Marketing Yourself on the Internet: Overview

This is the first of an occasional series of posts based of the lessons I have learned trying to market myself using the Web.

Make Your Name a Brand.

The goal of marketing yourself on the web, as is the case with any marketing effort, is to create a brand.

A brand is the most valuable intangible asset of any successful company or individual. It expresses everything in a single word.

You want your name to become a brand. Everything you publish on the web should be written with this goal in mind.

If you can make your name a brand, then all your writings available on the web can be easily found, as well as many of the things that others have written about you. If you have picked a good name, then the first page or pages that Google returns on a search for your brand name will be about you and your brand.

Your Brand Name Should Be Your Name, or Contain Your Name.

The ideal brand name is your name. For example, my brand name is “daveshields.”

There are several reasons why you cannot use your name as your brand name, including:

  • You have a common name, for example, if you are John Doe.
  • You have the same name as someone famous; for example, if you are named Bill Gates and you are not the founder of Microsoft.

In this case you will need to create a new brand name. For example, I was discussing this issue yesterday with someone named David Levy. He said he was aware of the importance of having a good name. His solution was to come with a name based on a phonetic alphabet. For example, the initials D and L correspond to “Delta” and “Lima” in the cited alphabet. He didn’t like this choice, but after searching through other military phonetic alphabets he had come up with a charming name.

The measure of quality of a brand name is the number of matches returned by Google on a search on that name. For example, I just did a a search on “daveshields” and learned there are 19,300,000 matching results. I am currently #2. Though I am not quite “The dave shields” on the net, I am only one step away from market dominance.

The ideal brand name is one that returns no matches. For example, I am currently trying to teach Python to two teenagers. Searches on either of their names return only a handful of results, each of which matches them, and not someone else with the same name.

Metrics

Metrics are esssential to discuss the success of any campaign or project, especially when marketing. As noted above:

Only one metric matters when marketing yourself on the web. It is your position in the list of results by Google after a search on your brand name.

The Most Effective Marketing Tool is a Blog.

Your most effective marketing tool is your own writing, published on the web in the form of a blog. It let’s you declare your skills, your passions, your strengths, and your faults.

Only use WordPress. It is free, it is fabulous. Use your brand name as the blog name, though it can have a different title. For example my blog, “The Wayward Word Press,” can be found at https://daveshields.wordpress.com.

Writing a blog is a challenge. Writing is hard, very hard.

Tens of thousands of blogs are started each and every day. WordPress bloggers along produce an enormous amount of content every day, as is shown on the WP home page, which currently says:

211,339 bloggers, 184,020 new posts, 43,479,842 words today

Almost all blogging efforts, most within a few posts. For example, while at IBM I saw a statistic from the folks who ran IBM’s internal blogging system. It then had 30,000 different users. A blog was said to be “high impact” if it contained two or more blog posts. Only 3,000, or about ten percent of the IBM blogs, were “high impact!”

Here are some suggestions on learning to be an effective blogger.

First, you can begin anonymously. Pick a blog name that doesn’t reveal your name. Choose as the topic something that matters to you, some topic to which you can bring passion. You can learn how to use WP and can assess your progress by the number of quality of the comments you receive, as well as your Technorati rating.

When you start your first blog, immediately sign up for Technorati. Technorati monitors the popularity of a blog. Your Technorati rating is the metric for a blog. Mine can be found in my “about” page.

You can also pick as a subject not something to which you bring a special passion, but a topic where it will be easy to find inspirations for new blog posts. For example, I wrote a number of my early posts based on obituaries in the New York Times. I did this not because of a morbid story, but because obituaries are interesting both in the lives they describe, and the quality of the writing about these lives. You can use the “blockquote” feature of a blog post to highlight passages you found interesting, and comment on them.

I decided early on in my blogging days to use the same strategy used by successful open-source projects:

Release early, release often.

My goal in doing this was to acquire as soon as possible the ability to write a blog post in a single sitting, producing something that was “good enough,” knowing I could always return later and revise the content.

Ii took this approach based on the claim made by my favorite writer, A.J. Liebling: [1]

I can write better than anyone who can write faster, and faster than anyone who can write better.

There is no obligation to preserve the content of a blog post once you publish it. Feel free to change it, especially to make the post smaller.

The most inspirational topic for any blogger is of course the blogger themself. No one is a better expert on you than you, and every new blogger believes the world has gone far too long without the benfit of your insight and writing skills.

The best advice ever given to any writer can be found in Strunk and White:

Omit Needless Words.

No more words are more needless that your writing about yourself.

I have found it useful, though I do it much less often than I should, to periodically review my posts and look for excess writing about myself. In every case when I hace removed this writing, the quality of the post has improved.

As soon as you start a blog using your brand name, look for the posts of other bloggers, and write comments about their posts that you find interesting.

You have twenty five words or less to grab the reader’s attention. The most important words are those in the title.

First, before you even start a blog. Sign up at Delicious, a site that lets you tag posts your find interesting and write a short comment about them.

Once you start blogging, WordPress will start providing statistics and useful information, including the links others have created to your blog posts, as well as the search strings that have caused folks to reach your blog.

The most useful information comes in the form of the search strings. Compose the title of a blog post based on the words and phrases that will Google to bring the world’s attention to your post.

Here are the search strings that have brought readers to my blog so far today, and the number of views

twiters 33
kenken solver 9
ubuntu computers nyc 6
build your own linux computer 5
ubuntu mount usb flashdrive 2
how to remove inbuilt package java in ub 2
kiku botanical garden new york 2
leigh anne touhy 2
ibm piecemeal layoff 2
jike android 2

To further demonstrate this importance of titles, here are are the titles of some of my most successful posts, as listed by WordPress, with a count of the number of views. You can find the date a post was published as it is part of the URL for the post.

My four most popular posts account for 31,250 of the 144,225 views I have received to date. This will be my 757th post. Just four of those posts, about one half of one percent, account for almost a quarter of my total views!

The three most popular posts are about Ubuntu. Two answer specific technical questions that came up using Ubuntu, the other is a report on building my own computer.

The fourth post is among my favorites. I was once asked to represent IBM at a Gartner symposium on open-source. I was one of three or four panelists on that topic. There were several hundred people in the audience. Marc Fleury was on the panel, as well as someone from Novell.

Marc is a very effective marketer. But he was then promoting a phrase that I found particularly annoying, as every time he said it my blood pressure rose another ten points: “professional open-source.” See for example, and Resurrecting Marc Fleury.

Marc said, again and again and again, that he and his company, JBoss, pioneered this term.

Hogwash! Rubbish! Every open-source programmer who has achieved some recognition is by definition a professional open-source programmer. Their reputation proves it. The only one I would not put in this category would be Mr. Fleury himself, by denigrating other programmers with his relentless self-promotion.

My post ended as follows:

Perhaps Dr. Fleury has been distracted by his recent efforts to enrich the English language. He is after all, the inventor of the term “Professional Open Source:
JBoss, a division of Red Hat, pioneered the disruptive Professional Open Source model, which combines the best of the open source and proprietary software worlds to make open source a safe choice for the enterprise and give CIOs peace of mind.

I was apparently under the mistaken impression that the efforts of the Linux community over the last fifteen years, as well as those of the Apache Software Foundation over the last decade, were professional.

But his efforts are not in vain; indeed he has given his name to a new word: fleuridation. [3]

Wikipedia is your friend, You don’t have to describe people and technical terms. Just express the names and terms via a link to the corresponding Wikipedia entry.

Always assume that no one reads your blog posts, WordPress statistics and Technorati rating notwithstanding. You start way, way back on the “long tail,” and will probably never leave it. You labor in anonymity, so don’t worry about the impact of your work on your audience. There is no meaningful audience save yourself.

LinkedIn (LI)

Save blogging, LI is the most valuable social networking tool. I first started using it a couple of weeks back. At first I was a bit baffled how to use it, but I then decided to only invite people I knew personally, just as LI suggests.

Facebook (FB)

Ken Coar suggested I join FB over two years ago. When I asked him why I should join this site used by college students to exchange photos and reports on wild parties, he said that many well-known open-source folks made use of FB. I then joined, though I didn’t really start to use FB until a couple of weeks ago.

I have FB a fabulous way to build a small network. I limit my “friends” to family and a few close colleagues, mostly drawn from the open-source community, who are also friends. FB provides a Twitter-like way to share short messages that I have found useful. Indeed, when I now want to post a Twitter-like message, I post the same message on both FB and TW, and sometimes LI as well.

Twitter (TW)

Twitter is now not just a web site, but a phenomenon. One of my recent links is to what I was told (via a Twi by Larry Augustin)) was a fabulous piece by Jon Stewart and Semantha Bee that he said expressed the essence of Twitter.

I recently started using Twitter more actively, and I have adopted the policy used by several successful Twits:

  • Publish original twits on both TW and FB. Just cut and paste.
  • Otherwise, limit twits to responses. For example, earlier today I request the help of a Drupal expert, and Bob Sutor graciously offered his services an hour or so later. When you respond be sure to start with the twit’s twitter name; for example @daveshields

Always Respond to an Exchange When using FB, LI, TW, or Any Other Social Networking Tool.

When I first started using LI I would send an invite to someone I knew using just the standard boilerplate, adding a personal note to folks who might not remember that I had dealt with them before. I would also accept invites without a personal note of thanks.

I changed when I got a reply to an invite on LI I had sent to Sandy Carter of IBM, a master of marketing and a VP. I had invited her since we worked together preparing the messaging when IBM acquired Gluecode. She responded by adding a short note, thanking me for the offer and also mentioning her web site, which contains a list of her books. Brilliant. Both a gracious response and a marketing message for herself in just a few words.

I now try to include a personal note in every invite I send. When I receive an invite, I include a personal note in my reply, whether the invite comes for FB, TW, or LI. For example, I have already written five such replies while writing this post.

Return the Favor When Someone Shows an Interest in Your Work.

When I learn that someone has become a follower mine at Twitter, I send a personal response that says, “Thanks for the vote of confidence. I am returning the favor.”

Notes:

1. The title of my blog, “The Wayward Word Press,” is based on Liebling’s long-time column in the New Yorker, “The Wayward Word.”

2. Ms. Tuohy’s comment inspired the short note at the top of my blog that says, “WordPress gave me a blog to see how I was going to handle it.”

3. Ken Coar first told me of this word, though I don’t know if he coined it. He said it was widely used within the Apache community.

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