Google Alerts for Small Business Entrepreneurs

July 14, 2009

logo_betaGoogle Alerts are a great way to stay up on news on any topic that might interest you.  What a Google Alert does is take any new blog posts, news articles, or web pages that mention a word or phrase of your choice, and email it to you directly.

For example, I receive daily emails on anything new for “Zach Heller“, “Be Innovation“, and “innovation blog“.  This helps me keep track of topics that I am interested in writing about, as well as stay up to date on anything the web has to say about me.

For entrepreneurs, these alerts can help you keep track of any new updates in your industry, anyone speaking about your company, or any deals your competitors may be offering, without having to do any of the research.  For example, you can set an alert for the industry name that you are in, one for each of your competitors names, and one for your company name.  Then you will start receiving emails on a daily basis with any new information on those topics.

It’s that simple, and it can really help you stay on top of your game. The last thing you need is for some important piece of information to be out on the web and you don’t ever take the time to look for and find it.  And trust me, any time someone has something to say about your company or brand name, its important.

To set up your alerts today, go to http://www.google.com/alerts.

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24 Hour News FAIL

April 29, 2009

swineI will preface this by saying that contrary to my personal opinion, the Swine Flu, or H1N1 Virus, may in fact infect a lot of people and lead to the end of the world.  Hey, it could happen.  And I don’t want to be the one that everyone points their finger at when we all contract the disease and die.

However, I put the blame for the sudden panic of the world squarely on the shoulders of 24 hour news stations.  The CNN’s, the FOX’s, and the hundreds of affiliates and sister channels all over the TV are ablaze with reports of pandemics.  And, what’s worse, we live in the age where not only are we exposed to this via television, but the web.  Every single major media outlet on the internet is covered with stories on the Swine Flu, and how bad of shape we are all in because of it.

And it gets to us.  It makes people panic.  It makes people say, “Oh my god, we are all screwed.”

The problem is, this happens all the time.  This happened a few years ago with the Bird Flu.  And you know what happened after it was all said and done, the so-called pandemic didn’t do nearly as much harm as everyone expected.

Every tragedy and every scare, anywhere in the world, is magnified a million times because of these major media outlets.  In my opinion, there is no need for it.  It just causes people to panic, when the real goal of news should be to inform without making judgment.

They do it with business news, as anyone who follows stocks can see.  They do it with political news, as anyone who is as fed up with the 100 day obligatory judgment of Barack Obama will agree with.  They even do it with sports news, endlessly bashing or building up a player or a coach to no end.

Why do they do this?  They will tell you that they have a moral obligation to inform.  They will tell you that people watch the news to get that information, so why would they get rid of it.

The truth is, 24 hours is too much for news.  And deep down, they will have to agree.  They need to fill every second with a story.  They need to take the stories that are big, and make them even bigger.

Swine Flu is this month’s presidential election.  Soon the story will dry up and they’ll find something else to talk about.

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Where is Our News Going?

January 19, 2009

breaking-newsSeth Godin will have you believe that major media companies are on the way out. But is that really the case?

I would argue the opposite, though I add a warning that if these companies do not innovate in the way they obtain and dispense information, they’re dead. I think that, in the area of news, these major corporate networks are still best situated to develop their technology and deliver information to the public in new and relevant ways.

Why Major News Organization Can Still Win

  1. Access – these organizations have the credibility and network skills to get inside information. They can access people at the highest levels, in all parts of the world, and deliver the most up to date information from anywhere.
  2. Money – Established corporate networks have the resources needed to overhaul their technology. It’s true that they need to re-evaluate their real time and web efforts, but they have the ability to do that. Find the value that your readers are looking for and give it to them, no questions asked.
  3. Loyalty – People are less loyal these days to brands or companies because “shopping around” has become much easier. However, when it comes to news and other important information, there is a credibility factor that is difficult to get around. People are not as comfortable getting news from lesser known blogs or other online sources.

What They Need to Do

  1. Personalization – The web and other mobile technologies have allowed people to customize the information they get, and how they see it. Make it easy for readers to sign up for alerts in certain areas, and give them the information how they ask for it.
  2. Email – Utilize email systems to let people get the news they want when they want it. All the stories you run should be available in email format, and people should not have to ask for them more than once.
  3. Social MediaTwitter and other social networks have become valuable resources for providing and passing along important news as it breaks. There is no reason that a news service cannot tap into that “real time” power and use it. Learn how to capitalize on these systems and incorporate them into your strategy.
  4. Blogs, blog readers, and bookmarking – Stories need to be passed from person to person to spread. Newsworthy is a term that now applies to something that deserves to be relayed on to friends. Incorporate blogging and social bookmarking tools to your website to give people the option to spread the best stories. This builds brand awareness and keeps you relevant.
  5. Feedback – Reach out for and pay attention to your readers’ opinions. This can be on a story by story basis or feedback on your services in general. Listen to people because if there is anything that the social web has taught us, it’s that we all have something to say.

The major thing that these corporate news services and media companies have to acknowledge is that the old way of doing things no longer works. Evaluate where your information is coming from and how it is getting out. Learn that people want access to the information they are interested in, no fluff, and they want it free. Give that to them and then rebuild accordingly. It’s time to fight for your readers our die.

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