Is the World as We Know It Coming to an End?

by Carl Weiss

Listen to internet radio with workingthewebtowin on Blog Talk Radio

With the end of the Mayan long count calendar about to occur in three days, a lot of people are concerned about the world as they know it coming to an end.  While apocalyptic premonitions have been a regular occurrence even into modern times (who could forget the memorable non-event known as Y2K?), when it comes to cataclysmic changes taking place, I’ve got news for you…You’re too late.  Ever since the advent of the Internet, the ways in which people all over the globe work, communicate, play, shop and get their news has been radically affected.  As time goes on these changes have actually been accelerating.  Let me count the ways.

1.      Shop til You Drop!

With the holiday season upon us, not even Santa is immune from the Internet.  I mean, who needs eight tiny reindeer when you have Amazon and EBay?  Why fight your way in and out of the mall when you can point and click your way through your shopping list, your Christmas card list and have your presents shipped overnight?  Have you seen people wandering the aisles at Walmart staring at their smartphones?  They aren’t texting.  They’re comparison shopping online.  When you realize that back in 2002, consumers in the US spent $42 billion shopping online and in 2011 they spent $162 billion, the fact that more people are spending more of their discretionary income online than ever before is plain to see.

2.      The Only News That’s Fit to Print

Newspapers have been a dominant source of information for more than 550 years.  Ever since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press back in 1454, the printed word has not only been a source of comfort to the populace, it has also been a source of revenue to publishers the world over.  The problem is that since 2000, which was the high water mark for traditional publishers, those figures have been dropping ever since.

According to a recent Mashable.comreport:
·         In 2000, newspapers peaked at $48.67 billion in revenue. This came entirely from print -- the National Association of Adertising did not track online ad revenue at that time, but we can assume it was a minuscule number.
·         In 2001, it started dropping. Revenues dropped from $48.67 billion to $44.305 billion, a 9% decrease year-over-year. This was during the time of the Dot Com Bust and the related recession, so this is no big surprise.
·         During 2002-2006, print advertising revenues hovered between $44 and $47 billion.
·         Around this time, the NAA also began tracking online ad revenue. At the peak in 2005, combined ad revenue reached $49.435 billion, with $2.027 billion of it coming from online sales
·         Then the floor completely caved in. In 2006, newspapers made $49.275 billion in total revenue. In 2007, it was $45.375 billion. In 2008, it dropped to $37.848 billion. In 2009, it plummeted all the way to $27.564 billion. 
Newsflash: In four short years, newspaper advertising revenue dropped 44.24%!  The old newspaper model is simply not going to be market-viable as we head deeper into the digital age. News blogs (such as Mashable) and online reporting are the future of journalism.

3.      Has Madison Avenue Lost It’s Mojo?
Of course, print media isn’t the only thing that has taken a hit since the turn of the century.  Traditional broadcast avenues such as network television, cable television and radio have also seen their revenues decline sharply.  The Yellow Pages, once one of the dominant forces of local advertising clout has seen usage drop from a high of 15.2 billion searches in 2002 to less than 11 billion searches in 2010. (Statistics gleaned from report entitled: Are Yellow Pages Toast

So, is it a coincidence the rapid drop in readership, viewership and listenership being experienced by traditional media should so closely parallel the rise of the Internet as a multimedia superstation?  Or has Madison Avenue simply lost its mojo?  Some mainstream marketing professionals think so.

I’m reading The Future of Advertising article in FastCompany,  good stuff – but it reminds me of a constant voice in my head when I meet with my agency clients. You know, the one that screams, “Ouch, maybe that approach worked in the 90′s but does he really think this same approach is going to win the client’s business?” 

It also reminds my agency friends they need to seriously re-think the role of advertising in the new world of Web 2.0, digital being front and center, develop and demonstrate innovative use of the social map, and frankly stay in the game of constant game-changing.  Some will survive, while others are going to need to find their mojo, and not just by learning new approaches, but by redefining what it means to be in the business of advertising in the first place.

(Sheri writes about behavioral science and neuromarketing insights and consults with leading brands on effective application of these insights for product and marketing development. Her work has been featured in B@B, Direct, Target, CRM News, Online Media Daily, the New York Times and the Boston Business Journal.)

Being an advertising professional myself, I can relate to this vibe.  The problem is that the majority of ad agencies are still stuck in the 1990’s.  By that I mean that they continue to push the media that built most ad agencies, which boils down to traditional advertising.  As a result, a number of agencies, including those on Madison Avenue are having increasing trouble in retaining clients due chiefly to poor ROI as traditional media continue to slump versus digital media. 

4.      Has Ma Bell Had Her Apron Strings Shortened?

Remember when there were no cellphones and the only thing you could do with a phone was talk?  Remember when Bell Telephone ruled the roost and long distance charges were billed at whatever the market would bear.  Well times have changed for the better for consumers and businesses alike when it comes to communicating via phone.  The telephone monopolies now share their positions with the cell phone companies and other 3rd party players offering Voice Over IP phone service. Products like Magic Jack and Vonage have put a big dent in the armor plating of ATT and the others Baby Bell giants.

Even the postal service has undergone dramatic changes. The US postal service has to keep scaling back because of the reduction in mailed letters and documents. Its costs keep going up because they now mainly have to handle packages and of course they have the unions to contend with.  Email has grown to huge proportion of written communication and is now the defacto way that most modern societies communicate. The Growth of texting has had a huge influence on the population, since text messages often get read when emails are ignored and cell calls are relegated to voice mail. It’s become such a problem that texting behind the wheel accounts for thousands of car crashes a year and tens of thousands of surprise cell phone bills to unhappy parents.

5.      Our Ever More Wired World

If you think the past ten years has changed the way in which we live, work, shop and play, wait until you see what the next five has to offer.  Everything from wearable computers to autonomous vehicles to robots that can see, hear, smell and talk are already on the drawing board or under development. 

Far from having to wait until 12-21-12, what the vast majority of the populace hasn’t realized is the fact that the world as we knew it ceased to exist shortly after Y2K.  The question isn’t whether this is going to throw a monkey wrench into the works.  It is simply a matter of how we as a species are going to deal with a rapidly changing world.

Carl Weiss is president of W Squared Media Group, a digital marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of Working the Web to Win, a weekly online radio show that airs Tuesday at 4pm Eastern on Blog Talk Radio.

Google Calling?

By Carl Weiss

Recently our company was approached by one of our clients who held in his hand a printout of a form letter he had been spammed with that read as follows,
Hi, I recently visited your website, “”, during a routine survey of sites which may be capable of higher search engine performance through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Efficient SEO brings an increase in online sales or leads. I hope this information may be of use to you, if not then I apologies for any inconvenience caused. So, here's a summary of my findings on your site:

- Your Google Page rank is 0/10
- You have 0/10 back-links
- Your website has 0/15 pages indexed

I'm going somewhere with all this... I wanted to do my homework and research your website because I want to show you that I have applied some research to your website before contacting you with my proposal. We are in the business of offering 3 benefits for your website:

1) Diagnosing and fixing all issues with your website
2) Ranking your site to the top of the search results
3) Significantly increasing your online revenue levels.

Let me know if you would like to further information by email or we could schedule a call.

I look forward to your feedback

We pointed out to the client that not only was the email a form letter, it failed to point out the following:
1. The site rank is irrelevant! Only keyword ranking is important for search!
2. The message did not mention any specific keyword searches.
3. The spam contained no reference as to where the firm that send the message was located.
4. The email did not detail any method or methods they intended to employ in order to rectify the situation.
5. They also did not include any reference to the client's blogs, social posts or videos, which today accounts for 75% of the search engine ranking.
6. Most egregious of all was the fact that this particular website was ranked in the top ten listing on Google Page One for no fewer than seven keywords. In other words, they are already on page one of Google .

The crux of the matter was that whoever sent the spam that caused our client to go into a panic attack did not do their homework. They were simply Phishing for a response, any response from which to gain a toehold in order to try to get the prospect to fork over a credit card number. And far from being surprised at these tactics, I myself am routinely bombarded with email and phone calls from sales reps purportedly from Google who want to make me aware that my site is not on page one. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

Google does not have a sales force.

What most people are unaware of is the fact that Google is not behind any of these messages and/or calls simply due to the fact that they have no outbound sales force. What they do is work with digital media agencies like ours. In fact they have a certification system for agencies wishing to offer Adwords pay-per-click advertising to their clients. But as far as organic ranking to which Google makes not one slim dime, the company does not offer assistance at any price, other than YouTube videos designed to let you know what Google wants in terms of content, back links and the like. The fact of the matter is that Google guards how it ranks website and keywords for organic results. They do this to keep companies from being able to dominate organic search. Therefore any sales rep claiming to be from Google is at best a bald-faced liar and at worst an online criminal looking to do you harm.

What every business needs to know about search engine optimization.

If you go back to the year 2000, all that the search engines looked at in order to deermine how sites ranked was contained on-site. Face it, back in 2000 there were no such things as blogs, social networks and streaming video. Heck, it could take a minute or more to get graphics to load properly if you were using a dial-up account. So all the search engine spiders had to look at was your website. Well, we’ve come a long way baby. Today, only 25% of what the search engines look at is contained on-site. The majority of SEO criteria consist of such things as backlinks, blog posts, social posts, and videos. Not only do the spiders look to see whether these items are present, they also determine the relevance and the quality of posts. This along with frequency, whether or not the posts have been commented on and if they have been reposted to social sites, all factor in. What this means is that it isn’t enough to sport the logos for Twitter, Facebook and Google+ on your site, you also need to feed them on a regular basis.

What SEO Means Today

Here are the facts you need to contend with. There are more than 320 million websites online today, with another 130,000 new sites entering the fray daily. And every one of them wants to be on page one. In order to have any kind of chance to win with the odds stacked against you, website owners need to consider the following:

• Content is king. The days of “Set it and forget it” are over. If you want to get into the game, you need to blog on at least a weekly basis and you need to post to the social networks on at least a daily basis.
• The Internet has become a multimedia broadcast network. If the only thing your website has to offer is prose, you aren’t going to be taken seriously by either the Google bots or your intended audience. You need to add podcasts and/or videos to your site on at least a monthly basis. (Weekly is even better.)
• Your blogs need to be more than extended tweets. If you don’t provide the readers with valuable articles to engage them, why should they read your blog at all, much less tweet or repost it?
• You also must ally yourself with other bloggers and social media publishers if you hope to generate any kind of audience online. The last thing you want to wind up doing is spending time and money building a billboard in the desert.

In short, if you want to get off the bench and into the game, you need to make online content creation a priority. This means either feeding the system yourself, or hiring either an individual or an agency to do the work for you. Just bear in mind that outsourcing a job that requires weekly blogging, daily social posts, monthly backlink building and video/podcast production is not going to come cheap. Anyone telling you they can get you on Google page 1 for $99.95 per month is just going to take your hundred bucks a month for as long as you would care to pay it. A minimum of $1,000.00 per month is a more realistic figure, unless you are willing to do at least some of the work yourself.

Top 10 Questions to ask any SEO firm

Even spending a grand a month doesn’t mean that you are going to jump onto page 1 overnight… if ever. If you are considering hiring the task out, here are ten questions you need to ask.

1. Where is your company located and how long have you been doing SEO? (Ask for their phone number and business address.)
2. What are your fees and what will I get for the money?
3. Does this fee include copywriting of blogs and social posts? What else? (backlinks, videos)
4. Can you provide me with references for current clients? (Do you have any video testimonials?)
5. What kind of performance guarantees do you offer and can I get them in writing?
6. How long is the contract and how long will it take to get my site on page one?
7. What happens if you fail to deliver results?
8. How do you determine the best keywords for my business?
9. What kind of reports will I receive and how often will I receive them?
10. Whom do I call if I have any questions or needs during the time you are in my employ?

If any company that offers to optimize your site can’t tell you precisely what it is that you will be getting for your money and they can’t provide you with the phone numbers and address for at least 5 satisfied current clients, then they do not deserve your consideration. Also be wary of offshore firms since it is nearly impossible to get any kind of refund should they fail to deliver the goods. Also beware of long term contracts of one year or more. Many automatically renew and they put the onus on you to continue paying without any appreciable quid pro quo in terms of results with the SEO provider.

The bottom line is that if you are serious about maximizing your online results then you only have three possible options. Number one; you are willing to take the time to get the job done right on your own. This will take a huge amount of time and effort on your part. Number two; You are willing to do part of the work yourself and outsource the rest. Or three, outsource all the task in its entirety to a reputable firm that has all the tools necessary to complete the job on a timely basis. All three will allow you to reap the rewards that come with having organic page one search engine visibility. If you’re outsourcing, just remember this. You are hiring a technician, not a magician and results won’t be instantaneous.  It could take three or four months before you start seeing page 1 results.

So the next time you get a call or an email from someone purportedly associated with Google, hit them with the first few questions in the list above and see how often you get a legitimate response. I’ll bet that 99 times out of 100 they will admit that they don’t work for Google and/or they will simply hang up. Either way you are now armed with the necessary knowledge to find a legitimate firm that can help you get the job done right.

Carl Weiss has helped companies improve their online results since 1995. He is president of W Squared Media Group, a digital marketing agency that provides a full array of digital marketing service including web design, SEO, blog writing, copyediting, social media posts, video production and touch marketing. You can hear him weekly on the radio show he co-hosts, “Working the Web to Win” every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern.

Keeping Up with the Joneses on the Social Networks

by Hector Cisneros

Listen to internet radio with workingthewebtowin on Blog Talk Radio

The marketing world we live in today is a far cry from the one our parents grew up with during the 50 and 60’s. TV, News Paper, Yellow Pages and Radio have hardly changed their format since their inception. In contrast, the internet is a rapidly evolving medium. If you look at all the marketing segments of the internet, Social Media is the most volatile with regards to change. As a matter of fact more rapid changes are coming to LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter then just about any other online segment. The past 12 months have shown massive change, including a slew of new features, updated networks and there does not seem to be an end in sight! How will these social media changes affect your businesses' social standing? Will it mean additional changes in how you manage your social media? Are you going to have to join other networks?

That's not all.  Rapid changes in technology and software tools can make or break your social media standings. Not taking advantage of new features can leave your social media sites looking old school and unrefined. More importantly you will not be taking advantage of the opportunities available to your business. Let's look at a half dozen changes that have taken place in various social media platforms and how they have affected some businesses.

Facebook Changes worth noting

Massive growth. Facebook biggest change for the year was the addition of Global Brand Pages. This allows a company to create a single URL , yet have it customized for each of the local markets it services. Facebook started the year with a professed 900,000,000 subscribers and is now well over a billion. Facebook has changed how you interact and post to the news feed timeline and how you organize and pay attention to your friends. This is true both for personal accounts as well as Fan Pages. They have also revamped how Pay Per click and Pay per view is organized, reported and executed. They have even added mobile-only ads. This effects not only how you interpret your analytics it also effects how you use Facebook psychographics to drill down to your intended target market. Make sure you study Facebook’s tutorials for advertising and make sure any YouTube training videos you watch are current and that they reflect the new changes. Facebook has plateaued in growth. Look to see its growth slow in 2013.

Twitter Changes worth noting

Twitter has added "Tailored Trend," which is designed to notify a subscriber about trends in which users should be interested. This is based on your profile and what Twitter knows about you as a subscriber. Twitter has added more options to PPC and sponsored links this year. You can now target users by their interests as well. They have also changed their look and feel, added banner backgrounds and also permit a photo/video gallery. Twitter has shown massive growth this year, more than any other network. They have shown the greatest percentage of growth, from a mere 125,000,000 subscribers to 500,000,000 subscribers. I have also noticed an increase in their sensitivity to the number of follows you make per day. There sometimes seems to be no rhyme or reason to their limits. Just err on the side of caution when setting up a new account and spread out your follows throughout the day if you want to avoid being tagged as a spammer.

Google+ Changes worth noting

Google + has folded had several other Google properties and integrated a couple of new ones into the platform this year. The most important of these is Google Local, Google +1 and Google Invite, which were added to Google, along with Hangouts, which is a free teleconferencing/screen sharing facility. G+ also updated/tweaked its brand pages format and added additional functionality to hangouts. You can now broadcast a hangout and record it directly to YouTube. Google+ subscribers have also grown in number. Their active user community is over 150,000,000 strong with 400,000,000 total users. Continue to watch Google+ grow add even more functionality in 2013. This is Google’s MO when it comes to dominating a market.

LinkedIn Changes worth noting

Linked in has shown steady growth and has also added several new features. The most significant is the additional of Business Pages. LinkedIn’s B2B functionality has always been strong. It's widely used "Recommendations" feature has always been a favorite of its subscriber base. Now LinkedIn has added an active element to its recommendation section where LinkedIn actively invites your connections to recommend and endorse you. If you haven't given this a shot, you need to log in today.

YouTube changes worth noting

YouTube has grown to be the second most visited search engine in the world, only exceed by Google Search itself. YouTube now receives 4 billion views a day! They have also refined the back-end search features and refined their pay per click system. It is now tightly integrated with Google+ and they have also added a built-in video editor, so now you don’t even have to purchase third party video editing software. Look to see continued growth of YouTube subscribers, along with its use as a search engine, and as an important ranking factor in Google Search. Keep an eye out for further integration into Google+ and refinement of its PPC model next year.

Other Changes worth noting

A new player that is showing promise is Pintrest. This social network is very effective for businesses that are visually oriented or that routinely use photos to sell their products. Graphic artists, photographers, printers, magazines and any business that relies on a picture being worth a thousand words loves this medium. Others networks worth mentioning are Tumblr and Reddit both of which have shown steady growth. Overall loser include Taringa, Digg, Bebo, Friendster and MySpace. All of which have shown a significant loss of subscribers and or market share. There you have it, an overview of the rapidly occurring changes that make up the Social Media landscape today. What has happened over the last six months to a year is that the major players and wannabes have been duking it out out to see who can provide the best platform for social media subscribers. Needless to say, all of the players in this arena are striving to be number one. This article has intended to keep you abreast of major changes that have taken place this year. The coming year promises to provide even more changes, so pay attention to what they are doing. Better yet, keep reading my blogs and tune into our Working the Web to Win radio show every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern if you want to stay ahead of the curve.

That’s my opinion, I look forward to reading yours.

Hector Cisneros is COO of W Squared Media Group, a prominent online marketing company based in Jacksonville, FL. He is also co-host of Blog Talk Radio’s “Working the Web to Win,” which airs every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern. And a published syndicated writer and published author of 60 Seconds to success.

Choosing Your Battles is What it Takes to Win the Tablet Wars

By Carl Weiss

Listen to internet radio with workingthewebtowin on Blog Talk Radio

If you are thinking about buying a tablet PC, you should be aware that there are now many variations of the device that was first brought to the world by Apple Computer on April 3, 2010.  It’s hard to believe that in less than three years the tablet PC market has exploded to the point that there are tablets galore being manufactured by everyone from Acer to Vizio.  As a result it is getting more and more difficult to decide which tablet is right for you.

Apple, Google and now Microsoft?

While Apple did invent the tablet PC, Google quickly followed suit.  In fact, in a CNet interview in October, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt admitted that , "The Android-Apple platform fight is the defining fight in the industry today."  He also went onto intimate that within a year, more than one billion devices were expected to be running on Android.  So when it comes to choosing one platform over the other, it is simply a matter of preference, since both offer millions of apps from which to choose.

The problem is that another mover and shaker, Microsoft, has just entered the fray with their Windows 8 compatible Surface. This has also spawned a whole slew of other hardware vendors from Dell to Samsung creating their version of a Windows 8 compatible Tablet.  Microsoft Surface is their first real foray into the hardware tablet/PC platform arena.

Even though Microsoft is a late comer to the Tablet wars, they could prove to be a player! With Microsoft’s worldwide distribution channels and large installed customer base, they will make inroads quickly. If the sell out of their first manufacturing run is any indication of this product sell ability it will be one to watch. Microsoft's  design is innovative, high tech and offers many features not available on competing models. Plus it runs Microsoft Office, the number one office suite in the business world. Microsoft’s entry is not a cheap knockoff, it’s a real hybrid with high end competing features and it is priced accordingly. Currently the MS Surface is only available in a 10.1 inch model but if you love Microsoft it’s worth a look.

Size Matters

While there are variations on a theme, for the most part tablets are most commonly available in either 7-inch or a 10-inch models.   While size matters, it’s not in the way you would at first think.  While many people deride the 7-inch tablet, Steve Jobs having been chief among them, there is most definitely a time and a place where less is more.  To make matters worse, there are hybrid devices that blur the line between smart phone and tablet. Both Samsung and LG have release smart phone in the 5+ inch size that have all the capabilities of full size tables (and of course they are cell phones too). Not to be out done Apple recently released its new IPad Mini with a 4 inch format.

A report from CNet: Nearly 60 percent of units shipped this year will be 9-inch screen tablets with the iPad at the top of the list, according to the firm. But the 7-inch tablets are cutting into the iPad's hold on the market -- those shipments account for 32 percent, up from 26 percent last year.

Other than size, 7-inch units are decidedly cheaper.  Google’s Nexus 7 which is one of the best in the business can be had for right around $200, while typical 10 inch tablets retail for four to five hundred dollars.  Besides 7-inchers are much more portable, which is a huge advantage when carrying around other gear.  7-inch models  can also be slipped into a pocket.  10-inch tablets are closer to a laptop in size versus a smartphone.  This means that if you want to do a lot of typing, a 7-inch tablet isn’t for you.

How Low Should You Go?

While size, operating system and speed are three of the variables that many people use to make a final decision on the best tablet to buy, there are always bargain hunters.  With the sheer amount of competition in the marketplace, you would think that prices would start dropping.  To a certain degree you would be right.  But price shouldn’t necessarily be the final arbiter in choosing a tablet.  You still need it to perform the tasks that are near and dear to you.  For example, while I have seen tablets such as the Archos Arnova 9 G3 for as little as $149.95 on Amazon, the question you have to ask yourself is, “How much performance do I need to get out of my tablet?”

A review of the Arnova 9 from PC Advisor states that,” The Arnova 9 G3 display has a 1024x768 resolution but as with the iPad 2, it lack crispness. Text is readable in larger fonts but falls foul of pixelation when browsing text-heavy websites. Video playback can also look patchy at times with colors not blending seamlessly. Colors weren't as vibrant as on the best budget screens, such as Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2.  We managed to squeeze only 5 hours of viewing out of the Arnova 9 G3 before the battery gave in. That's not to say you couldn't use it for casual YouTube perusing, but you'll have to do this via the browser as Arnova hasn't installed the Google Play app store and no YouTube app is pre-loaded.”

So if you are looking for a powerhouse, don’t necessarily expect a bargain.  You may find that the bargain tablet you purchased doesn’t have the speed, battery life, resolution or app availability that you desire.  Besides the differential in price between the low and high end of the spectrum is only a few hundred dollars for the most part.  So why split hairs?

Need a Tablet You Can Get Wet?

Of course, if you are looking to take your tablet on the high seas or into the rainforest then you definitely need to find a tablet that’s up to the task.  AT& T’s Pantech Element is designed to be submerged in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes.  While you can’t exactly take it scuba diving, it’s tough enough to take boating or camping.  While most Android tablets come in either a 7 or 10 inch variant, the designers of the element decided to go with an 8-inch screen.  Other than that, it’s a fairly straightforward 16 GB Android Honeycomb tablet that is available for $299.99 with a two-year contract, or $449.99 without.

 Winning the Battle and Losing the War

Remember, choosing the best tablet for your needs is not something you should take lightly.  The last thing you want to do is buy a tablet online based on your research only to find out once it arrives that you absolutely hate it.  So before making a purchase, take the time to go to a retailer that carries the unit in order to hold it in your own two hands and put it through its paces.  If you fail to do this then you might wind up in the unenviable position of winning the battle only to lose the war, in which case you could wind up putting your latest purchase up for resale on EBay or Craigslist. Actually if you wait till after Christmas you may find the tablet of your dreams in the same place for half the money.

Carl Weiss is president of W Squared Media Group a digital media agency located in Jacksonville, Florida. He also owns and operates Jacksonville VideoProduction and cohosts the weekly “Working the Web to Win Radio Show,” that airs at 4pm every Tuesday on Blog Talk RadioPC 

How to Be a Social Media Rock Star

Listen to internet radio with workingthewebtowin on Blog Talk Radio

By Carl Weiss

Are you looking to for a cost effective way to grow your business?  Do you want to break the demoralizing cycle of cold-call, sales pitch and call-back, while attracting the attention, respect and recognition of prospects and clients the world over?  The good news is that accomplishing this task is easier than you might think.  What I’m talking about is using social networking as a business tool.  When it comes to social networking, there are two schools of thought:
  1.          Registering with a social network
  2.         Using a social network

For the most part, many small business owners fall into the first category.  This means that while they are enrolled in such networks as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others, they rarely feed the nets and/or they have few followers.  Unless you are willing to post to your networks on a daily basis, you will attain little or no advantage for your business.  Add to this the fact that if the amount of followers in your account is in the tens or even hundreds, then you are short sheeting yourself when it comes to being able to tap into the power of social networking.  As a rule, when you create a post, only ten percent of your followers are likely to read it and only ten percent of those who read it are likely to act on it.  This means that in order to get into the game you need to create a base of followers in the thousands.  The ways you do this are by providing compelling content and by actively pushing the envelope in order to build a following.

If you search the Internet, you will quickly find that those firms who have established their brand online as a hot commodity have gone out of their way to provide their ever growing audience with content that is much more than mere press releases.  Some of the most popular this year included a YouTube campaign for Carlsberg Beer that featured a movie theater full of burly bikers, a visually stunning Pinterest campaign by and a Twitter blitz for the motion picture Bully.  While the use of text or visually-based networks was different in all three of the above-mentioned cases, what was similar was the way that these companies used social networking to create a buzz. So the first three things that any aspiring rock star has to do is practice, practice, practice.

What Social Networking is Not

When you consider that most social networks are less than 5 years old, there has been a certain learning curve needed in order to successfully employ this medium for promotional purposes.  Some online marketers assume that the correct way to feed the social nets is to send out ad copy.  This couldn’t be further from the truth. While social media is possibly the world’s most powerful form of word of mouth marketing, the last thing that your online followers wants to receive is ad copy.  Face it, Americans are bombarded practically 24/7 with advertisements.  From the moment they wake up to the moment their head hits the pillow at night, they have ads coming at them from every direction.  As a result, people start to tune out ads.  So this is not the best way to engage and grow a following online.

What Social Networking Can Be

Social networking can be one of the best means of convincing the masses to do business with you.  For the most part, these tools are also some of the most cost effective advertising vehicles known to modern man, since they cost little or even nothing to use.  But the secret to employing this technology successfully is to entice your audience with useful, time saving, or entertaining information that relates to your business.  Rather than hammering away at your prospects with a full frontal sales assault as you would with traditional advertising, by embracing social networking, you need to go the extra yard if you want to be a star. Think of doing such things as embedding or linking podcasts and videos to your posts.  This will not only enhance your drawing power, but it will also up the ante of the SEO of your posts.  What better way to attract an audience other than to get onto page one of the world's most popular search engine.

If you want to be a social media rock star, you need to stop thinking about your networks as a chore and start thinking about the ways of compelling your audience to actively seek out and repost your content.  Do this and it will soon be your competition that is relegated to singing the blues.

Carl Weiss is president of W Squared Media Group a prominent online marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He also owns and operates Jacksonville Video and is co-host of Blog Talk Radio’s “Working the Web to Win,” which airs every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern.

Why You Should Be Gaga for Google+

By Carl Weiss

It has been called everything from an online ghost town to one of the best social networks ever invented for small businesses.  But there is one thing that neither pundits nor detractors can deny.  That is that Google+ is the only social network in the world directly operated by the world’s most popular search engine.

An extension of the Google brand

Sure, G+ was invented strictly due to the fact that Facebook’s popularity was a threat to the 800 lb gorilla in the room named Google.  But far from being its downfall, the me-too look and feel of Google+ did not come about by accident.  When designing the company owned social network, the nerds at Google took a look at what worked and what didn’t work on other search engines.  Then they used the best and discarded the rest.  This is one of the reasons that starting a G+ account is so easy to do.  There isn’t a lot of time spent on learning how to use the thing. 

Got a gmail account?  Simply log into Google and hit the (name)+ button and away you go.  After filling out profile information and uploading a photo, you’re ready to start friending.  Since G+ is a search engine, anyone who has already registered with Google can be located and added just by typing in their name and hitting enter.  After adding them to your circles Google will inform your friends that you are now linked to them.  It doesn't get any easier than that. (More on how to capitalize on this later.)

So far it seems a lot like Facebook, right?  Well it is and it isn’t.  It is in that using G+ and Facebook are similar.  But Google+ has a lot more to offer a business owner.  Remember Google Local?  This is the local listing engine that used to be a standalone facility on Google.  Well it was folded into G+ several months ago.  In fact, there is a button on the left side of the G+ homepage that accesses this area.  But that’s not all that you are able to access there.  You can also access and update your Google Calendar there.  You can view and upload photos and videos there.  More importantly, you can also start a Hangout there.

Free Videoconferencing

What is a Hangout?  It’s a free video chat facility that you and eight of your closest friends can inhabit at the push of a button.  No software to download.  No cumbersome codes to email.  To spawn a hangout all you have to do is hit the Hangout tab on the G+ homepage and hit “Start a Hangout.”  You can’t miss this button since it’s at the top of the page in red.  Once you hit it, all you need to do to populate it is to enter the names of the people you want to hang out with in the dialog box at the top of the page and hit invite.  Within seconds they will receive your invitation and with one click of the mouse can join you via video.  (You can also screen share with Hangout as well.)  When you consider that using other videoconferencing systems online can cost upwards of fifty bucks per month, this is a real bargain.  At our office we routinely use Hangout to interface with clients and prospects.  Who needs to drive across town when you can spawn a virtual meeting?

Other G+ Features

There are a lot of other features that make Google+ a breeze to use.  Everything is fully editable.  It is also fully searchable.  You can drag and drop videos from your computer or from Youtube in seconds.  Best of all, using G+ will enhance your SEO worthiness since it is owned and operated by Google.  It isn’t at all unusual for a properly optimized Google+ post to wind up on page one of Google.

And don’t believe all the propaganda about G+ being a ghost town.  Sure, it doesn’t have a billion users like Facebook, but it does have more than 100 million active monthly users.  This is hardly an insignificant figure by anyone’s calculation.  When it comes to employing a social network that is easy to use and offers so many free features that business people would otherwise be required to pay and it isn’t hard to see why so many people are gaga for Google+

Carl Weiss is president of W Squared Media Group a prominent online marketing agency based in Jacksonville, Floride.  He also owns and operates Jacksonville Video and is co-host of Blog Talk Radio’s “Working the Web to Win,” which airs every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern.

Social Networking via Video

When most people talk about social media they immediately think of such networks as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  The last place they would consider networking would be YouTube.  I know what you're thinking, "YouTube is a video portal, not a social network."  When you get right down to it, what is a social network? It's an online diary that can be used to update friends, family and associates about your life and/or your business.  Better still, it's an e-diary that you not only allow, but encourage others to peruse and redistribute.

Now I ask you, which one of the following  is  more compelling:
1. Text
2. Video

I don't know about you, but I am way more likely to watch a 60-second YouTube video than I am to read a blogpost or Tweet.  In fact, one of the things we teach clients to do is embed videos on their blogs and social networks.  Particularly if the videos are amusing, informative and/or entertaining,they will achieve far greater viewership than even the finest prose.

Add to this the fact that in 2010, U.S. Internet users watched 32.4 billion videos in January with Google Sites ranking as the top U.S. video property with 12.8 billion videos. accounted for nearly 99 percent of all videos viewed at Google. (This isn't unusual, since Google owns YouTube.) What is interesting is the fact that video viewers at watched 93 videos on average during the month, representing an increase of 50 percent versus that of a year ago.That's more than 3 per day on average. (Currently YouTube streams more than 4 billion videos per day.)

Are you seeing the value yet? We all know that we must be innovative and creative in order to create and engage an ever growing audience.  So if you are not using YouTube, do you think you might be missing out on something that could help your business?  

Alright, then I'll give you another reason to consider utilizing YouTube.  Did you know that you can create a Page 1 result on Google just by using YouTube?  That's right, the Googlebots are always looking for mixed media to pull onto page one of the most popular search engine in the world.  Properly optimized videos can wind up on Page 1 of a Google search.  This is an even better result than having your website pop up on page 1, since there are only one or two videos that will be found there.  Plus people are five times as likely to watch a video then they are to click over to a site.

When you boil it down, there really is no downside to networking on YouTube. What you need to think about are the following:
  1. How can you use YouTube to attract an audience?  
  2. What humorous or eye-catching theme will give your video the best chance of going viral?
  3. Who on your staff is most photogenic. (Or, should you consider hiring a spokesmodel?) 
The beauty of YouTube is that it even includes a number of categories that you can choose from, including:

    * Autos and Vehicles
    * Comedy
    * Education
    * Entertainment
    * Film and Animation
    * Gaming
    * How-to and Style
    * Nonprofit and Activism
    * People and Blogs
    * Pets and Animals
    * Science and Technology
    * Sports
    * Travel and Events

The first step is to determine which category best fits your business. Keep in mind that when it comes to social media the last thing you want to do is upload a commercial for your product.  People get bombarded with ads on an hourly basis.  What you want to do is intrigue and interact with potential customers.  You also don't want to pretend you're Steven Spielberg.  On YouTube, less is more.  This means that short videos of 1-2 minutes are the best length for viewers.

Next you need to determine what type of video you could post that consumers would find valuable, amusing and/or instructive?

There are dozens of ways to employ video for your business.  You could put together a how-to video? How about shooting an entertaining video that showcases your products?  Remember value and interaction are key to using social media to market your business effectively. Just bear in mind that there is a fine line between providing compelling video content and coming on like an informercial  Unlike TV ads, the key with YouTube is to provide 90% content and 10% selling. 

Of course the best reason to add YouTube to your marketing arsenal is due to the fact that unlike broadcast TV, airing your videos cost you nothing.  Video quality is another matter, but today production costs have come way down.  So, if you can create videos that impart value and engage prospects and customers, getting back the production costs shouldn't be all that difficult. What you need to remember is that your video will be one of 260,000 that are uploaded daily, so make it worthwhile for viewers to tune in. 

As with any social media marketing strategy the key is to be creative and have fun.  But most of all, you should do it because it is one of the most cost-effective ways to market your business online.

Carl Weiss has been helping clients gain a competitive edge online since 1995.  He is president of W Squared Media Group and Owner of Jacksonville Video.  He is also co-host of Working the Web to Win on Blog Talk Radio.

Praise the Borg and Pass the Ammunition

By Carl Weiss
In a take right out of one of those late night sci-fi movies the race is currently on to determine who is going to conquer the world first: autonomous robots or cybernetically enhanced humans.  If you have been paying any attention to the newsfeeds recently, there have been a number of articles and videos that have clearly demonstrated that a major shift in the way we look at and deal with technology is now under way.
When most people think about robots today, they either get a picture in their heads of the industrial automatons that now assemble things like cars and vacuum cleaners, or they think of mama’s little helper the Roomba.  But what most folks don’t appreciate is that everyone from Google to the Dept. of Defense is on the verge of creating robotic systems that are capable of doing everything from fighting fires to driving on California’s interstates with little or no input or oversight from anyone.

Robots to the Rescue

While most firefighting is still done the old fashioned way, at least one manufacturer, Howe and Howe Technologies, have introduced firefighting robots that are designed to be used in places too hazardous for humans.  However, don’t expect these droids to break down the door and carry you to safety.   The Thermite Firefighting Robot more closely resembles a tank to 3CPO.  However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other more ambitious designs on the drawing board or in prototype.  In fact DARPA  has created a contest replete with a $2 million prize for a more ambulatory robot that can be sent into harm’s way, such as the recent Fukushima reactor accident.

Robotics Challenge Teams Announced By DARPA

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on Wednesday some of the top teams that will compete in its $2million contest to create robots that can be used to assist in natural disasters and other emergencies.

What’s even stranger is that there are a number of developers, universities and entrepreneurs who are creating robots that walk on 2, 4 or even 6 legs.  These includes the Army’s BigDog Robot, which resembles a metal Rottweiler that is designed to carry heavy loads over rough terrain, the Cheetah, currently the world’s fastest quadruped robot and another called the Mule.

IDGNews Service - It looks like a bull, trots at the speed of a wolf and carries equipment like a pack mule, but does it have a place on the battlefield of the future? Researchers are conducting a two-year study of a robot that promises to lighten the load that soldiers must carry and they gave it a high-profile demonstration in September.

The four-legged robot, developed by the U.S. government-funded Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Boston Dynamics, is part of DARPA's Legged Squad Support System (LS3) program, and is packed with technology. It's a development on Big Dog, a robot platform developed by Boston Dynamics several years ago.
The new robot walks on four legs and has a fast-reacting balance system that means it won't fall over if shoved from one side -- something that most robots can't handle. If it does somehow fall, it's capable of righting itself. There are also "eyes" at the front, actually electronic sensors that constantly scan the surroundings.

But wait, there’s more…
There are also robots that are currently in use that can swim or even fly.  While most people are familiar with some of the DoD’s autonomous drone aircraft, such as the Global Hawk, what many have not heard about are autonomous aerial bots that are the size of bats or even bugs. While these micro air vehicles (MAVs) are ostensibly designed to be used to for such things as searching for survivors in the wake of a disaster or even pollinating plants, it’s all too easy to see that these bugbots could all too easily be converted into flying listening devices which would give the term “bugging” a whole new meaning. 
Scientists hope to put artificial bee brains in flying robots
Scientists from the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex hope to build a computer model of the honey bee’s brain, with the ultimate hope of using it to control tiny autonomous flying robots.
The project is called Green Brain – a tip of the hat to IBM’s Blue Brain Project, the aim of which is to create a computer model of the human brain. The Green Brain team, however, aren’t actually trying to recreate all of a bee’s mental processes. Instead, they’re focusing on the systems that control its vision and sense of smell.
Also, unlike the Blue Brain scientists, they’re not using supercomputers to create their model. In order to get the performance they’ll need out of desktop PCs, they are using high-performance GPU (graphics processing unit) accelerators. Donated by the NVIDIA Corporation, these GPUs are typically used to rapidly generate 3D graphics on home computers and gaming systems. For the Green Brain project, they will instead be used to quickly perform complex calculations.

What’s worse is that once these some of these bots are out of the bottle, it is not going to be easy to put them back in.  Especially since at least one lab in England has developed a way to power these critters on biomass.  That’s right, these robots eat bugs.  Eww!

Bug-Eating Robots Use Flies for Fuel

At the Bristol Robotics Laboratory in England, researchers are designing their newest bug-eating robot—Ecobot III.
The device is the latest in a series of small robots to emerge from the lab that are powered by a diet of insects.  Most robots today draw that energy from electrical cords, solar panels, or batteries. But Chris Melhuish and his colleagues think such release-and-forget robots can satisfy their energy needs the same way wild animals do—by foraging for food.
"Animals are the proof that this is possible," he said.
Over the last decade, Melhuish's team has produced a string of bots powered by sugar, rotten apples, or dead flies.
There’s Something Fishy Going on Here
But the friendly skies are not the only realm into which autonomous robots have started to roam.  There are also a number of inventors who have created robots that can swim the seven seas.
Autonomous swimming robot inspired by the sea turtle
Well, we shouldn’t be surprised. Scientists have created swimming robotic versions of the cow-nosed ray, the jellyfish, the sunfish, the tuna, and just the generic “fish,” so why not the sea turtle? That’s what a group of scientists from the ETH Zurich research group are in the process of doing, and they’ve named it naro - tartaruga (the original naro was another robotic tuna). As it turns out, a couple of the sea turtle’s natural features make for a pretty good robot.
Although it is possible to operate the current prototype by remote control, naro - tartaruga is being created first and foremost as an exercise in autonomous underwater navigation. The research team is also interested in seeing just how energy-efficient its flapping-fin propulsion system will be.
There is currently everything from robo-tuna, to automated jellyfish, to robotic eels that are designed to sniff out underwater mines. While many of these cutting edge robots are tethered to their human operators, there are a number that are being endowed with artificial intelligence.  
SUNNYVALE, CA and KAMUELA, HI, Oct 25, 2012 -- Liquid Robotics(R), an ocean data service provider and developer of the Wave Glider(R), the first wave powered autonomous marine robot,  the world's first wave powered, autonomous marine robot.
Wave powered robots? You heard it here first.  Just like the computer revolution of the 1980’s, the next few years are going to see the emergence of robotics as an everyday event.  For instance, California has just passed legislature that makes it legal for “Autonomous Vehicles” to share the road with humanity. 

Feds ironing out rules for autonomous cars

With the increasing development of autonomousvehicles, and even some states issuing licenses for self-driving cars, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided it was high time to lay out a set of rules for these advanced vehicles. According to a Detroit News report, NHTSA is embarking on a research project that could take two to three years, at the conclusion of which, the administration will write rules to govern driverless cars.
According to the report NHSTA administrator David Sctrickland says the technology could possibly save "thousands of lives." It was also reported that NHTSA has been in talks with a number of companies, including Google, regarding the implementation and development of this technology. Google has been testing its own fleet of driverless cars, logging over 300,000 miles on American roads. The tech company says autonomous vehicles could be made available to the public in the next ten years.
What’s even scarier is the fact that recent developments have made it not only possible, but probable that computer and robotic technology is going to be available that is wearable or even implantable.  Most people have heard about Google Glass, which is a voice actuated computer that is worn like a pair of spectacles.  What hasn’t been as widely promoted is the fact that there are other companies developing similar technology.
 You remember how we saw the unveiling of Google’s Project Glass earlier this year and how it was amazing that we could have a computer that fit into a pair of stylish eyeglasses? Well, it looks like Motorola has beaten Google Glass to the punch with the launch of the Motorola HC1 Headset Computer. This is a wearable computer that runs on Windows.
Yes, this is nowhere near as sleek as the Google Glass concept, but the HC1 is not being targeted at the stylish consumer market. Instead, this is geared more toward industry, military, aerospace, aviation, utilities and other similar commercial applications in the field. And when I said it runs on Windows, you’re not going to get the tiled interface of Windows 8; instead, this is running on Windows CE 6.0 Professional with a custom speech recognition engine.

Robotic Exoskeleton Has Potential For Space And Earth Applications

But these systems are only the tip of the iceberg for wearable hardware.  One of the most intriguing would have to be NASA’s X1 Robotic Exoskeleton.
NASA has teamed up with The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) and Oceaneering Space Systems to develop a robotic exoskeleton called X1. X1 is a 57 pound device that a human could wear over his or her body to assist or inhibit leg movements.In space, the inhibit mode would be used as an in-space exercise machine to supply resistance against leg movement. Here on Earth, the assist mode could potentially help individuals walk for the first time.

Some people have described this technology as being “halfway to the IronMan,” which is apropos for a robotic suit that looks like a cross between a storm trooper and a Transformer.  But the fact of the matter is that not only is hardware wearable, in some cases it has become implantable. 

As shocking as the concept of implantable computers may be to the average American, this technology is hardly new.  For years such things as pacemakers and implantable defibrillators have been available to the public.  Not only are these devices computer controlled, but industry experts recently issued a report that warned that these devices are susceptible to malware.  That’s right, if you are a pacemaker user, your device could get hacked.  While other implantable medical electronics such as cochlear implants designed to allow the deaf to hear and ocular technology designed to let the blind see could also be hacked, the results of a computer virus in these systems would in all likelihood not prove fatal.


Computers and smartphones aren’t the only technology susceptible to malware. Experts are saying computerize medical equipment is being targeted through systems connected to the Internet as well — and the effect could have deadly consequences.
Technology Review reported Kevin Fu, a medical-device security and a computer scientist at the University of Michigan and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, saying that although no injuries as a result of computer viruses infecting medical equipment have been reported yet, they are beginning to hamper patient-monitoring equipment.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology Information Security & Privacy Advisory Board panel discussed the potential consequences this malware could have on patients, how it is getting into the system and what can be done about it.
As electronics get smaller and cheaper it is only a matter of time before many of these systems will become implantable.  As farfetched as it sounds, much of the technology that we all watched on Star Trek is extremely close to becoming an everyday reality.  Remember the communicator?  Today we call this device a cell phone.  Remember the Enterprise’s talking computer?   Can anybody say Siri?  How about cloaking devices?  The military calls it Stealth Technology.  Replicators that produce food out of thin air?  The latest generation of 3-D printer has been designed by Cornell's Creative Machines to print your next takeout order.   And of course who could forget the Borg.

Star Trek technology: how 21st century scientists are making it so

Since its inception in 1966, Star Trek has familiarized us with the lingo and applications of science. At least, that was the case for me. I felt pretty disenfranchised from science at school: it wasn't until I discovered science fiction that I realized I could understand "difficult" technical concepts.
Since the show began, many of us have become more tech-savvy than we could possibly have imagined at school. More than that, we're now seeing emergent technology here on Earth that was once little more than a Star Trek scriptwriter's dream. To get you in the mood for this weekend's festivities, here's a roundup of some of the best Star Trek-inspired technology.
As time goes on it’s inevitable that cybernetic systems, robotics and even more Star Trek technology will become not only available but as commonplace as the computer is today.  Whether for good or bad, the only question that remains to be answered is, “Do you think we’ll be able to use malware to stop them from taking over the world?”
Carl Weiss is president of W Squared MediaGroup, a company dedicated to keeping clients on the cutting edge of online technology.  You can hear Carl’s Working the Web to Win radio show every Tuesday at 4pm Eastern on Blog Talk Radio.   He also owns and operates Jacksonville Video.