Friday, March 30, 2007

Please sir, I want some Morr

posted by Andy Leff
CCPA -- the organization that keeps on giving! (Podcasts, that is.)

We recently caught up with Thomas Morr, President and CEO of Select Greater Philadelphia, and one of the expert panelists at CCPA's State of the City event.

The result of our conversation: a fascinating look at how regions market themselves to businesses, and how new media supports those efforts.

But it sounds even better when Tom says it. So turn your ears over to him and listen ...

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Roeder trip!

posted by Seun Olubodun
Takes one to know one. That's why we immediately zeroed in on Linda Roeder, one of the chief writers for the Social Networking Weblog, as the perfect person to talk to about social networking and blogging.

And what better way to hit up the queen of the Internet than through e-mail? Here's an in-depth Q&A that shares every insider tip known to man -- all from a lady who knows her stuff.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Linda. How did you become involved in social networking and blogging? Why did you start?

In 1998 I became the guide for the Personal Web Pages site on When I first started the site, the word "blog" was non-existent. Back then they were called online diaries, and some of them were really artistic and well thought-out Web sites. In fact, some of them are still around today.

The main focus of the [Personal Web Pages] site was to teach people how to create their own personal Web site. This often meant teaching HTML, showing people how to organize their pages so people can find what they're looking for, and teaching design, color, and layout. As the site grew, HTML started to become less important, because a lot of sites started coming out with editors that let people design without code.

One day the word "weblog" crossed me, soon shortened to "blog." Blogs, wikis, and social networking sites started popping up all over the place. I tried a little of each. I like the idea of blogs. Blogs create a sense of community on the Internet. I've discovered that bloggers like other bloggers.

Social networking sites create community too, but only within the specific social networking site. It works even better if the social networking site is topic-specific -- you know, those that focus on specific things like athletes or weight loss. Wikis are a great way to create community, too. I don't know why they're not being used more.

Anyway, I started my blog to talk about my kids. One is an aspiring star on the bicycle racing circuit, one has Asperger's, and the other has PDD, a high functioning form of Autism.

I needed a place to vent and show off my kids, so I started a personal blog. I didn't do it to meet people, but I did end up giving the URL to other parents of kids with PDD and Asperger's. I ended up meeting new friends and getting advice.

I have a photo blog for my oldest son where I chronicle his bike racing. I like to add pictures and create a story out of them. People have told me it's very funny.

I started social networking to find old friends I went to school with. I managed to find a few, but I live in an area where, it seems, not very many people are computer literate.

What were you doing in your previous life (lives)?

Before I started working with (formerly The Mining Company), I was an accountant. Funny, isn't it? I have a BA in accounting and business administration. I worked as a material buyer and assistant controller for a factory Pillsbury owned before I started working on the Net.

I was always fascinated with computers. I had my first computer when I was 13. That was a big thing back then. It was an Apple, and you had to plug it into the TV because it didn't come with a monitor. You needed a boot disk to start it up, and if you started it in the wrong order you had big problems.

I learned to code in eighth grade. I don't remember the name of the language.

Is this your first tech-reporting venture? What other experience do you have in this space?

Before working for Creative Weblogging doing the Social Networking site, I wrote for several other sites, and still write for a few of them.

As I mentioned above, I run the Personal Web Pages site for I also write articles for Suite101 about the Internet and Bike Racing. I used to write a site for on the topic of raising boys, but recently gave up that site.

Other sites I write for are How To Do Things and Associated Content.

What made you decide to launch (or come on board) at Social Networking Weblog? What attracted you to it?

I had been working as an editor for When they restructured their business model in January, they cut half the editors. I was one of those laid off.

While looking for something else to do, I had been told of the Creative Weblogging site before, so I went to there to see what they had to offer. I asked about writing a different blog, but they thought I would be interested in doing the Social Networking blog. I accepted.

Since I worked with social networking sites a lot on my Personal Web pages site, it seemed a perfect fit for me to do the Social Networking Weblog. What I've learned from my Personal Web Pages site helps me write the Social Networking Weblog, and what I've learned while doing research for the Social Networking Weblogs improves my Personal Web Pages site. It's a win-win situation.

How exactly did you (or the Social Networking Weblog creators) launch the blog? Take us through the steps.

The Social Networking Weblog was already launched when I took it over. It's currently 19 months old, and I have been doing it for two months. They just gave me the tools and the password, and let me go at it.

I use Movable Type to write the blog. Creative Weblogging has another area where I can manage the links on the site and get my stats.

What do you do to get the blog noticed? How do you reach out, and to whom?

I go to blogs similar to mine and post comments. This is especially fun if they posted comments on my site first, or when they find my comments and come to my site to post something for me.

I try to link to other blogs and add them to my blog roll. I also make sure my site is listed with the major search engines, and make sure that some of my posts are optimized for search. I Digg my better posts.

I also have profiles on quite a few social networking sites. I don't have time to actively participate in all of them, but I do make an effort to choose a couple each week and do something with them.

What’s the No. 1 lesson you have learned about starting and writing blogs? The biggest challenge? The biggest surprise?

It's hard to get people to read more than one page at a time. A blog is like a story; you need to read more than one page, but most people don't.

So you need to bring something unique to the table. Talk in real words and talk to the reader. Don't talk about the same thing all the time. Shake it up a little. It's also hard to monetize a blog.

My biggest surprise would have to be how many good comments I get. I'm surprised that people like what I have to say, and actually respond to it in a positive way.

What’s the unique value of Social Networking Weblog? Why should this blog make the short list for blog readers?

This blog talks about more than just what the latest social networking site is -- the site de jour, if you will. I like to talk about how to stay safe on the Net, how to design your site so it's not just like everyone else's, what's going on in the news with social networking, what's happening in the world of social networking, and much more.

It's more than just social networking sites, but social networking on the Web in general. Sometimes I get a little more into the realm of what your site should have or shouldn't have on it, and sometimes I like to talk about making friends online.

Take us "behind the screens." How does a typical day go for you? How do you generate ideas and topics? What’s your writing routine?

I get up at 5:30, and get my husband and my teenage son up and moving. Then I go through all my e-mails for the different things I do. Then I get my husband and son out of the house, and get my other boys up and ready for school.

Once they are dressed and eating, I check to see what I have to do that day. I have a list broken down by days of the week. I have three different sites I write for regularly, so I need to keep it all straight somehow. Then I open all the Web pages and tools I'll need to start that day's work.

After I get the kids off to school, I start working. I'm not good at sitting still for too long, so I take a lot of breaks. This helps to clear my mind and maybe get some laundry done or something. Some days I work on the Social Networking Weblog, some days I work on my Personal Web Pages site, and other days I work on my Suite101 articles or writing for other sites.

To get ideas for the Social Networking Weblog, I typically see what's going on in the news or what other blogs are writing about. The best way I have found to do this is by using Google Alerts. I tell them what keywords I want and it sends me what blogs, news, and other sites are writing about that topic.

I like to put my own spin on everything when I can. Some posts are just telling about a new social networking site I've come across, and what I like or dislike about it. Others are more opinion on how to do or how to avoid something that's going on. Sometimes I come across a blog post, and will tell why I agree or disagree with what they are saying.

Why write about social networking and blogging when so many others are writing about this space? How does a new blogger/social networker add value amid so much noise? Specifically, how do YOU add value?

Since I have been writing about online social networking since before the term existed, and before there were online social networking sites, I think I bring a unique perspective. I know what people on the Internet want and are looking for because I've been answering their questions for nearly nine years now.

A new blogger or social networker who wants to add value has to add a unique voice to the Internet. They have to say things that people want to know about, or that people want to hear about. Choose a topic and stick with it.

I like to add my opinion and base it on something in real life. I also like to link my blog to others’ by commenting on their post, writing my own opinion about what they said, and have them comment on my post. I think this will get readers of either blog to read further into both blogs.

What are the top issues in the social networking space?

Security is up there, especially when it comes to kids. Kids are very naive, VERY, even the street smart kids. I recently wrote about my niece who was putting all kinds of personal information on her MySpace profile. She's 16 and had no clue how dangerous this was. It's dangerous for adults, too. We all need to be more aware of this.

Design is important to a lot of people. They want their profile to look special, say who they are. They are out there looking for templates to add to their social networking sites so they can personalize their profile and have it look the way they want.

Also, the ability to add things like music, video, and toys to profiles is important. I think what people really want is a personal Web page that they can alter and add to all the time. Some social networking sites let you add things, and others don't.

And how about spam? Man, I hate that stuff. I'm always getting messages on MySpace from sites that no longer exist.

I think there are many ways that businesses and other Web sites can use things like social networking and wikis to enhance what they already do. News sites are starting to use social networking, and I think shopping sites like Amazon should start using them too.

What’s the prevailing view about social networking and blogging? Do your views differ? How do you zag where others are zigging?

I think the prevailing view is that social networking is primarily for the young. I don't believe this for an instant. I know lots of 30-, 40-, 50-somethings and even older people who use social networking. I use it to connect with friends -- new friends, old friends, online friends, offline friends -- and I'm 30-something myself.

There are lots of different reasons people use social networking sites, though. Like I said, I use them to connect with my friends. Some people use them just to make as many "friends" as possible. Others use them instead of creating a personal Web site just so they have a face on the Internet.

I see social networking as a tool. Blogs and wikis are tools, personal Web pages are tools. They all serve their own purpose. I have at least one of each, or more. They are there for their own reasons.

I like to connect them all together and create one big master site for me where people can come and socialize (social networking), read about me (blogging), join in (wiki), or just see what my life is about (personal Web site).

What blogs do you regularly read? Are you part of any social networks?

I guess you could say I regularly read the blogs that are on my blog roll. I read through them once a week to see if there is anything I want to comment on or post about.

I'm part of many social networking sites. I join a lot of them to see what they're about and browse through them so I can write about them. Some of them I add to my bookmarks and visit regularly.

There are so many social networking sites coming out that are topic-specific. There are social network sites for weight loss, parenting, military families, women, NASCAR fans, sports, artists, and even for children. My oldest son belongs to two sports social networks because he is a bicycle racer.

What’s the No. 1 mistake you see other people make in the social networking/blogging space?

Giving out personal information is a biggie. I can't believe how many people like to tell the whole world where they live, where they work, where their kids go to school and play. This is just so dangerous in the world we live in. I wish the Internet could be as carefree and innocent as they make it out to be on cartoons, but it's just not.

The other thing is background colors. I like background and unique designs as much as the next person. But if your background is too busy, or too close in color to your text and the other things on your site, people will not be able to read anything or tell one thing from another.

What’s your best piece of advice for people who want to start a blog or social network?

If you want to start a social networking service of your own, make sure you are unique. Most social networks don't make it past the first year. Why? One, because it's hard to get people to join a site that doesn't have people on it yet. Two, because they are not unique enough, and people get bored easily.

If you want to become a big blogger, same thing goes. Be unique and be yourself. People can tell when you're fake. Be honest; people like to hear it like it is. Blog every day. Again, people get bored. If you want people to keep going to your blog, you have to give them something to go there for.

Labels: , , , ,

eBay rising, take two

posted by Ron Leff
I had to chime in on this topic, too. These insertion fees confirm what I've long suspected: eBay is losing its common touch.

In eBay's early days, founder Pierre Omidyar wanted to let the masses sell through his innovative service, so he kept prices low and gave everyone the chance to make money.

But with company growth comes new strategies. And it appears eBay is now calculating it doesn't need everyone's business after all. Otherwise, why put higher-end listings at risk by charging so much to post them?

It just doesn't make sense. Jacking up prices will drive out high-end products, and retain only the low-cost ones. And then our lauded eBay will become a garage-sale FleaBay -- with sellers paying the price.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

eBay rising

posted by Andy Leff
As promised, we're keeping our eye on eBay for you.

I was reading this thought-provoking post by eBay 'top seller' Corey Kossack about the structure of eBay insertion fees, and how they increase with higher-priced goods.

It got me thinking about the online reseller's ultimate viability. Corey makes an excellent point about the diminishing profit margin for items that require reenlistment in order to sell.

Once more sellers realize the dent this puts in their wallets, eBay will look much less attractive, especially for big ticket items. My prediction: eBay stores will price themselves out of the market if they're not careful.

So I ask all you eBay sellers out there, what do you think? Comment away, or, take our Zoomerang survey for a spin to share your thoughts.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Is your Web site DOA?

posted by Seun Olubodun
It doesn't have to be, according to StartUpNation, which shares nine tips for bringing new, successful Web sites to life, and reviving old ones.

Effective Web site development is a problem faced by many small biz owners. It happened all the time with my own clients at Element Web Solutions. Many of them really didn't grasp the Internet or its capabilities. They thought slapping together a site and throwing it online would have thousands of visitors knocking down their doors within the hour.

I, of course, preached otherwise with one consistent message: Simply building the Web site is the smallest part of what a business can do to harness the power of the Internet, and grow their business.

It's a gospel I still believe today, which is why I was so jazzed by StartUpNation's pointers, particularly:

Do your research. See what's happening online within your industry. You will see what the competition is doing, be inspired with fresh ideas, and better position yourself to stand out. Also, gathering information from experts and peer groups is beneficial for any business owner daunted by online development.

Involve others. Nobody benefits from a static Web site, least of all your business.
Seek and respond to feedback from your customers. Take advantage of Web. 2.0 tools that are now available to facilitate building a social network.

If you sell it in a store, sell it online.
E-commerce is the icing on any merchant's cake. In olden times, you relied on brick-and-mortar storefronts and local support. But now you can offer your goods to the world with a simple shopping cart and payment system.

Check out the whole list, and try out a few steps if your site is in need of CPR. Then write back to us, and let us know how the resuscitation went. We hope you get well soon!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

NBC, News Corp. build BoobTube

posted by Andy Leff
File this under 'well-known secrets': News Corp. and NBC Universal have announced that they're joining forces to create a YouTube rival.

The specter of this news has floated around since early summer, with some media mavens speculating that the companies would buy Metacafe.

I said it then, and I'll say it now: There is no way this venture will kill YouTube. YouTube's allure lies in the fact that the user community provides the content, not that corporations jam it down their throats.

Like Mark Cuban said when Google first acquired the video site, only a moron would buy YouTube for over a billion dollars. Conversely, only a moron would try to destroy YouTube with a business plan that has nothing to do with the real reasons behind the site's popularity.

Lay your bets down now ... I'm predicting that user-generated video will not even be offered on this self-styled 'YouTube Killer', because that would take more control out of big media’s hands.

That's why this deal is such a pathetic act of desperation. News Corp. and NBC are scared to death that they're losing hold of the media (which they are), trying to win it back (which they're not), and never realizing that their heyday might be gone for good.

I am also dumbfounded by News Corp.'s inexplicable involvement in this scheme. They already control MySpace -- the 2nd largest video-content sharing site on the planet behind 'GooTube' -- yet they risk cannibalizing their own product with another video site.

It begs the question -- how much legitimate, thoughtful planning actually supported this decision? I wonder if these suits really know how much money it takes to run a YouTube. Just crunch the numbers for the servers and bandwidth costs, and see if your checkbook doesn't start crumbling.

News Corp. and NBC will discover soon enough that running their own shop will be more expensive than striking a deal with YouTube, and mooching off their IT infrastructure. Enter the ultimate solution: a contract with YouTube to legally show video clips. This would dramatically increase big media's reach, at relatively low cost, and without the long ramp-up time of a new site.

But that's as likely to happen as pigs flitting past my second-story window. Instead, the media giants will continue their Quixotic march, and further damage their reach and drain their resources.

It's a shame, really. All they have to do is recognize the change of guard from traditional media to user-generated content, and learn to play nice with their new buddies. Only then can they credibly access the online community, and capture the millions of potential new viewers that await them there.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rich Tolsma takes on vidiots

posted by Seun Olubodun
Are you a vidiot? That is, someone who doesn't know how to approach a video project ... so won't even try?

If you are, then it's time you got schooled in video production basics. Multimedia is fast becoming an expected component in marketing materials. Make one investment in a solid, expertly produced piece, and you can incorporate it on your Web site, share it on YouTube, embed it in your company blog, and more.

But you don't have to take our word for it. Hear it from the 'reel' deal: Rich Tolsma, producer, director, editor, and head honcho at Rich Tolsma Productions in Philadelphia.

We caught up with him at the CCPA event (the same evening that brought you Krista Bard), and pestered him with lots of questions about why and how businesses of all sizes implement the power of video.

Lucky for us -- and for you -- he had great answers. Listen, learn, and let your inner Spielberg loose!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

InformationWeek strengthens our convictions

posted by Andy Leff
Think social networking is a dying fad? Then you're in good company with a recent article on InformationWeek's Mobile Weblog -- and out of step with our response.

Like I said to blogger Stephen Wellman, who was covering Michael Hirschorn's piece from The Atlantic Monthly, social networking will never die. It will simply be reborn under a different moniker, and continue reconnecting online lives.

Just something to consider if you're worried about dipping your toe in the social networking ocean. We say, be brave! Take the plunge. It's well worth it.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Bard of Philadelphia

posted by Andy Leff
"Why, then the world's mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open."
-- The Merry Wives of Windsor (II, ii, 2-3)

These stirring words from one Bard help us introduce another -- Krista Bard, President of CCPA, whose 'State of the City' event we recently attended.

Krista has the honor of being the subject of the first IncPlace podcast. Here, she discusses how small business collaboration and community support go a long way in growing a business.

We hope Krista's expertise provides just the sword you need to crack open your own business oyster (you get what I mean). Many thanks, Krista! And happy listening to all.

And for your viewing pleasure ... here I am with Krista the night of the event.

Seun joined in the fun, too. Here, we're discussing small business Web development.

Behold, the actual podcast production! Here's Julia Rocchi, one of our producers, with Krista hot on the mic.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hearin' now

posted by Andy Leff
The podcasts are coming, the podcasts are coming!

Thanks to our trusty microphone, snazzy recorder, and lots of free time, we're ready to start posting podcasts. Doesn't get any better than this, folks -- real conversations in real time from real people, all available for immediate listening and downloads.

Believe me, the entire production process has been a prime example of flying by the seat of our pants. But we've learned a heckuva lot, and we know you will too, once our interviews hit your speakers/headphones.

After all, business knowledge is only as good as the people imparting it. That's why we're going where the rubber meets the road -- grilling industry experts, bloggers, analysts, business owners, customers, and community leaders on your behalf.

And remember: This is for you, so let us know if you like what you're hearing, how you respond to what you're hearing, and who you might want to hear next. Feel free to pass us along to friends and enemies -- we want their feedback, too.

In the end, we're all ears. And we thank you in advance for yours!


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mello says hello

posted by Andy Leff
John P. Mello, Jr. is our hero.

He's the lead blogger for the MyTech blog over at Small Biz Resource. And he just wrote an awesome profile of IncPlace for the world to see.

Seriously, though, you need to check out Small Biz Resource, and not just to further inflate our rapidly expanding egos. The entire site offers lots of useful tools, tips, and products that make entrepreneurial life easier.

John's blog, in particular, focuses on the latest, greatest gadgets and services for the inquiring tech mind. A must-read for any business leader who wants to stay on the cutting edge.

Labels: , , ,

Free advice for entrepreneurs

posted by Andy Leff
They say there's no such thing as a free lunch. But there IS such a thing as a free entrepreneur networking event.

Two days ago, Seun, Kate, and I joined the Entrepreneurs Forum of Greater Philadelphia (EFGP) at their monthly networking-slash-education event. March's topic: “How Philadelphia 100 CEOs Leverage Technology for Company Growth.

The networking part of the evening turned out to be much more valuable than the panel discussion. I got the chance to speak one-on-one with a number of attendees, many of whom own and operate small businesses or consulting shops.

I found out they're all facing the same challenge in their business development right now. They all want to figure out how to leverage the Internet to set up shop, boost sales, or grow their business. That's why they came to this event -- to get advice from expert panelists on effective use of tech.

However, the panelists presented technology solutions in a big enterprise context. They talked about integration of complex systems in order to work payroll, sales, and management issues, rather than steps small businesses can take to gain online traction for their goods and services.

Still, some of their advice was useful. Panelist Chris Burkhard, founder and president of CBI Group, had the most to offer in terms of speaking to a small business audience. First, he discussed the importance of bootstrapping to ensure a business doesn't grow faster than its infrastructure can support.

Burkhard also stressed getting employees involved in software solutions at work. As he put it, this makes them 'road warriors using the software,' and puts them squarely 'in the trenches'. And my ears perked up when he noted the importance of blogs, wikis, and other online collaborative tools as a way to increase productivity.

Panelist Gerard Ferro, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SUNRx, focused more on large-scale enterprise solutions such as or different software methods to increase the productivity of call centers and customer support units. (Definitely good advice for any business owner considering scaling their business, but perhaps a bit beyond this particular audience's needs.)

And he affirmed Burkhard's point that everyone at the organization needs to be involved in IT implementation to avoid confusion and hiccups. Drew Morrisroe, founder of CTN Solutions, Inc., seconded (thirded?) this, adding that the CEO must have a thorough understanding of IT issues at all times.

Morrisroe also pointed out that IT is a major investment. As such, it requires a decent budget, though he warned the audience to expect cost overruns. Morrisroe then raised an excellent point about the importance of keeping software updated, and knowing how those updates affect hardware and budgets. One tip: Design the organization's technology plan along the same lines as the business plan.

The real star of the evening was the guy who got up and gave his elevator pitch about his product 'Alligeter,' a device for pulling objects out of a garbage disposal. This final portion of the event -- when people could pitch their ideas to the whole audience -- was definitely worthwhile, and showed that the audience was focused on getting their small businesses noticed.

My advice for EFPG, should they cover this topic again: Provide information about free collaborative online services, and discuss in greater detail the new Web tools available to businesses. This will be of far greater and more immediate value to your small business audience.

And if you need any help, just give me and Seun a call. We're happy to contribute ;-)

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Eye on eBay

posted by Andy Leff
We’re interested in how businesses are using eBay. We want to know what challenges businesses face, how businesses feel about eBay services and features, and what successes (if any) the average Joe and Josephine are having.

What better way to find out than a survey? We've posted one on Zoomerang, and invite you to take a few minutes to complete it, if you're an eBay seller.

The responses are completely anonymous. We're not capturing any e-mail or personal information. That said, if you want a copy of the survey results before we publish them here, you'll be given an opportunity to opt-in to our mailing list.

We're also planning to pen a series of posts that take direct aim at the issues the respondents identify through the survey.

If you're an eBay seller, or you have an eBay Store, give the survey a whirl, and tell us what's on your mind.

And if you know anybody else who's selling on eBay, by all means, pass the survey along. We want to hear from, and help them, too.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 9, 2007

Afterbirth: Extra blogging resources

posted by Seun Olubodun
I just came across a few sites that can help you implement the steps Andy outlined earlier today:

Jumpstart Traffic to Your Blog with These Web 2.0 Steps (Business Blog Consulting)

Web 2.0 for the non-Web CEO

68 Web 2.0 Design Tutorials

And the best offline reading? Naked Conversations by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble. Hands-down the most comprehensive introduction to the blogging universe.

Labels: , , ,

13 tips for birthing your blog

posted by Andy Leff
Admit it -- you have blog envy.

You cruise the blogosphere, peruse diverse blog designs and topics, and think, “I could do this! I could blog for my business!”

So you pick a Blogger template. Brainstorm a funky title. Sit down to type. And then ... nothing. You've been stricken by blogging dysfunction (B.D.), a common side effect of starting a blog without having a clue how to sustain it.

Seun and I are committed to eliminating B.D. from the Web 2.0 world, and YOU are our first patient. The prescription: Read these 13 tips (no longer the unlucky number) and comment in the morning.

1. Passion makes perfect. Don't even THINK about pursuing a blog strategy if you have no real passion or excitement for the topic. Ambivalence will manifest as lukewarm, uninspired posts -- a huge turn-off to potential readers. Passion, on the other hand, breathes life and interest into the blog, and encourages readers to come back for more. Besides, loving what you blog about will reinforce your commitment to update and manage the blog.

2. Go at it regularly.
Write on your topic(s) daily, weekly, monthly -- whatever works best with your schedule, material, and audience. The important thing is to stay consistent and reliable. This assures your readers can count on new material, and you can get into a regular habit.

3. Write well. Make sure your writing skills are up to par. If you can't construct a simple sentence, or if you simply hate writing, outsource the material. Find a writer or company who can adopt your voice and craft your posts.

4. Be transparent. The blogosphere will tear you limb from limb if they discover you're a 'flog' (fake blog). Stay completely transparent and honest about the blog's purpose, its contributors' backgrounds, and its source material.

5. Variety = spice of life. Choose a variety of topics that impact and interest your customers. This kicks the blog up a notch from product or service pitching, and transforms it into a relevant resource for your target audience. They'll read you, share you, reference you, and, most important, get to know you.

6. Find the link love. Read and understand other bloggers in the universe who cover the same topics. Link to them on your blog, let them know you endorse them, and hope that they reciprocate with a similar shout-out. This is called 'link love' -- establishing relationships with the other bloggers for mutual exposure.

7. Comment to encourage conversation. Blogging is a conversation. It doesn't work one way. Take the time to review and respond to comments left on your site. This serves two purposes: It personally connects to your readers, and it helps you gauge if you're reaching your intended audience. Conversely, comment on other blogs, and link back to your blog. This will help you tap more interested readers, and offer them your relevant material.

8. Claim your blog on Technorati. This blog tracker searches, surfaces, and organizes blogs and other online content. Registering with Technorati increases your exposure, and helps promote the blog to a specific audience. Plus, it will help YOU navigate the nearly 71 million blogs now in existence.

9. Digg your blog for results.
Add Digg and links to your blog. This makes it easy for readers to tag your stories, sending them into mainstream readership. If the post is particularly eye-catching, it might even become featured on the taggers' homepages -- a terrific way to reach thousands of new readers.

10. Build your social network. Most social network sites offer free profile setups. The obvious example is MySpace, the biggest and most popular with millions of users. If you do choose to set up a profile, remember your audience, and network with the appropriate communities.

11. Design matters. Just as your fingerprints mark your identity, so should your blog design speak for your business. Keep it clean and simple. Too much clutter, and people won't read. Too little content, and they won't stay.

12. Buy Google AdWords. Evaluate your budget. If you have the money, you might want to invest in online advertising. This technique, which is gaining popularity among businesses, is another helpful way to drive traffic to your blog.

13. Go viral. Companies are increasingly turning to YouTube and other video sites to air commercials, presentations, and other videos. Producing a viral video is a cheap, fast way to expose thousands of eyeballs to your business. Once it's up, include the video on your blog to get the ball rolling among your core audience.

There's much more advice where this comes from, but we'll wait for future posts to dish it out. In the meantime, good luck and God speed, fellow blogger! We look forward to reading you.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What's your worth?

posted by Andy Leff
You're not lazy. Quite the opposite. You're a hardworking entrepreneur who wears every hat at your small business -- from clerk, to beancounter, to CEO. As a result, your time and your nerves are stretched to the breaking point.

That's why you'll love this Web 2.0 resource compilation from Null and Void, a definite must-read for a Web 2.0 beginner-slash-business owner.

It breaks down the top 25 Web 2.0 applications by business function, including finance, marketing, and workflow management. (The list even includes social networking. Be still, my beating heart!)

While you're at it, check out, one worthwhile resource overlooked by Null and Void. Think of it as the people's version of, in that it relies on user-reported data to generate salary ranges and reports.

It's a great tool for employees who need help figuring out their workforce worth. Also, the service's user-generated aspect stays true to Web 2.0 principles, and gives control to customers, rather than site owners.

But employers derive the most benefits from a site like PayScale. On its most basic level, it sidesteps industry payroll trend analysts, saving them time and money, and shares all pertinent info in one convenient location.

Employers can also get averages of what a specific position in an industry makes, and compare their payrolls to actual industry numbers. This helps cut costs where applicable.

Moreover, the data clues them in to the marketplace climate, which improves their recruiting methods. For example, if an employer is offering 35K a year for a bookkeeper position, but bookkeepers actually average 45K a year, the employer can align the salary to expectations before posting to the classifieds.

This information also helps during salary negotiations. Employers already know the salary ceiling, which alleviates concerns about over- or under-offering. Plus, they have solid numbers backing them up if potential hires question them.

Of course, the usual caveat still stands -- do you trust the users behind user-generated content? The info is only as good as the data supplied to PayScale. And if people misrepresent their salaries, or too few employees in a given field submit data, then reports will be skewed or incorrect.

That said, PayScale seems reliable for most professions, and, at the very least, can augment additional salary research. Happy headhunting!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Mark (Cuban) my words

posted by Andy Leff
Let me introduce you to my blogging soul mate: Mark Cuban, the blogger behind Blog Maverick, and the only online guy who's as edgy as I am!

He just wrote a rant about companies' ongoing inability to 'get' social networking. I couldn't agree more, so I chimed in with my own analysis.

Read in tandem, these posts should give you enough curmudgeonly chit-chat to get you through the week. But if not, share your beef with me, and together, maybe we can get companies to realize the error of their Web 2.0 ways.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 5, 2007

Philadelphia: A city's state

posted by Andy Leff
Last week, Team IncPlace went native.

That is, we attended Philadelphia’s Fifth Annual State of the City, hosted by the Center City Proprietors Association (CCPA). This event brings together local business and civic leaders to discuss achievements and failures of the past year, and set goals for the coming one.

This year, it also brought me and Seun, who live and work in Philadelphia, putting us in the unique position to comment as citizens and businessmen. Here are our observations.

Philly's Top Challenges

Some of the speakers talked about making the city friendlier to venture capitalists and financial institutions to attract new business, and help the city incubate strong business ideas. Easier said than done in our fair city, thanks to several significant roadblocks.

One, nobody wants to pay Philly’s high business privilege tax. Apparently, no one on the panel wanted to discuss it either, and never explained why the business tax hasn't been lowered yet, or removed entirely.

One panelist even went so far as to defend the tax structure, saying Europeans find us a bargain, thanks to the exchange rate. This is more than a non-sequitur, it’s total crap. How many mega European conglomerate companies do you see investing in downtown Philadelphia?

Point is, favorable tax structures encourage business development. You can’t have one without the other. Philly has neither.

Two, Philly is not generally viewed as a progressive city. Other cities have boasted skyscraper-rich skylines and strong business communities for years. But the new office towers in Philly's skyline are recent, and old ones are mostly vacant.

Moreover, only two of those new towers are successful right now: the Cira Centre and the Comcast Center, which is under construction. And the reason for their leasing success? The offer of 10-year tax abatements. (See point number one.)

Finally, Philadelphia lacks the Internet infrastructure to tap into the global economy. To its credit, the city has several WiFi programs in the works. When completed, these will help local business access new opportunities online, reach new audiences, and participate fully in the global exchange.

Until then, however, businesses are under economic house arrest, confined to the national marketplace.

Philly's Best Opportunities

Lest readers outside the area think Philly is a business development backwater, here are a few ways Philly is poised to fully earn the title ‘next great city.’

I was intrigued by the use of new media at Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. President and CEO Meryl Levitz spoke about her organization’s efforts to embrace new social media as a way to spread their messages. They’ve even hired a social media director to spearhead the changes.

No time like the present! The current Web 2.0 landscape is the perfect breeding ground for such expansion. Communities and businesses have tremendous opportunity to promote themselves over many different channels, and reach a large, diverse audience quickly and inexpensively.

Social media can also support Thomas Morr’s call at Select Greater Philadelphia for outreach programs that educate organizations about doing business in Philadelphia. The right promotional materials, applied appropriately, can be a great complement to the city’s revamped image, and help reinforce positive positioning.

The most telling moment of the evening came at its very end. Krista Bard, CCPA’s president, directly expressed her concerns to me about how businesses must get online in order to succeed.

She’s heard countless stories of business owners frustrated with getting online these days. Yet why is this even an issue, she asked, considering all the new Web 2.0 community building tools available, and the supposed ease of e-commerce?

Sad, but true, Krista. There’s a business side to the digital divide that few discuss, but many experience. And it’s preventing small businesses from capturing e-commerce profits, and large and mid-sized business from capturing new customers and vendors.

Herein lies Philly’s biggest opportunity. The city can deliver a one-two punch to the competition by attracting new businesses, and then helping them all get online, too. This will put the City of Brotherly Love on the map, online and offline, and turn the Sixth Annual State of the City into a celebration.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, March 2, 2007

Web 2.0 litmus test

posted by Andy Leff
In case you were living under a rock in February, I am bringing this awesome Web 2.0 video to your attention:

Now, for purposes of discussion, watch this one:

Both teach viewers much about what defines Web 2.0. Yet compare their page views. 'Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us' boasts over 1.5 million views. 'Web 2.0' -- a mere 68,000.

Herein lies the true educational value of these videos. The first video claims the lead because it actually embodies the Web 2.0 spirit. It's dynamic, interactive, catchy, and personal. It showcases all related technology, such as XML. And it draws the entire concept back to Web 2.0's real power source: people.

The other one -- a boring, static, dry presentation that sucks all the air out of a exciting concept. No wonder people aren't watching it.

Now apply this lesson to your own business. Are your Web operations modeled on the energy of the first video ... or stuck in a rut like the second one? Like it or not, your answer will determine your online viability.

BONUS: If you liked 'Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us,' then you'll love this interview with creator Michael Wesch on John Battelle's Searchblog. Enjoy.


Thursday, March 1, 2007

Commenting. That was easy.

posted by Andy Leff
Speak of the devil! Jim Hopkins read my mind today about establishing credibility. And as you can see in the comment section, I gave him a piece of it back.

It's a cool Web 2.0 world when a young entrepreneur can respond to points made by the former Staples CEO, become part of a conversation on USA Today, and perhaps even teach people something new.

I'm psyched ... are you?

Labels: , , , ,

Looking good is half the battle

posted by Andy Leff
Credibility. It's a small business's strongest currency, the special sauce that dazzles investors, employees, and customers. That's according to the results of the Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics (PSED), summarized at

Here are some of my own suggestions for kicking your venture's success up a notch.

First, don't be afraid to forgo formality. Traditional business plans are not always necessary. A brief executive summary, a short competitive analysis, and a simple budget outline often make good starting points. People often spend (waste?) months perfecting their business plans, only to be shot down by an investor at the first meeting.

That's because the idea of a 'perfect business plan' is a myth. You can't be perfect, because the market and competition are always shifting. Your business has to hit the moving target.

To do so, you must constantly monitor your space. Continue to refine your company goals. Be innovative. Keep moving forward. Maintain flexibility. Be open to change. And check your ego at the door. Few things go right on the first go-around, so be prepared to fail.

Next, find business mentors, and pick their brains for valuable advice or lessons learned. Same goes for internal strength. Seek partners and employees who are open-minded, collaborative, and open to feedback.

One simple trick: Hire people who are smarter than you, and then leave them alone to do their best work. Micromanaging limits company growth and creativity (not to mention drives everyone bonkers).

Finally, take advantage of real-world education. College degrees certainly have merit, but day-to-day business also requires common sense and situational awareness. The more attuned your senses, the faster you can act -- and with better results.

Labels: , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?