Twitterpated by Twitter

“Twitter is stupid.”  Before you lash out at me for that line – you should know that I didn’t say that.   Laura Fitton of Pistachio said it in her Twitter for Business keynote at Webcom Montreal, November 2008.  Laura is an EXPERT on Twitter and makes her living speaking on and educating business owners about the Twitter phenomenon so she should know! 🙂

I recently wrote about  how important it is to overcome doubt because sometimes when you’re starting a business a “stupid” idea can turn into a run away success.  Twitter is a GREAT example of a “stupid” idea that has become quite a success story.

Twitter may be “stupid” – but it’s a growing phenomenon. I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s a necessary evil – even though it appears to have been an important part of the Hitler regime:

I remember when I first signed up for Twitter – and quickly forgot about it.  I couldn’t imagine why anyone would CARE what I was doing!   A few weeks ago – I placed the widget in my sidebar and started to make an effort to “tweet” and to follow others.  The more I use Twitter – the more I can see how important it is to stay “connected”.

Because I’ve been twitterpated by Twitter, posts like Kalena’s 16 Must Have Tools for Twitter Users and  Twitter – Social Media’s Hidden Gem are now catching my eye.  Because of Twitter, I’ve discovered Darren Rowse’s TwiTip blog which is a blog devoted to all things Twitter.

The thing about Twitter is that it really is like blogging -which is why it’s called “micro blogging”.  Like Blogging, Twitter is incredibly easy to use while at the same time being very difficult to master.  If there’s just ONE blog post you read about Twitter – make it Liz Strauss’ 25 Traits of Twitter Users.  Liz writes:

Certain signs and characteristics seem to show in the folks who live the social media culture. Certain value and actions make people who care about having relationships and conversation before transactions easy to spot.

It’s a must read because, as Liz’s post points out – not everyone “gets” Twitter.  Despite what you may have read in the latest “get rich sitting on your ass” email newsletter, signing up for Twitter is NOT going to get you tens of thousands of visitors to your blog and it isn’t going to put money in the bank for you.

If you use Twitter to brag about how many followers you have – or you just blast Tweets about your latest blog post – then you won’t find Twitter to be a rewarding experience.

Twitter is a communication tool.

I’ll say it again – Twitter is JUST ANOTHER communication tool.   There are other Twitter-like micro blogging applications that are competing with Twitter.  Over at Splitbrain they’ve said goodbye to Twitter and hello to a new micro blogging communication tool.  Does this mean Twitter is a business failure?  Of course not.  It means that someone had an idea about how to make Twitter better.   (Remember this as you’re going through the steps to starting a small business. Can you do it better, faster, cheaper? Then maybe you should!)

One thing I will say for any start up that tries to make Twitter BETTER,  they will benefit from the fact that Twitter “broke ground” with micro-blogging.  It’s taken a couple of years for people to figure out what Twitter was good for and for Twitter to “catch on”.  Anyone who can make a better version of Twitter will have to thank Twitter founders for going through the arduous process of educating the masses over the last two years on the benefits of micro-blogging.

Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. Over 100 years ago there was another communication tool hitting the scene – the telephone.  It might surprise you to learn that people yawned when they heard about the telephone just like I yawned when I first heard of Twitter.

There’s a story that says the early telephone sales force wasn’t greeted with enthusiast demand when they first began selling their new fangled communication tool.  The story goes that the single most effective “sales spiel” used to “sell” the new way of communicating was to tell people that the telephone made it so they could talk to their neighbors without getting dressed to go outside.  It wasn’t until that “benefit” was communicated to prospects that the telephone began to “catch on” as a communication tool.

Ah – the first tale in the never ending saga of being human in the age of the electronic mob.

Wikipedia reports that “Twitter had by one measure over 3 million accounts and, by another, well over 5 million visitors in September 2008, a fivefold increase in a month.”  I’m seeing other evidence of a groundswell around Twitter as well.

I use the Google Keyword Tool plug in to check for keywords when I begin a post.  (It’s something I recommend you do and cover in more detail in my 8 Week Power Blog Launch course.)  So, as I began this post, I went to check on what’s happening in Googleland around the term “Twitter”.  What I saw was the average search around the term “Twitter” is in the 550K range.  However last month (in November)  that number skyrocketed to 1.2 MILLION searches.    Yet more evidence that people are twitterpated by Twitter!

However, there’s another reason why Twitter is becoming the latest bell of the ball.  See, Twitter promises free and easy communication with a mob of people  Since communication is the foundation of advertising and marketing – well the appeal is obvious.

Advertising and marketing are simply communicating what it is your business can do for people to a mob of people.

Since Twitter is “free” and “easy to use” that makes it a “Free – easy to use marketing tool”.  VIOLA!  A small business owners favorite marketing combo – free + easy!  This is why when a new means of “communication” comes down the path, it doesn’t take long for the marketing “gurus” to line up and announce that the SUREFIRE KEY to making untold riches is to simply utilizing the new method of mass communication.

Oh but here’s the “reality check” in the Twitter as the surefire path to riches scheme–  If you don’t have anything to say – and you don’t know who you’re talking to – then Twitter won’t do much in the way of your marketing or your business.  As a matter of fact, unless you’re a major company (like Dell) whose customers follow you just so they’ll know about the latest sale – you won’t find that using Twitter will put any cash directly into your pocket.

However, if part of your job description is that you have your finger “on the pulse” and to be “in the know” then Twitter is an indispensable tool.  Since being “in the know” is an essential part of every blogger’s job description – that’s why Twitter is important for bloggers.

Are you twitterpated by Twitter?  If so -why?  If not – why not?

Steps to Starting a Small Business: #7 Your USP – Unique Selling Proposition

No list which proclaims itself the key to “steps to starting your own business” can avoid addressing the topic of the USP – the Unique Selling Proposition.

While the definition of the USP is often draped in “mystery”,  quite simply your USP is the reason people choose to do business with you.

It sounds simple enough – doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, I’ve been seeing that this topic needs attention so I’ll begin with what a USP is NOT!

1.  A USP is not the price of your product or service.

“It’s cheap” is a poor imitation of a USP. That part you probably already knew.  After all EVERYONE knows that – except for the people I’ve been noticing lately who are trying to sell their e books by proclaiming that the reason to buy it is because it’s so cheap.  Free and cheap are both piss poor unique selling propositions.

2.  A USP is not the quality of your product or service.

Your USP is also not that you’re the best or most qualified.  Everyone’s the best – the fastest- the smartest – the cheapest – the finest.  People have a REALLY hard time judging the quality of a product or a service and they’re positively numb to exaggerated marketing declarations.

It’s virtually impossible to judge the quality of most products or services without experiencing the product or service in person.  That’s why ecommerce retailers are offering online reviews – to help buyers access the opinions of others who have previously purchased products or services.

Another reason it’s difficutl to just quality is that buyer’s PERCEPTION of quality often affects their judgment.    For example, researchers asked volunteers to judge the quality of different wines.  The volunteers were hooked up to monitors and the pleasure centers of the brain were measured as they drank the wine.  In the experiment, the participants were told that there were 5 different wines ranging in cost from $4 a bottle to $90 per bottle.  You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the participants enjoyed the more expensive wines much more than they did the cheaper ones.

The kicker – there were not 5 wines in the study but only three.  One wine was doing double duty – being served as both a sample of $4 a bottle and a $90 per bottle of wine.  The same wine actually tasted better when served as a more expensive impostor.

This should illustrate how important it is to properly brand and market your products or service – but don’t confuse applying the label of “the best” with a viable USP.

3.  A USP is DEFINITELY not the “uniqueness” of your product or service. Unless you’re offering sex change operations for chimpanzees – there is probably someone else who offers a reasonable facsimile of the good and services you have to offer.

If you are TRULY the only one offering a product or service in a free market – it means competitors don’t view your product or service as a viable business.  Initiation is the sincerest form of flattery and it’s validation you’re on the right track.

So what IS your USP?  What is your UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION?

Hang on to your hat because this may come as a surprise to you:

Your USP – like Soylent Green- is PEOPLE!

That’s right.  The REASON people choose to do business with you and your business is usually nothing more complicated than you (or your staff) are reasonably competent and cordial.  If a customer or clients feels BETTER when they hang up the phone or walk out the door than when they picked up the phone or walked in the door to your business, then that my friends is a USP that can’t be beat!

Yet many business owners are on a QUEST to REMOVE themselves and their people from contact with their customers.  As more and more businesses set up ways to automate communication, they unwittingly (maybe not so unwittingly) set up barriers that prevent customers and clients from connecting on a personal level.

I’ll never forget a situation several years ago that stays with me to this day.  I had a friend who purchased one of the earliest info products on marketing offered online. My friend visited the website several times and called to ask my advice a few more times.  As he moved closer to making the decision to purchase, he picked up the phone and called the author before he placed his order. All the info guru had to do was pick up the phone to close the sale.

Meanwhile, I was creating a website for a coaching client who asked me to remove her phone number from the website.  I replied by referring to the role having the phone number displayed had played for this info guru. I have to confess, I was stunned at the passion in her reaction to hearing this.  Seriously,  you would have thought I had asked her to include photos of her having sex with household appliances into the design by her response.   Apparently the thought of people calling her on the phone literally terrified her.

I’m not a coach nor a therapist, so it wasn’t my job to figure out why connecting with people who might want to hire her frightened her so.  I removed her phone number from the website design.

Which brings me to my favorite subject, which is why blogs are the cat’s meow when it comes to a web presence for service professionals.

Your blog is a great way to allow people to “get to know you” before they pick up the phone and call – or send you an email.  They can “sample” what it’s like to do business with you by reading your blog.  They can guage whether you know what you say you know.    They can get a glimpse of what it’s like without taking the scary leap of faith and actually contacting you directly.

If you think your Unique Selling Proposition is anything OTHER than the people who are part of your organization  – then you have a rude wake up call in your future.  Social media is all about people making connections and those connections form the most important part of any business USP.

If it ain’t broken, PLEASE don’t fix it!

I am seething with rage right now and the object of loathing is Gmail!!! Recently, the Google gods decided to “improve” Gmail – and right now, I’m regretting using the service.

I don’t know who I’m more angry with at the moment – Gmail for “fixing” something that wasn’t broken or my stupidity (and blatant disregard of my own “standards”) for expecting something of value for nothing.

The new Gmail interface – to put it politely – SUCKS!!!!

I’ve composed the same email THREE TIMES over the past 90 minutes.  I’ll be in the middle of composing this same email and suddenly the screen will “refresh” and my reply will be GONE!!! Admittedly, I’m multi-tasking.  I’ve got 5 other things going at once so the reply is happening in “spurts” –  but still – COME ON GMAIL!!!

The first two times it happened, I tried to tell myself that my Higher Power wanted me to revise this email.  Maybe that’s still the case. I’d love to hear your two cents on this situation.

Is this my Higher Power protecting me from myself?

Here’s the deal: I’m actively seeking guest blog posts for a new blog I’ve launched: Divorce Recovery Advice.

(If you’re a coach who specializes in divorce recovery,  consider yourself invited to guest post on the blog.)

The blog is REALLY new and yet it’s already getting some nice SERPS on a couple of desirable keyword terms.

Today I got a GREAT post from a divorce coach.  This woman is a NATURAL born communicator and in the course of just one blog post, she had no trouble gaining my trust.  She knows her stuff and it SHOWS!  It’s a GREAT guest post – so, I head over to her website to grab a head shot to include in her author’s bio box. (This guest post is scheduled to appear later in the month – thanks to WordPress’ ability to schedule posts to publish in the future!)

[Sound Effects] BRAKES SCREECHING!  CARS CRASHING!!!

Oh my – what a DISASTER!  Her website F-UGLY.  However, the good news is that according to Alexa – no one is seeing it anyway.

Remember – my first impression of this woman was her guest post.  Her guest blog post was great – and her website is BAD!

Here’s my dilemma –

I can help and she obviously NEEDS my help.  However, she didn’t ASK for my assistance.

It was the email to her to tell her when her guest blog post will “air” on the blog that I have lost 3 times.

On the one hand, I could invite her to be a repeat guest poster  to my blog.  She would be building content on my blog and putting Adsense money in my pocket.  I could tell myself that she would benefit because my blog after 6 weeks is doing MUCH better traffic wise than her website.  However, if someone clicks through, they’re not going to stick around.

On the other, I could offer to help her.   Which is the horns of my dillemma.  She didn’t ASK for my help – and I’m afraid that offering to help might cast my invitation to guest blog as a filthy marketing whore tactic.

What would you do?

Business Success Isn’t Determined by Your Alexa Rank

web site trafficAs a web “professional”, I know the frailties that face Alexa. However, that darned tool bar is so easy to install and it’s literally become a habit for me to glance at the Alexa Ranking before the page has had time to load.

Over the  weekend, I learned that there are successful businesses who are NOT using the web as part of their success.

I know.

I was shocked.

It’s funny how short sighted those of us who live and work on the web can get sometimes- myself included at the TOP of that list!

This revelation started innocently enought. I got a phone call yesterday from a friend of mine who has a “real” job. She’s the training director for a large company… you know, the type of company that has “divisions” which each are assigned a “budget.”

She began her call with, “I’m at this conference to be a certified-blah blah and I met this amazing woman who’s launching her own business and needs your help.”

“Wait! Certified– to be what? Did you quit your job? Are you launching your own business?”

“No, my division has budget to burn so I’m becoming a certified “blah blah”. ”

I’m not being coy or trying to protect an identity- I really can’t remember the program name- it was THAT generic!  It was one of those made up words that people create so they are “guaranteed” top position in the search engines.

“What is a certified blah blah?” I asked.

“You know, I asked that before I left on Friday. No one at work knew either,” she said. “You’d think that someone would ask that question before plunking down $2500 for a 3 day seminar. But that’s how Corporate America works. By this time tomorrow, I’ll have another certification to my name.”

She then asked me to check out the website for the firm putting on the seminar. My friend is a business woman through and through and instead of paying attention to the presentation (which usually annoys her because she’s a real expert in training and sees the mistakes being made in the presentation instead of every absorbing the content), she’s counting heads and computing how much money this guy is bringing in.

She counted 300 heads in the room… and multiplied it by the $2500 her company paid for her seat there. She figured they made$750,000 in revenue from this seating alone and she knows there’s another seminar next month on the west coast.

I’m intrigued. I type in the website address and my attention goes first to the Alexa ranking. I’m STUNNED at what I see- I didn’t know Alexa numbers went above 24 million!

The Alexa ranking for the website is in the 24,500,000 range.

Talk about a billboard in the Alaskan Wilderness, this website is a wasteland. Oh, and it’s a mess both from a coding standpoint AND from a content standpoint.

The coding issue is obvious. I mean, you don’t reach the deepest darkest depths of 24 Million plus in Alexa without some serious coding issues at work. However, the content is what surprises me. I mean, it’s little more than a narcissistic rant tooting the horn of the seminar’s developer.

The site doesn’t follow ANY of the rules for website success!!!  Lousy domain name, poorly coded, narcissistic content… I can’t imagine anything he could do to make the site worse.

Despite all of that, he obviously has a thriving business.  I text my friend with a “you’ve GOT to find out how people found out about the seminar,” because one thing is certain, he’s not using the web to market it.

Turns out, he’s made connections with a national association and is offering this “course” at a substantial discount for members.  The association sent out the communication to it’s members and offered them a half price discount.

The whole experience has shaken me a bit.  It has forced me to admit a bad habit which I’ve developed –  I tend to look to Alexa rankings to judge how “successful” a website is and by extension, the business which owns the website. This particular website destroyed that belief system of mine.  It goes to show that you don’t need a great Alexa Ranking to have a successful business venture.

I should have known better.  I mean, I tell clients all the time that a blog can be used as a powerful tool for business communication.    Using your blog to communicate your marketing message is a GREAT use of a blog.  Using a blog in that manner is actually using your blog to target the non-blogging community.

Do I think a great web presence would help this guy’s business – definitely.  But the lack of one obviously hasn’t stopped him from achieving a level of success.

What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging

Every where you turn, you’ll find people raving about blogging, with good reason. Blogs are easy to use communication tools… and businesses NEED to communicate with potential customers. So if you’re a business and you need to communicate to customers WHY they need to be doing business with you… you need a blog.

However, while blogs make PERFECT sense as a business marketing tool… there are drawbacks to blogging.

What no one ever tells you about blogging

Blogging is not marketing magic.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it is true.

I’ve had several clients who paid to have the most popular and powerful blogging software on the planet set up on their own hosting account. I installed essential plug ins to make their WordPress blog even more attractive to the search engines.

More than once I have gotten emails from clients wondering why their blogs aren’t getting great search engine rankings on their highly desired keyword terms. When I load their blog, I’m greeted with the “Hello World” initial WordPress blog post. There are no other posts published. There are no categories set up. Nothing but “Hello World”.

Successful Blogging Takes Planning

Planning and research are both ESSENTIAL keys to blogging success.

Planning begins with knowing who your target audience is and why they are at your blog is the most critical element in your blog’s success.

(Here’s a poorly kept secret… it’s also the key to your BUSINESS SUCCESS!!! That’s why I wrote the book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results. In the book, I take business owners step by step through the process of identifying your ideal target market and then the keys to creating marketing messages which deliver results.)

Once you know who your audience is, then you need to figure out what keywords they are using to find your site. This is the “research” side of th equation.

Top A-list bloggers have shared that on average more than 50% of their traffic comes from the search engines. That means using the right keywords is a KEY element in your blogging success.

There are plenty of free tools you can use to find keywords. However, I got an email today which calls into question the accuracy of those free keyword tools. My client ran her favorite keyword through 3 separate free keyword tools and got the following:

Google: “Average”
Overture — 1211
Keyword Discovery — 600
Wordtracker — not listed

So, I ran her keywords using a new tool I recently discovered called Wordze.

Wordze gave the COMPLETE picture on what was happening with her keyword. It not only showed the standard info… it also showed her who her competitors are on that keyword as well.

PRICELESS!!!

Using the link above saves you $10 a month if you decide to subscribe.

Successful Blogging Takes Effort

The most successful blogs have posts published on a regular basis… at least once a week… more is better.

Many, many blogs begin with a flurry of posts… and then, the new blog owner loses interest and stops posting.  Defining your blog’s direction is essential to achieving blogging success.

Successful Blogging Takes Time

There is no such thing as an overnight success when it comes to blogging. The blogs that do “race” to the top usually find their stay at the top to be precarious at best.

You won’t launch your blog tomorrow and then cash a six figure adsense check within 30 days.  It just doesn’t work that way.

However, if you’re willing to invest the time and effort into this powerful business communication tool… then you’ll find that your blog can act as a powerful, versatile, easy to use marketing tool.