disorders, creativity and art, and especially how the two relate to each other. Creativity is such a deep, fickle and mysterious thing… it’s no surprise that it changes significantly when your brain does.

NewScientist has posted a fascinating story about a woman who suffered from a neurodegenerative condition called primary progressive aphasia that took her speech and eventually her life. Unaware at first that she was suffering from this disease, former chemistry professor Anne Adams found her creativity suddenly flourishing. Check out this visual painting she did of Bolero:

Visual representation of each note in Ravel's Bolero

Visual representation of each note in Ravel's Bolero

In Unravelling Boléro, each of the vertical figures represents a bar of music, with its height corresponding to volume, and the colour representing the pitch of Adams’ favourite note within the bar. Like the music, the theme repeats and builds until a change of colour to orange and pink, representing the key change that precedes Boléro’s dramatic conclusion.  (excerpt)

Some patients with progressive aphasia develop a passion for art, a creative blurring of boundaries between the senses, and a fixation with repeating patterns. Adams became intrigued by her own disease, and after she lost her ability to speak, she found and presented to her neurologists a scientific article indicating that Ravel may have suffered from the very same disease!

On a similar note, check out this article about a lawyer suffering from a brain disorder who suddenly developed an all-consuming passion for art.

Musicians who Blog: Free Promotion for Musicians


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To all you musicians out there looking for some additional free exposure… check out Musicians who Blog, a project started by Upstart Blogger.

Musicians submit their blogs along with a press photo and some information about their blogging, what they use their blog for, how successful they have been because of their blog, and anything else that they would like to share. In addition to providing increased exposure for musicians, it will also be an interesting set of case studies to show how much blogging can help your career.

Their mission:

The aim of this blog is to highlight, perhaps unsurprisingly, musicians who blog. That might seem easy to the uninitiated but, in reality, it’s a little harder. Musicians Who Blog will seek to help promote real musicians, the ones who get their hands dirty online and write their own blogs, whilst at the same time pointing the finger at all the fake bloggers, the ones who hide behind faceless corporations and let the men in the grey suits do the talking for them.

Furthermore, Musicians Who Blog will seek to promote, by way of example and case study, positive use of blogs and online marketing in the music industry. It is hoped that this blog will become a useful resource for both musicians and music lovers alike.

As introductory explanations go this one has been pretty simple. Hopefully the whole concept of a blog like this is perfectly self explanatory. All that remains is for me to open the email gates and invite blog submissions from any musicians who maintain a blog. To submit your blog simply email me on Please include a high resolution photograph if possible.

If you are a musician who doesn’t already have a blog, you really should start. It’s one of the least expensive and most far-reaching ways you can get noticed.

Side note: I see that Musicians who Blog is hosted by AN Hosting, our top choice for blog hosting. You can get 3 months free by using the code UPSTARTBLOGGER.

Stick your neck out: Creative, cost-effective ways to market yourself in a bad economy


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flying-turtleWhat’s the biggest killer of creativity? STRESS. Whether it’s a difficult boss or a tanking economy, we typically cope with stressful situations by retreating into our shells, sticking to what is safe and familiar, not taking any risks. When you are afraid to get your head chopped off, you’re sure not going to stick your neck out!

Fear of failure is paralyzing, and it kills creativity. But creativity is exactly what we need the most to help us out of stressful situations.

Okay, so the economy is collapsing. Nobody wants to go out of business, so to save what we’ve got left, we’re chopping budgets and jobs, dropping advertising, cutting back on printing, forgoing those web projects, and doing less rather than more. When times are tough, marketing—the head of creativity—is often the first to go. And that’s a HUGE mistake. Now is the time to market yourself more, not less! This horrid economy won’t last for ever, and if you stop marketing yourself, then you won’t either.

Marketing doesn’t have to cost a lot. There are a innovative things you can do on a budget, as well as creative ways you can encourage your customers to come out of their shells. Here are some low-cost and no-cost things you can do to help your business grow:

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How to customize Google Search on your website

Blogging, Software

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A very simple way to make your website more user-friendly is to add a search feature. Google Search makes that easy: just Create a Custom Search Engine by filling out a form, and then paste the resulting code wherever you want into your web page. (If you want it to search only on your website, then enter your URL only under the "Select some sites" portion of the form.)

After you have completed the form, it will take you to a page that has a link to the Control Panel for your new custom search. Click that, and then click "code." This is what you will copy and paste into your home page.

Here’s what that code looks like when it’s pasted into your HTML page:

But what if you don’t like the default look? No problem: there are several ways to change the look and feel of the search bar, and also the search results page that comes up afterwards. Just click the "look and feel" link and you will be presented with several options, including the option to choose your own text colors, and add your own logo to the custom search results page. (Note: you can also choose where that search results page is hosted: either on your own site, or on google. That option is under the "code" link.)

And that’s it– your own custom search in minutes!

bbp bag Giveaway: Leave a comment to win this ergonomic hybrid laptop bag

giveaways, Great Finds, Mobile Computing

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Win the Lime Medium Tango Flow bag above! Leave a comment at the bottom of this review.

It dawned on me recently that I almost never go anywhere without my laptop and all its associated gear. I’m like a jockey (a very large jockey): I basically have to weigh in with my 15-pound saddle. I take it to the bookstore, the coffee shop, to our favorite local pub that has free wifi, on trips, and anywhere I know I’ll be able to do some work. And boy, does my back pay the price.

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