Todd Lohenry is an entrepreneur, website designer, and social media guru based in the small town of Algoma, Wisconsin. He is a passionate and vocal user of Zemanta and was overjoyed to speak to us about his nuanced approach to blog creation, website development. Todd is such a spirited individual with so many great ideas and Zemanta Power User tips to share that we’ve split the interview into two parts. Check back for part 2 tomorrow!
Can you share a few words about what e1evation is and what you do?
Well, E1evation is a fancy way of saying “me, myself, and I”, a solopreneur, a freelancer.. I focus primarily on cloud-based products, and I have three main areas of focus: 1) information management, 2) web development and internet marketing and social media, and 3) the emerging area of local and mobile search. So when I do web development, I focus solely on WordPress, and I give clients an option. WordPress.com has become a very robust platform, and so I work with them on WordPress.com if they are looking to save money, but then I will also do WordPress.org sites. I am a developer with Woo Themes, I tend to focus on their product because of the – what I consider to be – the superior quality of their product and also one of the things that I really enjoy is that they deliver maximum functionality with the minimum number of plug-ins. But whether I am working with WordPress.com or WordPress.org sites, it thrills me that Zemanta is available for both. I insist that my clients learn to use Zemanta from the very beginning as part of the blogging process.
We’re very thrilled about that. What are your typical customers? Do you focus on a particular niche or is it a mix?
I’ve developed a system and process, which for me is an answer to what I consider to be the single most important question in social media, and that question is “If I drink the Kool-Aid, and if I believe that social media can help my business, how do I add it to my already overflowing plate and still get home for supper?” If people want to play in the social media space they need to have a set of repeatable behaviors that allow them to participate. So I have created a repeatable workflow of four steps : Consume, Create, Connect, and Converse.
I believe that none of my customers are looking to learn a lot of new tools or new behaviors, so I try to always practice Einstein’s Razor (see: Occam’s Razor) of “things must be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”. Another filter that I use is from Thomas Jefferson, who said “Never use two words where one word will do”; I say “Never use two tools where one will do”. And so, every tool that I use has to deliver maximum value, and again that’s why Zemanta is so important. You’ve heard people say that to participate in social media, you must first listen to the Internet. That’s what I call “consume”; I use Gmail and Google Reader, to make information flow to me effectively. When it comes to the creation process, to the thought leadership process or content process, no tool is more powerful for me than WordPress, and I teach people how to either create their own original content or to curate or quote other people’s content and publish that on WordPress. Then from that point forward I connect the WordPress blog to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, to an electronic newsletter, to Youtube, all using a phenomenal tool called dlvr.it, which takes an RSS feed and automatically schedules the delivery of content. Then on the backend, I monitor the conversation with HootSuite and then another great tool called Gist, and sometimes other tools like Nutshell Mail, Google Alerts, or Social Mention, etc.
I’m just looking at the list, all these tools are very much open and interconnected. On one end, we have MailChimp that works well with everything and then we have HootSuite, which is in my opinion one of the best reporting tools….
One of the things that I am continually doing is always tracking the space. I am always using Google Reader to track technology trends, but I also am avoiding what I call the “bright shiny objects”, the temptation to see a new tool and say ‘oh this is the wave of the future’.
And one other thing, I said ‘tools must be completely cross-platform’, and by that I mean Mac, Windows, Ubuntu but also down to the smartphone. It must be IOS and Android compatible. I am very “cloud-centric” and I am always using tools that deliver maximum efficiency for me. So you can see that my love affair with Zemanta also meets these very rigorous standards, and I would go so far as to say that Zemanta is really a competitive advantage to me.
As you know, in working with WordPress, the fewer plugins you have to use the better. Another thing that I really like is that the keyword meta gives you an option to automatically post from tags and categories, and that’s where Zemanta really starts to shine. Even in working with my clients, I build the WordPress plugin, and I arrange my control panels so that it forces people to work through all of the Zemanta control panels, before they click the publish button. I always encourage people to add a relevant picture, because posts with pictures get twice as much interaction as those that don’t. I always use at least three related articles, because those related articles drive interaction, give reference links, and put me on the radar of all these other smart people. The only one that I try to use more sparingly is the in-text links, and the reason for that is some feedback that I’ve received from customers is that sometimes if they see too many links in the middle of the article, they’re not too sure which one to click on.
There are two main reasons that I use Zemanta and that I teach my customers to use it: first of all, from the reader perspective, being able to easily add an image, because sometimes it’s not easy to add an image in WordPress, it’s not easy to find the right image, so Zemanta helps me a great deal with that. I am enforcing the discipline of making customers very easily engaged in good SEO practices. So that is why Zemanta important, and why it is always the very first plugin that I always install.
Are you a Zemanta power user? Want to be featured on our blog? Please let us know!
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