After reading about how various indie musicians promote themselves in a NY Times magazine article this past weekend, and meeting Scott Ginsberg for the first time, I have a series of Web 2.0 epiphanies.
Ginsberg is the Nametag Guy, a smart young man who wears "Hello, my name is Scott" nametag on his shirt all day, every day, for the past several years. He has a blog, a podcast, a Squidoo "lens", an email listserv, an RSS feed, Digg and Technorati references, Myspace and Facebook entries, YouTube snippets, and probably one or two other things too. In between updating all these things, he writes books and is a professional speaker. He totally gets how to promote himself using the latest tools.
People and businesses that will succeed in this brave new world have a lot of work to do to. The old days of putting together a few pages (or a few hundred) of static HTML are so over. The good news is that most of the tools are free for the downloading. All it will take is your time. The bad news is that the time investment is non-trivial. You can't farm this out to someone to just do it for you. It has to become part of your own online psyche and daily activities. Like the Katie Couric ghost-blog debacle, it isn't something you want to delegate.
Here are my top ten tips that I have learned along the way:
1. Email is still the best way for anyone to enter your ecosystem. I have been doing these essays for more than 10 years, and many of you are still reading them and responding. Email is the best way for people between 30 – 50 years old to contact you and stay in touch. Why not younger than 30? Because these people are using IM, Facebook, Myspace, and probably 13 other "social network" sites. They certainly have email addresses and spend time with email, but probably not to the extent that you would want to count on this form of communication. Why not older than 50? Well, I am just putting an arbitrary age here, but eventually, you are getting to the non-typing pre-war generation that doesn't want to communicate via email – until all of their friends or grandkids get on it. These are still people that have their assistants print out their corporate emails – don’t laugh, I have seen too many situations.
2. You don't just want to focus on email, you still need to be approachable in Web 2.0-space. List all of your electronic coordinates in one place on your Web site, and include a phone number for good measure, because that makes it all real. Don't do a "contact form" that hides your email address – that is so old school and off-putting, and anyone worth their HTML code can figure out what the embedded email address is anyway.
3. Give something away for free. Really. You do this to build credibility and also to give people a taste of what you will charge them for. Ginsberg is giving away his latest book on his blog, and he is so comfortable with doing that because he knows this will build word-of-mouth and drive sales. The indie musicians profiled in the Times are giving away MP3s. Some have taken this a step further and are even experimenting with demand-based pricing that turns out to net them more than the 99-cent download standard at iTunes.
4. Think about lists of useful stuff that you can offer others. I have a page of links to various Web conferencing tools on my site that used to be in the top four sites when you searched on Google (today is down to #13, I guess I am slipping up). I have had this page on my site for about a decade, and started it on a whim. Now I get vendors who want me to list their stuff there. Squidoo has institutionalized this with their "lens" approach, and Pageflakes has something similar with their shared pages (You can see my RSS feeds and sites that I frequent here). Each of these approaches takes something that you know, and filters that you apply to the Wide World, and puts a very small amount of your own stamp and value to it.
5. Remember the Web is all about short attention spans. Call it the 4-4-4 rule: The average person spends less than four seconds looking at a Web page. They abandon a site if they can't find something in four clicks. Any video should be shorter than four minutes, or people won't bother watching it.
6. Video matters more. Speaking of videos, start to think about ways that you can put more content into (short) video segments on your site, and then post them to YouTube and other video-sharing places.
7. Don't just Digg. Sites like Digg.com and Technorati.com that point people to your content are terrific ways to spread the word, but need care and feeding as you post new content – you have to add the entries on their sites to point to your new stuff. But also consider other places such as EzineArticles.com that will promote your content. If you post enough content on these other sites, you can leverage them better too.
8. Titles and keywords matter. When you add content to these pages, think of snappy headlines and catchy keywords. Because that is what people are going to be searching for and seeing when they scroll around.
9. Exploit your readers/fans/listeners/viewers. Everyone is big these days on "user-generated content" but there is much more to this than meets the eye. The people that consume your content are your best promoters. Leverage them, take care of them, and they will make you rich and famous. Or at least amongst your own ecosystem. The NYT article mentions how the musicians have cleverly used their fans to generate tracks on their songs, schedule concert dates in particular cities, and other activities. I try to answer every email that you send me, even if it is just to acknowledge receipt. Part of this is respecting your readers, part of it is a new way of interacting with them. I remember when we started Network Computing magazine back in 1990 and put our author's email addresses at the end of the articles. We were fearless! But we got some great feedback.
10. Think about all the communities you belong to. Does each one have its own equivalent of an A-list blogger? Someone who has a page a mile long of MySpace "friends" or LinkedIn "connections? A common calendar of events that is easy to subscribe to via RSS? A list of recommended books/videos/music?
There is so much more to do with Web 2.0. I have to run, and post this article on the various places mentioned here, and get the emails out.
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- David Strom
- David Strom has looked at hundreds of computer products over a more than 20 year career in IT and computer journalism. He was the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine, and now writes for Baseline, Information Security, Tom's Hardware, and the New York Times.