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old books on shelfIt’s so easy to abuse and get rid of books these days. I see them used as coasters, doorstops and even umbrellas. And when they start taking up too much space or cause an eyesore I’ve seen them sent to a recycling bin, instead of being donated to a good home.

From a young age I was always taught to treasure my books. Keep them clean, wrinkle free and always read them with clean hands. I needed to make them last.  And you don’t even want to know what would happen if I brought a book into a kitchen.

The books I grew up with contained cultural treasures – poems, short stories, biographies, history and children’s fairy tales. They preserved and passed on traditions and knowledge from generation to generation.  These books lived on a shelf as if they were the only copies in existence.

All our books were treasured because they were hard to get. They had the power to teach and inspire. They could motivate and remind you who you are – in the light and in the dark.

Blog Pivot

July 3, 2014 — Leave a comment

railroad tracksI started out writing this blog post with a quick history lesson of my blog. I quickly realized there isn’t much history or major events worth noting.  The old content I created had a specific purpose for in a particular point in time.

As I was starting my career, the blog focused on general marketing with a splash of my own opinion and critique. Then I wrote about social networks, online apps and blogging.  I also attempted to review apps, technology and ad campaigns.

Most recently I blogged about specific online marketing strategies and tools such as how to launch a corporate blog and marketing automation.  Many of these topics are still very relevant and I love talking about them, but this blog may not be the right place for it.

Since joining Search Engine People, I’ve contributed a number of articles to the SEP blog which has an audience that would be better served by content such as:

As for this blog, it’s about to pivot again.

Following best practices sometimes isn’t the best way to get the results you want.

There’s a place and time to follow the best practices, but taking it to far will not help you get ahead. Instead you’ll just be like everyone else.

In the digital marketing space everyone is spying on everyone else. Everyone’s trying to figure out what’s working or not for their competitors. Which display ads performing, what ad copy gets more clicks, what landing pages convert best and so on. If everyone is copying, scratch that, following best practices how is anyone supposed to stand out? Outcompete?

There are times when you need to follow best practices, such as making sure your offer is clear, there’s a form to fill out and you have an image on your landing page. But it doesn’t mean your image should be in the exact same spot as everyone elses. It doesn’t mean that your form has to be exactly the same.

Instead, you need to figure out what works best for you. What’s going to get you the results that you want? What’s going to bring in the customers you want to do business with?

Start with best practices, but adapt them to your own goals, company culture and the results you want to achieve.

It was heartbreaking to learn that Google is killing off Google Reader.  I thought I didn’t have any emotional attachments to products and apps, but the death of Google Reader news proved otherwise.  I had no problem selling my first car. Didn’t shed a tear. I had no problem getting rid of my mobile devices. Couldn’t wait to switch. But hearing of imminent demise of Google reader evoked surprisingly strong emotions.

google reader shuttting down

Just as blogging was taking off in mid-2000s I needed a good way to keep stay updated. Google Reader was the answer. It was clean, simple; and it just worked.  I’ve tried other services at that time but nothing was comparable.  As with many Google products I stuck with it and never looked for an alternative. Until now.

Google Reader became part of my routine. It was the first thing I’d look through at 5am, and last browser window I’d shut down before bed time.  It was engrained into my daily life. Which is why I was so disappointed to hear the news. So, now I have to find an alternative.

Many people argue that you can get your news through multiple sources, primarily focusing on social networks.  Where news is already aggregated, shared and voted up by your networks and circles.  I don’t want my networks to influence what I see in my newsfeed.  By the time I see it, it might be too late. I want control over what gets pushed into my stream.

Also, RSS is built into all news sources and blogs I subscribe to. I know that if I do subscribe to the RSS feed I am guaranteed to get published content in my reader immediately.  Getting my news from social networks won’t work because the content doesn’t get pushed through it consistently. And when it does, it’s cluttered with editor’s tweets and opinions and replies to their audience.

Lastly, certain pieces of content take up too much of a browser real-estate. The only app that can get away with this is Flipboard. There’s no scrolling down the page, just quick flipping to the next article. Essentially, I want my RSS stream to be clutter-free and published with reliable consistency.

Time to look for good Google Reader alternatives.

So, what would be considered a good alternative?

  • First and foremost, I should be able to import my existing Google Reader data. If a new service is unable to do that I won’t go past this crucial step.
  • The new RSS reader should have a familiar look and feel. I want all the headlines listed on one screen. Clean and clutter-free.
  • Show me the data. I’d want to see some stats on my content consumption.
  • Ability to share content across social networks.
  • Ability to ‘star’ or mark as favourite for reading later or reference purposes.
  • Ability to access the feed on various devices
  • Free or minimum ad-support.
  • Finally, can I quickly love it and incorporate it into my daily routine?

As soon as the news of Google Reader’s inevitable demise hit the interwebs, articles about best alternatives started popping up like weeds.

After reviewing the articles, I decided to test out just a handful of most commonly recommended RSS Readers for myself and see which one would be best suited for my needs.

The three readers that dominate RSS reader lists are NewsBlur, The Old Reader and Feedly.  Between these three there’s no contest. Feedly takes the cake. NewsBlur wanted my credit card upfront before letting me test drive the app

newsblur payment screen

Apparently they can’t handle the demand, or is this milking unsuspecting ex-users of Google Reader? However, I was able to click back then hit forward again to gain access to my imported feed. The design looked horrible. Too cluttered. And frames; what is this 1996?

newsblur frames

I didn’t even get a chance to try The Old Reader. It’s been about 3 days now, and still no ETA on when my feed would be imported. Very disappointing.

the old reader

I started using Feedly right of way. Works great on the desktop, iPad, iPhone and other iGizmos and Droids.  Imported my feed instantly. No hick ups. I was hooked by the clean and beautiful layout options, similar look and feel of Google Reader, and tons of sharing options. This is what I always wanted the Google Reader to be.

feedly welcome screen

feedly rss feed

Feedly meets all my requirements I listed earlier. Except one. It doesn’t provide stats on my content consumption. But I can live without it.

With this post it wasn’t my intention to review any apps. My goal was to explore various alternatives to Google Reader.  Feedly comes up as the top recommendation on many lists.  Other RSS readers don’t even come close. Bottom line is, Feedly is in a league of its own and it’s the best alternative to Google Reader out there.

Not so long ago, infographics were somewhat of a rarity. An art form in itself, was a domain of skilled graphic designers, data miners and story tellers. However, with help from social networks such as Pinterest, infographics have recently enjoyed tremendous gains in popularity.

This rise in popularity also gave birth to speciality apps, production houses and graphics designers that specialize on creating infographics. But what if you don’t have the time or the budget to create your own infographic? In that case, use someone else’s infographic.

Don’t Steal

If you’re going to use someone else’s infographic, please don’t steal it and claim it as your own work. You must still follow proper etiquette and creator’s rules when reposting the work on your own online properties. For starters, if you find a infographic that you’re permitted to use on your own site use the source embed code, if available. The embed code is usually found at the bottom of the post. If no source code is available make sure you link the graphic back to the original post. A good practice is to also provide a text credit with a link to the source infographic.

When in Doubt, Just Ask

If you’re not sure if you are permitted to republish the infographic on your site, just ask.  Most people will hardly ever say no. But do expect some guidelines.

Best Practices

Now that you got an infographic, what do you do with it? Just post it on your site? And what do you hope to accomplish with that? If you’re just going to post without any context behind it, then might as well use Pinterest.

If you found an interesting infographic, share some insights. Tell your readers what you found interesting. How does it relate to your industry, profession or business? Is it something that everything should have a printed copy of on their desk? Or is the infographic completely off-base and you need to debunk all the claims?  Whatever you decide to do, a short write up about the infographic you’re sharing will make your post more meaningful.

To get you started and for some inspiration, check out these posts and how their authors comment on the infographics:

In my earlier post I mentioned I was going to stay off Twitter and facebook to dedicate more time to google+ … Looks like I’ll need more time, because in order to fully take advantage of what google+ offers you need to grow a following and build new relationships.  That doesn’t mean I’ll be staying off Twitter and facebook, it just means my online attention will be divided even more.

However, I hardly spent any time on other social networks through July, but I quickly realized that they were actually useful. Who would have ‘thunk’? For example, the only way for me to get a hold of some people would be via facebook. And when I needed to get answers or feedback quick, Twitter was my go-to-source.  The usefulness of these social networks only occurred to me when I self-imposed limited use of Twitter and facebook through July.

Would you text content to your audience (read: subscribers, customers, vendors, followers, etc.)? I would not, nor would I recommend it.  But Gene Sigalov of Content Marketing Institute does:

You need to shock customers out of their computer screen slumber. You need to generate a buzz… literally (in their pocket). You need to start sending texts.

Think about this for a moment.  What happened the last time you received a promotional message via text message? How did you react?  Unless you explicitly gave permission for a marketer to text you content or promotional material I would bet that you did not appreciate to be interrupted.  To make his case stronger, Mr. Sigalov points out some impressive SMS stats:

While those figures are impressive, the reason why (I believe) people read 90% of texts within 3 minutes is because the arriving message is sent via private communication channel, which is reserved for personal or professional contacts.  Once our phones buzzes, we’re curious to see who it is from, so we pick up the phone right of way.  Furthermore, most of the text messages either start and/or continue a conversation, or a simple status update such as “I’ll be there in 5 mins.”  But whenever I receive a promotional message from my Mobile service provider, I get annoyed that my SMS channel is used for marketing purposes. So I delete it.

Marketing texts boasts high open rates, just like email did in its early days.  But as soon as our SMS channel gets inundated with promotional content and offers, those rates will quickly decline as it did for email.

Lastly, look at the third bullet point: “Texting is the most frequently used channel for personal communications.” Exactly! It’s a personal communication channel.  We expect personal communication from our personal network.  If you want to be part of that network, you need my permission.

The internet was abuzz with a recent episode of Saturday Night Live.  Not only did it feature the return of Lindsay Lohan as host, but the SNL cast also did a hilarious spoof of The Real Housewives of Name Your City, with Disney Princesses, titled The Real Housewives of Disney.

I watched the SNL episode live for the first time in several months and thought it was hilarious.  In the morning I couldn’t wait to share some of the top moments with my fiance, but I couldn’t find the clip of Housewives of Disney.  Results on search engines we’re dominated by links to NBC and other pages that embbeded content from Hulu. But, since I’m in Canada I couldn’t watch it.

housewives of disney clip unavailable

I watched the show live on NBC just eight hours ago, but I couldn’t watch it online?  If this was 3-5 years ago, I would say I was frustrated, but these days if I can’t find the content on official channels, I’ll find it elsewhere.

In this case, I found the clip of Housewives of Disney on GossipCop. And guess what NBC and Hulu? You’ve accomplished nothing by restricting your content to be viewed only in specific regions.  No matter how hard you try to block and prevent people who WANT to consume your content they will find it elsewhere.  They will direct their attention and time to other sources.  They will bookmarks those sites and share them with friends. As visits and page views go up, other sites will reap financial benefits.

We can argue all we want whether other sources and sites such as GossipCop are legitimate or not, but the end user doesn’t care.  The end user WANTS to consume the content.  If you block it, they will find it elsewhere.

P.S.

Here’s the link to SNL clip: The Real Housewives of Disney.

By now, you’ve probably heard all kinds of buzz about Pinterest.  About being the fastest growing social network, its popularity with women, its ability to drive a great deal of referral traffic and their money making secrets.  There’s also a great deal of articles in the blogosphere providing Pinterest tips, tricks and expertise on how to best leverage this fast growing social network.

Pinterest works great for retailers, fashion brands, consumer brands, artists, designers of all kinds and everything in between.  Basically, if your product or service relies on visual presentation to help sell itself, then Pinterest is a great place to build a following and drive traffic to your site. However, if you’re a B2B company selling services that can’t be (read: challenging to be) represented visually you may feel left out.  Don’t fret, many B2B companies can still leverage Pinterest and build a strong community.

Infographics

Infographics are posters created to visually represent data in an interesting way.  As humans we love looking at beautiful things.  Think about it, what do you prefer, looking at boring Excel charts or a well designed Infographic?  (If you’ve never seen an Infographic check out my Infographic Pinboard on Pinterest for some examples.) The answer will always be Infographic. B2B companies collect and have access to all kinds of data.  Either create your own infographics poster or scour the blogosphere for infographics that relate to your industry, market or company.  Create a Pinterest board where you can collect your online infographics posters.

Showcase Company Culture

Got a cool office decor?  Work stations designed for optimal productivity? Staff break room with cool toys?  Showcase it.  You’ve got nothing to lose. You can help inspire others. It also gives you an opportunity to market yourselves to potential candidates.

Motivational Slogans

Do your employees write messages on whiteboards that help them stay motivated?  Why not snap a picture and upload it to Pinterest.  These motivational slogans can also be found on sticky notes and company walls.  Create a board that showcases how your staff keeps its self motivated, productive and on track.

The B2B Marketing objection to joining yet another social network might be, ‘but our customers aren’t on there.’ Of course they are! Who runs the companies you sell to? People. And where are these people? They’re online; discovering, sharing and communicating with other people.

The bottom line is, don’t be put off by Pinterest’s emphasis on visuals. Every company out there can find enough interesting visuals within their organization or online to contribute to and build their own interesting boards on Pinterest.

Step back and out of your role, company and industry.  Not literaly, ofcourse, but take yourself to the time before you joined your current firm.  Before you got involved in the industry you’re in. Before you only heard of the company name but had no idea what they did.  Because it was the only time when you were most bold. Had most ideas. Could imagine how others perceived the company.