Tuesday Travels: How to Use Social Networks

Allied Telesyn switches in rack

Allied Telesyn switches in rack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Personal Branding Online – Look good (and be searchable) in Google, LinkedIn, and 13 other social sites.

New Twitter Profile Tools – Add a header photo, and it will show across platforms (mobile and desktop). Swipe or tap through shared photos in a stream.

Connecting Your Google Plus and YouTube Account – They’re becoming more and more integrated, here’s a detailed post (and video) from Ronnie Bincer on what this means and how to use it to promote yourself.

Social Listening and Crowd Sourcing- If you have a great idea, should you share it?  Or keep it to yourself?  Tips for CEOs and business owners on interacting online (this is a recording of an hour-long Google Plus Hangout by TekPersona).

10 Ways for Freelancers to Use Google Hangouts

Webcam

Image via Wikipedia

Have you tried Google Hangouts? They may replace Skype, even WebEx and high-end conference programs.

Sure, you can just hang out and have fun.  But, you can do lots of other things too.

1.  Host conference calls.  Talk to people face to face, even if they’re in other countries, or opposite sides of the world.  Best part: up to 10 people can hangout and see each other, and it’s free. If they don’t have video, or are stuck behind a corporate firewall, you can call them directly from the hangout (free for calls in the US and Canada).

2. Have a book group.  I have a business book group every Friday.  Last week, we read Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields (affiliate link) and he was kind enough to join us live for our discussion (with a giant Buddha behind his head)

3. Mastermind group/brainstorming  – Use it to set goals, brainstorm, and even share documents and drawings.  If you use the Google Hangout with extras, you can create Google docs, edit, draw, and share as you work.

4. Hold a class or training session – Your students, or company colleagues can see what you’re doing, ask questions, and give you feedback in real-time.

5. Promote your business on Youtube – record what you’ve done (assuming everyone agrees and knows what you’re doing) and post it automatically to Youtube.  Use it to create mini-movies, collaborate on a video, or a song, to teach something, or promote your business.

6.  Status meetings/year-end wrap-ups – Go over the past year, or a project you’re working on.  Do an “after-action” review on a recent project.

7.  Host a business breakfast or lunch – Invite several of  your clients to join you for lunch. Put together people who might be able to help each other (a furniture store and an interior decorator, for instance).  They bring a bag, you help them grow their businesses.

8. Networking – get together with other writers, designers, or coders.  Share tips on the best places to get published, how to deal with difficult clients, or just talk shop.

9.  Feedback – just launch a new product?  Or want to know what your beta testers think?  Get them together in a hangout and see their real-time reactions (the good, the bad, and the really needs to be fixed fast).

10. Holiday party! – So, you’re a freelancer and work with people in other states or countries.  Have your holiday party on a hangout.  Bring your own snacks (you may not want to do this on air!)

Update: Since this post was inspired by Laura Spencer, I promised her I’d add her own post on the subject once it was published. So, here’s The Freelancer’s Ultimate Introduction to Google Plus Hangouts, with more in-depth tips on what you’ll need, how to use them, and how to set one up.
 

How to Choose the Right WordPress Theme

Now that you’ve learned how to set up a wordpress blog, and found 10 essential wordpress plug-ins, it’s time to pick your wordpress theme.

A theme is the exterior decoration of your blog. It controls how it looks (the colors, typeface, number of columns, sidebars, etc.). There are plenty of themes available (for free) right on the wordpress. org site. Or, you can buy a theme (well, technically you’re buying the support).

Free or Paid?

If you can manage the technical stuff OK, or like an existing theme with minimal changes, get a free theme. If you would rather have some support, go for a paid theme.

Prices for a single wordpress theme vary widely: from $1 to $70 for a single theme. Many also offer packages (at higher prices), which include unlimited installations, more support, and/or more themes to work with. For web developers, the package makes sense. For everyone else, you’re probably best off with a single theme.

Many themes, even the free ones, often include some simple customization options, such as a header banner, number of columns, or positioning the sidebars.

Why the price difference?

In some cases, the developers are essentially giving the theme away, hoping to prove their skills, or earn money on custom themes or customization of free themes. In other cases, there are developer packages, which allow you to install the same theme over and over, including updates, and full access to the photoshop files used to create the images.

Or, the theme may include support forums, tutorials, additional graphics, or a basic framework that a skilled developer can build upon.

If you don’t need all those things, there’s no need to pay for them.

On the other hand, if you want something truly unique, hire a wordpress designer. He or she will probably take one of the existing frameworks and customize it to suit your needs.

Free wordpress themes

Many places, including wordpress itself, offer themes absolutely free.

WordPress.org free theme directory – Lots of options here, including the WordPress Twenty Eleven theme created by wordpress itself. Choose by most popular, most recent, or do a more detailed search by features, columns, and colors.

Smashing magazine – Smashing magazine regularly posts free themes. Here’s the 2011 edition.

Free premium themes – A collection of free themes gathered from all over the web.

Paid WordPress Themes

Elegant themes – Offers unlimited access to all their themes for $39.

Headway themes – A base framework, with drag and drop functions. Right now it’s just the base, which technical people can customize. The site says they are working on developing pre-made designs.

Woo themes – (they also have some freebie promotions) – $70 for a single theme, plus two free bonus themes when you purchase. They add two new themes each month (lots of styles offered too).

Genesis themes from Studio Press – Genesis is a framework (sort of like a basic foundation, behind the scenes workings). They then take that framework and build individual themes (what you see when you look at the blog) on top of that. Run by Brian Clark of Copyblogger and Brian Gardner

Theme ForestThemes as low as $1, with user ratings, the ability to search by category (corporate, creative, etc.).

Do you have a favorite theme? Or another favorite source I didn’t mention? Let me know!

7 Easy Steps to Setting Up Your WordPress Blog

WordPress logo blue

Image via Wikipedia

Did you know that businesses with blogs get 55% more website visitors?

Clearly, having a blog is important to building your business.  But, if you’re not terribly technical, trying to figure out how to connect the circle-swirly thing to the blue square can be confusing.

Since I get asked a lot of questions about basic blog setup, here’s a step-by-step guide to doing it yourself.

(These instructions are for using Hostgator (affiliate link) with cpanel, each web host will differ slightly, but as long as you have cpanel, you should be able to follow along). By the way, they’re my favorite host and just won 2011 Host of the Year award from WordPress Hosting Reviews.

preparation: Do you need a domain name or a new web host?

(If you already have a domain name, and hosting, you can skip this section and go straight to “Create your new blog in cpanel”).

If you’re starting a new site, you’ll need a domain name.  You can get them from just about any web host (like Hostgator, Media Temple, etc).

When you buy a new domain from Hostgator and have them host it, they will put it on their system automatically (you’ll just need to wait a day or two for it to go live).

If you have a site hosted elsewhere and you want to transfer hosting to Hostgator, then fill out this form:  http://www.hostgator.com/transfer.php.   Sort of like filling out a change of address card for the internet. Except instead of going to the post office, you tell your domain registrar (the place where you bought the domain name) that you moved.

The new address information, something like: ns2100.hostgator.com and ns2101.hostagator.com should be in your welcome email.  If you’re not sure, Hostgator has domain moving instructions by company, (such as godaddy, and register.com).

Create your new blog in cpanel

Cpanel  is a tool that Hostgator (and other web hosting sites) use to make it easier to manage your site.

1. Go to http://yourdomainname.com/cpanel to login to your account.

2. You’ll see a window with the cpanel folders and files (it looks a lot like a Windows file directory on your computer).  There are headings labeled “special offers”, Links, Preferences, etc.  Scroll down nearly to the bottom and you’ll see a heading called “software/services.”

3. Click the link that says “quick install”. On the left, you’ll see a heading labeled “WordPress.” Click that and then click the continue button on the next screen.

4. Then tell cpanel where you want wordpress to go.  If you want the blog to be the same as your domain name, leave it blank.

Be careful! If there’s something already there, and you leave the box blank, it will overwrite your site with the blog.

If you want it to  be in a separate folder on  your site (mydomainname.com/blog), then type the word blog in the box.

5. Click the install now button and all the files you need will be installed.  At the end, you’ll see a congratulations message with a link to your new blog page.

6. Check your email for a message with the password for  your new blog.  You can login with your user name (the one you picked in the previous step), and that new password.

7. Go to http://www.yourdomainname.com/blog (or whatever name you chose), and add “wp-admin to the end.  Now login.

Taa daa!!

There are lots of other things you can do, from changing the way the site looks (with themes), to changing the structure of how posts display, to plugins that add more functions).  More on that next week.

How to Write a Landing Page Guaranteed Not to Sell

No SaleEver wish you didn’t have to bother with a landing page?  They’re sooo much work.  Writing them.  Designing them.  Tweaking them.  What a pain.  And if  you make a sale, well you might actually have to do something.  Ugh.

Don’t worry.  Here are 10 tips on how to get a landing page that will hardly ever sell anything!

1. Don’t use one

Why bother anyway?  Just send everyone right to your home page.  They’ll eventually find what they want, or maybe they’ll just leave your site completely and not bother you.

2. Write a boring headline

Use something like “20 Years in Business” or “We Stock Computers.”  If you don’t stand out, or give any sort of benefit, your headline, and the rest of the page, will be ignored. It’s hard to write headlines your readers can’t resist.

3. Talk MOSTLY about yourself

Your visitors came to your site right?  They must want to know all about you then.  Tell them about your new puppy, or that great new cereal you had for breakfast.  And, of course, don’t forget to include the details of your recent colonoscopy. Never run the one-minute marketing test.

4. Never discuss what the reader gets

They’re here to find out about you (see point #3).  Why bother talking about what  your visitors will get from  your product?  Just tell them how proud you are about making it and how long it took.

5. Outsource design to an 8-year-old

A trained designer is too expensive.  Hey, your nephew is into the Web, why not let him take a crack at it? Tell him to use really small, light-colored type.  The closer they have to look, the more attention they’ll pay to your words.

6. Write the copy yourself

You learned how to write in second grade.  Anybody can put words on a screen.  Writing doesn’t matter, why not save some money and do it yourself.  And, who knows your products (and how great they are) better than you?

7. Sell to everyone

Picking a niche market is for sissies.  Everyone will want your product!  Who wouldn’t want tap shoes for cats?  Don’t try to think like a fisherman, go for all the fish in the ocean.

8. Gobbledygook for the win

The more jargon and insider words you use, the smarter you look.  Pepper your copy with lots of buzzwords and phrases like “forward-looking companies invest in three-dimensional management resources.”

9. Don’t use testimonials

Real opinions from real people never swayed anyone.  And never include pictures either.  They’re not terribly believable.  Neither are full names.  If you must use testimonials, just the initials are fine.

10. Write a lot of text

Not just a lot, but big, long paragraphs.  Run them all together on the page, and use lots of complex sentences.  Go crazy with commas, semi-colons, and colons.  Show off all those fancy words you learned in school.  Never say “confuse” when  you could “obfuscate.”

What?  You’re not buying any of this? Good! Check out these pages to learn how to write landing pages that do sell:

The Simple Five Step Formula for Effective Landing Pages
How to Write a Landing Page
What do Landing Pages Have in Common with Grade School?

P.S. Thanks to Lorraine Thompson for the inspiration.