Had a great conference call about business blogging

I loved the conference call I had today with the Archadeck franchise owners. They were so excited about blogging. I especially loved the questions from the Archadeck franchise owner Ray in Pittsburgh.

deck-photo-fhp-15

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Personal Branding for your business personality

So, I’ve joined all the social networks with one personality or another and kept my ear to the ground to listen for buzz about hot topics. The buzz meter is ringing on Google for the keyword string “personal branding“. At first, I looked into it and sort of wrote it off as something overly contrived. Let’s face it, blogs are supposed to be authentic and real. The more we manage our “personalities”, won’t the magic of the medium go away?

So, I mulled it over for a day or two and it started to make sense. I am the first to say that I use different personalities with my participation in the various social media tools. Simply put, this is what personal branding is about. Personal branding refers to building all the aspects of your online personality. Just as TV personalities portray a consistent image in their professional capacities, when not “on the air”, they probably don’t have the exact same personality. Their on-air personality might be professionally dressed with ne’er a less than tasteful word coming from their lips. But, certainly at home on Saturdays, they are wearing a t-shirt and possibly using less than tasteful words while watching a sports game.

Online, we all have a personality but perhaps we don’t think about it as being so formal that we have a “personality”. Think about it, even with your good friends, you are a little more careful in an email than you are in person. This is your email personality. In my various social media tool participation, I participate with the personalities of mom, business woman, social media professional, etc. This particular blog is internally focused for our Archadeck, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives and Mosquito Squad franchise owners so my tone is much more natural.

Personal branding takes your online personality to the next level. Whereas we might be a little more careful about what we say in an email, we might be even more careful what we say in a WordPress blog post, in one of my twitter tweets, or on our Facebook Fan Page. We have a professional personality or a personal brand to uphold. Executing a personal branding strategy lives on 2 levels. The first level is formalizing and articularing your personal brand. The next level is marketing your personal brand.

On Twitter, my personal brand is a social media enthusiast. I follow the leading social media gurus like Robert Scobleizer almost exclusively. (Hopefully Robert will change his green gravatar soon) Therefore, one of my personal brand rules is NO PERSONAL POSTS. Your goal using social media and creating your personal brand is to be followed. It’s somewhat of a popularity contest. You want people to be interested enough in hearing what you say that they bookmark your blog, follow you on twitter, friend you on Facebook, etc. If I continued to articulate my personal brand on Twitter, I would say that I only contribute when my contribution is relevant, meaningful and interesting enough that the people I follow might be interested in reading. To do this, I work hard to follow the pulse of social media in other mediums, check twitter at least once/day and then my goal is to tweet according to strategy at least 3 times each week. At this point, you are probably thinking that this sounds so contrived that it’s not worth it. It is a little contrived. And, that does diminish the authenticity and thus the authenticity value of the content. But, through this process, I have learned a tremendous amount and made important professional connections that enjoy the benefits associated with business networking.

The second level of personal branding is to advertise your brand. In this step, you continue to socialize professionally through your chosen social media sites. But, in addition, you get out there and put references to yourself and your personal brand in other places. For example, you find another blog with interesting content and you comment on one of their blog posts with a link to your own blog. That gets your name in front of someone you would want to network professionally with. You join professional groups on LinkedIn and contribute content (with links to your social media) so other people in the group find out about your blog and your twitter, etc. You see if you can post on someone else’s blog as an author. You see if you can contribute an article to a professional publication where that article will be published on their website. You make sure they link that article back to your blog, etc.

There seems to be an expert, certainly self proclaimed, on personal branding. His name is Dan Schwabel. His blog is here.  This may not be in line with my personal brand but definitely meets the rule of authenticity: I think his picture is detrimental to his personal brand. He looks too young to be an expert and his suit looks somewhat mobsterish. I think it would benefit his personal brand to look a little more genuine, a little more happy, and perhaps just a little older. I am guessing after my review of his personally branded photo, it is very unlikely that he is going to follow me on Twitter.

Blogging for your business. How personal should you get?

One of my franchise owners asked me how personal we should get on our business blogs. I had a very strong opinion but researched quite a bit trying to find out if the experts agreed or didn’t agree with my gut decision. I found a couple good articles but didn’t find as many articles as I thought I would have found. The article I found used this great metaphor of braiding.  It was by Shel Israel. I had heard of him before but checked him out a little anyway. He has a published book on Amazon called Naked Conversations with a 4.5 star rating out of 5 with 50 reviews. I am also looking for a great SM book but more about that in a subsequent post.

Shel uses a braiding metaphor. He says we should braid personal narrative into our business conversations just as we do when we meet face to fact. He uses the example of a business breakfast or business lunch. This is such a great example. Think about having a lunch with a vendor or client. It would make us look overly stiff if we could only talk about business. And generally, personal conversation goes a little further than the weather report. We might talk about something we did over the weekend – participate in a race, go biking or maybe attend a great movie. These are safe things to talk about, don’t pin us down to any sort of strange personality or political leaning, and make us seem more real. What’s also important is the length of time we “weave” this personal narrative into our business conversation. This amount of time is small but this part of the braiding is very important.

So, I decided to take the braiding metaphor even further and to identify the 3 strands of the metaphor. The first is, obviously, business appropriate personal, the second strand is pure business and the third strand is the message or relate. Here’s the difference between the business and the message. The business strand is the content. This is the subject of the article/post. The message is why we are writing the post and how it relates to the reader. For example, one of our Outdoor Lighting franchise partners from Northern Virginia does a great job blogging. They wrote a post about burying low-voltage wires. This is the subject. The third part, the message, is the relate. This is why it matters to the reader. In the post, they go on to state why this is important. It also demonstrates why you need a professional outdoor lighting company instead of using a landscaper who either doesn’t know or doesn’t follow the code.

So the 1,2,3 of business blogging braiding is business-appropriate personal, subject/content, and message.

How to customize your WordPress.com appearance (widgets)

Hi everyone! Laura from Northern Virginia here to tell you what to do after you’ve set up a WordPress.com account.
The following are some customization ideas for your new blog:

1. Change the template from the standard blue one to a different one.
Click on “Dashboard”
Then click on “Appearance” which will bring you to a “Manage Themes” page.
I think the “Ambiru”, “Connections”, “MistyLook” or “Ocean Mist”  templates look great. If you want a darker template, you can try adjusting the colors, or try “Chaos Theory”, “Freshy”, “Neat” or “ChaoticSoul” (we use this one). Try some of the different templates out and see what you like.
You can add a customized header (like ours with the path light/OLP logo and picture of one of our homes lit up).  Robin Steele can help you create a custom header for your blog, similar to ours.

2. Change the name of your blog.
Click on “Dashboard”
On the left-hand side click on “Settings”
This should bring you directly to “General Settings”
Change the blog title from “USERNAME’s blog” to something like “Outdoor Lighting of NAME OF YOUR TERRITORY Blog” or “Outdoor Lighting Perspectives – Exterior Lighting Solutions and Bright Ideas Blog” or you can keep your name but actually add spaces between words. For example, Kenneth and Staci Wells chose the username “alamocitylights” and their blog’s web address is: http://alamocitylights.wordpress.com/. They can change their blog name (what appears across the top of their page) to “Alamo City Lights”. As you can see on their blog page, they decided to customize theirs even further and give it the name “Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of San Antonio Weblog”
I suggest you also change the tag line from “Just another wordpress.com blog” to something that describes what your blog is about and include key search terms that you think customers are searching for on-line when looking for our services. Something like “A blog about outdoor lighting for residential and commercial applications in NAME YOUR TERRITORY” this may be too long to fit, but it is in small print. Kenneth and Staci used “Outdoor lighting for landscape, architectural, and outdoor living applications in San Antonio and the Hill Country” as their tag line.

3. Add more widgets
Click on “Dashboard”
Click on “Appearance”
At the top where it says “Current Theme” and has a picture of your template, click on “Widgets” under options.
The available widgets will appear and you can add more widgets (ie, things on your sidebar of the blog, such as text boxes, recent posts, pictures, links, etc.
I suggest you add:

A) Links/Blogroll for your local OLP webpage
Change the default “blogroll” from the wordpress websites to sites like
Your local webpage
Outdoor Lighting Photos from Flickr http://flickr.com/photos/27798849@N06/
Free Nighttime Design Sign-up Form http://www.outdoorlights.com/ComplimentaryLightingDesignDemonstration.html
YouTube Videos on Outdoor Lighting http://www.youtube.com/user/OutdoorLightsDotCom
A Main Link to Your Main Blog Page
and anything else you think is good to add.
You can add links by clicking on “Dashboard” and then “Links” on the left-hand side. Then click “Add New”. This will allow you to type in a title, the web address, and a description (if you like… I did not include descriptions on ours).
Also, I would suggest changing the default heading “blogroll” to “links” (most people visiting the blog will not be familiar with the term “blogroll”).
You do this by adding a new link, like mentioned above and then under the “Categories” section clicking “Add new category” type in “Links” and click the “add” button.

B) Option to email you.
Create a text box entitled “Contact Me Via Email” and in the body of the text box type the exact format as it appears below
<a href=”mailto:yadayada@outdoorlights.com”>Click here to email me</a>
Make sure you type in your correct email address in lieu of my example one yadayada@outdoorlights.com.  The WordPress.com support forums do not suggest actually typing in your email address so that it is visible to blog readers, because spambots search blogs for such email addresses.  None of us need more spam in our inboxes!

C) Text with key search terms
Create another text box with Arbitrary text or HTML, including key search terms. Use these terms for SEO (search engine optimization). Type in anything and everything that your potential clients would search on-line to find out more about outdoor lighting.  Ours were: “Outdoor lighting northern va, landscape lighting northern virginia, low voltage lighting northern virginia, architectural lighting northern va, elegant exterior lighting va, outdoor lighting northern virginia, lighting contractor, outdoor lighting arlington va, outdoor lighting fairfax county va, outdoor lighting loudon county, outdoor lighting prince william county, outdoor lighting fauquier county, outdoor lighting stafford county, outdoor lighting warren county, deck lighting northern virginia, outdoor lighting washington dc metro, nighttime lighting design, outdoor lighting garden lights, outdoor lights northern virginia, garden lighting northern virginia, outdoor lights northern va”

D) Add video to your widgets/side bar by using Vod Pod
Read here on how to do that:
http://blog.vodpod.com/2007/09/07/posting-videos-to-wordpresscom-with-the-post-to-wordpress-button/
Add these videos to your Vod Pod and any others you want
http://www.youtube.com/v/DnTP68ZRig4&hl=en&fs=1
http://www.youtube.com/v/9emzSO9Pnac&hl=en&fs=1

E) Add Flickr widget from the options of widgets.  Give it a title such as “Outdoor Lighting Photos” and fill in the proper RSS feed.  If you have your own Flickr account, fill this in.  If you want to use the main OLP one type in the following for the Flickr RSS URL:
http://api.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=27798849@N06&lang=en-us&format=rss_200

Those are just some suggestions with which to start.  Below is the web address of the online forum for WordPress.com blogs incase you need to search for an answer on how to do something or post a question to their experts: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/
Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.
Once you have set-up and customized your blog, please post a comment to this article and include your web address of your new blog so others can see it!

The annual sales meeting at the Mirage in Las Vegas

One of the tips and tricks about having a blog is to link to popular sites. So, since we just got back from Vegas, I thought I would add a blog piece with links to some of the great things we saw and places we visited. So, here goes.

The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas was beatiful. For example, in this last sentance, I linked to the city of Las Vegas because their travel and tourism site likely receives very strong traffic. The rooms at the Mirage were really beautiful and they were very comfortable. Everything was clean as could be expected. The picture on this page is the room I had.

On the last night, Julie Hough and I took a walk down to the Bellagio Hotel to see some Las Vegas lights. I had not been there before so this was a real treat. The fountains at the Bellagio were amazing. I had thought that they would just have very tall fountain flows but that was not the case at all. There was a water fountain show. It was to Disney music and the fountains danced and soared to the music. It was a tremendous treat.

Again, never having been to Vegas before, the Donnie & Marie Vegas Show struck me as odd. I would have never expected Donnie and Marie to have a show in what they call sin city. Marie Osmond sure does look great after that Nutrisystem diet. We didn’t see her in person but she and Donnie had a huge sign over the door at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.

On the way home, I had a huge chunk of time when I had to wait at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. In general, the airport was very clean and comfortable. Although, my biggest disappointment was that they did not have CNN playing on TV monitors. That would have made the wait go much better.

One good thing is I bought a sandwich at the Carnegie Deli at the Mirage before I left and took it to the airport with me. I used their take-out. They made it very quickly and as can be expected from a New York style deli, it was huge!

The other restaurant at the Mirage in Las Vegas that I loved was called Cravings. It was a huge buffet. I went for breakfast and they had a tremendous selection. A couple of my favorites included the eggs benedict and also the latin breakfast section.

So you can see in this article, I am trying to link to lots of sites that have high traffic because this is a technique that will help with SEO in organic search engine listings. When we start to get traffic on this article, I will let you how it works.

Check out AlphaInventions.com!

Check this out!

alphainventions_stats

So, the traffic on my own personal blog basically stinks. But on Friday I work in my daughter’s classroom for about an hour. I come home and emote onto my blog about how amazing teachers are and how I can’t possibly fathom how they do it all. I do a few things, go out shopping, have some lunch, and go to do another post. I take a look at my stats and see a bump on my views. So I think I might have had 20 people or so look at it. Then I looked at the scale and it was over 200!! This was in a matter of hours.

So, WordPress.com has the most amazing stats. You are able to click on the blip for that day and it tells you what articles people viewed, what they searched for, what sites sent people, etc.

I saw that the high volume traffic was coming from AlphaInventions.com.

I looked up it up and it’s truly legit. It’s a really cool site where when you go to their page, they rotate WordPress blogs that are being updated and published right at that moment. So, you get to see the freshest news hot off the “wire”.

I read some more about the site and they said they were working on a personalization engine that could allow people to see updated blogs that were specifically aligned to their personal preferences. That would be great.

But here’s the real aHa. If you do a post about them, your post is automatically picked up on their site. Take a look at how my traffic went from negligible, to over 200 when my teacher article was picked up, to over 900 when I wrote a post about their site.

I highly recommend it for both viewing enjoyment and also for SEO.