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[Reposted from http://www.mike-g.ca/mgxc/growing-your-business-online/]

How do I make use of the Internet to take my business to the next level and start generating revenue?

Just the fact that you may be asking the question, tells me that you’re on the right track. More often than not, folks jump right into building a website, starting a blog, and sending out Tweets without ever thinking about what specifically they are trying to accomplish in doing so.

“That’s simple, I’m trying to grow my business. I need to be on all the social media because my competitors are, and that generates them business.”

Yeah, but how? Did it really help them, or is that just your assumption? And if it did indeed build them up, what were they doing right? What’s your game plan?

Too many business out there are trying to jump in on the latest trends, and think that just simply having a Facebook fan page, LinkedIn profile, and Twitter feed are going to generate them a whole lot more business. Sorry to say, it doesn’t work like that. If you don’t have clear goals (and the right benchmarks to measure those goals against) in place, you’re wasting time and resources.

There is a lot to know, and it’s important to avoid the pitfalls along the way. From website design, to properly implementing and executing a social media strategy, I will be creating posts that are designed to help answer your questions and guide you down the right path so that your business can grow effectively online from the perspective of someone who has been in the game for over 15 years.

Every week, I will be posting a new article on properly planning your strategy, designing your site, and marketing your business through the Internet. I always welcome your comments and questions, and hope that you all find this helpful.

Peace.

Mike G

During an interview on Ottawa CBC Radio One with Kathleen Petty and Alistair Steele, the JimWatson.ca, the site for Ottawa mayoral candidate and Pondstone client, Jim Watson, was dubbed the best among all contenders.

Full text of the interview below:

Ottawa CBC Radio One, Kathleen Petty’s show

KP: Alistair Steele’s been looking at the brave new world of online electioneering… So get me back on track here, Alaistair – what did you find out?

AS: Well, Kathleen, I found out that compared to the last election in 2006, there’s been a remarkable upswing in the adoption of new technology, particularly social media sites like the ones that you just mentioned. It’s really quite amazing just how many ways there are now for candidates to reach voters and some of them are making full use of those new tools.

KP: OK, so who gets the most marks for the most impressive site?

AS: Well, I’d say that Jim Watson sets the gold standard here. No surprise, really, given his status, given that he is running for the mayor’s job. His web site is very slick, it’s easy to navigate, it’s uncluttered, it’s topped with a photo that makes him look friendly and approachable, it’s got the simple yet striking grey and red colour scheme. There’s a link to his Flickr page, there’s a slide show where you can see photos of Jim out in the community, there’s a section for campaign news complete with an RSS feed so you can get updates as they come in. You can donate, you can order a sign. And then there are these invitations to follow Jim on Twitter, or you can choose to ‘like’ him on Facebook , and of course there’s a link to YouTube where you can view videos like this one … [clip] … the sound quality’s not great here, which would be about my only complaint about this web site.

For audio of the full interview, go here.

From Mashable, full piece here.

Social media earned a mention in the annual White House Correspondents Dinner tonight, with President Obama quipping, ‘But even though the mainstream press gives me a hard time, I hear that I’m still pretty big on Twitter, Facebook … or as Sarah Palin calls it, the socialized media.’ [1:25 in the second clip]

As in previous years, the decline of the newspaper at the hands of free online alternatives formed part of the narrative in the humorous 20-minute monologue. Obama said of the news industry’s transition, ‘People say to me, “Mr President, you helped revive the banking industry. You’ve saved GM and Chrysler — what about the news business? I have to explain, hey, I’m just the President. I’m not a miracle worker here.”‘

The President’s closing remarks were ultimately optimistic about the state of news, online and off: ‘For all the changes and challenges facing your industry, this country absolutely needs a healthy, vibrant media. Probably needs it more than ever now. Today’s technology has made it possible for us to get our news and information from a growing range of sources; we can pick and choose not only our preferred type of media but also our preferred perspective. And while that exposes us to an unprecedented array of opinions, analysis and points of view, it also makes it that much more important that we’re all operating on a common baseline of facts … every single reporter in this room believes deeply in the enterprise of journalism.”

There’s good news, too, for the online army of Conan O’Brien supporters known as I’m With COCO — Obama was much, much funnier that the official comedy act of the night, Jay Leno.

-Jessie W.

How social media is creating green forums for sustainable, green engagement.

Environment activism, like social media, is an interactive activity requiring on- and offline engagement. Given how powerful a tool the internet has become in creating and sustaining broad-based networks, it works to the advantage of environmentally-conscious activists to engage the medium to create a ripple-effect of awareness.  These forums allow the opportunity to connect online with like-minded people for a variety of purposes, from business growth to political or environmental activism.

The problem, of course, arises in the transition from vibrant online communities to real, in person results. Yet, in the words of WebEcoist, the “dedicated and curious greenie can glean a lot from participation in niche environmental forums. And voting and sharing on green social news sites is a terrific way to fill out your green social web experience.” And as engagement and education are always the first steps of any movement, the abundance of these online forums make the sometimes daunting task of environmental stewardship slightly less cumbersome.

The following ten platforms integrate environmental activism with social media’s networking capabilities (all site descriptions are courtesy of The WebEcoist, more information available here).

1.) Sustainable Design Forum

Architecture fans and geeks alike will not want to miss this seriously smart forum for true buffs and industry experts. Featuring “news and resources for sustainable design in architecture, development and construction,” this site also also shares great op-eds from thought leaders and top builders and designers.

2.) EcoUrls

The brand-new ecourls.com (still in beta) was created by top green bloggers and social media contributers to promote exceptionally high quality green news and information. You can visit the site and sign up to meet other green bloggers, social media users and find some excellent content. Though just starting, so far the site looks very promising, with an emphasis on content over flashy design or cluttered features.

3.) Change.org

Change.org is a clear, simple activist forum with an interesting format: you type the change you want to see in the world and the site guides you to a relevant project, organization or issue. Or choose from the most common changes on the main page. The coolest part about Change is that you can create your own organization (they’re called “Changes”) and get others in the community involved. A great place to connect with people and nonprofits that care about the future of the world and its inhabitants.

4.) Carbonrally

If competition gets your blood pumping, this is the place for you. Rather than supporting and connecting with other green minded people, you compete with them. It’s a fun, original concept and though it’s new seems to have a good base of users participating. Compete on teams with those in your real-world community or online pals against other teams on the site. Will you join the Royal Acorns? Looks like they’re the underdogs.

5.) Rate It Green

It’s pretty straightforward: you join, you rate. This is a well-crafted and easy to use green forum for environmentally-friendly building product ratings; like Consumer Reports for green building. Whether you are starting from scratch or retro-fitting your current pad this is a good resource.

6.) Green Options

Home to many of the best green blogs online, this green network also has forums. Not as populous or deep as Treehugger but definitely worth participation, particularly if you feel overwhelmed by the bigger forums. Connect with others and discuss all kinds of green issues at Green Options.

7. Responsible World Citizen

This Ning thing is thriving. Ning – basically a community platform for creating your own social network – is a hit and grows daily. If you read blogs like Triple Pundit, work in green business, or simply care about the future bottom line, then Responsible World Citizen’s “sustainable conscious business community” is for you.

8. Planet Green

Planet Green, brought to you by Discovery and tightly partnered with Treehugger, has launched new forums. They aren’t very active yet but the content on Planet Green is high-quality and the membership so far at the forums is a good crowd. Try it out.

9. The Environment Site

Purely green discussions ranging from tech to energy to politics to health can be found at this thoughtful and calm forum. Sincere members weigh in from all over the world on a number of environmental topics. A recent thread asks: “Can you be a capitalist and environmentalist at the same time?”

10. Arch

The Arch design community features over a dozen well-populated and active architecture and design forums, including green. A must-stop for anyone into technical design, engineering, green architecture and more.

If your business or organization wants to know more about using social media for a specific purpose, drop us a line at either jwillms@pondstone.ca or amiron@pondstone.ca.

-Jessie W.

Facebooking and funny fails.

Everyone remembers how to block FarmVille updates from their Facebook accounts, yes? For parents, children andFacebook users alike, this is an excellent example of why FarmVille is not only useless but also, apparently, expensive. A 12-year old boy in the UK has amassed a FarmVille debt of more than £900 playing the online game, first draining his own bank account and then using his mother’s credit card. Comparatively, this is as entertaining as the Facebook thread in which a woman realized she racked up a $12,000 phone bill by texting “help for Haiti,” unfortunately this story has no redemptive upside.

From the Guardian, full story here.

A mother has warned of the risk of children spending hundreds of pounds on “free” online games available through Facebook after her 12-year-old son ran up bills of more than £900 without her knowledge.

The woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, discovered last month that her son had spent more than £900 on FarmVille. He had emptied his own savings account of £288 and had used her credit card to the tune of £625 to pay the bills.

. . .

The mother said: “The first use of my card was on 14 March. I discovered it on the 29th and the card was stopped at that point. Any transactions after that date were already in the system, so what I thought was a £427 spend turned into £625 over the next few days.

“The total spend is about £905, but the credits are still rolling in. Facebook and [game creator] Zynga will not refund anything as [the son] lives in my house. Facebook has disabled his account and Zynga has unhelpfully suggested I use password protection on computers in the future.”

She contacted her credit card company, HSBC, but was told she would only qualify for a refund if she reported her son to the police and obtained a crime number. “He would be cautioned and I have been told that this caution would stay with him. Obviously the idea of a stupid farm simulation jeopardising his future earnings is not something that I want to consider,” she said.

. . .  (article continues here)

So, in essence: avoid the possibility of wasting more than a thousand dollars, take our advice: block FarmVille.

-Jessie W.

The iPad: so easy, even a child can use it!

While I may never fully understand why the internet finds kittens just so adorable; this, admittedly, is quite cute: a two year old uses an iPad for the first time. Surprisingly, the little girl finds it quite simple to use, enlarging iPhone apps and playing games.

Describing the girl’s use of the tablet, her father said:

As you can see, after geeking out on my Sutro Tower homescreen, she took right to it — including figuring out how to enlarge some of her favorite iPhone-legacy apps to 2x to display full-size on the iPad screen. If you’re good at understanding kid-speak, you’ll also notice that she immediately saw its potential as a video-display device. She lamented the lack of a camera, and wondered about its potential for playing games.

Below is the full video, from the Huffington Post.

-Jessie W.

Wednesdays, as we all know, can be a bit of a drag: halfway through the week, yet not quite time to celebrate weekend bliss. So here are five site I’ve complied using Stumble Upon (which in itself is a great way to get through the week) to entertain, distract, amuse, divert, engross and other like synonyms.

1.) OK GO: Having posted on the genius that is OK GO before, I’ll keep this run-down brief: the band who arguably made YouTube with their 2005 video for “A Million Ways,” is back with a an outrageously complicated Rube Goldberg machine-inspired video.  According to Wired, the man behind the machine Rube Goldberg, or  Health Robinson contraptions if you’re English, became famous for designing and building “fanciful, bizarrely complex, jury-rigged contraptions to accomplish simple tasks.” OK GO released the Rube Goldberg video for “This To Shall Pass” a few weeks ago and the video features a massive machine whose parts drop, twist, crash and break in a perfect, unbroken harmony to the nearly four-minute video. The video, created by a Los Angeles arts and technology collective Syyn Labs, took months to build with the help of sixty volunteers and two days to film, is explained: here. (Parts two, three and four.)

Follow them on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook; OK GO is a band that knows social media and how to use it well by not only  generating the content, but also engaging their fans so they will keep coming back, again and again and again.

2.) Billboard Ads: From Best Design Options, the 35 best billboard and related advertisements. My personal favourite:

Cool Billboard Ads - Bic From Best Design Options: “Bic developed this creative outdoor advertisement for their razors.   The billboard is blank except for a small logo, but without it the advertisement might be missed and it acts as a good backdrop for the giant razor and cut grass.  The only draw back is the constant trimming of the lawn.” The other 34 ads can be found: here.

3.) Create your own Jackson Pollock: Love the art but can’t afford the price tag? Then this online DIY project is perfect. Go: here and click enter to create your own abstract impressionism.

Enter Jackson Pollock.org

4.) Wisdom Bits: Music, as they say, is the great communicator. Check out Wisdom Bits here for “nubbins of wisdom from everlasting songmavens”.  Here you can find the best snippets of wisdom from Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” to Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.”

5.) This last one was intended to be a link to the cheesy, yet endearing Love Letters project, but then I clicked ‘Stumble! and this sink turned up instead. (Don’t let that exclamation mark deceive you; Stumble! is one of the few instances I think an exclamation mark is justified.)

The concrete sink shaped as a fossil is from HighTech. The fossil is an ammonite, an “extinct species of cephalopods which lived in the sea about 400 million years ago. Their shells are found all over the world and they are very much sought-after by fossil-hunters, their value depending on size and the state of preservation. The fascinating shape of ammonite fossils, which resembles a rolled up helix, is the basic design element in the new HighTech wash basin.”

Amazing. Awesome, and another reason Stumble Upon is so addictive.

So, do you Stumble!? If so, what are the best links you’ve Stumbled upon lately?

If you don’t use Stumble Upon, do you use a different/similar tool?

- Jessie W.

crowdsourcing

Facebook, Twitter and Google join the outreach following the devastating earthquake in Chile

For critics who cast the use of new media and social communication networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as useless or merely a waste of time, the recent devastation in Chile is a great example of using web-based resources for the good.

Twitter been used as a platform for an outpouring of international support for affected Chileans; Google has launched Person Finder to aid Chileans and those abroad located loved ones and nearly every relief agency is connected to the public through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. These resources make information about the devastation readily accessible providing an essential resource both in the ravaged country and for a concerned international community.

Matthew Ingram at GigaOm has compiled a helpful list of resources for individuals to use in responding to the devastation; the full article can be found here.

  • Twitter List: As it did during the Haiti earthquake, The New York Times has collected some Twitter accounts with information about what is going on in Chile.
  • Ben Casnocha: The entrepreneur and author has been tweeting details about the earthquake and its aftermath
  • Twitpic: People have been uploading images of the devastation in and around Concepcion, some of which have been collected by The Huffington Post.
  • Ushahidi: A site designed to act as a central clearinghouse for information about disasters such as the Chilean earthquake.
  • Livestream: A live video feed from Chilean TV via the Livestream service.
  • Person Finder: A Chilean version of a tool that Google originally created to help during the Haiti earthquake.
  • Map Maker: Google has also opened up the use of its mapping database for use by aid organizations, and people can help via the Chile Update Page. Google has a page set up with other resources, including the ability to click and donate to Unicef and other charities from the page.

If you have other suggestions, please feel free to contribute on the original post or email Matthew Ingram (as per the original post, contact mathew@gigaom.com.)

– Jessie W.

With possibly the greatest Olympics to date and the greatest performance by Canadian athletes I’ve noticed a few people adding the cool Canadian flag with a heart graphic into their Facebook status:

Facebook status canada canadian heart flagFacebook status canada canadian heart flag 2

The easiest way to show your pride for Canada and having this in your status is simply by copying:

█ ♥ █

by highlighting it and right-clicking on it then selecting ‘copy’. Open your Facebook, click in the status bar and right-click then select ‘paste’. Voila!

Cheers everyone,

~Adam M.

From The Globe and Mail; full article found here.

Dalai Lama twitter

The Tibetan spiritual leader isn’t following anyone yet but has more than 70,000 followers.

Twitter’s founder says the Dalai Lama laughed at the thought of using the social networking service. But the Tibetan spiritual leader now has an official Twitter site — and more than 68,000 followers.

Twitter founder Evan Williams posted a message Sunday that he’d just met the Dalai Lama in Los Angeles and pitched using Twitter.

On Monday, a Twitter page set up by the Dalai Lama’s office in India carried its first message. It mentioned that the Dalai Lama had been in L.A. and gave a Web site link for details.

Six other Tweets since then provide links to interviews, photos and webcasts.

Although his Holiness has yet to post a personal message, his office has posted links to interviews and photos on his behalf. From age-old spiritual communicator to high-tech connections, the Dalia Lama is yet another example of utilizing new media to stay linked in with followers.

Be sure to follow Pondstone’s Twitter feed @pondstone.

- Jessie W.

Pondstone Communications

Pondstone on Twitter

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