Shafer's Summer Reading List

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websites growth social media e-commerce

THERE'S A WEALTH OF SOURCES out there besides me that you can (and really should) tap for tips on e-commerce, Internet advertising and social media.

The truth is, this area of technology (especially social media) is forming and re-forming so fast that if you blink, you're likely to miss a development or the next big thing. You don't want to be the one who misses out on the next hot trend, do you? This month I'm going to save you some time in filtering out the wheat from the chaff (ooohhh ... an 18th-century reference in a 21st-century column!) and point out some of the resources that I find pretty valuable in keeping up with what's hot, happening and hip.

E-COMMERCE

First is a resource that I've mentioned in the past: Internet Retailer (www.internetretailer.com). Internet Retailer has a print magazine that you can get for free, as well as several well-done e-newsletters that you can subscribe to. Internet Retailer is also behind the Top 500 Guide, which annually ranks the top and largest e-commerce players in terms of revenue and provides a wealth of information such as traffic figures, sales performance data (conversion rates, average order value, etc.) that you can use to benchmark your own performance.

Next up in the e-commerce space is Shop.org. Shop.org is the e-commerce focus for the National Retail Federation (www.nrf.com). Shop.org puts out a great series of e-newsletters that do an excellent job of keeping the reader up to date on e-commerce. I find the coverage it provides has a slightly different twist than Internet Retailer, and between the two you can get a great picture of what's working, what's coming down the road, what you need to do to get ahead and, once you're there, how to stay there.

INTERNET MARKETING

As all Internet marketing begins by looking through the lens of search engines like Google, Yahoo!, MSN Live, etc., the best place to get your daily fix of related wisdom is probably Search Engine Watch (www.searchenginewatch.com). It has a series of e-mail updates, as well as a worthwhile RSS feed and Twitter profile (@sewatch) that you should read. It covers pretty much all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) that you will ever need to know (or at least could ever remember or implement).

The next excellent resource for Internet (and even general) marketing is Marketing Sherpa (www.marketingsherpa.com). Marketing Sherpa has developed a reputation as the source for marketing's best practices. These are real-world best practices, not high-level theory. While it does offer some free reports and resources (its write-ups are free for the first week), to get the most out of what Marketing Sherpa has to offer you will need to pay for an annual subscription. You can, however, sign up for a free trial subscription to check it out.

SOCIAL MEDIA, ETC.

Finally, we have the increasingly important and dynamically changing world of social media and all of its hybrid offshoots like Facebook and Twitter.

First up is a site called Mashable (www.mashable.com) that bills itself as "The Social Media Guide." It does an excellent job of covering how to use the existing social sites both from the perspective of a user and from the perspective of a business looking to use social media for marketing and promotional purposes. In addition, it keeps on top of the bubbling, churning and chaotic world of emerging social media players and offers clever and useful ways to leverage the social media ecosystem of feeds, API, applications and widgets.

TechCrunch (www.techcrunch.com) will keep you abreast of both the social media scene as well as the business world of the Internet from a technical perspective. TechCrunch is actually billed as a blog (and an extended media empire known as the Crunch Network) that's headed by probably the best "new business" guru around, Michael Arrington. He and his team are plugged into who's doing what, what it's good for, who's getting funded and who's the newest member of the Internet industry deadpool. It's a great resource that you don't want to miss.

I've only scratched the surface by offering up the ones that I read on a regular basis. If you have some great resources you want to share, let me know!