From the category archives:

Nuts and Bolts

I’ve had a self-hosted WordPress blog at dbthomas.com for several years, because I wanted to have control over my content for the long haul, and because, frankly, I thought as someone working in social media, it imparts at least a little bit of geek cred.

These days I find myself using Facebook more than anything, along with a new fascination with Pinterest and a lingering obsession with Instagram. I also find myself coming across a lot of excellent and interesting Tumblr blogs. In fact, when I designed this blog on the Thesis framework, I intentionally wanted it to have attributes of a Tumblr blog. I wanted to be able to post quick photos and thoughts, and share images and videos.

I suppose I could do that, but I seldom do, except for the Daddyblog posts. It just occurred to me this morning what’s missing:

When I go to a Tumblr blog or a Pinterest board or an Instagram photo, I see items that people have shared from other sources, and shared items from people in that network I haven’t yet discovered. Often that leads me to those places and those people, and I find a new source I want to follow. When I do that, those new sources show up, for instance, in my Pinterest or Instagram feed.

That doesn’t happen for me anymore with blogs, because I just don’t get any pleasure out of using Google Reader. I have a lot of blogs loaded into Flipboard, but I don’t read them as much as I used to.

I want a blogging platform that is:

1. As easy to post to (desktop or mobile) as Facebook.

2. As easy to follow people (and be followed) as Twitter.

3. A good bookmarklet and mobile app that makes it quick and easy to grab and share images from the web and photos I’ve taken.

4. Allows for serendipity.

5. Treats images as well as Pinterest does.

6. Allows me to share posts directly to Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. (I know Facebook doesn’t want me to do that.) And not a plug-in that does those things; I want to be able to pick and choose. That’s a check box in Instagram that asks where you want to share your photos, why can’t it be one in a blogging platform?

7. Let’s me easily export my content, or maybe archive it to this blog. Or something. I still have a hard time getting over the idea that any platform I pick other than this one is likely to be gone in five years.

What do you suggest (other than medication for OCD)?

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In my last post I mentioned I had sent a friend a long email in answer to her questions about using social media to promote her orthodontia practice. I talked about the difference between spamming your friends and promoting your business. In the second part of the email, I gave her some specific tips for integrating all the social media channels.

Here’s a quick blueprint for what I would do if I were starting a small, service-oriented local business:

Try to give your business a unique name that you can own in Google search results, that has the URL available, that you can get as a user name on Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. All of that will make you more searchable. Think about how people might be searching Google to find an orthodontist.

There’s a white truck I’ve seen driving around town. On one side it says chapelhillelectrician.com. On the other, carrboroelectrician.com. There’s a small business owner who understands search engine optimization.

Once you’ve picked a business name that you think you can own:

1. Buy the URL from someplace like GoDaddy or Network Solutions. Once you buy the URL, you can point it wherever you want, like to a blog or your business’ website, (although these days there is less and less difference between the two).

2. Set up a blog at WordPress.com. Write about who you are and why you’re starting the practice. Try to post something useful and interesting at least once a week. If you read a great article somewhere that answers a question a patient might have, write up a quick post about why you think it’s interesting and then link to the article you read. You don’t have to write something original, long and thoughtful every time, as long as you’re frequently sharing things of value.

3. Set up a Facebook page for your practice. Let all your friends know you’ve started the page. Use your personal Facebook account to let people know you’ve created the business page, but only mention it occasionally. Let people decide if they want to follow the professional you; don’t force it into your personal stream.

But don’t shy away from mentioning what you’re doing at work. When you open the practice or have milestones, share them in your personal stream if you want. That’s what I do. I don’t talk about SAS all the time, but I do link my SAS blog and mention big happenings, because that’s part of the totality of who I am.

Link your blog to your Facebook business page, so that when you post on your blog, it’s shared on your Facebook page as well. You can do that through the Facebook Notes feature, but I find the Networked Blogs Facebook app works better.

3. Create a Flickr account for your business. Maybe your patients will let you take pictures of them and post them there. (You’ll have to feel that out. No idea if that runs afoul of HIPAA. Also, a lot of your patients are likely to be minors and then you’d need parental permission.)

Link your Flickr account to your Facebook page as well, and promote it on your blog.

4. Create a YouTube channel for your business. Buy a small handheld video camera like a Flip or Kodak Zi-8. Shoot a video of yourself talking about who you are and why you became an orthodontist. Shoot videos that explain procedures, or answer questions people have. I’ll bet if you made a video called “Top Ten Misconceptions People Have About Orthodontists” and put it up on YouTube, you’d get lots of hits.

Link your YouTube channel to your Facebook page, and embed the videos as posts on your blog.

When you post blog posts, videos or photos, include key words in the description and tags like “orthodontia,” “orthodontist,” “braces,” “Chapel Hill,” “Carrboro,” etc. That will make it more likely people will find them in a search.

4. Create a Twitter account for your business. Use the Twitter account to promote your blog posts, videos and photos. But more important, use it to share information about orthodontia that people will find useful, as I described above.

Search Twitter for all the important keywords and see who is talking about those topics. Follow them, and the people they follow. See if there are any Twitter lists devoted to your field.

Use a tool like Tweetdeck that will allow you to set up search columns. You could set up columns for search terms like “Chapel Hill orthodontist,” and you’d see if someone tweeted, “Does anybody know a good orthodontist in Chapel Hill?” You could respond and say, “I’m a Chapel Hill orthodontist. What questions can I answer?”

You can also set up Google Alerts for all those keywords as well, and you’ll get an email notification from Google whenever anybody talks about them.

Lots to think about. You wouldn’t have to do all these things at once, or all of them at all. In order of value I would suggest:

1. A blog
2. A Facebook page
3. A Twitter account

Set up all three of those and get them integrated, then think about adding other channels.

For even more information about using social media to promote your business, big or small, I highly recommend the Marketing Over Coffee website and podcast. They have these connections — especially local search — down to a science.

And for more specifics about Facebook marketing, my friend Justin Levy wrote the book.

photo by ShieldConnectors

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I’ve had an interesting back-and-forth via Facebook email with an old friend who is starting an orthodontia practice. I had complained in my Facebook status about my friends (some of whom, in the peculiar world of Facebook, I don’t actually know) who only seem to use Facebook to promote their band or their book or their business.

Some of that is perfectly fine, and when The Executive’s Guide to Enterprise Social Media Strategy is published, it’s for damn skippy I’ll be talking about it everywhere. It’s a part of me and what I’m doing, but it’s never going to be all of me or all of what I’m doing.

So where do you draw the line? How do you promote your business via social media in a way that won’t get you unfriended? Here’s what I wrote to my friend in response to that question.

The ones who annoy me are the people who I know as people, who friended me as people, and then never share anything about themselves. All they do is talk about their next gig or their business. The worst iteration of that is when they use Facebook email to send me emails about their shows and upcoming events.

In other words, when I signed up to be friends with Joe Blow, I did it because I know him and like him and am interested in his life. I didn’t do it because I wanted to get reminders three times a week on my wall and in my inbox that his band The Puffy Sleeves is playing in Greenville. When all you get is the business and none of the personal, it feels like bait-and-switch.

There’s a book by Jim Tobin from Ignite Social Media called Social Media is a Cocktail Party. The thesis is you don’t walk into a cocktail party and immediately start telling people about yourself and what you sell. You make a connection first, and if it’s appropriate to the conversation down the road, you might mention what you sell.

The right way to use Facebook to let people know about your band or your book or your business, in my opinion, is to create a Facebook page for that entity, then people have the option to “like” that page. When they choose to “like” it, they are opting in to receive messages in their Facebook stream. It’s clear what the purpose is and what kind of information they will be getting.

If you start a page for your orthodontia practice, think about what you can do to make it fun and informative. People have all kinds of questions, concerns, doubts and fears about orthodontia. What could you do to help them understand the big questions, get the right information to make better decisions, and show them that yours is a practice where they would feel welcome and maybe even have some fun?

photo by BarelyFitz

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I’m having a conversation with some of my favorite colleagues about blogging and blog infrastructure, so I’m writing this post on my iPhone to show how easy and flexible WordPress is to use.

I am Buck Rogers.

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I like Yelp, the site that crowdsources people’s opinions and gives ratings on restaurants, stores and service businesses. I also have the Yelp application on my iPhone. I don’t use either one of them much at home, because I pretty much know which restaurants I like and where they are.

But I’m in Seattle this week for SAS Global Forum, our annual user conference. Yesterday morning I decided to use Yelp to find a place for breakfast. (Eating at the hotel restaurant always feels a bit like giving up.) So I opened the Yelp app, selected Restaurants as my category (they have lots more categories too, like Banks, Gas & Service Stations, Drugstores, etc.) and filtered by price and walking distance. It also lets you filter by which places are open at the time you’re looking, which is obviously pretty useful.

I found a half dozen or so candidates, and picked a Spanish restaurant with great reviews called Andaluca, because I thought it would be fun to find out what a Spanish breakfast was like. I clicked on the Directions button, which opened Google Maps and showed me how to get there. Really cool.

Like so many of the coolest iPhone apps (TripIt, Layar and Foursquare), Yelp really shows its value when you don’t know where you are or what’s good.

The restaurant turned out to be small and elegant, with a nice wait staff. And a breakfast menu exactly like the one in my hotel. What Yelp hadn’t told me was that it actually is a hotel restaurant itself, so it’s Spanish at night and generic ‘Mercan in the morning. I had a chicken sausage hash with poached eggs. Tasty, but I doubt that’s what they were eating in Madrid that morning.

I won’t blame that on Yelp, though. But I did go in and leave a quick tip on Andaluca’s Yelp page that said, “Nothing Spanish about the breakfast menu.”

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I think Posterous is a great platform, and a really simple and flexible way to start (or reinvigorate) a blog. I started using it because it lets you post by email, and tell it where you want your text and photos to go. So if I take a picture of The Boy and want to put it on Facebook and Flickr, I email it to facebook+flickr@posterous.com. Posterous knows my email address and thus knows how to find my particular Posterous site.

Here’s the only thing I don’t like: If I post a photo via Posterous to my (this) blog, the photo doesn’t live here, it lives at Posterous and links from here to there. Now I wish the Posterous folks a long and prosperous career, and from what I’ve seen (and the support I’ve gotten when asking questions) they deserve it.

But if they go away, I don’t want my photos to go with them. Even if they don’t go away, I want control of my own photos. I’ve had a blog on Typepad since 2003 and the only reason I’m still paying the $8.95 a month is because all my images are there. I don’t want that to happen again.

So here’s what I want. I want to be able to use this blog just like Posterous. I want to be able to post a photo or text via email and/or a Web and iPhone app and tell it where I want it to go: blog, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or some combination of the above.

I want to be able to tag the post and decide what category it goes in.

If it’s a photo, I want it to come in full size in Facebook, because I’ve noticed that people don’t comment so much on the smaller photos.

If it’s text, I want it to come into Facebook and look the same way a status update does, because I’ve noticed I get far fewer Facebook comments on my Networked Blogs posts than on a status update or Facebook note. I think as Facebook traffic builds, people are less likely to click on something that takes them out of their stream and away from Facebook.

All of these services have “post here and have it go somewhere else” features or plug-ins. You can post to Flickr and have it post automatically to Twitter. You can post to a WordPress blog and have it automatically tweeted. You can pull your tweets in as your status updates.

I think what I need to do is sit down and map out all the content I share and where I’d like it to go, and see what paths are available. My, doesn’t that sound like fun? Of course, if someone out there has this all figured out, let me know.

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I’ve mentioned before that The Mrs thinks I should consider medication to deal with my Shiny Object Syndrome and my obsession with the tools and techniques of sharing my various types of information online. She might be right. Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming, then sometimes I think, “Hey, this is my hobby.” Relentless tinkering with one’s blog isn’t any more or less obsessive than building a ship in a bottle, is it?

A few weeks ago I decided to buy the Thesis blog theme (apparently it’s actually a framework, but if you know what that means you probably already knew that). I liked the customization, but it felt a little like overkill because I had every intention of going with a spare, clean, minimal theme like Jeff’s blog. All of the blog designs I’ve bookmarked in the last six months have been a lot like that.

This blog was, too. For about a day. Then I started messing with it. I’ve spent many a late-night hour in the past week, and all my non-dad-or-husband time this weekend, when I shot the photo for the header, designed the header, added the shiny metal background and figured out how to add the icons in the right column. If you had looked at the blog Friday and then again today, it would be a much different beast.

I’m pretty happy with it now and I don’t feel I’ve gone overboard on anything. But who knows. I still feel that instant pang of longing when I see a plain black-and-white theme with no adornment.

As I said in a comment on Jeff’s blog, It’s the same principle that makes me want to shave my head whenever I realize I need a haircut.

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Just got a new iPhone app called BlogPress that allows you not only to post to a blog and upload photos, but also attach and embed video. The photos and videos are embedded in the blog and sent to your preferred hosting service (Flickr, YouTube).

I like that idea, because I’m getting more and more worried about having my content spread to the four corners of the Web. The whole point of reinvigorating this blog was to have a central hub that I controlled, where all the content resided.

This is really just a test post that got out of hand.

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I decided to change the theme of this blog to the Thesis theme for WordPress, after hearing so many good things about it, and watching a demo. So far, I like it. It gives much more control over a lot of basic functions, and has a control panel front end for things that you would ordinarily have to do with .php or CSS or CSI Miami or blah blah blah I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I’ve stayed up late a couple of nights working on the blog, and I still have a lot of things I want to do. I imported our Blogger blog (not sure if that looks or sounds sillier) that is mostly a stream of photos of The Boy, and I want to exclude that category of posts from the homepage, so that not everyone who comes here has to look at photos of the cutest child in the world. That sounds awful, but you know what I mean.

Still figuring out how to make that happen. I just tried adding a piece of .php code that I found in a Thesis support forum using the “oh hell, I don’t know, maybe I’ll just stick it in this file and see what happens” method. Thanks to Jeff Cohen for helping me fix my blog, which immediately turned into a blank white page that said, “Idiot idiot idiot idiot” across the top, only written in code.

The irony, of course, is that I’ve been staying up late to work on the blog, which means I haven’t written anything for the blog. I hope to get back to writing again soon. Once I finish categorizing all the uncategorized posts.

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When I spent some time with Chris Brogan in December, we talked about blogs and sharing tools like Posterous, and the different ways people use them. Chris thinks people are diluting their web presences by posting in too many places. (You can watch him say this yourself.) “Home is where the web page is,” he summed up nicely.

I had a blog on Typepad for many years. When I finally decided to move to this self-hosted WordPress blog you’re looking at, I realized I could import all my old posts, but all my photos were stuck. I looked into methods for bringing them over and found one small company that will do it for you, but admits it’s such a massive pain that they charge a lot, since they don’t really want to do it. (They even provide the step-by-step instructions, which run to about 50 steps.)

I really like Posterous, its simple interface, the web-based tools that allow you to share pictures and videos quickly, and the ability to post by email to multiple places. But I’m afraid that if I get too tied in to Posterous, one day I might have the same issue that I had with Typepad.

So here I am once again, using precious toddler napping time to mess with my blog. I just installed the TweetMe plugin, which should send out a tweet announcing this post once it goes up. (This whole post started out as a test of that function, but I got carried away.)

I like this blog. I like the idea that it will continue to grow, and that it will continue to be my home base as new tools emerge, rather than just another outpost I used for a while and abandoned when something more exciting came along.

By the way, my thanks once again to my friend Jeff Cohen from socialmediaB2B.com. I posted on Twitter that I was looking for the right tools to do this, and he called me within a few minutes to talk me through it. Good man.

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