Category Archives: reading

The Science of Marketing by Dan Zarella

The Science of MarketingIn his latest book, The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog and Other Proven Strategies, Dan Zarrella, a social scientist at Hubspot, details the best known methods for using e-books, webinars, SEO, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogging, email marketing, lead generation, and analytics in marketing. He warns about ‘unicorns and rainbows’ advice that is prevalent and instead backs up his claims with solid data and analysis. If you’re looking for good advice, look here.

Want to learn more about using webinars in your business?
Zarrella holds the record for the most attendees to one of his webinars on The Science of Social Media. Over 30k people registered and over 10k people attended. He might know a thing or two about them.

Want to learn more about SEO?
According to Zarella, you likely already know enough about SEO. He writes, “you probably don’t need more SEO help. Most businesses would benefit much more from increasing content quantity and quality.” If you’ve been working in digital marketing for a business or brand for any time at all, you know It takes time and effort to keep content updated and relevant. But you can balance that expense by knowing that “not only are search engines the most used source of information for purchasing decisions, but they’re also consulted, by more than half of [Zarella’s] respondents, at least once a month”. If you’re going to cut corners, don’t skimp on your content budget. And once you create it, promote it in social media to generate inbound links.

The surprising news about Twitter…
You don’t have to be a brilliant conversationalist to attract followers and links. You just have to share good content. And, stop talking about yourself; start talking as a real person. Be positive. This chapter is quite beefy, but if you’re not already sharing a bunch of other people’s content, then Zarella suggests you start there.

Test what works best for your brand on Facebook.
I was surprised to read Zarella recommend restraint here. In general, he recommends posting once every other day, and trying out Saturday and Sunday to see what happens.
Like other channels, he recommends staying positive, unless you want to generate controversy and comments every once in a while.

Think like a producer of prime time and supermarket checkout content.
In other words, you’ll be smarter than a 5th grader if you write for that grade level (not an easy task). It will take more work to connect your content with content types that audiences enjoy:
“Movies, television shows, books music, and athletes take the lead. This is the type of content you’d find on the cover of magazines at the checkout counter at the supermarket, the type of stuff you’d hear about if you turned on your television at prime time or listened to people talk at a bar next to you. This is normal people content, not geeky, corporate, or boring”.

Become a visual storyteller on Pinterest
Zarella advises, “The textual content should be used to provide context, but the image should tell the story”. Many brands are using Pinterest to generate successful inbound traffic.

If you’re publishing a blog, share a unique point of view
You can’t just build it and expect people to come anymore. Your content has to be “unique and worthwhile” if you expect people to read regularly. Again, he advises. Don’t write all the time about yourself, but as yourself. While Zarella advises that how much you’re posting matters more than when you’re posting, he does offer all the details on timing.

Paid traffic converts higher than other forms of traffic.
I’m happy to hear this fact, but as he says, we’re paying for it so it follows that it would have the highest conversion.

In general, “people prefer content that will teach them to do something or tools that can make their lives easier or their work more successful”.

If you’re looking to fine tune your marketing and content publishing efforts, you’d do well to check out The Science of Marketing.

Frogs

Eat That FrogListening to books in the car is one of the best things I’ve done lately to make my less than desirable, or “frog,” commute more bearable. Most recently, I’ve been listening to Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy. I have to say, what a great book! His voice is pleasant to listen to, and he has an appealing message.

#1 Tip to Get More Done: Finish your most important task first and completely, and do it well. In other words, eat the biggest, ugliest frog first.

Eat that Frog: Tackle difficult projects first.
My most difficult project is too big to eat with just one bite, so I’ve been practicing this principle by doing small things every day to wack it down to size. I’m surprised by what I’m accomplishing. It’s working. The ugliest frog is looking prettier every day! I’m also really amazed at my increased energy level and declining stress levels by taking small actions every day on this ugly frog of a project.

I also love Eat That Frog! because of the title. A few years ago, I did my first experiment with the Law of Attraction. I decided to attract more frogs into my life. You know, it could have been parachutes, pinatas, or parakeetes, but I chose frogs just as an easy experiment to show myself that the Law worked. I set an intention and waited for the Universe to do its work. Soon I started to see frogs everywhere…on t-shirts, on commercials, and once while shopping with my Mom in a department store, I saw an entire row of frog socks! Now, whenever I see a frog, I am reminded that Divine order is at work in my life.

Since reading Tracy’s book, I am also reminded that my “frogs” (difficult projects) may be ugly, but the toughest challenges are also part of Divine order. Frogs can be opportunities to learn and grow. They teach us what we need to learn on our path. Of course, it’s more difficult to remember this fact when in the midst of things.

It’s also interesting to me that none of my most difficult projects are found at work. Instead, they are all projects or goals that I’ve set for myself personally. (More evidence that I’m harder on myself than others….but, that’s a topic for another post!)

Now, I’m not exactly wishing for more ugly frogs, and I’m still working on not letting my frog of a drive get to me, but I’m getting more done while less stressed about all I still want to accomplish.

Assault on Reason

I’ve finished reading Al Gore’s text, The Assault on Reason. I feel as if I’ve been assaulted. If ever anyone wanted to believe that W’s actions were merely misguided, rather than politically motivated, dishonest, unreasonable, illogical, and sometimes criminal, I don’t think it would be possible for them to believe so after reading this book.

Before reading this text, I was naively holding out hope that W might believe that what he was doing was best for all Americans, even if it often privileged the wealthy at the expense of the lower and middle classes. Now, I have no further illusions. The way that Gore portrays this administration leaves little room for me to accord such thought.

In describing the problem, Gore holds little back. His argument is that this administration believes they are entitled to the economic gains they have engineered, wrestle even more executive power, and that we have done too little to stop it because the majority of us spend 3/4 of our free time watching TV and not participating in any discussion of ideas, and as such the idea of engaging with with or questioning any of the decisions that are made for us becomes very difficult and highly unlikely. Add to the public’s passivity, an unceasing rhetoric of fear propagated by the current administration, and it’s likely that many people don’t know what to do to make a difference.

Prior to reading, I would have expected Gore to quote prior presidents such as Jefferson and Lincoln. However, Gore quotes from a diverse number of sources on the order of Habermas, Lawrence Grossman, Lippmann, Neil Postman, Edmund Burke, Winston Churchill, George Orwell, and Martin Luther King Jr, among others in the 273 citations. His manages an intellectual and informative tone, without sounding preachy, petty or partisan. Early on he states, “It is too easy–and too partisan–to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes” (2). He doesn’t let us or himself off the hook. He does discuss how we are being manipulated by TV programming, so-called news, as well as the 30-second political ad. I found his discussions on brain activity and psychology fascinating, but some people might get bored by these discussions. Nevertheless, Gore argues that we must understand how and why the problem came about if we are to have a chance at solving it.

In the introduction, Gore promises to describe and assess the damage, and he does a good job of it in the first eight chapters. He also promises that his last chapter will be a roadmap for change–a strategy outlining how reason can be restored to democracy. Unfortunately, this last chapter is all too short in my opinion. At just 25 pages, he has little room to layout a detailed strategy. Instead, he offers examples of how those of us who are connected to the internets might be a force for change, including more participatory TV such as the network he helped found, Current TV.

There were only a few times when I cringed at the way he expressed his ideas. He discusses extensively how the 24 hour cycle presents us with repeated news about unimportant and uncritical topics. He conveys that the TV news serves its corporate interests at the expense of critical, investigative journalism and that journalists are unable to do their jobs. However, in support of this point he quotes Dan Rather’s statement about TV being “dumbed down and tarted up” (17). I think Rather’s comment has more to do with his personal feelings of being replaced by Couric. According to Rather’s page at Wikipedia, the entire comment was: “the mistake was to try to bring the ‘Today’ show ethos to the ‘Evening News,’ and to dumb it down, tart it up in hopes of attracting a younger audience.” I find the ‘tart it up’ comment offensive. And, Gore is trying to appeal to a younger, more connected audience with Current TV, so the use of this particular quote is problematic for me.

The second discordant moment I had while reading was his use of the word simple and simplicity. In chapter two in his discussion of how Bush uses faith to divide issues into absolute wrongs and rights, Gore writes,

Simplicity is always more appealing than complexity, and faith is always more comforting than doubt. Both religious faith and uncomplicated explanations fo the world are even more highly valued at a time of great fear. Moreover, during times of great uncertainty and public anxiety, any leader who combines simplistic policies with claims of divine guidance is more likely to escape difficult questions based on glaring logical flaws in his arguments.(55)

This paragraph is all well and good. However, a few pages later, Gore writes,

When you boil down precisely what went wrong with the Bush Iraq policy, it’s fairly simple. He waged the politics of blind faith. He used a counterfeit combination of misdirected vengeance and misguided dogma to dominate the national discussion, bypass reason, silence dissent, and intimidate those who questioned his logic both inside and outside the administration. (60).

His word choice here is problematic. As an editor, I would have suggested a different word than ‘simple’ in this paragraph. How about, ‘it’s fairly straightforward.’ Then I wouldn’t have a problem following a critique of simplicity in one area with a concise statement of the problem in another that followed so soon thereafter. However, in neither area, do I find a problem with the larger argument at hand.

Overall, I’m glad I read the text. If I was going to review or debate many of the issues he discusses, I could use his footnotes as a starting place to extend my reading. I just wanted two more chapters at the end. I want more that I can do to help because sometimes it does feel like there is little I can do to change or do to make a difference.

Affirmations

I left the house for a couple of hours and went to Barnes & Noble to browse for a bit. I’m a big believer in affirmations (or I try to be 🙂 ) and I picked up a great little book that is packed with positive affirmations and colorful graffics by Louise L. Hay. It’s called: Power Thoughts: 365 Daily Affirmations.

On one of the back pages of the book, the publisher advertises their online talk radio: Hay House Radio.

Today is day #330 of the year. Affirmation #330 is: “I constantly have new insights. My future is glorious.” May you all have new insights and glorious futures!

There is not an RSS option, but you can also get a daily affirmation, if you visit Hay’s website.

Who is Asking?

In the forward to Feminist Cyberscapes: Mapping Gendered Academic Spaces (edited by Kristine Blair and Pamela-Takayoshi), Patricia Sullivan writes, “I am particularly grateful that Feminist Cyberscapes …does not abandon the study of more bedrock technologies (say, e-mail) in favor of emerging technologies (say, synchronous video conferencing). Such a restraint in a society of technology hope shows the discipline necessary to build important issues” (xii). In this passage, Sullivan questions the practice of those who move to emerging technologies from those “technologies that form the unexplained strata of habit, the structure for cyberinteraction, and perhaps the way the computer is/was/has been entering our collective mind” (xii). Is there more or less interaction, on a communication level, with email versus video, which is a also an oral and visual form of communication? I suppose it depends on what you privledge. Ultimately, Sullivan is concerned that “focusing on processes and habits sidesteps examination of the technology hope each new technology brings us. We optimistically greet these disruptions as opportunities to remake the culture into the more egalitarian state we seek. But embracing this cycle traps our theorizing into patterns that center certain technology issues, while it decenters other more political, economic, and cultural ones” (xiii). That is, Sulivan’s biggest concern is that if we pay attention to emerging technologies, then we run the risk of under theorizing traditional technologies. While I understand and appreciate what Sullivant says, I am also concerned about practices in some programs that allow technology and writing or technology and communication to be completely untheorized or unremarked upon in any meaningful way. Will beginning with email, such as email listservs, be the way into the conversation, or will it take something like adding video and audio to composition classes before discussions are started in departments and programs that consider electronic communication a non-issue?

There was an op-ed in the Chronicle recently about students and IM. Students said email was so last year and that they hardly ever answer email. I’ll have to look that article up. I know I made a copy of it. If students have moved on to other forms of electronic communication, do we begin where they are, or do we drag them over to where we are — wherever that is, whether that is in email or in video? I could be wrong, but I suspect that students are moving to using email as a storage or transfer tool than using it to communicate and network with other students. I think they use IM, SMS, and cell phones much more. I could be wrong. I’ll have to do more research to find out.

I guess if I want my first chapter of my thesis to be about the “what” of digital literacies, I guess it might help to think about from whose perspective.