Monthly Archives: January 2010

I Collect Labels

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I read a lot of self help books.  Well, let me rephrase that, I buy a lot of self help books.  I have been a business owner off and on before in my life, leaving a job at Nintendo to work for myself, and again leaving my position with an environmental non-profit in California to again go it solo.  Time management is an absolute nightmare for me.

I think the biggest issue is the labels, as a child I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and so I think to a certain extent that becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.  I am diagnosed with lazy disease, so of course I must be lazy.  My school work suffered and I pretty much had a nice label to hide behind, I think more so than any diagnosis, I’m just spoiled.  Spoiled just rotten.

I come from a dysfunctional but fairly well off family and I didn’t want for a whole lot as a kid and when I wanted to buy that $4,000 video camera at 17 and start a video business, I really just needed a convincing reason and there I was owning video equipment worth more than my average classmates car.  Did I earn it?  No.  Did I deserve it?  Absolutely not.  I just never heard that four letter word “no”.

That didn’t change as I got older.

So I am either ridiculously spoiled, or I have a condition, again, both labels.  Potentially both true.  So I say to myself “I’m going to join the Air Force!” and off I go a few months after that, hoping that discipline will help overcome spoiled.  Well, that might have worked, but I got hurt.  After six months with the Air Force I was medically separated and continue to have pretty bad knee pain because of an infection the Air Force was never quite able to explain.  Lucky me.

The irony of living here in Alamo Ranch so close to the Lackland San Antonio base where I was injured isn’t lost on me.  I spent months just stuck in a bed there, and that was a fairly trying experience in my life.  What I didn’t earn in discipline, I think I did earn in determination.  Being in that medical hold realm, you’re not treated very well, see many of my peers were faking their pain and because mine was so hard to nail down and diagnose (again, I needed a label) they weren’t sure what to make of me.  Eventually they said I had Patella Femoral Syndrome (PFS) and that with PFS I wasn’t eligible to serve.

I’ve been home from my time with the Air Force for two years now, now with a third label that really didn’t add anything of value to my life.  The determination I developed while going through physical therapy and trying to get fit carried over however, and when I came to terms with the fact that I was home, without a job, with some frequent pain, and without a plan, I sure as hell needed one.

I am now divorced, but at the time I was husband and father to my now five year old son Ares.  So being without a plan as a husband, being without a plan as a father is a pretty dark place.  God bless the Men and Women who serve in our Military, but I don’t speak highly of the medical bureaucracy that sent me home the way they did.  A pat on the head and a “good luck to you!”

I started doing web sites again, much as I had before.  I’m fairly good at talking my way into just about anywhere and I landed some decent sized companies fairly quickly, I was “back on my feet” having worked briefly in retail just to keep the lights on.  Good times came, and good times went, getting divorced back in April of 09.  I was ready for something different, and oddly enough, so was Bill.

Bill was a good friend of mine, not a lifelong friend but definitely the kind of friend you’re lucky when you find.  He had recently moved to San Antonio and just kept making the phone ring.  Here I was, located in the San Francisco Bay Area doing ok for myself but understandably in a rut going through my divorce.  Here Bill was making it rain, finding work in the web design and SEO fields for a guy 1,500 miles away.

Believe me, I know.  I’m ridiculously blessed.

So one day, I cut my losses.  I sold all of my worldly possessions on Craigslist and put the things I couldn’t live without into my car, heading to San Antonio.  Image Freedom was founded shortly thereafter, business was doing well, clients seemed to come out of nowhere and what I was offering seemed unique.  Audience driven web development was a tag line, and not an actual product, and I am fortunate to be here and have been received as I have.

Again.  Blessed, I know.

So I’ve collected these labels over the years, the lazy disease, a knee disorder, and my own title of being spoiled rotten.  Finding that balance as a creative person, stopping the distractions, and shutting the world out so I can focus, and create, and BE creative.  It is a constant struggle.  So I read, or I skim at the very least, and everyone seems to have a plan that is sure to work.

It wasn’t until I met @AliciaSanera (who I realize I blog about way too often) that I really started making progress where my ToDo list would actually start getting done.  Alicia introduced me to Public Accountability, and much in the same way I am sharing in this blog, I have been sharing my struggles with others and setting the Ego aside to learn that I am not inflicted with the lazy disease, that there is nothing wrong with me that is unique or special, that everyone deals with dragging their feet, everyone struggles with perfectionist paralysis.  I was not alone.

When I stood up and announced very proudly that I was not proud of myself, that I knew I could do better that I knew there would be days where I’d accomplish more than I’d ever thought possible I was freed.  I didn’t expect that to develop overnight, but it almost feels like it did.  The eureka moment was being humbled by a room full of business owners just as paralyzed by fear of failure.

Seeing I was not alone freed me.  I have discarded my labels in favor of the search for new labels, positive labels.  Labels like “success” or “expert”.  Titles like “contributor” having recently been published in Entrepreneur, my first published work as a business owner.  I’m going to collect positive labels and badges of success with the same fervor I sought a rare comic book as a child.  They will take the place of these unread Self Help Books.

I feel like I can genuinely TESTIFY as a freed person.  Public accountability, sharing my fears with others, being accountable to my partners in life, in business.  I am not alone.  I will support them the way they support me.

I am not afraid of fear anymore.  All I can do is my best, and if I lay my head down at night with a completed To-Do list and a smile on my face, then I have nothing to fear.

Except for Zombies.  Zombies freak me out.

Social Media and the Purple Tweet

I never liked Twitter.  I was very much against it for a very long time.  I can look at my actual stats starting only in September of 09 and see literally a month where I only ‘tweeted’ 29 times.  Now my stats for the first 23 days of January and I’ve tweeted over 1,000 times.  That is half of my total tweets ever, just having passed 2,000 a couple days ago.

Yep, I’m addicted.  My business has improved ten fold, my personal network has exploded, and I have actual metrics showing Twitter as my #1 referral source for traffic to my web site, and to this blog.  Incredible!

Recently @AliciaSanera shared a video with us by Seth Godin, author of “The Purple Cow” (which is a must read).  Seth talks about being remarkable, and here I am, a service provider and I struggle to see how talking about Captain Crunch cereal equates to what I do.  I think my eureka moment caused me to jump about six feet out of my bubble bath when I finally grasped what Twitter was all about.

The Twitter Bird

Twitter will never truly be mainstream.  Twitter is for the innovators, the otaku, the early adopters, the purple cows.  Sure there is noise, there is chaos and spam but the wonderful thing is you can just unfollow those sounds and move on.  I look at my Twitter feed and I see trend setters, risk takers, explorers, and thank God, I see friends.

Imagine the value of the Social Media Club’s around the country, or of our own here in San Antonio?  Imagine the value of a conversation between two innovators, between three, between a room full of trend setters and early adopters.  That is what we get every single month at #BMPR, that is what we get every single day online tuned into this community.

If the true success story is the man who listens, who better to tune into than this community?  If you could follow @NanPalmero around for a day, you’d probably be exposed to 15 of the next decades biggest innovations.  Not so much by what he does, but by what he WANTS or what HURDLES he deals with, create something that is exciting to @NanPalmero and there will be a blog article, a community site and 417,000 eager tweeters watching.  The attuned listener will thrive through social media.  I get it.

I am just humbled, and grateful and in awe of the wisdom and innovation all around me.  I am better because of Twitter, and while many people try to hop on the bandwagon to use those same old failed marketing techniques to spam the Twitterverse, it is the few and the wise and the innovators who are truly towing the line.  I get that now too.

Twitter will never go mainstream.  Celebrities will keep jumping on, and jumping back off, they want this for the wrong reasons, they are not the purple cow, and they’ll never get it.

Lastly, let me say a special thank you to @ColleenPence of Social Media Mentoring, were it not for her nudge and encouragement I would still be spinning my wheels with 29 tweets a month wondering what the big deal was.

I am blessed, and reminded every single day.  Thank you.

What’s in a name?

The name of my business is “Image Freedom” and as I write this I am the #2 entry for “Image Freedom” on Google, and #1 on Bing for my homepage, #2 for my Blog.  Imagine if I didn’t rank for that keyword?  For a good long while I didn’t, and I noticed a big uptake in contact since I’ve made the change.

Why?  My keyword is “San Antonio SEO” right?  People aren’t going to know who I am if they’ve never heard of me!

Wrong.  A buying decision isn’t always reached immediately and it is very important that you rank for YOUR OWN NAME because of this.  If I visit your site, I may see that I like your site, I like your product, and then I might get distracted, write down the name, remember the name etc.

The key here is that when I sit back down, I may not have saved your bookmark, but I probably remember your name, or close enough to it to search for “image freedom” or “image seo”.  Every possibility needs to bring that person to your site.

This is the conundrum.  You want to have a very Keyword Heavy name, but if your name is so keyword heavy that your competitors start coming up when someone searches for you that could be bad for business.  I get a lot of searches for “image freedom seo” or “matthew egan seo tips” and “matthew egan image freedom” so it is very important that I have accounted for the possibility that I can’t always control how someone will search for me.

I know I know, more to worry about, but the good news is for most companies ranking #1 for your own name is pretty easy.  This is all a part of the keyword analysis process, establish ways that people could search for you, and make sure you have a strategy targeting each possibility.  You won’t always get #1 for every search term, but sometimes the tiniest bit of effort, a few well placed links with the right text as the clickable link (this is called anchor text) and you’ll start showing up #1 on some of the easier phrases.

So much emphasis is put on that one huge keyword, for me “San Antonio SEO” but if you’d heard of me, seen me speak, met me at an event, and you searched “matthew egan seo” I damn well better come up or that time spent shaking hands will be for nothing!

Would your site by any other name smell as sweet?
Ok, maybe that is over the top. =)

Staying on the Path

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The road ahead is long.  We all put that carrot on the stick, get in the car, and head on through each day.  This past week for me has been very challenging.  Some delays from the Holiday season have come back to haunt me and getting from Monday to Friday was easier said than done.

Yet here I am.  Saturday.

I’ve been rapping with @michellepoteet a lot lately, she is a professional organizer and owner of Reclaim Order.  I figured I’d give her blog a read, having finished cleaning my office, set my papers where they belong, windexed my fingerprint collecting glass desk and doing the “will I use this any time soon?” dance.

In Michelle’s blog she talks about keeping a journal, and I think that is something a lot of us have tried to do over the years.  I made a decision after reading her blog, I’m not going to TRY to keep a journal, I’m actually going to shut myself up and do it.  Pulled up a journal, leather bound, nice little item I bought before the new year and I said to myself ‘How can I make this work?”

Way back in the 10th grade I had some really close friends, Allison and Shannon.  One day Shannon wrote “Matthew is awesome, -love Shannon” in my little personal planner.  I was an entrepreneurial lad and carried my little day planner around like I was the President of some sort of SEO firm or something and shortly thereafter Allison had written something, Candice, Shawnje, what have you.  It stopped being an organizer, and it became appreciation, it became love, it was a reminder that my successes as an individual is about more than just what I can get done in a day.  My success is about me succeeding, as an individual.

I couldn’t open the book, without that reminder that people cared, and were pulling for me to thrive.

Shut Up And Do It!

So I’ll put ego aside, I’ll put appearances aside, I’ll come out and say it.  I’m struggling to stay organized.  Attending this Business Building Boot Camp lately, I’ve been able to see through humbled eyes that I’m not alone in that struggle.  The road ahead is long.

I opened up this new journal and I wrote “Shut up and do it!” inside.  Signed my name.  I’m going to share this with my family, and with my friends, and maybe I can establish that same connection to this new journal that I had with that beat up old Day Runner from the 10th grade.  Make it more than a journal, and I might actually use it.

Will you sign my journal?  Will you wish me luck?

Instinct vs. Analysis vs. Lady Gaga

We’ve been talking a lot about Analysis lately.  I wanted to put my hypocrite hat on for a little bit here and talk about the value of Instinct in Analysis.  When you sit down with your data and you you’re assigning values to various realities of your project, the cause effect analysis often leaves you with gaps, with area’s you’ll have to make an educated guess with, and that marketers instinct comes out.

What makes Lady Gaga popular?  Why do we still love Britney Spears after she went crazy and cut off all her hair?  Why will we all eventually forgive Tiger Woods and start slapping our logo all over him again?  Because the instinct is there, the faith is there that even though they slip, their instincts will lead them back towards success.

There is absolutely nothing special about Lady Gaga.  If anything, she is the biggest marketing success of the last ten years.  I’ve always wondered how much of the “gaga image” is actually her, how much of Stefani Germanotta shows through at the end of the recording?  There are stylists, producers, publicists, media analysts, an entire army of professionals with psychology degrees able to say “this is what will get the reaction we’re looking for.”

They have the instinct, and they pair their instinct with analysis to find that exact right way to be obscene, the specific events they should attend, or NOT attend.  Which bloggers to flirt with, and where to go from there.

Watch the video. This is vintage Gaga, Stefani Germanotta.  Someone said to the poor girl, “you’re not a purple cow darling, sorry” and she was re-imagined as this new person.  A producer named Fusari came up with her stage name from the queen song “Radio Ga Ga” and only because of a text message autocorrect error was “Lady GaGa” sent to her phone instead.

There was instinct.  That instinct made it work, that instinct was true.  That instinct has sold millions of records.

So if Lady Gaga was created practically by accident, and truly the efforts of numerous experts and analysts, at the end of the day someone had to take that data and formulate a plan.  What does Lady Gaga have to do with your own analysis vs. instinct?  That is up to you.

Have your instincts been true?  Have you let failure cast doubts upon your instincts?  I know very well educated people who have the instincts of a blind mole rat.  I also know people who barely finished High School who can craft thought into form and those are the people I’m going to put my money on.  Which are you?

Analysis is important.  Running on instinct alone is foolish, but at the end of the day, the ability to take that data, take those sales figures, those audience reports, that keyword metric, and say “based on this information, I believe this is our next step.”

What is your next step?  Are you going to be a Stefani Germanotta or a Lady Gaga?

Do you trust your instincts?