Name: Blase

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ciabaton

Personal Blog: http://www.thedirectmailman.com

Bio: Direct Mail & Mailing List Specialist for PR & Marketing Professionals, Nonprofits & Small Business

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    Helping Our Friends in Japan by Tapping the Hidden Value of Your Social Network

    March 11th, 2011

    From 1995-1996, my wife and I spent a year teaching English in Japan.  We taught children as young as three, business owners and even some adults in their nineties.  We were invited into the homes of many of our students and developed friendships.  Although it’s been over 15 years, we still stay in touch with a few of our students via snail mail.  As a result, today’s tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan really struck a chord with us.

    Blase Ciabaton with students in JapanHow can I help? As I turned on my laptop this morning and picked up what was happening via Twitter and other social media outlets, I couldn’t stop wondering what I could do to help.  Then an amazing thing started to happen; in the span of just a few hours, friends started sharing links to charitable organizations that were directly involved with supporting the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

    When I’m not blogging, I’m helping people execute direct mail campaigns.  Some of my most loyal Blase and Dayanna at the Golden Templeclients are nonprofits.  Many of my peers working in the nonprofit community are very tuned in to disaster relief and mobile giving so it’s no surprise that these friends were some of the first to share information on how to help.  Not only did I appreciate their recommendations, but since I had already developed relationships with them, I trusted them.

    Would you like to help? I’m writing this post in hopes that you’ll share it with your friends, or consider following one of the links and making a donation.  If you’re looking for a super-convenient way to make a text donation, then you’ll want to take a look at a post from my friend, Karen Zapp, who lists 4 quick ways to accomplish this.

    My friends at The Network for Good list over a dozen organizations on their page dedicated to helping the survivors in Japan.  They make it exceptionally easy to donate to any of the listed organizations by including a unique “donate” button for each, and if you don’t want to pick just one, you can click a single button to donate to all of them.

    Blase and Dayanna in traditional Japanese attireAnother Twitter friend shared a link to a Huffington Post article which identifies charities that are launching campaigns specifically designed to help the earthquake victims in Japan.

    As a blogger, one of the easiest ways that you can help the quake victims is to identify your favorite charity and add a Hello Bar to the top of your blog.   It’s completely free and it took me less than 10 minutes to set up and paste the code into my blog.  It keeps the rest of your blog completely intact, and just adds a customizable call to action and link across the top.

    Finally, by following conversations at the SWSX conference, I discovered a simple way to set up my own donation page to support the victims of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan.  You can click here to make a secure online donation to the American Red Cross team, or to quickly create your own donation page.

    What’s your social network worth? As business bloggers, we all know that real currency equates to getting paid, but today I was reminded of the many intangible benefits of building a strong social media network.  Today, my social network and blogging community quickly helped me answer the question “How can I help?”

    When I step back and try to assess the value of my social network, I can list dozens of other examples of value that I received from my social network.  I’ve found solutions to business problems that I could have never solved on my own, I’ve learned about new technology that I didn’t know existed and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive referrals from friends in my social network.  Although no dollars and cents were exchanged in these examples, without a doubt value was provided.

    In the comments section below, I hope you’ll share some of the intangible benefits of blogging and social networking, and by the way please take a moment to help our brothers and sisters in Japan by adding a Hello Bar to your blog, sharing this post or making a contribution to one of the organizations poised to help the earthquake and tsunami victims.  Thank you!

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    Looking Back/Looking Forward: A Blogger’s New Year’s Resolutions

    December 27th, 2010

    As I look at my New Year’s resolutions for blogging from last year, my overall goal was to drive more traffic to my blog and to Image of 2011 New Yearbroaden my social network contacts.  I’m pleased to report that I received about 3 times as much traffic to my blog from the previous year.  In addition, I increased my Twitter followers from just shy of 200 to over 800.

    As I transition into the new year, I plan to shift my blogging goals from a focus on increasing the quantity of traffic to a focus on the quality of visitor interactions.  My primary goal in 2011 is to deepen the relationships that I have with existing contacts instead of just broadening my influence across the social media spectrum.

    I’m keeping this post short in hopes that other readers, like you, will be kind enough to add their blogging resolutions and feedback in the comments section below.

    1) Make My Blog Even More Interactive: One of my biggest successes in 2010 was connecting with peers via guest posts.  Nothing helped to generate more traffic to my blog last year than exchanging guest posts.  This includes posts that I did on other blogs as well as posts from others on my own blog.  The external guest posts helped to link traffic back to my own blog while other bloggers increased my blog traffic by promoting the guest posts that they published on my blog.

    As a bonus, in several cases, the guest posts led to joint webinars and even an in-person joint presentation with fellow Blogger’s Bulletin author, Michelle Salater, among others.  The great news is that these joint events led to new clients and more business for me, and they would not have been possible without guest post exchanges.

    Not only did I pick up new clients from these events, but I also picked up new subscribers to my e-newsletter and rss feed which from a marketing point-of-view has the potential to lead to new clients down the road or referral business.

    Because of the huge success I’ve seen from exchanging guest posts, I plan to solicit even more guest posts from fellow bloggers whose content will benefit the audience of professionals who subscribe to my e-newsletter and visit my blog.

    2) Get More Feedback from Peers and Clients: Although, I was successful in increasing traffic to my blog and increasing comments, I failed to achieve the number of desired inquiries from visitors.  I plan to reach out to both clients and peers to see how I can improve this.

    In my business, I execute direct mail campaigns for nonprofits, small businesses and PR & Marketing professionals from cradle to grave.  As the beginning of this process involves compiling a highly targeted database, I’ve focused most of my energies on getting blog visitors to submit a free database inquiry.  These inquires help to determine what is/is not available with a target database, and they also pinpoint the size of the targeted list within a specified geography.

    To stimulate more inquiries, I added a new “contact” button prominently displayed at the top of my blog as well as designing a simple contact form on the back end.  To facilitate more database inquiries, I added a “Find Prospects Now” button at the top of my blog.  Despite making it easier to respond and increasing visibility, inquires remained flat when compared to the previous year.  This is all on the heels of substantially increased traffic to my blog.  This is clearly an opportunity for me in the new year.  Comments below from readers regarding generating more inquiries would certainly be welcomed.

    After all, as an author for the Blogger’s Bulletin, I am blogging for business.  As excited as I am to increase traffic to my blog, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t lead to more inquires and ultimately more business then I’m just blogging as a hobby which doesn’t help to keep the lights on or to put food on the table.

    3) Segment My Content: Since some of my posts do not apply to my entire target audience, I am working on launching a series of simple steps to better segment my marketing lists.  The goal here is to make sure that the content that my subscribers receive is always relevant.  A certain percentage of my posts are geared specifically toward helping nonprofits, so I plan to create an e-newsletter list for just the nonprofit community.

    I’m also planning to add in a simple automated e-mail marketing campaign that will invite my subscribers to share some more information about themselves after they’ve been a subscriber for a few weeks and have had a better chance to assess the quality of the content on my blog.  The goal here is to be able to market to clients and prospects through multiple channels, and to be able to market to them using the methods that they prefer.

    In summary, I want to deepen the relationships that I have in 2011 by exchanging more guest posts, generating more inquiries from visitors to my blog, and by creating more relevant interactions across a broader array of channels.

    Don’t forget to please share your blogging goals for the upcoming year below in the comments section.

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    3 Time-Saving Tips for Becoming a Great Social Media Listener

    October 14th, 2010

    Shhh do you hear that?  If you do that means you’re “listening.”  Many businesses use social media to get their message out, but those who are the most successful at getting their message out via social media have learned to be good listeners.

    Successful social media marketing involves interaction.  It’s impossible to interact with your customers, prospects and influencers if you’re not listening.  The challenge here is that there are only so many hours to invest in social media marketing per day.  For many successful businesses, blogging is the backbone of their social marketing.  Consistently producing quality content is the key to developing a quality business blog.  Once you’ve established a pattern of great content, however, you’ve got to get traffic to your blog and create interaction.  This is where listening becomes so critical.

    Why is listening so important? 

    If you’re not listening, you won’t understand what the most important issues are for the audiences that you’re trying to influence.   If you want people to listen to you then you can’t simply talk about yourself.  Nobody knows everything, and by listening to others and sharing their content, they are much more inclined to listen to you and promote your content.  Finally, listening in social media allows you to learn new things that you can incorporate in your own blog posts and ultimately share with your followers.

    Now that you understand some of the reasons that listening is so important, here are a few free tools that I’ve discovered that help me to be a better listener on a daily basis.

    #1) RSS Feeds

    I used to subscribe to a lot of e-newsletters which clogged up my inbox, and competed with requests from prospects and customers for attention.  I’ve unsubscribed to just about all e-newsletters and e-zines, and instead follow important topics via rss feed.  For me personally, I feel like consuming content via rss feed gives me so much more control over my time.  Instead of stopping what I’m working on to check the latest e-newsletter, I can simply check my rss feeds a few times a day to stay up to date.  In fact, by following the feeds, I almost always catch someone’s latest blog post BEFORE it even makes it into their e-newsletter or e-zine; I’m actually getting the information earlier than I would be getting it via e-mail.

    There are a variety of quality free sites that you can use to create a personal rss feed page.  Personally, I use netvibes.  Your netvibes page starts with some default (sponsor) feeds, but they are easily removed, and then you can simply pull in the feeds that you want to follow and then just drop and drag them wherever you want them to appear on your page-very cool!

    My netvibes page provides so much more than feeds though-it’s more like a virtual dashboard because I can pull in a view of my g-mail account, my Twitter account, and a view of any specific words that I want to search for on Twitter.  One other way that I use netvibes to listen is that I created a custom feed for LinkedIn questions that fall within my areas of expertise-not only am I listening here, but this allows me to be one of the 1st responders to any of these LinkedIn inquiries.

    Other free series that you may want to consider for managing your feeds include Alltop, Pageflakes and Google Reader.  If you’re wondering where to get started with feeds, I would highly recommend this blog post/podcast as a great place to start.  If you do nothing else after reading this post, and you really want to organize your life and become a better listener at the same time, managing rss feeds is a terrific place to start.

    Using Twitter to Listen: Many think of Twitter as a fantastic medium for broadcasting, but really it’s an even better tool for listening.  Signing up for a Twitter account is free, and you can use it to listen without ever sending a single tweet.  In fact, if you’re brand new to Twitter, this is probably the absolute best way to start.  Specific to Twitter, here are 2 free resources that I’ve found to improve my listening:

    #2) Twitter Lists

    As you increase the number of people that you follow, Twitter lists will help you to filter all of the “noise” that you hear if you try to listen to your full Twitter stream all at once.  You can segment your followers on 3rd party applications like TweetDeck or HootSuite, but I prefer the simplicity and limited computer brain-power required to run the basic Twitter interface.  I used TweetDeck for several months and discovered that my computer runs much faster when the application was closed.

    Twitter lists can be public or private; the majority of my lists are public because I want others to be able to follow them as well.  As an example, I created Twitter lists titled direct mail, nonprofit, social media among others because these are all areas that directly influence my primary business of creating and managing direct mail campaigns for small businesses, PR & marketing professionals and nonprofits.  How would you categorize your audiences or topics for listening?  Answer this simple question and you can instantly start creating your own lists.

    You create Twitter lists directly on the Twitter interface, and you can also register them on listorious which is sort of like a bookmarking site for your lists.  By adding them to listorious, it increases the visibility of your lists and makes them easier for other people to find which ultimately makes it easier for them to find you.  On the flip side, listorious is a great place to find others who are worth following in the areas that are most relevant to you-yet another effective way to improve your listening!

    #3) The TwitterTim.es

    If you’re using Twitter, then The TwitterTim.es is quite possibly the most efficient way to find great information to share that is relevant to your followers.  It aggregates and ranks the most popular tweets from the people you’re following.  That’s right, it’s customized just for you based on who you are following on Twitter.  It’s also completely free!

    It ranks which tweets/topics are the most popular across your followers, and lists the hottest ones first at the top of the page.  You can preview blog posts and articles directly from the The Twitter Tim.es interface, and it even shows you which of your followers have tweeted about each topic.  To make it as easy as possible, you can even Retweet directly The Twitter Tim.es.  With The Twitter Tim.es, you’re not just listening, but you’re actually listening to the people that are important to you.

    When you initially sign up for The TwitterTim.es it takes about 60 minutes to compile your first issue, but then once you’ve signed up, you have instant access.  Your personal The TwitterTim.es will update itself so that you can check in over the course of the day to see what is trending at any given time.  News travels so quickly via social media that it’s critical to make sure you are up-to-date on the latest innovations, product releases and which services are down.  When you listen for breaking news, you can in turn be the first to share it with your followers.

    Providing value is one of the keys to growing your social influence and social network.  If you want to expand your influence, it’s critical that you learn to be a good listener.  You can use free tools like rrs feeds, Twitter Lists and The TwitterTim.es to become a more efficient and effective listener.  As more people discover that you’re a good listener, not only will your influence grow, but your business will grow as well.

    Please share your tips for listening in the comments section below.  Thanks in advance for sharing!

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    4 Ways to “Pay it Forward” with Social Media

    July 7th, 2010

    In our obsession to generate more followers, more subscribers and more business, it’s very easy to forget to stop along the way and thank the handful of people who have influenced or helped us the most. I’ve been fortunate to meet some incredible people while engaged in social media.  This post is a direct result of the inspiration that I receive from them.  In the spirit of the classic movie, “Pay It Forward,” hopefully this post will show you how easy it is to inspire others, and how powerful paying it forward can be.

    What can I do to “Pay It Forward?”

    • Add other people that you care about to your blogroll.  As a blogger, this may be one of the easiest ways that you can show respect and appreciation to a fellow blogger.
    • Schedule time to add comments to the blog posts that inspire you.  Hopefully each week you come across blog posts that inspire, educate or otherwise impress you.  You may not always have time to stop what you’re doing and add a comment, but you can at least bookmark the post or e-mail yourself a link so you can go back later in the day to add your comment.  This is another example of a small time commitment that can have a big impact.
    • Share the best posts through the social media channels that you inhabit. The next time you come across a great post, take a second to share it with your social media contacts via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or the long list of other available options.  Not only are you doing the author of the blog post a favor, but if it’s truly good content, you are doing your social media contacts a favor as well.
    • Profile a person who influences you. Think of someone who has made a significant impact on the way that you do business or think.  Write a post about who they are and why you find them inspirational.  If you don’t want to profile the person directly, you may also consider profiling one of their blog posts and elaborating on a point that they make in their post.  Chances are if this person inspires you, he or she will inspire the people in your social network as well.  While this requires a substantial time commitment, it’s probably one of the highest forms of praise that you can give.

    What inspired me to write this post? I got to work this morning and discovered that I’d been profiled by a fellow Bloggers’ Bulletin contributor in a new post of bloggers who offer valuable advice.  What a great way to start the day, and what a great surprise!  In fact, when I investigated the others profiled in the same post, I was able to connect with yet another contributor to the Bloggers Bulletin and secure a potential guest post.  Special thanks to my friend, Michelle Salater, for paying it forward, inspiring me to write this post, and connecting me with a great, potential guest blogger!  (Wow, did I just Pay It Forward in this post!)

    What should I expect in return for “Paying It Forward?” The answer is nothing.  That’s right NOTHING!  The spirit of paying it forward is that you expect nothing in return.  Think of it as giving a gift-that’s how marketing genius, Seth Godin, puts it in his inspirational book “Linchpin.”  The concept of “Pay It Forward” does not require a monetary gift, however.  You can heap praise on someone, help them solve a problem, or refer them to a trusted colleague who can solve their problem.  There are unlimited ways to pay it forward, the only barrier is the time required to do it.

    Oh, and by the way, even though you should expect nothing in return, if you stick with it, and you’re really sincere in helping people you will find that the good that you do WILL come back to you.  Remember, the key is to give WITHOUT expecting anything in return though.

    What’s my challenge for you? Has this post inspired you at all?  I hope so!  If it has, commit to “Paying It Forward” at least twice per week.  Wait, it’s not that easy!  Pick a specific day and a specific time each week to “Pay It Forward.”  Schedule it on your calendar right now before you navigate away from this post.  If you want to cheat, start RIGHT NOW, but DON’T skip your first “Pay It Forward” session.  To get an A+ you can report back in the comments section below and share how “Pay It Forward” has impacted you.

    In fact, please use the comments section below to recognize someone who has inspired you to “Pay it Forward,” or please share your experiences doing it.  Thanks in advance, because your comments will inspire good deeds from other readers.

    I hope you’ll consider sharing this if you found it helpful-it would be your first step in “Paying it Forward.”  Thank you!

    7 Comments "

    8 Tips to Keep 1st time Visitors Coming Back to your Blog

    June 2nd, 2010

    You work hard to create quality content for your blog, so you owe it to yourself to make sure that you’re doing everything that you can to generate traffic to your blog, and to keep visitors coming back.  I’ve been blogging now for about 18 months, so I thought I would share some tips on what has worked for me.  There are obvious tricks like including the TweetMeme button or the ShareThis button, but in my experience there’s less awareness about the tips I’m sharing in this post.

    1) Post at consistent intervals.  For myself I post every Thursday.  Determine what frequency & time works best for both you and for your audience, implement a schedule and stick with it.

    2) Develop a cycle for your e-newsletter and send it consistently.  Consider an rss-feed e-newsletter.  About 6 months ago I switched to an rss-feed driven newsletter using MailChimp, and now I never miss an e-newsletter, or send them out late.  This may not be the most dynamic way to share your content, but it is extremely practical and still allows for weekly tinkering and adjustments to content and layout.  FYI: This is not an affiliate link, and MailChimp does offer both free & paid plans.

    3) Add a text link in each post that encourages readers to sign up.  I’ve started to include the following text (with appropriate links) at the end of each blog post, and I’ve seen dramatic improvement in sign up for both my e-newsletter and rss feed: “Like what you’re reading?  Have you signed up for my weekly e-newsletter yet or are you following my blog’s rss feed?”  I’m doing this in addition to the graphic prompts that are included as part of my blog, and I’m finding that I’m getting more clicks/sign ups from the text links.

    4) Respond to comments in a timely fashion.  Keep the conversation going.  Does the commenter’s expertise mesh with yours?  Review the blog of the person who commented and see if you can return the favor by commenting on one of his/her posts.

    5) Continue to circulate your older posts via your existing social media outlets like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.

    6) Write posts that reference other’s in your social network.  These types of posts will generate more traffic than any others.  I recently wrote a post titled “My Definitive Short List of the best Nonprofit Blogs and Consultants.”  I listed some of my very best contacts that I’d developed over the course of the last few years.  Those listed helped to circulate the post to their followers.  The day after I posted this, I had one of the highest traffic days ever on my blog.  Who are the experts that influence you/your industry?  Have you taken the time to share this information as a blog post?

    7) Exchange blog postsNothing has made a larger impact on the traffic to my blog than exchanging blog posts.  You’ll be introducing your blog to a whole new set of potential followers.  When you include a link back to your own blog, this also works as a link building strategy which helps with organic search.  Seek out partners with complementary products or services so you can be sure that your guest post will resonate with your new audience.

    8 ) If you’re struggling with having time to do posts, keep your posts shorter, or consider breaking longer posts into a 2-part or 3-part series.  Comments & questions from the earlier posts can influence the direction of the later posts that continue the topic.  In addition to saving you time, this also help to keep your readers more engaged.

    In his new book, Linchpin, Seth Godin talks about the importance of “shipping” which is essentially getting your product out on time even if it’s not perfect.  The same applies with blog posts.  You can always find an excuse to delay or skip a scheduled blog post, but if you commit to it, you will get it done.  You still have the option to go back and add more content or edit it, but you owe it to your audience to stick to your schedule.  Keep your posts short so that you’re not overwhelmed, and this will give you more time to share guest posts on other blogs and respond to comments on your own blog.

    What methods have worked for you?  Please share in the comments section below, and if you found this post helpful, please retweet!

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    A Blogger’s New Year’s Resolutions

    January 4th, 2010

    Looking to drive more traffic to your blog?

    I’ve been blogging consistently for the last year, and I blog because I enjoy it and feel like I have valuable information to share with the right audience. Of course blogging helps to reinforce my professional credentials, and at the end of the day, it’s always nice to generate leads and develop business from my blog. clipboard

    To help achieve my goals, here are my blogger’s resolutions for the next year (if you have anything to add, I would really appreciate your comments at the bottom!):

    1.  Write shorter blog posts and post more frequently. This could mean taking a longer post and breaking up to post as a series.

    2.  Comment more frequently on other blogs that fall within my online communities. This includes being more generous with comments on The Bloggers’ Bulletin. The goal is that by doing a better job of supporting my communities, they in turn will support me with comments on my posts.

    3.  Increase activity on Twitter and social bookmarking sites. Increase followers on Twitter

    4.  Develop a “Power Group” of Twitter followers that I most frequently retweet. Ideally, identify people who will return the favor

    In my experience, a shorter list of resolutions has a much higher likelihood of being accomplished, so I’ve stopped at 4. Please share your comments and feedback below as I know that I’ve not cornered the market on this topic. Thank in advance!

    3 Comments "