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The times they are a changin’… certainly in the way people get their news.  This is especially true for the youth demographic who live and breathe by their cell phones.

As a result, I’ve been noodling about how to get this blog content onto iPhones given all the web-based tools that allow developers to build an iPhone App.   It seems logical that a blogger would want to create an app for the millions of iPhone users, right?  Sure it’s easy enough to call up a blog site on the Safari browser by typing in the URL, but wouldn’t it be much easier to push an icon button on the iPhone app screen and the like magic the blog content is there on your mobile device?  Complete with rich media.  And while we’re at it how about having the ability to jump to the Flickr photos and then over to Vodpod/YouTube to watch recent video posts?

Well…drum roll please….that day is here.  I’ve developed an application and placed it on the blog (under the calendar, right side).  There are a couple methods to get this application.  With your iPhone browser go to NWHOG and click on the app icon under the calendar.  Or go directly HERE.  Once the page loads for the first time, you’ll see a pop-up that instructs you to tap the ‘+’ sign, then tap the ‘Add to Home Screen’ selection, and finally tap the ‘Add’ button, which will add your app icon to your iPhone app screen.  Tapping the icon will start the webapp.  

Some might ask, “What are you trying to accomplish with this, Mac?”  My answer is simple.  I don’t know.  Other than to make it a little easier for mobile users to get to the blog content.  Plus I needed a little science project to fill those rainy evenings — it serves no other real purpose.  But, that could define much of the internet these days…

I do believe this Harley iPhone/blog application is a first.  Who knows if this will take off.  But, I thought it was worth a post and it serves as a reminder to Harley-Davidson corporate that they really should be doing more in the area of application development to promote or connect their customer base.  Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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timeoutAccording to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95% of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to WOW (wallow on the web), where they become public remnants of a dream — or an ambition — unfulfilled.

I started blogging in 2006 which seems like a long time ago… then in 2007, prior to taking off on an extended motorcycle trip I started the Northwest Harley Blog.  The thinking at the time was that a mix of hobbies (motorcycle and photography) would be a natural fit and thus was born — rantings of a motorcycle enthusiast.

Many people start blogs with lofty aspirations — try to build an audience and leave their day job, land a book deal, get attention from traditional media or simply to share their so-called genius with the world. I did not! Some even assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.  Getting started is easy, since all it takes to maintain a blog is a time commitment and inspiration. Some actually believe those TV advertisements about some mommy blogger making $4,000 a month?

As a “closet journalist” I like to provide a unique voice and work to accurately report and find unusual angles on stories related to motorcycle causes and the industry.  I also like to provide chronologies of my various ride and rally wanderings. After two+ years, or put another way — after 500 posts, 873 photo’s edited/uploaded, and several thousand moderated comments later I feel the blog is a successful hobby after obtaining on average 24,000 unique monthly views, but it’s also at a cross-roads.

trollThe internet is different now.  It used to be about research, accuracy and quality entries.  The good bloggers had something to say about the big motorcycle issues of the day.  Now it’s about snippets from people who pump out dreck or large excerpts of other articles.  Original and high-quality content has become dumbed down.  Bloggers are required to spend more time ‘digg-n’, ‘tweeting’, ‘facebooking‘, ‘youtubing‘ and SEOing their posts than they do on the actual posts themselves. Even H-D is pushing their social media outreach staff to pump up the noise level on marketing messages in non-traditional channels — i.e. bloggers.

Sure it’s cool to have all this media presence, you can tweet ad infinitum and make videos clips if you’ve got a burning desire to do so… especially if you love new media and are thrilled to be in constant contact with your fan base or “tribe.”  In other words, if its an end unto itself.

But, that’s what bothers me.  There is a point of diminishing returns and a mental cost to all the work.  In the early days all that was required to “win” at blogging was to show up early each day.  Today?  You need a team of social marketers to get your message out, a second team to manage any fall-out from whatever you’ve said and a third to manage all the SPAMers and deletion of bad behavior rolled up by the Google machine in the form of drive-by trolls and haters who try and take up residence.  As a result blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants!

Not all blogs fade from lack of reader interest. Some bloggers find themselves too busy — what with, say, band-camp, and swim practice, or perhaps even housework. Others graduate to more immediate formats, like Twitter or Facebook and drop evangelizing via the blog platform. And a few — gasp — actually decide to reclaim some small slice of their personal time.  This brings me full-circle about a decision.

I’m going to take a blogging timeout. Little if any new material will appear during the month of October.  I plan to resume in November.  Why?  Having blogged consistently for over three years now, I think it would be wise to take a step back and evaluate the effects (both good and bad) and determine what if any new direction should be taken.  If you have an opinion or viewpoint I’m sure you’ll let me know.

I appreciate the allegiance of the blog reader base who subscribe and those who visit the site regularly.  If you happen on to this site during the month of October I hope you’ll enjoy looking through the archives.

Enjoy fall and ride safe out there…

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve most likely heard of Twitter.

Several of the major news organizations like CNN, ABC etc., are using social media tools and if you’ve followed updates over the last week on the Iran election, Twitter has been singled out as a major cyber-sympathizer source to help dodge government censorship.

I’ve had a number of people ask me about Twitter, why it matters and why use it.  To be candid I was slow in adopting the technology for the blog, because I wasn’t sure of the time commitment and the whole “life casting” gig wasn’t all that interesting to me.  However, over the last 6 months I have put some energy into understanding the technology and have been somewhat consistent in updating.  I find it curious that for all of its social media self-promotion and skills, Harley-Davidson corporate doesn’t effectively use the Twitter tool.   A few dealers are trying it and I’ve provided a few thoughts/suggestions below on how bloggers or H-D can leverage and improve relationships with their core audience.

First the what:  Twitter is a “microblogging” tool (it’s technical infrastructure is sometimes referred to as a “platform”) that lets people post short (140 character) messages, called “tweets” to the Web. Twitter exists somewhere in the space between RSS, chat, e-mail (publically viewable), blogs, and forums.

Next is to make sure you’re current on the vernacular of the technology or Twitter “language” — a “tweet” is a Twitter post.  Once you post your “tweet” onto the Twittersphere, users who elect to “follow” you will be updated with your new pearl of wisdom that you just posted.  The best way to really understand Twitter is to sign up for it and just start playing with it. Go to Twitter and create a twitter account.  If you run a blog my suggestion is to make sure and take the time to create a customized or branded profile. Include links to your site or let’s say if you’re a motorcycle dealer include links to your e-commerce or dealership website. Twitter’s help site, will provide an understanding of all that you can do with it.

For example one AZ-based motorcycle dealer has tasked the community relationship manager with the job of posting and managing followers.  Next is to publicize your Twitter ID (mine is macrant) and encourage people who visit your blog or your motorcycle shop/web site to sign up for Twitter and follow you.   I’ve seen folks put Twitter ID on printed receipts and business cards as well as have a “Follow Us” link to their website or in e-mail marketing.  The point is that Twitter is a tool through which subscribers can further reach their audiences, real-time.  Your followers can hear and express thought leadership, broadcast their messages, connect to influencers in the industry both on their desktop and via mobile devices.

As you surf Twitter you’ll note the @ symbol in tweets. This is a method for referencing or replying to another Twitter user.  Mine is @macrant.  Another symbol you will see is #.   This is a trick that folks use to tag or categorize post content. Example: #harley, #motorcycle or #harley-davidson.   Another convention you’ll see is RT or ReTweet. If you’ve read something interesting and want others to view it, you RT it.  For example this would look like: RT @macrant “Posted a great article for #harley fans on how to leverage #twitter.”

Is Twitter for everyone?  No.  There’s a lot of crap people need to wade through on the internet.  But, as an emerging platform with a lot of technical infrastructure it’s another opportunity to build relationships and build a media-savvy blog or brand. To get more out of it I suggest you use some of the Twitter clients. I use Nambu, but two other widely used Twitter clients are Twhirl and Tweetdeck.  These apps allow you to view or analyze what is called real-time twit-streams.  These are the Twitter posts in real time.  A couple other apps you may want to investigate is Twist to track trends or keywords and Twitscoop to see which terms are getting more views or being reference in the Twittersphere.  In addition there is an easy-to-use image tool: Twitpic that lets you post pictures through Twitter.

Because you are limited to 140 characters in a post, it’s hard to enter long urls when you want to direct people to a certain site or page. The solution is to use a URL-shortening service. One service is TinyURL which is popular, but there are many more which you can view at: http://tinyurl.com/yp8cba/ There’s even a user-generated directory at WeFollow where you simply tweet to @wefollow with 3 different categories to get listed.

Now the question is how can I use this to promote my blog or make more $$$ in my motorcycle shop? You can post tweets to your blog or other relevant information which may help drive traffic.  On the dealer e-commerce side, you can tweet to your followers when you add new, cool products to your website which will help drive traffic and potentially sales.   As a motorcycle dealer you could run RT-based contests. Tell people that if they re-tweet a product detail page or blog post they have a chance to win a prize.  You can follow this link http://tinyurl.com/cg8euq/ for a Google search on “re-tweet contests” to get some ideas. You can publicize Web discounts or in-store specials that are good with a code that you tweet. This gives people motivation to follow you.

As a blogger you’ll want to build a social media ecosystem with Twitter that points people to your blog posts, and a blog link pointing people to your Twitter ID.  When people follow or RT you, it’s protocol to thank them via a direct message or publicly via an @reply. If relevant, don’t forget to follow them back.  It’s important to do frequent searches on Twitter for your blog or company name to keep track of what people are saying about you or the company.  Here are 10 key points to help get you started:

  1. Pushy sales can make people avoid you. You’re using Twitter to build relationships with an audience, so be personal and genuine.
  2. Try a personal account and get familiar with it before jumping in on your blog or for a business.
  3. Select a Twitter username/ID that is catchy and matches your blog “brand” or company.
  4. Twitter needs to be used regularly to maintain interest across the community.
  5. Profile customization will support your blog brand or company.
  6. Note to H-D Dealer’s  — try enticing people to follow you with Twitter-only deals.
  7. Stay up-to-date with blog/website analytics to measure traffic from Twitter and gauge its effectiveness.
  8. Publicize your Twitter ID everywhere: On posters, flyers, business cards, e-mails, forum signatures, etc.
  9. Make sure you follow the manufactures, motorcycle racers and other personalities that matter to your blog/business and your audience.
  10. Post tweets to products and categories to help build traffic.

There you have it.  I hope the information was helpful.

If you’re the type of person who feel great “tweets” only come from birds after motorcycle riding and camping in the great outdoors then you’re an unlikely candidate for Twitter.  However, if you’re curious about driving blog or dealer traffic then I invite you to follow me on twitter @macrant and/or try it.

Finally it’s memo to H-D time:  step up the Twitter activity to reach out to your core audience and engage people in a deeper conversation.

Photo courtesy of Twitter.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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A quick shout out to the readers of this blog.  You pushed the total number of views over 100,000 today and I thank you!

Putting up a blog takes commitment, organization, time and to a certain degree some passion about the topic matter.  Of course, a one-of-a-kind product like Harley-Davidson and the motorcycle industry helps me accomplish all of this and more.  I guess that “more” is the riding experiences and friendships made on the road.

But it’s you the readers and especially the folks who have taken time to comment that make the site real.

Again Thank You!

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clutch_chrome_shoutoutI got the tree down and put away the holiday ornaments. 

Today I’m in a bit of champagne “fog” from New Years Day brunch, but this calls for another “woot”  and toast of the glasses.  

Very cool and a great way to start the blogging year – getting featured on the blog spotlight at Clutch & Chrome 

Thanks guys for the shout out.  Keep up the great work!

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