Archive for Internet & Technology

Protected: Video or Photo Documentary

By · October 14, 2011 · Filed in Education, Internet & Technology, Licensing & Intellectual Property, Marketing, News & Thoughts, Services & Promotions · Enter your password to view comments.

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Protected: Phone A Friend

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Protected: Marketing Results, Guaranteed

By · July 28, 2011 · Filed in Art & Artists, Internet & Technology, Marketing, News & Thoughts, Services & Promotions · Enter your password to view comments.

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Protected: Free Website for Startups

By · July 19, 2011 · Filed in Art & Artists, Internet & Technology, Marketing, Services & Promotions, Startups · Enter your password to view comments.

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Social Marketing (Facebook, etc…)

Everyone in the web world is talking about the value of social websites as a catalyst for your business.  It seems every business is now jumping into the Facebook and Twitter pond.

If you do decide to start a Twitter feed or a Facebook fanpage for your business, there are a few things that you should keep in mind about social behavior in formal social forums.

1. The art of using social sites for promotion is a fine balance between promoting on YOUR PAGE with inpunity (and despite apathy), while not subjecting your followers/fans to gratuitous personalized mail and newsletters (particularly not “calls to action”).  Social means social, it doesn’t mean “accept my delivery, read it thoughtfully, then take action”.  Don’t expect “action”, simply expect exposure.  Fans, Friends and Followers will click on your “internet channel” if they feel it is worth viewing. They are not subscribers or another inbox for your marketing – save that stuff for your newsletter/mailing list.

2. Shame (or something like it) shows up in the strangest places.  Somehow, a sense of social dignity can surface and becomes a measure for restraint – it can become an emotional obstacle whenever a free promotional opportunity is actually “called one” (or acknowledged as one).  This is worthy of note because any breakdown of the “social illusion” prevents an otherwise proactive person from engaging in even the most convenient of free resources/interactions (but, for some strange reason, if it doesn’t look like an “advertisement” people are willing to abuse it as a resource and interact gratuitously).  Figure that one out?  I’m not here to explain audience psychology, I’m just telling you what the organism does.

3. The best social marketers are kind of in denial and engage in the act of promoting themselves passively (“Just hopped on a plane for another trip to Florida for the pet food client - ugh – I’m gonna be beat tonight”).  People are more apt to “pretend not to promote themselves” than they are to actually OPENLY promote themselves (or their business).  Over the years I can include myself in this category on more than one occassion (so I’m not minimizing anyone or their human psychological weaknesses…I’m simply being honest).  Psychology is part of Dr. Bell’s acumen – I’ll leave that one for him to elaborate on.

The point is:  Engage in social marketing by simply being SOCIAL (and the marketing will take care of itself).  Approaching it from the other direction is a strange violation of “social forum etiquette”.  I don’t know why.  That’s just the nature of the organism.

If you don’t believe me, you can try the same test I did when this awareness occurred to me:

I posted a status which said, “Today I’m inviting anyone who wants to tell all of my facebook friends about their business or product to drop a mention.  Right here, right now – plug it, promote it, pitch it.  Go!:”

ONE REPLY – one person posted their company with a link - out of hundreds of artists, business owners, etc… Why?  Because I actually called attention to a social marketing forum – I labeled it what it actually was.  I’ve said “hello facebook” before and gotten 15 replies with a bunch of “thumbs up”.  Don’t try to understand it, but do be aware of it.

People on social networks (even the ones who are there to promote themselves) are not openly willing to admit they are there to promote themselves…and everyone has a sort of “anti-social trigger” that kicks in the moment something stops “pretending to be social”.   This can be an advantage or a disadvantage to your personal style, depending on how you structure your communication with your “friends & fans”.  In any case, don’t expect action – simply expect an audience.

REALIZE:  social networks are inherently narcissistic environments - momentary digital soap-boxes for the user (it’s all about them).  Most people are instinctively uncomfortable acknowledging that their facebook or twitter account is really “all about them and their ego”…it is psychological evasion on a really basic and NORMAL level (it’s not a mean acusation, it’s just the truth – no harm in having a place to call your own and no harm in having instinctual defense mechanisms around your natural interest of having an audience).  We have an ego and it feels good to feed it (particularly when it feels more like interaction than soap-boxing).  That’s part of what makes us human.  Again, Psychology is part of Dr. Bell’s world – ask him?  I don’t know.

The upside is that if you are equipped to invest yourself in your friends/fans/followers (by acknowledging THEIR world instead of just broadcasting through your own) you will fast become a welcome part of their day.   I will openly admit that I’m more apt to broadcast something that I’m promoting  in the moment than to actually invest in the effort required to be personally relevant in the lives of hundreds of people on a daily basis (the latter being a passive effort to encourage and approve of them/their ideas, personally).  I do try to engage personally with a couple people each day though (on THEIR posts, not my own).  Most often I poke fun at myself, as if facebook really is “all about me”.  Everybody has a personality trait (I lead with volunteering as the butt of a joke).  The goal here is to empower you with my perspective, for whatever value it has. (maybe none?)  I don’t know about you – most of my facebook friends are actually my real friends…not some fanbase I’ve built up.  To each his/her own.

When I hit my own wall of time & energy on a social level, my formal default mechanism is “motivational quotes” (typically related to business).  This month I plan to cycle between quotes in revolving category fashion:  “Learn”, “Teach”, “Love” & “Honesty” (my way of enforcing my business philosophy and ideas about life’s opportunities).  Even if I do reach someone with my ideas or thoughts I’ll likely never know about it – that’s the social component and it requires a willingness to simply “contribute”.

We’ve all got our bag and we all want to promote it.  Don’t over-promote on a social network and you’ll never run the risk of being considered “baggage”.

Happy “socializing”.

- Mark

PS.  For the record: I would NEVER get away with this flavor of expression on Facebook or Twitter – know your forum and adhere to it (this more corporate blog format on MaharEnterprises.com has relevance as well – you’re reading, after all).

Demand the keys! (no handcuffs)

By · January 20, 2011 · Filed in Internet & Technology, News & Thoughts · No Comments »

Demand the Keys – Owning and managing your own web content.

Why on earth would a small business owner or independent artist want someone else driving a car that they paid for?

You may not understand how to design a website, but a properly designed website is like a well-designed car.  It is perfectly reasonable to pay someone to design and build your car (pick your brand).  They build it.  You buy it.  Once you own it, who drives it?  That’s right – you drive it.

To be clear: The act of “updating website content” is NOT like hiring a mechanic to maintain your car (though many web companies have packaged it as part of a “maintenance” service).  Hiring someone to add the bio of your new manager to the website is more like leaving the remote door lock gadget at the dealership when you bought your car and then calling them every morning to press it for you.
<insert hate mail in Mark’s inbox from irate web developers who think I am over-simplifying their talents>

You don’t pay someone to use your laptop or your cell phone for you.  No – you pick up your technology, punch some keys and use it for what it was designed to do (it is operated by the person who bought it, not the person who designed it).

I have three words for you: “Content Management System” (cms)

WordPress is getting a lot of nods from the web design community.  I happen to like it because it is a fully-functioning vehicle for communication which let’s the driver get in and drive it.  There are countless solutions.  WordPress is just an example.

Content Management Systems (CMS) are website platforms which allow the designer to hand the keys over to the owner…so the owner can drive it.  If you paid for it you’re the owner – ask for the keys.  Without CMS there are no keys and you remain a slave to your “dealer”.  Don’t be a prisoner of your web content “administrator”.

CMS automates the process of keeping track of what would otherwise be more complex (those things which require a web designer or developer with extensive coding experience).  CMS is similar to adding a safety carriage around a high-performance motorcycle and giving it an automatic transmission – thereby making it “safer to drive for someone who lacks high-performance skills” (IE, any idiot like me).

CMS is simply a framework, not a design.  Someone still has to design the look and feel of the hosted solution.  Think of it as someone designing letterhead for you (you write a document, you know your business and you can use a word processor).  Even though you can express yourself and your business more intelligently than anyone else, you still have to print it on your letterhead.  The design of a great website involves a logo, color scheme, features, content and the most clear expression of your business possible (people don’t spend a lot of time on your site - making an impression is important…it’s just like your letterhead or business card).

An ideal website is one which arranges a series of “editable areas” into a useful design (and you should have the keys to those editable areas).

Anyone (and I mean anyone) can run a CMS site after it is set up properly.  The trick is getting it set up and then manipulating the framework to have your unique identity expressed well.  Once the identity is in place, you have a great vehicle.  The difference with a CMS website is that you can get in and drive the vehicle (with much less talent than is required to build it from scratch).  It’s your car.

You don’t have to click around MaharEnterprises.com too long before realizing that I am a huge proponent of handing business owners their keys.  My clients and associates don’t want to hire a driver to race for them – they want to hire an engineer to help them build a car that they can get in and race themselves.  After all, the car my clients drive was their idea – it’s THEIR BUSINESS.  I’m happy to drive anything (I love to drive)…but if my client asks for the keys and I can’t hand them over I’m completely useless to their vision.  My first position is never “pay me to do this for you” but rather, “pay me to deliver a car” (the whole “teach people to fish” thing).  The most elegant pieces of engineering don’t require the user to be an engineer, they simply require the user to be an operator.  My clients are owner/operators.

Nobody wants their car engineer saying, “I know you paid for this car, but it is temperamental and a sophisticated piece of engineering…you should really let a professional drive it”.  Screw that!  Let me tell you something: It takes more talent to find, download and install a ring tone on some of these crazy geeked out cell phones than it does to update a website – there is absolutely nothing wrong with demanding that you be able to drive what you paid for.  Demand it.  Demand CMS.  Demand the keys to your own business.

I’ll also have some thoughts on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)…another very highly over-engineered sales pitch in the web world.

I’m a fan of common sense.  NO HANDCUFFS!  Demand the keys!

- Mark

PS. I wrote this article.  I designed this website (and many other sites).  I can drive a car because I have the keys.
I’m an idiot who doesn’t know how to add a ringtone to my iPhone (not that I care, because a ringtone doesn’t make me any money unless I wrote the song…but my business does make me money…in fact, my business makes me the MOST money when I’m the one driving it).  Some things are worth learning and some things aren’t.  That’s a personal choice.  I’m not trying to decide that for you.

[MaharEnterprises.com is a CMS website utilizing WordPress with added functionality developed by Mahar Enterprises, Inc.]