advertising business internet

A List Of 5 Popular Tools Small Business Should NOT Use And Why

Everybody’s raving (if I still can use this expression in ’09) about online tools: social media, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and getting on the front page of Digg. While not even remotely contesting the overall usefulness of each of these tools I’d like to take a step back and look at them from a different perspective.

Many small business owners (my direct clients and their peers) are asking me whether they should get a blog. Or if they should be on the Digg (it’s not the question of how – these things are up for sale and that’s the reality of the market). Should they go for promoting themselves on PRWeb or YouTube? Should they hire people to sparkle discussions on forums or start getting a gathering on MySpace?

There is, obviously, no single answer. There is, however, a good chance you will be able to make a decision based on the list below.

Twitter: if you don’t have a dedicated person who is willing to update the twitter stream constantly – DON’T use it. If you have a few large clients or if your clients are using your services once in a blue moon (like limo company) – DON’T waste your time for Twitter, use other means of getting your point across.

Blogs: if there is no one to keep up with posting to your blog – DON’T. It damages your image much more significantly if your prospective clients spot a blog that hasn’t been updated since last year and the only posts there are either obviously professionally crafted PR pitches, SEO texts or updates like “We moved to new address”. You don’t need a separate blog for content that would perfectly fit into your main web site structure. Discounts, promotions, case studies – they all belong to the main site.

Digg: if your company isn’t selling nationwide (or worldwide) – don’t waste your efforts on Digg. For the time, effort and money you spend getting on a frontpage of Digg and receiving that huge traffic bump you better off with more reasonable ways to advertise. Besides the fact that your web host may not be adeqate to support such a spike in visitors, most of them are not your target audience. Put your money where your clients are, and if it’s not Digg – DON’T waste your resources on that.

MySpace/Facebook: it’s hard to say what goes and what doesn’t for these two social platforms, but the same rule as with Twitter applies here. If your services or goods are one-time deal – DON’T waste your effort on building a significant presense on MySpace/Facebook. While it may look like it makes sense – chances are that once your service is consumed your clients would rarely come back to post their feedback. So unless you have a teenage kid who spends his time on MySpace and Facebook anyway and you can talk him into doing this stuff for you – DON’T waste your time, it’s not worth it. Abandoned two-year old profile with your old address and disconnected phone number is the last thing you want your potential clients to see before they try to contact you.

YouTube: converting traffic from YouTube is one of the hardest tasks so far. Aside from that – creating a good video takes time, posting it takes time, keeping tabs on what’s going on with it takes time – and you don’t even know who’s watching it. So unless you’re absolutely know what you are doing – DON’T spend your money and time on video. Spend it on AdWords, local ads or something that gets you better conversion.

As you can see – the list is not definitive and is stuffed with ifs and whens. As a general rule – try to estimate how many actual clients you will get for what price. Compare it with existing ways of advertising, see if you get a better deal there. With all the latest hype about online tools business owners forget about simple old-fashion advertising. It still works – stay tuned to find out how.


Puppets and Puppeteers In Information Wars

Puppets and Puppeteers in information wars - IStudioWeb BlogWhile everybody is watching Olympics in China, there are couple of wars going on. There’s a war in Georgia where russian tanks and bombers are leveling off residential buildings. This blog, however, is not about the politics, so I will talk about another war, the information war. While most of what I will be writing below pertains russian-language blogs, I am sure most other communities have similar trends.

When checking a reaction to any event in popular blogs it is always interesting to separate comments into different categories. There are people who agree or disagree to the author’s point of view, there are people who just dropping their 2 cents and there are people who just want to “chime in”, so that their user name and web site show up. In blog communities, namely LiveJournal, that’s very popular among Russian-speaking crowd, things go a little different, especially for a political event. Once something major breaks in – and by major I understand something attracting hundreds and hundreds of comments – a very special kinds of trolls crawl from under the bridges. Some of them are, indeed, creatures of their own low self-esteem. Others, however, appear to be on government’s payroll. Given the ultra-patriotism that Russian government under Putin was imposing it was both amazing and scary to watch the proliferation of “paid ultra-patriotic trolls” (PUPTs, which sounds close enough to “puppets”) throughout the Russian-speaking web.

These creatures don’t allow anyone to bash or even question the righteousness of Russian government, anyone who does it is being bashed, accused of being pro-American, jewish, stupid or just one who “doesn’t love his country” (everything mentioned is considered to be very bad by common folk in Russia). Given that most of UPTs are being paid for what other people do at their leisure time, the strength of trolls’ attacks supercedes any and all counter-measures one can take. Obviously, when some on-the-fence bystander watches the crowd bashing a single unknown user he is happy to join in and support the crowd or at least is being smart enough not to oppose the crowd. The fact that the “crowd” may consist of a very few government paid employees using multiple online identities sort of escapes the moment.

For a person, who is not constantly bombarded with propaganda news from Russian TV, radio and newspapers it is easy enough to tell the PUPT from regular troll from someone who was just sucked into discussion. Paid UPTs are usually either very aggressive or very thorough. Pretty much everything – from language patterns, to responses to other non-paid UPTs and to other members of discussion – can give them away. It’s somewhat hard to tell the UPT in a separate blog, but in a community similar to LiveJournal it’s quite easy. PUPT’s own journal (blog) is either empty, filled with crossposts from another blogs (usually automatic) or reposts from news sites. Very rarely one can find a regular personal blog that belongs to UPT, usually this indicates the main account for “troll master” or, if I can put it this way, the puppeteer. His role is usually to oversee the big picture and engage large targets. This figure usually less aggressive, poses as some authoritative resource, citing documents, providing links (mostly to other propaganda sources or selected specifically to represent certain propagandistic point of view) and so on. Beating one usually requires a lot of knowledge, ability to support own point of view with quickly found links, materials and evidence as well as at least partial support of community.

Technically speaking, there’s nothing new in these techniques of political trolling. Sure thing they date back as long as politics themselves. With proliferation of the internet, even though crowds are twisted more towards the entertainment, governments eventually realize the full power of online communities. Given the resources available to (any) government it is very easy to predict what will happen next. Of course some communities will survive the PUPTs infiltration. Even omniscient and omnipotent KGB did not twart dissidents of Soviet Union – mostly because they were harmless, but also because it very hard to chase down every single person who allows himself to think differently. However, as to Russian-speaking resources, it won’t be long before any reasonable discussion will be shut down one way or another due to the presense of vast army of PUPTs. Russia has only one prime channel that is controlled by the government (all major channels are, but 1st Channel is broadcast all over Russia), most of translations of foreign newspapers available from single web site that provides propaganda-tweaked translations of news (I personally saw a few articles from NYTimes translated in such a way that the whole meaning of the article was reversed) and most newspapers are lean to publishing articles about celebrities and aliens. It’s much like the Chine’s Great Firewall, only much more subtle and powerful.