Sunday, April 27th, 2008
Ok – so I’ve heard of twitter, and to be honest, did not get it. I mean what’s wrong with email and IM as a means for communication? Then in the lead up to the MVP summit in Seattle a few weeks back, someone suggested we use twitter as a way to meet up with who was going where/when etc. Still – I did not get it. Email can do that right? Following the MVP summit, I went to the Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference in Houston, where I met a heap of new people. Social media was a big thing of discussion and in particular how you could use it to further your business interests. During the conference I noticed a number of people on twitter talking about things to people in other rooms. Hmm – I must check this out, so I did. What I found was that the discussions going on were adding immense value to the presentation being held both in this room and the one next door. Sure some people on twitter use it to tell people that they are heading out for a bio break and such (stuff we don’t really need to know), but others use it to communicate some really useful information too – such as the time and meeting place for dinner tonight
Is twitter useful to me outside of this environment? To be honest, I’m not sure as yet. I plan to give it a go for the next month and see what happens.
I found a series of articles though that you may find useful. Jennifer Laycock has written them based on her experience, and whilst I was tempted to do the same, I thought I’d save the electrons and link to them here.
And one last one from Matt Bailey – he was a speaker @ the event too
So – my advice, get on to twitter and give it a shot. Find out if it makes sense for YOU with your own requirements. It may and it may not – but only YOU will know for sure.
Oh – and don’t be an ostrich with your head in the sand either or else someone will register a fake twitter account and tweet on your behalf like Vlad did with Susan All good fun in this case, but it could be worse.
Thursday, April 24th, 2008
Day 2 of the Small Business Marketing Unleashed event and I’m not supposed to be blogging or twittering about the content as much of it is so deep and personal to many of us – but hey – I can’t resist. Naturally – I won’t blog about anything that I should not, so here’s my summary of what I saw and learned today. As part of today’s workshops attendees were asked to submit their sites for discussion during each session. We only got to discuss two or three during each session, but the results were amazing.
First up was from Heather Lloyd-Martin on Keyword and Content – Heather helped us understand how about Keywords, how they work and how the search engines find us. She went on to demonstrate some cool tools that will allow you to enter keywords and find out which ones are the words that people are using to search on. With this information you can better build the content on your site so that it hits more and more of the engines with the keywords that people want. End result is greater traffic to your site. One of the sites we looked at was a traditional IT support company. Heather had them explain to the group about their business. One of the key aspects of this company was that they were geeks with personality. This led to a discussion and resulted in them thinking seriously about all aspects of their business, including the uniform, and alternate domain names that they might use to point to their website. Amazing stuff… the room was buzzing with excitement as we collectively brainstormed on the issues at hand.
Second was a workshop presented by Sage Lewis from Sagerock on Building Communities. Now this is not what I expected to be honest, it’s showing me a different angle of what I have traditionally considered to be community. It positioned community, not as a support structure that most of us SBSers think of, but more as a potential audience for your product or service. It’s giving me ideas that right now might not be directly translatable to the community, but are starting the thought process going so it’s been really good! I’m planning to do a video interview later today with Sage and you’ll be able to see that this guy is really on a different plane when it comes to vibe and excitement.
Third workshop was a site clinic and was presented by Sage Lewis and Stoney deGeyter with contributions by Mack Collier. The aim of this workshop was that you would submit your pride and joy website and the experts would analyse it and provide useful input on how you could improve it. We looked at three websites including my own www.sbsfaq.com and one VERY large / well respected website in the Small Business market. It was very interesting for me to see the issues that I faced compared to those of larger more established sites. I had in mind a plan of what I was thinking to do with SBSfaq.com and after the somewhat brutal analysis of the site by these experts, I’ve thrown out more than 50% of it and will take on board their thoughts and recommendations to improve both the site and the content contained within it. I say that these guys were “brutal” but I mean it in the most positive context possible as all of their suggestions were VERY constructive.
The Wrap Up
This event was one of the best conferences I’ve been to in a long time. My hat is off to Jennifer Laycock and her team for organising was was a VERY smooth first event. It had none of the telltale signs of being a first run event either which was very surprising. The buzz around the event, talking to the delegates was amazing. Delegates ranged from Small Business owners wanting to make their own website do better in the rankings to other SEO and Web Design companies striving to learn from the masters in the industry. The range of talent in the speakers was incredible too, some of the information they conveyed was truly eye opening. Thank you and watch out for news of the next time this will be run.
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
On my last night here in Houston, I was privileged to be invited by Anne Stanton, the founder of the Houston IT Professionals group (HIP) to present at their group at Microsoft’s Houston offices. I had just finished attending the Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference and was looking forward to getting back into the same community as I am familiar with. HIP is still in it’s infancy and this was it’s 3rd meeting, so it was great to see 10 people come along to the group. We talked about all manner of things affecting the SMB IT Professional, however the main discussion was on how to do troubleshooting, some of the techniques that I use and have developed over the years. The discussion around this moved into many different tangents at times including how to find good staff and related topics.
I had a great time at the meeting and I want to thank Anne for inviting me to attend and present to this select group.
Thanks also to Mike Whalen for picking me up from the conference in Cypress, TX and getting me to the Microsoft offices for the meeting on time.
I look forward to visiting once again in the future – maybe around the World Wide Partner Conference in July 08.
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
Ok – so this SBS Guru guy took my ID some time back, so last week while in Redmond, I thought I would drop by and pay him a visit…. Here’s his view of my visit… Hijacked!
Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
Ok – so I’ve got to admit that I still don’t quite get twitter, but hey – it’s in use by ALL the top people here at the Small Business Marketing Unleashed conference here in Houston, so I figure it MUST be good.
I’m on twitter now – go ahead and add me if you want to engage in a conversation with me Bear in mind, I’m an amateur with it – my twitter ID is sbsfaq
Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
It’s funny actually – I’m attending an conference focused on Small Business and IT here in the USA and NO ONE know’s who the heck Susan Bradley is. It’s certainly a first to me for sure. Susan is well known in the SBS IT Pro community as THE blog to read if you have any questions or need direction. However no one here has heard of her. What’s more interesting is that no one knows what an MVP is. My point is that we all live in our own little worlds and often we think that the ends of the earth are as far as we can see. That is so not true. I’m digging into all aspects of Small Business Marketing and the Small Business Marketing Unleashed Conference. Today I’ve seen presentations on many aspects of how small business can market themselves online. It is amazing to see this first run event and the people involved in it. Some of the people here are industry veterans of 10 years plus providing deep insight to the how’s, whys and wherefores of marketing your business via many different means over the Internet. Presentations today that I’ve seen include…
Website Architecture by Stoney deGeyter – here we learned about the follies of duplicate content, tables, screwy URLs and more that will affect peoples ability to find content on your site, and affect the search engines from finding the information which will in turn affect how NEW people find your site. It was a fast moving session that really helped me to understand where I need to go with my sites.
Building a Community by Wendy Piersall – Wendy deep dived into what it takes to build a community around your product or service. A lot of this to me covered things that I already felt that I knew, but it also looked at the community from a vendors perspective and gave me some great ideas about things that I can do to help the SBS community on a wider scale.
Blogging for Business by Mack Collier – Mack claimed to be an Introvert – he was far from it. He presented an engaging discussion on blogging for business, how to do it, how not to do it. Great session all in all and many things that I hope to adopt moving forwards to create better discussions in the community. One of the key things that Mack proposed was that “Blogging… It’s not about the tools, its about the conversations and connections that these tools facilitate” That to me is so true for the SMB community and I’ll strive to increase what I do here on my blog to help that.
Web Analytics by Matt Bailey – one of the first things we learned here is that there is no such thing as accurate statistics! Matt then went on to discuss about how with analytics, you should spend 10% on your software and 90% analysing the output by a HUMAN rather than a computer as the variables are so complex that you can not programmatically get the answers you want. Amazing stuff really. He also went on to statistically analyse the death rate of the Red Shirts in Star Trek and then discuss how we could prevent them from dying. Useful once more in the context of web analytics. Amazing presentation.
Finally – the really cool thing that I’ve seen in this event, is that most of the speaker are around all day AND they are attending other speakers sessions… that in itself has lead to some extremely interesting discussions as the other speakers ask questions that allow us as attendees to cross pollinate and easily combine the knowledge that we’ve learned across all sessions.
I won’t be blogging tomorrow at the request of the conference organisers – the plan is that they will be giving some even deeper darker secrets that they would prefer not be available outside the confines of the conference. Fair enough I say – I paid some good $$ to be here I will however post a summary of my impressions tomorrow night so you can see my thoughts.
FOOTNOTE: Susan Bradley is also known as the SBSDiva – www.sbsdiva.com – one of the most well known bloggers in the Small Business Server space worldwide.
Monday, April 21st, 2008
I arrived today at this conference here in Houston, TX. I found out about it on their website here
I wanted to come to this event as I’ve not seen anything like it in Australia and I really want to learn more about how I can go about marketing my two business – SBSfaq.com and Correct Solutions better using online techniques.
Tonight they had a speed networking event on which is like speed dating (or so they say – I’ve never done that before) but it was great – I got my elevator pitch down pat which was great. At the end of it they had a special treat for us – the one and only SEO Rapper – this guy was a blast – he put SEO terms into rap and it was amazing. Check out his clips on YouTube below.
Monday, April 21st, 2008
Mark Crall – a massive influence on the SMB/SBS community in the Carolinas region of the USA has questioned “Why are there no MVP’s at the SMB Summit”
Honestly Mark – I was not wanted or needed. When the event was announce, and I found out that out it was on right after MVP Summit, my first email was to the conference organiser. I asked “What can I do to help? Do you need a presenter/anything”. After a few emails back and forth, I was essentially told at that point “No thanks we’ve got it covered – we don’t need help – Microsoft are doing all the presentations”. Ok – so I looked at what the event had to offer, what I could give to the community and what I could get out of the event personally. All of the content at the event is stuff that is public release. We as MVPs were given deeper content that this at the MVP summit under NDA – which Microsoft could do because of the NDA itself. Therefore I was not going to learn anything new at the SMBsummit that I didn’t already know. Sure it’s great to catch up with friends, but it’s also a cost. Conference Fee, Flights, Hotels – they all add up. I had been told that I was not needed, so I made other arrangements which followed on directly after the MVP Summit. This was back in January this year. Airfares from Australia to the US run out around the $3500 mark, so I need to make sure that when I come over here that my time is well spent. I would have been happy to go to Dallas for the event, but there was nothing of value I could contribute to it. So I decided instead to go to another conference in Houston, Texas instead which would have more impact on my business. So I made my flight arrangements, booked the other event and hotels etc. Sure I would have liked to go, but I need to think of my business too and paying to attend a conference, hotels, flights etc where I was not going to learn anything dramatically new, is not really a good investment of my time and money. Then about 3 weeks ago, came a discounted conference admission (basically the same fee as the SMBTN members) and a request that we attend. Sorry guys – I’ve already booked myself for other things – so I could not go.
So Mark – whilst I would have liked to go, and would have gone, I was not able to do anything that would benefit my business or the community by being in attendance. Therefore I didn’t come. Simple as that.
MVPs are not the only people in the community. There are so many people out there that are valuable to the community and should be MVP’s too – but it’s not up to me to decide who is and who is not in or out – it’s up to Microsoft. What I’m trying to say is that where ever 2 or more people gather in the name of SBS, there – that’s what you have as community. I’ve heard some great feedback from the people that are there and I wish I could be there – but I can not. Maybe next time.
Saturday, April 19th, 2008
What do Hockey Pants, Manuals and a Spanking have to do with SBS 2008 and EBS 2008? Watch and find out.
Dean and I have had some fun with this over the last few days… we plan to do more, but here’s the last 3 that we’ve done for now… enjoy… watch out for the spanking one – that’s just for you Vlad
SBS vs EBS – The Spanking
Saturday, April 19th, 2008