Tag Archives: Gail Z. Martin

Protect Your Brand: Easy Hands-On Ways to Manage Your Online Reputation

by Gail Z. Martin

I’ve talked about the networking value of recommendations on LinkedIn.  Gathering online recommendations via LinkedIn is also a way to solidify your online branding and actively manage your reputation.  Don’t be shy about asking former co-workers, bosses, colleagues and clients to provide a recommendation if you had a positive working experience with them.  That’s part of the LinkedIn culture.  You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of recommendations for your current role, but you may want to also actively seek out recommendations for prior roles to bolster your credibility and show the depth of your expertise.

Naymz.com is similar in some ways to LinkedIn (extensive profile, forums, online networking), but it goes further to help you actively manage your brand and reputation.  Naymz has what it calls a “RepScore Ecosystem” where you aren’t just asking for a recommendation from former colleagues and clients; you’re asking for them to provide anonymous feedback on your honesty and ethics.  Naymz also has its own “Reputation Monitor” to provide you with yet another stream of information regarding what’s been said about you online.  Naymz also lets you know when your profile has been visited, although it does not tell you who checked you out.

What happens when a negative comment is posted on a ratings site and you can’t get it removed or retracted, but it’s not serious enough to sue for defamation?  One tactic is to make the comment more difficult to find by increasing the searchability of other, more positive content.  The Internet favors recent and highly targeted information, rewarding it by pushing it to the top of the search results.  This pushes older content off the first pages of results, and few searchers bother to go more than one or two pages deep.

How do you do this?  One tactic is to ask your clients and professional friends to add ratings of their own (you don’t have to disclose the reason behind your timing for the request).  You can spiff up your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on your most relevant sites, like your home page and your blog, assuring that they jump to the top of the search results.  Or, you can hire a PR agency or reputation management firm to make positive posts on your behalf on a large enough number of sites that the sheer volume of new positive mentions pushes old copy off the first page of search results.

Use this last tactic (hired guns) with caution.  Mobilizing actual clients, friends and even family to post genuine testimonials or positive reviews is still authentic and organic, even if you reminded them to do so.  (Never offer rewards in exchange for positive comments.)  Hiring people to manufacture testimonials is unethical, and you’ll be found out eventually, which will send your online reputation plummeting.  If you do decide to use a publicist, a better tactic would be to post a wealth of factual, but positive, information (such as verifiable high satisfaction ratings or award announcements) or repeat testimonials or positive reviews from legitimate clients and reviewers.  Just creating a blizzard of new, positive, highly relevant and keyword-optimized informative posts can go far to push down a negative review.

Yet another reputation management tactic involves making it difficult for anyone to create a profile or Web site using your name or products by claiming them yourself.  Some people make it a practice to buy up all of the domain names available for their own name or their products, such as the .biz, .tv and other domain suffixes.  This keeps cyber-squatters from purchasing these domains and attempting to sell them back to you later at an inflated cost, or using them to create fake sites purporting to be from you.  If you consider this tactic, remember that you’ll have to pay domain registration fees annually, so buying up dozens of URLs that you never intend to use can get expensive.

If you don’t have the time to actively monitor and manage your reputation, there are companies that will do it for you.  Some of these specialize in particular industries, such as hospitality or construction, while others serve a variety of business types.  Services range from monitoring and reporting to assistance in handling complaints or dealing with malicious comments.  Fees vary according to the services provided.  If you decide to use a monitoring and response agency, do your homework before making a commitment, and check out the reputation of the company online before hiring them to work on your behalf.  Some reputation management companies have been caught using unethical strong arm techniques against people who have posted legitimate complaints that were well within their constitutional rights.  There’s a big different between hiring someone to help you keep an eye on what’s being said and employing cyber goons to intimidate or harass consumers who have merely stated their opinions.              The best way to protect your online reputation is to always deal ethically, both online and offline.  Keep your word, don’t overly hype your products, and deliver what you promise.  If something goes wrong, do everything you can to make the situation right.  You’re far better off putting effort into delighting customers and running a clean operation than to invest resources into cleaning up avoidable messes or attempting a cover-up.  Nothing stays hidden for long in today’s online society.  Honesty (and vigilance) are your best online reputation management tools.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

 

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Online Reputation Basics: Manage Your Brand and Reputation in a Google World

You’ve created an online presence for yourself via your Web site, Facebook and LinkedIn pages, blog, Twitter feed and other Internet activity.  This presence becomes part of your personal and professional branding, which is why it’s so important that everything you post online is consistent with the professional image you want to project.  Yet at the same time, other people are free to tag you in photos, mention you in their blogs and Facebook posts, refer to your company and products in articles and reviews, or re-tweet your Twitter content.  You control what you post yourself, but how can you possibly track everything posted by others, including people you’ve never met?

Google Alerts is a first line of defense.  It’s a free tool that enables you to track keywords any time they show up on the Internet, and those keywords should include your name, company name and product names.  Any time your keywords are used, Google Alerts sends you a report which includes a link so you can see for yourself.  It’s not perfect; I’ve found it to work well for content on blogs and Web sites and less so for content on Facebook and other social media sites, but it still snags a tremendous amount of information and is useful as a basic reputation management tool.

SocialMention.com is also valuable as a reputation management tool.  Social Mention fills the holes left by Google Alerts by focusing specifically on social media, and covers an impressive variety of site types.  While no program will capture everything, Google Alerts and Social Mention used together should give you a very comprehensive picture of what the market is saying about you (and how much they’re talking about you).

If you’ve been online very long, you’ve discovered that lots of people have a name that is the same or very similar to yours (and perhaps to your company or products).  One way inaccurate information finds its way into the Internet data stream is via mistaken or confused identity.  Most of the time, these mistakes are honestly made, and can be cleared up with an email or a clarifying post.  If you find that you’re frequently being confused with a particular person or company, you may want to add a note in your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) stating who you’re not.

People in the public eye (which includes prominent business people as well as writers, speakers, and educators) may sometimes be the victim of pranksters who set up unauthorized sites to detour legitimate Web traffic, make a negative statement, or just cause havoc.  This is especially easy to do in social media, and the result can be a site purporting to be written by you that is making statements you would never make, statements that could be damaging to your brand and reputation.

One way to assure that people are finding the real you is to use a site like Zoolit.com provides a landing page that shares all your sites: social media, Web sites, blogs, etc.  Using a landing page like Zoolit enables you to give readers a way to verify whether or not a site that purports to be from you is really yours.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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Online Reputation Protection: 4 Reasons to Care What Google Says About Your Business

Productivity takes a hit if you have to spend time cleaning up a mess.  The bigger the mess, the more time gets wasted on clean-up.  Needless to say, preventing or containing messes can boost productivity and give you peace of mind, which enables you to keep your focus on your top priorities.

That’s why it’s so important to know what’s being said about you and your company online, and who’s saying it.  “Reputation management” refers to being aware of what is being said about you online so that you can work to remove inaccurate or defamatory content, respond to legitimate complaints, and capture positive comments and testimonials.  The term can also refer to techniques to reduce the impact of unfavorable content via search engine optimization techniques.

Let’s be clear: If you’ve done something unethical or have shoddy business practices, you’re better off cleaning up your act and making restitution than trying to suppress legitimate negative comments.  And as discussed in the chapter on online directories, other people have a right to their opinions and to speaking those opinions online. They aren’t required to like your products and they may say so publicly.  Reputation management should never be seen as a way to cover up bad business practices.

That said, it is important to understand how you and your company are viewed in the marketplace so that you can make course corrections as needed or reap the benefits of glowing reviews.  And, inevitably, incorrect information will make its way online, so it’s also important to have a way to become aware of erroneous content and straighten out misunderstandings.  We perform all of these tasks daily in the real world, without really thinking about it.  Reputation management is just the online equivalent of staying plugged into the grapevine to see what others are saying.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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Online Customer Reviews: Harness the Power of Yelp and Amazon to Grow Your Business

While directories like Yelp permit customers to add comments, there are also plenty of other sites that specialize in reviews.  These include dedicated review sites like ConsumerReports.com, which covers a wide array of consumer products, and more specialized sites reviewing movies, books, camera equipment and other niche interests.  As newspapers and magazines have cut “soft” news, such as reviews, online sites have sprung up to fill the gap.  Some of these sites, such as RogerEbert.com, are from a well-known expert (in this case, Chicago Sun Times long-time movie reviewer Roger Ebert), but many are written by citizen-journalists out of a passion for the subject.

Love reading?  You can start with reviews posted by readers on Amazon.com, and even read best-of lists compiled by other Amazon users.  But if you want to go deeper, you’ll find dozens—perhaps hundreds—of blogs and review sites in your favorite genre or non-fiction topic dedicated to book reviews.  In many cases, the reviews are the opinion of the site owner and will be colored by their personal likes and dislikes (which is part of the charm for readers).  In other cases, the review site will recruit reviewers who agree to submit reviews according to the site’s guidelines.

You’ll find review sites for cameras, camping equipment, board games, computer peripherals, video games, luggage, sound equipment—just about every hobby under the sun.  Some sites have only a few hundred readers, but more established sites can get millions of hits from a legion of dedicated readers who turn there first for information.  So, how do you get included?

Begin by reading the site carefully.  Many sites explain how they acquire the items they review.  In some cases, reviewers speak solely from their own experience with items they buy and use themselves (you’ll find this true for many book review sites, for example).  Other sites have a policy for receiving free samples from companies, and will disclose that the items were sent free of charge instead of purchased.  Big review sites (such as ConsumerReports.org) have a budget to purchase items for review, to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

Next, read the reviews to determine the personality of the reviewer.  Some reviewers try hard to be impartial, citing both the positives and negatives.  Others enjoy trashing everything, or take a very snarky tone.  That’s part of their personality and it draws their loyal readers, but it may not be a good fit for your product.  Know what you’re getting into before you try to place your product with a reviewer.

Follow the site’s guidelines for requesting a product review.  They may want you to query first before sending the actual item.  Some sites will review certain types of products only on a seasonal basis, or may have designated months for different categories of items.  If so, their guidelines will tell you how far in advance to submit your request and/or items to be considered for a review.

Should you only shoot for reviews from large sites?  Not necessarily.  Smaller sites, blogs and social media review pages may not have millions of readers, but they probably do have a loyal core of followers who could be valuable early adopters and spark buzz.  These sites are usually more approachable than some of the very large review pages, and may provide quicker turnaround.  Treat every reviewer with respect regardless of the site of his or her following, and be sure to follow their guidelines to the letter.

Realize that when you submit your product for review, you agree to accept whatever they post.  Reviewers are not required to like your product just because you sent it to them for free.  Even a positive review may include some criticism just to be balanced.  It’s also possible that a reviewer may write a negative review, especially when the review is highly subjective, such as reviews on books, restaurants, food items, and other products dependent on the user’s tastes.  You can’t demand that a negative review be withdrawn unless it is truly vulgar and profane or meets the legal definition of slander, which can be difficult to apply given the protection afforded to journalists, even for unpopular comments.  Where user comments on a directory might be removed by the site administrators, when you’re dealing with a review site, you’re usually dealing with the owner whose “product” opinion.  That’s why it’s so important to assess the personality of a reviewer before submitting items for review.

Getting a great review online can provide tremendous visibility to consumers who might not otherwise have become aware of your product or service.  Excerpts from great reviews can also be quoted in praise of your product, and links to positive reviews can be posted on your site.  (Never copy the entire review without the writer’s permission, since reviews have copyright protection.)  While there is some time and effort involved in compiling a list of relevant reviewers and sending off items for review, you can receive tremendous promotional value for a relatively small investment in time and shipping costs—a truly productive way to market your company!

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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Online Reputation Management: 5 Ways to Protect Your Personal Brand and Manage Your Reputation

The idea of customers posting reviews for the world to see makes a lot of business owners nervous.  While they believe in the quality of their product and service, they fear that competitors or mean-spirited people may post unfair or inaccurate information online that could damage their business.  It’s certainly possible that, despite sterling quality, a disgruntled person might post a negative review.  However, according to Yelp’s own analytics, the vast majority of reviews posted are very positive.  Most people posting reviews want to alert readers to their favorites, not trash companies.

What if someone does post a negative review?  If you find a negative post online, take a deep breath and let yourself calm down, then read it again to see if there is any truth to the customer’s disappointment.  Business owners can post replies to reviews, but you should do so carefully and strategically to avoid making a bad situation worse.  If the customer had a bad experience, you can make a public apology, offer them a replacement, and try to make it right.  You may not sway the unhappy person’s opinion, but you’ve publicly demonstrated that you heard, you listened, and that you attempted to correct the situation.            Most consumers realize that mistakes happen; they just want to know that you care enough to fix it.  You may not win back the disgruntled consumer, but you’ll go a long way toward preventing one comment from souring the opinions of others.

If the comment is minor, saying nothing may be the best way to handle it.  If the customer didn’t like the seasoning in your soup, for example, you probably can’t change their opinion without changing your recipe.  People are entitled to their opinions, so if it’s a matter of taste and not quality, readers will probably take it for what it’s worth and make their own judgement.  By replying or trying to argue with the consumer, you just draw attention to the post, turning a minor comment into a major argument and making yourself look argumentative.

What if someone posts a really bad comment?  If the comment is abusive, uses vulgarities, racist language or profanity, it’s likely that you can appeal to the site owners to have the comment removed.  Many sites include internal filters to remove over-the-top comments or to push them far down in the results, making it less likely that an outrageous comment is seen.  It is also possible to contact the user who posted the comment and politely ask them to remove it.  If that doesn’t work, and the comment is truly both malicious and defamatory, it is possible to bring legal action for slander.  How far you take it depends on just how much damage you believe the comment can cause.  Another way to deal with negative comments is to ask your loyal customers to help you out by posting their own positive comments, which will push an unreasonable review so far down the queue that it will be seen by fewer people.  And, you can ask your friends to also request that a truly objectionable review be removed (sites may pay more attention to multiple user requests).

In my experience, companies worry far too much about the possibility of negative comments.  Does your company operate in an ethical manner?  Do you offer a quality product that lives up to your claims?  Do you strive for good customer service and follow through on  your promises?  If so, there should few reasons for your customers to say anything bad, and lots of cause for them to sing your praises.  Here’s something else to consider:  consumers have talked about businesses to their friends and neighbors since the beginning of commerce.  With today’s online directories, you now have a chance to hear what they’re saying, and if the comments to reveal areas for improvement, you can make the changes necessary to avoid future problems.  View comments as feedback, and recognize that it’s impossible to make everyone happy.  The positives of visibility and good user comments far outweigh the negatives.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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Online Marketing: Simple Twitter Strategies to Turn Followers into Paying Customers

If you’re a person of few words, you’ll admire the elegance of the idea behind Twitter; each post is just 140 characters.  That’s about two sentences to get your idea across.  What can you do in two sentences?  You’d be surprised.

Twitter is a great place to share links to valuable content (you can shorten them to preserve more of your character limit by using a problem like Bitly.com or TinyURL.com): videos, interesting articles on other sites, blog posts, audio, or downloads.  Find an article of interest to your audience?  Share the link, and then tweet a few thoughts and ask a question to get a conversation going.

What else can you talk about in 140 characters?  Recommend a business book and say how it influenced you.  If you were at an event and saw a speaker who talked about something useful for your readers, Tweet about it!  You could even include a link to the event Web site, speaker’s home page, or to a video or blog post related to the event.  Or, share a motivational quote, comment on a business-related topic that is in the news, or let readers know if you have an upcoming promotion or special event.

As with Facebook, you can reward the people who follow your page with periodic links to free downloadable material of value to their business, or give them sneak previews of special prices before you post the specials on your Web site.  People who follow you can ask you questions, either publically or privately, so you’ll want to monitor these so you can answer promptly. (Several of the dashboards make this easier.)

Twitter is also a great way to give live updates from the business-related events you attend.  If you’re at a conference, either as a speaker or an attendee, send periodic tweets about what you’ve liked, what insights you’ve gained, what well-known experts you’ve heard or met, and other information that gives your followers a you-were-there feeling.

Whenever you use a keyword in your tweets (such as the name of an event, a book, a celebrity/authority or product), make it searchable by putting # in front of it.  For example, if you are talking about the book Think And Grow Rich, you would tweet #ThinkAndGrowRich.  That way your tweet will show up if anyone searches on the name of the book.  You can also see what topics are popular by searching Twitters Trending Topics.  Chiming in on a hot topic (if it relates to your business) can draw attention to your Twitter page, and help you gain more readers.

Promote your Twitter page, and make sure you let people know what’s in it for them to follow you.  Tell them what kind of helpful content you post, and if you provide discounts or coupons, let them know.  You can also have your Twitter feed automatically update your other online pages, such as your LinkedIn page or Web site, by using the RSS (Really Simple Syndication).  LinkedIn has a free RSS application, and your Web designer can add it easily to your home page.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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Publishing’s Brave New World and What It Means For You

by Gail Z. Martin

We live in interesting times. That’s not just an observation; it’s also a Chinese curse. What makes something “interesting” also tends to make it dangerous, unstable, and uncertain. Welcome to publishing in the modern era.

Technological change, demographic shifts and lifestyle patterns have resulted in major transitions in how publishing works. The old pattern of having a career solely with traditional book or magazine publishers resulting in printed material is fast giving way to a variety of hybrid options that are as varied as the interests of the writers themselves.

I’m the author of seven published epic fantasy novels with major publisher in New York and London (Orbit Books and Solaris Books), three non-fiction books with a different New York publisher (Career Press), three more non-fiction books with a regional press (Comfort Publishing). I’ve participated in a dozen or so anthologies with small presses; some of these anthologies were funded by Kickstarter. And I self-publish two series of ebook short stories on Kindle, Kobo and Nook. I’m part of the Brave New World.

Authors with well-established traditional careers with major publishers are now experimenting (quite successfully) with bringing out their own reverted rights-books via ebook, either on their own or through small publishing companies set up just for that purpose. This means that authors are seeing revenue from books that may have been out of print for decades, and readers once again have the chance to experience old favorites they have not been able to purchase.

We’re also seeing traditionally published authors with major houses doing self-published short fiction on ebook, either between-the-books novellas or series-related short stories. This is a boon to readers, who get additional material with favorite characters to tide them over between books, but it also builds an income stream for authors independent of their publishing contracts.

In some cases, traditional publishers may choose to bring out books in ebook only format. This may be a novel with a niche audience, or it may be an older book whose sales numbers don’t justify additional print runs. The exciting thing for readers is that the books remain available, instead of going out of print. And for authors, the same is true, because their books still benefit from the editing, layout and cover apart services of a large publisher and remain on the market instead of disappearing from sale.

Yet another variation involves established authors working with multiple publishing houses at once, or working simultaneously with both a large New York house and a smaller niche press on different, unrelated books. Not long ago, such an arrangement might have been possible for superstar authors with enough clout to get what they wanted, but taboo for most midlist authors. Now, it’s becoming common among authors at all levels.

Small presses are coming into their own since technology allows them the production and print quality that was previously only possible with big publishers, and since the unfortunate demise of many physical book stores has made store distribution less of a differentiating factor. Not only is this good news for rising authors, but it provides more options for established authors who have a niche book that may be better served by a press catering to that audience.

An interesting option involves established authors, some with superstar track records, starting their own small presses to publish their niche novels and books of other authors. This reminds me of the trend for successful rock bands and artists to go start their own record labels and begin producing music for other performers. I think this is an especially interesting trend to watch, since it could be a way for more new and up-and-coming authors to get more ink in the marketplace while making connections with senior authors who can mentor them. This option seems like a promising way to get more good books into the marketplace without the bureaucracy that can sometimes paralyze large publishers.

Here’s the big advantage for aspiring and rising authors. Once the big pros blaze the trail, these options lose whatever stigma they might have had, meaning that the chances for publication and the career choices explode. I think we may be coming into an era where we see more fabulous book choices available for readers and more income-generating options for writers than ever before. That’s worth celebrating.

Ice Forged will be a Kindle Daily Deal with a special one-day price of just $1.99 only on October 31, 2013! Get it here: https://amzn.com/B008AS86QY

Come check out all the free excerpts, book giveaways and other goodies that are part of my Days of the Dead blog tour! Trick-or-Treat you way through more than 30 partner sites where you’ll find brand new interviews, freebies and more–details at www.AscendantKingdoms.com.

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books. My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

About the author: Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga and the upcoming Reign of Ash (Orbit Books, 2014), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen ) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn and The Dread) from Orbit Books. In 2014, Gail launches a new urban fantasy novel, Deadly Curiosities, from Solaris Books. She is also the author of two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures. Find her at www.ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com.

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Promotional Tools on Facebook and Twitter to Grow Your Business

Growing your business productively means understanding all of the tools available to you.  Just as smart phones and tablet PCs have redefined productivity on the go, social media has redefined how people communicate, and more specifically, how consumers want to communicate with businesses.

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the three major social media platforms.  It’s worth taking some time to look at how Facebook and Twitter can help promote your company while boosting your productivity.

Facebook basics for business

Facebook now has over one billion users.  While Facebook was originally designed as a recreational place to connect with friends, businesses were quick to see the potential.  In fact, businesses have embraced Facebook faster than the Facebook architecture has adapted, leaving Facebook often scrambling to catch up to how its subscribers want to use the site.

Being present on social media for a company today is much like being present on the Web: you are judged negatively if you’re not there.  Just as many consumers would not consider a company to be a “real” business without a Web site, so many purchasers look for a Facebook presence to see if you are “real.”  What matters is that consumers have decided that they want to have a two-way conversation with the companies they patronize, and firms that abstain from being part of the dialog do so at their peril.

At the very least, you need to have a Facebook Business Page.  As Facebook has adapted to the needs of business users, these Business Pages have become easier to create and use.  Facebook wants businesses to promote from a Business Page and not from a personal profile.  Ignoring this rule can get your page deleted from Facebook.

A Business Page works a little differently from a personal profile page in that a Business Page can’t “friend” individual users.  Instead, users are invited to “like” the page and thereby opt-in to receive automatic updates whenever the page adds new information.

Today’s consumers value a connection through Facebook because they want to be able to express their opinions, ask questions, and feel as though they are being heard.  They want to do business with people, not faceless corporations.  Companies that learn to listen can reap valuable benefits, from uncovering (and being able to fix) customer service issues to discovering competitive advantages when a rival firm has dropped the ball, to new product ideas from the suggestions of loyal purchasers.

When you create your Business Page, make sure both your logo and your photo are prominently displayed.  People need to find you as a business, but they want to connect with you as the person behind the business.  Fill in the Information section, making sure your content is all about the benefit you provide to your customers and what you do for them (not just a laundry list of products and services).  Include your other Web sites, links to blogs and podcasts and business contact information so your Facebook fans can find you on the Internet.

If you already have a profile page, Facebook wants you to use it primarily for personal/recreational content.  However, it’s OK to talk about business some of the time, just as you would in real life.  Also, with a profile you can invite people to “like” your Business Page, and suggest that your “friends” also visit your Business Page.  Just keep your profile mostly personal, to remain compliant with Facebook’s Terms of Service.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Z. Martin

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Trash to Treasure—What’s the Value of the “Junk” in Your Mental Attic?

When I was a kid, I thought the big boxes in the attic and basement were “junk.”

After all, no one ever opened any of them or did anything with them. They weren’t fun like Christmas decorations or useful like school supplies or enjoyable, like books.  The boxes had been in the basement before I was born, and they were still there, almost half a century later, when we cleaned out the house a few years ago after my mother died and my father went into a nursing home with Alzheimer’s.

Maybe it was all the childhood warnings that the boxes were “Important”, or maybe a vague idea that they represented a critical point in my parents’ lives, but with a little repacking, the mysterious boxes went to a storage unit.  I knew they were something my father wouldn’t want to part with in his lifetime, but I had no clue as to whether anyone else would find them as fascinating as he did.

When dad passed away at the end of March, everything needed to be appraised. That meant unpacking all the boxes in storage so the contents could be inventoried, photographed and their value identified.

That was when I truly realized the value of the “stuff” in the boxes.

You see, when my father and mother were first married, they went “Out West” to North Dakota.  Dad, a city kid from Reading, PA, always loved Native American culture since his childhood listening to the Lone Ranger on the radio.  As a newly-minted doctor, he seized the opportunity to go serve at Fort Yates on the Standing Rock reservation.

But his real passion was meeting the Native Americans who remembered the old ways, people in their 80s and 90s who had survived the Custer battle, who had seen Sitting Bull, who knew what life was like before the reservations.  He even learned to speak Sioux.

During the day, mom taught school and dad dealt with everything from delivering babies to tuberculosis to gunshot wounds at the hospital.  But evenings and weekends, they got to know the elders, participated in the traditions and celebrations, and captured the stories of history’s witnesses on paper, audiotape and 8 mm film.  On July 29, 1950, mom and dad were adopted into the Sioux tribe.  It was a life-long dream come true.

As they got to know their neighbors, mom and dad preserved pieces of that history—pottery, textiles, beaded clothing, moccasins….things many people at the time considered to be of little value.

Guess what was in the boxes?  A time-capsule of Native American history.  Dad’s collection is being curated by Freeman’s Auction House in Philadelphia for a sale later this year, and in the meantime, part of the collection is heading to a noted Western museum to be part of an exhibit.  Needless to say, it turned out to be a lot more valuable than I ever dreamed as a kid.

What does this have to do with your business?  Plenty.  Because I believe we all have valuable “junk” in our mental attics and basement that we haven’t put to good use.

What do you know that could be earning you money, but you haven’t used it because you don’t recognized its value?

What expertise do you have that you haven’t offered to the world because you (mistakenly) believe that if you know something, “everyone” knows it? (They don’t!)

Take a moment now to make a list of what you’re good at, what comes naturally, or what you have a knack for doing.  Take a good, hard look at the list.

Where are the hidden gems, the treasures you could be using to create teleseminars, webinars, live events, info-products, and other useful materials that help others AND boost your income?  (If you have difficulty seeing the jewels in the “junk” on your list, do this exercise with a friend and swap lists.)

We’re often too close to our knowledge and expertise to realize that what is “common sense” to us isn’t common at all.  It’s not just about what you know; it’s about your unique perspective that has been forged by the road you’ve traveled.  No one else can share that information in exactly the same way, no matter how many other people are out there talking about the topic.

And trust me, there are people who need what you have to offer who just haven’t been able to “connect” with the message of other experts.  These people—your “tribe”–will light up with a breakthrough because you speak their language like no one else.

So take a good look at the “junk” in your mental attic and make up your mind to turn your trash into treasure!

Want to continue the conversation and share your thoughts and questions? Connect with me on Twitter @GailMartinPR!

Gail Z. Martin owns DreamSpinner Communications and helps companies and solo professionals in the U.S. and Canada improve their marketing results in 30 days. Gail has an MBA in marketing and over 20 years of corporate and non-profit experience at senior executive levels. Gail hosts the Shared Dreams Marketing Podcast. She’s the author of 30 Days to Social Media Success and The Thrifty Author’s Guide to Launching Your Book. Find her online at www.GailMartinMarketing.com, on Twitter @GailMartinPR and check out her Facebook page at 30 Day Results Guide.

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6 Business Breakthroughs I Learned from Superheroes

by Gail Z. Martin

Ok, I’ll admit it—I love superheroes.  Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Spider-man—I’ve been a fan since I was a kid, and a new movie will still see me standing in line, clutching my ticket and popcorn, waiting for a thrill.

 

But if you think superheroes are kid stuff, think again.  I’ve learned several important business lessons from those bigger-than-life characters, and I’d like to share them with you.

 

1. Bad luck can be the beginning of a whole new amazing career.  Peter Parker got bitten by a radioactive spider, and became Spider-Man. Fantastic Four were exposed to radiation, and gained superpowers to save the world.  Batman lost his parents, but became the savior of Gotham City. In every case, these superheroes overcame tragedy and personal loss to become something far more than they ever expected they could be.  What have you overcome that has prepared you to step up to challenges and play at a whole new level?

2. With great power comes great responsibility.  Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben warns him that to whom much is given, much will be expected.  When you’re successful in business and have more than you need, remember to give back to your community and to those less fortunate.  Use your power, great or small, to make the world a better place and ease the suffering of those around you.

3. Teamwork gets you farther than grandstanding, even if you’ve got amazing skills.  It’s the lesson nearly every superhero has to learn the hard way early in his/her career.  Just because you’re hot stuff doesn’t mean you can go it alone.  You are far more powerful with the help of allies than you could ever be alone.

4. Everyone has his kryptonite.  Superman has X-ray vision, amazing strength and super speed.  He’s invincible, except for this green rock that makes him powerless.  Everyone, no matter how successful, has a kryptonite that takes the wind out of their sails.  The next time you are in awe of a celebrity speaker, fantastically successful entrepreneur or visionary leader and feeling insignificant by comparison, realize that they, too, have their weaknesses and insecurities.  They’re not Superman, so you shouldn’t feel as if you have to be a super hero and perfect in everything to succeed.

5. Don’t be a jerk.  Tony Stark (Iron Man) learns this the hard way, and the lesson is expensive.  Value the people who are in your life, and let them know it.  Thank those who enable your success.  And even if you are smarter, faster, and stronger than everyone around you, don’t flaunt your superiority.  Instead, use your abilities to help others shine.

6. Anger creates more problems.  Scientist David Banner turns into the Incredible Hulk loses control when he gets angry, and turns into a huge rage-filled monster.  During his angry rampages, lots of things get destroyed, but Banner wakes up bruised, battered and in worse shape than before he got angry.  Take a hint from the Hulk.  Anger makes monsters of the best people.  Don’t act out.

Those are just some of the things I’ve learned from superheroes, but the most important lesson is this: You can change the world BECAUSE you are not like everyone else. You are special, wonderful and unique, and the journey that brought you to where you are today makes you uniquely qualified to use your abilities to make a big difference in the lives of those around you.

Who are your favorite superheroes and what lessons did you learn from them?  I’d love to know. Want to continue the conversation and share your thoughts and questions? Connect with me on Twitter @GailMartinPR!

Gail Z. Martin owns DreamSpinner Communications and helps companies and solo professionals in the U.S. and Canada improve their marketing results in 30 days. Gail has an MBA in marketing and over 20 years of corporate and non-profit experience at senior executive levels. Gail hosts the Shared Dreams Marketing Podcast. She’s the author of 30 Days to Social Media Success and The Thrifty Author’s Guide to Launching Your Book. Find her online at www.GailMartinMarketing.com, on Twitter @GailMartinPR and check out her Facebook page at 30 Day Results Guide.

 

 

By Gail Z. Martin

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