Why you should build a Positive Personal Brand

What is a personal brand? It’s the process by which you market yourself to others, whether you’re looking for a job or establishing yourself as an expert in your field or even just posting tweets on Twitter. It’s what you’re seen to wear in online photos, what your ‘voice’ on the Internet sounds like, what your personal web site talks about, what your Facebook page is all about – basically the ‘digital’ you.

In this ever-connected world, everyone is a brand, and this gives each of us great power and opportunity to really sell ourselves. If you use social networks or blog or participate in online forums then you are already in the public eye to some degree. Anyone can Google you and find out all kinds of information by reading your tweets, your blog posts and the conversations you’re involved in anywhere on the ‘net. 
Of course, the flip side of this is that if you’re not active in the digital realm then your personal brand profile is going to be pretty small and in today’s world that’s probably going to work against you in the long run. The Internet has enabled transparency and the less transparent you are the less desirable you become, especially as other personal brands around you become more prominent.

The question is, is your personal brand Positive or Negative?

Today, practically anyone who is likely to interact with you at almost any level of your life is going to Google you and find out everything they can. Employers already do this, as do recruitment agents when checking on potential matches for jobs. If you want someone to collaborate or partner up on a project they’re going to check out the ‘digital’ you first for suitability. 

What many people don’t realize is that almost anything they put out on the Internet is likely to remain available to view for all posterity. This includes Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, comments on blogs, personal videos on Youtube and Vimeo – anything and everything, and if even some of that stuff is ‘bad’ it’s going to work against you to some degree. As Gary Vaynerchuk likes to say, “your grandkids are going to be able to check out everything you’ve ever done”! A good example of how negative content can come back to bite is when a few Virgin Atlantic staff were laid off last year for making derogatory comments about their employer on their Facebook pages.
So you want to make sure everything you do in this digital landscape is positive. Anything that can be found out about your interactions need to show you in the best possible light.

Do that and you’re already on your way to building a strong personal brand.

Keep your WordPress site secure

wp-logo-blue-150x150More and more websites are using WordPress as their back-end Content Management System due to its ease of use and excellent built-in search-engine-optimization.

However, as with all software, WordPress does have bugs that are exploited to wreak havoc on your site.

This blog article talks about upgrading your WordPress installation to ensure the latest security patches have been applied and of the latest WordPress vulnerability.

Facebook apps stealing data and spamming

ZDnet.com reports on some Facebook apps that steal login details and spam victims’ friends lists. Some of the Facebook apps mentioned in the report are:

  • Stream
  • Posts
  • Your Photos
  • Birthday Invitations

As always, when using social networking sites watch out what apps you use and ask yourself if you absolutely have to use every app that comes your way!

Read the story here

Cheat Sheets for PHP, Ruby on Rails, MySQL, CSS and SEO

I went on a bit of a Cheat Sheet binge this month. Working on a couple of projects using various technologies means I keep bouncing around looking for stuff so I thought I’d better get some cheat sheets up on my wall to save me time.

Most of these are from one site, the brilliantly named “ILoveJackDaniels” by UK web developer Dave Child:

  1. Ruby on Rails Cheat Sheet
  2. PHP Cheat Sheet
  3. MySQL Cheat Sheet
  4. CSS Cheat Sheet and more from the same site
  5. The Web Developers SEO Cheat Sheet by Danny Dover of SEOmoz.org 
  6. Conversion table for em, px, pt & % in CSS by Suresh Jain

Using Social Networks to Create your Business Market

Last month’s Inc. magazine featured clothing company Threadless on the front cover, a company founded by 2 college drop-outs (an interesting trend in itself – so many successful start-ups have college drop-outs at the helm) Jake Nickell and Jeffrey Kalmikoff.

Founded in 2000, Threadless is set to hit $5million is sales this year selling, wait for it, t-shirts! Yep, and they’ve never had a single design that hasn’t  sold out!

So how has Threadless managed to sell out every design? By asking their market what designs they’d buy! Simple!

Using a social network, Threadless runs design competitions and whichever designs are most popular make it onto a t-shirt. The t-shirts are then sold through the same social network to the very people who voted for the designs. This way Threadless supply the market with exactly what they demanded in the first place!

The power of social networking is only now becoming apparent and businesses are beginning to understand just how well ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing, the best and cheapest kind of marketing, works within the semi-porous walls of a social network.

Most think of social networks as the domain of bored teenagers but considering that Facebook, a social network that targets the 25 to 35 demographic, outpaced MySpace, a social network that does target teenagers, in May with the most number of unique visits many will need to re-assess their opinions of the importance of social networking to business.

Childnet International website teaches Parents about the Internet to help keep Children safe online

Childnet International is a non-profit organization whose main objective is to keep children safe when using the Internet.

The open-ness and accessibility of the Internet by anyone from anywhere unfortunately means the Internet has become the hunting ground for those who prey on children.

One way in which children can be protected when using the Internet is adult supervision, however this doesn’t always happen since there are may parents who have very little experience of using the Internet and are not aware of how to keep their children away from the ‘dark alleys’.

This is where Childnet International steps in; Their web site is full of useful information for kids as well as parents and I highly recommend that anyone who has kids using the Internet check it out.

The Childnet International web site here

Retailers can Cash in using Social Networks

With the credit crunch truly making itself felt, retailers should be pulling out all the stops to get eyeballs on their products and making sales.

Gartner research found that UK retailers are missing a trick by not using Social Networking as a marketing tool. With social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo getting so much traffic retailers can advertise and market their products in innovative ways like Amazon US has done through the use of a Facebook application.

Read more about the Gartner report here and more about Amazon’s Social Networking strategy here

For the Serious Surfer: Firefox 3 has landed! 8 million downloads in 2 days!

Yep, Firefox 3 is here! The latest incarnation of the web browser sports many new and improved features; in true community spirit Mozilla have heard their customers and acted to create the most advanced web browser to date.

All this excitement may seem a little silly but after years of using the backward and cumbersome Internet Explorer, Firefox was a breath of very fresh, sweet air. Although Microsoft finally realized that they need to up their game in the browser wars their products, the latest of which is Internet Explorer version 7, are forever playing catch-up to the likes of Firefox and Opera.
The only 2 reasons I see that IE still has the major market share are a) Many web users are still unaware of the incredible browsing experience they can with Firefox and b) with Internet Explorer making up part of the Windows operating system, most corporates would prefer their users to run just the one browser, IE, to reduce support costs.

But Firefox is gaining ground on IE – in the two days that Firefox 3 has been available, it’s been downloaded over 8.5 million times (check out the download map here) hopefully giving it the coveted title of “most downloaded software in a day” by the Guinness Book of Records.

So, if you’re still a Internet Explorer user, I’d ask you to try something new and exciting; believe me, you won’t be going back to IE once you’ve had a taste of Firefox!

Oh, and check out the Firefox 3 Download certificatecertificate I got….

“My Site and Google” – What every web-site owner should know

It goes without saying that at the present time the most influential search engine on the web is Google and keeping that in mind there is some very important documentation the boffins at Google have created that every web-site owner should read and be aware of when having their web sites designed and built.

Written so a lay-person can easily understand it, with some help from their webmasters, the online documentation consists of the following main sections to help you optimize your site for Google:

  1. My site’s ranking in Google Search Results
  2. How Google crawls my site
  3. Creating a Google friendly site
  4. Preventing content from appearing in Google search results
  5. My mobile site in the Google  Index
  6. Information for Public Sector webmasters

and more can be found here

This is vital information if you want your site to be ranked as highly as possible in Google’s search engine results pages (serps).

Happy reading! 🙂

currentcodes.com Helps Save Money When Shopping Online

When shopping online, you’ll have noticed most if not all shopping carts have a “enter coupon code here” section before you checkout.

Many online retailers give out, for promotional reasons or otherwise, discount coupon codes to be used in just that spot.

currentcodes.com is a service that researches and maintains a database of discount coupon codes for 1,824 online stores!

To find a code for a particular store just search their database here and see what savings you can make when you’re shopping online!

Web 2.0 Awards by SEOmoz offers inspiration for new and existing Internet businesses

SEOmoz, a Search Engine Optimization specialist offers SEO tips and guidance through their web site at www.seomoz.org. They’ve also just released the results of their Web 2.0 Awards competition, the results of which can be found here.

What’s interesting and very useful for web entrepreneurs is that there are a lot of categories covered, each with 1st, 2nd and 3rd places, and a grading system for Usability, Usefulness, Social Aspects, User Interface & Design, and Content Quality.

The breakdown of 174 sites in 41 categories helps to drill down to sites that are similar to yours making it easy to compare and pinpoint what you should improve for your web site.

Check out the awards site at http://www.seomoz.org/web2.0

Joomla 1.5 or Joomla 1.015 – which version is better to use?

What version to use for a Joomla project is a question that requires some thought, primarily regarding the functionality you want your Joomla site to have.

Joomla 1.0x has been around since about April 2004, with the latest version 1.015 released on 22nd February 2008, and because of this it has a large number of extensions available to quickly add functionality to your Joomla site. The time has allowed the extensions to mature so that most versions will work as expected and can be tweaked to your particular needs without much to worry about.
The other advantage is that more likely than not what you may want to do with a particular extension will probably have been done by someone else with their trials and tribulations of the process recorded on one of the numerous Joomla forums.
This saves a lot of time and effort when implementing your processes, the very reason you’re probably using a framework like Joomla in the first place!

Joomla 1.5 Stable (Khepri) was released on 22nd January 2008 after a number of months in beta testing, and so it is really only a few months ‘old’. Although many Joomla-extension developers have made their v1.0x version extensions available to use in v1.5, I’ve found them to be a hit or miss affair, never really knowing which extension will actually work as expected.

A current project I’m working on requires a lot of functionality, most of it already available using existing extensions, and some of it will require custom extensions. The decision was made to downgrade to Joomla 1.015 so we could utilise existing extensions and find enough guidance and help, primarily through the use of forums, when it came to developing the custom extensions. The idea is to wait for Joomla 1.5 to mature a little before we make the move to the new codebase.

Driving Internet traffic to your web site – Timing is everything

There may be times that you’d like to drive massive traffic to your web site e.g. maybe your recent visitor statistics haven’t been as high as you’d like or you do see an opportunity to create some content for your site or blog that you know many readers will be interested in.

I’m always on the look-out for interesting ‘happening-now’ topics that I can use to drive traffic and one such successful topic was when Leon Jackson won the reality singing competition X-Factor in the UK in 2007. On the final televised show it was announced that Leon Jackson’s single would be available immediately as a download from his website leonjacksonmusic.com, as opposed to previous years where fans had to wait for the CDs to hit the shops a few days later.

This final show was on a Saturday night and it struck me the next morning, on Sunday, that this was the first time downloads were being sold to take advantage of the excitement generated by the finals show i.e. instant gratification for fans of Leon Jackson.

Anyway, I quickly wrote an article about that on this site on that Sunday morning (view it here) and because of the expediency with which I had got something related to what could arguably be called the UK’s hottest topic of the moment, this article page was viewed 211 times on that Sunday and went on to rack up a total of 858 page views of which 719 were unique page views!

The reason this one page saw so much traffic is that I was quick to get a hot topic on the site and because of that cynergise.com was listed number one on Google for the following 4 days for the search term ‘leonjacksonmusic.com’, beating the official site as well as the official X-factor web site and forums.

Timing is everything!

Why Startups Fail – A response by Jason Fried of 37Signals

Why Startups Fail is a blog post by David Feinleib at a venture capital company, one he wrote in response to an entrepreneur asking him “why do startups fail?” The post makes for great reading but even better and more insightful is the response by Jason Fried of 37 Signals, a highly successful startup turning over millions of dollars.

37 Signals started out as a web development agency but changed it’s business model by creating and releasing useful web-based applications available to users on a subscription basis. Now 37 Signals concentrates on refining their existing applications and creating new ones, the latest of which is their CRM (customer relationship manager) web application called Highrise.

The great thing about these 2 posts is that we get the opportunity to see this important question, “why startups fail”,  answered from 2 very different perspectives. I think there is merit in both approaches, depending on your particular business model.

Check them out here:

Run an online survey quick and fast with SurveyMonkey

A great tool that I’m getting more and more use out of is the online survey-manager web site SurveyMonkey.com

As any business person will tell you, “you need to know your market!” Common sense, no doubt, but how exactly does one go about gathering market information without paying oodles of cash to a research company?

Enter SurveyMonkey!

It says on the home page:

Intelligent survey software for primates of all species. SurveyMonkey has a single purpose: to enable anyone to create professional online surveys quickly and easily.

And this totally true – their easy-to-use system makes it possible to get your survey together in just a few minutes! The hard part is who to target and what to ask them! 🙂

Their pricing plan is 3 tiered starting at ‘free’ to $19.95 per month and lastly $200 for a year. Although the ‘free’ plan only allows up to 100 responses, it’s suitable for small surveys and a good way to get acquainted with the online software.

Try it out now at www.surveymonkey.com

2 Day Bootcamp for Business Startups

There are many challenges to face and overcome when starting up a business, from the administration to sales, marketing and PR.

O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures is sponsoring a Startup Camp to be held on the 10th and 11th of July this year for 6 to 8 startups that will be selected by June 20th from applicants.

Click here to read more about this great opportunity and how to apply…

What is Web 2.0?

What is Web 2.0?

This is a question I get asked a lot and unfortunately, as is typical with all things Internet, there is no true fixed definition.

User-generated-content (UGC) and Asynchronous Javascript and XML (AJAX) are just two of the terms that get bandied around when trying to nail down just what Web 2.0 is.

Recently a friend of mine, whilst preparing for a job interview, asked me about this and I thought I’d better do some research to give her the most comprehensive answer I could. Considering she landed the job, I think I did ok!

Here then is one of the best explanations I’ve found for the meaning of Web 2.0, even if it is already a year old…

What it means to be Web 2.0 by Satyajeet Singh

British Standards Institution produces a new Standard for web site development (PAS124)

As anyone who has had a web site designed and developed can tell you, the process, from the technology required to what exactly the designer and developer actually do, is hazy at best. For a business to determine the Return on Investment (ROI) is near enough impossible.

Web site design and development is almost an art form and coupled with the fact that the technology employed by web site designers and developers sees marked advancement practically on a monthly basis, it has been very hard to ‘regulate’ in any form.

However, the British Standards Institution has set out to do just that with the development of a set of best-practice guidelines called Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 124 to help businesses get a better understanding before they delve into the actively into the process.

Read more about PAS 124 here…

A Forgotten Market?

Does your website provide a provision to verify delivery addresses via the British Forces Post Office?

In today’s The Independant newspaper, a reader’s Letter to the Editor raises the point that the British Forces Post Office address system is different to the conventional UK postcode system.

Most, if not all, e-commerce websites have a postcode verification system used to ensure delivery is made to the correct physical address, however since the BFPO doesn’t use postcodes British service personnel cannot use these websites to purchase goods.
In a sense, this is discrimination, as much so as not taking into account the fact that the disabled may want to use your website and should be able to navigate it with ease, something addressed by the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.

We have gotten in touch with the BFPO to ask how best such sites can implement a workable solution and I’ll be sure to post their response when we receive it.

To learn more about the British Forces Post Office system click here…