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Bit.Ly for link shortening - it's fascinating stuff!

I've been somewhat sceptical about the usefulness and security of URL shortening sites. Firstly, while I was still getting my head around Twitter, URL shortening just seemed like a pain in arse thing I had to do to fit something into that damn 140 character limit. How naive!  Without the shortened URL presentation, most twitter posts and now, any other microblogging posts which is becoming massively popular, would be a mess. It would make the task of data sorting and searching exponentially more arduous.

The other thing which I LOVE is the tracking of click through's on shortened URL's, and for me, Bit.ly is the best I've seen. It really is interesting to test and see which topics, trends or formats get the most clicks. 

The final main point was security. What happens if one of the thousand of URL shrinking companies goes out of business? I have heard this chewed over by Leo Laporte, Jason Calacanis, Gina Trippani and others many a time, and rightly so. I think the fact that Twitter has pretty much picked Bit.Ly as its golden child of URL shortening partners makes this not only the most enjoyable choice, but also the safest too, in my opinion.

Give it a try...

Blog post short cuts and time savers that work!

If you're anything like me, you've got no attention span and even less free time, so sitting down to write a lengthy, wordy essay style blog is often the last thing you'll want to face. Of course, content is absolutely the king. It cannot be denied. The search engines lust for it, your readers are hungry for it, you know it's your job as a blogger to provide it.

So how can you "short-circuit" the whole thing? and does it work? Well, yes - it can and does.

That is, posting multimedia content embeds that you can easily source through Youtube, Vimeo or most video hosting sites. You consume, find something that you feel is compelling, relevant and of significant value to your target audience. You pass it on and even better, give your opinion, comment or narrative on the content.

You are fulfilling some of the cardinal rules of successful social media participation - sharing other people's content (not just promoting your own), and providing an expert or informed opinion on content and issues that resonates with people.

And guess what? The search engines love it! Sometimes they even think more of it than posting "standard" content.

I already mentioned one way, Youtube, to find such multimedia content. Other resources include Flickr, for still photographs, or niche specific sites, such as Fidgetstick/, Mpora.TV, Freecaster.TV and Extreme.com that have loads of action, adventure and extreme sports media to share.

To really get the search engine juices flowing, make sure your comments and narrative include keywords relating to the post subject and relevant to your audience and their search terms.

If you really want to establish maximum momentum with minimum effort, you can pull together 6 or 7 posts and use your blogs publishing mechanism to pre-schedule your posts every day. It may take 1 hour to get a weeks worth of posts researched, built and ready to roll.

How about that?

So a summary from the insightful blog post of the same subject by Michelle MacPhearson, you can increase your traffic rankings by;

  1. Writing & publishing new, quality content on your site more often
  2. Publishing multimedia content to your blog more often

So, what are you waiting for?

Social Media tools for your Business - Part 1 - Facebook

Choosing Social Media tools for you or your business, it's a real minefield. there are many right ways and there are many wrong ways. The fun bit, is that while one thing may be right for one person or company, that may not apply to another person. Hmmmm. So where to start? We certainly can't tell where to finish - wow what a minefield of hypotheses that would be (maybe another post there, I think...). Let's look at my online presence as an example....

OK, so you've got me here, on Blogger {note: now squarespace}. This is where my main blog is hosted. But as you'll come to learn, successful social media strategy does not rely on an "all eggs in one basket" approach. In fact, quite the opposite and the key is ensuring that your profile is being seen by the right mix of volume and relevance. No, that's not the name of a new drum 'n bass setup, but I mean the difference between 'generic mass market' and 'targeted niches'.

For instance, and I'll use these examples a fair bit because they're the talk of the town at the moment, you will undoubtedly invest in a Facebook and a Twitter profile. Why? Because they get the most hits, they are the most talked about and they are sooo easy to use. But as everyone else is doing the same thing, it will take some considerable time and/or money and/or luck to make it pay - in the traditional sense. I'm not saying you shouldn't invest that time and money, but you should do it wisely and with a wider strategic Social Media plan in mind.

So, I have these pages;

Facebook
Twitter

I mainly use Facebook as a personal page, to keep in contact with old and current friends. I have a Fan Page and a Group page for Fidgetstick/ here too;

Fidgetstick/ on Facebook - Fan page, Group page

To be honest, because I mainly use Facebook for personal reasons, I haven't spent much time using it to promote my business. Sometimes there's a fine line between business and personal use that's hard to distinguish. And that's important. In my opinion, that's something that makes Facebook a very difficult nut to crack in terms promoting your business as most of the sites users are simply there to talk about what they're doing at the weekend, where they went at the weekend, and whether they are drunk or sober or a bit of both.

However, you can get it right and your message can reverberate like wildfire within the Facebook community. There have been some great case studies of how Facebook can be used - this is a nice article by Callan Green on the website www.mashable.com, which looks at 5 good examples of Facebook fan page use, from Pringles, Coca Cola, Starbucks, Adidas and Red Bull.

Now, obviously all of these guys are big name household brands. Arguably, they have just got to create a Fan Page to automatically get a hundred thousand "Fans". Your small, medium or even large sized business isn't so fortunate. The difference here, and what Callan rightly points out, is that it's not so much the fact they have a page - but it's what they do with it that makes them ultimately successful in their own right, and oddly enough, each in slightly different ways.

For instance, the Pringles fan page stands out because of it's interesting video media content. People love a good video or photos or music and that's something you can learn from as it's so accessible by all, with sites like vimeo & youtube, affordable hardwear such as camera phones, helmet cams, waterproof cams, handheld HDD cams - you don't have any excuses and you can capture some amazing footage from your own personal experiences. As a result, my last count showed Pringles had over 2 million followers, and once they've popped, they just can't stop. I'm sorry. I couldn't help it.

The Red Bull fan page is also interesting, as Callan points out. Being quite close to home for me, this is a particularly interesting case study of how a brand who knows its target audience can maximise the effectiveness of social media to take user engagement to the next level. And in such a simple manner, it's beauty is in it's clean and relaxed but humorous approach, not taking itself too seriously in the process. And that's important too.

Another lesson to learn from Red Bull is how stepping outside of the vanilla "one size fits all" template that Facebook provides can really generate interest. One example that Callan highlights is the Twitter integration that, in itself is not uncommon, but Red Bull have gone a few miles further and brought in the twitter feeds of some of their popular riders, snow and skateboarders - such as Shaun White and Ryan Sheckler. So not only are Red Bull trying to get yuo to visit their page, they actively want you to leave and find something else that you'll find interesting and engaging.

And that's the point, your task doesn't stop with getting any old Tom, Dick or Harry to find you. You want Tom - who rides DH in the summer, frequents the board parks of Avoriaz in the winter and loves copying SW's latest tricks and fashion trends. Harry, his brother, surf's Biarritz in between backpacking trips around the States and Thailand. He's been bungee jumping and does spear fishing. He loves buying kit and has a shed full of it back home.

You don't want Dick. He's just not interested. He plays chess. But the fact is, any of these people can find you on Facebook and unless you are relevant and specific to your target audience, you may just find yourself with a Dick, so to speak. And more than that, 100,000 Dicks are useless. OK, this is running away with me now, but you get the point.

So by all means create a Facebook page, at the very least you should capture your businesses URL. Be prepared to invest considerable time and effort into consistently building relevant content that your target audience would find interesting, funny and useful.

Next blog, we'll take a look at the other main example I mentioned earlier - Twitter