BrandYourself, DIY Online Reputation Management

I happened to watch a rerun of Shark Tank this week and was intrigued by Patrick Ambron, co-founder of BrandYourself, an online reputation management service. I find it very interesting since I’ve been in the position of counseling small business clients on the problems they’ve encountered, such as having negative reviews on Yelp. Worse yet, those Yelp reviews show up on a Google search results pages, often with the negative review snippet showing front and center.

Ambron says BrandYourself isn’t so much about removing the negative as helping you create a [positive] presence online. I agree with that philosophy and also wonder if their Do It Yourself tools can really work. In my own experience, I find clients want to spend as little time and money as possible. They typically don’t understand my philosophy of:

Great online reputation management is actually great online marketing, which most every company should be doing.


LinkedIn profiles: first or third person?

I vote for both and here’s why.

Online marketing professionals typically have an opinion on how to write LinkedIn profiles. Many of them promote the use of first person. They argue that first person is more friendly and inviting. I don’t disagree with that notion, however, there are intervening variables. Like search engine results, for example. It’s kind of a big deal since for the time being, Google is likely to pick up your LinkedIn profile on page one of a search for your name, or your company name.

LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn profile summaries are more search friendly in third person

Will Google easily recognize and display your information when it says, “I am a blah, blah, blah?” Who is “I?” Well, “I” is everyone on the planet. It’s more beneficial to write something like, “Mary Johnson is the founder of XYZ accounting and consulting firm and responsible for the day-to-day performance of more than fifty dedicated employees. Mary Johnson leads the company’s management team and is responsible for planning, operations and the company’s overall financial success.”

Why the third person and full name? According to Copyblogger, Google zeroes in on your LinkedIn profile summary. Using your first name in your summary allows Google to pick up “Mary Johnson is…” as not “I am the…” Makes sense doesn’t it!

The summary is the first big block of copy about you after your name, photo and job title. Then comes the listing of your past positions and education. Here’s the place to change it to first person. It reads more friendly and personal, and we’re not so concerned with Google displaying statements from these sections. And frankly, it feels more natural to write about ourselves in first person.

Bottom line? Write your summary in third person, and everything else in first person. You’ll get better Google search results while still conveying a more personal tone in the rest of your LinkedIn profile.


Thinking responsively: responsive web design that is

Responsive web design - Strategic Compliance, Inc.

Responsive web design adjusts elegantly to fit on desktop, tablet and smartphone browsers

Responsive Web Design

This year I’ve built new websites for clients on responsive design platforms. Mobile responsive design has been talked about for a few years, but I think it’s really become a must in the last couple of years. And it’s much easier to accomplish today with responsive design platforms, like most of the StudioPress WordPress themes.

If responsive web design is a somewhat unfamiliar, no worries. Responsive web design is a website design that adjusts elegantly to fit on desktop, tablet and smartphone browsers. No longer will people get essentially the same website view as a desktop – only scrunched to fit the smaller space. Instead, the responsive technology adjusts the website content to  the particular device. Searchers and visitors can easily see and navigate the available content.

Strategic Compliance, Inc.

The website displayed here is for Strategic Compliance, Inc., a “boutique, human resources consultancy offering critical wage and hour compliance solutions. Owner Alfonso Zarate created the business to leverage his past experience as a Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Department (WHD) investigator. He seeks to bridge the gap between legal compliance issues and everyday human resource issues, and help employers better relate to employees from different cultures or who speak different languages.

Alfonso’s experience as a WHD Investigator helps his clients defend themselves against WHD investigations, saving them time, money and headaches. He is proficient in reading, writing and speaking to/from English/Spanish. During his time as a WHD Investigator, Alfonso received the prestigious Secretary of Labor Exceptional Achievement Award on three occasions.

Lofstrom + Company professionals developed the firm’s branding, including the logo and tagline, and built the website content and design from the ground up. We chose the “Executive Pro” theme from StudioPress, which allowed us to have mobile responsive design with very few alterations to underlying code.


Jive Talkin’ at Cerner Corporation

Social Business Collaboration Tools Leveraged by Cerner Corporation

Lance Yoder shares how Cerner corporation uses social intranet software to improve internal communications

A large number of communications professionals and other business managers wanted to learn more about the social intranet today by hearing how industry giant, Cerner Corporation, introduced the Jive platform to its 10,000+ employees and numerous clients, business partners, invited guests-researchers and industry experts. The presentation was titled, “Using Social Business Tools to Improve Internal Communications” and was presented by International Association of Business Communicators colleague, and Cerner Program Manager, Lance Yoder.

As a past employee of large organizations, I find this rather fascinating. How can these multinational companies improve internal communications? How can they improve communications with customers, vendors, industry experts, etc.? Based on how curious people from organizations without sophisticated social intranets, Cerner must be on to something.

For me, a one person communications consultant, I want to to know how these tools might affect smaller businesses, which are important clients to me. Can small businesses use them now, or is it, for now, a tool for larger companies with deeper pockets and the personnel to operate the tools.

Attendees listening image

Communications professionals listened attentively and had many questions for Cerner Corporation’s personnel in regard to its social intranet collaboration software

If I can learn about such trends as they occur, hopefully I will be a more valued consultant to small business enterprise.


Online Reputation Management

SERPS matter when your reputation is online and “on the line”

Reputation Management Graphic

A company’s reputation can get disheveled with a single bad comment on directory or review website

People are talking about you and your organization online. They’re talking about you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and perhaps even Yelp. You can find out by “Googling yourself” or your business. The search engine result pages (SERPs) from Google, Bing, Yahoo and others will tell the story. What shows up on the first page? Hopefully your personal or business website, or your blogs are right up there toward the top. Your social media presence is usually good, too, like your LinkedIn profile or your YouTube account.

Unfortunately, that first, or second, page might display a negative review of your business, or perhaps your name and/or photo is displayed because someone shared a less than flattering photo with you in it. Maybe you said something that was captured in an article or on video that you didn’t intend to be for public consumption. None of us are exempt from making mistakes, or being criticized – whether it’s fair or not. It happens all the time and today it can be oh so easily captured on the Internet.

How to mediate online reputation mishaps

Since we agree, “stuff happens on the Net,” what do we do about online reputation mishaps? You could hire a service if it makes economic sense and you desire third party expertise. If you’re like me, you want to be more hands on with such an important matter. And not everyone can afford an online reputation management service. Let’s take a look at the ways you can do most online reputation management yourself.

Monitor your search results daily for negative reputation posts

Set up free “Google Alerts” notices for keywords like, “your business name,” “your full name,” and perhaps common misspellings of those terms. You should also monitor your competitors using Google Alerts. Besides reputation monitoring, you might gain good competitive insights on your competitors. Consider using a paid alert notice, if you don’t feel the free Google Alerts feature is satisfactory. Monitoring is the most important step in the process of online reputation management. If you want a positive and clean online reputation, you must monitor.

Claim or take ownership of our local listings

Like it or not, there are numerous directory and/or review sites on the Internet. You probably have at least a basic listing on many of them. They’ll include your business name, industry or category, address, phone, website, etc. The information might even be correct, but you never know until you take a look. You should claim some of these directory/review profiles. Claiming simply means signing on the directory/review site as the owner of the business. It’s usually free and allows you to include current information about your business and upload an image, such as your logo.
Review sites may have additional features, such as display advertising, that are revenue producers for the site. You are not obliged to buy those add-ons, and they may or may not be worthwhile for your business. Most directory/review sites offer free statistics on visits to your profile, and a way to respond to negative comments. On a site like Yelp, be thoughtful when responding to negative comments. Consider responding “publicly,” “privately,” or not at all. Quite often, my best advice to clients is not to respond – the risks often outweigh the potential rewards. There are a number of directory/review sites. Some of the more important ones are Yelp, Google+, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Yellow Pages and Angie’s List. Of course, you’ll want to monitor them, which is relatively easy to do once you claim your profile.

Encourage positive customer reviews on popular local business directories

With the proliferation of business review sites on the Internet it’s become paramount for businesses of any size and type to have a thoughtful strategy to encourage positive Internet reviews and manage their Internet reputation. Reviews tend to get high placement on SERPS. Here are few ideas that can be tailored to your business and comfort zone:

  • Call or send personal message to customers you believe will give positive online reviews for you and your business. Ask them to join the review site and say something positive about you or your business.
  • Invite people who “like you” on Facebook, link with you on LinkedIn, etc. to make positive comments on one or more review sites.
  • Invite customers to respond to an electronic survey (like Survey Monkey) and ask positive reviewers if they’ll post a favorable comment on a review site.
  • Put a link (and words of encouragement) on your website to review sites. Make it easy for people to click and get to your profile on Yelp, Google+, Yahoo Local, etc.
  • After delivering stellar service or making a transaction sale, personally ask the client if they’ll post a favorable comment on a review site. The worst they can say is “No.”
Health club reaches out image

This health club reached out to happy members on Facebook, requesting them to post positive comments on Yelp

Add and share appealing content

This is my personal favorite – maybe because I enjoy creating content. Add news/blog posts at least monthly. Continue to add/share content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media outposts. If you cannot get a negative comment removed from a review site, like Yelp or Yahoo Local, then it will probably continue to be indexed on SERPS (i.e., show up on searches for your company name or personal name). The best way to mitigate those negative comments just happens to be the best way to market your business on the Internet. Proactively publish content that is interesting and useful to your audiences. “How to” articles, white papers, interesting anecdotes, etc. are all great things to share. Some people like to curate relevant content by finding remarkable content from around the web and share it in their blog or via an email newsletter, like MailChimp. Success means pushing any negative comments down from the top of SERPs (off of Google’s page one).

Diversify your online presence

I most often recommend that people and businesses only have the number of social media outposts they can reasonably manage. However, additional social media outposts can further add to your online footprint and help push any negative search results down the page. Consider adding other social media, such as Twitter, Slideshare, Quora, Pinterest, Flickr, etc. Some experts say to create “personal hubs” that link to your social media profiles in order to further diversify. “About me” and “BrandYourself” are noteworthy providers, both with free versions of their product. You could also create a free blog, using your full name as the domain name. WordPress and Blogger are popular and free blogging platforms.

Send out press releases to electronic media

Distributing electronic press releases offer a low cost and easy way to obtain publicity, website traffic and reputation management in an “all in one” online package. Search-optimized press releases can rank highly in Google, Bing and Yahoo searches for pertinent keyword searches, giving your organization another opportunity to own a top Google slot. Your press releases should incorporate keywords relating to your business and can be distributed to local publishers as well as online newswire services. Topics can include:

  • Industry-related trends
  • Problem/solution case studies
  • Testimonials
  • Availability of white papers or “point of view” articles
  • “How to” guides

After distributing your press releases, be sure to further leverage them by bookmarking them on Del.icio.us, Digg, Technorati, StumbleUpon and other social bookmarking websites. Mention them on your other social media outposts, like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to boost your search engine reputation management effort.
It’s very important to actively own or at least influence top Internet search results because it’s rather difficult to push down negative content once it’s indexed. The good news is that the steps you take are also good SEO practices in general.

(I help people and businesses with online and traditional marketing communication services. I’m particularly experienced at serving financial service, professional service and small businesses. Contact me for more information.)


Content Writing: 500-Word Content Posts for as Low as $325

Yes, really, you can hire me, an experienced content writer, to write your news or blog posts of 500 words or less for a little as $325 per post. The offer is for clients willing to commit to a six-month (up to one year maximum)

Hand waving a help sign image

Need help with your online content?

agreement where we add 2 posts per month. I will take the topics you provide, get your viewpoint on the respective topics, research and write the post. One edit is included after the first draft is presented.

Unless you prefer otherwise, I will insert the post into your content management system’s posting system and do basic SEO tweaking, such as completing the title, post summary and keyword fields. Provided images can be added a small additional cost.

Who can benefit from this special offer for content writing services?

Blogging or posting news items on a regular basis is vital to succeeding in the online, or inbound, marketing game. Organizations that can benefit by retaining Lofstrom + Company services, includes:

  • Organizations already committed to inbound marketing that seek external, professional writing services,
  • Organizations that are not yet fully engaged in online marketing, but want to put together a quality inbound marketing effort,
  • Organizations that know they should have an online marketing initiative and want some help with startup and content writing.

Additional online marketing services available

Depending on your present level on online marketing sophistication, you may benefit from additional online marketing services. Although excluded from the special copywriting offer, they can be packaged and priced if you so desire. Such services might include:

  • Editorial planning. I can help you create an editorial plan and create a calendar with planned post topics and “send dates.”
  • Keywords. Keyword tools can help online marketers find specific words and phrases that are most relevant to your searchers and search engines. I can help you create relevant list of SEO-friendly keywords for your organization.
  • Image Sourcing. Images are great for posts, but they’re not always easy to source. I can help you acquire low-cost, royalty-free, stock photos, manipulate the images in Photoshop (if needed) and place photos within your posts.
  • Social media outposts. It’s important to use your social media outposts, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, to share new content on your website. I can insert snippets of copy and images so your social media community will be alerted to your website’s new posts.
  • Analytics. Digital marketing has given us loads of data, but what does it all mean? I can help you turn your Google Analytics data into actionable information.

Let’s get started!

Does this sound like a good deal to you? I think it’s an incredible offer to have your blog and news posts written by a skilled and experienced content writer. Please don’t hesitate, contact me, and we’ll get started .

PS: Do you want to see samples? Contact me and I will email you a few samples. Let me know the type of topics you’re most interested.


Content Marketing Tips for 2013

To start the new year, I combed the Internet for content marketing tips and trends. The folks at Social Media Examiner have a great list (26 Essentials for Blogging Success: What You Need to Know) for those of us interested Tips Jar Imagein online marketing. My favorites in this list include:

  • #4 Website/blog Design Elements. Simple ways to make sure your website/blog has a smart, professional design.
  • #6 Text formatting. This one gives sage tips on formatting the body text of blog posts.
  •  #9 Images in Posts. Suitable and properly placed images enhance your blog posts and improve SEO.
  • #13 Mobile Friendly. A reminder that mobile reading/viewing of Internet content is an avalanche rolling your way – be sure your web content is mobile friendly.
  • #18 Reputation Matters. Negative online posts about you or your company can be devastating. You must be aware of your reputation and defend it.
  • #25 YouTube Video. Add a YouTube account and video posts to your website for those who enjoy video and, of course, boost your search engine “findability” factor.

What do you think of these ideas? Do you have a good list to share? Let me know!


Enhanced LinkedIn Company Pages Can Build Your B2B Brand

EnhanLinkedIn logoced LinkedIn company pages, introduced several weeks ago, intrigue me. I must admit that I barely had a LinkedIn company page before this past year or so, and I kind of wondered if it was worth the bother. Aren’t we mostly looking for people, not companies?

Then it donned on me that I have been finding old friends and work associates by searching LinkedIn via the company or organization name. And in marketing your business, even a small one, isn’t it important to share some of the magnificence of your company on the “world’s largest professional network” for businesses? Of course, you’ve no doubt said, “Yes,” to yourself, and now want to know how you can build your company’s brand on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn company pages are the most underutilized tool within the social media outpost.

If You’re a LinkedIn Company Page Newbie

If you don’t have a company page or you have one without the newer LinkedIn company page features, then you must first build out your company profile. It’s really not very difficult, but it does take some time and effort.

Start with the LinkedIn Banner

Hopefully you know a bit about selecting and sizing images or graphic elements, or you have someone to help you with the banner image. The LinkedIn banner area is quite wide and the image should reflect your company in the best possible manner. It can be as simple as your company logo (that’s what I did initially), images of people or places, or even a clever graphic design. FYI, your banner must be 646 x 220 pixels in size in order to fit the LinkedIn banner field.

Build out your LinkedIn profile and services

Click on “Edit Page,” and fill in details on your company’s size, its web address, or URL, company description, company locations and other details. Designate yourself (and/or others) as a LinkedIn company pages administrators, so you and they can add company updates. Include key services and descriptions of services and products on your company profile. The “overview” tab displays a summary of your company and includes your most recent “shared” post, and lists all employees that are linked. Next you can fill out the individual services and products section. The first product or service listed in the products and services section of the LinkedIn Company Page will be displayed first, so lead with your strongest offering. It’s perfectly acceptable to use content, or copy, from your website, especially if it is accurate and well written.

Company Updates are an Effective Way to Reach Your Constituencies

LinkedIn has made update streams more relevant for participants. Companies are more able to share status updates, career opportunities and more with interested LinkedIn members.  Share your company news, upcoming events, job promotions, pertinent industry articles or posts, YouTube videos and more.

If you used the blog linking tool like me, beware it’s been removed, so company posts, individually entered and shared, are the way to stay “front and center” with fellow members and followers. Moreover, targeted updates allow you to segment company followers and share specific updates with specific segments.

Involve Employees in LinkedIn

When employees are LinkedIn members they can add or edit a position on their profile, and specify your company as the current employer. They must choose the correct company and LinkedIn will then list them on your company landing page with other current employees. Your company page on LinkedIn is directly impacted by your employees and how they behave on LinkedIn. It’s crucial to advise employees on how to make the most out of LinkedIn in order to further leverage your LinkedIn presence. In fact, it’s so important that it could (and will) be a blog topic of its own.

LinkedIn Careers Page

LinkedIn’s “Company Pages” includes a Careers tab, where jobs you post via “LinkedIn Jobs” will be displayed. Up to five jobs can featured (displayed) on your Career Page home screen. A fee is charged for your LinkedIn job listings, but it is competitively priced and has a powerful reach. Whether or not you pay for a job listing, be sure your company profile includes information about the culture and types of work performed at your company.

Summary

Many organizations are under-utilizing LinkedIn, especially company pages. It’s not too late to get in the game. The updated company profile pages make it easy to access the information you and your LinkedIn links want, and a more powerful way for businesses to nurture relationships with customers and targeted prospects. Does any of this sound a bit daunting? Want some help? Please contact me by phone (816-942-8887) or email today!


Google Fiber Puts Kansas City on the Fiber Map

I attended the initial Google Fiber launch event in my hometown, Kansas City, Missouri,

Google 3 dimensional visual

Google's imagination 3-dimensional data highway uses automobile traffic to compare current Internet broadband speeds to Google Fiber, which is 100 times faster. Gary Lofstrom, online marketing communications professional, admires Google Internet data model.

held on July 26, 2012. It was quite an event, with seemingly every issue covered, from having ample parking with shuttle buses, Google emblazoned umbrellas in case of rain, soft drinks and chairs for guests waiting for the doors to open. Oh yeah, Google Fiber means participants can have Internet access that is approximately 100 times faster than the current high-speed, broadband access. Yes, 100 times faster, and Google had numerous visuals to help attendees understand how fast that is.

Google promises us endless possibilities. Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access, also introduced Google Fiber Television, a new cablelike video service. Customers will use a set-top box like a DVR that can record eight shows at once, store 500 hours of HD programming, and acts as a Wi-Fi router.

Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access photo

Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Access, presents Google Fiber to an Internet knowledgeable crowd

Prices are $120 per month for the total package, Google Fiber Television, $70 per month just Fiber Internet and there’s even a way to get fiber connected and pay no monthly fee for current average speed broadband (about 5 MBs). For the latter, Google does charge $300 for installation and promises to deliver the slower Internet access for seven years.


Landscaper’s website a breath of fresh air & soil & water

I’m rather proud of the Beaver Creative Environments website that I helped create with the team of Terri Nemer and Lisa Bowser.

Beaver Creative Environments

Beaver Creative Environments

Terri is a talented art director who wisely chose to go against the usual concept of splashing a landscaper’s or gardening-related business’ website with lots and lots of the color green. Instead, she chose white as the featured or background color, and who would have thought it would work so well.

The design is very soothing and eye-catching, and the white background actually makes the images and colors used pop!

Lisa Bowser, a talented art director in her own right, took the design concepts and made them work in WordPress. This is no small task. You don’t know how many times I’ve heard a web developer say, “That’s a nice design, but we cannot make it look like that.” With the skills of an art director who has mastered the technology of WordPress, my clients don’t have to settle for mediocre design. And I’m a big believer in design. I know that my words, as the content writer, will have much more impact when they are encapsulated by great design.

Nice job ladies!

BTW, the content in this website is rather extensive for a small business. It covers numerous services offered by this landscaping firm, and discusses their approach and methods. The content is search engine optimized, with the help of the SEO-friendly WordPress software.