9 quick and easy ways to acknowledge your online community

Are you a giver or a taker? Are you grateful for the people who support you? Do you thank them? Do you reciprocate in some way? Or do you just take?

I'm extremely grateful for every hit I get to my blog. Each comment makes me happy. Every "like" makes me giddy. When someone shares my posts via tweet, it makes me smile. I am thankful for each and every one of you and honored that you've chosen to spend your precious time reading what I've written. I don't take any of it for granted and am humbled that you're here.

If you're trying to develop your online network, remember that people have choices. They can choose to engage with you and your content, or they can ignore you. And if they decide to spend their time with you, how will you thank them?

Here are nine of my favorite ways to say thank you to your online network:
Acknowledge Comments: It's amazing to me how many bloggers ignore their readers and allow comments to land in a big black hole. If someone takes the time to comment, let them know that they've been heard.

Subscribe to YouTube Channels
: Regardless if you're an active YouTube user or not, find your friends' channels and subscribe to them. "Friends" are nice, but "subscribers" are better.

Tweet and Retweet
: Tweets are a quick and easy way to share the love. If someone has supported you, why not support them back and share their content via tweet?

Like Facebook Pages: Do the most active members of your online community have Facebook business pages? If so, throw them a "like". It's free and they'll appreciate it! (If I haven't liked your Facebook page yet, let me know!)

Follow Their Blogs: If someone follows your content, it's a nice gesture to follow theirs back. I've recently created a bundle in Google Reader and added the blogs of those who are most active on my site. Can you do the same? (To subscribe to my bundle, click HERE. If you're not on it, you probably don't have an RSS option for Google Reader. I tried to add several of you, but could only do so via Yahoo!. If I missed you and you have an RSS feed that works with Google Reader, let me know so I can add you!)

Sign up for Their e-Newsletters:  Does someone in your network write a weekly or monthly newsletter? Are they, perhaps, just getting started and want to grow their subscriber numbers? Sign up and chances are you'll be their new best friend!

Create a Special Twitter List
: Lists are a great way to acknowledge people. I recently created one called "My Favorite Blog Commenters" and add people to it who have been kind enough to comment on my posts (if I've missed you, let me know!). Can you create something similar to show people that you appreciate them?

Leave Comments on Other Blogs: If someone comments on your blog, return the favor by commenting on their blog. One good deed deserves another.

Write a Recommendation: If your online connection has developed into a more substantial business relationship, how about writing them a recommendation on LinkedIn? Who doesn't like it when someone says something nice about them, hmmm? 

What did I miss? How do you thank your online community? Let's hear it, my friends! (And, thank you all for your readership!)

How can your business attract more "virgins"?

Most consumers are resistant to change. They find a product, a restaurant, or a vendor that they like and then stand by them, shunning the new guy on the block. But, would people be willing to give the newbie a try if they could do it for free? That's what Southern California restaurant chain The Veggie Grill is hoping.

This week, The Veggie Grill sponsored a "Virgin Night". Anyone who's been to the restaurant before was invited to bring someone to the diner for dinner who hasn't eaten there before. The veteran pays for his/her meal and the "virgin" gets any entree they want for free! No strings attached.

The Veggie Grill has an amazing assortment of vegetarian and vegan fare. Veggie steak strip sandwiches and veggie crispy chicken, salads, wraps, and more. The food is delicious, but many folks are hesitant to try fake meat. Hence, the "virgin" promotion. (Interesting fact: According to VG's Twitter feed, about 90% of its customers are meat eaters!)

I'm a huge fan of The Veggie Grill, so I brought a friend in for Virgin Night. She was curious about the place, but would have never gone on her own. Well, after she indulged in the Santa Fe Crispy Chicken Sandwich she was hooked! All it took was the incentive to try the food for free and now she's excited about going back on her own to try the other burgers on the menu. Sure, The Veggie Grill took a loss on the meal, but its gained an excited new customer.

As you look at your business, is there something you can do to expose more people to your product or service? Are there potential customers out there who just need to see, touch, or taste what you have to offer to convince them how great you are? Think about it. Sometimes, you just need to put it all out there and take away any objections a potential customer could have.

Undoubtedly, The Veggie Grill acquired some new fans with its Virgin Night promotion. People who just needed to taste the food to believe the hype. Can you reach out to people in a similar way?

Could disgruntled soap opera fans become Hoover Vacuum's most loyal customers?

Soap operas are a dying genre, but many viewers are fiercely devoted. With the cancellation of "One Life to Live" and "All My Children", many people are mourning the loss of two staples of daytime television. In a rather unique PR move, however, Hoover Vacuums is giving soap fans a voice and yanking its ad money from the network.

In an open letter on its Facebook page, Hoover's Vice President of Marketing told fans of the show that the company would be pulling its advertising from ABC as of Friday (sooner, if possible). The letter went on to say that Hoover has created a special email account, savethesoaps@hoover.com, where everyone is invited to send their notes of support for the shows. Hoover will act as middleman, and then send all the emails to its contacts at ABC.

Is Hoover hoping the fiercely loyal fans of daytime TV will remember the company's support next time one of them needs to buy a vacuum? Does the VP just really love Susan Lucci's Erica Kane? Or, is this part of a greater effort to create a connection with new customers? Whatever it is, I think it's an intriguing move.

The wall of Hoover's Facebook page is covered with posts from people thanking the company for its stance. Will the company's following on Facebook grow because it's now broadened the conversation to a new audience? Yep! Will current Hoover owners who are outraged over the cancellation of their shows be more loyal to the company? I think so! Is Hoover onto to something here? I believe it is!

One of the things that makes companies successful when it comes to social media is finding out what its customers are concerned about. Do Hoover's customers want to know the best vacuum to get pet dander out of the carpet? For sure. But, just talking about vacuums all the time doesn't make for great social media. What does, however, is remembering that customers have other interests, too. And soaps, well, those are a big part of everyday life for many stay-at-home moms, seniors, college students, and other people who have dirty carpets!

Want to know how to do B2C social media right? This is a stellar example of a company that's creating loyalty, engaging with current and future customers, and redefining the conversation. You don't have to watch soaps to appreciate the effort here. Kudos to Hoover for not just broadcasting out its message about vacuums, but for also paying attention to what's on the minds of its customers.

* Hat tip to @PawPurrry and @CatsPolitics for tweeting out the letter about Hoover.

Are you a clueless customer?

Working for minimum wage sucks. It's even more of a challenge when you're working with the public for eight hours a day. Millions of people are working harder than ever and still not bringing in enough money to stay afloat. Not one of them? Lucky you! If you are, I have no doubt you appreciate courteous customers.

When I was in high school, one of my summer jobs was working at Hush Puppies shoes. Yeah, I know you're jealous, right? The store displayed one shoe of every style and when a customer wanted to try on a pair, we got a complete set in the right size from the back. For some reason, nearly every customer felt compelled to collect an armful of shoes as they walked about the store. Frequently, the person would then get distracted by the smell of Mrs. Fields cookies wafting across the mall and dump the pile of shoes on a table before they left.

Was it it my job to keep the store tidy and attractive? You betcha. Did I appreciate having to sort through an abandoned pile of shoes? Not so much.

The worst part was when someone would carry around one lone shoe and then set it down somewhere it didn't belong. Sometimes I'd have to scour the entire store just to find that one shoe. On occasion, the staff would have to join in the hunt to track down the missing high heel (yes, surprising, Hush Puppies carried some really cute heels and boots!). How hard would it have been for that customer to just put the shoe back where she found it? Or, if she didn't remember, just to give it to one of us?

No, my three months at Hush Puppies didn't scar me for life. And, no, I have not been holding on to this story all this time. I just thought it was a good illustration of how customers can mindlessly cause unnecessary work for employees. You know what I'm talking about. Rummaging through a pile of t-shirts and then leaving them all unfolded. Letting items fall to the floor and then leaving them there. Discarding your trash on display cases. Carrying around a perishable item and then shoving it in the magazine rack when you decide you no longer want it.

The federal minimum wage in the United States is just $7.25 an hour. No one's buying a McMansion on that kind of money. Many minimum wage jobs involve lots of standing, too. Standing at counters, machines, or just having to be on your feet. If you haven't ever stood for 8 hours; trust me, you feel it.

So, the next time you're at the mall, or the food court, or any other business that is staffed by minimum wage employees, take a moment to think about the work that's required to keep that store running. Think about the people. Is it their job to keep things nice for customers? You bet. Should they have to be your maid and clean up after the messes you leave behind? I really don't think so. Do you?

5 Twitter resources you're ignoring

There are lots of great ways to improve your Twitter experience. Unfortunately, lots of folks don't know they exist. So, today, let me share with you five Twitter resources you may be missing out on:

RSS Feed for Search
Did you know you can set up an RSS feed for keywords mentioned in tweets?
Go to Twitter's search page and put your search word or phrase into the box. This brings you to a page with all your query results. On the right nav bar there is an RSS icon that says "Feed for this query". Click it and then add that search to your My Yahoo! page. 

BONUS: You can also set up a search on Twitter directly. Go to the search box that's at the top of your profile or home page, and type in your keyword(s) and then hit search. Once your results are brought up, you can click the "Save this Search" on the top middle of the page. Going forward, you can see all your saved searches by going to the homepage > searches > and then selecting the appropriate search topic from the drop down box.

Using search is a great way to effectively monitor conversations about you or your product, or other news that's of interest to you!

For more on using search on Twitter, click HERE

Hope 140
Hope 140 is Twitter's effort to support philanthropy and nonprofits. It's a great way to promote causes and increase exposure for a charity that you work for or support. Learn more about it by clicking HERE

Blocking Yucky Lists
Most people think Twitter's block feature is merely to prevent creepy people from interacting you. However, there is a very handy and lesser known benefit to blocking.

If you find yourself put on a Twitter list you don't like and, for whatever reason, don't want to ask to be taken off it, you can block the person who created the list and you will be take off it. Then, if you choose, you can just refollow the person. And, no following the person again will not put you back on the list. Handy, huh?

Twitter has some great shortcuts and, for some reason, lots of folks don't know about this useful little feature. To find out shortcuts that will allow you to tweet, check messages, reply, etc, here's all you need to do.

Go to the Twitter homepage and on the right nav bar (at the bottom, right after your followers, trends, etc.), you'll see a dozen or so links in a very small font. Look for the one that says "shortcuts" and click it. A box will then pop up (as pictured below) that shows you all the Twitter shortcuts.

Fewer clicks to do what you want to do is always aces in my book!

Widgets and Buttons
Twitter has a variety of resources to help you promote your content through Twitter. First off, the site has its own tweet button that you can add to your website or blog. This is a great tool that allows your audience to share your content more easily (Notice that I have a tweet button on this post so you can tweet it to your followers if you like it! Hint, hint...). To get the tweet button, click HERE and follow the prompts.

BONUS: The Twitter Resources page also has Follow Me buttons, widgets to embed your Twitter feed onto your website/blog or publish it onto your Facebook wall, and Twitter logos and icons.
As you may already know, Twitter is my favorite social media platform. Therefore, it's my personal quest to share information with you to make your Twitter experience even more enjoyable! 

Any neat Twitter resources I missed? Chime in below and share them!

Cable TV gave me a potty mouth: Pop culture's influence on adults

People worry about the influence TV has on children. Forget kids, I'm worried about myself. This week I said $%^&#* for the first time in my entire life. I promptly followed it up with #&!+$%.

I generally don't curse much. However, in my defense, I think I know why I've started to talk like a trucker. I've been spending way too much time with Tony Soprano.

OK, yeah, I know The Sopranos has been off the air for years. But, I don't have HBO so I never saw the show in real time. I did, however, spend the last seven weeks watching all six seasons back to back. I had more than my fair share of murder, nudity, and profanity all condensed into a 50 day period. It was bound to have an impact, right?

Advocacy groups are always saying, "What about the children?" or "We have to protect kids!". Yeah, ok, that's true. But, frankly, thinking the provocative stuff on TV doesn't have an affect on adults is silly. I, for one, am far more impressionable than I realized!

Sure, grown-ups can make more educated decisions than minors, but being subjected to questionable language or behaviors can skew people's reality. Push the envelope far enough and extreme behavior can seem tame in comparison to something more outlandish.

The company we keep, the music we listen to, the TV shows and movies we watch shape us. How we perceive things, how we talk, and our sense of morality. Pop culture has squatter's rights in our brains and it knows no age boundaries. For better or worse, I'm apparently no different than a seven-year-old when it comes to picking up and repeating bad words.

Now, tell me what you &#@+$ think about all this, you #%&*@! In the meantime, I'm gonna go wash out my mouth with soap...

Facebook is a clocksucker

Facebook is a big black hole where time goes to die. Hop on for a sec and, before you know it, three hours have passed!

My very funny and talented friend, and occasional client, Elayne Boosler has taken her Facebook obsession to the next level, though. She's recorded a fab new song that captures the whole Facebook phenomenon. Done in fast-moving rap-style, I love how she's included the lyrics in the video via Facebook status updates.

Check it out below and, if you enjoy it, be sure to "like" Elayne on Facebook for more good stuff!

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