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6 eBook Tools That I Can’t Live Without

June 25th, 2012 . by Peggy

Part of my job is to try all sort of things that help Authors. Here, I’ll show you six things that I’ve personally tried, and that are really helping me with various things related to online marketing and eBooks.

1) Evernote is great for;

- web-based research, saving web pages

- take a pic of a white board, it saves it as searchable text

- recording audio notes to myself (using the associated FREE Android app)

- my to-do lists and perhaps even dictation on the go

2) Smashwords is great for;

- reviewing an excellent style guide when formatting your eBook for almost any platform

- uploading an eBook to multiple platforms at once, including Kindle and others

3) Audioboo.fm is great for;

- quick podcasts using only my Android phone

- interviewing Authors and Experts with no prep or notice

- immediate, no editing, low-tech

- finding other 5-minute podcasts to listen to, both at home and on-the-go

4) MailChimp is great for;

- growing and managing my email list

- designing and sending out really nice-looking newsletters

- pay only as I need to and my list grows

5) MindMeister is great for;

- outlining before I write eBooks, white papers, audio products, and blog posts

- setting goals and outlining the tasks I need to complete to achieve them

- org charts, planning websites, and even illustrating processes to clients

6) Visual Thesaurus is great for;

- the obvious (an interactive thesaurus like no other)

- brainstorming domain names, eBook titles, products, and keywords

- try changing the settings and watch things fly around!

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When eBook Choices Seem Overwhelming

June 11th, 2012 . by Peggy

Stuck in a revolving door of confusion about eBooks?Stuck in a revolving door of confusion when it comes to various technologies around eBooks? You’re not the only one.

Knowing your options may seem like you’re opening a can of worms, but actually, I find that most of the choices in eBooks really boil down to just a few questions.

The problem is that these few choices have been inflated and repackaged a million ways. When various companies start inventing their own words to use for the same things, nobody knows what the heck is going on.

Once you know what to look for, it’s easy to pigeonhole options when they present themselves, and know if a new choice is something you really need to consider, or if it’s overrated or unneccessary.

Here are the questions I hear about the most in my presentations and workshops.

1) Do I need to create a PDF or an ePub?

This is really the biggie. Everything else falls into place based on this. For more information on each of the platforms, and how to make the choice based on your content type, read this previous blog post from me.

2) Do I need to hire an “eBook Publishing Company”?

This category of company invented itself a couple of years ago. Are they capitalizing on the confusion by charging outrageous prices for stuff that most people can do themselves? In most cases, absolutely. (However, there are some that I’m testing and that I may recommend in future.)  The built-in systems inside Amazon Kindle, for example, enable any non-techie to do it all by themselves. Anybody who can type an MS Word document can publish on Kindle. For more information about how to actually do this stuff yourself, sign up for my mailing list. I’ve got new video classes coming online very soon.

3) Do I need an Editor?

A resounding YES. For me this is not negotiable. In almost 170 eBooks, I’ve met exactly two writers who did not require the services of an editor. Two. Neither you nor I are one of those two. Find someone qualified you can work with, and just make the best deal you can. Try this database of freelance editors to start.

4) Do I need to hire someone to typeset my eBook?

If you are creating something that you want people to buy and read on Amazon Kindle, no, you certainly do not, as that’s not how Kindle works. (If you don’t know this already, it means you need to buy an eBook on Kindle and read it, to familiarize yourself with the platform. You can read an Amazon Kindle eBook for free using your computer, your phone, or your iPad or other tablet – you do not need to buy a Kindle device, or even pay money for an eBook for that matter.)

However, if you’re creating something that should be printed out and written in, or that contains many illustrations or tables or charts, or that must be seen in colour to make sense, then yes, you may want to consider hiring a designer to lay it out as a PDF for you. This means it’s more likely that you’re going to sell it off your own website, rather than on a platform like Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and etc. (Please, I beg of you, don’t simply type up an MS Word document and use that to create your PDF for download. It looks like crap.)

5) Do I need to hire a cover designer?

Unless you have some reasonable graphic design skills, yes, a professionally-designed eBook cover is totally worth the money. Don’t try to buy software and learn it as you create a homemade-looking cover design – too frustrating. You can certainly get a really attractive cover designed for you for about $200 – $500 USD. There are some great people overseas. (Or, hire me. It doesn’t matter – just be sure it looks slick.) I’ve written about eBook cover design guidelines here. You can share that previous link with your graphic designer.

6) Do I need a website devoted entirely to this eBook?

Perhaps not. What every book does need, however, is a landing page. If you already have a WordPress site, that means just adding another page to your current site, one that is totally devoted to selling your eBook, without distraction, alternative navigation, or outbound links. This page is where you’ll direct web traffic to “land” when they respond to things like your social media links, any ads you have to sell your eBook, or from other websites and blogs.

Let us say that you are a chef, and you’ve written a cookbook. The cookbook is a PDF, which means that it’s loaded with colour photos, lists of ingredients, and indented instructions. You want to sell this off your own website, and use it to build your profile. The best way to accomplish this would be to devote one landing page on your site to just selling the eBook. From that page, create a really HUGE and obvious link in the top right corner that says “Order my copy NOW!”, and make that button go directly into the shopping cart experience.

That sales page does NOT need to be independent of your website. In fact, it will work better if it’s not, as it reduces maintenance for you, as well as being able to easily capture traffic from the rest of your website.

7) How do I start writing? What should I use to type it?

Just use whatever you are most comfortable using. These days, everything can be exported and imported. Most people still write in MS Word, which is just fine, no matter how you plan to ultimately output your eBook. (I happen to prefer the free software Open Office over Microsoft products, but as I say, it doesn’t matter.) It helps a great deal to reduce the amount of formatting you use, and keep it as simple as possible, to avoid having to make adjustments to the manuscript later on. Whether you plan to release it as a PDF or as an ePub, as in, Kindle, etc., MS Word (or Open Office) is still a perfectly good way to start out.
Don’t worry at all at this stage about things like spacing, designing the layout of things on the page, or especially fonts. This seems to get asked all the time, and yet, at the first stage, this is absolutely the wrong thing on which to focus. Instead, worry about your marketing plan, your outline, and finding any images you wish to include, again, no matter which type of eBook you plan to create.

While this is not an exhaustive list, this certainly covers the most common questions I hear. The key is to simply not worry about the details too early in the process. The bigger question of things like your marketing plan and your keyword research are still the most important first steps.

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How to Think Like a Successful eBook Author

June 5th, 2012 . by Peggy

 


Rodin's The ThinkerBecoming successful in any field often requires a shift in thinking. Here are some of the shifts that I myself experienced, and that I continue to witness in clients and other successful eBook creators.

1. Stop thinking of yourself as an Author.

Authors are amazing, creative, driven, and professional people. However, as the motivated creator of an eBook trying to crash into what might be a crowded niche, you need to shift yourself from almost all traditional thinking, and quickly.

My own fantasy of what it meant to be an Author was probably like that of many people: the Author as an introvert creative, working from behind a leather-topped desk in a quiet study, the oak-paneled walls lined with books, and a dog stretched out on a thick carpet at my feet. Occasionally, I would fetch myself a whisky from the mini-bar in the corner, or gaze out at my ocean view for inspiration. My publisher would take care of everything, and send me fat checks once a month, all because I was gifting the world with the gold that came out of my brain.

Yeah, that’s pretty far from my reality. Instead, after a rowdy morning of getting the kidlet off to school and taking something out of the freezer for dinner, I whip through Starbucks on my way to an office that I share with a crowd of marketing types. I then run down my whiteboards and address whomever is screaming the loudest. I eat lunch while typing or talking on the phone, scramble to meet deadlines, meet with new and existing clients about 3 times a week, test out new technologies or tools, write blog posts like this one, plan and execute official launch dates for ebooks or new information products, setup affiliate marketing data for the products of myself and clients, and then when that’s all done, dinner’s over and the kidlet asleep, I do a bit more market research to try to find the next niche that I can exploit to the max.

While I’m not in that luxury den, I must say that I find this much more rewarding. NO, this is NOT a life of luxury, but it is fulfilling. I love marketing. I love technology. And I especially love the freedom that I have to keep reinventing myself and my work over and over again. The reality is that successful fiction Authors (versus me as a product creator) do a lot of the same things I do, all day, every day. They might call themselves something other than an information marketer, but really, that’s what all of us are. Once our false expectations fade about the exotic life of an Author, we discover that this, being a marketer with a sort of literary bent, is actually way more fun.

2. Get into a tech groove.

Let’s face it: books mean technology. Even if you are writing for print in the most traditional sense, with a publisher and (perhaps) even an advance, you’re still in a technology-run business. There is simply no working around that. The time of Authors being lumped in with lawyers and real-estate agents for their lack of tech knowledge has passed. Content creators must now at least understand, and hopefully fully control, all aspects of their content distribution.

At the very least, all Authors must get used to the basics;

  • Writing on a computer, using appropriate word-processing software. 
  • Creating eBook content using a standard word-processor. 
  • Using social media. 
  • Blogging or creating other web content. 
  • Deploying and managing their content (and things like reviews) on popular eBook platforms like Kindle or Nook, etc.
  • Linking to places where people can buy the books, and making them easily accessible.
  • Managing a mailing list properly.

The more advanced techy types will take it to the next level;

  • Setting up a shopping cart on your website to sell books and eBooks. 
  • Formatting your own eBook uploads.
  •  Managing your own blog platform, on WordPress. 
  • Setting up things like feeds for your blog or website.
  • Tracking visitors to your blog or website, to see where your visitors are coming from.

And then there are the ones that really exploit the technology that makes money;

  • Conducting webinars or teleseminars. 
  • Using web video conferencing for lectures or virtual signings. 
  • Managing an ongoing affiliate marketing program.
  • Managing digital ad campaigns to sell books or eBooks.
  • Using podcasting to gain recognition and drive traffic.

If you know you’re stuck in the first paragraph, or less, at least know what you need to delegate to the techy types – and how to explain to them what you want.

3. Stop waiting.

The slowness of the literary industry is improving, but it is still its Achilles heel. Independent product creators must work faster in order to meet demand and build market share. In my observation over many years, the idea for a novel does not get better if it steeps for a few years. Instead, it gets neglected. It’s not just about writing every day, which is also essential, but about setting up a production schedule. This allows you to move from one completed project to the next, without losing your momentum or enthusiasm or joy for the content. In the case of non-fiction, there’s often a window of opportunity that is fleeting and small. You either grab it, or you miss it. Speed of production is the way to make money.

4. Keep producing.

If all you have in you is one novel a year, please be sure you have another job. (But don’t stop writing that one novel, either!) One product does not a company make. But, one product can a market open. What I mean by this is that you can do a lot of work to launch one product into the market, and once you open that door, you then capitalize on that by creating more products to fill the market space you have created. Once you have your spearhead product created, be sure to follow it up right away with a companion product, or a sequel, or a study guide, or a series of implementation exercises, or a new edition, or, or, etc. As the expression goes, the second eBook takes 1/10th of the work, and makes you 10 times the money.

5. Template what works.

If I were to consider selling my business, I know that the part that would be assessed for the greatest value would be my templates. I have systems up the ying/yang. Spreadsheets for processes, lists for checking off, template documents with fill-in-the-blanks, step-by-step guides for myself and for clients, pre-formatted documents for creating everything from class handouts to new eBooks, etc. etc. This is where your real value in a business lies: in its systems. This is true of almost every company. McDonald’s is nothing without its templated systems for everything from food processing and handling, to uniforms for employees, to how to scrub a toilet. Templates are what allow success to repeat. I rarely do anything more than once, because in everything I create or do, I look for a way to be able to do it again without any extra work. Yes, I have a lot of wall charts. Yes, I keep a pile of post-it notes in my bathroom magazine rack. Yes, that makes me look like a major geek. But I know that if I want to look professional, I need to save time, and templating is the only way I know to do that effectively.

The moment I let go of the unrealistic fantasy was the moment my company was born. I found real joy in offering something of value to a market that wanted it. I love sharing this with consulting clients, and watching them make the same shift and get real. No, I don’t have an ocean view (especially here in Las Vegas!) but I do have constant inspiration.

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How to Title Your eBook

May 1st, 2012 . by Peggy

Here are some great tips for choosing a title for your book or eBook. Done carefully, the correct title can really help ensure the success of your project. Or not.

The title of your eBook should start with your goals and keyword research. Regarding non-fiction eBooks, the title must accomplish the following things;

Your title must directly relate to your keyword research. Read this document to help you with that.

You must be able to purchase the exact URL for the title. For example, if your title is How To Train Your Pet Monkey To Vacuum Your House, you must be able to purchase HowToTrainYourPetMonkeyToVacuumYourHouse.com. (Speaking of which, just how much does a pet monkey cost these days?) If you can’t get the exact title, yes, I would seriously reconsider re-titling the eBook. That domain name should point directly to a sales and information page about the eBook itself.

The title should clearly demonstrate to readers what they will discover in this eBook. Don’t use crazy slang, phrases that you invent, or other non-intuitive language. Be clear. If this is about how to get girls by becoming a great DJ, then please title it, How To Get Girls By Becoming A Great DJ. Since I’m old, and female, I don’t even know what the “street” title could be for that, but you get what I mean.

It should ideally be less than 32 characters. So, the monkey example doesn’t fit that, but Keyword Cheat Sheet does. (Although yes, that slightly violates the hard consonant rule, below.)

It must be easy to understand and speak. Try to include hard consonants that make it easy to hear and understand when spoken over background noise, or when someone has an accent, like us Canadians from Vancooooover.

You must be able to visualize others in a series. If you can share things like title text portions or other imagery among a series of books, you have a greater chance of achieving cross-marketing between your own products.

Don’t include digits or numbers. People never know whether to write the digit or spell it out. If you must include digits, buy all the related domains, such as 7monkeys.com, as well as sevenmonkeys.com.

Once you have chosen your title, lock it in by actually buying the domain within the hour. If you have spent hours searching if certain domain names are available, and then you walk away and don’t purchase the one you want immediately, you might lose it. This is because many domain registration services have automated systems that spy on your searches, and then if you don’t buy the good ones, they will. And, they do this quickly. You are doing the difficult imaginative work for them, and they can easily capitalize on good domain names by trying to resell them using their automated systems.

Don’t forget to also buy your Author name domain as fast as possible. It is one of the great agonies of my life that I do not own PeggyRichardson.com – I was too late to grab it after I searched to see if it was available. I do own PeggyRichardson.ca, however. (Which brings you to this blog.) That way, you can use your own name or that of your eBook to drive traffic, because as I always say, YOU are the product, not the eBook.

Just for fun, try using the Lulu.com title scorer to see if your eBook is destined to be a bestseller. This is about as scientific as astrology for eBooks, but it can be great at eBook parties. (Yeah, I do that. Whatever.) You can also play The Titling Game by trying out the wackiest titles you can, and see what is the highest score. You just never know what might make you famous: http://www.lulu.com/titlescorer/index.php.

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Writing for eBooks vs. Writing for Paper Publication

May 25th, 2011 . by Peggy

Someone recently asked me, “Is there a difference in writing style between eBooks and paper publications?” Yes, and it can be quite dramatic.

People buy eBooks for completely different reasons than they purchase paper books. Again, it comes down to knowing your audience and their needs.

Let me share with you the top three reasons that people have specifically stated or demonstrated to me about why they might choose an eBook over a paper book. All of these cases apply to only my own work with non-fiction.

1. They want the information right away. Like, yesterday. They search online first for the content, find a resource, like a blog that tells them things they like to hear, and then find out that the blog Author also has an eBook available for download.

2. They don’t have time to read that much. I’ve heard more than once that people have a perception of paper-bound books occasionally being too deeply explorative of topics. They just want the facts. They don’t want to know the backstory – it won’t change how they use the information or how they make decisions.

3. They just don’t want more “stuff” in their lives. An eBook on their phone, iPad or other digital device is more or less invisible. It doesn’t require storage and is always in their back pocket. They can make notes or send paragraphs to others via email or even Facebook.

So if we know all of these things about our reader, how can we imagine that they want to read an eBook?

- uncomplicated, unburdened writing
- plain language, not a lot of buzzwords
- straight-to-the-point explanations
- external references will work easily (like web links for more info or your bibliography)
- high-level exploration of the topic, unless it’s specifically stated that yours is an in-depth work
- written in a lighter, more entertaining style
- consider modularizing content into self-contained sections that make sense on their own, allowing readers to make choices about how they choose to read the content, perhaps just one mini-chapter at a time
- use clear headings and sub-headings
- use consistent organization, conventions, and glossaries that interlink to your main content
- be sure that your chapter headings and subheadings links work properly, allowing people to hop around to parts of the content clearly
- make sure that your sales copy clearly represents what readers will receive
- use standardized platforms and technologies with the widest appeal and compatibility (watch out for the use of Flash on Apple devices, for example)
- offer them follow up content that meshes with your first book or offering

In closing, let me offer you a single caution: don’t make assumptions that your eBook readers are young hipsters, and can understand euphemisms and slang. Lighter and more entertaining doesn’t mean using cultural references or inside jokes that may be missed by a 55+ crowd.

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I’m speaking at the Editors’ Association of Canada on Sept. 25th

September 8th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’ll be speaking with the other two Book Broads on Sept. 25th for the Editor’s Association of Canada (Editors.ca), about Creating and Editing Social Content, from 10am to 4pm at SFU’s Harbour Centre Campus, in downtown Vancouver. George Plumley, the Author of WordPress 24 Hour Trainer will be joining us to talk about WordPress, the world’s most widely-used blogging platform and content management system. (And the platform upon which this blog you’re reading is built.)

The focus of our talk is about creating that which really drives social media: CONTENT. Without loyalty to platform, we’ll talk about various platforms and their advantages and disadvantages, including blogging, FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many many others. We’ll send you away with some fast tools that you can put to use right away, and of course, some chocolate.

Early Bird pricing ends Sept. 14th, $100 for Members of the EAC, and $160 for non-Members. Click here to register.

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eBook Sales Graph

August 30th, 2010 . by Peggy

The .epub file format logo.

It’s often difficult to get hard numbers for eBook sales, but this graph from the International Digital Publishing Forum gives us something close.

Check out the sharp curve from 2008 to 2009, which is the year that the Nook and other eReaders were released, including the second-generation Kindle. The second generation of anything is often better than the first, and the people who wait for the second of everything to come out are what form the bulk of the market.

Impressive.

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Life Lessons From World of Warcraft (WOW)

April 23rd, 2010 . by Peggy

I’ve recently started playing WOW for the first time, which makes me a pretty late bloomer as Gamers go. But it’s interesting what I’ve learned while playing.

For those of you not initiated, Warcraft is the world’s largest online game community, with roughly 11 million players worldwide. For a modest $15-ish dollars a month, you can create a fantasy character (or multiple characters) that allows you to run around a rather sophisticated world called Azeroth. With several continents and types of environments, Azeroth is a somewhat bronze-age style universe with an exciting array of weapons, magical people and places, and really great outfits. Players can interact with each other, even players that may live a great distance from you in the real world.

I’m still what’s considered a casual player. I play about 3-4 times a week for as much as a couple of hours at a time. If someone had asked me 6 months ago if I had a spare 6 hours a week, I would have laughed and stated a firm “no”. But since like most players, I typically log in sometime between 10pm and 4 am, it seems I’ve found the time.

I started playing as a sort of experiment, part of my self-challenge to try new things and test my brain’s ability to create new neuron pathways. I was surprised then I enjoyed it, and further surprised when I realized I was learning new things about myself as a writer and as a person, simply by playing the game. Such as…

Patience

I will never be a level 80 character. But, I’ve discovered I’m happy being a level 20. A person as competitive as myself should be anxious to ‘level up’, as they say. But really, the number next to my name is no longer important. I had no idea when I started now long it would take to become proficient at this game, because I had no previous gaming experience, and I had no idea how sophisticated gaming had become. Now, I see other level 1 characters standing in the street, their players presumably checking their maps or reading the manual, and I realize how much I’ve learned. But I know why I’m here – it’s to relax and enjoy the game, not the win or lose.

I Need A Lifebar in My 3d World

The little gauge that hovers over the head of my character tells me vital stats about myself and about others with whom I interact in the game. I need one of these in real life, but instead of how much life my character has left, it will rack up my calories consumed so far in a day. I need the secondary mana bar to track how much room I have left on my credit card. A little “duel” symbol will appear every time I’m wrestling my child into her school clothes, and a little “zzz” will appear anytime I’m tired and sit down for a quiet few minutes, so that no-one will bother me. Other people will have their names hover over their heads, so that I’m no longer embarrassed by not being able to remember names at networking events. In reality, I’m developing little tricks for myself to improve my self-organization and memory.

I Like Flinging Fireballs At Things

Sometimes, being aggressive and taking sides is OK. I’ve held back releasing a few essays and articles because I’m worried that my position on a less-popular side of the fence might not win friends and influence people. Instead, I now think it might be OK to be a little controversial, and not try to please everyone. Holding back makes for very boring blog posts.

I’m a little bit Alliance, and a little bit Horde

Sometimes good and bad is not black and white. I have characters in both factions, and I play them approximately equally. They both have advantages and disadvantages. My primary Alliance (traditional good guys) character is a huntress, and my primary Horde (traditional bad guys) character is a Mage, which is a magician/priestess-type role. I’ve never encountered a character from either faction that didn’t play with honour. And being challenged to a duel by a massive and high-ranking Horde character is very flattering. Especially when it’s done politely. In my 3d world, I’m trying to be slower to judge, and to let myself be open to possibilities I had not previously considered.

People Can Surprise You

I can’t believe who else plays this game. The genteel and very ladylike mother of one of my Authors surprised me by offering to help with a game problem that I posted on my FaceBook profile. Turns out she has multiple level 80 characters. Her son tells me, “Oh yeah – Mom’ll take you down.” Who knew?

The Worst Thing That Can Happen May Not Really Be That Bad

The worst thing that can happen in WOW is that your character dies, usually by being killed by a non-player (automatic / game generated) character or beast that you’re supposedly out to kill. But really, all that happens is that you need to resurrect yourself, using magic or by running back to where your corpse is in the game. That’s it. For low-level characters, there isn’t even a penalty to be resurrected by the “graveyard spirit”. That’s it. You just keep playing. Often, you go back with greater knowledge of your enemy, and can then strike when he’s at his weakest, and win the challenge.

I Need To Check My Compass More Often

I’m an A-type personality, and a planner in my 3d life, and so I also am in-game. But, Azeroth is a large and complicated place. Sometimes I’m not where I think I am. Tracking my quests using a clear and simple system helps me stay on track for my goals. Since beginning to play, I’ve enlarged my white board in my office, and expanded my use of automatic self-organization tools and systems. It helps to be constantly checking my goals and my progress against them.

I’m not saying that playing online games is the solution to all things that ail, but so far, this experiment has been completely fascinating. I hope to continue this indefinitely, though, within certain rules, such as not playing before 8pm, and promising to never fling a frost spike at my husband if he challenges me to a duel.

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Google Alerts For Small Biz

April 12th, 2010 . by Peggy

Before undertaking any marketing or product creation activity, be sure to setup some free Google Alerts on your business. You may be shocked at what you can discover.

Google Alerts is a free tool provided by Google. The Google search engine is constantly indexing new content all over the web, including content that is directly about you, your company, your name, your competition, your industry, etc. Essentially, this service alerts you by email when any of your chosen key words or phrases appear in their gigantic index of fresh content on the web.

Google Alerts makes fast work of;

- monitoring your brand

- gauging the success of your current marketing efforts

- researching the visibility of key figures/companies in your industry

- watching out for new trends in your market

- being the first to know of major news in a specific area (and then being the first one to re-break that  to your own sub-market!)

Note that Alerts are not a report that people are searching for you – it just means that you’ve been indexed. When people search for those same words and phrases in the Google search engine, only the content that has been indexed will appear in the search results. If you have a website to promote, being indexed is a very good thing – it means your content is easily available to those searching for you.

Google Alerts is selective, in that it will only alert you of fresh content, or rather, content that has recently come to the attention of the index. The more often you update your content, the more you will appear in Google Alerts for the key words and phrases contained in your content. Google’s index prioritizes content with certain characteristics, such as video over text content, and content from sources that are reliably updated on a regular basis. This is part of what forms the mystery of “who gets ranked highest” on Google search results. You can also choose to only find content from blogs, news, video, or other options. (I always choose ‘comprehensive’ so I hear about everything.)

Let’s say that you’ve already performed a good keyword exercise for your business, so you know what words and phrases you want to be associated with. By entering of them into Google as an Alert, you will be notified by email when any fresh content comes up with those words.

I’d also be sure to add;

- your company name,

- your very own name,

- the city or location of your business,

- the names of your competition,

- any applicable industry terms, even if they’re not in your list of marketing keywords because they’re considered “buzzwords” or “insider talk”

Small business can especially benefit from Alerts, because it can be used to filter quite a bit of content very quickly, leaving only local or other highly-specific content available for you.

Before developing any sort of product, try entering some keywords related to the project into Alerts, as part of your product and market research. Monitor it for a couple of weeks and see what comes up. Witness what people are talking about, what their needs are in your niche, and if you have any competition. Is this a busy market? Are people really talking about your niche? Are they using alternate language to talk about you and your niche? Do you need to shift your focus to meet their needs?

Another important discrimination to make is where the conversations are already happening. We all know that rather than trying to get customers to come to us, we should find where the customers already are, and go to them in their own backyard. Alerts can help significantly with this, as it will make a distinction between Twitter entries, FaceBook comments or groups, bloggers talking about the product, news outlets, or other locations. Is one happening more often than another? If there are plenty of bloggers talking about your niche, but no news outlets, then publicize your product by approaching bloggers rather than approaching traditional media. If people are tweeting about your niche, but nothing’s happening elsewhere, don’t bother to write articles – get tweeting!

Overall, Google Alerts is more than just about knowing who’s talking about you; it’s also about knowing what they’re saying, and where, so that you can jump in and join the conversation.

Want to witness the power of this first hand? Try setting up an Alert for “Justin Bieber” – you’ll soon see what I’m talking about, whether you want to know about teen pop stars, or not!

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Video Marketing Tips For Small Biz

April 10th, 2010 . by Peggy

I’ve been saying for some time now that if you don’t start to take video seriously as a major marketing/educational medium, you and your book or other business are toast.

In this article on Biznik.com, Contributor Michael Shuett (who works with a video production company in Washington State) clearly states it yet again. “Being without a professional video will soon be equivalent to not having a website; it will be as necessary as it used to be to have a listing in the Yellow Pages.”

Shuett offers statistics from the Unica State of Marketing 2010 study, which clearly demonstrates that most organizations intend to use video (especially in mobile social media content) this year as part of their marketing strategies. We have known for some time that search results always favour video content over any other content, including text, blog updates, and even audio.

The big obstacle for most of us? We freak out when someone suggests that we should be on camera. I also have a face made for radio, but I still get up there and do video regularly. Consider these options for freaked-out video creators;

  • Narrate A Slide Show: This is the least threatening and easiest way to start with video. If you do any sort of speaking or teaching, a good first video exercise might be to take one of your training sessions and simply narrate it while you flip through your slides. This way, only your voice is present, and people will see your presentation, not your face. You can use a variety of tools to create this, including Jing (free) and/or Camtasia (not so free).
  • Prioritize Audio Quality: Use a good quality microphone – sound quality is essential. You can get away with crappy lighting and bad photography if people can still hear your message, but if they can’t hear you, they stop watching. A headset is my preference, and seems to get the best results, partly because it’s maintained at a steady distance from my mouth at all times and doesn’t move around. However, I recognize that this can make you look like you’re trying to launch a space shuttle. If you’d prefer a handheld (and there are cases where I prefer a handheld – see a future post about that) you can get away with a surprisingly affordable one. I paid about $160 US for my headset a couple of years ago (here’s a link to something similar – very comfortable, as I wear these a lot) and about $35 for my handheld (including shipping) on eBay. Test everything before you start shooting. (Best tip: be sure the microphone switch is turned to the ‘on’ position. No joke – I’ve done it.)
  • Do It Yourself: Although Shuett suggests that video should be professionally-produced or nothing, I must say that I disagree. Video created on-the-fly with a gritty home-grown quality can provoke a better response than professional quality. I mean really, who trusts a script? (You can always tell when it’s a script and someone’s reading from a cue card.) It’s so easy to just sit in front of your webcam and make a fast recording. I’ve even created video while driving. (Safely and legally, I swear.) Homegrown is better than nothing.
  • Use YouTube’s Natural SEO Benefits: The overwhelming majority of video viewed on the web these days is still ultimately hosted on YouTube.com. When uploading a video there, you’ll be prompted with a variety of fields, including one specifically for keywords. (Be sure to do your keyword research up front.) Don’t neglect all these other fields – fill them out completely! People don’t necessarily have to find your very own website to discover you. Simply searching YouTube will help them find your video, and this will lead them back to your site, because of course, your URL is clearly present there for them to click on.
  • Don’t Edit: After the first few years dealing with editing video, I’m now really a one-take sort of girl. If I mess up seriously, I’ll re-take it, but I hate chopping in second cameras, voiceovers, etc. What a drag, and a delay to posting. I just shoot and post. I will vaguely outline what I want to say verbally before turning on the camera, but I rarely even write it down anymore. If you know your stuff, it comes easily anyway.
  • Be Funny: This is synonymous with being real, keeping it loose, etc. Boring = viewers who leave. Funny = believability. If you’re not naturally funny, don’t try to fake it, but keep it friendly at least.

Recently, for the first time, I was recognized in a crowd at a business event, because people had seen me on video. They already trusted me and my company, because they had seen me talk about their subject, and they knew my style. I’ve always said, if a fat chick in her late 30′s isn’t credible these days, who is? It’s the one thing I have going for me. (Along with good teeth.) Find out what you’ve got going for you, and use it on video.

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