Handshake 2.0's Vision: Every Regional Business Blogging

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 5:00 PM on February 15, 2009:

Every regional business blogging.

The same power that global corporations with massive marketing budgets use to gain global branding and global customers can be used by companies in our region.

With our own talent and expertise - and savvy use of new Internet technologies - we can be geographically local, but operate locally, regionally, nationally and globally.

Online tools - Web 2.0 technologies - change and evolve quickly.  The current tools considered useful for businesses such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter may well become antiquated within days of the emergence of a new tool.

It’s not the tool that gives us power.  It’s the online strategy.

An online business strategy has very simple parts:  It’s people who go online.  People go online for two reasons:  1) information, and 2) to connect.  They find information and each other through search.

People.  Information.  Connection.  Search.

Let's start our regional online strategy with the Web 2.0 tool that offers all these components most easily at the lowest cost - a blog.

Imagine this scenario:

Every business in the New River Valley and Roanoke Valley of Virginia has a blog.  That’s every sole proprietorship, every doing-business-as (DBA), every entrepreneurial start-up, every small to medium-sized business (SMB), every multi-million dollar corporation.

A person within the business, or a team of people within the business, writes the blog.  No two people, even if they share the same occupation, have the same combination of talent, expertise, and experience.  Each has value to offer.

That’s People.

The drycleaner writes a blog with don't-try-this-at-home-you-wouldn’t-believe-it stories about the worst stains it has ever removed.  The dance studio posts class schedules and uploads a YouTube video of the five-year-olds’ ballet recital.  The high-tech start-up posts one-line reviews and links to top sources in its field, establishing its industry expertise - and beginning its corporate branding process - without revealing its intellectual property. 

That’s Information.

The drycleaner tells five friends about the new blog.  Three of them read it.  One of them forwards the link to a friend.  The friend recognizes the tiny tutu in the before-and-after snapshots in the blog post about removing ketchup stains.  The friend forwards the link to the dance studio.  The dance studio, both amused and relieved to see that the tutu was saved, posts a link to the drycleaner’s story in its blog.  The high-tech start-up founder, whose child takes lessons at the dance studio and checks the blog to see when the next registration period opens, reads the post about the drycleaner on the dance studio’s site and wonders if the drycleaner can remove the mustard stain from his suit pants. 

That’s Connection.

The high-tech start-up probably doesn’t post a link to the drycleaner or to the dance studio on its blog.  Its online strategy is to establish itself as an expert in a niche. The start-up’s About Page, however, which describes the company, includes a link to the city in which it is located.  On their blogs’ About Pages, the drycleaner and the dance studio also link to that same city site.  Inter-linking regionally increases the interest of search engines in the site content of businesses in our area.  The number of “links in” and “links out” influences search engine ranking.

That’s Search.

Some businesses are concerned that their blogs won’t be read because the focus of their companies is too narrow for mainstream readers.  That’s what Handshake 2.0 is for.

Handshake 2.0 is a business blog with a regional focus and a global vision.

Just as a company might place a print ad in a traditional media outlet such as a newspaper or a trade journal, companies place high-interest, wide-audience blog posts on Handshake 2.0. 

The difference between using a blog post and using print is that companies featured on Handshake 2.0’s business blog are viewed by layers of users.  A Handshake 2.0 blog post is always viewed by those who type in the web site address and by those who subscribe via e-mail or RSS feed.

But companies showcased on Handshake 2.0 are also viewed by those who are brought to the site by search engine users seeking information by the terms and keywords they use.  Those viewers could be from anywhere on the entire globe. 

They’re not from around here, but they might as well be, because they found what they were looking for from us.

Handshake 2.0’s vision:

Every regional business blogging.

With our region’s talent and expertise interlinked via blog, we would know each other in our “It’s who you know” network more broadly than we ever did before and could avail ourselves of each other’s business value in ways we never knew possible.

And the power of our interlinking would create an irresistible force pulling search engine users to us - to do business with us in our region.

Handshake 2.0's vision of the effect of a regional business blog initiative
 
The Handshake 2.0 Effect
 
An x-y plane being "pulled" to a point on the z axis created by Handshake 2.0's Web 2.0 Developer using Mathematica.

Web 2.0, Social Networking, Social Media, New Media...Whew!

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 5:00 AM on February 11, 2009:

These terms all seem used interchangeably.  What do they all - and each -mean?  We asked an expert.

From Handshake 2.0's Web 2.0 Developer:

Web 2.0 - A movement in web development that uses and improves existing technologies and creates new ones to make sites focused around a base of connected human users, rather than content-focused sites that simply get hits from unconnected users.

Social networking- People using the internet to foster personal relationships. Much the same as talking on the phone or in person, but with a few important additions:

1. Any decent social network provides access to media beyond text.

2. Most of the activities a person performs in a social network are, by default, public to the others in that person's network.  Social networks can be used for private communication, but that sort of defeats the purpose.

3. Social networking can be done asynchronously, i.e. Dick and Jane don't need to be online at the same times to interact.

So in the context of the web:

Social media are a set of tools that disseminate information among users actively and virally: the information doesn't just sit there waiting for the user to find it. And when the information does get to the user, the user is likely to help it spread to others.

New media are a set of tools that disseminate information in ways that old media don't. And that doesn't just mean internet instead of print.  New media include social media, for instance, and mobile media, and can interface effectively with "old media."

Parametric hand turkey, generated by Mathematica, by Handshake 2.0's Web 2.0 developer

Handshake 2.0's Web 2.0 developer is the author of the Parametric Hand Turkey, created using Mathematica, and listed on the Wolfram Research News & Events page.

Blog Thunder

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 5:00 AM on February 9, 2009:

Handshake 2.0 asked this question:  How does a small to medium business (SMB) “monetize” a business blog?

Kevin Dwinnell, Director, Product & Marketing, Brand Thunder, LLC, replied:

Brand Thunder, LLC is a start-up in Columbus, Ohio.  We have 4 full-time and 5 part-time employees.  We've received funding from TechColumbus and Ohio TechAngels, and have a solid client list that includes NASCAR, the National Hockey League, the NCAA, The Huffington Post and more.

According to Patrick Murphy, our founder and CEO, "Blogging is the source for so much of our marketing.  We then pull headlines, sections or points for distribution on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the like.  The echo effect of those postings results in re-tweets and link backs which ultimately drive connections to prospects, leads and sales."

Kevin Dwinnell and Patrick Murphy of Brand Thunder, LLC

Kevin Dwinnell and Patrick Murphy of Brand Thunder, LLC
share a Handshake 1.0 for Handshake 2.0

Our blog’s sole purpose is for sales, marketing and SEO support.  We are not marketing to the end user on our site, but to the brand marketers or agencies that would use our product to reach their customers.  We try to keep our blog interesting and relevant, being fairly open with our information related to our growing company.  We've rolled some of that information into a case study that was promoted through the blog and has placement on the homepage. 

Inbound queries from our website have increased from zero over the summer to 4-5/week and that response growth is directly correlated to the increase in blog postings.  We have also seen 2-3 new followers on Twitter due to blogging.  Most of Brand Thunder's Twitter activity is to post the blog title and link to the post. 

In addition to the brands that use our custom browsers, we sign distribution partnerships with advertising and new media agencies to market our browsers to their client base.  Two of these relationships were direct results from inquiries generated on our web site. The two partners are The Puck Agency and Mackey Marketing.

A specific example of business results from our blog is the Los Angeles-based radio station that contacted us after picking up our blog for the launch of our first Radio station branded browser

For small to medium businesses seeking business results from their business blogs, our advice is this:

Be consistent and persistent with postings.  We strive for at least a weekly post.  Then leverage that work by using as many tools available to reach your network - including LinkedIn, Plaxo and the sites already mentioned.  Finally, look for avenues to amplify the message in networks beyond yours.  Being a member of TechColumbus, we can log into their news distribution site and our blogs will be listed and included in their RSS feeds - extending the reach of our blog and driving new users to our site.  Look for these opportunities with any groups or organizations where you participate.

Thanks, Kevin Dwinnell, from Handshake 2.0!

The Great Forward

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 2:00 PM on February 8, 2009:

Here's Handshake 2.0's further exploration of The Great Forward (begun here in The Great Forward - The Reason...), with regard to business blogs and business blog posts:

A business blog post “meets” more contacts than you ever could at a business networking meeting no matter how many hands you shake while working the room.

A blog post doesn’t just “meet” contacts who know about the blog.  It meets waves of contacts. 

The simple blog post you’re reading right now was globally available within the seconds it took me to post it. 

One wave of contacts who "meet" this blog post are the loyal readers who type in the whole blog's URL each time to see what's new.

Another wave who meets this post are subscribers to the blog via e-mail and RSS feed.

And search engine users seeking information related to terms and keywords used in this post are another wave of contacts.

Any one of those ripples in the waves of contacts may like this blog post enough to honor it with The Great Forward and send a link to the blog post to a contact.

Word-of-mouth referrals are the top sources of “contacts = sales” in almost every industry.  It’s who you know. 

“Who you know” works because we tend to trust those we know.  Trust is born of experience.  Although our physical selves are not online, the virtual self we communicate in a blog is a way to create a sense of experience with us, to engender trust, and to increase the likelihood of a word-of-mouth referral via The Great Forward of a link to our blog post to a contact.

A blog post creates a potential tsunami of contacts.

Handshake 2.0 Happily Stumbles on TicketStumbler.com

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 5:00 AM on February 4, 2009:

So how does a small to medium business (SMB) “monetize” a business blog?

Handshake 2.0 posted a query on Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter (HARO) for answers to that question.  (We had a very fine experience with HARO when Handshake 2.0 was quoted in The Huffington Post.)

We were very grateful to hear from Dan Haubert, co-founder of TicketStumbler.com:

On TicketStumbler.com (think Expedia for sports and concert tickets), our four blogs have not only been an effective way to increase organic traffic from Google, but have also led to significant amounts of sales as well. For example, in December 2008 and January 2009, our presale password and ticket blog (where we publish ticket news, on sale information, and presale passwords) led to nearly $100,000 in Ticketmaster sales.

We are a Boston-based company and launched in August, 2008.  We have been profitable since week two.  We receive a percentage of sales from our partnerships with ticket markets and brokers (see the list on About Us) but the prices found on TicketStumbler.com are the same as if you went to those sites directly.

We've been featured on TechCrunch, Financial Times.com, and The Boston Globe.

For small to medium businesses seeking business results from their blogs, my advice is to make sure you're writing about something of value. It doesn't need to appeal to everyone, just cater to your niche and provide content that either is difficult to find or no one else is doing.

***

Thanks, Dan Haubert, for sharing your experience with readers of Handshake 2.0.

The Great Forward - The Reason to Use Web 2.0 Public Relations

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:00 AM on January 28, 2009:

“PR shortens the sales cycle.”
--Robert Geller

And one way - perhaps the most important way - it happens using Web 2.0 PR is The Great Forward.

Robert Geller, senior vice president with Fusion Public Relations in New York, and I have been having a conversation via blog, blog comments, Twitter, e-mail and phone about the only truly important question concerning the business use of Web 2.0.

Before we go on, first some definitions.  Robert Geller explains in an e-mail about the use of the phrase "Web 2.0" vs. "social media":  "I view Web 2.0 as a collection of technologies - RSS, Ajax, Ruby on Rails, blogs, wikis - and not necessarily one and the same as 'social media.'  Social media is more often used to refer to participatory media, and at least in the PR circles I travel in, people more typically talk about social media PR or SMPR for short."

Definitions matter.  The bottom line is still this:

Will a company’s use of Web 2.0 or social media or social media PR increase sales?

That is the question, and the implied objection, I have heard from the leaders of small and medium businesses, SMB, who hesitate to use Web 2.0 tools for their companies.

“When people see my product, they buy it.  My product sells itself.  What do I need Web 2.0 for?”

If a company is satisfied with its sales and sales growth, then it doesn’t need a Web 2.0 strategy any more than it needs an expanded traditional media strategy. 

I spoke with a business owner last week who, after more than 30 years in commerce, still doesn’t use e-mail.  Loyal customers, word-of-mouth referrals, moderate local community involvement, and modest traditional media placements - primarily ads in the local newspapers - generate the owner’s desired sales and sales growth.  Good.

For companies who wants to increase sales growth, however, even for those with products that sell themselves, Handshake 2.0 offers this version of Robert Geller’s wisdom.

Web 2.0 PR shortens the “it’s who you know” cycle.

A business principle that’s never in a beta version is that contacts = sales.

In a phone conversation on 1/22/09, Robert Geller said, "We tell our clients, ‘Yes, customers buy from you when they know you.  PR gets you known.'"

Web 2.0 PR gets you known more widely and more quickly.

For example, the Web 2.0 tool I'm using right now - a simple blog post - will be globally available within the seconds it takes me to post it.  Loyal readers of Handshake 2.0 will see it, subscribers via e-mail and RSS feed will see it, and search engine users seeking information related to terms and keywords used in this post will see it.

And then any of those who see it may like it enough to honor it with The Great Forward and send a link to a contact.

Contacts = sales. 

The Great Forward is the online version of that priceless business “it’s who you know,” word-of-mouth referral. 

Using Web 2.0, it can happen in seconds.

Now that’s shortening the sales cycle.

***

If you're interested in this conversation, you can see its beginning in our series of questions and answers on Twitter.  I, @handshake20, asked Bob Geller, @rgeller, on 1/21/09, this question:  "How does a small or medium business 'monetize' a Web 2.0 strategy?" In reply, he wrote Web Monetization for the SMB for his blog, Flack's Revenge.  You can see we continued our discussion on Twitter, then, needing more than 140 characters per thought, we talked on the phone.  This post is my latest contribution to our latest topic of discussion. 

But as I explained in this post about Handshake 2.0 on The Huffington Post, Robert Geller and I began a Web 2.0 conversation about all things Web 2.0 in August of 2008.  I treasure his expertise, his mulit-industry experience, and thoughtful insights.

$100,000 Blog

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:00 AM on January 24, 2009:

From Temp Job in Paradise Pays $100,000, The New York Times, 1/14/09

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — Position: island caretaker. Duties: lazing around the Great Barrier Reef for six months. Salary: $100,000.

It sounds too good to be true, but the position is real. Calling it the “best job in the world,” Australian tourism officials say they are seeking someone to spend six months relaxing on Hamilton Island, part of the country’s Whitsunday Islands, while promoting the destination on a blog.

Within 24 hours, more than 200,000 prospective applicants had visited the Web site advertising the job, islandreefjob.com, a local tourism official said. Applicants must submit a 60-second video application, and 11 finalists will be flown from their home countries to the island in May for the final selection process. The application deadline is Feb. 22.

In exchange for the pay, a free stay in an oceanfront villa and airfare from the winner’s home country, the employee will be required to stroll the island’s white sand beaches, snorkel, maybe take a dip in the pool — and post photographs and videos of the experience on a weekly blog.

***

Phrases found very thought-provoking by Handshake 2.0:

"...while promoting the destination on a blog."

"Applicants must submit a 60-second video application..."

Thanks to @rgeller for letting @handshake20 know about this story.

Your English Teacher Taught You Everything You Need to Know About Business Blogs

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:00 AM on January 21, 2009:

Why are business blogs started, updated rarely, even abandoned?

What's blocking those words?

Just as atoms are the fundamental components of elements, so do words build the elements of a social media or Web 2.0 public relations and marketing strategy.

No words, no strategy.

I’m wondering if part of what's blocking our words is our English teachers.  They taught us, and rightly so, to write essays. 

The essay is the basic structure for written communication, whether in academic, political, or public arenas.  We introduce our topics, express our theses, develop points to support them through a logical progression of points, then we synthesize our points in a conclusion.

Writing an essay requires thought, reflection, and research.  The best essays demonstrate mental athleticism that leaves readers more fit.

An essay takes mental athleticism to write as well.

If you’re thinking “essay” when you’re thinking “business blog post,” no wonder you’re not writing.  If you’re running a company, or part of a company's management team, or in a company, you’re undoubtedly exercising your mind plenty.  When faced with writing a business blog post, you may feel as if you've already done enough.

You have.

Suggestion:  When you think, “Ugh, I gotta write a business blog post,” think, “Just a paragraph.  Only a paragraph.”

Your training from your English teachers in writing essays actually prepared you to write expert blog posts.

Got a subject in mind?  See the essay you could write about it?

Excise one of the paragraphs.

It’s got a topic sentence, it’s got three examples, and it’s got a concluding sentence.  It’s a mini-essay in itself!  And only five sentences!

Add a picture?  Or a video?

You’ve got yourself a fine blog post.

A paragraph - a blog post - per day?

You’ve not only got a bunch of blog posts, you’ve got an active business blog.  That certainly challenges your competition.  They may not be up to a paragraph a day.  You are.

Paragraph + Picture = Blog Post

Blog posts increase your online exposure. 

And exposure increases your contacts, which, as we all know in business, are the atoms by which the element of sales are made.

Let's just say I might know of what I speak when I say this:

Your English teacher would be proud.

Experiment with New Media for Free – A Handshake 1.0 for Handshake 2.0

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:00 AM on January 5, 2009:

Articles like Firms to spend more on social media from Digital Bulletin, Look Good Online from Entrepreneur, and The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World from the Wall Street Journal, urge, even warn, companies to add new media to their 2009 public relations and marketing campaigns.

Whether new media refers to blogs, social networking, or other online tools, the “new” in “new media” can sound as unsettling as the “new” in “new medical procedure.”

Handshake 2.0 can ease New River Valley businesses into using new media. 

Then the new media will become as familiar as the old media and all the public relations and marketing know-how companies already have can be put to use in new and strategic ways.

If you'd like to give new media a try, Handshake 2.0 offers you a way to experiment for free.

First, Google yourself.  See what shows in the search results.

Second, Google your company.  See what shows in the search results.

Third, Google search terms related to your business.  If search engine users are looking for your product or service, what do they find?

Then provide Handshake 2.0 with a Handshake 1.0.  Just send us a snapshot - a cell phone image would be great - of you shaking hands with someone from another company in the New River Valley.  Include the names of who's in the picture and company descriptions.

Here's an example of a Handshake 1.0 from Vitech and Automation Creations.  Pictured are Doug Johnston, CFO, Vitech Corporation, and Henry Bass, President, Automation Creations, Inc.

Vitech Corporation and Automation Creations, Inc. are located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, a technology, research, and science park.

Once we post your free Handshake 1.0, Google yourself, your company, and search terms related to your company over the next few days.  See what shows in the search results.

That will give you an idea of what can be done with new media.

Whether you use old media, new media, or a mix of both, Handshake 2.0 wishes you a very prosperous 2009.

Web Site + Blog

Posted by Handshake 2.0 at 6:00 AM on December 13, 2008:

This post orginally appeared on Inside VT KnowledgeWorks.

For companies contemplating an online strategy in 2009 that includes an updated Web site and a blog, how about doing both in the same place?
 
I'm a fan of TypePad's blogging software because of the user interface and the tech support.
 
And the top blog author uses TypePad, too, so I joined his crowd.
 
TypePad allows users to make both blog posts and pages, so a company can have dynamic content with the blog and static content with the pages.
 
My understanding of this actually originated over a year ago through a conversation with Justin of Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center company Biz Net Technologies. He helped me discover TypePad's low-cost way to host the charity fund-raising site for the New River Valley Triathlon.
 
Here's the site and you can see that it has updated blog posts.  On the right, though, is a navigation list, and each one of those words or phrases links to a static page.  So all the information that doesn't change is on the pages and all the stuff that does change is in the blog.  
 
For example, here's the first press release and it's a static page.  I put it in the blog, too, so that people who subscribe would see it, but that's long gone into the archives now.  The static page, though, is there for site visitors not to miss.
 
One reason people create blogs is to generate traffic for their web sites.  All my traffic comes to the same place, both blog and pages, because my web site has dynamic blog content:  2 for 1.

Inside VT KnowledgeWorks is a TypePad blog.
 
And Handshake 2.0 looks like a cutting edge super site and it is.  But underneath it all?  A TypePad blog.