Is Your Business Guilty of These 6 Blogging Mistakes? Saturday, Jan 26 2013 

Business-tablet

Nellie Akalp

23 hours ago

Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate and mother of four. As CEO of CorpNet.com, a legal document filing service, Nellie helps entrepreneurs start a business, incorporate, form an LLC or set up sole proprietorships (DBAs) for a new or existing business.

These days it seems like every business — from dentistry to software — has a blog. However, just because everyone has a blog doesn’t mean everyone is doing it right. Whether you’re just launching a blog for your business, or you’ve been blogging for awhile, it’s easy to fall into some blogging bad habits.

 

As a small business owner, I try to truly embrace the unique opportunity that social media offers. I’ve been experimenting with our company blog for years; here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way, including the mistakes.

1. Mistaking your blog for a promotional platform.

Many small business owners rush to blogging, and to social media in general — they see it as free advertising. However, when your blog posts focus too much on your company, products and services, your blog is no longer useful or credible. Few readers will return to read about why you’re so awesome week after week.

If the bulk of your posts are company or product-centric, you’ll need to change the way you think about your blog. Focus your content so it offers information that’s useful and relevant to whatever your particular community cares about. For example, my company helps small businesses incorporate, file for trademarks and launch their business from a legal perspective. Therefore, we try to cater our topics toward whatever would help small business owners run their companies, from leadership and employee management tips to small business marketing and taxes.

Some experts advise on keeping a 90:10 or 75:25 ratio when it comes to educational vs. promotional content. You don’t necessarily have to stick to some magic equation, as long as you keep your audience’s needs and interests at the forefront of your blog strategy.

2. Not posting consistently.

It’s easy to start a blog, but not so easy to keep it going. A small business blog usually fails due to lack of commitment or resources. A HubSpot report found that companies who blog frequently and consistently benefit the most from their blogging efforts.

Before launching your blog, determine the ideal posting frequency to keep your blog fresh, for example, once or twice per week. If you need to, scout out your competitor’s blogs to gauge the average number of posts per week. In an ideal world, you should create a quarterly editorial plan for your upcoming post topics. And during downtimes, create a handful of general (non time-sensitive) topics that can be fed into the blog whenever the schedule gets tight.

3. Not engaging with your readers.

A blog isn’t a press release or static web page where information simply flows from you to the reader. Social media uniquely provides a direct link to interact with your customers and community; it would be shame not to take advantage of the opportunity. If you’re fortunate enough to have engaged readers who comment on your blog posts, be sure to acknowledge them – whether by thanking them for some kind words, answering a question, providing further details, or inserting yourself in a conversation.

While everyone will differ on the level of community moderation and control, the following is true: If you want to encourage engagement, you need to make it easy for your readers to leave comments. Log-in systems and captcha forms help limit spam or trolls, but they also make it difficult for the casual reader to leave a comment.

4. Being too SEO-focused.

Blogging can have an amazing impact on your keyword rankings and organic search traffic. I encourage businesses to develop an SEO strategy for their blogs. Identify the top keywords for your business and optimize your posts with those keywords. Tools like Scribe or Yoast can help you with search engine optimization.

However, the most successful business blogs write for humans, not machines. Don’t hire a poor quality SEO company that churns out posts filled with specific keywords and phrases, without even thinking whether the content is useful or easy to read. That strategy might drive visitors to your blog, but those visitors will never stay, read, engage with or share your content if it’s poor. Keywords don’t create credibility. Write posts that are interesting, sprinkle in keywords now and then, and your efforts will be rewarded.

5. Not using images the right way.

While many new bloggers focus on the words, images are the best way to grab people’s attention quickly. In addition, breaking up longer posts with images that illustrate what you’re talking about will help keep readers interested and combat our limited attention spans.

For many small business blogs, the problem with images boils down to resource allocation. You may expect it to take you one hour to write a post, but only a few minutes to find an image. However, finding the right image is rarely that easy.

Before you begin searching, take a few minutes to think about the main concept, feeling or idea your post is trying to convey. You should always use images that are visually engaging, aesthetically pleasing and relevant to your post. Your image needs to express a concept and not just look like you picked the first stock image that came your way.

In addition, many small businesses run afoul of copyright law and fair use practices by thinking they have the right to use any photo found on the Internet. The best way to steer clear of trouble when selecting images for your blog is to use ones with Creative Commons licensing. You can search for Creative Commons-licensed images on Flickr, on the Creative Commons website or via CC search engines like Compfight or Photo Pin.

6. Not listening to your readers.

Not sure what kind of content appeals to your audience the most? It’s not a mystery: Your blog analytics can provide valuable insight into what types of posts are resonating with readers.

By failing to pay attention to analytics, you’re ignoring valuable information that can take your blog to the next level. Continually track the responses to each blog post. Tinker with different topics, titles and types of posts. Which posts generate the most activity (comments, shares, likes)? Increase the frequency of the most popular.

What are some of the top lessons you have learned with your business blog?

Photo via iStockphoto, Erikona

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Everything You Need to Know About ‘Mint the Coin’ Tuesday, Jan 22 2013 

 

 

Alex Fitzpatrick

http://mashable.com/2013/01/09/mint-the-coin/

If you follow anybody remotely interested in politics on Twitter, you’ve probably seen a reference to “mint the coin” fly across your stream at some point this month. And if you’ve seen that reference, you might have some questions: What coin? Who’s minting it? What’s it for? Here’s the skinny: According to the Treasury, the government hit its Congressionally-approved spending limit on Dec. 31 of 2012. While raising the debt ceiling has traditionally been a mostly uncontroversial practice, many congressional Republicans are now refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to spending cuts. Raising the debt ceiling allows the federal government to pay back loans it already owes. If the debt ceiling is not raised, the government will default on those loans, potentially doing great damage to the still-fragile economy.

The Treasury is keeping things afloat for a few weeks by use of “extraordinary measures,” but a political agreement will likely soon be needed to avoid economic catastrophe.

If you’re feeling at this point a bit of deja vu, that’s perfectly normal: The situation is very much a repeat of a 2011 crisis. The debt ceiling was ultimately raised, but America’s credit rating was downgraded by ratings agencies largely because a debate over raising it happened at all.

The political stand-off around the debt ceiling brings us to Mint the Coin. Mint the Coin started as a “are they joking or not?” style proposal among some leading politics and economics Twitterati, the most prominent of which is Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal, using #MintTheCoin.

The idea? Make use of a legal loophole which gives the Treasury Department the legal authority to mint platinum coins in whatever denomination it sees fit to create a $1 trillion (not a typo) coin (or a few coins in somewhat lesser amounts), deposit it at the Federal Reserve and then use that money to pay off bills. It would effectively sidestep Congress entirely, theoretically affording legislators and the president time to work on a longer-term solution. A similar idea was floated in 2011 during the last major debt ceiling crisis, but failed to gain the traction of today’s Mint the Coin campaign — speaking to Twitter’s enhanced ability to galvanize movements. Mint the Coin may sound like something too easy — or too ridiculous — to work.

However, it has the approval of a former head of the U.S. mint and it has been hailed as a way to “avoid catastrophic economic developments and help head off government by blackmail” by Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman. On the other hand, it has been derided as “frivolous” by the Guardian’s Heidi Moore, who along with others think it would invite economic disaster of its own (she also doubts it deserves the media attention it’s been getting).

Reuters’ Felix Salmon believes it would “effectively mark the demise of the three-branch system of government” by allowing the executive to “steamroll” its legislative counterpart and is the product of minds focused on economics rather than politics.

Giant Mars Crater May Have Once Been a Lake Monday, Jan 21 2013 

Mclaughlin-crater

Charles Q. Choi

for Space.com 2 hours ago

Space-com-4df1ec353a

 

New photos of a huge crater on Mars suggest water may lurk in crevices under the planet’s surface, hinting that life might have once lived there, and raising the possibility that it may live there still, researchers say.

Future research looking into the chances of life on Mars could shed light on the origins of life on Earth, scientists added.

The discovery came from a study of images by NASA’s powerful Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that revealed new evidence of a wet underground environment on the Red Planet. The images focused on the giant McLaughlin Crater, which is about 57 miles (92 kilometers) wide and so deep that underground water appears to have flowed into the crater at some point in the distant past.

Today, the crater is bone-dry but harbors clay minerals and other evidence that liquid water filled the area in the ancient past.

“Taken together, the observations in McLaughlin Crater provide the best evidence for carbonate forming within a lake environment instead of being washed into a crater from outside,” study lead author Joseph Michalski, of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., and London’s Natural History Museum, said in a statement.

 

A Wet Mars Underground

Space agencies have deployed many missions to Mars over the decades to explore how habitable its surface may have been or is today. However, the Martian surface has been extremely cold, arid and chemically hostile to life as we know it for most of the history of Mars.

Instead of scanning the surface of Mars for life, scientists have suggested the most viable habitat for ancient simple life may have been in Martian water hidden underground.

On Earth, microbes up to 3 miles (5 km) or more underground make up perhaps half of all of the planet’s living matter. Most of these organisms represent some of the most primitive kinds of microbes known, hinting that life may actually have started underground, or at least survived there during a series of devastating cosmic impacts known as the Late Heavy Bombardment that Earth and the rest of the inner solar system endured about 4.1 billion to 3.8 billion years ago.

Since Mars has less gravity — a surface gravity of a little more than one-third Earth’s — its crust is less dense and more porous than that of our planet, which means that more water can leak underground, researchers said. Wherever there is liquid water on Earth, there is virtually always life, and microbes underground on Mars could be sustained by energy sources and chemical reactions similar to those that support deep-dwelling organisms on Earth.

“The deep crust has always been the most habitable place on Mars, and would be a wise place to search for evidence for organic processes in the future,” Michalski told SPACE.com.

 

Subterranean Mars

While researchers currently have no way to drill deep underground on the Red Planet, they can nevertheless spot hints of what subterranean Mars is like by analyzing deep rocks exhumed by erosion, asteroid impacts or materials generated by underground fluids that have welled up to the surface.

Such upwelling would first occur in deep basins like McLaughlin Crater — as the lowest points on the surface, they would be where underground water reserves would most likely get exposed.

Scientists focused on McLaughlin Crater because it is one of the deepest craters on Mars. McLaughlin is about 1.3 miles (2.2 km) deep and is located in Mars’ northern hemisphere.

The mineral composition of the floor of McLaughlin Crater suggests there was a lake made of upwelled groundwater there. Channels seen on the crater’s eastern wall about 1,650 feet (500 meters) above its floor also hint at the former presence of a lake surface.

Michalski was actually originally trying to disprove the idea that groundwater breached the surface in many locations on Mars.

“Lo and behold, there was strong evidence for that process in this crater,” he said. “Science is special because we are allowed to change our minds.”

An Ancient Groundwater Lake

The researchers estimate that a lake existed at McLaughlin Crater for an unknown duration between 3.7 billion and 4 billion years ago. “That makes the deposits as old as or older than the oldest rocks known to exist on Earth,” Michalski said.

Mounds seen on the crater floor may have come from landslides or subsequent meteor impacts. These are important because they may have rapidly buried crater floor sediments.

“That is really cool because rapid burial is the scenario that is most advantageous for preservation of organic material, if any was present at that time,” Michalski said.

Since life on Earth may have begun underground, learning more about any underground life that might have lived — or may still live — on Mars could shed light on the origins of life on Earth, researchers said.

“We should give serious consideration to exploring rocks representing subsurface environments in future missions,” Michalski said. “That doesn’t mean drilling, but instead exploring rocks formed from upwelling groundwater, or rocks naturally exhumed from the subsurface by meteor impact.”

Michalski noted that some people may ask, “‘Why do I hear about the detection of water or possibility of life on Mars all the time?’ The answer is because Mars is habitable in more ways than we ever realized for many years, and we are finding water in many forms and environments on Mars — many more than we predicted for a long time.”

The ingredients for life the researchers describe, “including energy sources, would have been more available early in Mars’ history, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to picture a scenario in which the subsurface is habitable today,” Michalski said. He cautioned, however, “that is much different from saying that life is there today.”

The scientists detailed their findings online Jan. 20 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Images courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Report: Samsung Exec Confirms Galaxy Note 8 Monday, Jan 21 2013 

Samsung-galaxy-s2

Pete Pachal1 hour ago

A Samsung executive confirmed to a group of reporters that the company will unveil a smaller version of its Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet at a trade show next month, a Korean news site reports. The new tablet will be Samsung’s direct competitor to the iPad mini.

Jong-Kyun Shin, the president of Samsung’s mobile business (pictured), told reporters attending a dinner in Seoul, Korea, that the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 would be fully revealed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, at the end of February, according to iNews24 and reported by Engadget. As the name implies, it’ll be an 8-inch tablet, very close in size to the iPad mini (which sports a 7.9-inch screen) as opposed to the 7-inch size of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0.

Other features and specs of the device remain a mystery, but it’ll certainly include the Note line’s trademark stylus. Once the subject of ridicule, the Note stylus has become a key differentiator for Samsung, with many novel abilities such as translate handwriting to text and previewing emails by hovering over the subject line in the inbox.

 

Currently Samsung’s Note products include the 10.1-inch Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and 5.6-inch Galaxy Note II smartphone. Samsung just updated the Note 10.1 to Jelly Bean, though it missed its own deadline to do so before the end of 2012. The Note II already runs Jelly Bean, and the original Note (a.k.a. the Note I) was promised an as-yet-unreleased update to Jelly Bean as well.

And what about the rumored Samsung Galaxy S IV smartphone? For now, that product remains unconfirmed, and Shin even implied it would not make an appearance at MWC. That’s not a surprise, since Samsung tends to launch its flagship Galaxy phones at standalone events. Last year, the company unveiled the Galaxy S III in early May.

What’s your take on the smaller-screen Note tablet? Does an 8-inch screen sound more attractive than the other options? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

A Tribute for Aaron Swartz Monday, Jan 14 2013 

Aaron Swartz Stan Schroeder The Anonymous hacktivist group appears to have hacked MIT’s website, leaving a tribute for Aaron Swartz, 26, (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013) was an American computer programmer, writer, archivist, political organizer, and Internet activist who recently committed suicide. Swartz was a the co-founder of Demand Progress and founder of Infogami, a service later merged with Reddit. He committed suicide in New York City on Jan. 11. MIT’s website was defaced with a message claiming the prosecution of Swartz, who was arrested in 2011 for allegedly harvesting academic papers from the JSTOR online journal archive, was a “a grotesque miscarriage of justice”. “The situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, particularly their punishment regimes, and the highly-questionable justice of pre-trial bargaining. Aaron’s act was undoubtedly political activism; it had tragic consequences,” says the message. In the message, the Anonymous also lists several “wishes,” including a reform of computer crime laws as well as copyright and intellectual property law. “We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them. We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few. We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response. We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.” The defacement of MIT’s website comes hours after the institution announced it will be conducting an investigation of its involvement in the case of Aaron Swartz. Image credit: Flickr, peretzp Topics: Aaron-Swartz, anonymous, MIT, U.S., US & World

Not So Fast — An Endorsement For LinkedIn’s Endorsements Tuesday, Jan 8 2013 

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David Berkowitz is vice president of emerging media for digital marketing agency 360i, where he develops social media and mobile programs for marketers spanning the media & entertainment, retail, travel, and CPG industries. LinkedIn’s Endorsements feature, a way to recommend connections skills with a simple click, seems too facile to be useful. Mashable last week ran an op-ed  saying as much by Business Editor Todd Wasserman. Yet this feature may be one of the best uses of game mechanics online, and it remedies one of the major flaws of LinkedIn. The best way to appreciate the value of Endorsements is to browse people’s profiles. Consider Todd’s LinkedIn profile, which has several dozen endorsements. The top four skills that Todd’s connections endorsed him for are blogging, social media, journalism, and content strategy. Todd has a pretty fairly clean, straightforward profile without a ton of text, but with the endorsements, I can tell in a second or two what he’s about. I’m a somewhat more active LinkedIn user and have in turn racked up quite a number of endorsements. My profile is very text heavy, with descriptions about the positions I’ve held, and it’s nowhere near as pithy as Todd’s, even though he’s had a longer career. My Endorsements, however, encapsulate much of what I’m about in a way that I never quite did on my own. Endorsements have become so useful that I now tend to scroll down to the Skills and Expertise section to view people’s endorsements before I go back and scan the rest of their profiles. I agree with Todd that many people are endorsing others in hopes of a reciprocal endorsement, and that job hunters are far more likely to endorse others. There’s no doubt that may people are trying to game the system. That is part of the underbelly of LinkedIn. The easiest way to spot a LinkedIn spammer is seeing people who advertise the number of contacts they have in their profile headline. I personally reject about 75% of people who invite me to connect on LinkedIn because I don’t know them, but many others are far more lax with their standards. What’s great is that it’s pretty easy to tell. You know what’s another good sign? When someone peppers their profile with words like ‘expert’ and ‘guru’, or the dreaded ‘ninja’ In such cases, everything about their profiles is suspect, including their Endorsements. For most users though, they’re just giving a thumbs up to people they know, and they’re doing so fairly honestly. Sure, my wife wonders why family members have endorsed her for job skills in her government relations role, but most of the endorsements she received are quick but touching votes of confidence from people she has worked with. Todd notes that LinkedIn has amassed 550 million endorsements, with 10 million added daily. Part of that might be because it’s addictive. Once I start endorsing people, I want to endorse others. Often LinkedIn recommends people that I haven’t connected with in awhile. The recommended endorsements offer a new way to explore LinkedIn and stay current on one’s network. Endorsements also serve as a way to determine how well you know your own connections. Todd complains about the lack of friction with Endorsements, as visiting a connection’s profile shows a field prepopulated with suggestions. But how many people will really endorse connections for irrelevant skills? LinkedIn is still relying on its members to put their own names on the line; you can see the names (and usually faces) of all those who endorsed anyone for a given skill. LinkedIn has the one key element of friction it needs, which Todd mentions: you can only endorse people you’re connected to. LinkedIn may well need to refine the feature. From what I’ve seen though, it’s an upgrade for the service, rather than a nuisance. Since early on, LinkedIn has offered the ability to write detailed recommendations, but most people who I know wrote them were doing so with the hope of getting a recommendation in return. Others would flat out beg everyone in their network to write them a recommendation, especially when they were seeking jobs. There’s a lot of friction for writing recommendations, but that doesn’t make them much better than Endorsements, especially since they’re usually a slog to read through (though they undoubtedly mean a lot to the recipient). I’m going to keep on endorsing my connections for relevant skills. It makes me feel as good to give an Endorsement as it does to receive one. Maybe that’s LinkedIn’s secret weapon. With a single click, one can do a good deed for one of their connections. That dopamine rush alone makes it addictive. Some addictions can truly be good for you and the people you care about. Image courtesy of Flickr, Owenwbrown Topics: Jobs, Social Media

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