Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are You Losing Money by Doing Your Own Work?

by Kathleen Gage The Street Smarts Speaker and Author

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the average small business owner spends up to 40% of his or her time on routine administrative tasks.

Constantly working on non revenue-producing tasks that could be more productively and cost-effectively performed by a highly skilled, knowledgeable assistant is losing your business significant income.

As you grow your business, it will be necessary to consider outside help. Over the last few years, the Virtual Assistant industry has taken the market by storm. What was practically unheard of a few years ago is now a viable and growing industry.

When done correctly, one of the greatest advantages in hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA’s) is you can focus on higher level objectives while your VA takes on a huge part of your workload.

Virtual Assistants range in expertise, specialty and pricing. Most VA’s work on a per hour rate, retainer fee or contract basis. VA’s either own and operate their business or contract under an umbrella agency. This means you are not responsible for employee taxes, benefits or insurance, which can substantially reduce your costs and liability.

A VA’s experience level range from new to the industry to many years of experience. However, most have previous work experience that qualifies them to jump right into the services they offer.

The VA’s goal is to help your company grow. In essence, when you succeed, they succeed. Unlike a temporary agency where you might get a different temporary worker for each job you have, with a VA the same person works with you on an ongoing basis.

Depending on your needs, you can hire a VA for as few or as many hours a week as you need. You can also hire on a per project basis.

Again, this means you are not burdened with hiring a part- or full-time employee. You simply hire as needed.

In many cases, once you contract a VA you will be charged for phone conversations, planning sessions and any project changes you make. Be aware of spending too much time just “shooting the breeze” with your VA as it can cost you money and time.

Before hiring a VA, determine your needs, plan how you will utilize their time and be prepared. Some of your projects will require you to contract vendors who handle specific types of tasks such as editing, copywriting, transcription services and web design. However, a highly skilled VA may be able to do many of the above-mentioned tasks.

If you are on a limited budget, you may be able to negotiate the pay structure to include commissions and bonuses. Some VA’s may be willing to take a lower hourly rate if there is an opportunity for commissions or bonuses. For example, if you have a VA who books speaking engagements for you, you can offset the hourly amount with a generous commission structure. However, before you offer commissions and bonuses, make sure the VA is qualified and skilled to handle the specific jobs you need done. You may also be able to negotiate one fee for any training you do and a higher fee when the VA is fully trained.

Hiring a Virtual Assistant is not something that should be taken lightly. It is a position of trust and confidence. Often the VA has access to your usernames and passwords, confidential information, financial data, databases and other highly sensitive information.

A partial list of what a VA can do:
  • Transcription services
  • Set up a blog
  • Blogging on your behalf
  • Post to blogs and forums
  • Set up Virtual Book Tours
  • Submit and track articles to directories
  • Answer support emails
  • Set up autoresponders
  • Write media releases
  • Distribute media releases
  • Clean up a mailing list
  • Do keyword research
  • Proof copy and provide editing services
  • Assist with teleconferences and seminars
  • Update web pages and build squeeze pages
  • Input sequential autoresponder messages
  • Organize joint ventures and submit bonus items and programs
  • Bookkeeping
  • Concierge services
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Travel arrangements
  • Event planning
  • Procedure documentation
You can choose to use a VA agency or contract an independent VA. It all depends on your needs, plans and budget. Take time to interview your VA prior to hiring them. Check their references and track record.


*****If you are looking for a VA to help with administrative tasks, please consider Katie Perry. She has worked as Yvonne Perry's admin for five and half years, so she'll be well trained and learns fast. Contact Katie at Katie[at]writersinthesky[dot]com or learn more here. ******

For even more information about marketing your book online, read Book Marketing in the Digital Age, Online Promotion Made Easy.

Purchase Now!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Poetry and Prose Corner July 2012

By: Pamela Rossow

It was not enough to be
drenched in your sun
showers to have your
fingers trail moonlight
through my hair for your
blazing lips to lock noon
heat between us.

I needed more than
galaxies between my
thighs daybreaks in
your smiles starlight
in your eyes I tasted
forever on your tongue
heard always in your
heartbeat outlined we
on your chest.

It was enough to be cast
in shadow to have my
sundial blotted out by your
clouds to see the negligible
pebbles in the hourglass to
know the darkened cemetery
in your mouth was too much.

Pamela Rossow is a writer who defies some of what that term implies: she does not own a cat, she likes to talk, she enjoys some stories that begin with, “On a dark and stormy night…”, and drinks chai. She does, however, find words like “beguile,” “inky” and “fizzle” intriguing. She holds a BA from Florida Atlantic University and has been published in a variety of genres online and in print.

Wellsprings of Happiness
By Dennis S Martin

Bubbling up,
Trickling down,
Springing from somewhere
Deep underground.

Growing in strength,
Merging in flow,
Gravity dictating
Where you will go.

Soothing the sorrow,
Easing the pain,
Cooling the swelter
Like sweet summer rain.

Endlessly moving,
Cannot be still,
Dreams to fruition,
Fortunes to fill.

Hope to deliver,
Laughter to deal.
Wellsprings of happiness,
Help me to heal.

Website: http://www.iwritesome.com
Lulu Storefront: http://www.lulu.com/dsmartin
Plays: http://sites.google.com/site/playsbydennissmartin/

Friday, July 13, 2012

Healing is Beautiful

By Dana Micheli
Like most artists, Denise DeMaras is inspired and sustained by the beauty she sees in the world; this is apparent in the vivid colors of her paintings and the moving verses of her poetry. And, like most artists, she is also well aware that the act of creating brings one a sense of peace, clarity, purpose and connection. What sets her apart is how she utilizes this awareness as a self-healing practice. For years she has taught others how to incorporate beauty and creativity into their own healing process; and now her book, Heal from Your Heart, With Breath, Rhyme and Art teaches readers new and traditional self healing practices to effect a holistic mind/body/heart transformation.

This introductory guide illustrates a series of easy to follow practices that have at their core mindful breathing. Breathing exercises are absolutely critical to quiet the mind, balance the body, and center the heart, which are essential to purging painful memories that can manifest as physical ailments or prevent inner peace. These memories can also leave what Denise refers to as “residue” on the heart, leading to dysfunctional relationships, a lack of confidence, balance, and self-esteem.

Heal from Your Heart is also a deeply personal account of Denise’s own journey to self-healing. From an early age, her life was marked by dramatic changes and family upheavals that left her with an often stifling fear and profound pain. However, instead of allowing it to control her life, Denise used it to fuel her search for new innovative ways to clear her mind, heart and body of negative emotions. For the next two decades, she not only studied ancient techniques such as yoga, meditation and chanting, but invented new methods to clear resistance, construct healthy boundaries and effect healing.

One of these methods, Rhyme to Heal®, is a fun, simple, and effective practice that Denise created while recovering from a 2010 car accident. Rhyming clears the mind and reveals and reduces stress, anxiety, fear and pain to allow personal understanding and deep, heart-centered healing. It is also a fun exercise, with none of the pressure that people often feel when they begin traditional practices like meditating. Experience has shown her that everyone is unique, and each has an inner artist to lead the way to healing emotional pain through the creative process. For some this is painting, for others crafts, but anyone can learn to purge their thoughts and feelings through the creative, self healing practice of rhyming.

Heal from Your Heart with Breathe Rhyme and Art will be released in September 2012. To learn more about Denise Demaras’ work as an artist and Self-Healing Coach, visit http://www.facebook.com/denise.demaras or follow her @mindfulmusing

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book with a View July 2012

Title: Beauty Behind the Mask!
Author: Melanie Brown
Publisher: Arthur House Publishing (March 14, 2012)
Reviewer: Dana Micheli

Melanie Brown’s Beauty Behind the Mask! is a fanciful story of sisterhood, sorcery, and the power of love to defeat even the darkest evil.

Life was not easy in the 14th century, especially for women. For Othelia Maria Valance, it is about to get a lot more complicated. As the youngest of Jolene Valance’s three daughters, Othelia has always enjoyed her loving mother’s undivided attention. Her oldest sister Marleen only cares about male suitors, and Alita, the middle sister, was sent away years ago for having a “dark personality”. When Alita suddenly returns, the family is turned upside down. As Alita and Othelia begin spending more and more time together, strange things begin to happen. Othelia realizes that she has mysterious and wonderful healing gifts, and she and Alita begin working together to help the villagers. But then Othelia falls ill with a mysterious illness, and when she regains consciousness, Alita tells their mother has died. Feeling devastated and alone, Othelia as no one but Alita to rely on. Can she trust this seemingly kind sister she has never known? As they embark on a journey through villages ravaged by war and crushing poverty, Alita will learn the true meaning of love, passion and above all, sisterhood.

Beauty Behind the Mask! is a heartbreaking but inspiring tale of mysticism, loss and courage in the face of bigotry. Brown’s descriptions are so vivid that they border on palpable. I could see the bloody, war torn battlefields and feel Othelia’s fear that she and her sister will be accused of witchcraft. It is also a fascinating historical sketch of the beliefs during that time period, particularly those concerning women. I didn’t want it to end, and can only hope we won’t have to wait too long before Melanie Brown’s next book comes out.


Title: Sabotage
Author: Apostle Kevin A. Johnson
Publisher: AuthorHouse (March 26, 2012)
Reviewer: Dana Micheli

In his ministry, Apostle Kevin A. Johnson preaches that the greatest danger to humanity is a defeated mind. When we don’t believe in ourselves and what God can do in our lives, we make all sorts of decisions that can lead us down the wrong road. But what we may not know is that we are not completely responsible for this; there are forces, both seen and unseen, that can destroy us. Now, in his new book, Sabotage, he teaches us how to recognize these dangers, both in ourselves and those around us.

Sabotage is an inspirational guide to eradicating our “spiritual terrorists” and living a healthy, Christ-centered life. Like Dust Collector, Johnson’s previous book, Sabotage provides moral support for people facing their biggest challenges and darkest hours. Although the answers to these problems may seem complicated, the reality is simple: once you accept Christ and become born again, your work, relationships, and finances will begin to take miraculous turns beyond your wildest dreams.

Apostle Kevin A. Johnson is a minister, counselor, and writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Theology and a minor in Pastoral Studies from the American Baptist Theological Seminary, where he graduated magna cum laude and was twice-named Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. He also received special recognition for outstanding service by former Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist.

In addition to his ministry, Apostle Johnson and his wife Terrah operate Just Breathe Ministries, LLC. They have five children.

Editor's Corner July 2012

As many of you know, Yvonne Perry is busy promoting her incredible new book, Shifting into Purer Consciousness ~ How to Embrace and Integrate Multidimensional Frequencies, so I am happy to welcome you to summer, WITS-style, with our July newsletter.

Summer is a time for friends, fun, family, and as always, balance. All through the dreary winter months, we wait for that first sign of green, that first smell of honeysuckle. When it finally arrives, it brings with it pool parties, days at the beach, and family reunions. But as wonderful as all of that is, it can also prove to be a distraction from that book we are writing. Sure, when it’s thirty degrees and snowy, it’s easy to sit at the computer for hours on end; but when it’s eighty degrees and sunny? Not so much.

As Yvonne wrote in her recent blog post, our lives are often influenced by environmental forces beyond our control. This would be true even if it wasn’t a year of global transformation. So if you find yourself torn between writing your book and going on that picnic, don’t be too hard on yourself. Everything has its time and place, and sometimes what feels like “procrastinating” or “slacking off” is really a much-needed mental and physical release that will allow you to redouble your writing efforts later on. It can also help you beat back that awful writer’s block.

This summer is already off to a great start for me. As usual, I am working with many wonderful clients around the country (and a few abroad), and it is both a pleasure and an honor to assist them with their writing and marketing projects. With so much to do, I’m going to have take my own advice and make time to enjoy nature and, of course, my family.

Dana Micheli
Writer and editor, Writers in the Sky Creative Writing Services

Monday, July 9, 2012

Join the Human Race

Do you feel alone and isolated? Do you feel as if you are the only person in the world? If you do, the answer is to join the human race.

You are each unique; but, underneath it all, you are the same. You are part of the whole of all creation. Yet to feel that way, you need to join hands and embrace your common humanity.

It is said that no man is an island. You do not need to do it alone. When you join with your brothers and sisters, you will feel a part of something greater than yourself.

Some people choose to say that is God. Some people simply experience it as being part of a family or group. Whatever is the case for you, allow yourself to share in the group experience.

Try to see your common identity with people that you might judge to be different than yourself. You will be amazed at the common bond you will feel. When you stop focusing on differences, you will align yourself with something that is greater than yourself. It will be a liberating experience.

To remain isolated and separate from the whole, your ego will lead the way. This will only lead to conflict. You will not remain at peace.

Do you want to find freedom? Do you want happiness? If that is the case, step aside from your ego. Identify and relate to others instead of comparing yourself against them. That only leads to judgment and a false sense of reassurance.

If someone has harmed you, do as Jesus said and turn the other cheek. That's not to say, let them walk all over you. Just walk away from the conflict and offer up love and forgiveness.

To take on a resentment, will only keep you locked in a prison of your own making. It will become a poisonous brew that will only hurt yourself. You deserve freedom. You deserve joy.

Allow yourself to align with that greater spirit that unites us all. That is the pathway to peace, freedom, and joy. That is the way to join humanity and become part of the human race.

Written by Davis Aujourd'hui http://bestsatireseriesofthedecade.blogspot.com

Friday, July 6, 2012

Author Blogging 101: Keyword Basics

by Joel Friedlander
Ed: Keywords are one of the Building Blocks of SEO for your author blog.

Okay, so you decided to publish your own book (congratulations!) and, following all the advice for indie authors out there, you’ve decided you need a website or an author blog.

Everyone says so, and it makes sense. A blog will give you a chance to explore the ideas in your book, bounce new plans off readers, build a community of interest, and make it much more likely your books will reach a receptive audience.

It all sounds good, doesn’t it?

But as many writers know, there’s one flaw in this picture:

How the heck do you get online readers to actually pay attention to what you’re writing?

Traffic, Traffic, Where’s the Traffic?

Too many blogs wither and die because the blogger who began with such enthusiasm never found an answer to this question. A blog without readers is futile and depressing. You can only publish into this void for so long before you decide there must be better ways to use your time.

So this becomes an existential problem for your blog: without readers, it’s likely to cease to exist. This means that finding readers for your writing is the number-one, most-important job you do as a blogger.

Nobody told you that, did they?

But wait, there’s good news too. There are powerful forces at work, and they stand ready to help you keep that blog—and your dreams of gathering a community—alive. These forces command hordes—hundreds of millions of people—and these people are asking questions, looking for things, and trying to solve problems, whatever they are.

You, the content creator and blogger, have answers to specific questions. If you could connect your answers to the questions those millions of people are asking, your blog—and your books—could prosper.

So what are these mysterious forces? Search engines.

How can we enlist them to help in the life-or-death-of-the-blog struggle?

Starting at the Beginning

Let’s go back to where it all starts.

People have questions and problems. Since the internet has penetrated every area of day to day life, many of us are in front of a web browser nearly every minute of the day. This is only becoming truer as we now carry an internet connection around in our pockets and purses.

It’s only logical that people have become accustomed to looking for solutions and answers online, and the way we do that is through search.

Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! are in the business of providing the best answers to questions they can find. Your job is to figure out how to connect your content to those searches, and that’s exactly where keywords come in.

When someone sits down and types a query into a search bar, they are creating keywords.

How? Keywords are simply the words or phrases people commonly use to search for answers in your genre or category.

If you could find out what those words and phrases are, it stands to reason that you could use that information to make your content more attractive to the search engines that are looking for answers to those questions.

Keyword Tools

The whole study of keywords is actually pretty deep. Lots of people are researching keywords all the time and, as you might suspect, there are lots of tools to help internet marketers, bloggers, and other people who want to attract traffic online find and use keywords.

That’s a big study, so here I’m going to give you two super simple and easy ways to get started discovering the keywords that have the most power in your own niche or category.

The first of these isn’t even a real “tool” at all, but it works like one. I’m talking about using the search bar itself as a source of instant information.

How does that work? Have you ever noticed that when you start typing a question into most search engines’ search bars, you are presented with potential matches? It’s called predictive matching, where the software is guessing what you’re looking for to save you time.

But guess what? All those matches you’re looking at are actually other people’s searches, specifically the most popular ones that match what you are entering.

For example, suppose I’m looking for a pizza dough recipe. I start entering letters and by the time I get to “p-i-z-z-a- d-o-” I’m looking at these choices:

pizza dough recipe
pizza dough
pizza dough recipe with yeast
pizza dough without yeast
pizza dough recipe no yeast, etc.

Right away, this tells you something about what other people are looking for. Suppose you are publishing about yeast-free baking, a real niche topic. This gives you a head start on finding the words and phrases that are the most popular with the people you are trying to reach.

The second tool is the Google Adwords External Keyword Tool, which is supplied to advertisers for their own research, but you can use it for free, too.

This is where it gets really interesting. If you search for the phrases that came up in your predictive search testing, you’ll find some amazing results. For instance, our pizza baking author would find that there are a lot more searches for some of these phrases than others:

make pizza without yeast = 3,600 monthly searches
pizza dough recipe no yeast = 8,100 monthly searches
pizza dough without yeast = 14,800 monthly searches

There is no way to figure this out without doing the research, but I think you can see right away that this author is going to try to work with the third keyword phrase, which has four times as many searches. Wouldn’t you?

Even More Keywords

The Adwords tool will also give you lots and lots of related keyword phrases, too. For instance, this search also turned up phrases like:

easy pizza dough without yeast (1,000)
make pizza crust without yeast (320)
dough without yeast (18,000)
and lots more, too.

Another way to use these keywords is to do your own searches on them and see who comes up on the first page of search results. Checking into these sites and seeing how they are “ranking” for that specific keyword phrase will tell you a lot about how you can do something similar.

There’s no replacement for this type of research, and if you plan to keep publishing in this category or niche, it makes sense to gradually become familiar with the most common keywords in your area. There will likely be dozens of them.

Not Just Blogs

Keep in mind that you can use this same research for any writing you’re doing online that you hope will come to the attention of search engines prowling for good content to present to searchers.

For instance, if you upload videos to a hosting site like YouTube.com or Vimeo.com, you’ll want your keywords in the description field. The same goes for podcasts and for captions on photos or illustrations.

If you pay attention to these keywords and include them in a natural way in the copy you write, you’ll find that search engines will gradually associate you with those searches. That means they’ll start to send searchers to your blog posts and web pages.

And that’s exactly what we set out to do.

Joel Friedlander is a self-published author and book designer who blogs about book design, self-publishing and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com. He's also the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, where he helps publishers and authors who decide to publish get to market on time and on budget with books that are both properly constructed and beautiful to read.

Book Giants Try Power Grab on new Dot BOOK domain

Scott Lorenz with Westwind Communications told me about a great article regarding the DOT BOOK domain name power grab on Galley Cat http://bit.ly/Mf5rSW. In case you have not heard, ICANN is going to give someone the rights to the domain DOT BOOK (Like .com or .net but it’ll be .book)

Amazon, Google, BOWKER etc have filed a claim as to why THEY should be the one company that gets to own that domain. Imagine if someone owned DOT COM. Would that be crazy? Well that’s what they are proposing with DOT BOOK. Mike Cane wrote an incredible story read about it here: http://j.mp/L3Q2mE.
Here are Scott’s comments on ICANN’s SITE: regarding DOT BOOK domain
Giving DOT BOOK to one firm is yet another example of the people who already have a monopoly on something about to be given another sure thing for no good reason.
Nobody needs to own DOT BOOK its as stupid as granting ‘ownership’ to GM for DOT CAR WHY??? The DOT BOOK domain needs to be killed or owned and used by everyone just like DOT COM. All of the applicants already have a large piece of the book market and this is just a play to best the competition under the guise of serving the public. There is no logical reason to grant anybody the rights to DOT BOOK as they surely will not be responsible to anyone but themselves.

Bottom line: Kill DOT BOOK or make it available to everyone... like the creators of the books... #authors and #writers

Scott Lorenz
Westwind Communications

Thursday, July 5, 2012

WITS Announcements

As a subscriber to Writers in the Sky Newsletter, you are entitled to share your announcements with our readers. See guidelines at http://writersinthesky.blogspot.com/p/submit-your-material.html and send your material to us before the 24th of each month to make the next month’s issue. Anything posted in WITS Newsletter is also shared with our blog readers at http://writersinthesky.blogspot.com.

Len Edgerly, who blogs and hosts a weekly podcast about the Kindle and eBooks at thekindlechronicles.com, is doing an informal survey comparing the Kindle Fire and E-Ink Kindles as platforms for reading. If you have both devices and would be willing to describe briefly what sorts of books or publications you read on each, please email the info to Len: PodChronicles @Gmail DOT Com.
Read the first chapter for free and then decide if you want to download the 3-hour-long mp3 audio book of More Than Meets the Eye ~ True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife for only $7.00 http://deathdyingafterlife.blogspot.com/p/chapter-1.html
Summer applications are now being accepted for A Novel Idea. This summer, we are adding a Little Middle class for rising 5th and 6th graders.
Each story in The Sid Series ~ A Collection of Holistic Stories for Children focuses on life skills such as environmental awareness, helping others, being true to one’s self, overcoming fear, and following inner guidance. http://TheSidSeries.com
Whose Stuff Is This? Finding Freedom from the Thoughts, Feelings, and Energy of Those around You is a guidebook for empathic people who have been unknowingly carrying energetic burdens that belong to someone else. See all purchasing options at http://whosestuffisthis.blogspot.com/p/purchase-book.html.
State of Appreciation is a free weekly online newsletter that blends practical & spiritual approaches to enhance personal power and self-realization. Offers empowering articles, gifts, and free contemporary and classic empowerment downloads free at http://stateofappreciation.weebly.com
While taking a metaphysical class, WITS team member Dana Micheli met an amazing illustrator. If you are looking for someone to create an original piece for your book cover, you may want to connect with Diane Daversa on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

10 Social Media Tools You Can Use Daily

By Kellie Craft

Keeping up with social media can be complicated and very time-consuming. Countless different programs, apps, and plugins exist to help you when working with social media. Each tool is meant to make your life simpler, but with so many options, it’s easy to get confused.

I was originally going to write an article about the Top 5 Social Media Tools, but that would mean leaving a few really useful tools out. So, I decided to include a few more.
And I know this list doesn’t exhaust the possibilities…but it’s a good start.
1. HootSuite.com and TweetDeck.com

HootSuite is a free online tool that allows you to manage multiple social media profiles, pre-schedule updates for specific days and times, analyze statistics, and monitor keywords. You can also check and reply to saved searches, @ mentions, Direct Mentions, Twitter Lists, and more. There is also a mobile app where you can pre-schedule your social updates when you're not at your computer. There's a free version and a paid version.

HootSuite impressed Mashable so much, they gave them the 2010 Award for the Best Social Media Management Tool.

An alternative to HootSuite is TweetDeck.com. TweetDeck has customizable columns, and powerful filters. You can schedule your tweets to suit your audience, and monitor and manage unlimited accounts. You'll also receive notifications of new tweets.

Both of these tools are excellent all-around social media managers … which you choose will depend on your personal preference.
2. SocialOomph.com and ManageFlitter.com

SocialOomph is a tool for Twitter. It allows you to schedule your tweets, track keywords, purge your Twitter tweets, and much more. The paid version of SocialOomph will let you automatically follow those who follow you.

ManageFlitter lets you manage and cleanup your Twitter accounts. You can un-follow inactive accounts and see who isn't following you back. It's so easy to use, some say it's easier than cleaning up their closet! There's a free version and a paid version.
3. Twellow.com

Twellow is the Yellow Pages for Twitter. There are millions of accounts listed. You can sign up for free, then find and follow people by using targeted keywords they have in their bios. You can browse categories and even find the top users by location. Be sure to add your keyword-rich bio, as this information is used in the search results as well!
4. Twoolr.com
If you’re looking for a program that will give you a clean, easy-to-read look at your Twitter statistics, consider Twoolr. It shows you information like your usage, your account growth, interactions, and links shared. You get much more information with the paid version.
5. SimplyMeasured.com
Simply Measured is a full social media reporting system. It can take all of your social media analytics and put them in a nice neat report. You can download the report to an Excel spreadsheet, or you can generate a PowerPoint presentation to share with your client online. This is a paid service, but well worth it if you use it to demonstrate to a client that their social media efforts are paying off.
6. Bit.ly

Create a free account with Bit.ly and use it to shorten your long web addresses (URLs). Here are three reasons why you should you use a URL shortener:
Twitter only allows 140 characters. You don't want to waste them all on URL.
To track how many clicks a shortened URL gets. Bit.ly lets you do that.
If you have a long URL, you'll want to clean it up for better presentation to your readers.
In short (no pun intended … okay, maybe a little!), Bit.ly can help you share, track, and analyze your links.
And it's free.
7. A Facebook "Like" button, the TweetMeme button, and the LinkedIn Share button
You should add these buttons anywhere you want your readers, customers, or visitors to share the information on your website. If you use WordPress, simply add the plugin to your website.
Many who have a WordPress website have the "share" buttons at the bottom of the page. A good example is the Sexy Bookmarks plugin for WordPress. This one plugin will take care of all your "Like" buttons, more than the three mentioned here. You can download this to your WordPress site from your plugins page as well.
I've seen these three buttons at the top of a page and Sexy Bookmarks at the bottom of the same page. You want to make it easy for your readers to share your content!
8. TwentyFeet
TwentyFeet lets you easily track and monitor all your social media metrics in one place. They give you two social media accounts free for life (one with Twitter and one with Facebook). If you need more, the fee is quite small to add accounts. They send you a daily email with activity reports.
9. Disqus Blog Commenting System

Disqus has a real-time commenting system, notification and reply system, inline media embedding, and mobile commenting. And registering your site is free.
When users comment, Disqus makes it easy for them to share the comment with their Facebook fans or Twitter followers. The user actually has their own portable profile for commenting. Your blog visitors can post a comment using their Facebook or Twitter login.
This is an easy way to get your blog content shared with the rest of the world!
10. Twitter Lists

Twitter Lists are a great way to categorize those you follow. They're easy to create. You can create your own lists like "Facebook Marketing." You would put all the Facebook marketing "experts" in this list. You can make a list for information in your niche.

Once you have your lists created, check the ones you want to a few times a day, like your niche information list. You will easily have access to the latest breaking news without having to scroll through everyone else's tweets.

So there you have it … 10 great social media tools to start using today! But I couldn't stop at 10. I found this little surprise and had to share it…

BONUS: Mention Map for Twitter

This tool is just cool. You enter a Twitter name, like @Frog_Online for example, and it pulls up a map of mentions. Each user that the map pulls up is also connected to the people and hashtags they mentioned the most in recent tweets. You can click on a node to explore the neighborhood of tweets surrounding it.

After looking at Mention Map, how would you use this tool?

Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments!

I know there are A LOT more tools out there … So if you have some cool tools you use, or have tips and tricks for using the above tools, please share!

This article, 10 Tools That Will Make You a Better Social Media Marketer, was originally published by Wealthy Web Writer. This article appears courtesy of American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) Wealthy Web Writer, a free newsletter for learning how to effectively write online copy and market products on the Web. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup/web-writing/.