Archive for February, 2008

How Service Businesses Can Use Social Media

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

I just came out of the session on SEO and Social Media Marketing. Although I wanted to slam my head against table because the chummy, clubby-ness of the panelists, I did manage to get one nagging question answered.

On the surface, social media seems like a natural fit for service professionals. If you write good content, people vote for it which gets exposure for your website. The problem with social media is that the “linksters” voting on social media sites are typically young men (and to a lesser degree women) who are highly technically savvy. My client’s target markets are usually C level executives who don’t have the time or inclination to dink around on the internet. The question become “How can my grown up clients use social media to reach their target markets?”

The answer is one of targeting content to the social media audience. If you can find something related to your business or the concerns of your clients and find something about it that appeals to the social media demographic, you can cross the divide. Linksters link to your site which improves rankings so it’s more likely to come up in the search results when your target markets are looking for your service.

It also helps if you refocus the purpose of social media from getting your target market to read your article to focusing on getting links to the site; especially links from bloggers. It’s more reasonable to expect that C level executives are reading blogs than voting on social networking sites.

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3Types of Searches and How They Affect Professional Service Firms

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008


I’m at the Search Marketing Expo in Santa Clara this week. Most of the seminars and panels are biased toward product driven companies so I will be posting short blog entries on material that with be of use to professional service companies.

This morning at a panel discuss “The Blended Search Revoultion”*, Raju Mathotra of Microsoft, discussed the three main ways people search.
Find – The searcher is looking for a specific answer to a specific question. i.e. driving directions or movie times.
Discover – The searcher has a clear need but is uncertain about next steps.
Explore – The searcher is interested in a topic and is noodling around on the internet. (I know I often do my research this way.)

In both discovery and exploration, the searcher tends to have multiple, search sessions.
What does this mean for service professionals? I think it means they need to consider all these types of searching when creating quality content on their blog and website. An FAQ page could be a way to attract the Finders. Focusing text on problems and solutions can be a way to attract the Discovers and “How To” articles can be a way to attract explorers.
But before you do any of this, you need to think about what questions do my target markets want answered, what problems do they have and what do I know that they’d be interested in? If you’re not clear on what your target markets are looking for, you wind up missing the mark and that great content turns out to be charity work. (Nothing wrong with charity work but it’s best to be clear that that’s your intention.)

* The Blended Search Revolution – The first generation of search engines ranked pages based on the content of those pages alone — the words on the page. The second generation increased relevancy by analyzing links. The third generation, Search 3.0, is upon us now in full force. Google Universal Search, Ask.com’s Morph, Microsoft Live Search Scopes and Yahoo Shortcuts are different names for the same core concept — automatically blending in results from specialized or “vertical” search engines such as video search or local search. This session looks at the revolutionary change happening with blended search and how search marketers can ride the wave to success.

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Backing up Your Computer Data Doesn’t Have to Hurt

Friday, February 1st, 2008

I once had a boss who had so many piles of paper in his office that once a year, one of the three secretaries in the office would spend a couple of days in his office with him sorting through it all. The running gag was that we had to tie a rope around the unlucky secretary’s waste so we could pull her out when she got buried under an avalanche of paper.

Fortunately, I’m much more organized than that so when I cleaned out my office last weekend, it only took about half a day. Once I had all my papers filed and put away, I had two file drawers. That’s it. Two.

That’s not necessarily a good thing. Why? Because it made me realize how much information I have stored on my computer. For years I didn’t worry too much about that because all the websites I’ve done and the related files are stored on servers out on the internet. Then I thought about the Word docs representing hundreds of hours of research I’ve done, the irreplaceable digital photos and the lifeblood of my day-to-day business: email. Wow. And I thought I was bummed when my wallet got stolen. At least with my wallet all I had to do was shut down credit and debit cards. If I lost all the stuff on my computer, my business would be seriously debilitated for several weeks if not months or years.

So why haven’t I done anything about this yet? I’ve looked into backing up my computer data but each time I did it quickly turned into a Pandora’s Box of technological questions I couldn’t answer and exorbitant expense. First of all, more than one computer guy has told me that “All you need to do is” and then describes a multi-step process completely outside the realm of probability. Secondly, when I first looked into online data backup in 2003, it cost about $100 a month. $1200 a year made that impractical backup process sound reasonable; but still, I didn’t do it.

So after I cleaned out my office, I researched “reviews of online back up systems” and came across a very helpful article on InformationWeek called “Review: Five Online Backup Services Keep Your Data Safe.” In the article, they describe five different online backup systems tested by someone who knows what they’re doing. I thought I was going to go for Carbonite but after reading about Mozy, I tried them out.

Carbonite might be perfectly good but I’m pretty happy with Mozy. Two things really stood out with Mozy. First, their phone support was excellent. I called twice about separate issues and each time I didn’t have to wait more than a minute to talk to someone who was very helpful and treated me like I was a sentient human being. Each time, they stayed on the line while I figured things out and even anticipated future issues and offered solutions to potential problems I might have. Second, I really like that the Mozy online back up system scanned my computer and created a suggested list of folders I would probably want to back up. I didn’t have to figure out what to back up; they did.

Beware: purchasing and setting up an online backup system is not the same as buying a book on Amazon. It’s definitely more involved but it’s not rocket science. If you’re fairly comfortable with buying things online, aren’t in a rush, and understand how folders work on your computer, you can do it. If you feel like an internet newbie, you might want to do this with a more tech savvy person handy so they can help you answer some questions and configure the set up process.

Ready to give online back up a try? Here are a couple of tips to help streamline the process:

  • Be sure to check how big your folders are. When I purchased my plan, I thought 2 GB of space would be enough. Little did I realize that the folders I wanted to back up were closer to 16 GB! (Here’s how to check your folder size: Assuming you have a PC, right click on the folder, then click on Properties, and then select the General tab.)
  • It’s certainly not a requirement but you also might want to clean up the files on your computer first. I didn’t realize that I had a bunch of music files I didn’t want that where taking up a bunch of space.
  • Music files and pictures are WAY bigger files than your Word docs, spreadsheets or PDF files so if you’re looking to reduce files, clean those out first.
  • Don’t forget to clean out your email! If you’re one of those people who pride yourself on keeping every email you ever received, get over it. There’s a good chance your Outlook file is going to be pretty big. My general rule of thumb is to delete emails older than a year unless they relate to financial stuff or important decisions made by clients.

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