Archive for November, 2009

Here?s Hard Data for Headlines that Spread on Twitter

November 30, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://www.dysontech.com/1511/here%e2%80%99s-hard-data-for-headlines-that-spread-on-twitter/)

Twitter

Many bloggers already know that Twitter is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your blog.

When I talked to Guy Kawasaki about my book, he called the Tweetmeme Retweet button “the most important button on the web,” because of the enormous traffic-driving power it possesses. With one click, any of your readers can spread your post to hundreds or thousands of their followers.

As a marketer, I, of course, see this as an opportunity for optimization. When I see a powerful tool, my first impulse is to figure out how to make it even more powerful.

When you click that button, Tweetmeme grabs the title of the page it’s on, shortens the URL, and combines the two into a autofilled tweet for posting. Thus, the title of your post becomes the tweet that is shared with a potentially huge number of Twitter users.

If the importance of compelling headlines wasn’t painfully obvious before, it should be now.

Nearly 20% of all “normal” tweets contain a link, yet almost 70% of retweets do. Retweeting is the most common way links are shared on Twitter.

I’ve done research into various factors surrounding retweets and found a handful of factors that you may want to take into consideration when writing headlines for posts that you hope to share and spread on Twitter.

Use nouns and third-person verbs

image of a chart

When I looked at the parts of speech that occur in retweets versus those that occur in normal tweets, I found that retweets tend to be noun-heavy and use third-person verbs.

This pattern is reminiscent of newspaper headlines. Highly retweetable headlines talk about someone or something doing something.

A headline should never talk about all the things you did yesterday and how you did them, as past-tense verbs and adverbs both lead to far fewer retweets.

The most (and least) retweetable words

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The words that tend to occur more in retweets than in normal tweets are topped by the word “you.”

This means, whenever possible, you should talk directly to your readers. “Top” and “10″ also rank highly, showing that lists do well on Twitter. Not surprisingly, talking about social media and Twitter itself also helps.

image of a chart

On the other side of the coin are the least retweetable words. Random first-person verbs and details about your life, however fascinating you may find it, don’t get a ton of retweets.

Tell me something new

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I compared how common words in retweets are to how often these same common words appear in normal tweets, and found that rare and more novel words are highly retweetable.

When you’re writing your headlines, you should be striving to say something new that breaks through the clutter of everyday chatter.

Don’t be dumb

image of a chart

I expected to find that retweets were simple and required less intelligence to understand. But my data showed the opposite.

Using two readability metrics, I found that retweets often use longer, more complex words. So don’t try to “dumb down” your headlines for Twitter; users and power retweeters are smarter than you may think.

Stop talking about yourself

image of a chart

LIWC is a linguistic system designed to identify concepts in pieces of text.

The most striking thing I found when using LIWC to analyze retweets is that self reference does not get a lot of sharing.

In other words, don’t talk about yourself if you want Twitter traffic; talk about your readers.

If you’ve been in social media awhile, you probably already guessed that was the case — now you’ve got the data to back it up.

About the Author: Get more tips like this and learn about the full range of social media marketing platforms, tool, techniques and strategies from Dan Zarrella’s The Social Media Marketing Book, published by O’Reilly.


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Does Speech Recognition Software Really Work?

November 27, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/OxVCh)

image of a hands-free headset

One of my favorite posts from around the web last week came from our own Associate Editor Jon Morrow. He recorded a 20-minute video post for Problogger about how he works with speech recognition software to do all of his blogging.

I do an awful lot of writing every week, and I’ve been thinking about trying speech recognition out in order to speed up the process. But like most people, I was afraid it was going to be more trouble than it was worth to get it working.

Jon’s video made me realize how simple (and inexpensive) it will be for me to make it happen.

Because it was a pretty content-rich video, a lot of folks took a quick look and bookmarked it, thinking to come back to it when they had a little more time. So what better way to spend the Friday-after-a-holiday than eating leftover turkey sandwiches and watching a great how-to post?

(If you’re not in the States, you can re-create the effect by overeating wildly today or tonight, drinking just a little too much, pounding down four desserts, having three arguments with your extended family, and then watching the video tomorrow.)

The highlights of the video for me were:

  • The quick-to-install (and cheap) piece of hardware that lets the software actually understand what you’re saying.
  • Jon on video! Jon and I have spent a lot of time on the phone, so I’ve gotten to know him fairly well. Getting to hang out with him for a few minutes via video was great, he’s a fascinating guy with a lot to say. (The guy can say more with his eyebrows than most people can with a 100-item list post.)
  • The one-stop resource to find the right mic and hardware for your setup.
  • The live demo showing exactly how Jon uses the software to manage his business and blogs.
  • The comical notion that penny-pinching Jon will ever buy a Mac.

I recommend you check it out, I found it tremendously useful:

Speech Recognition for Bloggers: The Ultimate Guide

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.


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10 Things to Be Grateful For

November 26, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://www.dysontech.com/1509/10-things-to-be-grateful-for/)

image of a turkey dinner

I’ll admit it. I have a soft spot for Thanksgiving.

First, because it’s an excuse for me to bake for three days. (If you need a last-minute recipe for the world’s best chocolate cream pie, I’ve got you covered.)

And second, because it reminds me to quit grumbling and start noticing all of the amazing stuff I’ve got in my life.

Here’s my list of 10 things I would humbly recommend you add to your own “gratitude list” this year. They’ve done great things for my business and I think they’ll do great things for yours.

1. The crummy economy

I know, this seems weird. I’m not discounting the very serious and significant problems this has created for millions of people. One of whom might well be you.

But in cracking open the existing systems and shaking them like an ant farm, the horrible economy has also created some amazing opportunities.

If you think of the big companies as dinosaurs who’ve just been hit between the eyes with a gigantic meteor, remember that you’re the smart, agile, adaptable monkey who’s going to inherit the earth.

Frankly, the economy is going to suck for awhile no matter how you feel about it. So you might as well look for the angles that can benefit you.

2. The social web

Brian’s not a fan of this term, since of course everything about the web has always been social. It was built by humans, after all.

But there’s no question that a revolution in communication technology lets you be social with more people, more easily, over incredible geographic and cultural distances, with less friction than ever before.

Which means you can get the word out about what you do for hardly any money, with no special technical ability, to tens of thousands or even millions of people.

And that’s just cool.

3. The quality of free information

Stewart Brand didn’t just say “information wants to be free.” He also said, “information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable.”

What this boils down to is that a lot of smart people have put together great tips, techniques, and help for you to do just about anything. Very often, they start by selling that information at a hefty price tag, to those for whom it’s most valuable.

Then some time goes by, they keep developing their stuff, and they “move the free line” by giving away tremendously valuable information for free.

Yes, the free goodies take time to sift through. Yes, there’s a whole lot of junk.

But if you’re bootstrapping your project, you can spend a little more time and energy and find the answers you want.

Because the current ethos is “give away incredibly valuable stuff for free to build trust and rapport,” you can benefit from that.

You have to choose wisely, of course. Don’t spend your time watching or reading anything from people you don’t respect or relate to. But if you stick with the people your gut tells you are right for you, you can learn amazing things without spending a dime.

4. The quality of paid information

Because there’s so much excellent free material out there, it means that for people who are creating paid information products (membership sites, ebooks, home study courses, etc.), their stuff has to be top notch.

So when you find yourself crossing that line where you’ve got some spare money but not much spare time, you have increasingly excellent opportunities to educate yourself online.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re learning to fly fish, climb the corporate ladder, design gardens, potty train your kid, be a happier person, or even (yes) market your business online, there are terrific resources that will teach you to do that for a very reasonable fee. And you can access these courses from virtually anywhere on earth.

5. Twitter search

Companies have taken hundreds of millions of dollars in VC funding to build tools that “listen in” to the conversations buzzing around the Internet.

That’s fine, but you can do an amazing job of this for free by signing up for a Twitter account.

Too many people think Twitter is mostly about telling people what kind of sandwich they’re having for lunch today. But for smart business people, Twitter is mostly about listening.

Search Twitter for the kinds of phrases your customers tend to talk about. Maybe it’s low-carb dessert recipes or finding a karate school for their kids.

You’ll find out what they’re saying, what kind of language they use to talk about it, what bugs them and what delights them.

These are staggeringly useful things to know when you’re trying to market a product or service. And you can get it by spending maybe 6 or 7 minutes a day, for free.

6. Connections with incredible people

Whatever it is you like to blog or write about, there are amazingly cool people who like to blog and write about that, too.

They’re posting wonderful articles and interesting perspectives and asking fascinating questions. And you can get to know them just by writing about their stuff (with a link, of course), posting reasonably intelligent comments on their blog, and following them on Twitter.

The smart, funny, snarky, interesting, kind, and entirely wonderful people I’ve met by blogging have blown me away. And I’m always finding new folks. (That was true before I started writing for a “big blog,” by the way. In fact, it’s how I started writing for a big blog.)

7. Aweber

Aweber (www.aweber.com) is my email newsletter management tool. They do a great job getting mail into in-boxes (mostly because they hate spammers even worse than you do). They have useful tools, a fantastic how-to blog, an easy-to-understand interface, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

A great email autoresponder sequence is my single favorite marketing tool (above a blog, even), and Aweber is the tool I think is best for the job.

8. Backpack

37Signals is another company I think is terrific, and I would be toast without their Backpack product.

Backpack keeps everything I do in one spot. Half-written blog posts, GTD lists, my calendar, reference notes for client projects, wild-hair ideas for new ventures, gardening plans, checklists for things I’m building, even backups of the million ebooks and audio education products I buy.

For me, they have the exact right combination of flexibility and simplicity, at an excellent price. If it doesn’t fit into my Backpack, I can probably live without it.

9. My copywriting library

A lot of those “secrets of the internet money-getting zillionaires” came from books you can buy for $12 on Amazon.

You can’t make money unless you can persuade someone to pay attention to what you’ve got, and then build a case for its value. That’s copywriting. (It’s even copywriting if you’re doing it with video.)

Classics like Scientific Advertising and Tested Advertising Methods are joined by newer giants like Robert Cialdini’s Influence and Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing, and a handful of great web-based references like Gary Bencivenga’s Marketing Bullets.

Learning to write great persuasive copy is mostly a matter of studying the techniques (which don’t change much, because human nature doesn’t change) and then trying them out. There’s no “push button” service that will magically do it for you. But the truth is, it’s well within your ability. You just have to get out there and start trying it.

10. The Third Tribe

This was an idea that bubbled up on Copyblogger back in February, after we were asked the question “Whose side are you on?”

Brian and I talked about this question quite a bit, and realized that we definitely weren’t on the strict yellow-highlighter-squeeze-page side. But we weren’t on the “blog for 20 years before you dare to ask anyone for the sale” side either.

So we made up a third side. :)

Actually, it had been there all along, going back four years to when Brian first created this blog. But once you have a label, you find that you start to articulate what you’re doing more clearly.

That led directly to the brand-new Copyblogger email newsletter, which kicks off with a 20-part course on how to be an ethical, non-sleazy, relationship-based kumbaya blogger and still make a very nice living. If that sounds like something that would interest you, you can learn more about the newsletter here.

What’s on your list?

What are you grateful for this year? What do you think other readers would be grateful for if they knew more about it? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.


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Are You Getting Off Track With Your Readers?

November 24, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/twBfX)

image of an arrow going off track

I’ve been seeing something happen frequently among my fellow bloggers lately, but it’s most obvious to me when I receive offers to guest post on my blog.

Someone pitches me a great idea. Brilliant, in fact. An idea that interests me and one I feel will interest my readers as well. So I say yes. And the person writes the post and sends it to me. They’re excited, and I’m excited too.

The post begins well, and the opening is great. But as I read, something happens.

The writer makes a point that’s kind of tangentially related to the paragraph before, but not at all related to the point of the post as a whole.

The writer rides that tangent for a few paragraphs, then comes back on point.

All right, I’m back on track as a reader. Then . . . it goes off again.

You may not know you’ve gone off on a tangent

Even the very best writers go off on tangents without knowing it sometimes. But guest posts are really where you see tangents happening most often. And that’s because guest posts are where bloggers try to pull out their very best writing.

I know this from experience. When I guest post, I work hard to write a great post so that the blog owner offering me his platform (thank you, Brian) feels like he did the right thing by letting me in here.

Most of the guest posts submitted for my review have good grammar, a nice writing style, and a dash of humor.

They’re good. But no matter how good they are in all other respects, they very often still go off on tangents. And the writers appear to have no idea it happened.

The most likely culprit for tangents

I’m most likely to go off on tangents when I feel strongly about the topic I’m writing on. Passion is great in writing, but sometimes I have so much to say that I try to cram everything in there — whether or not it really fits.

For example, I recently wrote a post about something that angered me in the blogging community. The original post was about five pages long. In Arial 10. Single-spaced.

I asked a friend to look it over and point out all the places where I had gone off on angles that were unrelated to my original point.

She wound up taking three pages out of the article.

I had no idea those tangents weren’t related to the point, because I was so fired up and passionate about what I wanted to say that everything I had to say seemed relevant.

This meant that half the time, what I wrote didn’t really relate back to my original point at all. It took off in so many directions that the integrity of the argument was completely lost.

And it made the whole post very confusing to the reader, because no one could figure out the main thrust of what I wanted to say.

How to tell if you’ve gone off on a tangent

I highly recommend asking another person to read what you’ve written when you feel excited or strongly about a topic. You’re not asking them to edit your work; you’re asking them to see if you stayed on track.

Someone with fresh eyes and a fresh mind will be much better able to point out paragraphs that seem unrelated to your post. When they point them out to you, you have two options: take out the paragraph (and possibly save it as the start of another post), or re-write it so it refers back to your original point.

Then double-check with your reader to be sure you did that effectively.

If you’re editing your own work, play this little game: Look at your original topic, which is usually in the first paragraph or two of your post. For this article, my original topic is “are you going off on tangents?” The related points are “you may not know you’re doing it,” “what’s probably making you go off on tangents,” and “how to find and fix tangents.”

Check each paragraph. If every point relates back to the original topic and you can clearly see how you have linked the two, you’re golden.

If not, you’ve probably gone a little off-track. No problem — just rewrite your paragraph so it’s more on-point.

Or, realize that the point wasn’t related at all. It was just a tangent, because you were upset or excited. In this case, take it out and let it go.

What about you? Have you ever caught yourself going off track? What were you writing about at the time?

About the Author: For more great tangents that go wildly off topic but always help you get ahead in your freelance career, check out James’ blog at Men with Pens. Like to stay right on track? Click here to sign up for the Men with Pens RSS feed.


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The Eminem Guide to Becoming a Writing and Marketing Machine

November 23, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://www.dysontech.com/1505/the-eminem-guide-to-becoming-a-writing-and-marketing-machine/)

image of the rapper Emineml

Ten years back, my soon-to-be wife, Cindy, and I first noticed the bombarding beat for Marshall Mather’s “My Name Is.”

“What an ass,” I said as the two of us sat to watch the Grammies a year later. “It’s sad he can sell so many records just by being vile. Really, how much talent can that possibly take?”

“Have you heard the record?” Cindy asked.

“No,” I admitted. “But I’ve heard enough to know he’s an ass.”

She pursed her lips in silence as I stuttered through a series of half-articulated examples — the criticisms of others slipping through the filter of my voice. Unlike me, she was withholding judgment of the music until she’d heard more of it.

“You know if you listen to the album you’ll be a lot more entitled to an opinion, right?”

My wife has taught me, and continues to teach me, more than anyone else.

The next day I bought the Slim Shady LP along with the newly minted Marshall Mathers album. I then spent the next few months in a new sort of aural awe.

I’m not sure what my expectations were, but they certainly weren’t to meet a man who would murder my preconceptions of the alphabet.

Though I’ve always been drawn to great lyricists and songwriters, I’d never heard anyone able to effectively indulge satire, rage, sorrow, shame, guilt, regret, power, passion, loneliness, bravado, stupidity, genius, leadership, idiocy, misogyny, sympathy and, believe it or not, tender compassion. And Eminem was doing it in a stream of pentameter that would, I’m certain, cause William Shakespeare to shudder.

Plus, the dude is a brilliant storyteller.

Marshall Mathers is a lyrical sniper with a shotgun, and vents more in a few hundred words than many are able to effectively communicate in pages of copy. When I listen to an Eminem record, I’m hearing a man who cares about every single syllable and the exact tone of its delivery.

This isn’t to say all his songs are good. In fact, each album has a handful of songs I find both repugnant and unendurable. Yet they are always peppered against gems of absolute genius.

Eminem is a complicated artist, and could easily provoke pages of arguments on his positives, negatives and overall impact on our culture for better or worse. But as a writer and marketer, few can touch what he’s managed to accomplish.

Meaning that if we pay attention, there’s plenty to learn.

What Eminem can teach you about writing

1) Write and read all you can

Marshall started writing while just a child, constantly sanding the rough edges of his craft, knowing without doubt that the only thing that would get him out of the trailer park and into a better life was furious effort and endless practice.

Marshall familiarized himself with the greats until storytelling was as natural as drawing breath. He may have started by imitating the pioneers who came before him, but Eminem soon blended their legacy into his own brew that was like nothing else.

2) Edit ruthlessly

Eminem’s best tracks harbor some of the tightest writing I’ve seen in any medium. One has to wonder just how long he spends on each song, considering how securely each syllable is cemented in place.

Not only can Em craft a compelling argument in prose, he can also structure it in a way that would dazzle Dr. Suess, not only by rhyming words that shouldn’t rhyme, but by packing more poetry into a verse than should be technically possible. Only fastidious editing can pull the written word so taut.

3) Write what you know

One of the things that makes Eminem so polarizing is that his message flies from mind to mic with only the thinnest filter in between. Listening to his music is like tuning into a live therapy session that would make Tony Soprano seem stable by comparison. It’s easy to believe that Marshall is speaking directly from his heart and unique set of experiences.

4) Start strong and finish stronger

The best of Em’s songs achieve something rare in commercially produced music — they realize a powerful climax prior to their conclusion. Many of Marshall’s songs are written as arguments, and it’s usually in his third verse when he drives his point home, often with a lyrical sledgehammer.

5) Be concise and use powerful sentences

Marshall pares his arguments down to the marrow. His intuitive sense of flow allows him to seamlessly drift from the measured cadence of ordinary speech to an unrivaled intensity of verse, but it is always the power of his writing which enables him to drive his point home with such precision.

What Eminem can teach you about marketing

Eminem is a terrific writer, but if he wasn’t also a natural marketer, he might very well be still living on the wrong side of 8 Mile.

1) Put yourself out there

Be tireless and undaunted. Marshall paid his dues in underground clubs as the only white boy to step up and take the mic.

I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed. I been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage. But I kept rhyming and stepwritin the next cypher, best believe somebody’s paying the pied piper . . .

Em knew that no one was about to hand him anything. If he wanted his voice heard, it was his job to spread it.

2) Be extreme

Try speaking to everyone and you end up speaking to no one.

As Sonia recently pointed out, Jenny Lawson and Naomi Dunford aren’t for everyone, but those who love them, really, really LOVE them.

See I’m a poet to some, a regular modern day Shakespeare, Jesus Christ the King of these Latter Day Saints here. To shatter the picture in which of that as they paint me, as a monger of hate and Satan — a scatter-brained atheist. But that ain’t the case, see it’s a matter of taste. We as a people decide if Shady’s as bad as they say he is. Or is he the latter — a gateway to escape? Media scapegoat, who they can be mad at today . . .

3) Tell a story

Build a backstory that is unique to you and you’ll develop a following that can belong to no one else.

Marshall’s storytelling was evident in his first LP, but he cemented his place as a teller of unforgettable tales in the second album, most notably with the song Stan, which tells the story of a crazed fan who does double duty in the song as a doppleganger for Marshall. Eminem used this narrative as both a means of self reflection and as a response to the many critics questioning the cultural impact of his music.

4) Experiment

Eminem’s music is crammed with experimentation. From the simple lo-fi beats of his earliest work to the wicked carnival rhythms which characterized his partnership with Dr. Dre, and all the loopy meters in between, it’s easy to imagine that Marshall isn’t happy unless he’s trying something new.

Not every experiment works, but at least he’s willing to play in the lab.

5) Address objections

A big rule of marketing is to address audience objections before the audience does.

Eminem has a history, going all the way back to his first major release, of addressing critics head on without flinching.

How many retards’ll listen to me and run up in the school shooting when they’re pissed at a teach-er, her, him, is it you is it them? ‘Wasn’t me, Slim Shady said to do it again!’ Damn! How much damage can you do with a pen? Man, I’m just as %#&@#! up as you woulda been if you woulda been, in my shoes, who woulda thought, Slim Shady would be something that you woulda bought?

Marshall Mathers is complicated and undeniably controversial, and though his critics would correctly point out that his music is filled with hate and vitriol, few of them seem to acknowledge that he is also manipulating his own material, taking his arguments to such ridiculous extremes that he turns them into farce.

Love him or hate him, the man known as Eminem has proven that he’s an important force in both modern music and culture. You don’t have to like his lyrics or his message to learn something from him. I’m grateful for the day my wife wondered out loud if I really knew what I was talking about.

About the Author: Sean Platt is a direct response copywriter and independent publisher. Follow him on Twitter.


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Ripping Apart The ?Prevention? Example Sales Letter (Part 1)

November 23, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/RjoEi)

Last post I shared with you a PDF file called The Greatest Sales Letters Of All Time, edited by John Jantsch. (You can download it here if you haven’t already done so.)

Today, let’s go through one of the sales letters, to see why it worked so well. The one I’d like to review is Sales Letter #5, which sells a subscription to Prevention magazine. (This, by the way, is a direct mail letter that was actually mailed out.)

The first thing that immediately stands out to me is that…

There is no headline. The letter assumes it already has the reader’s attention, by virtue of the fact that they are reading the letter. This probably works best for a physical letter, because if you’ve already opened the envelope, you’ve already made a commitment to yourself to at least look at the letter.

Notice also the friendly, personal tone. It’s written almost like one friend writing to another, and it ends with a signature from the writer, Sandy Gibb.

It begins by immediately telling a story, which is something we humans like to hear.

What I liked about the story is that, while Sandy Gibb highlighted the wisdom of her grandmother (in recommending only the healthy stuff), she was quick to deal with the mental objection that “grandmother was hopelessly out of date” – by recalling back to how healthy they were back then, compared to what was happening with food and chemicals in the present time.

Notice also how Sandy’s observations are sufficiently vague, to allow readers to recall their own specific examples. For example…

I was stunned by the number of foods that were almost completely “fake” – most of the good things had been taken out and chemical substitutes put in.

By making it Sandy’s observation, it becomes a fact that can’t be disputed. We could perhaps dispute the nature of Sandy’s observation, but we can’t dispute that Sandy was “stunned” by her observation.

The next sentence builds upon this, and makes it an indisputable fact:

You read about threats and dangers to your health like these every day. In almost every newspaper and magazine you open.

So by this point, it is assumed the reader accepts that there are “threats” and “dangers” to their health – the problem has been explained (and hopefully accepted), and now they are in a better position to accept the solution.

In Part 2 we’ll examine how the solution is presented, in such a way as to build desire for the product. You won’t want to miss it, so make sure you’re signed up to receive free updates to this CopySnips blog.

Live-blogging the Google Chrome OS event

November 19, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/Qw7Uu)

I’m sitting in a room at Google waiting to hear more about Google Chrome OS. You can watch the webcast along with me if you like.

For starters, here’s what Google announced about Chrome OS back in July. At that time, Google called out “speed, simplicity and security” as the key ideas behind Chrome OS. Google released Chrome a little over a year ago with a novel idea–a comic book to describe the features and design decisions behind Chrome.

Looks like Danny Sullivan is live blogging too.

Google OS just noticed that the source code for Chrome OS is available. (Maybe they’ll call the open version “Chromium OS”?)

Sundar Pichai (a Vice President of Product Management at Google) is talking about the progress of Google Chrome over the last year, and the progress of HTML5 as well. Pichai notes some large-scale trends:
– Netbooks are becoming more popular.
– Hundreds of millions of users are living in the cloud. [Yup, I went Microsoft-free as a challenge and I haven’t looked back. I do almost everything I need to do in a browser.]
– Innovation in computing devices. For example, phones are getting smarter and more capable–more like mini-computers.

MG Siegler is live-blogging over on TechCrunch.

Every application in Chrome OS is a web application. Sundar Pichai repeated this for emphasis. That means “don’t expect to be able to run .exe files.” :)

Pichai emphasizes that Speed, Simplicity, and Security are the pillars of Chrome OS:
– Speed: the goal is that boot and execution is blazingly fast. The OS currently boots in 7 seconds.
– Simplicity: the browser is the front-end. If you can run a browser, you should be able to use Chrome OS.
– Security: no code is installed on the system, so detecting malicious processes is easier.

Demo time! 7 seconds to boot. Ooh, they’ve been running the demo on a Chrome OS machine. :) The UI is still in flux (final machines might not appear for a year).

Chrome OS looks very much like Chrome. There’s an extra pinned tab on the left-hand side to open web applications.

How to Persuade People to Accept an ?Unfair? Offer

November 19, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/hXOyu)

image of two goldfish

Ever heard of Charley Hill? He seemed like an average, ordinary guy.

He lived in a mid-sized town with his wife, two children, and a dog. He went to church on Sunday, coached Little League, and drove a pickup truck. He was friendly but quiet, the sort of guy you could walk by on the street without noticing.

But appearances can be deceiving. Charley Hill was one of the most successful farm equipment salesmen in the Midwest. People would travel hundreds of miles to see Charley, even when there were plenty of dealers much closer to home.

What did Charley have that other salesmen didn’t? Not a thing.

He sold the same equipment as everyone else. Carried the same parts. Provided the same service. Yet his sales were typically two or three times that of similar-sized dealers. The reason?

Charley Hill didn’t believe in “fair” offers

Every customer went home, shaking his head, thinking that good old Charley was the most unfair salesman they had ever dealt with.

But they thought it was Charlie who was getting the raw end of the deal.

Charley didn’t cheat his customers — no, quite the opposite. He simply made offers that were so compelling, and seemed so skewed in his customers’ favor, people just couldn’t say no.

What is a “fair” offer, anyway? A reasonable price? There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s nothing very exciting about it either.

An “unfair” offer, on the other hand, is very exciting. It’s a deal that makes customers feel as if they’re getting far more value than what they’re paying for. It’s an arrangement that makes a purchase seem irresistible, easy, and free of risk.

How do you make an unfair offer?

First, let’s consider what an offer is. The most basic offer is simply “Here’s something I’m selling and this is what you have to pay.” But an offer can be so much more.

Consider some of the other elements that could go into an offer, such as:

  • The unit of sale (each? two for? set?)
  • Optional features (personalization? e-book or hardcopy?)
  • Presentation of price ($40 or $39.99? $12 a month or 40 cents a day?)
  • Terms (credit card? delayed billing? installments?)
  • Incentives (free gifts? discounts? contests?)
  • Guarantee (money-back? buy-back? refund unused portion?)
  • Trial period (30 days? 60 days? 90 days?)
  • Time or quantity limit (respond before date? reply in 10 days? only 500 available?)
  • Shipping and handling (extra or included?)
  • Future obligations (buy 3 more in 6 months? no obligation?)

Once you have an idea of the parts that make up your offer, you can improve each one-by-one. For example, let’s say you’re selling an e-book on your blog and your price is $30. Here’s a breakdown of the possible elements of your offer:

Unit of sale: 1
Optional features: none
Presentation of price: $30
Terms: credit card payment
Incentives: none
Guarantee: none
Trial period: none
Time or quantity limit: none
Shipping and handling: none
Future obligations: none

So basically, you offer an e-book for a flat $30 and you want payment upfront. That’s it.

If you’ve built up the benefits of your book, it seems like a fair offer. But how could you turn this into an unfair offer? Let’s look at each element.

Unit of Sale

You’re selling one e-book. Okay, makes sense for most individuals. Though if your market is business or government, you could offer a lower price for a higher unit of sale, say 10 for $250. This works even better if you’re selling physical items.

Optional Features

Many people prefer books in hard copy. A hard copy also seems more valuable because it’s a physical object rather than just an electronic file. In fact, many people print e-books to make them easier to read.

So you might offer a printed version for $10 more. Perhaps the printed version could have an extra chapter or bonus features. Once you have a finished book design, hard copies can be relatively simple with print-on-demand services, such as Lulu.

Presentation of Price

You’ve done your research and found that $30 is a good price for the type of e-book you’re selling, but you could use a “price break” to make the cost appear smaller. You can present this price as $29.99 or $29.97 or $29.95.

It costs you only a few pennies, but transforms a thirty-dollar price tag into what feels like a twenty-something price tag. For simplicity, you could even set the price at a flat $29.

Terms

There’s nothing wrong with accepting credit cards. But you could also accept PayPal. And as odd as it may seem, some people don’t like to use credit cards or Paypal and prefer to send a physical check.

I work with a political organization that sells products online and we always allow payment by check for the small percentage of people who feel more comfortable with that. It is more time-consuming, so you would have to evaluate whether it’s cost-effective for you. With many online businesses it’s not practical.

Incentives

Here’s where you can really pump up your offer. You can offer a free gift or bonus (or two or three) with each sale. This might be other e-books you already have or sections that you pull out of the main e-book. Offering a 100-page e-book with a 20-page free bonus is more attractive than offering a 120-page e-book.

You could also offer special discounts, such as $10 off for the first 4 weeks of your promotion, then raise the price later.

Guarantee

Here’s another great way to strengthen your offer. Remember that people don’t know what they’re getting until they get it. They’ve been ripped off before and have doubts any time they buy something sight unseen.

You could offer a 30-day money back guarantee to assure them that you’re honest and stand behind what you sell. Better yet, a 60-day or 90-day guarantee. It may seem counterintuitive, but the longer the guarantee, the less likely people are to return something.

Trial Period

If you’ve promoted your e-book as a “system,” such as how to build blog traffic step-by-step, you could turn your guarantee into a risk-free trial.

Try my blog traffic-building system risk-free for 3 months. If you’re not satisfied with the results, I’ll refund your money no questions asked.

Time or Quantity Limit

Quantity limits work for physical items. “Hurry. Quantities are limited.” Time limits work for anything. “It’s available only for the next 19 days.” A time limit forces an immediate decision and increases sales.

If you don’t want to set a limit on your e-book, you could set a limit on a bonus. “Order in the next week and get the bonus e-book free.”

Shipping and Handling

For an e-book, there is no shipping and handling. But if you choose to offer a hard copy or physical item, it is acceptable to add a reasonable amount to cover your shipping costs.

You could also offer free shipping as a bonus offer, which is popular for online sales. By the way, most cities have one or more “fulfillment” businesses who will package and ship your items for a small fee.

Future Obligations

Book clubs sometimes offer special low prices on an initial purchase if you agree to make future purchases at the regular price. “Get 3 books for 3 bucks. Order 5 more books later for our regular low price.”

I’ve not seen this offer used with e-books, since there’s a chance you could get ripped off by your customers. But for the right audience, it could work.

Okay, so let’s pretend your e-book is called “The Magic Blog Traffic Building System.” Here is your original “fair” offer:

Order The Magic Blog Traffic Building System for $30

A little boring, huh? Now let’s compare that to this “unfair” offer using some of the elements above:

Try The Magic Blog Traffic Building System risk-free for 90 days. Your satisfaction is guaranteed. If your blog doesn’t explode with traffic, return the book for a full refund, no questions asked. Order in the next 30 days and pay just $19 ($29 after March 15) PLUS get 3 FREE BONUS reports: 9 Ways to Boost Blog Traffic with E-mail, Blog Design Secrets that Make Visitors Come Back, and The Lazy Blogger’s Way to Create Popular Posts.

How could you turn down an offer like that? It’s so good, it actually appears “unfair” to the person selling you the e-book.

“How could anyone make money asking so little and giving me so much?” That’s the impression you want to create. And that’s what can turn a boring “fair” offer into an exciting “unfair” offer.

Old Charley Hill came before the Internet and wouldn’t know a blog from a bullfrog. But he understood the idea that customers come first. When you make people feel you’re giving them more than you’re getting in return, you make sales. Lots and lots of sales.

Want learn more about putting together killer offers, and presenting them in the most compelling fashion? Subscribe to Internet Marketing for Smart People, the Copyblogger email newsletter. It’s some of our best stuff, no junk, no fluff, and no charge. Hey, that’s a great offer!

About the Author: Dean Rieck is one of America’s top freelance copywriters and publisher of the Direct Creative Blog and Pro Copy Tips, a blog that provides copywriting tips for professional copywriters.


Thesis Theme for WordPress

Free Report: How to Become a Creative Entrepreneur

November 18, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/UaxeV)

...focus on doing remarkable things

I’ve written another piece of extended content, this time for Lateral Action. Rather than sending you over there, I’ll just tell you about it here.

It’s a free 31-page PDF report (don’t worry, it reads fast) called The Lateral Action Guide to Becoming a Creative Entrepreneur. It’s probably the most personal I’ve gotten about my history, but it’s still heavy on actionable, real-life examples.

Here’s what you’ll discover:

  • Why I quit my cushy law firm job and turned to online publishing.
  • How I failed miserably.
  • How I then succeeded miserably.
  • How I learned my lesson the hard way.
  • The allure of the global microbrand.
  • The rise of the “feeder” business.
  • Why small is beautiful (and powerful).
  • The 37signals approach to market research.
  • Real-life examples of creative entrepreneurs.

Plus, a deeper examination of the 5 critical components of creative entrepreneurship:

  • Create (Don’t Compete)
  • Lead (Don’t Manage)
  • Communicate (Don’t be Shy)
  • Automate (Don’t Duplicate)
  • Accelerate (Don’t Stand Still)

This report is totally free . . . you don’t even have to provide an email address.

Click here to download the PDF.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and co-founder of DIY Themes, creator of the innovative Thesis Theme for WordPress. Get more from Brian on Twitter.


Thesis Theme for WordPress

State of the Index, November 2009

November 18, 2009

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/tykqE)

Last week I was in Las Vegas for PubCon, a conference for publishers, and I wanted to share the slides from my main presentation:

When I get a chance, I’ll also re-create the talk on video and share the video with you, but in the mean time Lisa Barone did a nice live write-up and coverage of the Q&A.

It’s always nice to see SEOs and webmasters that I’ve gotten to know from search conferences. For example, one night featured the traditional SEO Werewolf game, except with blackhats as the werewolves and whitehats as the villagers. Somehow in the middle of that party, we decided that if someone submitted a spam site during my site review session, I could shave Evan Fishkin’s head.

Sure enough, someone submitted a spammy site for review, and you can view the resulting haircut in this image gallery. Afterwards, I asked if anyone else wanted their head shaved, and Nelson James volunteered. I shaved hair while people asked questions, and it was a lot of fun:

PubCon haircuts!

Thanks to Brian Ussery for taking these pictures. :)