With Roots Planted in Persian Cuisine

Found a very interesting dish and cuisine that I have not cooked – definitely going to be trying this one!

With Roots Planted in Persian Cuisine.

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LinkedIn – “Follow Company”

(from Mashable Business, by Todd Wasserman)

LinkedIn has announced a new program that lets brands embed a “follow company” button from the social network on their homepages.

The option, announced on LinkedIn’s blog on Monday, is similar to Liking a brand on Facebook or following them on Twitter. Followers will receive automatic updates from the brand in their LinkedIn feeds.

As Mike Grishaver, senior product manager for Company Pages explains in the the blog post, if you see the Follow Company button and, as long as you are logged onto LinkedIn, you will automatically follow the company. If not, you’ll be asked to log on to Linkedin. So far, American Express, AT&T and Starbucks, among others, have committed to adding the button.

The addition of the new follow company button comes after the social network — which now claims 150 million members — has offered various social media plug-ins over the years. In 2010, LinkedIn introduced a “share” button that let users share articles they like with people in their network. Later that year, the social network rolled out a “recommend” button that brands could install on their websites. Recommend behaves similar to the follow button, so the change may be one of semantics more than anything else. The effort is also part of LinkedIn’s longstanding strategy of positioning itself as a marketing platform for brands.

A LinkedIn rep says the new button “marks the first phase of LinkedIn’s follower ecosystem strategy that will unfold over the coming weeks,” though she did not offer any further details. Internal research shows that 70% of LinkedIn’s members follow or would follow a company on LinkedIn and 60% expect industry insights as well as news from the companies that they follow.

Motivated Publishing Studios

Motivated Publishing Studios launches updated website

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Get in touch with MPS and tell us how we can help you. Let us impress you and motivate your message…

How Google’s +1 Button Affects SEO

Google +1 and SEO

From Mashable Social Media – Keith Kaplan – Feb-22-12

Since the days of Google Buzz, the +1 button has been a mystery to users and content producers alike. It’s different from Facebook’s “Like” button, in that it doesn’t directly share content to a user’s social stream. But the cultivation of a social graph has long been the goal of Google, and its connection to search was likely inevitable.

Google defines the +1 as a feature to help people discover and share relevant content from the people they already know and trust. Users can +1 different types of content, including Google search results, websites, and advertisements. Once users +1 a piece of content, it can be seen on the +1 tab in their Google+ profile, in Google search results, and on websites with a +1 button.

The plot thickened last month when Google launched Search plus Your World. Jack Menzel, director of product management for Google Search, explained that now Google+ users would be able to “search across information that is private and only shared to you, not just the public web.” According to Ian Lurie from the blogConversation Marketing, in Search plus Your World, search results that received a lot of +1s tend to show up higher in results.

Google has come out and described the purpose of a +1, but hasn’t necessarily explained the direct effect a +1 has on search ranking. Here’s a breakdown of what we currently know.


Does a +1 Affect my Site’s Performance in Social Search?


The +1 has an indirect effect on your site’s search rank. This does not mean the more +1’s a link has, the higher rank it achieves in traditional search results. Take this scenario:

When a Google+ user +1’s a piece of content, he gives it his “stamp of approval.” Then, say one of his connections from Google+ searches for the same or related topic. Because of Search plus Your World, his friend is more likely to click on the same link the original user +1’d (when a signed-in user searches, his Google results may include snippets annotated with the names of connections who have +1′d the content). This is because content recommended by friends and acquaintances is often more relevant than content from strangers, according to Google.

This is also true for users who are not signed in to their Google account when they search. When a user searches for the same phrase, the results might display the total number of +1’s a link has received, which is another validation that it’s a relevant link.


How Does This Relate to SEO?


Since the +1′d link has a chance at a higher Click-Through-Rate (CTR), there is a greater potential the link will be shared, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or any social network. An experiment by Rand Fishkin, CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz, tested the relationship between Twitter and Facebook shares and search results in Google. He found a positive correlation between the number of retweets and shares a link received and its search ranking. This means, the more the link was passed around on Twitter and Facebook, the higher the search rank of the page. This in turn led to better SEO.


What’s the Take-Away?


A Google +1 can indirectly lead to a better page rank. A greater number of +1’s increases a link’s potential for a high CTR, which could lead to increased social sharing, and in turn can increase its Google search rank. What’s important to note here is the correlation, not causation, between +1′s, other social shares, and search rank.

The bottom line is, the SEO effects of a +1 are very indirect, which means traditional SEO practices should not be ignored. SEO methods such as link building, relevant keywords, and URL structure have a more significant impact on page ranking.

The Google +1 feature is still in its infancy of course, and more data needs to be gathered to draw a statistical correlation to search. As Google said, “For +1′s, as with any new ranking signal, we are starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.”

SEO experts, such as Erin Everhart from 352 Media Group, have a positive outlook on the future of social search. She says, “I don’t think we live in a world, nor will we ever live in a world, where any social cue doesn’t have influence over SEO.”

Using Social Media for Lead Generation

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Lead Generation

Social media is the top emerging channel for lead generation among technology marketing professionals surveyed in May 2010, according to the annual Unisfair marketing survey. Furthermore, 66% of respondents said lead generation was their top priority for 2010, with only 17% ranking brand awareness and 16% ranking customer retention as top concerns. The survey illustrated that marketers are beginning to rely on social media as a steady source of new customers.

In another study, 51% of Facebook fans and 67% of Twitter followers said they were more likely to buy the brands they like on Facebook or follow on Twitter, strengthening the argument that social media is one of the most important emerging channels for lead generation.

Being that social media is a great place to attract new customers, we put together a quick guide on how to use social media for lead generation.


Continuously Point Users to Your Content


The first step to engaging a community of potential customers is sharing content that showcases your expertise. A simple social media update usually isn’t enough to convey a full analysis on a topic. Include links with your updates that expand on key ideas. Keep in mind that your goal is to create value for your followers. Learn what your fans respond to and what they don’t, and then adjust your updates based on that information.

Sarah Chong, co-founder and editor of Penn Olson, a marketing blog and consultancy, told me that their company shares 100% of the links that are generated on their blog. If they write a blog post, you can bet that it will be shared via FacebookTwitterGoogle Buzz and various social bookmarking sites.

Chong exclaimed, “Good content ought to be shared!” She continued, “Most readers definitely wouldn’t know Penn Olson without the help of social media. We built everything by getting involved in online communities.” In the end, 35% of Penn Olson’s web traffic is generated through social media. This wouldn’t be possible without their incessant dedication to sharing valuable content with their followers.


Promote Your Social Presence with Social Links


Once you’ve set up your social media presence on sites like FacebookTwitterFlickrYouTube and Yelp, don’t forget the power of promotion. Some people have the misconception that if you create pages across all of the social sites, they’ll miraculously gain millions of followers overnight, all by themselves. In reality, just like everything else in life, gaining a following via social media takes time and effort.

If you haven’t done so already, start promoting your social media presence. Having a Twitter or Facebook icon prominently displayed on your site gives visitors a recognizable channel for connecting with you. Print links to your social profiles on business cards, flyers and letterhead. Most importantly, don’t forget to include links to your social profiles on your website or blog. Try using a service like Iconfinder to find free social media icons that best fit your website.

Take a look at Offbeat Bride or Offbeat Mama for examples of sites that have implemented social media links well. Ariel Meadow Stallings, publisher of Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Mama, shared her thoughts on designing a place for social media icons to live. She explained, “I was inspired by the social media fly-out ontreehugger.com. It felt like an elegant but effective solution for getting my social media links out of the sidebar. I want them prominent, but not irritating.” Stallings seems to have found the solution to providing valuable links for readers to stay connected with her content, without coming off as a gimmick.

Stallings’ diligence in finding fitting social media links has paid off. One-third of her site traffic comes from StumbleUpon and Facebook combined. She credits social media as a critical factor in the growth of both Offbeat Bride and its sister site, Offbeat Mama.


Monitor Conversations about Your Brand and Competitors

In order for a conversation to occur, brands must speak and listen. Traditional marketing models are all about speaking. When a brand puts an ad in a newspaper, on a building or in a subway train, they are broadcasting their message, but there isn’t generally a direct method for responding. Social media is changing the ways brands approach marketing. Instead of broadcasting messages, brands are starting conversations and engaging individuals.

In an e-mail interview, Sara C. Lopez, Community Manager for 8th Continent soy milk, explained the importance of monitoring conversations and buzz on various social platforms:

“There are actually two of us constantly monitoring TwitterFacebook and Google alerts. The other community manager and I use several Twitter clients, including Hootsuite and TweetDeck. But regardless of client, we keep columns that search mentions of “@8thcontinentsoy”, “8th Continent”, “Soy Milk”, “8thcontinent”, and competitors.

We get several benefits from Twitter. We use it to monitor consumer perception, identify opportunities for one-on-one interaction, crowd source to learn how people are using our product, drive traffic to other channels we have, and connect with influencers who can spread word of mouth.”

Lopez demonstrated the value of monitoring conversations and responding to leads. In one promotion, 8th Continent monitored mentions of Silk brand soy milk, one of their competitors, and offered trial coupons to users. Lopez explained their success, “One clear example of how it’s worked for [8th Continent] is that with coupons distributed via social media, we’ve seen a 39% redemption rate, versus the 0.7% redemption of hard copy coupons. During coupon promotions we saw huge spikes in our fan base and a lot of pass along.”

One tweeter, Weily Lang, received a coupon after tweeting about her bad experience with Silk chocolate soy milk. Lopez interjected with a coupon, which Lang redeemed that week. This example is just one success story of trials generated by 8th Continent via social media.

Once you begin listening to what consumers are saying about your brand, products and competitors, you’ll have a better sense of which platforms to monitor for certain types of feedback. To get started, make sure you’re monitoring comments that your fans, followers or subscribers leave on your social profiles. This is the first step to mastering your listening skill.

As a secondary step, monitor buzz elsewhere. Use Twitter advanced search (or Twitter clients such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck or CoTweet) to monitor key terms around your business, including your brand names, trademarks, product types and competitors. Use Google Alerts to keep up with the latest news about your company. And search mentions of your brand in blogs via Google Blog Search or Technorati.

After trying out some of these methods, you’ll begin to get a feel for your audience and their interests. Use this information to inform decisions, and don’t forget to reach out to users that have questions or feedback. Respond with more information, links, coupons, follow-up questions, or whatever is needed.


Respond to Customer Questions and Feedback


You can listen all day, but if you don’t act on your learnings, you will lose an opportunity to generate a meaningful conversation with a consumer that may be considering trying out your brand. Take action when you come across a useful comment, and make sure you clear up any customer questions when they arise.

Yelp recently interviewed Jeffrey Diamond, owner of Farmstead Cheeses and Wine on when and how to respond to a customer review on a Yelp business page. Diamond responded:

“I try to respond to every review, whether positive or negative. And if there’s something I can learn from it, then I will engage in a dialogue with the customer. And in fact, every time I’ve engaged in a dialogue with a negative review customer, with one or two notable exceptions, the review has gone from a two- or three-star review up to a five-star review.”

Customer reviews on Yelp are a great example of useful feedback from paying customers. Not only are they interested in your product, but they’ve already tested it out. Their review is, therefore, very meaningful feedback on the quality of your product and service.

Try to set aside at least a few hours a week to respond to questions and feedback that flow in via social media. When you respond, focus on delivering a valuable answer to the person or community. Try to always refer the user back to resources on your site, where they may consider using your product again. Depending on the question, useful links may include a how-to video, blog post, product description or microsite.


Use Your Offline Skills


The keyword in social media is “social”. People were social long before the Internet and social media. Take the offline skills that you’ve developed over time and put them to use online. Meet people, communicate and build relationships. Develop and foster complex relationships. As always, make sure that customers are aware of your product, understand its benefits, and have a way to purchase. Throughout your conversations with consumers, provide insightful resources and answer any questions that arise.

Lastly, treat your social media presence in the same way you treat your other customer service initiatives. Be genuine, track conversations and respond to inquiries promptly and thoroughly. The better your customer service is via social media, the more you’ll generate site traffic and leads.

What are some of your tips and techniques for using social media for lead generation?

Gourmet Hamburgers – year round BBQ

Hamburgers have to be the all-time universal food – but we all know that no two hamburgers are the same.  So, we’re not going to talk about fast-food – I’m going to give you one of my favourite recipes which always seems to please those that get to experience it first hand.

For me, the key to a great hamburger is two-fold; preparation and BBQ.  Even if it’s  the middle of winter, I’ve always found it worth while to get out there and fire up the grill.

So enjoy these burgers!

Gourmet Burgers – my custom recipe…

I like to make enough for 12-14 burgers (I freeze half for a future easy meal) plus a meatloaf (which I also freeze for a future meal).

In a large mixing bowl (I use large silver bowl) add the following:

– 1-1/2 tbsp garlic powder

– 1 tbsp dried basil

– salt & pepper to taste

– 2-3 tbsp Italian seasoning

– 1 tbsp cajun seasoning

– 1/3 cup of brown sugar

– 1 tbsp chili powder

– 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

– 2 tbsp dijon mustard

– 1/2 – 1 cup of diced sweet onion

– 1 egg

– 3 tbsp beef boulion concentrate (liquid) stirred separately in 3-4 tbsp of water)

– 1 cup ketchup

 

Blend all the spices (dried only) together first in the bowl, then add the liquids. Stir all together.

Take your ground beef (I prefer lean) and break it up into small pieces and add to the large bowl of spices/liquid mixture.  Then add the diced onions and mix everything thoroughly by hand (mush it all together)

Let this sit for about an hour, then form the patties and meatloaf (in meatloaf pan).

Cook burgers on the BBQ to desired tenderness.

Cook meatloaf at 350 degF for 1 hour (till cooked thoroughly).  I like to add additional BBQ sauce to the top of the meatloaf before cooking.

 

Why is Google+ (G+) so Important?

G+ and SEO


The conventional wisdom where Google+ and online marketing goes is this: Even if your audience isn’t active there, it’s almost mandatory to have a profile and be active there because of the way Google is showing more Google+ contentin its regular search results.

It’s still early days for Google+ and the potential search/SEO benefits of being active there, but there are two recently published guides that go a long way to helping explain what Google is doing and how search marketers (and their clients) can take advantage.

On the Conversation Marketing blog, Ian Lurie yesterday published a lengthy article calledGoogle Plus Box Ranking Factors Report. In it, he investigates (with help from a few dozen industry peers) how Google+ profiles show up in the Related People and Pages from Google+ search results of Google’s “Search Plus Your World” feature.

Here are some of the takeaways:

  • Fresh content matters: Google+ profiles with no posts within the last 72 hours don’t show up in the “Related People/Pages” section of Google’s search results
  • Pages can matter more than profiles: Brand pages with a few thousand followers/circlers can appear in “Related People/Pages” ahead of individual profiles with a million or more followers/circlers
  • +1s matter: Lurie says that profiles/pages that get a lot of +1s on their posts tend to show up more often in the “Related People/Pages” results
  • Comments and reshares don’t matter as much as +1s in helping to influence who/what shows up in “Related People/Pages”
  • Reach/follower count matter a lot

On a similar note, AJ Kohn recently published an article he called The Ultimate Google+ SEO Guide. This article is almost a month old now, and that may explain why it draws some different conclusions about why certain pages and profiles show up in Google.com’s “Related Pages/People” section.

In addition to looking at how Google+ pages and profiles rank there, Kohn also investigates possible ranking considerations when searching inside Google+ itself, i.e., what factors influence the search results if you type “SEO” into the Google+ search box and want to look for relevant users. Some of the takeaways on that topic are:

  • The search term must appear in one of these sections of your profile: Introduction, Employment, Education or Places. For example, Danny Sullivan didn’t show up in Google+ searches for “SEO” until he added that keyword into the Introduction section of his Google+ profile.
  • Using the keyword in more than one of those fields helps.
  • The “Occupation” field isn’t used.
  • There’s already a fair amount of spamming of these profile fields happening.

Kohn’s article also examines possible reasons why certain Google+ content shows up in the “Search Plus Your World” results on Google.com.

Together, these are two Google+ SEO guides that I think you’ll want to read and bookmark. Here are the links again to save you the hassle of scrolling up.

And if you need more on this topic, I’ll add that there’s a panel dedicated to SEO for Google+at our SMX West conference, which is less than two weeks away.

Automatic Sales Cycle (?)

Have you ever heard of a sales cycle that was automatic?  That seams like a dream come true for most sales organizations!

Well, it’s here!

Stay tuned, I’m currently working with some industry experts and Fortune-500 companies that are deploying this strategy.  I will have more to share in very near future, as I’m currently working on a social media project that will be deploying this technology.  I too am getting very excited about this and I promise to share more in the coming weeks…

Why Companies Should Use Social Media

Reviewed another good article from The Wall.  For those wondering if Social Media has any place in business (so, perhaps you’ve been away on vacation for a couple of years…  🙂

Enjoy,

Companies using social media are making more money, says McKinsey

by @gordonmacmillan, posted on 10 January, 2011 at 11:58 am,
Interesting research from McKinsey suggests that companies using social media  or “collaborative Web 2.0 technologies” are achieving higher profits.

This will clearly not come as a surprise to some, but this basically makes the case for ROI and social media. It seems to show that companies that are starting to do it well are being rewarded for their efforts. More than that, it says those that fail to implement social media could be making a “critical mistake”.

McKinsey says these “networked enterprise” are gaining significantly improved performance and are not “only more likely to be market leaders or to be gaining market share”, but also use management practices that lead to margins higher than those of companies using the web in more limited ways.

“The attainment of higher operating margins (again, self-reported) than competitors correlated with a different set of factors: the ability to make decisions lower in the corporate hierarchy and a willingness to allow the formation of working teams comprising both in-house employees and individuals outside the organization. These findings suggest that Web technologies can underwrite a more agile organization where frontline staff members make local decisions and companies are better at leveraging outside resources to raise productivity and to create more valuable products and services. The result, the survey suggests, is higher profits.”

Going forward – four key steps

McKinsey rights says that the “imperative” for business is clear: if you fall behind in creating these internal and external social networks it could well be a “critical mistake”. McKinsey suggest executives take four steps to push their organisations forward:

1.  Integrate the use of web 2.0 into employees’ day-to-day work activities. This is the key success factor in all of its research.
2.  Continue to drive adoption and usage. Benefits appear to be limited without a base level of adoption and usage. Those who reported the lowest levels of both also reported the lowest levels of benefits.
3.  Break down the barriers to organisational change. Fully networked businesses appear to have more fluid information flows, deploy talent more flexibly to deal with problems, and allow employees lower in the corporate hierarchy to make decisions. Organizational collaboration is correlated with self-reported market share gains; distributed decision making and work, with increased self-reported profitability.
4. Apply Web 2.0 technologies to interactions with customers, business partners, and employees. External interactions are correlated with self-reported market share gains. So are internal organizational collaboration and flexibility, and the benefits appear to be multiplicative. Fully networked organizations can achieve the highest levels of self-reported benefits in all types of interactions.

Leadership, basketball, it’s all the same…

So tomorrow marks the start of our Junior City Rep. basketball season, as we venture into our first game.  I’m excited to watch the boys plays because at this age they are really a team of young men.   When you get this level, in any sport, winning is not about pure talent – it’s all about having a “good head.”  What I define that as is; having “smarts” on the floor, seeing the game in front of you, looking after your responsibilities, executing the coach’s gameplan, playing as a team, and leading your team by example.

I am fortunate to coach along side of two other guys who see the game much the same way as I do.  This really helps when establishing goals, gameplans and orchestrating the team.  We all believe that the character a player shows on and off the floor, is the most significant factor in a player’s success.  It’s always a shame to see talent wasted when a superior athlete gets on the floor and they do not have success all because of something as simple as attitude.

I love to coach for several reasons – of course coaching my son for the last 8 years has been a blast watching him grow and succeed, but it’s the leadership aspects that make you grow.  Leadership by being the coaching role and then also learning how to grow leaders on the team.  Every year there’s only a couple of leaders on a team and it’s the coach’s job to teach leadership qualities and develop  the player’s character by involving them in leadership situations (ex. bringing up the energy on the team, handling tough calls by referees, etc.).

So get ready for a steady diet of leadership/basketball blogs thoughout this basketball season which runs straight through to the end of May.