Categories
technology

The Shiny New Thing that just came out last week!

Overheard by a friend talking on his phone:

Friend: Do you have an iPhone 5 yet?
Pause
Friend: Yes?! Really?!?! Cool!
Pause
Friend: No, I’m waiting to get the new iPhone 5s because I want the newest phone.
Pause
Friend: Yeah, I know it’s not out yet, but when it does come out, you won’t have the new phone anymore and I will.

And on and on the conversation goes…

Shiny New ThingIt seems like a cool new feature or widget or website or data feed or doodad or wahoo is coming out every day. And it seems like we need to constantly be on the cutting edge, out with the old, in with the new. And dressing our sites up like a Christmas tree with the latest bells and whistles.

And for what?

Seriously – why do we need to have the latest stuff on our sites?

Tim Ferriss boasts 25,000+ subscribers, and a net worth of $15M, all from his online endeavours which stem from his blog. And guess what he uses for email management: FeedBurner. Yep – Feedburner. FeedBurner is sooo 2004. The product hasn’t changed much in a few years. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that Google had the product on idle. But the product is great. It’s stable. It reliably delivers. And it works.

So why recreate the wheel? Sometimes, there’s a new tool that adds value. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen one.

The key reason for new platforms, widgets and doodads is to chase crowds. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ – these are all walled gardens that limit access to people. You can’t send a tweet to someone’s Facebook wall. So instead, you have to send your message twice. You tweet it. And you put it on Facebook. And on Google+. And on Instagram. And on Pinterest. And… you get the idea.

So, to interact with those people, you’re not finding new people. You’re simply finding new ways to get in front of them. And that can be painful after a while. How many social networks can we have? It seems there’s a shiny new network or tool every week. Is it worth chasing all of these new networks? Not a chance.

Then what should we do?

We want eyeballs. We want to reach our target audience. We want to make sure our content reaches as many people as possible.

I’ll tell you how I do it:

PublicizeI use the Publicize feature of WordPress to advertise my blog posts on the main social networks: Facebook and Twitter. I don’t use Tumblr (it would be a duplicate of my WordPress blog) and I save LinkedIn for business communication. The only major social network that misses out is Google+ and that is a shame. I would like to distribute my posts to Google+ as well, but for now, the walled garden philosophy has kept the big players from playing nice together. So, until WordPress.com has a post to Google+ feature, I’ll live without it. I feel that the bulk of the audience still resides within Twitter and Facebook anyways. And, Google indexes my content so search still brings people to my blogs (a high proportion of my blog visitors arrive via search results from Google).

From there, I might get fancy with some tweets from time to time, duplicating my original “this post just went live” tweets that go out when I post something new.

Now back to Feedburner for a minute: Feedburner has stuck around because it does email well. Sure, MailChimp and Constant Contact do it great as well, but it’s hard to revolutionize that space. So, if you’ve got Feedburner, you’re not really motivated to migrate.

So yeah… that shiny new thing – you could kill yourself chasing all of the new things instead of focusing on your content. And that would be too bad. Focus on your content instead. The rest will sort itself out in the wash.

So there we go… this section of my “So you want to start blogging…” series is now over. Now that I’ve finished with my “Set up your tools” section, it’s time to move on to the next section, called, “Build Your Tribe”. In that section, I’ll talk about growing an audience.

Stick around and stay tuned for more content coming up soon!

Todd

Categories
technology

Mailing Lists

This is part 6 of my blog series entitled Set Up Your Tools.

MailChimpEmail is the most direct electronic method that you can use to interact with your audience. Email is the one queue that everyone manages on a regular basis. Twitter & Google+ steams, Facebook walls and RSS feed readers can get overwhelming, forcing people to simply start from scratch, thinking that if it’s important, they’ll see the tweet, blog post or news item somewhere else.

But email is different. Inbox Zero is a desired state for many, but the barrier to getting there is simply processing all of the email that comes into our inbox on a daily basis. But this is also its strongest allure: Email is considered more valuable. Email is coveted and each piece is individually read, actioned and curated for later reference. Thus, the ability to deliver your message directly to someone’s inbox is the most direct and the most effective way to catch someone’s attention.

But I am constantly surprised by the number of people that forego collecting email addresses. When you are building a community, it is important to connect with each person as directly as possible. Otherwise, you risk being ignored or unseen in the overwhelming torrent of information that is available on the internet. To remain relevant, you must have the most direct line of contact with your reader. And that direct line is email.

There are many ways of collecting and distributing content to email addresses. You can add people individually. You can get people to sign up using a paper form at an in person event. You can send emails to your mailing list asking people to sign up. These are all okay, but they don’t capitalize on your site visitors. Instead, you need to put your signup right beside your content. That way, when people visit your site and read your messages, they will see a way to get more of the same content. And, you’ll have a system in place that manages their signups, unsubscribes, address changes, etc. And to do that is easier than you think.

There are numerous engines out there for collecting email lists and then sending emails out to your subscribers. Some of the more common systems include:

MailChimpMailChimp: More than 3 million people use MailChimp to create, send, and track email newsletters. Whether you’re self-employed, you manage projects for clients, or you work for a Fortune 500 company, MailChimp has features and integrations that will suit your email-marketing needs.” (quote source)

Constant ContactConstant Contact: “Email Marketing just plain works. See how. Your customers check their inbox all day, every day. You’re sure to reach them when you work with Constant Contact. Build relationships, drive revenue, and deliver real results for your business.” (quote source)

And WordPress has this built in as well:

WordPress: “When you follow a blog on WordPress.com, all new posts from that site will appear in your Reader, where you can view all the latest posts published across all the blogs you follow. You’ll also receive notifications of new posts by email.” (quote source)

Now that we know some of the players, let’s break this down into two parts: 1) collection, and 2) distribution.

First, collection:

Subscribe Today!To collect email addresses, you need a “sign up” form on your site. Something that says, “sign up now!” or some other catchy call to action.

This button will trigger some sort of form that will collect some basic info. Keep it simple: collect email address and maybe name. Don’t ask for a bunch of info – people don’t like answering lots of questions nowadays. If you give them too many things to do, they may bail on the whole exercise.

Most systems have the capability to do this quite easily.

Second, distribution:

The delivery portion of this is can be quite easy or quite hard and quite pretty and quite plain, depending on the platform. The simplest distribution method is WordPress. People that follow your blog get an email each day with the new blog posts. No customization. No muss. No fuss.

MailChimp and Constant Contact both have the capacity to customize your emails. You can make templates that make your emails look more professional and more polished. But this takes work – and in some cases, some design and/or development skills as well. But, you should be able to get a fairly snazzy looking email out to your followers using one of the custom themes that are available for either platform.

Personally, I think that the polished look of MailChimp or Constant Contact are valuable. But, I also think that simplicity is good. For now, I’m erring on the side of simplicity and using WordPress’ generic emails. This may change over time if I get more time and more followers, which might necessitate a more professional look & feel.

The most important takeaway here is to have a mechanism to connect with your site visitors over email. Without that, you’re missing out on the most direct method of contact you can get on the web.

Hope this helps!

Todd