Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Promote Your Book Online the Offline Way – Part 2: The Virtual Book Tour

This is part 2 of a series of articles exploring new ways to promote your book or ebook using traditional venues adapted to the digital world. In part one, we explored adapting the use of publishing magazines articles to promote an upcoming or published book. In part 2, we look at another great classic of the publishing industry: The book tour.

Ah, the book tour. Aspiring writers dream about it. Seasoned writers often dread it (nothing is more ego-deflating that waiting for hours at an empty table while people walk by pretending not to see you). So why bother?

Well, although the book tour may seem dated in today's digital world, it is still a staple of the book publishing industry. Perhaps because it offers potential clients some of what Social Media excels at: a chance to interact with the author.

This allows them to put a human face to the book and to establish a connection – on a certain (if somewhat superficial) level – with the author. This connection creates an attachment to the author and although I have no data to back this up, I would advance that this attachment pays dividends down the line. People who have met an author are more likely to recommend the book to their friends and family (generating buzz) and to buy future books from the same author.

So how do we modernize the book tour to make it relevant to the digital age? Well, the beauty is that you can promote your book across the planet without incurring a dime in travel expenses.

In simple terms, this is how it would work: You will tour different sites/blogs and offer to answer comments/questions during a set period of time.

Now, if you search on the internet, you will find different variations and definitions of what a virtual book tour is. For some, it is simply having a presence on varying sites. Others equate it to guest blogging. These all lack, in my humble opinion, the key ingredient witch is the interaction aspect.

Here are some handy steps you may want to consider to make your tour more successful and productive:

  • First, if you have a publisher, let him know what you are planning to do. This is free publicity to them. They may even be willing to help by pitching in some $ for online advertizing and link to your blog from their main site

  • If you don’t have a publisher (if this is an ebook for example) or if your publisher is not interested in helping, then find some sponsors – sites willing to highlight your book tour on their sites and to follow you on your tour (i.e. link to whichever site you are touring on at a given moment)

  • Get some early reviews.
    -Send out your book to potential influencers in the subject your book is on and ask for reviews or comments.
    -Always be very polite and somewhat humble, especially if you are not already a star in that particular field.
    -Make sure to ask if you can quote them.
    Let them know about the book tour (they may want to help or even sponsor your tour).

  • Approach websites and blogs and pitch your book took to them.
    -Highlight the advantages to them (free content, visitor engagement, links to their site from your sponsors)
    -Highlight what you have done so far, if anything, to promote the book (include distribution stats, copies sold, links to online reviews or celebrities/experts who have supplied review/comments on your book)
    -Explain the process (how it will work, the duration of the tour, etc)
    -Use some of the tactics from Part 1 to make your offer more interesting

  • Put up a calendar of your “appearances” on your own site or blog. Allow enough time at each site so that a cross section of the site’s visitors can interact. Set up specific times (example, between 7:00 pm to 9:pm EST, December 15 to December 20) when you will be online responding to comments/questions. This is where you make connections

  • Prepare a blurb with links to you book tour that you can post on the social networking site where you already have a presence (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc). Be cautious, the line is fine between alerting your friends to your tour and spamming (and alienating) all of your connections.

  • Prepare material in advance for each “appearance”
    -A list of interesting sites that complement your subject
    -A list of experts that support your position
    -A list of any reviews you have gotten from the requests you sent out or from sites like Amazon
    -A blurb that describes the event (You are touring to promote your new book – Social Media for pets ) and that includes a link to where the participants can purchase the book
    -Short blurbs on different topics that you can post intermittently to invite visitors to comment or ask questions

  • Get a friend or to drop by one the day of your appearances in case no one asks any questions. You can supply them with the broad picture of what you would like to accomplish but don’t “plant” questions. This is meant as a measure to stimulate engagement in the event of a lull in the conversation – don’t try to fool visitors by creating a bunch of fake and obvious interaction. Fake always stinks and makes you look bad. People have to deal with too much that is fake already; they are searching for something genuine in their interactions with you.

A word of caution!
Virtual book tour services and book marketing experts are popping up all over the place. Many of these services charge thousands of dollars for what is essentially just getting you a few guest blog posts. If you do elect to go with one of these services, check them out thoroughly first. Ask for references and make them specify exactly what you can expect them to do to promote your book.

Some pioneers of virtual book tours:
-Angie Pedersen for her book The Book of US: A Guide to Scrapbooking about Relationships
-Rolf Potts – Marco polo didn’t go there
-Post2Post: A Virtual Book Tour of Jack’s Notebook

Interesting resources on the web:
BookTour – Where authors and audiences meet

And of course…
Promote Your Book Online the Offline Way – Part 1

If you have anything to add, any suggestions for your fellow writers, please add them in the comments!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Promote Your Book Online the Offline Way – Part 1

In the rush to find new and exciting ways to promote our books, let's not forget the tried-and-true. Inspired by Chris Brogan’s article, Promoting Your Book Online, a post by the way that got just about everybody in the blogosphere commenting on his blog, I devised this piece about adapting offline book promotion techniques to the online world.

In the olden days (pre-web), authors had limited personal means of promoting their books. Even if you did somehow get someone to publish your book, it didn't automatically imply that the publisher would spend a dime to promote it, the advertizing budget usually reserved for their award winning authors. So, authors had to become creative.

One way authors found to get some buzz for their books was to write practical, hard-hitting articles drawn from the content of their books and submit them to magazines and other publications. If readers found the information valuable, they would be tempted to buy the book to get the additional info. Publishing excerpts of your book in ebook format does a bit of the same thing but without one key element: endorsement!

In Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort, author Steven Van Yoder suggests you write and publish magazine articles in order to establish yourself as an expert in your field. This works because as far as readers are concerned, the magazine printing your article is de facto endorsing your expertise. In simpler terms, they published you so you must know what you are talking about!

This can still be done today, online, with a twist. You can guest-post on different blogs. Many big blogs are regularly seeking out new content. But in order for this to work, you should follow these simple rules.
(See pro-blogger tips)

1- Pic blogs that are relevant to your subject, not just because they are popular. Don’t approach a tech-review blog with a pitch for your new romance novel.
How to do this? You can start with Google Blog Search and search for the topic of your book or for the sub-topics you would like to do as blog posts. See who the players are and don’t just go for the biggies. Smaller blogs that seem to be posting less frequently might be more open to a guest post. Do the same on Technorari and cross reference your results so you can choose the best for you.

2- Try to pic topics that are hot at that moment
Go to StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, or Delicious. Look at what topics people are digging, stumbling, etc. Is there a chapter of your book that relates to any of these topics? Have a look at the national and international sections of top news sites. What is hot in the news right now? Is there a tie-in to your book? If so, it could make a great post. A blogger will be much more interested in your offer if there is a strong likelihood that your post will bring in a lot of traffic.

3-When approaching a blog, offer tailored pieces that will fit in with the blog’s usual content.
Even if you did steps 1 and 2 and have already located great blogs and the perfect topics, make sure that the tone and style of your post fits in with the rest of the content. Some blogs are all about controversy. Others very news slanted or factual or all about reviews. Don’t approach PerezHilton with a bland, factual piece. It just won’t fly! Taylor your piece to the style and tone and voice of the blog and you will increase your chances exponentially.

4-Offer your post for free!
It might be tempting to try to make a few extra dollars by selling the post but the goal here is publicity, not straight cash. If the blogger or blog owner offers payment, I would turn it down and suggest that if he/she would like me to write guest posts for them in the future, on requested topics, then we can negotiate proper remuneration but for now, it’s a freebee.
The object here is not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg but to feed her and get her squawking about your book!

5-Be ready to answer comments
Once you have posted the article, subscribe to the comment feed for that post and go and answer each comment. Try to provide value and a sense of connection – it can go a long way to convincing the commenter to buy your book. It will also serve to answer any negative comments that might pop-up. Remember that every commenter is a potential lifetime fan of your books.

6-Include a link to your book
This may seem overly obvious but it is often overlook the very obvious. Include a link to your site for more info, your contact information, and link to Amazon if the book is listed there.

7-Offer something that is only available to readers of that particular post.
This is very interesting for the blog owner and potentially for his/her readers. Offer to have a draw for a few signed copies of the book. You can even offer to dedicate it according to what the winner(s) put in their comments (an incitation to comment on the blog). Maybe you can even offer to pick the winners from “the best comment according to my 6 year old daughter (or son, or nephew, etc)” This will incite people to comment and will help build the connection with the reader by revealing a little bit of personal information about you.

8-Let the blog owner profit from referenced sales
I would even suggest to the blog owner that he/she become an Amazon Affiliate so that they can profit from anyone buying a book from the link on their site. Yes, here again, you might loose a few dollars in the short term but this might be enough to convince the blog owner to put you in their blogroll or to post a more permanent link (side menu for example) to your book on Amazon (if they are not an Amazon Associate already, you can suggest they sign up) and this in turn will mean long term revenues for you.

Also in this series: Promote Your Book Online the Offline Way – Part 2: The Virtual Book Tour

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Helping Bloggers get some exposure!

There is a great initiative going on to garner some attention for blogs with good content and low readership: How You Can Help End the Problem of Blogs With Great Content and No Readers

I have decided to take part in the initiative.

Disclaimer: I am adding this blog to the list of potential blogs that will merit the attention of this new community based on the fact that I have all of about 3 readers, one of which is my sister (hi sis!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Twitter Poetry: one account - many voices

Ok I admit it. I read and occasionally even write poetry.

Browsing the Web the other day, I happened upon a Haiku, a short form of poem from Japan. I immediately thought of Twitter and how it would be perfect for this type of short, very image laced poetry.

I went on Google to see if anyone had had the same idea. Of course they had! I found a few blogs where people had posted poetry they had created, and twittered.

So, the question became, how could all of the Twitter poetry lovers effectively share their creations? We could create a hash tag. Something like #poet3. But some people really, and I mean really hate hash tags. Then I remembered this post from Geek Thoughts Twitter Groups Done Right! (aka: I hate Hash Tags).

Taking their advice to heart, I created a Twitter account (Poet3) for the sole purpose of allowing all of the Twitter poets to share their poem posts. Everyone can now post to it by starting a tweet with an @Poet3 which will leave the post in your normal posting stream as well for your followers, or send a direct message which will only be accessible to those that want to follow the topic.

I mentioned the Haiku above but feel free to freeform your poetry if that's what you're into. I blogged a while back (See Twitter Stories no. 1) about the need for the community to come up with new uses for the medium and this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about. So hop on over to and start posting. Don’t forget to follow the Poet3 account if you want to see others posts.

Look forward to reading you on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Use Twitter to update your Facebook Status

Did you know you could use Facebook to update your Facebook status automatically?

It’s easy as one, two, three…four, five… Oh, just follow the bullet list below!

  • Log in to your Facebook account (If you don’t have one, why are you reading this?)

  • On the right, you should have the Applications tab, click “edit”

  • If Twitter isn’t in the list of applications, click on the “Browse more applications” button on the top right

  • Now, you can either click through endless pages looking for it or you can type “twitter” in the applications search box on the top right.

  • Twitter should be the first in the list (if not, check your spelling). Click on it.

  • Click on the “Go to application” button

  • Click on the “Allow” button

  • Enter your Twitter Username and Twitter Password in the appropriate text boxes and hit “Log In”

  • On the top right, you should have a long button that reads: Allow Twitter to Update Your Facebook Status. Well, what are you waiting for? Click on it!

  • Read the little text (or not) and click on the “Allow Status Updates” button

  • Just for the heck of it, go to twitter and post a message, then rush back to Facebook. You status message should be the same as your recent post. If it isn’t, go back to the top of this list and try to see where you screwed up.

If you liked this post, have a look at these other Twitter related articles from this blog:

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Twitter Story No. 1: Time well wasted!

It has been argued that Twitter is no more than a fun way to waste some time during the day - entertaining for sure, but with no real-life applications, and no business value.

The Ad Contrarian, in Twitters Never Win. Winners Never Twit stated in no uncertain terms that Twitter was a monumental waste of time (I won’t repeat the exact terms here because my nieces and nephews occasionally reads my posts and I don’t want them picking up this sort of language, at least not from me). He also states that his critique is based on the fact that he “tried” Twitter (for a total of 6 days).

I understand that Mr. Contrarian (if that is your real name!) generates most of his traffic by being overly obnoxious and in-your-face so as to goad people into linking to his blog, so I have purposely avoided doing so (you can easily find his blog if you really want to).

Thus was born Twitter Stories, a series of posts based on micro case studies of the use of Twitter in real-life and business situations. This post is the first in a series that I hope will show practical applications of Twitter by the folk who really and honestly use it.

Micro case study number 1: Mitch Joel vs the Airline

October 14, 2008,
Mitch Joel is waiting for a flight to Winnipeg where he is set to speak Personal Branding at a Power Within event.

At 6:53, he posts the following tweet:

need help: anyone know anyone who talks on the subject of Web 2.0 and Social Media and is based n Winnipeg? DM me details please :)

He does not get the tweetback he is looking for, so at 7:23 he posts a follow-up tweet:

really need your help. my flight is delayed. do you know anyone who can talk about online marketing in Winnipeg? Please DM me. It's urgent.

October 15, Mitch posts the following on Twitter:

Twitter & Facebook win! Was able to find Joel Parent who kept the crowd engaged while my flight was delayed. Managed to squeak in 40 mins.

Outcome: Twitter is a business contact and emergency services tool

This is the new business reality that Twitter and other Social Media offers to those who are willing to invest in it. And by invest, I mean take the time to develop ties to a broader community. It goes far beyond networking in the traditional sense. It not just a matter of collecting business cards and doing the occasional follow-up phone call. Here, two professionals who didn’t know each other beyond their social networks were able to come together and collaborate on a specific project. Mitch was able to reach out to someone, and to verify his qualifications to get the job done, primarily through Twitter and by extension, through Facebook.

Twitter, like other social media, is a tool and is only as good as the ties you have made and nourished and to the brand and the reputation you have built up. But for those who can use them properly, these new tool offer incredible new opportunities never seen before, many of which have yet to be discovered.

To know more about the story, read Mitch’s post Twitter For Business Works

If you have any such experiences you would like to share, please comment on this blog or email me at

Of course, you can also contact me via Twitter under: Alain_Lemay69

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Customize your Twitter Page - Update!

At Podcamp Montreal, Adele McAlear did a session on how to build and monitor your brand using Twitter.

One of her recommendations was to create a background image that displays your branding and whatever contact information you want to put right up front. She used Wayne Sutton's Twitter page and her own Twitter page as samples.

I was intrigued by this and did a little research.

Here are a few posts that describe different ways of creating a customized background for your Twitter page:

If you try any of these, please come back to this post and share your experience.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Don't make an Ass of U and Me!

OK, be forwarned. This is a rant! A full blown, mad as a hatter rant!

I bought a coffee cake. (keep reading, the righteous indignation is coming)

I was at the grocery store looking for a dessert to enjoy that evening with friends who were coming to dinner. I spotted a nice looking cake. It said Coffee Cake on the packaging. So I thought "Mmmm, I like cake and I know we all like coffee so a coffee cake would hit the spot just right". I was already salivating at the thought of bitting into that first moist and tender piece and have that delicious java flavour explode on my palate.

Well, on the fateful evening, I bit into a forkfull of cake only to discover tasted nothing like coffee. When I mentioned this to my friends, they all chuckled (as I am sure you are doing now) at my innocence. "Coffee cake doesn't have any coffee in it. It is to be eaten with coffee!" I was told. Well, perhaps it is because I am a francophone and had never had coffee cake but this made no sence to me. None at all!

So, for the record, I wish to state my case to the world: In the title of a cake, the first ingredient mentioned is supposed to be the main ingredient of the cake. Cheese cake is not a cake made to eat with cheese! Chocolate cake is not a vanilla cake made to eat with chocolate! Coffee cake is supposed to be a cake with coffee in it!!! These are basic rules of grammar we are dealing with here, rules without witch our society will descent into chaos and crumble! (crumble cake is ok though, because crumble is not an ingredient).

To support my point, I am including a long but not exhaustive list of cakes:

Caramel cake, Chocolate cake, cheesecake, strawberry shortcake (no shorts in there though), butter cake, fruitcake, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Rum cake, Three Milk cake, etc.

Exceptions to this rule:
  • Birthday cake (and all other "event" cakes like wedding cake, etc.)
  • Mooncakes (same deal)
  • Sponge cakes/pound cakes (which refer to the texture and consistency rather than to the ingredients)
  • Pancakes (which are not really cakes but a form of flatbread)
  • Angel cakes (I wouldn't expect them to be made with real angels, although that would be cool!)

Whew, that felt good!

But seriously, this whole thing reminded me that assumptions are dangerous things in the communications business.

You know the old saying (or do you???) : When You Assume, you make an “Ass” out of “U” and “Me”.

Whenever you are trying to communicate something, whether it is to market your brand, to promote yourself, or simply to inform or entertain your audience, don't assume that they understand your cliches, your sayings, your word plays, etc. This is especially true if you are adressing an international audience with a different cultural background or for whom the language you are writing in is not your audience's native language. On the web, this is increasingly likely.

So, what do you do? Write plain boring text that is painfully to the point? No, of course not. The fact is that expressions can add colour and emotion to a text and you don't want to eliminate those, but do use them sparingly. They will have greater effect this way.

Also, know your audience. This is much easyer if you are targeting a niche market or a specific group. Even then, try to ensure that your message is clear and can be understood even if someone doesn't understand your inside joke or the bon mot you just thought up. What's great about the Web is that is allows for built-in context so you can offer your readers a way to clarify specific content it if they need to (just as I did with the link above for "bon mot").

Communications, and especially persuasive communications, requires that your audience understands what you were trying to convey. This is true wether you are writing copy for a million dollar add or a simple blog post.

Well, I'm off. We're having Spotted dick pudding for dessert tonight. God I hope that's another exception...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Can you hear the whispers?

Imagine being in a crowd of millions and someone, somewhere, is whispering your name, talking about you or your business.

In the real world, this potential friend, or potential business lead, would be lost to you because there would be no way for you to find this person. Worse, you probably wouldn't even know about it. For an individual, it might meen that someone simply commented on their picture in Facebook. For a company, it might meen that a customer is praising, or trashing your campany name online for all to see.

The classic example is the case of the guy who realised he could open his supposedly inbreakable Kryptonyte bicycle lock with a simple bic pen. He filmed it and posted it on Youtube. It went viral with thousands upon thousands of people viewing it (Steve Rubel has an excellent post on his blog, Micro Persuasion, that outlines this story in greater detail). When the company heard about this video, they immediately...did nothing. It cost them dearly. Not only that but the video has inspired dozens more who are trying everything they can to see if they can break the lock - and are of course filming it and posting it to Youtube. I have seen multiple ways of opening this lock, from using a car jack, to sawing through it with a carbide rod.

I first saw this video in a presentation Mitch Joel gave at a big conference I attended for Government of Canada communicators. It was a real eye opener and spurred me on to learn more about monitoring your brand, in my case, my personal brand, online. Now, the purpose of this post is not to discuss the value of monitoring your name/brand online. Better men, and women, than me have discussed this topic at lenght. But knowing about the concept and seeing it in action are two different things. Sure, I have a Google alert account that sends me emails when something is posted somewhere about me, mostly by me :( , and from time to time I visit Technorati to confirm just how invisible my blogs are, but there is a hop and a leap from that to serious brand monitoring.

A little while ago, Mitch Joel posted a link on twitter asking for suggestions about online monitoring tools. On his blog, Six Pixels of Seperation, he listed the major free tools and asked if anyone knew of other ones. It just so happened that, that very week, I had read about a company called Radian6 that did just that, so I replied to Mitch via twitter. It was only a matter of hours before I had a tweet from the VP Marketing of Radian6 thanking me for my recommendation and offering to demo their product in more detail.

Wow! I must admit I was impressed. You have to understand that in terms of the Web, I am not well known. I am that whisper in the crowd and most would not strain the ear to hear what I have to say. But those who take their business seriously, the real pros, don't miss a beat. They know that every whisper is a potential client, or a potential lead to other clients, and in the business world of today, this can make all the difference in the world.

Knowing who is talking about you and what they are saying is not just a good-to-have, it is a must-have for anyone doing business and a should-have for everyone else.

Note: I am not affiliated in any way with Radian6, Google, Mitch Joel, or Steve Rubel, other than by the fact that I follow their (Mike's and Steve's) blogs regularly for those pearls of wisdom that help make me a better blogger and a better communicator. I have not been offered and do not expect to profit financially in any way from this posting.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Can you still tell the difference?

Yankee Doodle went to town,
A-Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni.

On the way to work this morning, I saw a bum walking by. He was wearing a baseball cap in which he had stuck a handfull of pigeon feathers to form a sort of crown or American Indian headdress. For the record, he didn't look American Indian.

Not sure what this means yet but thinking about it hurts my brain! I consider this a good thing. The day I see this kind of thing and it doesn't bother me, you can stick a fork in me 'cause I'll be done and done.

Here's a hint. If you can't tell the loons from the sane people anymore, its that you've crossed over into the loon camp!

Here's to Yankee Doodle

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Web 2.0 the Wrong Way!

I received an email the other day from a guy, a former neighbor, who has created a website for communities of practice aimed at a regional/municipal audience. This guy supposedly has an MBA in electronic business yet I was dumbstruck by his approach and his total and complete lack of understanding of the spirit of Web 2.0 technologies.

The first thing that made me shake my head was his claim that he is "reinventing the internet" with this site.
With online communities? He really thinks he is reinventing the Web? All hail the revolution!

Oh, but he had other brilliant insights in store for me. According to him, the reason the quality of exchanges are so poor on the internet is because everyone is anonymous on the web. So, his solution to this fundamental flaw of the internet is that no one can be anonymous on his site. Funny, I'm pretty sure most of the 118 000 000 bloggers out there sign their texts. And very few people on Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, and LinkedIn are anonymous as far as I can see.

I'm not sure why at this point but I actually visited his site. He said he has been working on it for 3 years now yet it still had "Beta Version" written at the top (whatever that means) and he only had two people signed up, one of them being himself. This might have to do with the 2$ sign up fee he is asking for up front.

Last but by far the most unsettling, his email included a "Confidentiality Clause" after his signature block that stated, amongst other things, that "It is strictly forbidden to copy, publish or distribute this email, in any shape or form." This is just an extract as the whole thing is six lines long. Not only did I find it personnaly offensive that, in a sollicitation email, he would presume to tell me what I can and can't do with his email, but it highlighted for me the fact that he understands NOTHING about Social Media. He has picked-up the technology, but he understands nothing about the philisophy.

I came across a great quote today while reading The Seven Lost Secrets of Success by Joe Vitale that really exemplified for me the spirit of Social Media.

"Exchange ideas frequently. If you and I exchange dollars we are no better off - each of us still has a dollar. If we exchange ideas we each have two ideas where we had one before. What you gave you have. What I got you did not lose. Share your ideas - you will not become poorer - both of you will be the richer for the mutual exchange." J.C. Penney, 1934!

Those who think that the web today is about hoarding your ideas so you can make a buck down the line understand nothing about the Web of today and the Web of tomorrow. In 1934, J.C. Penney vas a lone visionnary for thinking this way but for those trying to be part of the global community, this is a way of life.

The ones leading the pack understood this way before the rest of us did. Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, Bryan Eisenberg, Shel Holtz, Jeremiah Owyang, Andy Sernovitz, Kate Trgovac - they all have become highly successfull because they were willing to release control of their ideas and share their knowledge with the world. Sharing, instead of hording. Asking questions instead of just offering their own solutions. Engaging, instead of controlling. And THAT is the true spirit of Social Media.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Were morning radio jockeys the first bloggers?

I was shaving the other morning, listening to my local radio program as I do every day. As I listened to the Morning Hottub as the program is called, it occurred to me that what the guys and gals on air were doing was actually very similar to my own blogging.

Of course, the medium is different, but the similarities in what they do and what we as bloggers do are striking.

First off, we are both consuming information on a variety subjects, from a variety of sources, digesting it so to speak, and spitting it back out in a form that resonates with our audience.

Second, we get the information out to our audience first. In this case, I heard from them about Paul (sorry, Sir Paul) McCartney’s upcoming concert in Israel and about Matthew McConaughey’s dad dying while having sex long before I read it in my morning paper.

Third, we editorialise the content. Radio jockeys always have an opinion, a position on the subjects they discuss. If it’s a controversial position, all the better. In the same way, an interesting blog is one that is original and addresses a subject with a new, insightful perspective. And great bloggers aren’t afraid of a little controversy; quite the opposite, as long as it helps get our message across!

Finally, and this is perhaps the most important thing bloggers and radio jockeys have in common, we are both actively trying to engage our audience. Radio jockeys do it with phone-ins, contests, etc. Bloggers do it by asking questions and engaging readers through comments. That bond with your audience is what makes both a great radio personality AND a great blogger. Remember that the next time you listen to your morning radio show!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Facebook Hotties as a business training tool?

OK, I admit it. I don’t use Facebook only for business/networking purposes. I do play the occasional game. As a matter of fact, I have become fascinated by one of the applications available on Facebook called You’re a Hottie, and so should you!

Basically, you buy and sell hotties (other Facebook users) to make money and increase your Net Worth. It is quite addictive in itself but it has more to it than meets the eye.

In order to be successful, you need to be able to recognize a “good deal”, a hottie whose value you can increase and sell back at a profit. This means you have to understand the Hotties market, pick-up on buying and selling trends, and know when to buy and when to sell. You can check to see recent trades on any hottie of interest to help you decide if this hottie is indeed a hot property or simply overinflated.

You can increase your hotties value by petting them (groan) once every 24 hours, or by placing them in a manor. Manors increase the value of your hotties quickly but you have to buy the manors and incur maintenance fees that cut into your cash flow. But before you crank up the value of your hotties, you need to understand offer and demand for the Hotties market.

You have to judge how much you can increase the value of a particular hottie so that he/she will sell well on the market. If you don’t increase the value enough, you will make only a meagre profit on your investment. On the flip side, increase the value too much and the hottie in question could become unsellable, too expensive for the market. Another wrinkle - since the pictures are pulled from the user’s profiles, they change when the user changes his/her main picture. This means you also have to decide whether this picture is likely to stay for a while or change often. That hottie in a bikini could quickly become a shot of a baby, or of the family pet. All this to say that you are going to need to develop a buying/selling strategy, test it out, and make adjustments accordingly.

Marketing is very limited. You can offer your hotties for sale to other owners using a button and then, only once a day. You can also give them a nickname which basically provides you a space to put teaser text so others will want to buy your hottie. Since you only have about 12 characters of space, you need to write killer short copy. This alone is great business practice!

Is this application going to turn you into a cutting edge business man/woman? No. But it is a great mental exercise that will help keep you sharp and hone your business acumen. It will also help put you in the right state of mind. Opportunities come our way regularly - the trick is in recognizing those opportunities and seizing them when they present themselves. And that is how play becomes pay!

Tip: When considering buying a hottie, check to see if the present owner has bought this hottie more than once recently. This might mean he/she is emotionally attached to the hottie and will buy him/her back from you (a quick profit for you) if you buy the hottie from them. (Do check if they have sufficient funds to buy the hottie back though!)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Girl on the corner

In an age of rush-rush, digital media, reality tv (that’s never quite as real as they would have us believe) and get-the-most-bang-for-your-buck philosophy, the little things are often set aside in lieu of the “bigger picture”, little things like a friendly smile handed out with the morning paper.

On the corner of Wellington and Bank st. in downtown Ottawa, a young woman hands out free copies of Metro, a local daily newspaper. The young woman is pretty but that’s not what you notice – it’s the beaming smile that lights up her face like fireworks.

Now, before you assume that she is smiling at me for my rugged handsomeness and charm, you should know that she smiles at everyone, whether they take a newspaper from her or not. She hands out smiles like she hands out papers, freely and without expecting anything in return. And every morning, I wonder how she does it.

After all, her job is not glamorous by any means. And I can’t imagine it pays very well. Plus, it requires her to get up early and stand on a street corner for extended periods of time. And yet there she is, day in day out, rain or shine, offering a bit of free news to the hundreds of people who get off the bus on that corner, and so much more; more, I would think, that even she realises. It’s like your morning cup of coffee – it wakes you up and makes you feel good.

There is no moral to this story. A smile won't change the world but the little things do count. And on a dreary workday morning, her smile brings just that extra little bit of warmth that can make all the difference in your day.

It's a terrible thing to lose someone.

It's a terrible thing to lose someone. To know you will never again be able to touch them or hear their voice. It is painful and tragic. But a greater tragedy still waits for us down the road - when their memory starts to fade from our mind...

Maman (mama) Bédard was not family but she had been a part of my family's life since before I was born; since before my mother was born. She had been a friend of my grandmother for most of her life. When my parents went to work at their first jobs, she babysat me, as she had babysat my mother some 23 years before. Many of my early childhood memories are of her and of her house. I can remember looking on for hours at the drinking bird they had displayed in the kitchen. It was the most fascinating thing I had ever seen and I never tired of it.

Maman Bédard passed away some years ago. She had been sick for a long time so it was something of a relief to us that her suffering was over.

I thought about her the other day. I don't know what triggered it. A sound? A smell perhaps? All I know is that I felt a tightening in my stomach when I realised I couldn't call up her face clearly in my mind's eye. And I suddently felt very sad. She was slipping away. I was loosing her completely, slowly but surely. I could still recall her shining smile and the sparkle in her eyes when she laughed. But her nose? Ears? The colour of her eyes? It was as if I was trying to look at her reflection in a fogged up bathroom mirror and I couldn't see all of her face anymore. Closing my eyes, I could almost hear her voice. I knew I would recognize it if I heard it but I couldn't recall her saying my name.

As human beings, we have been blessed with a special gift. Long after we have lost something, or someone, in the physical world, we can still recall them in our mind. At first, it is often as vivid as if the person was right in front of us. And the greater the bond with this person, the easier it is to bring up the person in our mind's eye and the clearer the images we can recall. But this is an imperfect gift for no matter how much we cherished the person, their memory will eventually ebb away.

I know there will come a time when I will struggle to recall Maman Bédard's first name and that one day, her face will be completely gone. And on that day, I will shed a tear. But only one!

Because although her face may slip from my mind, the love that she gave me so freely and generously for so many years never will. The head may forget but the heart does not. Love does not fade. If anything, it grows with time and becomes part of you. I know now that Maman Bédard will always be with me and that her love for me is passed on everytime I treat children with the same kindness and respect she showed to me. Besides, to this day, I believe that she still watches over us. I think I might just have heard he laugh.