Five Reasons to Use Posterous as a Social Media Distribution Point

I’ve been enjoying playing with Posterous for about a year now, and while I don’t recommend it for everyone, it can be a great tool for some people. You should consider using Posterous if you are a:

  • Beginning blogger
  • Social media specialist
  • Mobile blogger
  • Crisis communicator

Posterous is an email submission blog. You send your post as an email to your own Posterous.com address, treat the subject line as the headline, and any attachments you send are incorporated into the post itself. It’s not pretty at times, but if you need something fast, this is it. Plus, you can go in and edit stuff to make it look better later.

Posterous.com Screenshot

My Posterous.com blog

I’ve often said, “Using a blog interface is a lot like sending an email.” Now, thanks to Posterous, it really is sending an email.

Here are five reasons to use Posterous as a blog platform and social media distribution point:

  1. It’s ideal for mobile phone users. If you’re constantly on the go, and want to blog about the things you see, Posterous allows you to upload photos or videos to your site, along with any accompanying text. Posterous takes advantage of the overall computing power of today’s mobile phones. When I need to demonstrate Posterous during a talk, a few minutes before I go on, I’ll snap a picture of the gathering audience on my mobile phone, attach it to an email, and type in a couple of lines. Before my talk begins, I tell the audience, “I’m going to hit send on this email right now. You’ll see why it’s important in 10 minutes.” Then, when I get to that point in my talk, I show them my Posterous page, which has the picture of them. If you’re a crisis communicator or a mobile blogger, this is an ideal tool for communicating with the public on the fly.
  2. Posterous will automatically send videos and photos to other sites. I have tied my Flickr, Picasa, and YouTube accounts to my Posterous account; it also sends videos to Vimeo. Whenever I take photos or videos, and send them to Posterous, they are automatically uploaded to the appropriate networks. I don’t have to upload them first, and then download the embed code. The downside for anyone who is concerned about search engine optimization is that your digital properties are on Posterous, not on YouTube or Flickr, so you lose any search engine juice that would normally come from a well-optimized video or photo that links to your site. There are workarounds for this, but they take some extra time after your post has been uploaded. If you’re a social media specialist, you’ll love this feature.
  3. Posterous will automatically repopulate content to other blog platforms. You can tell Posterous to re-send your content on to your WordPress, Blogger, Drupal, TypePad, LiveJournal, Xanga, or Tumblr site. Publish a post on Posterous, republish it on your “official” blog. Yes, there are plugins and apps that let you email your posts in to these platforms, but they won’t necessarily upload your video and photos to YouTube and Flickr. Again, crisis communicators or mobile bloggers who need to get information out to several networks will love this feature.
  4. Tell Posterous NOT to post to certain networks. The default setting for Posterous is to repost everything to every network you want it to (i.e. email my post to post@posterous.com. But what if you have a photo you don’t want to send to Flickr, or you don’t want a post to show up on your WordPress blog? By using a specific email address — for example facebook+youtube+blog+twitter@posterous.com — I can tell Posterous to post to my different properties, but leave out a specific network. In this example, I’m leaving out Flickr.
  5. Posterous can automatically notify Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, etc. about new blog posts. Tie your Posterous blog into your different social networks, and notify your followers when a new post is up.

Five Reasons Why We Use WordPress

We’re a WordPress house.

90% of our clients are on a WordPress site. The others are either Joomla or Compendium, a blogging platform made right here in Indianapolis.

Personally, I use Blogspot for my humor blog and Posterous for an experimental/personal blog I use for conferences and social media and crisis communicationsdemos.

My Moleskine notebook and my MacBook

Taking notes at Tammy Hart's WordPress Design session at WordCamp Louisville.

But when it comes to this blog, our clients’ blogs, and any consulting we do, we’re a WordPress house. In fact, I’m sitting at the Wordcamp Louisville WordPress conference right now, at Tammy Hart’s session on designing with WordPress. It’s informative, inspiring, and she’s done some amazing stuff. She’s also making me feel guilty for using pre-built themes (not enough to stop, but I’ll at least feel a twinge of guilt whenever I buy one).

So here are the five reasons we use WordPress, and why we think any corporate bloggers ought to use it too.

  • You can make WordPress do just about anything you want. Tammy says WordPress won’t do your laundry, won’t fix the economy, won’t climb Mount Everest, and won’t explain the meaning of life.* But, you can create brochure sites, basic e-commerce sites, magazines, social communities, a knowledge base, even an invoicing and time tracking system. The important thing about WordPress design is to ask yourself, “How do I make WordPress do X, Y, and Z?” not “What can WordPress do?” So far, we’ve been able to make WordPress do anything our clients need.
  • WordPress makes it easy to optimize a site for search engines. We use a plugin called All In One SEO, which helps us creative keyword-rich WordPress meta tags very easily. In fact, I interrupted that last sentence to take 30 seconds to drop in my All In One SEO tags. You didn’t even notice I was gone, did you? There are a lot of companies who specialize in search engine optimization. And the one secret they don’t want me to tell you is that they use a plugin like this to make their lives so much easier. (To be fair, there’s a whoooole lot more they do offsite, and there’s no plugin for that.)
  • WordPress can be a little complex at times, but they make it so easy to use. Anyone with some technical know-how, or at least the patience to figure it out, can set up a blog with WordPress.org. (WordPress.com is easy-peasy. Just go to the site, start an account, choose your theme, and start blogging.) WordPress.org lets you download the software to your own server, where you control everything — updates, themes, plugins. Everything. Tammy says “WordPress.com is like renting, WordPress.org is like buying. If you rent, you can’t knock down walls, can’t paint, can’t change the carpet. Of course, if you rent, you don’t have to fix the toilet, don’t have to fix the water heater, don’t have to fix the refrigerator.” We like WordPress.org, because we can even design the site so it doesn’t look like a WordPress site.
  • WordPress.org lets you own everything, including your content. No other site does that. Facebook, Twitter, even WordPress.com, owns the means of production and communication. If they go away, all your content is gone. If Facebook inadvertently deletes your account, all your stuff is gone. (They did that to a bunch of accounts when they rolled out Facebook Messaging a month ago, including my mom’s. They restored them all, but it showed how uncertain using someone else’s platform can be.) If Twitter goes under, all your tweets are gone. Even if Blogger (owned by Google) decides you violated their Terms of Service, they’ll delete your stuff, never to return again.But with WordPress.org, the software lives on your server, under your domain, with your content. The only thing that can make it die is you. Even if WordPress dies as a platform, you still own your copy of the software, so you can make it limp along for a couple of years until you find a suitable replacement. Why would you want to put your stuff’s safety and existence at the mercy of someone else’s whim?
  • WordPress makes it very easy to embed photos and videos. I’ve used some other blog platforms, and embedding video and photos can be a bit of a pain. WordPress makes it so easy to upload photos and videos, whether they’re from my computer (like these two are), or they’re hosted on YouTube and Vimeo, Flickr and Picasa. Just a couple of clicks, and my media is in place.

There are hundreds of reasons to use WordPress. These are just the five that make us big fans and grateful users. How about you? Why do you use WordPress? Or to turn it around, why do you hate WordPress? What is your favorite platform, and why?

* Actually, yes it will. It’s 42. And you heard it here on a WordPress blog.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy, who I also helped write Twitter Marketing For Dummies (another affiliate link).

WordCamp Louisville socializes at Joe’s OK Bayou

We're all at Joe's OK Bayou for lunch (actually, about 20 of us) talking about WordPress, blogging, and real estate financing. Unfortunately, the owner didn't plan on us coming (the conference organizers told him we were coming). They have one server who is working like a whirlwind to take care of us. She's doing an awesome job and has made our wait very pleasant.

Plus Jon and Scott, the organizers, swear by Joe's. Jon has been to Yats and says this is better. We'll see.

A View From WordCamp Louisville, December 4th, 2010

Paul and I drove down from Indianapolis to participate in the WordCamp Louisville on Saturday, December 4th. I’m sitting in the auditorium right now, listening to Eric Blackwell kick us off. This is a conference for all levels of experience for WordPress users, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. There are tracks for each level, but they encourage jumping around to the class and topics of your interest.

 

I’m giving two presentations today: 11 Secrets to Promoting Your Blog and Growing Your Personal Brand Through Blogging.

 

I’ve given the first one several times. I’ve given a shorter version of the second one twice. In fact, I had to develop the second talk for this conference, although I’ve workshopped it a couple of times (to borrow a theatre term) at a couple of smaller talks. Since I’ll be speaking about personal branding once Branding Yourself drops (December 30), I thought I had better start getting comfortable talking about those issues.

 

I’m also looking forward to meeting Tammy Hart, Eric Blackwell, and some other WordPress power users. Good times, good times.

3 Reasons and 6 Steps To Keep Your Microsites

Sean X Cummings, the director of marketing for Ask.com, made a rather bold, but completely wrong*, argument in his recent post “3 Reasons To Ditch Your Microsites.”A magnifying glass Cummings said that companies should ditch their microsites because they are “advanced brochureware” and a sure sign that a marketing agency “does not get it.”

(*It’s entirely possible Sean and I are using the same word for two very different things. I’ve been calling one-page sites on unique URLs “microsites.” The following is based on my usage of this term.)

Actually, microsites serve a very important purpose to web marketers. Here are the three reasons you need to keep them:

1) Microsites boost search engine optimization.
2) Microsites improve your SEO.
3) Microsites make your SEO better than your competitor’s.

Microsites are not for marketing, not for branding, not to participating in the conversation. Once you build them, you don’t do a single thing with them.

The proper way to use a microsite

Let’s say you own a carpet cleaning service in Kalamazoo, Michigan. You also serve other areas, like Grand Rapids, Holland, and Battle Creek. You’ve already checked, and CarpetCleaning.com is already taken, but you own Cleanest-Michigan-Carpets.com (mostly because you listened to your brother-in-law, and he’s an idiot).

But you also know that:

  • Yellow Pages usage is going down, while search engine usage is going up.
  • Rather than pull out the phone book, people would rather Google something.
  • Local search engine optimization wins local search (and carpet cleaning is definitely a local business).
  • Search engines love keywords in a domain name.

Here’s how to use microsites properly:

1) Buy domains for KalamazooCarpetCleaning.com, GrandRapidsCarpetCleaning.com, etc. This tells the search engines that your sites are about carpet cleaning in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Holland, and Battle Creek, and nothing else. Those are also your keywords for each site, and you will use those 3 – 4 words, in order, without exception (i.e. not “Carpet cleaning in Kalamazoo”).

2) Optimize the bejeezus out of each microsite.

  • Put the keywords at the start of the page title: e.g. “Holland Carpet Cleaning for Residential and Commercial Jobs” and “Kalamazoo Carpet Cleaning by John Smith.”
  • Put the keywords in the first 4 words of the body copy. This may be awkward, but it needs to be done.
  • Have no more than 2% keyword density (2 keywords or phrases per 100 words). SEO experts are still debating this, but 2% is a safe number.
  • Include photos of you cleaning carpets, and use the keywords in the alt tags. “This is John, working hard for a Battle Creek carpet cleaning customer.”
  • Use only the keywords in hyperlinks that lead back to your main site. “Find more information about Grand Rapids Carpet Cleaning on our website.” Don’t use any other words in those links. Put 2 -3 links back to your site.

3) Install a WordPress.org site on each page. Not because you need WordPress’ amazing functionality, but because it’s free, and let’s you create one front page. You can add more if you want, but you need at least one page. (You could expand each site later by writing blog posts about your keywords — see #2 — but that’s pretty involved. Save this as a last resort for when your idiot brother-in-law opens his own carpet cleaning business.)

4) Make it look pretty. A man is sitting in his living room wearing nothing but his underwear and a hat. A friend stops by to visit, and asks about the man’s outfit. “I’m in my underwear, because no one ever comes to visit me,” says the man. “Then why are you wearing the hat?” asks the friend. “Oh, because someone might come,” says the man. Put a hat on the site — download a free template — because someone might visit it.

5) Write strong, persuasive copy: If people come to visit, you need to give them a reason to click through to your main website. Don’t put up crappy copy just to game the search engines. Create well-written copy that explains what you do, how well you do it, and includes a call to action. Make significant changes to the text for all four sites, so they’re not identical or even nearly identical.

6) All links must point back to your main site: They should not point to any other site anywhere on the Internet. Ever. With one exception. Create links to the other sites under a small section that says “we also offer carpet cleaning services in other Michigan cities.” Then use the exact keywords and link to each of the other sites. These backlinks between the microsites and to your main site will boost your search engine ranking.

Here’s what will happen (more or less): The search engine spiders will visit each site and say “Hmm, this site appears to be about Kalamazoo Carpet Cleaning. Let’s make sure.” It will do a quick check, and confirm — based on your domain name, title tag, first 4 words, keyword density, and alt tags — that, “by God, this IS a site about Kalamazoo Carpet Cleaning! And it has everything we like, so it must be important. Let’s see where these links go.”

The spiders will follow the links back to your main site (hence, the name “backlinks”), and conclude, “if those really well-done sites point back to this site, and this site does carpet cleaning in all these cities, then this carpet cleaning site must be really important!”

Then, when people do a quick search for carpet cleaning in one of those cities, your main site will come up first.

That is how you properly use a microsite. No brochureware, no moving the brand, none of that marketing crap, just pure SEO goodness with trackable, measurable results. If your marketing agency ever suggests it for anything other than SEO, tell them Sean X Cummings would like a word with them.

Photo credit: Auntie P (Flickr)

5 Questions to Ask Your Social Media “Expert”

The term “social media expert” is thrown around and debated so much, it has nearly become a punchline.

Someone told me once that when the economy recovers and the bartenders and waiters get their old jobs back, the number of social media experts will be cut in half. And I keep reading lately that a lot of advertising agencies are starting to embrace digital media as one of their new offerings.

Meanwhile, there are real social media firms who have been using the product for more than a few weeks, don’t limit their Facebook time to playing Farmville and Pirate Clan, and don’t think that ROI is the name of that Canadian goalie playing for the Colorado Avalanche.

So when you go to hire your next social media consultant, ask them these questions, and pay careful attention to their answers.

1. How long have you been blogging? How often do you publish? The correct answer is anything longer than a year. People who write about a particular topic have to know something about it. And your social media expert can and should be blogging about some aspect of social media. Basically, if they’re not blogging, they’re probably not doing their job correctly.

They should also be publishing at least once a week. More is better, say, 2 – 3 times per week. But if they go for a few months without publishing anything, they’d better have a good reason why. “We’ve been executing some national campaigns for our clients, and I barely have enough time to sleep” is a pretty good excuse. A blank stare and a mumbled “I dunno” is not.

2. What blog platform do you use? The correct answer is “WordPress dot org. If they say WordPress.com, Blogspot.com, or anything else, ask them why. Anyone who has the technical knowledge to use WordPress.org will have the technical know-how to use the other tools you may need for your campaign.

I say this as someone who has different blogs on different platforms. I really like Blogspot.com for my personal blog, my favorite short blog platform is Posterous, and I will acknowledge the existence of Joomla. However, I embrace my elitism and snobbery when it comes to WordPress.org for client blogs.

3. What are some automation tools that you use? You don’t really care what they say, you just need to hear that they have an automation process. They should talk about things like Twaitter.com, Twitterfeed.com, Ping.fm, TweetDeck, and HootSuite.

If they carefully craft each blog promotion (i.e. including yours) by hand, they either don’t have enough work — which means they’re new, and they’re going to learn how to do this on your dime — or they’re inefficient — which means your work may fall through the cracks.

4. What analytics package do you use? For measuring blog or website traffic, if they say “Google Analytics,” that’s acceptable. We use Google Analytics quite a bit on our client blogs. However, better yet is “Yahoo Analytics” or “Going Up,” or one of the many other professional-level packages. For social media tracking, if they say “you can’t measure social media effectively,” thank them for their time, and ask them to leave. If they say “Google News Alerts,” give them a B– for trying.

The real social media experts will either cobble together their own system (B+/A–) or use a paid service like ScoutLabs or Radian6 (A+). Just keep in mind that those services are pricey, so if you want top-notch analytics results, that will be added to your budget.

5. What kind of ROI should I expect? Trick question: they shouldn’t be able to answer right away. Anyone who promises you a specific increase is just guessing. We’d love to tell you that you’ll see a 25% increase in sales, but we can’t. We’d love to say that you will see amazing growth in just a few months, but we can’t. The truth is there are too many variables to make an accurate prediction, just like with any marketing. We can’t predict the future, but we can measure it when it happens.

Follow up question: What kind of ROI have you gotten for other clients? While you would like to see significant numbers, what you’re more interested in is whether there are any numbers. A good social media practitioner will be able to track what business came from their campaigns.

Most of the social media poseurs will not be able to give you a good answer to most of these questions. Your true social media expert will have more than just a deep understanding of the tools, but will understand how to find your target audience and be able to create the right messages to reach them. But they should also be able to answer these five questions satisfactorily.

Photo credit: Pro Blog Service generated by Wordle.net
Yewenyi (Flickr)

Six Secrets to Automating Your Social Media Communication

How can you make your social media communication easier? Are there any tips or tricks to use to reduce some of the heavy lifting you have to do just to get your messages out to the public?

Since I do social media communication, for myself and for clients, I use several shortcuts to automate a lot of what I do. Rather than posting a blog, and then posting the headline and URL to Twitter, then over at Facebook, and again at LinkedIn, I try to do it in one step. Or rather than uploading photos and videos to Flickr, Picasa, and YouTube, and then uploading them to a blog post to share them, I’m able to do it all at once.

I wrote this for Martin Earley, who is the new Inn-Bedded Resorter at The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. I was one of five finalists, and got to meet Martin during our stay there. I think he was a great choice, and I know he’ll have a good time. But he also has to report what he’s doing via social media, which can be difficult if you’re trying to post content to both your site and a work site, so I offered him some tips to make his work easier. As I started writing them out, I decided it would be just as easy to put it into a blog post.

Here are a few of the tricks and tools I use to make my life a whole lot easier:

  1. Bit.ly: We’ll start with this ubiquitous URL shortener, because it will figure into nearly everything we do. Set up a bit.ly account, and then put your API key somewhere easy to find. (It can be a pain to go back to bit.ly to find it each time you need it.) Learn how to use it, and figure out their analytics section.
  2. TwitterFeed.com: Twitterfeed will visit your blog once every 30 minutes – 24 hours to see if you have anything new. Once you have a new blog post up, Twitterfeed will scoop up your headline and the URL, shorten it with bit.ly (see? We’re using it already), and then send it out to your Twitter feed and Facebook status updates.
  3. Ping.fm:You can expand TwitterFeed’s reach by sending your feed to Ping.fm, instead of Twitter. Not only can you send your new blog posts to Twitter and Facebook, but to MySpace, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, and even your Ning networks. Plus you can go to Ping.fm and directly post medium-length messages to Blogger, WordPress, and TypePad.WARNING! Do NOT set up Ping.fm to post something TO your blog if you already set up a Twitterfeed-Ping combination FROM your blog. This will create an infinite loop, which will tear a hole in the space-time continuum. This could be bad.
  4. Posterous.com:I’ve been playing with Posterous for a few months now, and really like it. It’s an email submission blog platform. Basically, you email your blog posts to your Posterous account, and it will post it for you. Your subject line is the headline, the email message is the body copy, and any photos you attach will be placed within the message. Then, you can notify your networks, just like Ping.fm, including populating your other blogs with your Posterous content, and even using bit.ly to shorten your URLs.Now, I know Blogger and WordPress both do this, but Posterous does something that the others won’t do: if you upload photos, Posterous will also send them to your Flickr and/or Picasa accounts. Upload a video, and Posterous will send it to your YouTube account.

    So, if you take some photos on your cell phone, attach them to an email, and send them to Posterous, you can send them to any special photo accounts, as well as populate your other blog feeds, which are then sent out to your Twitter, Facebook, etc.

  5. ScribeFire: This is a great blog editor that you use directly inside Firefox. Instead of going to your blog and logging in, you can open it up in Firefox, write your post, and hit upload. Rather than using a web-based interface, you can use an interface right on your computer. Both ScribeFire and Posterous are great if you have a slow Internet connection. (MacJournal is another program I’ve tried. There are Windows-based programs that do this as well.)
  6. TweetDeck: I use TweetDeck on my laptop for my Twitter communication. And when that’s all it did, it was awesome. But now TweetDeck is even awesomer, because whenever I send out a tweet, I can also send it as both a Facebook and LinkedIn update. I can also schedule tweets to take place at odd times — 1:53, 10:27 — instead of the every-5-minute intervals HootSuite limits you to. And best of all, it uses bit.ly as its default URL shortener. I can even pop a URL into TweetDeck, shorten it, and then cut it to use somewhere else. But the URL still gets pushed over to bit.y’s website where it gets included in the analytics.

While I don’t recommend automating everything you do in social media, like message creating, it’s at least a great way to lighten your load and make your life easier.

Photo credit: genewolf (Flickr)