Where the little tic tac toe, from your old dial tone phone is now called something else. It’s called a hash tag.
I know, it sounds like the stupidest thing to rename something that we all call a pound symbol. Either way it doesn’t really matter what you call it, it matters what you do with it, what you label, and how you retrieve it. It is also very important when it comes to gaining new readers.
Chances are you might know what these little doo hickeys are, but if you don’t then you are in good hands. No one actually taught me about them but I figured them out and have been making them work for me quite well for some time.
Basically because Twitter only gives you 140 characters, you had to somehow “code” your tweets so you could find them again, and other people could find them. It is a code that starts with a # and is followed by a word. They need to be connected #twitter, and they are not case-sensitive. You can use capitals but it won’t matter.
Twitter started the hashtags, but its popularity quickly jumped to other mainstream social media, including Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and many more. Many companies and products have created their own hashtags to brand themselves.
I have used my own #QuotesByAaronMstephens when I write something and think I may want to read it again. It also is helpful for people to find your updates. So if people know this is MY hashtag, then they can easily pull it up without having to go through so many thousands of tweets or posts.
Once I started using hashtags that were more common for people to think of, I started gaining more followers. Now I use them for SEO and search engine relevance. When you are in WordPress composing a new post, there are tags you can use which are in your article/blog.
These are actually just like hashtags, but for search engines. If you are just randomly throwing in illogical words, it is going to have a negative effect on your rankings. I would say that only 10% of bloggers who understand SEO actually use these hashtags, tags and categories correctly.
I have experimented using different hashtags, using ones that are trending, and also posting things without hashtags. It is safe to say that you should ALWAYS use at least one hashtag. I am a writer, so I use a lot of writing reference hashtags.
I have a lot of readers who are authors, aspiring and published, and they look to me for education. “If it is working for Aaron, then it can work for me.” Some easy to remember hashtags can be #blog #write #writer #author #indie . There are millions of people who love to read blogs. You might be one of them. Make things easy for your reader. If they know they can find you or your blog by a clever or common hashtag, you will gain more followers/readers.
Be a messenger and share your new found knowledge with a friend.
Facebook Business Likes Decreasing
If you weren’t aware, Facebook has made a decision to clean house. Businesses that have fake “likes” from LIKE farms are in trouble. Facebook has decided to remove dead, inactive accounts. It has not been confirmed, but I am sure they have some sort of advanced software working in the background.
If you don’t know what a LIKE farm is, it is a company that hires thousands of people to just “like” pages if customers pay them. On the surface you can’t tell that a business has fake likes. Meaning they paid an outside company to just like their page and they really don’t. Personally I don’t think that is right. It’s cheating. Facebook thinks so too. They are also attempting to determine the number of fake accounts and duplicates. I only have one Facebook account, but there are tons of people who have more than one, and that is against their terms of service. If they find out, they could ban both accounts. So be careful folks.
Facebook also decided that deceased accounts should also not count. In all fairness, the person who liked that page can no longer interact, like or share postings. The biggest problem companies had with using a like farm is that when they would go to post something on Facebook, there would be zero engagement or likes. So I am sure you have seen pages that post something and there is hardly any like or zero likes. For a lot of people they think that those likes are fake, and purchased from a like farm.
If you don’t own a Facebook business page, then this might be educational for you. I am going to assume you know what a page is, and you just don’t have one of your own. If you do, then you already know that it is not easy to get people to like your page. You might be one of them. You’ve spammed all your friends through the Facebook invite option and only a handful of people liked your page. Why? You have over a thousand, surely everyone is going to like your page, right? Wrong.
First of all, your friends don’t know anything about your new page, and second of all, they don’t know if you own it. It might not be clear. I get invites all the time for people who want me to like their page. Here is my rule, if you didn’t ask me personally, or I can’t tell that it is your page, I won’t like it. Third, I need to see what you have been posting the past month or so, how often you post, and if I find it interesting, educational or entertaining. If it doesn’t meet that criteria, I may not want you showing up in my newsfeed. Sometimes, over-posting can prevent someone from liking your page.
Your business page should have at least an hour’s worth of good reading, just like your website. Many people make the mistake of announcing their premature business page and the only people who like it are the best friends, family and maybe some clients. If you are someone who just reposts other people’s material, ultimately you will just end up sending your potential readers to someone else’s page.
When you do finally decide on your topic for your blog, be sure you write something ample. Use big fonts. If you are using WordPress then you should be using those “H” tags. In the formatting, there is Heading 1, 2, 3, …6, and paragraph and there are some other formats you can use. Those are key in your SEO. I have never mentioned using these in my blogs in the past, but I always, ALWAYS, use them. For one, it makes it easier for you the reader to read. Two, it does some special SEO tricks that help search engines find me. Three, it just looks nicer.
Did you know that your blog/website only has 8 seconds before your reader will make a decision? Think about it. How much time and patience do YOU have? If a page doesn’t load fast then your reader will close out. If your page does load and it is too busy, your reader will close out. If your page loads and the font is too small and a TON of text, your reader may close out. Remember, most people have failing eyesight or are reading from a mobile device. As a blogger you are also a designer now. Layout and design make a huge impact and impression on your reader.
So if you haven’t checked me out on Facebook, I have a few business pages. The main one is my public figure page and the other is my children’s book page. I was asked by a client who has an author page if she should also have a book page. Personally I don’t think it would hurt, and it certainly can help. My marketing of the book was monumental on introducing people to the idea of my book, months before it actually launched. After it launched the likes continued to grow. I have noticed that on both of those pages my likes have decreased like everyone else out there. Fortunately for me it was minimal. I lost like 2 thousand on the angel page and maybe 1 thousand on my public figure page.
I am sure it was due to duplicate or inactive accounts. I know some people are thinking, “Wow, you lost 3 thousand fans? That’s more than I have all together. I’d be freaking out.” I would be except that I have over 200 hundred thousand fans on Facebook, not counting my other social media platforms. I would probably imagine that this website has a pretty large following. There are so many marketing vehicles out there that point people to this website. Lately I have been getting random visitors from StumbleUpon.com. That is another cool website, but I will write a blog on that website another day.
Although, in all fairness, before Facebook was doing their deletion of likes, I would lose likes on a regular basis. Sometimes none, sometimes as many as 30 a day. For whatever reason, someone decided they didn’t want to see me in their newsfeed. I try not to overanalyze and instead focus on the positive.
Thousands of God’s children ARE listening to me, hearing his message. There are also thousands of followers who like reading something spiritual and inspirational. I get messages daily, many of them young boys who look up to me as a role model. It’s a really cool feeling when a total stranger tells you that he wants to be just like you. I also spent a pretty penny (from heaven) on advertising and marketing the book around the globe for almost 10 months. Millions have been exposed to the book, Facebook pages, or websites.
I have some stealth website tricks that I use. On the angel academy website and this one, I have a “like” box that shows up in the right hand corner of the website when you hit page 3 scrolling. If you like the site it asks you to like the Facebook page. The cool thing with this is you don’t have to leave the website to actually go look at the Facebook page. So I got thousands of people to like my page without ever going to see it. It doesn’t activate on the blog posts, but if you click on the header it will take you to the home page.
Once you have your Facebook business page established you should advertise it everywhere you can for free. Your email signature, your personal Facebook cover page and description, your Google+ page, your About.Me page, Twitter profile, any promotions, and anything printed, including your business card. I am not sure how many likes I got from LinkedIn, but that is also another rich platform you can market yourself.
Regardless of profession you are in, if you are seeking clients or customers, you need to be visible. You need your website to come up first if someone types it in Google, Bing, MSN or Yahoo. You never know where your readers are coming from, but you can always direct them to your personal professional website. You are always in control of your website. Facebook won’t be going away due to it’s egregious wealth and power. However there were other social media sites that came and went; Friendster, MySpace are just a couple off the top of my head. If you are blogging on Blogger or WordPress.com, there is nothing from them saying they are going to start charging you or hold your website hostage.
Stealth Infomercial Books
How often have you gone to a website, or a blog because you were promised something for free? Such as a free book, a free article, a top ten listing, free training course materials, videos, mediations, … the list goes on. I don’t do that. I have never asked for an email address. I do give you the reader the option to stay updated.
When you give someone your email address you are giving them permission into your life anytime they feel like it. Your email probably goes to your smartphone, and you are attached to the internet and your computer or tablet almost non-stop. Chances are that person that asked for your email in return for something free secretly wants you to pay them even more money. Usually it is something like “Go to my weekend seminar” or “subscribe to my class”. Ultimately it is usually that they want to make money off of you. Now this is not always the case. However if you do your own research you will find the “experts” telling you to build an email list and that is the way to do it.
So onto the topic of today’s article. Infomercials. You either love them or you hate them. I sort of like watching the Shark vacuum on television. I don’t like reading an entire book to find out I wasted my time and money to learn I have to go buy the seminar. I won’t name any names, but I think we all know someone who has used this tactic before. It seems to work for them. Maybe some people are just so awesome and their fans love them so much, they would LOVE to be in that person’s energy/workshop.
Keep in mind that this usually only happens in the non-fiction market and typically in the self-help arena. Let me also say that many people use this book arena in lieu of a formal education. That is fine when the author is credible. Did you know that the majority of self-help authors use their own personal experience for their book, neglecting many other sources. Most colleges require a master’s degree in that subject field with thousands documented work experience hours to teach a student. There are no requirements to sit at a computer and start typing.
I earned my master’s degree in business administration in human resources. It took me several years to complete and gave me a very good foundation for business. I chose human resources as my emphasis as I already had experience in that arena. I also taught at Westwood College for 9 years. I left teaching formal education and focused working with CEO’s and small business owners.
Thousands of my followers/fans are former students who have reconnected with me. Although many don’t know me, many feel like they know me because they have spent hundreds of hours reading my blogs. It’s true. Many have spent time in my classroom, and all of them have had to interview with me before graduation. People tell me all the time how much they enjoy reading my writing. My personal blog, which you can access on the menu, is another fun reading afternoon adventure. It is much more of a motivational website. I like that one because it is easy on the eyes visually with all the graphics.
Another thing I am annoyed with by some websites is the constant overkill on advertising. Don’t you like how my website doesn’t do that? I actually have been contacted by advertisers who would LOVE to be using my blank, white space on the sides of my blogs. As you can see, I have declined to annoy my readers. Seriously, it’s annoying. How often do you REALLY click on the thing that is blinking or flashing at you on the side of the site? Like almost never. Trust me. I have designed hundreds of sites and banner/side advertising only is brand awareness. Your click-through rate is almost non-existent. Don’t do it on your website.
So if you don’t advertise, trick people for email addresses, or use pop up windows, how do you get people to buy your product? There are several ways. One, let them get to know you. Use your writing in your consistent writing schedule to share with your readers. Two, be likeable. Three, be trustworthy. While those things may sound simple, they are not simple. If if was so simple then everyone would do it.
Trust, for me, is something that is earned. It is a privilege, not a right. Your readers will learn to trust you when you give them reasons. If you are a fiction writer, did your book have a happy ending? Was it so satisfying someone would be willing to recommend it? If you are a non-fiction writer, did you teach someone something that would be of benefit or value? Was it something that they would not have learned searching the internet on their own? Do you bring something to the table that no one else has? Your personality, or unique perspective might be something you bring to the table. A well-known television personality is Ellen Degeneres. Sure she can act, but it is her dynamic fun personality that she is known for by most people.
Many times you can definitely get a “feel” for the author’s writing style. There are a lot of my fans who read my writing and tell me that it “sounds” like a friend that they know. Nope, the work is always original, it’s always mine. Sure the angels interject their two cents. Pennies from heaven? Did you know that angels usually are always working in pairs? If your writing style is conversational and your personality deems it, you can also throw in some humor into your writing style. This can sometimes be challenging if your personality is not well-known. Wanda Sykes making a statement may have a different meaning or tone coming from you. You may think you are being funny, but you may indirectly offend someone.
Writers rule the world. Every movie was once a book. Our laws were written by writers. Our favorite children’s story was written by one person, and read by millions. Writers. Give thanks if you are one of them.
Lately I have been receiving a lot of comments regarding my website; this one that you are on right now. As many people know, there are a lot of ways that one can make/create a website. My first days of websites involved something called HTML coding. It is a very ugly, but logical, computer programming language that I taught myself. I actually wrote my own webpage on Geocities back in the 90’s. It took me 3 months to write ONE page of code. It was, and still is, very difficult and something like a slash / or > can totally mess up the entire page/site.
Later in life I moved onto other software. There was this really confusing program called Dreamweaver, and another even harder called Macromedia Flash. Just the thought of it gives me the shivers. So much work for so little reward. Not my favorite tools and at some point Microsoft got into the game and created FrontPage. It was somewhat user-friendly, and you could make basic sites without a lot of programming knowledge. FrontPage required the server to install “extensions” for it to be compatible. It also required extensive knowledge of cPanel, which is the server side interface that manages the domain, email accounts, redirects, subdomains, 404 pages, FTP access and a whole lot more. At some point Microsoft does what Microsoft does and they discontinued the product and released something called Microsoft Expressions. Again, not the most easiest product to use, but I managed to still create somewhat decent looking websites.
Flash forward and I discover this new platform that everyone is switching to called WordPress. There is nothing I love more than learning something entirely new. So I immersed myself in the WordPress Bible among dozens of other books that were not designed for a beginner like me. I knew code. Fortunately I am also a designer, and a wiz in Adobe Photoshop. You really can’t be a good web developer if you aren’t a web designer. WordPress took me about a year to master, and the things I was forced to learn included tweaking CSS code, using a true CMS system, databases, and of course, plugins. A plugin is another term for WordPress software. Some plugins are free, others cost money.
Probably the single most reason a person would NOT want to use a WordPress.com FREE account, is that you are unable to access the code to modify it, OR install any plugins. Sure you can upgrade through their site to get the functionality, but you end up pay WAY more than if you hosted it yourself, or had someone host it for you. When you decide on a server/host, it should be on a UNIX system (my preference, more stable), and if you can afford it, an SSL certificate so you can sell products. Unlimited everything is great, however realistically, your site will get less than 100 hits per day when you first launch. The standard WordPress installation is only 10 megs. Yes, you heard me correctly. With WordPress you can link all your pictures from somewhere else, such as DropBox.com, Pinterest, or wherever, so you never really need to host big graphics on your account. The same goes with video. You link your YouTube, don’t host it yourself.
Do anything you can to take the load off of your server for when you do have a lot of traffic. I also use a caching plugin on my site. It creates static files to serve to users when they return so it does not take as long to load the site. My site also does something called a “lazy load” where it loads each pages one at a time, from top to bottom. Why? Your reader can only read so fast, why load all pages equally (like old school) when you risk losing your reader. There is something that I call the 8 second rule. After analyzing countless website statistics reports I found that the average user only gives your website 8 seconds before they leave, shut it down, or just give up. Yes, we are impatient people. Using scrolling websites with good text, graphics and organization I am more likely to keep a user on my site than if I let them navigate through the menu alone.
I like to use analogies. People can relate. You can think of your website like a car. In this day and age, almost everyone has a car, just like everyone has a web presence. It may not be owned by yourself, such as your personal Facebook page, but most people have something. Is everyone’s car the same? No. Is everyone’s website the same? No. Could I build a car? Perhaps, with the right training, education, mentors, and on the job training, I am sure I could at some point. Can everyone build a website? Again, same answer.
I am not here to sell you building your own website. Chances are, you already have one and you find it confusing, overwhelming and “Googling” your question gives you a plethora of answers that don’t answer your question. You know I am right. How do I know? I’m psychic. Heh heh. Actually I had those same questions myself long, long ago and there was no one there to answer them for me. Sure there is a huge community, but it takes a lot of research to finally find what you need to know. Notice how I say need.
So what do you need to know? I will decide you are an aspiring author, as I was once upon a time. You need to brand yourself. I can help with that. What do you stand for? What does your book stand for? Who is your audience? How do you know? Prove it. Sorry, that’s how I am. Write it down. You need to pick a font that you like. You need a professional photo. All of those things will be used in your header on your website, the footer on your letterhead and the signature of your email. If you need an example take a look at mine. One thing you might notice is I don’t brand myself as an author immediately, with the major group. It is something that I do, not who I am. There are a lot of things that I am, just as there are a lot of things that you do. What do you want your readers/fans/audience to know you when they think of you?
I add an additional line of branding, using a red font, stating a worldwide best-selling author. I include “The next New York Times …” In this day and age most people don’t give too much attention to the wording and the eyes scan over the words, and brain puts the association where you want them. To think you actually ARE on the New York Times list, when you haven’t made it just yet. The day you have readers/fans from more than a few countries, then you too can call yourself a worldwide critically acclaimed international author. When you break some records, you can call yourself best-selling. I hit #3 on Amazon in my category, so I can call myself best-selling. Some people say top 100 of your category, some say top 50, and others say top 10. Whatever floats your halo works for me. The only person it should really matter is you anyway. You will have your competitive edge that gives readers a reason for liking you and your writing.
You need a biography. Who are you? What have you done? What would people find interesting? Go read other authors’ bios. The day I decided to create this site, I decided people wanted to know a lot about me. I was getting messages daily on Facebook and Twitter so I felt it was time to put something decent together. So my bio is lengthy, but as you know, all of my writing is lengthy. Let me remind you that it is YOUR bio and you can write anything you want. If you aren’t interesting, people will skim over it. I find that people like to “relate” to you. They want to connect and feel that there is something in common. There are thousands of alumni who went to the same University, as well as alumni from graduate school. Guess what? What people connect with you on some level, they are more likely to like you, and also trust you.
Your website should also list your writing. It should be your blogs, online articles, and of course any books you have currently for sale. If you are a debut author, meaning, unpublished, be sure you give your potential readers lots to read. Your blog is free. You can write as often as you like. You can write as much as you like. People like to read, and they like to read for free. There is nothing more satisfying than to have someone get lost in your work, thoughts, and ideas.
Your blog should be incorporated into your website. If it isn’t, you are just redirecting someone to a blog somewhere else, then you lose all your SEO marketability. Ultimately, your goal should be, your blog answers a question, that someone, at some point will type into their browser. When you DO … then Google, or whomever will send them to the site where the article lives. WordPress is not just a bunch of webpages, it is a database. A posting, which looks like a page, is not a page. It is filed and categorized differently. Your postings have categories, tags, and other things that help search engines index your site better. The longer the blogs, the better the SEO. Every time I write a new blog with valuable WordPress knowledge, a new sitemap is submitted to Google, Bing, and MSN.
So I’d just like to end this article, with “What would YOU want to read, that others also would want to read?” That is what you should write. Be original. Be creative. I had challenges, just like everyone else. It has taken me decades to have the design skill level and the technology know how. I have worked with hundreds of owners, C level executives and decision makers consulting, telling them the exact same information I just gave you. As an author/writer, readers expect you to write. What a concept. If you don’t do it on a regular basis you will lose your readers. You don’t want to be a one hit wonder. You want to be a wondrous hit.