Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What The Blue Angels Can Teach About Captivating An Audience

This guest post is by John Foley, former lead solo pilot of the US Navy's Blue Angels. He is the founder and CEO of John Foley Inc., which provides keynote speaking, coaching, and hands on training services for Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, healthcare service providers and beyond. The core of his teaching is The Diamond Performance Framework, which translates the Blue Angels’ culture of excellence and peak execution for the World of Business.

Social media and content marketing have changed the way that companies share themselves with the world. The speed of that interaction continues to increase, and new channels of communication are born every year. However, those advanced techniques are still grounded in basic principles that have been in use for at least a century. At the end of the day, people still like doing business with companies and individuals who are open, honest, and especially those who share.

Sharing Creates Goodwill

The Blue Angels are bound to their audience by a definitive congeniality.  It's part of their overarching mission to act as ambassadors of goodwill.  Even as my journey has carried me into the world of business, I still meet people on a daily basis who are eager to share their fond memories of Blue Angel air shows. From a business perspective, the Blue Angels mission to share that goodwill with the world solidifies a very effective campaign for public outreach and recruitment.  

Sharing ourselves with our audience is a great way to create that same sentiment. And creating that mutual feeling of goodwill opens up our environment.  On a fundamental level, people like doing business in an open environment; it creates a space in which they can learn, interact and contribute. Unlocking that feeling of 'open-ness' is a valuable tool on multiple levels.

Sharing Accelerates Learning

Let's look at a classic example from a familiar brand: Jell-o. In 1904, Orator F. Woodward led an initiative by The Genesee Pure Food Company that produced and distributed free promotional cookbooks featuring Jell-o themed recipes.  These books became incredibly popular, and by 1909, gross sales for Jell-o exceeded one million dollars.
By 1913, that number was doubled, and Jell-o was on the way to becoming a household name. Look at the success of that campaign, and just imagine the speed of that kind of success in today's world. In 1904 it took a long time and huge amount of effort to deliver those cookbooks. Today, using social media and aggregators like, we can complete that B2C circuit, almost overnight.

What It Means For Companies:

In the midst of the new media climate, our job is to find the most effective ways to exercise that fundamental idea. Lately, I've found that information hubs like offer some very effective opportunities for execution. The Spoke system allows you to follow, post, and collect stories from around the web in order to create an entry point that can allow your company to begin sharing in new ways. So use these strategies to inspire a unique approach to sharing within your own organization.

To learn more about John and his novel approaches to bringing excellence into the organization, visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

5 Easy Ways To Take Control of Your Online Reputation

Andrew Shotland is a search marketing consultant with a specialty in Enterprise and Local SEO. He writes about this and other strange topics at and

Last week I got a call from an old client I hadn’t heard from in years. He had been arrested for a DUI and now when you search his name in Google, the first result is the court report of his hearing. Oh yeah, and he was unemployed and looking for a job. Not good.

The future is guaranteed to be some mash-up of The Minority Report, The Matrix, Blade Runner, The Terminator, The Social Network and Looper (if you haven’t seen it yet, rent it now) where all information is available all of the time. In the always-on world, managing your “personal brand” – a fancy marketing term for “your good name” - is critical. There are all sorts of reasons to be aware of how your name appears throughout the Web, from protecting your privacy to improving your ability to make that sale or get that job. But the basic premise is that if you don’t control your personal brand online, someone else will.

So where do you start? Some basic tips:

1. Get Your Own DomainOwning a domain for your own name is one of the simplest ways to improve how you show up in search results and to control your online identity. Don’t be intimidated. A simple one page website with a photo and some text about yourself is all you need. The domain will cost you <$20 and there are plenty of instant website companies that have easy-to-use has a good service for this that starts at $8/month.

2. Claim Your General Social Media ProfilesIf you haven’t already created a page on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest, go ahead and do so. Each of these sites typically ranks well in Google for searches for user names. Fill out the profiles as much as you can and make sure each of these sites links to the others (e.g. link your Google+ page to your Facebook page) as well as to your website. Of course, these URLs are more likely to rank for searches for your name if you are active on them and connected to a lot of other users on each service, so it couldn’t hurt to put some time into them, but don’t feel like you need to be a social media butterfly. Even occasional use of any of these for most people will affect their ability to rank in Google.

3. Claim Your Industry Social Media ProfilesMany industries have directories and other types of sites that allow people in the industry to create and claim profiles. For example, allows lawyers to claim a free profile and get listed. Find the big sites in your niche and claim your profiles there. And don’t forget to link them up with your social media profiles and your domain.

4. Keep As Much As You Can PrivateWe online marketers are known for over-sharing on the Web. That’s part of our game, but there’s no reason why most people should feel the need to air all of their laundry (clean and dirty) in public. Once you put something on the Web, even if it’s a benign photo of your hamster, it’s hard to control what happens to it from there. As a rule, set your privacy controls on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to limit what you share and what can be shared. Here are the basics on the privacy settings for the main social networks:

-Facebook Privacy Settings
-Twitter Public and Protected Tweets
-Managing Your LinkedIn Privacy Settings
-Google+ Privacy Settings
-Pinterest Account Security

5. Create a Power Page on Spoke.comWhile creating your own site and using social networks can help a lot, most of those tools are fairly narrow in their ability to create customized pages to help with your online-reputation. That’s where taking advantage of your Spoke pages can come into play. Spoke allows you to basically create a Wikipedia for yourself. You can create pages for every job you’ve held, links to major accomplishments, links to mentions you’ve received in the media, if you’re an author you could create a bibliography page, etc. All of these pages can help you control how you appear in the search results and provide a professionally curated picture of yourself to those searching for you. And by linking your Spoke page with your other social media profiles, each site could influence the rankings of the others.

So don’t wait for a robot to travel back in time from the future to start helping you with your online reputation issues. With only a few hours of work, you can easily
take control of it yourself while still leaving plenty of time to watch Looper (Trust me, it’s awesome).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Major Release: Introducing Lists and Streams!

As we are moving the process forward to be the place where you find business information about your industry, companies and people, the Spoke team is thrilled to announce the release of our most important feature set of the year: Lists & Activity Streams.

Up until now you may have been using Spoke for a variety of purposes: to manage your online identity or your company's, to find business information, or to promote yourself as an expert.  However today we unveil a new -- and our most powerful -- use for the world of information consumption. You can now leverage Spoke to get real time updates in YOUR INBOX every day or every week on the companies, people and topics that you are interested in -- laser focused on only the information you really want!

How To Quickly Get Started

Simply visit, find the pages you are interested in, and click "Follow" on each. You can follow as many pages as you want, and organize them into lists for more efficient reading. Perhaps you want to follow all of your competitors, clients, or sales leads -- you can do this in minutes and then sit back while we feed you all of the valuable information happening to those pages.

Need a visual?  Here's a brief instructional video.

We want you to spend less time becoming more informed than ever! And we'll go one step further: if there's a company or person that you want to follow, but the page could use updating, just Use This Form and we'll update it for you! Or if we're missing something, click the big orange "Add Page" button, name the page, and then send it to us using the same form.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

7 Tips to Building a Brand for First-Time Small Business Owners

David Bakke is a small business owner based in Atlanta. He writes about his experiences and personal finance tips on the blog,

If you're a first-time small business owner, you may know how to use to track your industry, your competition, and your customers - but how much thought have you given to your brand? According to the website SmallBusinessDelivered, branding "is the process of creating a clear, consistent message about your company or product." Crafting an effective and unique brand has become an essential element of all successful companies in today's business landscape. Here are six ideas for building an effective brand for your small business:

1. Be the Face of Your Organization If you want to build an effective brand, you've got to give your business a face. As an entrepreneur with your nose buried in numbers 18 hours a day, it's easy to lose sight of the fundamental principles of a consumer economy. A buyer doesn't identify with a product or service itself, a buyer identifies with a person who creates, sells, or uses that product or service - much like you don't put your hope and faith in an ideology, you put your hope and faith in a politician to champion that ideology. As the owner of a small business, it's your responsibility to be that person. Post a welcoming picture of yourself on your company website, or go out and press palms, getting to know people near your place of business. When potential customers see an actual human being who cares about their needs running a business, they're much more likely to patronize it.

2. Strive for Superior Customer Service Once you've launched your business and established your brand, constantly keep it in a good light by accepting nothing less than stellar customer service. It's a lost art in many organizations, but good customer care can turn a one-time buyer into a lifelong devotee. It can spark a word-of-mouth campaign that can draw business your way and christen new customers at an exponential rate. If you ingrain this philosophy into your corporate culture and practice it diligently, customer service can in effect become your brand - and that's a powerful tool.

3. Choose the Right Logo Choosing the right logo to represent your business is critical, and the sheer number of studies about visual brand recognition are dizzying. Many businesses try to convey multiple layers of meaning in their logos, and to use them as sort of subconscious attractors, but the most essential elements of a good logo are simplicity, attractiveness, and cohesion with your business. Hiring a consultant or designer to create your logo can be a pricy endeavor, but if done well it can yield significant returns. Two good websites to get you started are Red Antler or 99Designs, and once you've got your logo nailed down, distribute it as much as you can both offline and online. There are dozens of great free destinations on the web, such as

4. Accentuate What Sets You Apart When creating your brand, it's important to understand and emphasize what it is that sets you apart from your competition. It can be as basic as specific services you may provide, or your pledge to offer lower prices than your competitors. If you offer free gutter cleaning as part of a roof inspection service, for example, emphasize that. If you offer "best-price matching," put that out there. In a competitive economic environment like this one, branding yourself as unique in a certain market can help your business break away from the pack.

5. Be Consistent With Your Message Once you establish the tone and message of your brand, never stray from it. Whether it's your social media posts, your email marketing strategy, or your in-person communication, being consistent is key. A business with an unclear or muddled brand is going struggle - no matter how intelligently conceived or positive its message is.

6. Make Sure Your Staff Fully Understands Your Brand If your entire staff doesn't understand the image you're trying to portray, all your efforts could be lost. The first thing to teach your incoming staff should always be your brand identity. For employees that have been with you from the start, constantly reinforce the importance of your message in staff meetings, memos, and in every task you assign. A company that lives and breathes its brand identity is a cohesive unit, and when every part functions to serve the machine, there's no stopping you. This will also help everyone involved to develop better communication skills in the workplace.

7. Centralize Your Brand is the only place on the internet where you can store all of your company's profile information and digital content from all over the web, whether links, videos, etc. And in doing so you can express the uniqueness of your brand in a much richer way and show your customers everything at once.

Final Thoughts If you're having trouble crafting an effective and unique brand for your small business, don't be afraid to ask for help. If you have the resources, bring in consultants or marketers to advise you. If not, ask your friends and family how they perceive your business. Sometimes it takes that perspective from a trusted person examining you from outside your bubble to help you really identify what it is that makes you so unique. Putting time, research, and effort into developing and projecting your brand is one of the early steps to creating a thriving business.

You can find more helpful advice on