Reflections on My 2 Day Business-Building Retreat with My Mentor Alicia Forest

Let me start off by saying I firmly believe in modeling others and not re-inventing the wheel.

Last week I had a 2 day retreat with Alicia Forest, someone I admire very much whose Platinum program I joined for the year. I stayed in an adorable Bed and Breakfast in the Hudson Valley in New York and during both days we worked on planning out my business for the next year.

It was an intense experience, with me furiously taking page upon page of notes as Alicia shared her wisdom and applied it to my specific business.

The retreat to me was invaluable. The one-on-one, face to face attention I received is something that is already propelling me forward faster than anything I have done in the past.

You see, Alicia is someone who has already done what I am looking to do with my own business. So often, we think things need to be a struggle we face alone. I’ve certainly tried doing it that way in the past.

But if someone can shortcut the learning curve dramatically because they have already achieved what you are hoping to yourself, why not model them?

As an aside, there were people who probably looked at what I did– leaving my husband and traveling three hours alone to meet someone until then I’d only spoke to over the phone and on the internet–as something a little crazy that they’d never do. Oh, and the money I spent for the privilege of working with my mentor in person–nothing to sneeze at. And that’s fine.

I’ve realized that if you want big success for yourself you need to do things that most people aren’t willing to do. I’m o.k. with the fact that the majority of others in my life will never quite understand hiring coaches or mentors and spending lots of time on personal development. It’s not for everyone and it doesn’t make one person any better than the other. It’s simply different goals and priorities.

For myself, my “why” is strong enough that learning from someone else who has already done what I want to accomplish in the next couple of years makes perfect sense. (The “why” being that I never want to go back to working for someone else and want to be around for my future family instead of being chained to an office, a commute, and someone else deciding how much money I am worth.  Can you tell I am passionate about this? :))

So, since I have been home I have been busy implementing all of the great stuff I learned and moving forward.  It’s a busy and exciting time and I am grateful that I decided to take the plunge and work privately with Alicia.

I would really like to hear how you feel about modeling others and having mentors of your own. Do you have one or have you in the past? How have they helped you, held you accountable or made a difference in your life? Let me know your thoughts.

Google Profiles: Have a Say in the Results of Your Ego Search

google-your-nameDo you have a very common name like I do?  Share your name with a celebrity?  Not thrilled with how you show up in searches?  You might like to know about the big G’s most recently publicized feature.

Google has introduced an upgraded version of Profiles, which give people who have shared information with the search behemoth more control over how they appear in the search results.

As I am sure you are aware, Google returns the 10 most relevant results on its first page when you perform a search.  Now, there is an 11th result returned at the bottom of the page when someone searches for a particular name.

You need to have a Google account to create a Profile, and you decide how little or how much information it contains.  They can include a photo, description, your location, links to your accounts on social networking sites, contact info and more.  You can also designate a custom URL for your profile.

Some have suggested this is Google’s attempt at “killing” Facebook.  I don’t think that’s quite the case–yet.  But it will be interesting to see what else they have got up their sleeves.

Whenever something of this nature is discussed, ultimately talk turns to the issue of privacy.  Certainly you can keep your profile private if you do not want it showing up in search.  Some people will no doubt choose to do so, feeling there is already too much information available out there as it is.

I’d love to hear your feelings on this.  Do you have a Google Profile?  Do you plan to create one if you don’t have one already?  Does it creep you out? :)  Let me know in the comments.

Photo Credit: Danny Sullivan

8 Ways to Build Your Email List Using Social Media

In any business, it is important to build a list of targeted subscribers to market your services or products to. You want a responsive list and your job is to provide value to them, consistently.

Whether you have a website or a blog, you should definitely have a way to capture a visitor’s name and email address.

Two of the biggest components of effective marketing are reach and frequency. Reach refers to the number of people you “touch” with your message; while frequency refers to the number of times each person is reached on average. Frequency is a way to build trust and drives your particular message home.

More people than ever are using social media, so it stands to reason that more of your target market is reachable there today than even just three or four months ago. Take advantage of these ways to add subscribers when using social media sites so you can begin communicating regularly with more potential customers and clients.

1. Create an effective profile. What is effective? Use a real photo of yourself and your real name. Include your location and a good bio–complete, up-to-date and with all of your contact information.

2. Offer events. A great way to add targeted subscribers is to hold an event such as a teleseminar. Invite your friends and followers and direct them to a sign-up page specifically for the event. Let them know that in addition to signing up for the event, they will also receive a free subscription to your e-zine or other valuable information.

3. Join a Ning network or create your own. Ning is a platform which allows people to create their own social networks. Anyone can create a network at no cost around a specific interest.  This is a great tool for getting in front of your target market or niche.

4) Sync your newsletter broadcasts with Twitter. If you use an email list service such as AWeber, you have the option to tweet a link to your newsletter automatically when the broadcast is sent out. To do this, chooseSyndicate” and “Twitter Update.”

5. Place an opt-in box on your Facebook Fan Page. This is something I explain how to do in detail in my recent video blog post. The Static FBML application allows you to add your opt-in box very easily. This way you can capture new subscribers when your fans visit your profile.

6. Use social bookmarking sites. Social bookmarking allows internet users to search, organize and store bookmarks of web pages.  Be sure to have a way for readers to submit posts that they enjoy to bookmarking sites (Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, etc.) right from your blog. This is a great way to drive traffic to your blog when others come across your bookmarked site.

7. Feed your blog posts to sites automatically. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have applications/tools that will post your latest blog posts on their sites as soon as they are published. This keeps you on others’ radars consistently.

8. Be helpful and participate often. The best advice I can give for spending time on social sites is to give, give, give. You don’t have to spend hours there, but when you do use these sites, offer suggestions, advice and tips. Create conversation as well as join it. People will get to know you and then seek out more information about you.

Let me know if these tips are helpful and whether there are any that you are using currently with success–or any that I may have left out!

Photo Credit: Tim Morgan

Ashton Kutcher Hits 1 Million Twitter Followers; Early Adopters Groan

ashtonUp late on the East coast last night,  I watched the anticipation build on Twitter as Mr. Demi Moore‘s number of followers approached 1,000,000.

Among the people I’m following it seemed to be a hot topic.  The majority of people seemed to be pulling for him, tweeting things like “Follow @aplusk go, do it now!!” and “Yeah baby, @aplusk is gonna do it! This is awesome!!!!1″

A smaller group seemed to collectively sigh and declare the end of Twitter as we know it.  They said things like “Great, Twitter has officially hit the mainstream” and “Why should I follow these celebs when they hardly follow anyone back?”  These folks seemed to share an overall feeling that people like Kutcher just don’t get it.

In case you haven’t been following, CNN and Kutcher were competing for publicity and to raise awareness of the Malaria No More charity.

I’ll admit, when I first heard about it I was annoyed, seeing as Ashton only follows 79 people back, the majority of them other celebs.

Of course it’s wonderful when a famous person uses their high profile to do something charitable.   I think my irritation stemmed from looking at it in the bigger picture of what social media is supposed to be about.  How can one person connect with even a small percentage of that number–especially when they are not returning the favor of a follow?

However, although I decided not to participate in the numbers game, it was cool to see this Twitter milestone go down live.  Going mainstream, jumping the shark, whatever you want to call it–it represents a turning point in this wild world of new media.

In the end, something I re-tweeted from Joel Comm sums up my feeling best:

@aplusk is the first to reach 1,000,000 Twitter followers. Yes, it was a stunt. But first is first.

Some people don’t want Twitter to get any bigger than it is, but why not? We all agree it’s a fantastic connecting tool.

And if this helps drive people like Oprah to use social media as a channel to do good things, well then who can argue with that?

Photo Credit: dpstyles

Product Review & Giveaway: How to Get Great Press & How to Give Good Blog by IndieBizChicks.com’s Crissy Herron

ibc-logoCrissy Herron, the owner and founder of IndieBizChicks.com has recently released two new products: How to Get Great Press and How to Give Good Blog.  Crissy describes her site as a place that provides information to women (and cool men too!) that will help them start and grow their own businesses.

Crissy is the person who created my blog header and designed some of my buttons.  She’s great at what she does and her site is so full of great stuff for both small business owners and wannabe-biz owners alike.  She’s asked me to review her new products here and I was more than happy to do so.

She really sweetened the pot when she said she’d like to give away a copy of each product to one of my lucky readers. 

To be entered in the contest, simply leave me a comment here on what you think makes a great blog or something you have done to successfully get press.  You will get a bonus entry if you tweet about the contest using the hashtag #ibcwin and let me know about it.  I’ll pick a random winner a week from now on April 20th.  Good luck!

How to Give Good Blog Review

This is a 17-page workbook that also comes with a bonus workbook entitled 50 Ways to Promote Your Blog. The price is $14.95 which is extremely reasonable for what you get.

Crissy also offers a discount on her one-hour business consultation for $45 when you purchase this product.  (Regular price is $60.)  As someone who has used Crissy’s service for this a few months ago, I can tell you first hand that this price is an outrageous steal.

The workbook is divided into 5 main sections: blogging basics, good design, good content, good promotion and making money with your blog.  These topics are geared mainly toward newer, less experienced bloggers.  However, there are a lot of good tips in here that a person who has been blogging a bit already can also benefit from.

Some of the strongest sections in this workbook are where Crissy explains the importance of narrowing your niche and gives examples, and the pages on ideas for content.  In my opinion, these are two of the areas where new bloggers get stuck the most.

Overall, there are lots of good methods offered here on how to build a successful blog which consistently draws readers and subscribers.

The bonus report is a nice companion with its 50 different techniques for driving traffic to your blog.  I was glad to see offline as well as online ideas included.  Implementing a handful of these will definitely get people to your site and many of the methods are completely free.

How to Get Great Press Review

This product comes with an 11-page Guide to Writing Great Press Releases as well as 3 video segments you can watch right from your browser totaling approximately 24 minutes.  As a bonus, you also get a 4-page workbook called 15 Tips for Building Buzz Around Your Business. The price for this product is also $14.95.

Again, incredibly reasonable considering the bonus and the fact that you are getting video content.  This could have easily been priced 3 times what it is.

As with the blogging product, Crissy also offers a discount on her one-hour business consultation for $45 with your purchase.

The press release guide and videos walk you through exactly how to construct and write a great press release to generate interest in your business and reach potential clients and customers.   Included are tips on formatting and style, building a list of media contacts, the best online distribution sites to use, responding to media queries and how to put together a press kit and electronic media room.

I found the guide and videos to be thorough and the steps easy to implement.  I like the fact that video is included in case you enjoy learning visually in addition to reading.  Crissy knows her stuff and it really comes through.

The first video discusses what a press release essentially does and how to tie it in with a news story.  The second video is instructional regarding what exactly goes into a press release and an example is shown.  My favorite part of this video are the tips that are given for making it easy for a reporter to write a story about your topic.

The last video addresses the process of sending out and submitting the press release, using the Help a Reporter Out service (HARO) and what to do if you are chosen to be featured.

The bonus on building buzz gave me ideas I hadn’t even considered and when used in conjunction with press releases, will really help boost the visibility of your business.

I would highly recommend both of Crissy’s products because they are “fluff-free” and contain so much information for such a small price.  Here are the links if you’d like to purchase them:

Learn How To Give Good Blog

Learn How To Get Great Press

Don’t forget to enter the contest by letting me know in the comments what YOU think makes a good blog or by sharing ways that you’ve gotten press in the past!

How to Place an Opt-in Box on Your Facebook Profile

facebook-opt-in-boxFor my first video post (hooray!) I wanted to give a tutorial on a topic I have been asked about a lot lately.  Many people have seen other Facebook users with an opt-in box on their profiles.

An opt-in box is simply a form you use on your website to collect the names and email addresses of people who want to be on your list.  (My box is on the top right here.)

You definitely want to have a way to capture people’s contact information if they are coming to your website, and it’s the same with your profile on Facebook.

There was some confusion as to how exactly to add the box, so this video walks you through how it is done.

Let me know if it is helpful for you.

Successfool.com's Alejandro Reyes Audio Interview: The Power of Social Media to Transform Your Business

On Friday I had the pleasure of interviewing Alejandro Reyes of Successfool.com via Skype.  Alejandro is a social media marketing strategist and speaker. He describes his blog at Successfool.com as a place that teaches entrepreneurs & small businesses better understand how to use social media to grow their brand, rock their web presence, and build a celebrity like following online.

We discussed a bit about what he does, how he got started and how to use social media to build relationships and establish strategic alliances for your business.

We also talked about how sites like Twitter and Facebook have grown his own business dramatically over the last couple of years, examples of other businesses which have been transformed by social media, mobile marketing, and the future of social networking in the years to come.

I hope you enjoy.

Video thumbnail. Click to play

Twitter Unfollows: Do You Care?

QwitterI was on a message board recently where a question was asked by someone about a person who had unfollowed her on Twitter.  She wanted to know whether others unfollow those they have discovered have stopped following them.

She also explained that about fifteen people unfollowed her right after a comment she made regarding the medical diagnosis of a young relative.  She knew this because she was using Qwitter, a website which tells you who stops following you and when–down to the specific tweet you made before it happened.

One of those fifteen people was someone she felt was a very important business connection, and she wanted to know how to ask him to to follow her again.  She was going to approach him about it and wanted advice.

Hmmm, tricky.

Twitter Masochism?

I myself never wanted to use Qwitter because I figured I didn’t need the negative energy of seeing unfollows.  I have a general idea of my number of followers but I don’t keep track to the point that I notice when I have lost some.  Basically, I don’t care.  :)

I replied to her saying that occasionally glitches cause people to unfollow when they really never intended to. If she saw him unfollow right after that specific comment it may have been intentional, but I can’t imagine why 15 people would do so if all she mentioned was the diagnosis. Seems pretty harsh to me, but you just never know what’s going to “offend” people.

I advised her to think about whether it was worth asking him to follow her again. What if he did unfollow purposely–is that the kind of person she needs following her?

Plenty More Where That Came From

He may be the absolute best, most strategic business contact in the world, but there are so many twitterers in the sea.  Sites like Twellow and WeFollow can help you find other great business alliances in a matter of seconds.  And it is worth considering, what if he is not so nice when you ask him to re-follow you?

Do you pay attention to who unfollows you or use sites like Qwitter?  What advice would you have given in this particular situation?  I’d love to hear what you think.