A little while ago I wrote a post, dubbed “Blog Last.” It examined the strategic process that should proceed blogging in today’s social media environment, in response to the 86 percent failure rate companies are experiencing (image: Blogging and Recording by Jacob Botter). That being said, there’s still tremendous benefit available to those who can successfully blog, including:
This Network Solutions Solutions Stars blogging video (disclosure: we helped produce this) gets into greater details about the benefits of blogging.
But we’ve reached a point in the blogging era where marketing blogger rarely talk about best practices anymore. Darren Rowse still does a fantastic job of providing prescient tips. It seems like a good idea to dust off the cobwebs and put together a list of best practices for those who are just starting out. Here are my tips for writing a great blog.
You need a guidepost to serve your readers. They are the people that matter, the stakeholders you are trying to serve with the blog. An editorial mission serves as a compass, and keeps a blogger from wandering into the inevitable eddies and pools on the social web that while personally interesting, your readers don’t care about. Write out a simple mission that generally determines the topics you’ll discuss.
What to write about on a day-to-day basis (image: Blogging Readiness by cambodia4kidsorg)? Ever have a creative session? Coming up with ideas can be a brainstorm. When stuck, I try to do anything but sit in front of the computer. Often relaxing, going to the gym, reading other blog posts and news sources online can trigger fantastic ideas.
Another source is my actual day-to-day work. If you’re working on it, it’s likely other professionals or stakeholders are interested in it, too. Your offline experiences are valuable & a great platform for a unique idea or perspective. Keep an idea log for future posts.
Do you have commentary to add? Let’s hope so. Because there are plenty of safe blogs out there. Choose a position, have a stance, offer a point of view, and take a risk. I’m more comfortable being wrong then being boring. And I’m not afraid to be criticized for standing up against what my be deemed popular in the echo chamber. That’s distinguished this blog from other social media conversations.
But opinions are not the only way to add value. Your company must have subject matter expertise of some sort that your stakeholders need. Offer it, show it, and let it shine.
Blog content does not need to be perfect like a white paper or a corporate document. Think in brush strokes. That’s blogging. Taking an idea that wouldn’t necessarily make for a full article in a trade publication, but still has value for your readers is a natural. Remember, add some color commentary on pertinent topics.
Usually, except when writing a long position paper or primer like this one, try to limit posts to 3-10 paragraphs in length. Fully researched concepts can be broken into several posts, and later banded together for an ebook.
If you are trying to build readership, you want to post a minimum of two to three times a week. Great posts and events often drive readers into your blog. Consistent on topic discussion and frequency is what creates loyal readers.
It’s not a formal business document, folks. This kind of over-massaged approach to blogging kills efforts quickly. Minimize your approval processes and get away from fear-based control.
Personality should be included (image: 2000 bloggers by elaine vigneault). You have to be you, right? Let your humor, your attitude come through. It may not be perfect, and you may learn some things about how you affect people, but it needs to be genuine. Personality infused blogging attracts others to your writing, demonstrates transparency and authenticity, and really just returns your company to a human level.
How do you do this? Just write it like you were talking with someone on a Saturday afternoon.
Proof for grammar and typos, not business style. It’s a good idea to proof a couple of times. You won’t catch every typo (or at least I don’t). Remember, it’s a blog, not the Sistine Chapel. Let it go. Another thing is to try and remove unnecessary first person references (I, me) as the post is about them, not you.
Prepping Your Post for Primetime
It’s a good idea to link to a minimum of three other blogs per post. This gets you read by other bloggers, and also demonstrates that you’ve researched your topic, and actually have subject matter expertise to offer. Find an entire discussion on cross-linking here.
An ideal post offers at minimum a photo, and if at all possible additional video, and audio to supplement the post. This breaks up a post and tells a more compelling story. Shel Israel once noted that when he inserted multimedia into his post, he saw dramatic increases in readership. There are plenty of places to research this kind of cross-linking, multimedia and information.
Check out Flickr Creative Commons for Images (Make sure to provide attribution). A wide variety of video channels and hosting sites beyond YouTube can provide video resources. Places to research blog posts for cross-links:
When searching use key words and phrases from posts to find links. Reading these posts will also make your content stronger as you will be forcing yourself to take an extra half hour and fact check. In an
ideal world, you or your social media marketing partner is using del.icio.us (or other bookmarking service) to build a reservoir of links to informative posts for later use.
Comment on and link to other blogs as other bloggers will become aware of you and link back. Building relationships with other bloggers and influentials online is essential for your blog to become accepted.
Really, I cannot emphasize this enough. Rarely is content special enough to be discovered on its own. You must be participating, and become an active part of a community if you want your valuable content to be discovered and read. This in its own right could be another primer.
Don’t forget to register the blog with Mahalo, Technorati, Google, and other relevant search engines. Other smart tips include adding the blog’s url as a call to action in your email signature, on your business card, and on your social network profiles. In short, integrate with your other outreach efforts.
Lizzer – pronounced like lizard but without the “D”– is a bookmarklet created by Digital Sciences, LLC. The tool searches for blog posts, online documents, pictures and videos without leaving your blog editor or your email service site.
Lizzer offers seven services from an assortment of multimedia:
- the Web – Delicious, Delicious Account, Google Web or Yahoo Web searches
- Documents – Docstoc, Docstoc Account
- Image – Flickr (CC), Flickr Accounts, Google Image Search, Yahoo Search
- Blog – Google Blog Search
- News – Google News Search
- Video – Google Video Search, YouTube, YouTube Account
You can use these services to search for links to add to your email or blog. Simply enter your inquiry in the search field and Lizzer will do the rest. It provides snapshot images of pictures and videos. And for other searches, the ability to link the selected result’s URL to a word or phrase, insert the URL, video or picture directly into the blog or email, or preview the selected search result.
The bookmarklet works with the following email and blog platforms: WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, tumblr., Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, and AOL Mail. Lizzer is compatible with Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer 7.
Buzz Meter Ranking: 3 out of 4 Buzz Bees
Positive: Lizzer is a great tool for anyone to use, especially people dipping their toes into blogging. The bookmarklet provides results from an array of multimedia searches all at one click of the button. Lizzer is easy to use and install.
Negative: If you exit out of the current webpage you reviewing, the bookmarklet automatically closes. Of course you can go back and start the bookmarklet again, but it would be nice if you could decide when to close Lizzer. Another negative aspect to Lizzer was the amount of search terms. I searched a fairly popular YouTube video and only received about 4 to 5 Google search results in Lizzer.
Any social media strategy worth its salt is a nod to Aristotle’s Metaphysics: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” By shunning silos, social media can (and should) be integrated with traditional media, email, direct and mobile marketing efforts.
Think about it (Image: Light Chaos by Kevin Dooley). Customers, donors or any other stakeholder group receives information from a wide variety of sources. It’s the classic Positioning conundrum, where every media outlet from blogs, wikis and socnets to TV, newspapers and radio are battling for attention. In most cases, that attention has grown calloused to single touches from any organization, and from any one particular place.
At the same time, contrary to the way many discussions online could be perceived, social media alone cannot affect the kind of results organizations need. To win, most organizations need to pursue an integrated approach across diverse media. It’s flash back to the 80s and 90s when integrated marketing communications was all the rage.
A holistic strategy can help achieve communications objectives by allowing for cross-pollination amongst those who consumer multiple media. The person who only watches TV or surfs blogs is a rare one indeed. It will ensure that your community receives multiple touches in multiple mediums – the crux of your efforts to “Ask, Thank and Inform” stakeholders.
Companies have been doing this for a while now. Remember all of those great TV ads showing or even featuring social media? Doritos anyone?
These are the few basic “musts” for fluid integration within social media:
Qui Diaz contributed content to this post.
It’s tough losing a bright, talented team member like Qui Diaz, who will leave the company at the end of April to prepare for a new married life in Spokane, Washington. Building the company’s social cause practice with Qui is one of my favorite career achievements. But at least our work to benefit society will continue in the new book Social Media for Social Good due out in 2010. All of us at LComm wish Qui and Ryan a happy prosperous life together.
This presents a great opportunity for a social media-savvy person (original image taken in London). The company needs to find an able-mined director to execute fantastic social media programs on behalf of our clients.
Ideally, we’re looking for someone with 6-10 years of communications experience and the following qualifications:
If you want to be part of a team that’s already done great things in social media, and you’re ready to lead and shine, we need you. Applicants must be located in the Greater Washington area. Please feel free to email me your resume and links to prior social media work at geoff AT livingstonbuzz DOT com.
Marguerite Manteau-Rao highlights top results from a McKinsey survey of executives on the topic of Web 2.0 adoption. Some of the results include the necessity for senior leadership to help the bottom up initiatives: “senior executives often become role models and lead through informal channels.” Interestingly, senior leaders also notice that the initial excitement and participation of a new social media program launch burns out as workloads increase. Marguerite says in order to fully understand these issues and how they can be overcome, “You’ve got to be genuinely into [social media], and make it a part of your regular (work) life.” Visit La Marguerite blog for the full details of the study, and see Marguerites complete feedback.
On Andy Sernovitz’s Damn, I wish I thought of That! blog, Andy reflects on the announcement that Windows 7 beta will be available for only 2.5 million downloads. Andy believes this word of mouth marketing campaign will build love and loyalty, commenting, “All 2.5 million people now have an emotional stake in the success of the product.” In particular, Andy is impressed by the idea of giving everyone who downloads Windows 7 beta the “right to claim authorship.”
On Resource Interactive, Mila Goodman specifically outlines the advantages of Twitter. Particularly, she highlights its ability to be an “instant focus group of millions one advert at a time,” and its openness to additional applications like Twitterific. Pointing out several interesting ways that companies like Dell and Starbucks use Twitter, Mila also expresses the helpfulness of Twitter to foster and maintain relationships, and its ability as a revenue generator.
Speaking of interesting ways that companies are using Twitter, Dave Kerpen of Buzz Marketing Daily has posted “25 innovative ways that companies are using Twitter.” Some examples include promoting contests, deals, checking “doctor’s disciplinary records”, finding jobs, and posting continues restaurant menu updates. @stopafib, a non-profit, even “tweets the latest research findings for up-to-date info on atrial fibrillation.” This list demonstrates how useful Twitter can be in the hands of a creative communicator. Visit Dave’s post and let the community know how your company is utilizing Twitter.
One By One Media’s Jim Turner has posted a slide deck on Project 100, a book being written by 100 social media professionals. Sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, each author has 400 words to share their thoughts. Keep an eye out for this compilation of best practices on “Marketing in the Social Media Era. Building Dynamic Consumer Relationships.”
How does ghostwriting in traditional media differ from social media? Beth Harte closely examines the acceptability of ghostwriting within the context of social media – where companies are “supposed to be authentic and transparent.” Beth’s says, “I can’t disconnect from my belief that today’s social media/social networking needs to be from a “people” perspective, not a “business” perspective.” Visit Harte Marketing & Communications blog to see Beth’s complete thoughts and share your own perspective.
The Internet is a melting pot for new tools and trends, i.e. Social Media. For every new tool, new words or phrases are created. As more and more organizations struggle to embrace social media, we ended up cobbling together a quick glossary of terms for them. This is just a starter’s list based on things we’ve been asked. Please feel free to add to the list! (img from digitalheretix.com)
Additional resources for social media terms include Mike Sansone’s Glossary of Blogging and Social Media Terms and Social media’s A-Z of social media.
SOCIAL MEDIA TERMS
Badge – An image, usually squared and displayed on a blog, which signifies the blogger’s participation in an event, contest, or social movement
Blog Post/Entry – Content published on a blog. Entries may include pictures or embedded videos and links URLs for online sources used.
Blogroll – An assembly of blog URLs – blogs that the blogger reads regularly – displayed at the sidebar of the blog
Blogs – A website where individual(s) provide entries of any type of content from video and podcasts to traditional text and photos in order to inform or create discussions; presented in reverse chronological order
Boardreader – An aggregator of message boards and forum discussions
Comments – Replies or opinions in reference to the topic at hand; usually left on blog posts
Compete – Provides web analytics (i.e. unique monthly visitors to the site) and enables people to compare and contrast up to 5 different sites at a time
“Do-good” networks – Online communities aimed at making the world a better place
Groundswell – A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations. (Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, Groundswell, pg. 9)
Hyper-local community – A group of people from a specific location who interact in online communities and use social media tools
Influencer – A person specialized in a specific subject matter and highly recognized in an online community that has the ability to sway others’ thoughts; key influencers are seen as references or for assistance on specific subject matters
Message Boards/Forums – An online discussion site; people looking to discuss particular issues or needing support post threads (a message) on the forum or message board in hopes to gain more information or start a conversation
Micro-blogging – A form of blogging where the entries/posts are limited to a certain amount of characters or words, i.e. Twitter.
Micro-philanthropy – Donating in small amounts ($1, $5, $10, $20)
Multimedia – Media and content in different forms such as videos, pictures, etc. Examples include YouTube and Flickr
Online community – a group of people using social media tools and sites on the Internet
Platform – the framework or system within which tools work; That platform may be as broad as mobile telephony, or as narrow as a piece of software that has different modules like blogs, forums, and wikis in a suite of tools. As more and more tools operate “out there” on the web, rather than on your desktop, people refer to “the Internet as the platform”. That has advantages, but presents challenges in learning lots of different tools, and getting them to join up. (socialmedia, A-Z of social media)
Podcasts – Online audio or visual recordings syndicated on the Internet and available to download to portable media players such as an iPod
Quantcast – Used to measure the amount of traffic a URL receives, as well as data about the readership (demographics, psychographics, etc.)
RSS Feed – Really Simple Syndication; a system that generates frequently updated information from a site (i.e. blog posts, online articles)
- Reader – Aggregates information from RSS Feed into one site
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – Is a form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs). According to the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, SEM methods include: search engine optimization (or SEO), paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion (Wikipedia, Search Engine Marketing)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via “natural” (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. (Wikipedia, Search Engine Optimization)
Sentiment – A level of assessment that determines the tone of an article, blog post, a company, etc.; usually positive, negative, or neutral
Social Bookmarking – A method for people to search, organize, store and share items (i.e. blog posts, online articles, pictures, etc.) of interest using the item’s URL
Social Media – A term used to describe tools and platforms people use to produce, publish and share online content and to interact with one another. Social media tools include blogs, podcasts, videos, microblogs, wikis, etc.
Social Networking Sites – Large sites that host multiple communities comprised of people with profiles who have with similar interests. These sites offer a place where people engage with one another online and share content. Example communities include:
- Facebook – An online community for people to connect or re-connect with others. Enables people to share videos, pictures and information about themselves. One of the fastest growing social networks of the past two years.
- LinkedIn – A professional online community used to network with fellow professionals; an online resume sharing site
- MySpace – A site where people can meet others with similar interests, creating online communities by sharing videos, photos, and personal information
- Friendfeed – enables you to keep up-to-date on the web pages, photos, videos and music that your friends and family are sharing. It offers a unique way to discover and discuss information among friends (FriendFeed About Section)
- YouTube – An online site for uploading and discussing videos; Videos can also be embedded from YouTube onto other social media sites such as blogs or social networks
- Flickr –Online site for storing, sharing and commenting on photos
- Twitter – A micro-blogging community where posts and links are 140 characters or less
- Tweet – The post/entry made on Twitter
- Hashtag – Similar to regular tags, these are keywords associated and assigned to an item of content with a hash mark (#) attached to the front of the word. Hashtags make it easier to follow a topic of interest discussed on Twitter
- Twitter Search – A search engine that filters out real-time tweets
Tags – a keyword or term associated and assigned to an item of content (i.e. blog post, video, photo, etc.). Usually added to an item of content to enhance search engine optimization and make it content easier to organize and find
Technorati Authority – Used to determine the number of times a keyword or URL are mentioned and linked in blogs
Webinar – An online seminar
Web 2.0 – Is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as a platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform – Tim O’Reilly
Widget – A mini application that performs a specific function and connects to the Internet
Wiki –Webpage(s) used to collect content about a topic. Anyone with access to the page(s) can edit or modify the information
It’s reassuring to know that many social media savvy people are applying what they’ve learned online to the real world, and developing clever reinforcements to do more. In particular, the gang over at Social Actions is taking intentional steps to bring the best of our thinking to bear. Their new initiative, Change the Web, launches today. But they need your help.
We want you to dream up a new tool to help people find and share actions. Any web enabled device can become a place to connect with actions: your iPhone, news sites and blogs, Facebook & other social networks, or even in your own website!” Community members and a panel of judges will award $10,000 in cash to the best apps.
You can help Change the Web. Here’s how:
- Offer a smart idea that could leverage a database of 20,000 actions. It takes 2 minutes over at the Idea Hub.
- Better yet, submit a fully-baked idea to the contest. Make it tight by collaborating with smart people like yourself – including one or two smart developers who know what they’re doing. (You could even get people together to brainstorm.)
- Spread the word.
We live in an aware world. It’s high time we push for an aware web. Social Actions aggregates – literally – social actions & volunteer opportunities from more than 40 “do good” social networks, like Change.org, Kiva, GlobalGliving and Razoo.com. The world is our oyster.
The Extraordinaries is a major contender (assuming the organizations’ founders – Jacob Colker and Ben Rigby – will participate). The group has honed in on a mobile solution that allows busy people to take short, quick actions for good through their phones.
That’s one idea. Here’s another: A clearinghouse of actions that is portable and accessible through my preferred website, filters news and actions most meaningful to me, keeps track of my portfolio and serves as my broker. It would be a tricked out Guidestar – with flames and hydrualics. Open Social for the do good socnets.
As part of the contest, Social Actions is hosting “Change the Web Conversation Series,” open online chats about how specific technology platforms can be used for good. The series kicks off this Thursday with Using Facebook for Social Change featuring Susan Gordon, Nonprofit Coordinator of Facebook Causes. Future convos will focus on Mozilla, iPhones, OpenSocial and Twitter for good, among others.
Livingston Communications is joining Change the Web as a media sponsor, along with CauseWired Communications, Mashable, NTEN, Ode Magazine, Osocio, ProgrammableWeb, Replyforall, See3 Communications, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Techvibes. The contest is hosted by NetSquared, sponsored by PayPal, Convio, TakePart, Challenge Your World and technology partners Mozilla and WordPress.
Winners will be announced at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco on April 28, 2009.
We hope you’ll join us in spreading the word. Better yet, submit your brilliant ideas.
I’ve signed a contract with Bartleby for my second book with an expected release in the first half of 2010. The working title is Social Media for Social Good, following along the lines of our class at Georgetown University, and to serve a general thirst for sector-specific social media knowledge from NGOs and public sector organizations alike.
This time I will be joined by Qui Diaz as co-author (similar to Brian Solis on Now Is Gone), and Beth Kanter will write the conclusion to the book. Qui will be focused on providing the case studies and general editing. An introduction will be authored by a person yet to be determined.
I am thrilled to have these two social cause experts participate in this project. While I’ve executed social cause programs for the better part of a decade, I am not solely focused in this industry, and see myself as a general communications practitioner. Their in-depth knowledge will ensure a great book that will resonate with our core audiences.
What Will Be Different
Now Is Gone was written as a cost–effective general entry level primer for executives and entrepreneurs. This book will be a hardcover, and is going to be much more in depth. We want to arm the next generation of social cause communicators with the tools they need to succeed online.
As such I’m planning on giving away all of the best practices and trade secrets we have. People should be able to read the book, and learn how to create a method to build bonafide strategies, select tactics intelligently, integrate into larger communications programs, and measure for results. There will be exercises and suggested tests for those who want to measure progress.
In addition, we rushed Now Is Gone to market last time to bring timely information to the marketplace. At the same time that caused some errors. Both I and Bartleby listened to the criticism on the last book and will be engaging in a slower, more thorough writing and editorial process.
There will also be no companion blog. That effort almost killed me a year ago. Instead I will be blogging about my thoughts and writings during the drafting process and post marketing phase here on the Buzz Bin. Qui is expecting to do the same on Evange.List. Like Now Is Gone, once the book is published there will be no formal tour, and speaking engagements will occur on an ad hoc basis.
Further, we are actively engaged in some original research on Philanthropy 2.0, and it is my hope to include more in-depth analysis and thoughts in Social Media for Social Good. In general, expect a much richer book that will really enable the socially concerned with some meaningful ways to fundraise, educate and inspire online.
And if you are in the business, look out! I may be calling to interview you soon.