The Physics Of The Internet

From a discussion started at Mark W. Schaefer’s blog.

My thoughts on what I now call The Physics of the Internet.

You have to get out of the “content competition stream” and into the “relationship building stream” as fast as possible.

In my opinion, you have to look at content as just that… content. Give away as much or all of it… make it valuable… and keep creating what I like to call “fingers of content” out on the Internet in as many targeted places as possible where your audience engages said content.

Also, re-purposing your content (in appropriate ways) into different formats so you can distribute it via the different format channels (e.g. Vimeo, YouTube, DVD, on website etc… for video content) is very critical.

You cannot assume your audience wants to consume your content in the format you want to distribute it… so don’t offer ONLY a book, or ONLY a Kindle formatted digital guide… offer it both ways, in audio format, perhaps a video version, in PDF etc… etc… so your audience can CHOOSE which way they want to consume your content.

Keep the choices limited by some degree, so as to avoid the lack of decision when presented with too many choices. Constant testing will be needed here to determine which formats will be most popular based on your content and audience.

I was blabbering on there for a minute… LOL.

Bottom line, the best at giving the people formerly known as the audience what they want will win. (sorry, had to throw that Jay Rosen title in for good measure :) )

Best Of The Ratliff Report Blog Year 3

As I’ve done every year on this blog… I’m posting the best 10 posts of 2011 as reported by traffic, interaction, and a couple of my own picks:

Here they are, in no particular order (all links open in a new window)…

  1. Money Is Easy To Make, But Businesses Are Hard To Build
  2. Grabbing A Speck Of Dust — Steve Jobs Tribute
  3. The Entrepreneur’s Fast Food
  4. Why Can’t We Be Human On The Internet?
  5. The 80/20 Rule For Businesses Part 2
  6. Social Media Isn’t Your Entire Marketing Strategy
  7. The Social Media Bubble Is Going To Burst
  8. Would You Walk Up To Someone On The Street And Flash Your Business?
  9. Your Customers Want To Give You Money, Will You Let Them?
  10. 5 Books That Represent A Full Education In Marketing And Advertising

There you have them…enjoy! :)

If you want more…there is the Blog Archives.  Then…I’ve also added some resources to my Marketing Resources page as well.  Have a great 2012 folks.

Social Media Isn’t Your Entire Marketing Strategy

Social Media.

The minute you read those two words, which are buzz words, doesn’t it conjure up some mysterious land where everyone is making hundreds of millions using this big shiny object?

It shouldn’t.

Using social media tools should only comprise a portion of your overall marketing (hell, even business) strategy.  It doesn’t typically support entire business marketing plans.

It can be used for different things too…not just marketing.  Social media tools can be used for customer service, sales, connecting, communication, and on…and on…

Do you get the picture here?

In other words…social media as a whole really isn’t that big of a deal.

What social media boils down to (for businesses) is it represents another set of tools to go into a larger tool box.  That’s it.

If you’re thinking about using social media to replace the whole tool box, your swimming in some dangerous water…because growing a business is a whole lot bigger than that.

There’s no doubt that it’s more and more important for you to communicate with your customers, to engage them etc… but the tools under which you accomplish that are just tools…nothing more, and nothing less IMO.

Would You Walk Up To Someone On The Street And Flash Your Business?

Social media tools are a funny thing for most (and I mean most) business owners.

“I’ll just go search on Facebook or Twitter, find a conversation, and involve myself so I can market my business.”

Really?  Are you serious?  Do you really think the social media tools like Twitter and Facebook are advertising billboards?

Facebook has an advertising platform within its structure, but if you think you just need to find out what people are searching for on Facebook and write ads to that effect (much like Google PPC)…then you most likely will be sorely mistaken.

I equate the social media like walking down the street where people are talking amongst themselves.  You wouldn’t just walk up to 2, 3, or more people who are having a conversation and promote your business right away right?

You would first have to find some common ground, and actually have a conversation first right?  Get to know each other a little, then when that person asks you what you do…or if the conversation leads towards revealing your business…you reveal it then.

And yes, that was an oversimplified example for sure…but you can see the main point.  You don’t just advertise yourself blatantly and interrupt the conversations people are already having!

You start your own conversations, you get to know people, you (heaven forbid)…

Build relationships.

I know…what a revelation right?

I have had numerous business owners ask me “what is the ROI of social media?” or… “How do I track how much profit I’m making with social media?”

(Good book on the subject here)

These kind of questions have the wrong focus.  I know, I know, profits are important…and they are, I agree.  But some marketing efforts don’t lead directly to bottom line profits, and if you ask yourself these types of questions you’ll have to get over it.  Imagine this instead…

Scenario A

You have a customer-service issue, and you address that issue professionally (you think), and even ask the customer if you have addressed their issue and they say yes…and you let them on their way.  Everything’s ok, right?

Wrong.

This customer wasn’t fully satisfied with the solution, and spreads the word on Facebook, and Twitter.  It catches the attention of their friends, and their friends – friends etc… and goes viral.

You did the right thing by your customer, and you STILL get negative publicity as a result because “you don’t believe in the ROI of social media”.

Now let’s examine this a little differently…

Scenario B

Same as Scenario A, except one crucial difference, the FIRST time the customer spreads the word to their friends…you have an alert delivered to your inbox from Google and are notified…now you have an opportunity to jump into the conversation your customer and their friends are having about YOU.

So you express that you did in fact try to help, but can appreciate that it may not have been enough, and you offer to rectify the situation even further.

So, how do you think you would be viewed in Scenario A by NOT using social media to “put out the fire”, then how do you think you look in Scenario B where you attempted to help further?

I’m not a damage control expert…and once again, this example is a little simplified, but I like Scenario B.

So, what is the “ROI” of putting out a fire using social media?  Stopping the loss of potential customers?  Stopping the loss of potential referral business?  More?

I think the answer is obvious.

There is, or will be, a story told about your business online.  If there is, wouldn’t you want to participate?  If there isn’t yet…wouldn’t you want to tell the story first?

To me, “how much ROI?” is the wrong question…you really don’t have a choice as to whether or not you want to use social media…it’s just a matter of whether you will or won’t, and dealing with the consequences and benefits either way.

And about losing control of your business’ image and “secrets” (a common fear about using social media), well, were they really yours or your customer’s to begin with?

Think about that today…

Social Media Will Have An Impact On SEO

Back in 2005 or so Google issued one of it’s first infamous “slaps.”

Since then, the rules have been changing, sometimes these changes are minor, and sometimes these changes impact the online marketing community and SEO on a grand scale.

This is one of those years where “grand scale” may be understating it a bit.

Social media links and content are going to start having an impact on your Search Engine Rankings within Google’s (and Bing’s) algorithm starting very soon.

Get ready for it, if you’re not using social media tools now, start using them, if nothing else…for a little future search engine love.

Resources for more specific information (links open in a new window):

Google and Bing confirm – On SEOMoz blog by Rand Fishkin

Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land with an Interview on this SEO topic

Please do me a favor and re-share this post with others so they can have an opportunity to review the same info you have. :)

Social Media: The Hatfields Versus The McCoys

Holy smokes, the nerve of some people.

As a specific example (not that he needs me to stick up for him), Chris Brogan seems to be coming under fire because he’s re-organizing his business (key words: his business)…and on The Infopreneur, there are a few people are actually whining about how much he engages his audience, how he might “brag” too much on his blog, has a “smug” attitude, or even how the freely given content isn’t “valuable” to some people any more.

And on, and on…

These “haters of Social Media marketers” seem to be coming out in droves lately…and it’s actually really disappointing to me to see fellow human beings acting this way towards others.

So it’s time to call this group out.

Where the hell does anyone get off criticizing someone for taking “less” time to provide ANY free content that they could use to improve their businesses or lives AT ALL?

It’s free content folks, so it will come when it comes…

and heaven forbid someone actually tries to make money while recommending affiliate products using their own blogs, or even the Social Media (not referring to spamming, or any other illegal activities)…

because we are (for the most part) adults, not children, but when someone is selling something via FREE content, especially when they provide WAY more free content than selling, that’s not wrong, it’s the business of marketing folks.  It doesn’t matter what tools you’re using.

I just don’t get it.  Has Chris (or any other ethical free content provider) scammed you out of your money or something?  No?

I’d venture a guess that you could in fact get a full refund of all the money you paid for reading his blog if you wanted (oh wait…it’s free content freely given by the time and energy of the individual providing it…sorry).

These exchanges usually center around people offering their opinion about said free content provider, and that opinion is one they are entitled to for sure, but the problem and my issue comes when those opinions evolve into what I define as a Social Media virus (term coined by Nathan Hangen).

Some believe you can use Social Media as a business tool, and some believe you shouldn’t…and guess what?  You’re both right, so leave the other side to their OWN desires and the way they want to pursue them, with what tools they want to use to pursue those desires, including using social media tools to make money if they want.

My personal take on the Social Media as it applies to the business world is the Social Media represents a set of engagement tools, and that’s it. Tools to use at a business owner’s discretion to reach out to an audience of people that have chosen to follow them.

(Using Chris Brogan’s business as an example, 45,000-plus people have chosen to follow him…and if they don’t feel there is a reason to do that any more…they shouldn’t, period)

A big secret here is…tools don’t replace people, nor are tools responsible for establishing any “rules” that govern how to use those tools in an ethical, 100% legal, and moral manner.

Some people, suffering the Social Media Virus, have somehow manufactured the “proper” way to use Social Media…and the truth is, there is way more than one “proper” way.

Since we live in a capitalist society…those tools are available for use in the art of making money while engaging audiences…

…or to contact friends and family members…

…or to reconnect with past acquaintances…

…and on, and on…and I respect the fact that not everyone uses the Social Media in their business-building efforts.  That’s totally ok (not that it has to be ok with me, but it is), and the main Social Media sites are in fact great tools to connect with people for other reasons as well.

But the people who whine about those who are in the business world using Social Media tools to market, make a profit, and engage other people towards that end…well…sometimes they just make me sick.

And I’ve bottled it up for long enough, this had to be written in my opinion.

It reminds me of a couple of two-year olds fighting over a toy in a playroom.  One two-year old says that toy is “theirs”…and the other says “they won’t share with me”.

Come on folks…the tools are available, use them as you see fit (legally, morally, and ethically of course) and quit worrying about how other people choose to use these tools (don’t we have bigger fish to fry anyhow?).  If a person chooses to use Social Media in an illegal, unethical, or immoral manner…life will at some point punish those people, guaranteed.

So, let’s quit coming back to some fantasy land where Social Media can only be used for “noble” or “non-moneymaking” purposes eh?

And if you’re suffering from the Social Media virus…

Social Media Virus symptoms: whining on blogs and forums about who is using the Social Media to make money, picking apart caring people with larger businesses built on one thing…then having to evolve because of that growth…or just because you might be jealous of another person because their business is WAY more successful than yours…

…get over yourselves. We’re all people with lives, emotions, and different reasons for doing what we do…let’s all grow up and act like it.  Who put you in charge of how the Social Media is to be used anyhow?

If someone wants to use Social Media as part of building and growing their business…let’s let ’em, and if they don’t, let’s let ’em too…but let’s not continue a “Hatfields vs. McCoys” thing over something that quite frankly is so trivial.

(By the way, who cares actually?  Quit following an individual if you don’t feel value is being delivered and stop whining about it, that’s your choice.  People like Chris Brogan aren’t the only ones who have experienced great success by building a business around “giving freely” then having to change that direction a little as their business evolves, nor will they be the last)

Life is way too short to worry about whether or not Chris Brogan, or anyone else for that matter, comments on their blog enough, or whether he needs to change his business model (which I imagine will still provide value for free on a different scale). Instead, let’s just get back to building our own businesses…and perhaps grow them to a level we can be proud of.

Quite frankly, if you grow a business to the level that a Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, or any of the other “social media stars” have…then you will experience the very same set of challenges they are trying to overcome right now as well, guaranteed.

One of those challenges will unfortunately include some “group” of people who suffer a “virus” similar to the Social Media virus, where they will try to tear down your own success, and when (not if) that happens…

What will you do about that?

I think that once you answer that question comprehensively for yourself first…then and only then could you comment on how a Chris Brogan or Gary Vaynerchuk could be running their businesses better and recommend the tools they are using.

/rant :)

Until the next time we look in the mirror together,

–Joseph Ratliff

P.S. Before you fire up your email program, or comment below…I want to state that yes, I actually suffered the same virus I’ve listed above, until I understood why that virus existed in me…and I cured myself of it for the most part (I’m human, so I do and will continue to make mistakes).

This post comes as a result of a “pent up” rant (which feels good to get off my chest), so if it does offend you, it’s possible you might be infected too. :)

It isn’t my intention to offend people, I just feel this topic serves as a good lesson for everyone as the Internet allows us a medium to publish our unabated opinions. :)

The Great Filtering Of Online Marketing…

It has begun…

…and if any of the things I mention in this post apply to you, take heed of the warning, or be prepared to close the doors.

This is probably going to rank in the most important posts I write all year…

Let’s get started, shall we?

Over the next decade, we are going to witness a “great filtering” of sorts in the online marketing arena (and business in general for that matter).

What do I mean?

The shady business people, the snake oil salespeople, the ones that just don’t care about their customers (or even worse, ignore them completely)…and any so-called business person that can be lumped into these categories…will start to suffer a slow and painful business death.

And I mean, all of them…not a percentage…not some, all of them (finally).

How can I make such a widespread claim?

One word…access.

The Internet has changed the game (not will change, has changed).  It has allowed a level of access on many different platforms…that businesses can’t “hide” any more…

  • They can’t scam their customers and get away with it…
  • They can’t hide behind a monitor and be “anonymous” anymore…
  • They can’t make bold-faced lies to the people that do business with them (or are thinking of doing business with them) anymore…

Because it can all be revealed by using the Internet.

Yeah, there will still be scams, unscrupulous business people, and such…but when they set up shop…their lifetime is extremely limited, and will be even more so as the “great filtering” takes place over the next 10 years or so.

So what exactly is the great filtering?

It’s the process where those businesses that fall in the above-mentioned categories will begin to be “filtered out” by the public.

It’s already begun to happen, for example…

What happens to a book on Amazon when a bunch of people leave negative feedback (legitimate negative feedback)? It gets filtered out…falling off the charts.  Those that leave negative feedback that is just not legitimate get filtered out as well.

Spammers aren’t even being paid attention to anymore (other than the customary “how do we get rid of them?” feedback.

If someone uses an anonymous “user name” on a forum, blog, or other social communication media, they usually get “filtered out”.  In the rare case where they are listened to…they always have that barrier they must overcome before what they say matters (eventually, they won’t be listened to at all).

People want to interact with real people, not those who hide behind anonymous or “hidden” information etc…  While it’s certainly possible (for now) to continue to do this… eventually you’ll automatically become “noise” if you’re currently doing this.

There are a TON of other examples I can point to, and I will do so over the course of the next two years or so…(perhaps pointing out some specific examples as they appear to me).   For now, just think of ways for you to avoid “The Great Filtering Of Online Marketing.

If you already are, congratulations, it will get easier to do business as time goes on from this standpoint.

Making Money With Social Media Isn’t The First Of Your Problems…

“Joe, how do I make money with Twitter?”

“Why can’t I make money with my Facebook account?”

“I’ve tried that social media stuff, and I can’t track any sales to it.”

And on, and on…

Folks, this ISN’T your first problem.  It’s also the wrong focus…

It’s the conversation about you, that you have to participate in, that’s the first thing you should worry about.

It’s also that very conversation which is the key to making money with social media.  Participate in it.

If that conversation hasn’t started yet (you do Google searches for your name, company, and products right?), and you’re foolish enough to believe that you will be able to build a business (for real) and choose not to participate in it…well…it will go on without you.

If it goes on without you, building your business will be like rolling the dice in Vegas.

So, start the conversation yourself if it doesn’t exist already!

Start to frame how people will view you and your business, start to develop key business relationships that would have never existed if you “chose not to participate” etc…

If you’re not searching Google for your name and your business name, you’d better start.  (you can set up Google Alerts to bring it right to your email)

It’s that very conversation that generates the money…not directly, but indirectly…and only if you’re there to collect it. :)

Until the next time we look in the mirror together,

How many conversations are going on about you?

How many conversations are going on about you?

Why You’re Probably Missing The Boat With Social Media Marketing

I hear it from potential clients all the time (before they hear my fees, and feint).

“Joe, I tried that Facebook stuff, and it didn’t work.”

“Joe, what’s the fastest way to get number one rankings in Google by using Stumbleupon?”

“Joe, I can’t get any sales increases using the social media, you’re full of shit…that stuff is only for teenagers!”

Or a variation of the above.

<inside Joe’s head at that exact moment> SHIT, you’re kidding right?

<actually coming out of Joe’s mouth to the potential client at the same exact moment>

Easy now, you’re just going about social marketing and social media the wrong way…with the wrong mindset is all.  What do you expect?  The key concept surrounding these sites… is the word social. Nowhere in any of the concepts surrounding those sites does it infer “instant results that you can obtain because you’re using a different method of marketing”…come on now Mr./Mrs. Potential Client…what did you really expect?

{+++}

I love it when people think there is some sort of magic marketing media, message, or method that will bring instant results…doesn’t exist.  That’s why it’s called business building.

Granted, no one should ever tell you that it’s not possible to make money quickly…because it is…in fact it’s your responsibility to operate to obtain obscene profits in as short a time as possible…

But you’re missing the boat with social media marketing if you think for a second that you have the right media to directly market your products or services.

Bzzzt!  Wrong answer, thank you for playing your game.

But, before you close this post (not a good move)…and confirm your suspicions about sites like Facebook, Stumbleupon, Digg, Yahoo! Answers, etc… stop and think for a second.

They are social media sites people!  That means some form of social interaction must take place before you can even think of profiting.  And, the kind of profiting you are probably thinking of right now isn’t the main benefit of the social media.

When you ask some total stranger in a bar to go out on a date, which approach is better?

1)  Hey there stranger…you look sexy…wanna go out on a date with me?

Or…

2)  Hi, my name is Joe…what’s yours?  Oh, you’re from _______?  Wow, tell me a little more about that… (and on and on)…

Keep in mind I have been married for 17 years now…so my “pick up lines” are a little rusty…but you get the point… #1 is direct marketing, #2 is social marketing…and over a longer term, #2 will be more effective as you get to know more strangers right?

Look, if you want to try and peddle $7 ebooks on the social sites…you will fail…I guarantee it.  In fact, unsubscribe from this RSS feed right now, and subscribe to this one instead (you need to learn the basics first).

But…if you can now see the social media for what it really is…a chance to build a HUGE following…and resonate with the audience that will resonate with you (for more than just sales…how about JV partnerships that can bring you the cool money)…then you get it.

Nothing in business that is HUGE for your business comes without a little work. :)

Until the next time we look in the mirror together,

Joseph Ratliff - Your Partner In Internet Business Profits

Joseph Ratliff - Your Partner In Internet Business Profits

The Internet Business Game Is Changing…Are You?

It’s almost as if business owners are afraid to promote their businesses.

You look for all of the “simple” ways to advertise, probably paying WAY too much I imagine, then sit back and complain every time you turn the news on and see yet another small business closing its doors.

Some of the main complaints I am hearing from potential clients…

“Man, I wish I could figure out how to get more customers to my business.”

“Fuck, sales are down for yet another month.”

“If only I had seen this (the recession) coming, then I could have prepared for it.”

Blah, blah, blah…whine, moan, complain.

What’s really sad, one of the answers to your business growth dilemma is right in front of you, you’re just so snowed by “whoa is me” crap to see it…and probably too uncomfortable to actually use it.

Come to think of it, maybe I should just stop writing this post.

Nah, I’m not that much of an asshole. 😉

One of the promotion secrets actually has nothing to do with the direct selling of products (most of you are probably going to click off this post right now, too bad for you)…in fact, it’s not about selling at all…

{+++}

It’s about the brand of you (or your business).

Are you using social media at all?  Have you tried, but failed, and think that social media is a fad?

If you’re not using social media to some extent to promote your online business, or an offline business that might extend that presence to the web…you’re missing the boat big time.

There’s more leverage than can possibly be imagined in social networking, social marketing, Web 2.0…whatever you want to label it.

Your mindset just has to be adjusted to think about social marketing the right way…that’s all.

It’s not about direct selling…in fact, if you sell directly via social media, and haven’t earned the right to…your results will suffer or be non-existent.  It’s the most common mistake made by 90% of marketers and business owners using Web 2.0 stuff.

So what’s the correct mindset?

First, you cannot have a hidden agenda.  When using the social media, your objectives have to be both transparent and pure.  You have to be genuine to yourself, and the results you want to obtain.

Then, you need to imagine the online social media like a giant seminar.  You don’t walk up to someone at a seminar and immediately begin to pitch them something, do you?

Then why the fuck would you do that when social marketing?

As with all people-oriented business building strategies…relationships are the key.  Relationships and people first, profits and money are a benchmark for success only (not, scratch that, never the objective).

So…when using social media…you need to develop the branding mentality.  I equate this with creating a magnet that will attract your following of loyal customers to you.  While creating that magnet will not result in direct sales immediately for the most part…over time you will create a “snowball effect” where more and more sales result from people referring other people to your business, and buying into your business.

And that my friends, is really the secret to business overall.  It’s a people oriented arena (especially with the level playing field of Web 2.0).  If you forget your people, you can forget your profits.

A prime example of this on the large company scale…is the automobile “Big 3” …which don’t seem so big now, do they?  :)  They forgot about their people…instead opting for direct sales and forgetting to cultivate relationships with their customers.  It’s not about the “mechanical things” like customer surveys any more Toto.

Does your business follow the example of the Big 3 Automakers?

If it does, and you don’t change, save yourself the stress and money invested…and just close the doors now.

Do you want to make a change?

Good.  Blueprint time!

Create a video blog, and on a weekly basis, create a video post for your market to enjoy (entertainment is a BIG reason people surf the web).  Once you start to develop a positive following of people, and not before, start to introduce your sites and business to that following (gently).

To submit your videos to other sites…you can use http://www.tubemogul.com

To look for a video cam and tripod to create your videos (along with a microphone) … look into Amazon.com.

And a good site to submit to as well, http://www.viddler.com .

One more thing you’ll need is Camtasia video editing software.

Brand yourself with your weekly content…make it interesting.  The best example I can find of this (aside from what I will be doing later this year) is Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV.

Think about giving tips in a weekly format, or useful news for your audience.  Over a pretty short period of time, sales will start to increase naturally…without much more effort.  Heck, you might even be called to interview or show up on Oprah.

I understand that there are more ideas on this subject, and I will cover them in later posts…but get creative…I am sure you can do it :)