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Changes they are a’coming

Changes are part of life.  We don’t grow if we don’t change and Linda’s Business Blog is now at a new home. I’ve moved to Linda C Smith Fine Art dot com.

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The value of having a blog on your business website

I think the time has come for home business owners to consider having an internet presence if they don’t already; and at the very least -but most important – should be a webpageSimply put a webpage “…is a document connected to the World Wide Web and viewable by anyone connected to the internet who has a web browser….”

Couldn’t be simpler, right? It’s akin to putting up a roadside sign promoting your business.  In the real world the roadside sign lets people who don’t normally travel in your neighborhood know your business exists.  If the sign is a good one, the sign will tell you what the business’ name is, what the business is about [produce, auto parts, tax preparation], where the business is located [address, phone number],  and when the business is open [times/days of operation].

Your webpage roadside sign can tell passersby the same information plus much more.  It is the signage that introduces your business and it is the front door.  The web traveler who finds your business webpage will be able to see on the “home page” all the pertinent information much as the roadside sign does, but it also invites the person into the business.  Your site could be informational only, such as the example of the company for which my brother works – Delegata, or it can be its own storefront, such as the Oakland Chocolate Company.

I think one good addition to a business webpage is a blog. Again simply put, a blog is an ongoing, chronological conversation between the author and the reader.  Simply put.  So why have a blog on your business webpage?  Some of the value points include:

  • Interaction with customers and prospective customers – if you allow the comments feature on the blog posts, you can get feedback from your readers; be aware some of it might be negative, but all feedback has value.
  • Staying engaged with your business – having a blog on your business website brings you to your site on a regular basis; I think the value to that is (a) it allows you to keep the page(s) updated and (b) lets you see what your customers and readers see…over time you may want to tweak the site for better accessibility – always remember that there is global competition out there.
  • Product info and product/customer stories – you can use your blog to give customers/users helpful information about the products in a fuller way than simple catalog-like listings can give.  You can also relate helpful stories (the positive ones) that customers send you – sometimes a customer comes up with a unique use for a product that is worth sharing.
  • History of your business – people like to know the origins of a business – who started it, why and where; also, perhaps the history of the products or aspects of the products themselves.  Two really good examples of this are an interesting website I found while researching ancient mosaic art, Mosaics in Greece that has a page giving the history of mosaics…it’s short and sweet; and one at the Winsor & Newton website which has quite a bit of historical information.
  • Added value: a blog is a great place to give your customers and prospective customers added value such as: a) ideas for use of products – this could include recipes or hints and tips; b) industry trends and other information.

There is one caution about writing a blog – be careful of making unsubstantiated claims about your products or services.  A silly example: you have a home-based business selling vitamins.  You are an independent distributor and have a webpage to which you added a blog.  In a post you make claims for your vitamins, like they “cure” disease.  Unless you can provide research data and other “official” proof, making this kind of claim can get you in hot water.  My advice is to stick with the warm fuzzies about your products.  Rather than making claims, tell your readers why vitamins are important.  Give your readers information about nutrition and the benefits of taking care of yourself.

If you don’t have a website, you can get one at online sites such as GoDaddy.com – which by the way, has its own blog.  You can design your own site or hire it done.  Learning to blog just takes a bit of work.  One good resource is ProBlogger.com.

A tip: once you get your business webpage established and start your blog, “Twitter” each post…it will drive more traffic to your blog and more people will learn of your business.

 

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Writing for Technorati-that’s new and so is it

The new Technorati still has some bugs to work out, but it looks promising.  I’m excited to announce that I’ve been accepted as one of their writers…people who write articles on their favorite topics either just for Technorati or to be seen there first – before it appears anywhere else.  My first exclusive-to-Technorati article was published over the weekend and can be found here.  As I do on this blog, I will be writing articles about business, small business and home-based business.

Don’t know what Technorati is?  According to the Technorati Blog, dated October 14, the new T is a “…re-launch of a wholly new Technorati.com. Technorati was founded to help people find great blog content….” When I first discovered it about two years ago, I understood it to be a blog directory – a place to use much like an internet search engine, to find blogs to read in categories of my choosing.  And so it was.  Then I also discovered Alltop, which also is a terrific directory: “…The purpose of Alltop is to help you answer the question, ‘What’s happening?’ in ‘all the topics’ that interest you….” It has a cool feature where you can have a page that lists blogs and sites that you like to read.  My Alltop page is here.

As I’ve said on my “About” page on this blog, I believe information is key and it is very helpful to have sites such as Technorati [the new] and Alltop and other blog directories that help you sift and sort the millions of blogs and words to find what you need.  Everything new has bugs and fits and starts…so I’m hoping that blog readers and writers everywhere will join me in having patience with the New Technorati as it gets its beta version off the ground.

George of my jungle

George of my jungle

Speaking of having patience…George, my 5-year old Amazon parrot insists upon “helping” me this morning!  He likes to “shop” on my desktop to see what he can snatch…today it ended up being some green sticky notes.

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Chiming in about Climate Change-a preview from California

Check out this cool photo I found at PicApp.com that was shot from my hometown!

[picapp src=”7/0/7/b/Amgen_Tour_of_f203.jpg?adImageId=5180538&imageId=5305884″ width=”380″ height=”258″ /]

On Thursday of this week every blogger on the globe can write a post having something to do with Climate Change.  Go to Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change.  You can find out more about it here, register your blog, get badges, get post ideas and more.  Right now, there are over 5,000 bloggers already pledged, representing over 10 million readers…this is pretty awesome.  This is my preview…I live within view of windmills…lots and lots of windmills.  I can stand right out on my driveway and see windmills.  Wind power is a good thing.  However it does come at  a cost.  There are far fewer raptors in our area.  This is what I’ll be posting about on Thursday.  What will you post about?

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Calling all Bloggers-chime in about Climate Change

Do you author a blog?  Doesn’t matter the category or what you write about, but I’ve come across a truly globally unifying event that every blogger on the planet can write about.  On October 15th, just 18 days from now [counting today], everyone can write a post about climate change.

  It’s called Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change.  You can find out more about it here, register your blog, get badges, get post ideas and more.  Right now, there are several thousand bloggers already pledged…this is pretty awesome.  I live in northern California, about 45 minutes from San Francisco.  We’re far enough away from the coast to not have the cool air from the ocean relieve the heat; it’s been a very hot summer.  It’s been a challenge to be a good citizen environmentally and to not run the air conditioner all the time; not overwater our lawn…in fact, I’m considering changes in our landscaping to cut down on watering.  We live in site of windmill farms and I understand the need for alternative fuel; we also live in one of the most heavily trafficked highways in the country.

Climate Change is a very big deal.  Let’s all address this issue as citizens of the world on October 15th by writing something on our blogs.  Then be sure to Twitter it and link it to your other social media sites.  Spreading the word to help the world…that’s one way in which we all can contribute.

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Meet Natalie MacNeil, media producer, consultant, entrepreneur, speaker and more

I recently met Natalie MacNeil via the internet.  What a marvelous thing this is, the internet!  I can remember when it was a very big deal to be able to go somewhere that had web connectivity and be able to get into a university database as a new way to do research.  I lived here, the university was there but the internet allowed me access I would not otherwise have had.  Same is true with meeting so many interesting and fascinating people on this globe we call home.  I’ve met people from all over the world.  In my art work life, last year I met a young woman who lived in an eastern European country who was complaining about the 5 p.m. gridlock in her city…and that it made getting home to her daughter a time consuming thing.  I could relate as I live in a very traffic congested area of California.

Natalie MacNeil lives in Canada and wears many hats.  Natalie is a media producer and consultant, specializing in online media and marketing.  Her impressive roster of roles is best seen at her website here.  She graciously agreed to this interview.

Natalie MacNeil

Natalie MacNeil

Q: Natalie, I love the signature in your email where you put as your title, “new media producer.”  I take it by “new media” that you are referring to the internet and online experiences in the film and television industry?

Natalie: Yes, by new media I mean blogs, social communities, interactive websites, social media, and online marketing campaigns. These projects may or may not be in the film and television industry and some of the projects I work on are for other companies while others, like my blog and network for young entrepreneurs, are my own projects.

Q: You’ve mentioned to me that the website for the television show, “The Listener,” is one of your projects – how did you get involved?

Natalie: I worked with a company called My Pet Skeleton Productions and we were responsible for designing the look and feel of the interactive website. It turned out really well. I hope everyone will get a chance to check it out.  I got involved with My Pet Skeleton Productions because it is owned by a good friend of mine, Vincent Marcone.  He and I have been working on a lot of projects together lately because our interests are aligned and our skill sets are complimentary, which makes us a great team. The project we’ve been working on most recently is Hana’s Suitcase Online, an interactive experience that compliments the book and documentary.  It’s a project our whole team is really proud of.

Q: From your unique perspective, what is the future of a marriage between the entertainment industry and the internet?

Natalie: The entertainment industry has really been affected by online distribution and the ones that will come out on top are the ones that embrace online media and discover new ways of reaching fans and consumers online.  There was a time when music companies did not want to distribute music online and then they had no choice because that’s where consumers were getting their music.   The big television networks are now playing television shows online and I’m sure more film companies will eventually use the internet to distribute movies as well since not many currently do. The marriage between the entertainment industry and the internet goes far beyond distribution too.  These companies need to leverage social media, blogging, and creatively use interactive online marketing and build experiences around the music, show, or film.  We are going to continue seeing drastic changes in the entertainment industries.  My high school business teacher used to say, “Times are a-changing and companies better learn to be leaner and meaner and play harder and smarter…” and that is definitely true of the entertainment industry -and any business for that matter.

Q: What do you like best about your business?

Natalie: I have always been an entrepreneur and I started my business when I was still a student.  I promised myself that I would focus on building my own company after finishing university rather than taking a corporate job.  I love being my own boss and creating the future I want.  I like having that freedom and knowing that the harder I work, the more successful I will be.  The other thing I like about my business is that online media keeps growing as an industry and we constantly get to push the limits.

Q: You balance your business, a successful blog, social media interactions, philanthropy, not to mention travel and a personal life…how do you do it?

Natalie: I am very organized! I use my Google Calendar and BlackBerry to manage my schedule.  I also work with great teams that contribute to whatever project it is that I’m working on.  Surrounding yourself with the right people is a very important part of business.  In the interviews I have done with entrepreneurs, many will credit the people they work with as being the most important contributing factor to their success.

Q: Why did you start your blog, “She Takes On The World?”

She Takes On The World - great blog!

She Takes On The World - great blog!

Natalie: I started She Takes On The World as more of a personal blog since I was traveling a lot and I was involved in some very interesting things.  As I neared the completion of my university degree and my business was my main focus, the blog naturally evolved into more of a business and entrepreneurship blog.  I’m motivated by the fact that women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men.  My goal is to inspire and empower these women business owners through She Takes On The World.

Q: Guy Kawasaki, in his book, The Art of the Start, says this about an entrepreneur:

  • “…The truth is that no one really knows if he is an entrepreneur until he becomes one-and sometimes not even then. There really is only one question you should ask yourself before starting any new venture: Do I want to make meaning?…”

What’s your definition of an “entrepreneur?”

Natalie: I really like Guy’s definition about making meaning.  To me, that is what entrepreneurship is all about -making meaning and creating change.  I view entrepreneurs as change agents.  If I had to define entrepreneurship it would be with this George Bernard Shaw quote: “Some look at things that are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”

Q: Why is it important to you to be involved with young entrepreneurs?

Natalie: Generation Y is a pretty entrepreneurial generation and I believe Generation Z will be even more entrepreneurial.  When I was starting my first business I had a basic support system but it would have been beneficial to have access to more resources and help.  I get involved with young entrepreneurs because I want to make sure they have a strong support system to make their business a success.  GarageEntrepreneurs.com, launching later this month, is all about being part of that support system for young entrepreneurs.

Q: Last question: If I were a young entrepreneur and I were to ask you: should I blog or not blog?  What would be your answer?

Natalie: BLOOOOG! 🙂 My blog has been a great promotional tool for my business and personal brand.  I have received so many incredible opportunities through my blog.  I consider blogging to be an essential part of marketing a business today.

Thank you to Natalie for her willingness to share a bit of her life with others.  I hope the readers of Linda’s Business Blog will check all the sites annotated in this interview and see exactly what Natalie has going on…it’s new and exciting.

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One way home business can use Facebook

I haven’t written about internet marketing previous to this…but thought I’d jump in with one small way in which a home-based business might utilize Facebook.  I don’t think I need to iterate what Facebook is…it’s been around long enough.  But what you might not know is what value it might have for you, the home-based business owner.

This was brought to mind this morning by an article in the business section of my newspaper which talks about “Facebook privacy to tighten.”  [This article has to do with third-party applications access to Facebook member info.]  However, it got me to thinking about Facebook and business.

I have a couple of recommendations to home-based business owners as to marketing their business using the internet:

  • have a presence on Facebook
  • have a LinkedIn account
  • have a Twitter account
  • write a blog about your business
  • if appropriate have either (a) a website for your business you’ve designed yourself, or (b) a replicated business website that is provided by the company you represent [this is the case with many direct selling companies – you are an independent contractor, but are prohibited from developing your own website for their products; however for a small fee, you can have a website developed by the parent company that links to and benefits your individual business.]
  • write articles and submit to Ezinearticles for instance

Each of these has a value, but I wanted to talk about Facebook in this post.  If you are utilizing all the above for your business as part of your internet marketing strategy, then everything must link back to a “home base.”  I’m going to suggest that your home base is either your business website, or your business blog.  You have to have somewhere you want people to end up so that they can either:

  • get information about your business
  • purchase product or services from your business
  • communicate with you about your business

If you have a Facebook account, there are a couple of ways you can do this.  The profile feature allows you to talk about yourself, give contact information and list websites to visit.  For the purpose of your business, have this account be just that: business.  Don’t load it up with games and trivia.  Make it very easy for someone to see that you have a business and where you can be found on the internet and how you can be contacted.

If you write a blog, there is an application that will put the new title of your latest blog post into the status update of your Facebook account.  There is also an application that will put the post in its entirety in the “notes” section of your profile so that people can read it there.  You can also link your Twitter updates to your Facebook account.  At a glance, someone looking at your Facebook profile could:

  • see that you are a business person and have a business
  • get a description of your business
  • find a website address for your online business presence
  • get the latest status update of your business – whether you’ve updated a status via Twitter [for instance just released a new product and you “tweeted” about that] and/or you have a new blog post related to your business
  • if you made it available, they could see an email address and/or phone number to contact you

Facebook offers ways to relate to other Facebook users through “friend” acquisition, joining or starting groups, making comments in groups…building relationships.

Doing business utilizing internet marketing techniques and tools requires coordination.  Know why you would use any application and know where you want the viewer to end up and why…do you want to inform them?  Give them access to an online store?  Know your business and know your reason.  And my advice is to include Facebook as one of your tools.  [this is just my advice, not an endorsement]

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