Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why You Still Don't *Get* Social Media

There is, as I always say, a *lot* of confusion in Social Media, much of which breaks down into a few obvious categories:

1) Companies that don't understand Social Media at all and act like it's a new advertising channel.

2) Professionals that don't get Social Media and sell it like it's a new advertising channel.

3) Individuals that think Social Media is a meaningless buzzword and it's *all* confusing.

If you are one of the many people who feel like the whole Social Media thing is just...a confusing mess, then today's post is for you.

In fact, today's post is for a specific person. He's someone I know and like. He's the regional director of a large manufacturing firm. He's very smart and very successful and has a wonderful family. And he doesn't get Social Media - any of it - at all.

There are a number of excellent reasons for this. Here's the most important one:

He doesn't need Social Media.

He calls his friends. He emails his clients. He sees his family for dinner. He is the successful regional director for a large manufacturing firm and is not involved in marketing or sales. Or promotion. Or communications.

In fact, there is no reason at all for him to learn something new. He has an admin at work and kids at home. It's not critical for him to be on Facebook and see what junky stuff his friends waste time with, and Twitter is too much of stuff he doesn't care about.

My friend is not the only one who doesn't need to understand Social Media. If you are selling high-end art, for instance; Dealers, Gallery Owners, Agents, Museum Buyers *might* be amenable to a text, but you can bet that they're not playing Farmville with you.

You have to be where your audience is, where your peers are, where the people who care about what you have to say and who are saying what you have to care about, are.

Here's what you can get from Social Media even if you don't *get* Social Media:

1) News - Trade journals, professional associations, analysts can all be found on various Social Media platforms. Instead of writing a letter to the editor, your comment can be transmitted (and hopefully received, read and replied to) instantaneously.

2) Peers and Vendors - You attend trade shows to connect with peers and vendors. You can connect with them on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, etc, and have faster access to business critical information.

3) Competitors - Same as above. I dealt with this in my post about Social Media for Competitive Intelligence. The information is out there, and all you have to do to find it is follow.

4) Customers/clients - People want to know they can reach you for an answer. The great thing about Social Media is that you *can* walk away at any time. Turn off the computer, put down the phone. It's not (yet) embedded in directly your brain, so it doesn't have to take over your life...unless you want it to.

5) Friends and Family - Okay, maybe you *don't* want to know what your kids are up to, but maybe it is time to contact that cousin you never see. Social Media is a great, non-committal way to keep in touch without keeping in touch.

If you don't need any of these things, then you definitely don't need Social Media. Don't worry that you don't get it. It's not for you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Managing Change With(in) Social Media

Change, as I like to say, is the only constant.

Things change fast these days - just as soon as you've adapted to one thing, the circumstances change and you're thrown off...again.

If we look at our business without delusion, we will see that *technology* constantly changes...but solid business strategies don't really change. The key to managing change in your business can be found within Social Media.

Social Media is talking with people.

Social Media is not where or how you talk with people - it's any place or method by which you talk with them. Social Media is the name we choose for the tools we use.

Let's take Facebook as our example today. If you have a Facebook account, you know what I mean about change. It seems like every month they are moving things, changing the look, the functions, the features, everything. And *every* time they make a change, the first thing that happens is someone creates a group calling for a return to the old format!

This post isn't about Facebook as a Social Media tool - it's about Facebook as a teaching tool.

When I joined Facebook, the page was oriented horizontally. They switched that to vertical orientation and people flipped out. Why? The buttons were all still there - they all worked the same way as before. It's really very simple - people are not comfortable with change. Facebook had guides and tutorials for the new format, but the bottom line is - people do not want to bother learning new things...but they will always adapt.

This week, Facebook switched again, offering a "live news feed" and predictably, people flipped out, wondering what it was, and why it was there. Facebook could have made a better effort at explaining what the changes were meant to accomplish. (I would have suggested a popup box upon rollover that had a one-sentence explanation, if they had asked.) The problem isn't really with the specific changes, just that anything changed at all.

The faster things change, the harder people cling to keeping things the way they were.

Now, let's apply this to your business.

If you've been around for longer than a few years, you've seen a LOT of changes. Cel and smart phones, check cards, music players, Internet access, ATMs even. (Remember when you couldn't access your money from Friday night until Monday morning?) Most of these changes have made your business easier - but chances are you resisted those changes at first.

Look at your business honestly. What changes have you made that have expanded your business and what active changes have you made that have not grown your business? My guess is that technology is almost always on the "plus" side. It may not have been your choice at the time, but market pressure made you accept those changes.

Now - go to a website that you feel is "old-fashioned" or "stale." Take a long look at it. What about it makes you feel that way? Is there a lack of interactivity, or no sense of movement or change? Write down three things about that site that make you feel that it is stale.

Then go to a social media platform that has made you feel uncomfortable . It could be a closed community, like a forum you registered for, or Facebook, which changes too often to ever be comfortable. Write three things down that make you feel it's not a comfortable fit.

Take those two lists and apply them to your own business.

Does your site have a sense of change and growth? Do you shift things around in the store too often for people to be comfortable? It doesn't matter if your business is on or offline - people have one set of criteria for change. They hate it. Yes, they will accept it eventually, but you may lose people along the way. Look critically at your business. Do you make it *easy* for people to find what they want when you change things, or do you make changes and leave them to figure it out? Remember how you feel when you visited a site that's changed too much. Apply that to your online site - or your offline store.

Do yourself a favor - get a Facebook account. It can be a personal one, or for your business. It really doesn't matter. The exercise is in accepting and understanding change. Watch what they do when they change things - watch people's reaction to those changes.

Learn to accept and embrace change using Social Media, then apply those lessons to your business.

The tools may change over time, but the lessons and the strategies will always be the same.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Golden Ticket Inside Social Media

In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the eccentric candy-maker Willie Wonka hid Golden Tickets inside a select few candy bars. These tickets allowed the recipient and a guest into a world full of wonder and a lifetime supply of candy. This prompted a whirlwind of candy bar buying, followed by shortages and a Beanie Baby-like frenzy, until all the tickets were revealed.

Regularly, companies leap into the world of Social Media, expecting that they will uncover the Golden Ticket to wild success and great riches. Or they hope that a Social Media presence will spur a craze of buying and speculating in their products, as the "cool factor" kicks in.

In 1996, companies ran to build Web Sites. In 2009, companies rush to create Twitter accounts. What's the difference?


In 1996, companies sought to show how cool they were or to promote their existence by building a Web Site. Often it was no more than a tri-fold pamphlet uploaded awkwardly onto the screen. The information was one-way, there was no reason to come back after visiting once and getting the store hours. Communities on websites trickled out as it became clear that questions would remain unanswered, and registration meant spam an email newsletter in your Inbox.

Today, companies build Social Media presences that includes multi-media, but in essence are still the same one-way communications of the past. Watch this, buy that. Leave a comment, but don't expect a response, except an automated "thanks for your comment."

Despite this, there *is* a Golden Ticket inside every Social Media long as you keep a few things in mind when you make the initial candy bar:

Consumers require a closed circle of communication.

If someone asks you a question, answer it. Then go one step above that and make sure they have *all* the information they need. You can learn their general location on nearly any kind of Social Media site you're on (or you can ask.) Use this to suggest local store locations, mention late or early hours, or offer to put their name down for a reservation. It's your responsibility to make sure the gaps are filled in. You know what's needed, the consumer may not.

It's not enough to follow someone who talks about you.

It's so easy to create an automated system that searches for your keywords, then automatically follows the person who used it. But...what does that get you? It's up to you to convert that follow into a customer. Was it an one-off use of your keyword? Then make a comment to them about how it brought them to your attention. Maybe there's no real connection - but you can create one, by being real and human. (For instance, I once found myself followed by a NHL Hockey team because I used their team name. It was completely out of context, but they could have said something and made me like them, care about them, follow them back. Instead, they followed me for a while, then unfollowed when I wasn't talking about hockey. What was accomplished by that? I have no idea.)

That was the candy bar. Now it's time for the Golden Ticket.

Build your audience to build your market.

It's absolutely true that the number of friends you have on a Social Media site means next to nothing. It is also true that the number of connections you have does not have an exact relationship to sales. However, advertising has always been about saturation. The more people who see your message and the more times it is seen, the better recall people have of you, your brand and your product/service.

The more people you talk to, the more people who see you talk, the more they think of you when they are looking for something you sell.

Consumers desire more than passive participation in your brand.

When someone is a regular at a restaurant, the perq they get is feeling like one of the family. Servers know what they drink or what they like to eat, the manager knows their favorite table.

Before you build a Social Media presence, think about how you can bring that feeling to your friends/followers/connections. How can you make them feel like part of the team? After they've clicked "Become a Fan" how are you reaching out to them so that they advocate for you? Creating that kind of engagement is the crux of your Social Media strategy. *This* is the Golden Ticket inside Social Media.

When you read reports on the wildly successful use of Social Media by independent musicians, writers, artists etc., what you see is the end result of two important, distinct behaviors.

First, the artist sought out people who cared about them and their work. They built their audience incrementally, and encouraged their audience to increase it further. Music clips, pictures of works in progress, snippets of writing, all were pushed out to the audience, with encouragement to share these with their friends.

Second, these people reached out to their followers and asked them to help. They offered acknowledgement and other intangible measures of worth, along with tangible forms of recognition, like being listed in the liner notes of the next album.

By encouraging people to share and by asking for help, they turned their audience into their "team."

Giving your audience attention is the candy bar - letting them be one of your team is the Golden Ticket, and the path to long-term success and a lifetime of candy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Short Case Study of Wasted Social Media Opportunity

When a company finally comes around to the decision that Social Media is worth the effort, there are many questions that have to be addressed in order to develop an *effective* strategy. However, instead of focusing on how to use Social Media, companies often run invest in over-complex, under-utilized systems, when all that's really needed is a simple, clear strategy. Today's post is a look at an example of a wasted Social Media opportunity.

I'm currently in Salem, MA, where I find I've run into a little problem - I can't get a decent cup of coffee. After trying coffee at a number of locations, I'm beginning to despair. I turned to Twitter, to reach out to locals that might be in my network. Within seconds I received a simple, direct answer from the Hawthorne Hotel. They said that they stand by their coffee. Cost to them? 30 seconds of time. We immediately decided to give them a try.

But, when we arrived to partake of this decent coffee, the maitre d' couldn't find us a seat in a half-empty dining room. We were told that they were booked, and if we waited more than an hour, they might be able to squeeze us in.

It was such a brilliant example of why Social Media Strategy needs to be planned. Did last night's message need to come with a warning to reserve a table? Did the Hotel tweeter need to check w/the restaurant first? Clearly there was a massive disconnect between the one and the other. And the loss was more than just two meals - if we had loved that coffee, we might have been back over and over. And I might have raved on all my Social Media spaces, driving more business to them.

I've seen this before - Social Media that offers with one hand, and reality that takes away with the other. Before you tell your viewers to "Fan us on our Facebook Page" think about what you will be offering them - what is their motivation to be your "Fan"? Will you offer enough to keep them there? And if you run a promotional campaign through that space, will they get what you're offering?

It may be true that "If you build it they will come," but on Social Media you're going to want to know what you are building and what your customers will see when they get there. Otherwise, it's a wasted opportunity.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Social Media for Comptetitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence: the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing Intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization.

I have spent two decades gathering Competitive Intelligence from public sources and I have to tell you, with so many companies jumping on the Social Media bandwagon, this is the best possible time to know your competitors like you know yourself.

A skilled and experienced Competitive Intelligence (CI) professional will use sources other than those in the public domain of course, but, without hiring a CI professional, there's still a great deal of information out there for you to discover. I don't want to tell you that CI is easy, because it's not. It takes some work and you need to look at yourself and your business critically. But here's a few thoughts to getting a better snapshot of the bigger picture.

Know Your Competitors

Whatever industry you're in, you have competitors. Even if you make a truly unique widget, you are competing against makers of other, less unique widgets. Some of these widgets will be made by companies that are ubiquitous and have instantly recognizable names. Some widget companies are the flavor of the month, and you'll need to get through all the noise of the buzz of those widgets before anyone might hear about yours.

Take a delusion free look at your business. If you run a local diner, in theory you are competing against the Starbucks across the street. But when you really look at your clientèle - are they the same people who visit Starbucks for a half-caf mocha frappachino? Or are they totally different people, who come in for a cup of coffee, a fried egg, toast and to read the newspaper before work? Yes, you should keep an eye on Starbucks, but also know your *real* competition - which may be the McDonalds down the road. If you run a small business software company, you *are* competing against Microsoft - just not directly.

List your top three competitors...these are companies that sell the same thing you do the same way you do. Players in the field that have resources beyond your wildest dreams are not really your competition - they are your benchmarks.

Follow Your Competitors

Once you've made this list of competition, direct and indirect, start hitting the boards. Visit their websites, check out their news, subscribe to their RSS feeds, their Twitter feeds, their mailing lists - then READ them. They will tell you about deals with other companies, upcoming projects and investments they receive and publishers they use. A list of potential resources, ideas and contacts will be handed to you on a plate - because if a company is doing anything, they will talk about it. Some companies, especially large ones in regulated industries, will report only what they have to, but the more regulated an industry is - the more they have to.

In largely unregulated industries and/or private companies, you may need to read a lot of press releases before seeing a pattern. That pattern may or may not be valuable to you now, but chances are it will be eventually.

When you find yourself in a similar situation, it is smart to reflect on the kinds of press and the sources your benchmark companies use to sing the praises of their newest product. Use their standards to push your own forward.

None of this is online dumspter diving, although that is possible. For more detailed Competitive Intelligence on your industry and competitors, hire a CI professional to do the dirty work. These two above steps are the minimum amount of Competitive Intelligence you can do and still, if you do this regularly, you'll find that you have a much stronger grasp of your own business and your industry.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On Social Media, Strangers are Following You....

After a number of recent conversations with people who are wary of Social Media, it occurred to me that something important had never been said to these people.

When you use Social Media, people you don't know will begin to listen to you...and that's a *good* thing.

You want this. This is the way you build your audience. The more you talk with people, the more people will talk with you.

Here's a few Dos and Don'ts for effective Social Media relationship-building


1) Let People You Don't Know Follow You.

Don't waste time going through your Followers/Fans/Friends/Connections weeding out people you don't know. Every single new face is an opportunity. (Spammers are an exception, but unless they are actively filling your inbox or feed with ads, ignore them.)

2) Follow People You Do Not Know

Take five minutes one morning and type in your business keywords into the Twitter or Facebook or MySpace search. Look for people who talk about your keywords and groups that are interested in your keywords....even competitors in your space. Friend/follow them. You want to be able to at least *listen* to what they have to say. Consider it free competitive intelligence.

Every person you connect with/friend/follow is a new relationship waiting to be built. Perhaps a new sale down the line. Perhaps a new vendor. You won't know until you talk with them.

3) Jump Into Conversations

Don't worry that it seems kind of rude to answer a Tweet from one person to another person. It's perfectly fine to jump in and add some comment of value. In fact, it's a great way to meet more than one person at a time, if a number of folks are in that conversation.

4) Turn Off Email Notifications

One of the most vexing things about Social Media is the way that every little comment, response and event clutters up your email box. Before you jump into significant Social Media use, turn those notifications off. Use Facebook to get your Facebook notifications, and Twitter to see your feed. Keep these out of your email box and you're guaranteed to have less clutter in your Social Media life.


1) Fear the unknown.

In Social Media, the unknown is your friend. It's is the legendary "white space" of ideas, of connections, of relationships. You don't yet know who you will meet, or what ideas you will get, and you won't know, unless you fearlessly jump into conversations and try it out.

2) Keep things tidy.

Too many companies want to control what kinds of things that can be seen on their Social Media space. They don't follow people, so the only communications are theirs. This creates a sterile, unfriendly environment. Let people talk! Let them chat amongst themselves and when you need to weigh in with clarification or comment - do. Social Media is not a hospital lab, it's a playground. Get dirty. Make mud pies...and friends.

Social Media is a conversation. When you talk, people will talk with and listen to you. Talk more, listen more. Don't try to keep your feed/page noise free. Encourage noise and encourage signal. Engage your followers/fans and encourage them to engage with you.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Social Media Strategy vs Social Media Tactics

My first post here was a parable about Social Media ROI. It's a pretty knotty problem for most Social Media specialists, because marketing and advertising were driven by a broadcast model for so long that quantifying even qualitative measurements was a relatively simple task.

In the broadcast model, the numbers are simple. It cost $X to make an ad, $Y to buy ad space in a chosen media and there are Z numbers of readers or viewers. These will convert into ABC number of sales/other metric.

When the online model was developed, the number were based on the broadcast model - the more eyeballs that saw the ad, the more visits and sales. That's the first mistake.

The other mistake is conflating advertising, public relations and social media.

Advertising is bought space or time on a media outlet with the sole purpose of promoting something. It is clearly a commercial relationship. No one expects ads from a company to be anything more than a one-way form of communication. Ads with "interactive" features still don't talk back to you when you have a question.

Public relations is a two way form of communications...but in two parts. The first part is one way - the company to you. They put out a standard message - it might be slightly customized for different formats or audiences, but the Press Release is a relatively standard message. As a result, you may want to contact the company. There can be a two-way dialog as a result of PR, but it starts off as a one-way communication. Think of it this way - there is no space for comments at the bottom of a typical press release.

These two methods are so ingrained in American business that it's hard to imagine that there's another way of communicating.

Social media is another way of communicating. It's a strategy for communicating.

Social media is not advertising. Your social media profiles can *contain* advertising, just like your website can. You can advertise on social media platforms. These are two good ways to monetize and partner. But if your social media strategy starts with driving people to your Fan Page on Facebook and all they get when they go there is press releases, you're going to find that you might have a lot of fans - but no real audience. "Fan"ning a page is not a commitment. And advertisement on Facebook is a tactic. The time you take to engage with Fans on your Facebook page is a tactic. The decision to engage with those people - that's a strategy.

Social media is not public relations. You can certainly put up links to press releases and other public announcements on your Twitter feed but, when questions come in, you need to have someone there who can respond to them. Otherwise, you've missed the boat. Deciding how you talk with people on Twitter is a strategy - the amount of time you take to talk with them is a tactic.

Tactics, like banner advertising, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, ads on Social Media platforms should be measured. If there is no out-of-pocket cost, it still takes time. Time you spend on LinkedIn, time you spend at professional associations - all of these can - and should - be measured. There is an ROI because time and money are invested. Set your goals, your performance indicators and make sure that you are measuring something meaningful. Your number of followers or fans may not be as meaningful as you think. Try measuring the number of Retweets or Shares you get. Think of them the same way you do number of hits vs visitors on a website. The first isn't really a meaningful measure.

Your strategy needs to have a benefit analysis. Cost in time and money vs what you think you'll get out of it - your tactics are what you are going to measure to make sure that that analysis is true.

Look for ROI in the right places and set your goals accordingly and Social Media will be a no-brainer!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Congratulations! It's a Blog! Part 2

In Congratulations! It's a Blog! Part 1, we covered WHY you might want to blog and WHERE. Today we're going to touch on the real meat of the matter - WHAT to blog.

Remember, you need to have something to say. Here's a few ideas for keeping your blog relevant to your business and interesting to your readers.

Give your customers insight into your expertise.

Let's say you are a landscaping specialist. You have knowledge about plants, about sustainability, about climate and about terrain. These will all make great content for short, pithy posts in a blog. If you are not the wordy kind, you can show before and after pictures - maybe you can share some of your concept sketches.

Communicate the unique qualities of your business.

You've got a band and you're getting some good local press. Now it's time to ratchet up that social media profile and really sell yourselves. Provide examples of what makes your music, your sound, your look unique. You could highlight the charisma of your lead, the sultry sexiness of the bass player and the polyrhythmic skills of the drummer with video and stills. Downloads and merchandise are a great way to get your name out and build your brand.

Be the expert you are.

You know the ins and outs of your business better than anyone. And there is nothing that people like better than a glimpse behind the wizard's curtain. Open up your workshop, talk about the creative process, or the fabricating process. Let people see how you do what you do and they will respect you even more for knowing what goes into it.

You are not being graded.

One of the nice things about blogs is that you can be you. Typos can be fixed, syntactical errors become your very own down-home earthy style. Sure, it's no good to put incoherent ramblings out there - although that *can* get you a readership! - but you don't have to worry that it's not worthy of your sixth-grade English teacher.

Write what you know, the way you know it. Talk to your readers the way you talk.

In short - Be Yourself.

Talk with your readers, open up a dialogue through comments and ask questions and soon you'll have more than enough to write about. And, at that point, you'll have a really vital, unique and worthwhile blog for your business.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Congratulations! It's a Blog! Part 1

If you've been anywhere online these days, you know that blogs are one of the most popular segments of the Social Media world. And if you are running any kind of business, you've probably been told, "You should have a blog!"

As with so many pieces of good advice, this is really quite useless unless you know what that actually means to you.

Let's back up. Blogs started about 10 years ago. The original idea was that a "web log" would be like a diary, only instead of it being kept in the back of your desk drawer with an ineffective lock, it would be available online for other people to read.

And, for about 4 years, that's where they stayed.

Blogs through the early part of the 00's were mostly written by young people. They often included information like "Mood" and "What I'm listening to." From OpenDiary through Xanga to LiveJournal (which is so far off the radar of most Social Media gurus that few have ever heard of it...but it is nonetheless quite popular) and right on up through MySpace, which became popular precisely because it combined the popularity of diary-like blogs, real-time communication and multimedia.

Although blogs are often still perceived as being no more than kiddie diaries, almost as soon as they were taking off, they were being turned towards more business-oriented use. Reviewers, subject experts, small businesses, artists, musicians all turned to this new technology to reach out to a thinly and widely-spread audience. An uploaded MP3 could reach listeners who would never make a local gig; a book review might be read by anyone, anywhere in the world; and someone looking for custom-made shoes might happen upon your blog about...custom-made shoes.

So, now let's take a look at your business. You don't really want to blog about your mood (unless you are therapist) or what music you're listening to (unless you run a record store.) What you want to write about is *your business.*

Before we begin to talk about WHAT to blog, let's talk about WHY you should blog.

You should blog if you have something to say.

I get this alot, "I know I should blog but...."

Should you blog? Don't assume you should just because other people do.

Blogs are work. They take time - even short blogs take time. If you want to represent your business, starting a blog then never updating it looks worse than having no blog. It casts doubt on your ability to follow through with a project. It looks half-assed.

You should definitely blog if you have a unique perspective that you want to share with people. For instance....this blog, SocialOptimized. There are a zillion "experts" in the field of Social Media. Most of them are so caught up in trends and jargon that it's impossible to understand them without a MBA. Worse, few of them remember that you have *no idea what they are talking about.* On this blog I walk back to where you are and guide you forward into Social Media without jargon or delusion. It's a completely unique perspective that I wanted to share. So...I started a blog! :-)

Right now, think of three things about your business you might want to talk to someone about. The process of mixing a perfume, the challenges of video editing, the joy of teaching someone to read. If you can think of three things, you can probably blog. If you stared at that sentence and came up with nothing...then maybe a blog just isn't for you. There's many other ways to get information across - you can have a gallery, a video, a podcast....don't worry. Not everyone's meant to blog.

Once you'd decided that you can make the time commitment to blog regularly, the next question you might have is WHERE should you put the blog.

The real answer is - it doesn't matter. But again, that's not helpful to you.

Look up "blog" on Google and you're going to hit the two big blog hosting sites right away - Blogger and Wordpress. Blogger is a little easier to set up, I think. As a downside, it has less customization, less "widgets," available. Wordpress is a little bit more complicated, but there are more things you can do with it.

People will tell you that one or the other is better for Search Engine Optimization. Do not listen to them. That is useless information when you are deciding where to set up a blog. And, more importantly, good content will provide good search engine results. We'll talk keywords later...right now, just pick the site that you like best because, for the moment, customization isn't the point. Your point is the point.

Register for an account.

This one is easy - just follow the steps on the site.

Pick a name for your blog

This step is not easy. You can be clever, use your business' name, your own name, whatever you choose, but you must recognize that this blog is part of your brand identity now. Choose carefully.

Pick a focus for your blog - i.e., know what your blog is about.

This step is also not as easy as it sounds. It's tempting to come up with a vague idea, i.e. "The life of a printer," but then you don't really know what you are blogging about. This blog is an expression of your brand and it should, at the core, support and promote your business - especially if your business is you.

Go ahead and write about the life of a printer, but remember not to give in to temptation and badmouth clients, or talk about that wild party you went to last night unless you are the premier printer for rock bands and it'll help, not hurt.

Pick a look for your blog.

All of the major blog hosting sites have standard designs, and you can choose from some custom designs. (These usually live under the name "Templates" in the Formatting section of your blog setup.) It's as easy as clicking a few buttons to get a new look. If you want a format that is more integrated with your business's overall look, you'll need to bring in a designer to help you figure out what you want.

Whether you choose Blogger or Wordpress or LiveJournal or any blogging platform, read the step-by-step instructions on how to set up your blog. There are also many Blog Tutorials out there that you can access easily through a search engine of choice.

To sum up, first think - then rethink - WHY you want to blog. Then decide WHERE you want to blog. And to finish off today, consider WHEN you will have time to blog and HOW OFTEN you plan on maintaining it.

Once you have these before-the-basics down, congratulations, it's a blog!

We'll move on to WHAT and HOW to blog in Part II.

Project Wonderful